Here is a chapter I took to a small ‘salon’ a friend was putting on. It’s from a book I’m working on called Someday We’ll Know. It’s a wonderfully adventure wrought story about how one phone call at 3am can drastically change a girl’s life. I just thought this chapter was fun and wanted to share.
The earthquake was one of the largest to hit Southern California in about fifty years. I wasn’t certain how they knew that, I guess there are people in the world who have purposes like recording as much earthquake data from as many years back as they can. I’m sure those are the same people I make fun of for making appearances at Star Trek conventions.
Two in the morning, I wasn’t concerned with Trekies who measure earthquakes.
I scrambled out of the cocoon of blankets to get to the doorway, my childhood training kicking into action, I needed to get to a doorway. I think, though, they might have changed that. Still, it was reactionary.
My family never talked about earthquakes and what to do during one until they were happening, so it wasn’t a calm training I received regarding earthquakes. The earthquakes that made the biggest impact (on our family and in the South Land) seemed to happen in the middle of the night; to which we would all awake to my mother’s hysterical high-pitched prediction: “Oh God, oh GOD!! We’re all going to die. Wake up wake up wake up! We’re all going to die!”
She would be screaming from her bedroom doorway, holding the door frame up as she shrieked down the hall to the rest of us, announcing our inevitable death and cursing my father for moving us to the land of earthquakes and any other transgressions she could pass off, all the while she filled us all with fear.
My father always stayed in bed, he never said anything, but once, during a routine 3.5, he yelled that he’d rather die in the comfort of his own bed; adding that, when the big one hit, no door frame could protect us.
I was shaking as I stood in the doorway of my apartment, my heart racing, my mind wandering from Steve to Parker to my mother. I managed a nervous laugh and announced to the darkness in a whisper, “We’re all gonna die.”
It didn’t comfort me and the nervous laugh became hysterical. This is what you get when you agree to marry a money running, mafia drug lord lawyer; you get to be alone in the dark and scared to death and about to die.
I was shocked when the phone rang, I stayed where I was, looking through the darkness at the blinking light on my machine, holding myself erect in the doorway as good ol’ So. Cal rocked and rolled.
“This is an answering machine. I think you can figure the rest out.” My lame voice came over my antiquated machine. I needed to join the 21st century, get voice mail.
The sharp beep brought me out of my contemplation.
“Jessica! It’s your mother! Wake up!” She screamed, “Are you awake? This is the Big One! We’re all going to DIE! I love you, I never tell you enough, even if you do try my patience, I just wanted to tell you I love you and I hope you know that and I wish you would have called your aunt today, I hate that she’s going to die feeling unloved. Oh God, oh God. Are you there?” As if that was bad enough, the power went out at that moment, cutting my mother’s frantic voice off with a Ray Bradbury sort of finality.
I burst out with more un-lady like laughter, fearful snorts and gulping hysterics as I listened to book shelves tipping over, things falling off the counter in the kitchen and the bathroom. Glass shattered somewhere, car alarms screamed from the street, and a loud slamming noise erupted in the middle of my living room. If Steve were here I wouldn’t feel so bad, he’d be standing with me in his arms in this doorway, reassuring me that everything was going to be okay. Then he’d pull out a hammer and bludgeon me to death and make it look like an accident. Then the police would never know it had been him who murdered his own fiance for knowing too much.
Oh God, any way I looked at it, my mother was right, I was going to die.
The earthquake only lasted a few minutes, but felt like hours. Finally, on wobbly legs, I made my way to try a few light switches, knowing they wouldn’t work, but I felt the needed to try anyway. I found matches and a candle, my hands shook but I finally stilled them enough for the task. I walked through the apartment then, looking at the damage. In the kitchen, most of the cabinets had flow open and regurgitated their residents. In the living room, a large chunk of ceiling had fallen down, I looked up, expecting to find the candles of my upstairs neighbors, but it looked as if it had just been a large piece of sheet rock that fell.
My bed had come alive and crawled across the room during the earthquake, apparently not caring for its original placement. For a few moments I stood and contemplated leaving it there for the time being. I was headed back into the living room when someone began banging on my front door. No doubt my parents were coming over to see if I was still alive, or if I had indeed died.