Posted by: jolantru | July 27, 2009

Wave Eight: Broken Shells

The earthquake struck suddenly, just like the tsunami. At first, there was the subtle rumble beneath my bed, an earth tremor shaking the oyster shell candles on the shelves and set the mirror to trembling. Even the mobile swayed as if blown by an unnatural wind, tinkling softly. By now I had gotten used to the earth tremors and I went back to bed, only to have it shaken away from my body that faltered and fell heavily onto the floor.

I climbed back up to my feet and lost equilibrium straightaway. Things toppled around. Shells crashed. Something sharp hit my head then and darkness took me into her greedy grasp.

Woke up, later, to find my home in total shambles and that I was miraculously alive, only with a swollen bruise on the left side of my head. My oyster shells had shattered, their sharp-edged shards scattered. I cut myself on a few when I tried to get up, using my hands as traction and support. The cuts bled freely and were painful. But I was used to such wounds. I wrapped some cloth around them and headed out.

The street outside was a mess. Crumbled buildings, toppled statues, broken concrete pillars. And bodies.

Rescuers were already picking their way through the rubble as I swayed on my feet and tried to make sense of the whole situation. Ma-drawn carriages were carrying the injured and the traumatized. Not all had gotten to the shelters and because the earthquake had hit in the early hours of the morning, many were thrown out of their beds. Many bore bruises and cuts on their faces and limbs.

Boots crunched concrete debris and I looked up to see one man from the civic rescue team carry a familiar figure in his arms. Benyi.

“Not dead,” the man said, covered with dust and other things. “I heard that he tried to warn people of an earthquake. But no one listened to him.”

As I watched, my heart bleak, he carried Benyi to an awaiting carriage, already filled to the brim with injured City folk still too shocked to talk. Trained as they were, they were not totally prepared for a real one.

“Mirra,” someone called my name and I turned, numbly, to see Auri making her careful way to me. “Mirra.” And I was drawn into her embrace and the smell of her hair – sweet, flowery – filled my nostrils as I buried my face into her shoulder. We then pulled away and I could see that she was wearing only a peach nightgown with a robe thrown over for warmth. We held onto each other as more rescuers pulled out bodies in front of us.

“Benyi,” I could only say and Auri regarded me silently, nodding. To force ourselves out from the inertia born of shock and trauma, we helped the rescuers, using our bare hands to pull away heavy rubble. Another team had brought in their trained canines and the tawny-furred animals were ambling nimble-pawed on the heaps of rubble, their noses close to the concrete, claws clicking. Occasionally, one would thump its tail, signaling the presence of a survivor trapped under the debris; its handler would then call out for help to the rescuers.

As I worked, using a bit of light to illuminate the debris – it was still dark – and a bit of curling light to lift the heavier rubble out of the way, I thought of another person. Josh. Did he survive?

“Mirra!” It was his voice and I felt a surge of pleasure and joy course through my body. And suffered a sharp pang when I saw his left side bandaged up, red seeping through. He managed to smile wanly at me, his boyish face pale.

Auri was watching our exchange with a questioning look and a small smile. I noticed it and grinned – I hope – sheepishly.

“Josh, this is the Auri I talk about all the time,” I said and he bowed courteously, making Auri chuckle.

We went back to more serious and urgent business: helping the rescuers and digging for survivors.

By the end of the day, my hands were covered with new cuts, new scars.



  1. Finally got the chance to take a moment and read this.

    Amazing. I have been in enough relatively small quakes to know that sense of the world shifting around you. It is not that difficult to use that experience to feel what Mirra is going through. You have captured it quite well.

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