After the Quakes

by Alex Huang |

The shakes started out small, but intensified. Mike was sitting still, but he could see the wall in front of him move to the tempo of the shaking. Lines ripped down from the ceiling to the floor. More shaking turned the lines into cracks.

At first, Mike was undisturbed and thought nothing much of all the shaking, he has been through many earthquakes ever since he was a child, and this earthquake felt no different. But when the clock hanging on the wall fell to the floor, Mike felt a slight fear surge through him. The clock fell to the floor, stopping it at 8:39pm, and as it hit the floor it made a banging noise that added to the noise coming from the rattling walls, and car alarms outside.

With her eyes shut, Mike’s wife sat on the sofa next to him. She was peaceful despite all the shaking. Considering all the crushed sleeping pills that was circulating through her blood at the moment, there was no amount of shaking that could possibly wake her now.

Is this a bad one? Thought Mike. What now? Just leave her here and see how badly the earthquake turns out? Hopefully, she’ll survive. But all Mike could think about was getting out of the apartment.

Supporting himself on the armrest of the sofa, Mike stood up. His legs wobbled from all the trembling beneath him. He swayed from side to side like a sailor sailing on a stormy sea. One small step after another, Mike crept to the door.

The ceiling crackled, sprinkling dust down from above. Mike covered his mouth and nose, trying not to breathe in the dust. And, before he could reach the door, the crackling tore open the ceiling, bringing down pieces of it, forcing Mike back towards the sofa. The door was blocked.

The wobbling in his knees finally brought Mike down to the floor. He tried to stand up again, but the shaking forced him down. Seeing his only exit blocked, Mike crawled back to the sofa, where his head was met with a falling piece of ceiling.

***

When Mike came to, all he could see was darkness. He could feel a pounding in his head. The pounding turned into pain when Mike finally came to realize where he was and what had just came to pass. He looked at his watch, the cracked screen showed 9:43pm. As he moved his limbs to make sure that they still worked, he could feel brick and dust all around him.

There was no pain anywhere else on his body except for the pain on his head. Mike used his finger to lightly dab the spot that pained, he could feel something moist. He could not tell what it was, but he was sure it was blood.

With his hands, Mike felt around the small space that he was trapped in. He could feel the suede of the sofa, and the warm hands of his wife. From what light beamed in through the remains of the apartment, Mike could make out that the sofa was now upright holding up part of what seemed like the wall. The ceiling was now next to him. The building must have toppled over, thought Mike. But what he really wanted to know was, did she survive?

She was curled up on the floor. Mike inched his way over the rubbles, making his way to her side. He held a finger to her nose. And, he could still feel a little gust of air. He sighed in relief. Then, there was the thought of insurance money that popped into his head. So, he felt around him and picked up a piece of his apartment.

***

The couple sat on the sofa in the little apartment enjoying a homemade meal of premade spaghetti and meatball with a bottle of wine. The clock next to the television read 7:30pm when the man finished the last bite and took his plate to the kitchen and grabbed the rhubarb pie out of the fridge.

“Big piece or small?” the man shouted into the living room.

“Small,” answered Edith and continued slurping her spaghetti.

The man proceeded to cut out two pieces of pie. On the smaller piece of pie, the man sprinkled a little something special. The man smiled as the rest of the night played out in his head. Edith was oblivious to her husband’s devious plan to dose her so that she would go to sleep and he could catch up on some television. This was not the first time he has done it. A few times, after having put her in bed, he would sneak out to the bar, or somewhere else.

“Here you go,” said Edith’s husband, “I’ve sprinkled a little icing sugar on yours.”

“Thank you,” Edith said and pushed away her empty plate.

Edith dug into the piece of cake, still trying to decide on a way to ask her husband for a divorce. She knew about his cheating, about his mistresses, about his gambling.

***

“Hang in there!” Mike could hear somebody shout.

Sounds of machinery emanated through the debris. The sound grew louder as piece by piece the debris above him disappeared, and let in the sunlight. Mike’s eyes squinted as they started to adjust to the sunlight.

“Give me your hands!” Shouted a voice through the hole above Mike’s head.

Mike stretched his arms as far up as he could. Two firemen pulled him out of the rubble and helped him on to a stretcher. Mike tried to stand on his own, but he could feel his knees and legs ache and crumble.

“Poor guy,” Mike heard one of the firemen behind him say, “His wife didn’t make it.”

With his arms around two rescue workers, Mike wobbled down the rubble to the waiting ambulance. He kept his head down as far as he could so that nobody could see the grin on his face.

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