Is This the End

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Thrillers  |  House: Booksie Classic
Phuket, Boxing Day 2004. A group of hungover friends on holiday head to the beach to kick back and relax, with no idea of the universe's catastrophic plans for that particular morning.

Submitted: June 28, 2016

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Submitted: June 28, 2016

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I can remember the quiet, the stickiness of the Phuket sun. Boxing Day morning on the beach and the waves are performing a gentle slow dance just for us. Trickles of sweat sting my eyes; I take off my sunglasses and feel the white noise of a hangover biting into my brain. 

Jovie fans herself with her book, stretches out her long legs, moans in my direction.

“Shut up,” Ben snaps, holding a frosted water bottle to his forehead and wincing. “I can’t deal with the sound of your voice right now.”

In the distance a baby starts to wail. Along the shoreline a mother scolds a toddler in Thai.  A gaggle of young tourists tear across the sand, chirping and squawking like a pack of birds. I watch indolently, mesmerised by the sudden chaos penetrating the quiet.

“Morning, shitheads.” We all turn as Kyle saunters across the sand towards us, yawning, lazily scratching his nostril. Jovie’s eyes are demonic, she’s been anticipating this moment all morning.

Kyle’s response to not hearing from his family for Christmas was with a bottle of tequila and a bag of speed. By 5pm he found himself trapped in a wasteland of his own creation, blindly flinging tequila in every direction as he crudely mocked Jovie’s family – and everyone one else he encountered that were celebrating Christmas cheerily. 9pm and he was out cold, spread-eagled across the bed he shared with Jovie whilst she paced aggressively around the room like caged tiger and pondered hog-tying him and locking him in the closet.

“I want to make him think he’s been kidnapped!” she mewled as Ben and I dragged her out of the room, unsuccessfully convincing her to let it go. 

“What is wrong with you?” she shrieks at him now. He blinks at her, feigning ignorance. 

I look at Ben, he looks at me. Within moments we’ve scampered across the beach out of earshot. I’m relieved to be out of that toxic vicinity but feel a little awkward around Ben. The night before, vodka jelly shots and the token deep and meaningful had provoked Ben into making a sloppy attempt to kiss me. I’d jerked away so abruptly he had fallen forward and nearly splattered his face across the marble tiles of our balcony.

“How are you feeling?” Ben eventually asks me, laughing nervously.

“Pretty average.” We exchange strained smiles and then quickly glance in opposite directions.

My eyes drift to the water. Something strange is happening. The tide has receded so far out that for about 70 metres past the shoreline the water looks as though it is no deeper than knee-height. I watch, dumbfounded, as it continues to be sucked out, fish flopping desperately on the wet sand. A tense hum of confusion and potential panic swirls around the beach, locals yell in their native tongue, pointing fiercely at the horizon. Jovie and Kyle are no longer fighting, instead just staring out at the water. The look of dazed astonishment painted across both their faces is just a replication of every other face on the beach.

Ben and I rush back over to our friends. I can taste fear, cold and metallic, burning the back of my throat, but I have no idea why.

“What is happening?” I don’t even notice who asks it. It may even be me.

People are slowly backing away from the ocean, but their eyes remain glued to it. A woman with chocolate skin is shrieking, pushing away family that reach for her and sprinting towards the dunes. Her speech is an incoherent slur of Thai, but she draws attention from all ends of the beach with just one decipherable word.

“Tsunami!”

A tone rings in my ear and for a few seconds I can’t hear anything. Not the screams of horror, the cries, the symphony of birds shooting across the sky. I can see the waves gathering on the horizon; adorned with foam they grow rapidly, the surge of water tearing towards the beach.

It isn’t until they effortlessly devour an idle ship anchored about one hundred metres from the shore that they’re finally put to scale. The sudden realisation that these giant monsters sprinting towards the shoreline are about to swallow us up is what finally throws me out of my trance.

Jovie is screaming in my face.

Ben is dragging me by the arm.

Kyle is running.

And finally, I do too. We fly across the dunes, Ben’s hand in mine. Dragging our way through slower runners, I block out the sounds of anguish and listen to the wild beating my heart. It’s so strong; I’m so alive, running so fast my feet barely touch the ground. I’m exhilarated by the sudden awareness of the fragility of the world in contrast to the strength of the human spirit, and in just a second it could all end.

The roar of the ocean causes me to turn for just a second. The wave explodes through trees, buildings, a wall of water and foam consuming everything in its path. Jovie’s shrill voice suddenly pierces through the air, but I can’t find her. I thrash my head desperately from side to side. The crowd is too dense, she’s gone. Ben yells something inaudible at me and I want to scratch the agony out of his eyes. No, I say. Keep running.  

The screams, the ocean surge, everything disappears as Ben throws himself over me. It’s only as the wave closes in that his words finally become clear. His fear-drenched voice repeats them over and over again in my mind, a crazy loop playing so unbearably loud, until I can’t hear anything anymore.

“Hold your breath.”

So I do.

 


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