Ellie Peters had always fit in. She was sweet and quiet, with blonde hair and green eyes, and had many friends. Her tall, dark-haired best friend, Jake Mason, knew the other side of her – the powers she possessed. Until that fateful fall day.
Ellie and Jake were doing homework that day in Jake’s room, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Jake’s parents were well-known real estate agents in Santa Cruz, so he and his family lived a comfortable life. Ellie, on the other hand, lived crazily. Her single mom was an artist, so most of the time Ellie was the one doing the laundry or cooking. Her family barely scraped by from paycheck to paycheck. Ellie opened the French doors that led to the family’s private dock and the cry of seagulls and the fresh smell of eucalyptus spilled into the room. The weak fall light streamed into the bedroom.
When the two friends finished their homework, they walked to the end of the pier, letting the salty breeze caress their faces. Ellie and Jake perched on the edge of the dock, sitting in a contented silence.
“Fly for me,” Jake suddenly asked.
“Jake!” Ellie gasped. “There might be people who can see or hear us!”
“Aww, c’mon! No one will see you!” Jake whined. Ellie sighed, but he gave in. Then Ellie flew.
When Ellie flew, she was different. She was independent, joyful, free. She backed up, almost to the house, and then sprinted. When she was at the very edge of the dock, about to fall into the water, she leapt into the air. Ellie was overcome with the sudden sensation of tingling, and she was up in the air, as light as a feather. She giggled and twirled, gliding with the birds.
Suddenly, far below her, Jake yelped. The dock was vibrating and shaking, waves were sloshing against the shore. The land was rolling, shaking. Ellie swooped down and jerked Jake off the crumbling dock just as it collapsed into the frothy water. They plummeted down to the water, Ellie weighed down by the sudden load. Ellie managed to drag Jake back to the house just before they hit the water. The two tumbled onto the deck, which was shaking violently, but managed to hold.
“Get to land!” Ellie screeched as soon as they managed to disentangle themselves. They stumbled through the swaying house, avoiding the dishes that were crashing to the floor. They rammed through the front door and out onto the street, where many of their neighbors were scrambling out of their crumbling homes out to the safety of the street. Ellie and Jake laid on the rolling asphalt, panting. Soon after, the shaking stopped. Neighbors were sinking to their knees, looking at the devastating scene in shock and horror. Houses suffered broken windows, missing shingles, and one half of a house was slowly sinking into the now-muddy ocean.
Ellie learned afterwards that it had been a major earthquake, almost 7.2. The San Andreas fault had shifted, and the epicenter was about 30 miles offshore. The whole of East Cliff drive had suffered a horrific landslide that washed over 100 homes into the Pacific. Pacific Avenue and all its shops were desecrated. The whole city was estimated to be without power for up to a week. Worst of all, the mortality rate was up to 200. But before she learned that, everything was a blur. First, both Ellie and Jake received frantic calls from their parents, who picked them up a few minutes later in the Mason’s battered Jeep. They drove carefully through the wreckage to Ellie’s small home, which luckily had only suffered a few broken window panes. Ellie lived in a blue collar neighborhood, and although her house was small and shabby, it was neat, clean, and bright.
The Masons, Ellie, and her mother sat in the tiny kitchen, talking about the earthquake and feeling the continual miniscule shakings of the aftershocks. They listened to the radio and discussed how lucky they were to be alive. Ellie and Jake carefully avoided the subject of Ellie’s flying. That was when Jake heard the fateful news.
“Turn up the radio,” Jake said in a strange, detached voice. Jake’s mom gave him a careful look and turned up the static – filled radio.
“….. And the city has issued a tsunami warning,” the reporter was saying. “There is estimated to be an at least 10 foot rise in sea level in around 3 hours. The tsunami is approaching the shore at about 10 miles per hour.”
Quite quickly, as if a wall hit her, Ellie remembered the Japanese tsunami. She remembered the devastation unleashed upon Northern Japan in the terrible 2010 earthquake. That could happen to her hometown – in less than three hours.
“The tsunami!” Ellie gasped. “We have to get inland! Maybe to Soquel!” Her statement began the frantic phone calls to friends and family, the calls to the police station to help the officers evacuate people, the packing of things and the preparing to evacuate. That was when Jake saw the strange sight. The sea was slowly pulling out, like a giant had drained his bath. There were sucking noises, and soon sea stars were exposed, kelp was lying in the sun, and fish were flopping on the wet sand. It was eerie, horrible, frightening; Ellie felt as if her life had been pulled out from under her like a rug in less than a few hours.
The two friends’ parents rushed to Jake’s house to help gather things. They sat in a miserable silence in the Peters’ kitchen, soaking in the things that had happened in the last few hours. To Jake it seemed that in just a few minutes, life could radically change. Citizens of his city were gone, snuffed out like a candle. Homes could seem to vanish into thin air, and ways of life could be destroyed. Suddenly, Jake had a completely irrational idea – one that could save hundreds of lives. Ellie would fly above the houses and scout out anyone who needed help and Jake would follow on the ground below. Then, Jake would call rescuers and they would help the person evacuate.
Soon, Jake and Ellie were calling medical aid and rescuers. They walked around the wasteland that was her neighborhood, calling through collapsed roofs and broken doorways. Many people straggled out of what was left of their homes, often carrying an injured friend or relative. Ellie was careful to keep out of sight. She was in mentally sobbing. So much pain, loss….. she could scarcely bear it. The medical personnel arrived quickly. The top responder told Jake that they had been jammed ever since the earthquake, and they were lucky the responders even came at all. The rescuers also came, and were ushering people into buses headed toward higher ground. Jake saw shocked faces toting prized possessions and loved ones. He was disturbingly reminded of the Jews of the Holocaust, uprooted practically overnight. He realized with a start these poor souls were doomed – they had no choice but to sit and watch their city wash away. He, too, had to suffer.
Ellie and Jake covered the several blocks, to what once had been Jake’s house, when suddenly Jake heard a dull roaring noise. He saw, with a jolt of adrenaline, a massive wall of water only a quarter of a mile in front of him. It was as tall as a house; glittering ominously, the water rushed at him like a huge semi truck. It was the tsunami. A small voice in his head chanted, we are doomed, we are doomed, we are doomed....
“Ellie, pick me up!” He screamed through the noise. He was suddenly off the ground, and he and Ellie were shooting towards the Mason’s home. Their parents were stranded on the roof, clutching each other for support. Their faces went blank with shock as they saw their children shooting through the air as if they were in an invisible rocket. Jake yelled for them to grab hold, and in a flash all five of them were hanging on for dear life to Ellie in a dangling string. She could barely stand the strain, but managed to get the group quite high in the air before the first wave hit the cliffs.
It had a sort of terrible beauty. The noise was like a bomb had exploded - the spray shot hundreds of feet into the air. The wave washed over the first of the houses, then the next, and more, until it was a few blocks inland. Screams of pure terror and agony rent the air, from the people Ellie and Jake hadn’t saved. The water was black now; cars and wreckage floated like bath toys. Suspended in midair, they watched with a sort of horrid fascination. But Ellie forced herself to think about her mission. She struggled ahead and finally managed, somehow, to get her mom, Jake, and his parents to a helicopter. She shouted to the pilot, waving. He looked stunned for a moment, but rapidly opened the door. She shoved them in and shouted over the engine that she would follow them. Ellie was met with protest, but she was beyond all caring. She slammed the door.
In fact, Ellie was beyond all emotion. Once she had seen the tsunami wipe out her entire neighborhood, she had carefully locked away her heart. She sealed it so tightly that nothing could ever come close to breaking her heart, even the obliteration of her home city. She followed behind the helicopter dutifully. Then she looked down. That was her fatal mistake – it broke down all the barriers she had ever set up for her soul. It was the second wave. It came swiftly, just after the first, and wiped away all the remains of the houses that had been wrecked. As it drew back, it left next to nothing left of the East Cliff neighborhood - just sand and foundations. Like a blackboard wiping away chalk, nature had wiped away Ellie’s beautiful city. Ellie realized that there was practically nothing to live for. As she made her final decision, Ellie thought, I hope mom and Jake forgive me. I love you both. Then she fell into the remains of her torn Santa Cruz.
Suddenly, Ellie woke up with a jolt. Her sheets were twisted and she was panting and drenched in a cold sweat. Then, she realized it was night, and she was in her own bed, in her own house, in a non-destroyed Santa Cruz. She sighed in relief. It was just a dream….
© Copyright 2016 alanasimone. All rights reserved.
Short Story / Young Adult
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