The barbarians have run through. They have control of the elements. They called up the earthquake. I know it sounds old-fashioned and superstitious, but this is year 2005 and it's not the superstitions of old. They came. They brought an earthquake. They warned us, and we did not believe, because we have fancy seismographs and such. They threatened, and still we did not listen, or, our government did not listen, and it has cost many their lives.
I've woken up. The covers are already thrown off of me, but I'm not surprised. I sleep wildly, always have. Walking into the living room, I see the destruction that my family has made its way out of. Electricity is still on, and my eldest sister has made her way to the computer and its internet connection to see how the rest of the world has fared.
I don't care. I'm used to the unnatural happenings in California. But a small city like ours holds no importance. If it's on the net, this has held a much grander scale.
They did not come to our side of town. They decided that such corruption on its own would undo itself. Drug dealers and crackheads meant nothing to them, nor did the honest few scattered among the statistics of the poor. But the peaceful, the rich, the well-to-do, they indeed would have it coming. And who cares for the rich...?
My mind screams with the steam of one thousand railroad engines. Allen. I have to find Allen. Where is he? And why do I only think of him? No answer comes to me, nor do I wait for one. I know myself, and I trust my instinct. My instinct tells me to find him. I must find him.
It takes me no time at all to check my family- all here, Crystal on the computer, Lara checking Missy and Dog, the cats, for injuries, Mom watching TV for the news, Dad starting up his crocheting again. Dog walks away from Lara and looks up at me with big, inquiring eyes, reminding me of Allen's cat, Jag. I have to find him.
I yell to the parents that I'm off, and race out, closing the remains of the door behind me before they can ask where to. They shouldn't have to ask, anyway. They know how I feel about him.
It seems to take me no time at all to find myself on Pryor Street, normally a good forty-five minutes away. I stop. All of the houses here- gone, reduced to rubble from the quake and the machine guns. Tears begin to stain my shirt, and I shake my head and begin to run again, run to the house where I know he lies.
Devastation. Everywhere, it consumes the buildings of this once-quiet street. I try to choke back the tears as I run past the dying rosebushes, the bicycles snapped in half, and their owners. I try not to look, for I know the same destruction is also in the house I am looking for.
I run up his walkway. I don't know the street address, and there is no time to look for it now, but I know his house. I've only been there twice, once on Halloween, when we laughed at all the grown-ups who told us fourteen and fifteen was too old for trick-or-treating, and once when his bicycle tire had went flat and needed changing. Not enough. Never enough.
I walk into the living room, trying to ignore the blood on the carpet. Tom, his step dad, and Jonah, his little, little brother, lay there, a bullet through each one's skull. It's too much for me, and I quickly turn the corner, not looking towards the kitchen, where I know his mother must also lay in the same position.
In the hallway, I hear a small cry. It's not Allen's voice. A thought strikes me- Joey. I run into his room at the end of the hallway. The video game posters have been shaken off of the walls by the quake. The bed has been turned over, and the television slammed against the wall by a now long-gone hand.
I turn over the bed with a new strength. His eyes- he has his eyes closed. He thinks I am one of them. He is- so scared. He must have- seen it happen.
"Get up," a voice commands. A voice I can barely recognize as my own. A whimper escapes the boy, one year younger than me. I can't handle this. "Get up! Joey, it's me! It's Erin!"
Slowly, ever so slowly, he turns and looks at me. He is sore from staying in a cramped position for over forty-eight hours. His eyes are wild. He is trembling with fear. His voice, too, trembles, for in such a static he couldn't exactly use his voice if he was to survive. They hadn't seen him. Oh, God, they hadn't seen Joey. He is safe.
"Erin... Tom... Jonathan... Mom... I... they..."
I hate to see him in such a state, but I have to ask. "Allen. Joey, where's Allen? Come on, get up, we have to find him!" Grabbing his arm roughly, pulling him up unceremoniously, shaking him violently in an attempt to wake him to conscious, to logic, and all the while thinking, Thank you, God, Joey's alive, he's not hurt, thank you, God!
I ram into Allen's door. Something's blocking it. I hear a cry of pain. He's alive. But in pain. I use my rough, unused voice, and Joey his. We scream. We scream to Allen, we are here, get the door unblocked, we're getting you out, we're here! A scream, an enormous heave, a loud slam from inside the room and the door is free.
I see him. I pull him up awkwardly, holding his head to my chest, my tears catching in his curly hair. He whimpers, very unlike the Allen I know, Erin, Oh God, you came, my shin, the bone's snapped, I don't know what to do, Erin, God, help me! And I know it's very unlike me, but I pick up the built sixteen year old that is my best friend in this small little town and swing him to the door, yelling at Joey to help me. We make it down Demaree Street to Caldwell Avenue, but this is getting difficult.
We have to break the law. Joey has the bright idea of getting a push-cart from a demolished Home Depot and putting Allen on it. We make it back to my house, where Lara has the sense to make a splint for him and lay him on the couch.
Who knows who else is out there, besides God, and Joey and me, soon enough. We leave the apartment to search out all the survivors from my block, and head back up Demaree. The devastation awes me, the blood chokes my lungs. I have to do something. I start to- sing. People hear, they begin to thump on roofs caved in on them and others. Soon, both of our hands are bleeding from the scrape of glass and wood and tiling, but we don't care. For it is too early in the morning, and we have seen too much death this day as is. We help who we can. We give them my address, the push cart, and send them on their way.
Those we dig out who are well enough to stand on their own start some of their own searches. We try to keep track of where we have gone through, but to do so is impossible. But we don't mind. Going over the same place twice is a good idea.
Joey and I make our way up to Whitendale Avenue. The going is very rough, and we are not sure if someone has been here before us. It seems as though, because the one house on the street important to Joe- Tammy's house- is empty. We trudge to the west, me on the left side of the street, him on the right. Sometimes, we help each other to dig out an especially caved-in roof, or to handle someone wrapped in electrical wires. We comment to each other on the barbarian's horrid sense of humor.
At one point, I am singing a song by the Gorillaz while helping a lady out of some stucco wall. I drop the piece I was holding, cracking her skull and instantly killing her. I go quiet.
Joey runs across to me, not expecting me to stop singing. I sit down suddenly, and stare. When he asks me what's wrong, I tell him I can no longer sing, because the singing has caught me off guard and I have- killed someone.
Joe hits me on the head. "You idiot! That singing has helped so many people who might have never known we were coming, or died of fright thinking we were someone else! You're not Superman, Erin! You're going to slip and fall sometimes!" When I don't sing, now, Joey does.
We make it to the corner of Whitendale and Acres. I can't contain myself much longer, because I know Michael and Jessica live on this street. Joey tells me we should go south, to meet up with the other search parties, but I can't, not without knowing. Not without Mike and Jessi, who lay north.
We make it down to their house, much quicker, because we only have to search one side of the street, since El Diamante High School and Save Mart are on the other side, and not many houses. I refuse to go down side streets, and eventually Joey gets so fed up with me that he goes to find more survivors. There aren't many on this street, perhaps one per house, and in one house only a dog. It sickens me.
I find their house. The inflatables in front have been, let us say, deflated with bullets. I'm scared. I don't know what I'm supposed to find.
The door creaks open. You have no idea how tired I am of doors that creak by this time. I think I'm just going to mosh the next one right off of its hinges. Let's see it creak then! I think irritably, then set my mind back to my task, this time reciting softly instead of singing, "There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground/ And the swallows circling with their shimmering sound...."
I come to Jessica's room first. I can tell she didn't make it by two things- the gagging, horrendous smell of blood that overwhelms me, and the metal fan blade that runs straight through her middle. My eyes sting hot. I'm sorry, Jessi, I think miserably, and feel a warm hand on my shoulder.
I turn quickly, expecting to see the face of a rancid barbarian, but instead am greeted with the tearful smile beneath newly-hardened eyes and a mass of curly hair. Joey.
I hug him, not bothering with asking why he returned, and continue reciting- "And the frogs in the pools singing at night/ And wild plum trees in tremulous white...
"Robins will wear their feathery fire/ Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire." Their mother, their little sister- gone. I knew it. And I know what I must also face in Michael's room. "And not one will know of the war, not one/ Will care at last when it is done...
"Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree/ If mankind perished utterly..." Joey opens Michael's door for me and the last words catch in my throat- "And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn/ Would scarcely know... that we... were...
"Gone." A razor-sharp metal sheet that has fallen from the ceiling is balancing precariously on the armrests of Michael's daybed. Lying under it, Mike whispers lightly, "Don't- move it. It will fall on me if you do."
Joey lays his hands cautiously on the side of the sheet closest to the doorway. I go around Michael's bed and do the same. We bid him climb out. He does so with care, and Joey and I welcome him with open arms. I hold him tight- Oh, Mike, I'm so sorry, Jessi, your mom, your sister, they're gone, Mike, you have to come with me and Joe, oh, Mike, I'm so glad you're alive!
It is late, almost eight, and we are found by a search party, a group of those rescued by those rescued by those we had rescued. They say they will take it from here, and one woman with a car still in working order will drive us home. We are grateful, because Michael has a sprained knee and is having trouble walking.
All the way down to Acres and Caldwell we drive until the engine of the car dies. We thank the female searcher for what ride we got and say we'll walk the rest of the way. The nice lady thanks us for allowing her to drive us, and walks back the way we came, to help with the searching.
Mike's knee is in bad condition. Joey and I try supporting him between us, but it's too hard on Joey's shoulders. We make it to the store at Caldwell and Demaree, and I kneel down, thinking. It comes to me then, and I pick Michael up- unwillingly, he sits squarely on my shoulders in a fireman's carry until we make it to the apartment. To home.
When we get there, the couch is full. The floor is full. The rooms are full of those who must lay down, as is almost every square inch of carpet. The nice new neighbor girl is talking to Brandon, and they come to me saying that they will start up where Joe and I left off. I'm really out of it, but I manage to make room for Mike on the couch and put him down.
Mom says I need sleep but I will not comply. I know it's late but if I fall asleep it will be wasting time I could be helping the people still trapped. It's difficult to function, and Crystal hands me a bowl of soup, telling me what news she's heard. I don't hear her. It's too much for me right now. I try to find a place to sit down.
Michael and Allen try to find a place for me between them, but there is not enough room, so Allen insists I sit on him. I don't want to sit down, because there are so many more people out there that I could be digging out, but Allen wraps his still-strong arms about my waist and drags me down. I eat my soup- or rather, I am force-fed my soup by Michael- and fall asleep directly after.
I've woken up. I curse myself for falling asleep, and look at the clock in apprehension. It's four in the morning, and I attempt to get up. I cannot extract myself from Allen's iron grasp around my waist, or Michael's clasp on my wrists. I'm still bone tired, so I black out again.
Awakening again, I hear- movement. I open my blurry left eye, and see a mass of curls in my face. I open my right eye and see Allen. And Joey. How far they've come. And- where am I? I think I'm on the couch, facing the TV, listening to it squawk electronically...
"The story of how the small city of V was dug up in the space of two weeks, primarily to the efforts of two teenage-"
Somehow, I am back in the present. The clock reads five-thirty P.M. and I cannot believe I have slept that long. Our apartment looks like a homeless shelter, and I am still crowded. My hands are still bleeding and I still have some spilled soup on my shirt. I'm shaking both inside and out. But this, I think, is a recovery that has began, and no barbarians better try to mess up little ol' V-Town again.
I black out.
I've woken up.