I have an idea for a Volume of Really Short Stories for future publication. It may very well sell zero copies, but the exercise is cathartic.
This is first in the occasional series.
It was as dark a darkness as I had ever known when the movements started. I had never been in an earthquake, so I wasn’t for sure whether that’s what it was. But all around me things shifted. And they kept shifting.
Start, stop. Start, stop. I’m not sure how long it went on: hours, days?
I now know you are supposed to crouch under a doorway for protection during a quake. That day there was no doorway. It didn’t matter anyway. It was dark, if you’ll remember. I couldn’t have seen it. In fact, I couldn’t have gotten to it if I could have seen it.
The room I found myself in was small which amplified the effects of the shaking. If I had known then what is clear at this point I would have felt for the way out and waited. It wasn’t known, so I didn’t move.
But there was so much other movement. It was like my room was collapsing. Later I would learn that it had.
I felt The Thing brushing up against me. It seemed all at once to be everywhere. It was hard and greasy. Perhaps slimy is a better word. I kicked at The Thing but it didn’t make any difference. If I kicked it moved to my stomach. If I threw it off my stomach I could feel it on my arm. If I shook my arm, it went back to my legs. It never bit me, never attacked me, never hurt me, but I couldn’t escape.
It was everywhere and it was nowhere all at the same time. I tried to yell. Over and over I tried, but no sound would come out. This went on. I tired from the struggle.
Out of nowhere I heard screaming. My mother? Maybe she’d been screaming all along. I’d been so concerned about the movement and the slithering Thing I don’t think I heard it.
It was a cry of anguish. My heart was racing. I tried to cry out to her; nothing. I tried to reach out to her; only the Thing. It was no good. She screamed again, louder, guttural. I felt helpless. Her cries surrounded me.
It was at that moment the room collapsed. The walls came down and the floor convulsed. The structure was crushing me. It wouldn’t be long now. There was no way I would survive.
I heard a man’s loud voice, but I could not distinguish his words. It was muffled. He sounded angry, but I could not be certain. Would he help? Then my mother screaming again. Was he hurting her? What was he doing to her?
I turned my head and saw a light. Not a direct beam but soft illumination like looking toward a lamp with your eyes closed. It wasn’t much but it was something. A way out?
At one end of the collapsed room I found a small tunnel. The force of gravity and the collapse pushed me down the tunnel. Water. A pipe must have burst. Filled with sediment, it rushed all around me speeding up my decent, filling my mouth and nose. Breathing was nigh impossible.
The light brightened until it was blinding. Everything was spinning out of control. The room was collapsed as was the tunnel. I heard the water landing on something several feet below me, then the sensation of free falling.
A hand. Someone has grabbed me? Was it the man? I cry out; finally, a sound!
“Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Ackerman. She looks fine.”
I was born.
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