#DirtyGoggles2014 : And Portland Was Gone

Title : And Portland Was Gone
Word Count : 650Twitter Handle : @LurchMunster
Category : Steampunk

“Miss Sally, you must come with me now!” I grabbed her hand, and pulled her along behind me.

“Mister Henry, what’s going on?” She planted her feet, and refused to take another step.

“Please, Miss Sally! There’s no time. I’ll explain on the way.” Yet, she refused to budge. “I don’t want to die, so I’m going. I’d like to take you with me.”

“Die?”

“The waves will be here soon. We may already be too late.” I turned and ran. She paused a moment, then followed.

I could understand her confusion. It’s not every day the ground in Portland shakes. Portland, so different and so far from San Francisco, home of the 1906 earthquake. Stories of that disaster spread far and wide. The quake had been bad, certainly, but the gas fires caused by the quake had been far worse.

My father had explained the 1906 quake to me. Told me of the big crack in the ground, he called it a fault line. “Two parts of the Earth are sliding past each other. But they’re not smooth, so they stick together. Pressure builds between the two parts, until the stuck part breaks, comes unstuck, and the two parts rapidly slide to where they should have been.”

He wanted me to know Portland was not as safe as everyone believed. “There’s a fault in the ocean. A big fault. It’s stuck. It will slip, soon. When it does, it will cause giant waves from the ocean to strike Portland. Portland will wash into the sea.”

I’d always thought he was a bit crazy, my Dad. He’d made a balloon, a big one, for all his family. He kept it in the shed behind the house. When I’d moved a couple of years ago, he’d insisted I have a balloon too. “You must keep it ready. When the ground shakes you must promise me you’ll take the balloon to a safe height.”

“Be realistic, Father. The ocean is hundreds of miles west of Portland. Surely, waves from the ocean won’t reach us.”

“I’ve studied the history in the rocks and ground, my son. I know. I’ve seen it. The waves come in ever 360 years or so. And it’s their time. They will come someday soon.”

I couldn’t argue with my Father. He was a crazy old man, thinking waves from the ocean would wipe Portland from the map. But he was my Father. So, I had a balloon of my own, stored in my shed.

That night, at Miss Sally’s home, celebrating the full moon with close friends, and neighbors, the ground shook. Glasses slipped off tables, crashed to the floor. Confusion reigned, “What was that?”

I knew. I knew instantly. The fault my Father warned me of had slipped, causing an earthquake. As Miss Sally followed me, I explained my Father’s warning. “Waves from the ocean? Here?”

“I’m afraid so.” I opened the shed, and pulled out the gondola. The balloon rested inside. I opened the valve to the compressed can of hydrogen tied to the balloon. The hydrogen quickly filled the balloon, causing it to float from the gondola. “Miss Sally, please, climb in.”

She did, as gracefully as she could, taking care to keep her skirt positioned to protect her modesty. When she was in, I climbed in also, not nearly as gracefully as she had. The hydrogen tank continued emptying into the balloon, and shortly, we lost contact with the ground.

“I’ve never been in a balloon before, though I’ve always wanted to ride in one.”

I held her hand, “Miss Sally, I’m glad you are safe.”

As our balloon cleared rose, we looked to the west, and watched as the waves my Father warned me inundated Portland. Waves two hundred feet tall. One after another. In an endless procession. Until all the earth below us became a sea.

And Portland was gone.

Have You Forgotten?

Why do you say
There is no hope?
Why do you act
So doomed?
As if the world had ended.
Or will end soon.

Don’t you understand?
Don’t you see the truth?

Each day of life we get
Is a gift.
Each heartbeat.
Each breath.

Why do you give up
On the future?
On the unknown?
On what hasn’t happened yet?
Do you really know
What is to come?
Do you know
What each day will bring?
Can you see
Ahead in time?

How do you know
The Earth will not quake today?
A gigantic wave
Won’t wash the oceanfront away?
Someone else
Won’t plow their car
Into the side of yours today.

How do you know
This won’t be
Your last day?

Yet you sit there.
Doing nothing.
Not living at all.
Not smiling.
Not laughing.
Not feeling the breeze
Flow past the fingers
Of your hands.
Not feeling the warmth
Of the heat
Within your house.

Not thanking God above
That your heat beats.
That you aren’t
Hooked to a machine
Just to stay alive.

You don’t see the flowers.
You don’t see the clouds
Floating in the sky.
You don’t see the trees
Along the ground.

It’s as if your blind
To everything around.
Everything life gives to you.
Each day.

Even when you know
It doesn’t have to give you
Another day at all.

Why do you stay inside.
Wishing.
Dreaming.
For the days of glory
Long past now?
When you were happy.
When you didn’t have a worry
In the world.

Why do you sit there
And wish
Those days would return?
When you know they can’t.
You know there’s no way
To turn back the clock.
And yet you wish
Things could just be the same
As they were in the days
When you were happy.
When you smiled.
When you laughed.

When the world was a place
You wanted to live in?

Why don’t you want
To be alive right now?

Have you forgotten
The simple joy
Of each breath you take?
Have you forgotten
That you have food to eat
Every day?
More than you need.
More even than you want.
So that you throw food away?

When you know
You could be that person
You saw just yesterday.
The one on the corner.
Dressed in rags.
Outside in the cold.
Without a coat.
Holding up that cardboard sign.
“Will work for food.”

And you sit there
And complain
About your horrible life?
You call that person
With that sign
A failure.
“His kind are what’s wrong
With the world today!”

And your Jesus said,
“The poor will always be here.”

And yet you say,
“Hide them from me!
I don’t want to know
Such people exist!
It spoils my view
Of the world that I live in!”

And you hear the words
Of that song you heard
On the radio
From years ago,
“Get a job,
You fucking slob.”

And you drive away.

Have you really forgotten
The gift you have been given
By life
Every day?

What Else Was He To Do But Wait?

Simon woke up. He remembered the ground had stopped shaking. He opened his eyes. It was still dark. He was still there. Wherever there was. It was the darkest he could remember it ever being. He stared straight ahead, and tried to see anything. Nothing. Just black. He figured there was dust. His mouth tasted like he’d eaten dry cardboard.

He tried to move once more. Found nothing had changed. He could wiggle his left foot, but couldn’t move his left leg at all. He couldn’t even feel his right leg. Couldn’t tell if it moved or not. He could make a fist with his left hand. Wave it up and down at the wrist. But when he tried to bend his left arm at the elbow, all he saw was this brilliant white light. And he got really hot. And sweaty. And, Momma, did it hurt to try to move his arm. His right arm worked. Sort of. He could feel it move around. He could bend it at the elbow. Swing it up over his head. Hold it out in front of himself. He supposed that was actually holding it up, pointing at the ceiling.

He could breathe. Thankfully. But it felt like he was stuck under a sheet of plywood that some football team was sitting on. He couldn’t budge that plywood sheet at all. It was tough to breathe, but at least he could.

OK. Nothing had changed since the last time he’d tried to move. Simon tried to smile about that. “That’s a good thing,” he thought to himself.

“Testing. Testing. 1. 2. 3.” Simple to say. Really simple. He tried to say it several times. To him, it felt like he was saying it. He swore he could hear it. Hear his voice. But he couldn’t be sure. Maybe it was just his mind wanting to believe he could be heard. He could call for help.

Simon took a few minutes, and screamed at the top of his lungs. As loudly, and long as he could. No need to scream something that made sense. “Aaaaaaa!” was perfectly acceptable. He figured “Aaaaaa!” would be something people would be listening for. That they’d be listening for any sound at all.

Hell, for all Simon knew, his screams were silent, and couldn’t be heard by anyone. But, you now. Optimism. His family. His friends. They’d always said that. “Keep your chin up!” and “You need to be more optimistic.” And all that. So, OK. He’d be optimistic, for once. And assume that he was screaming at the top of his lungs, and could be heard for miles.

When he was out of breath, and his lungs ached, and he felt horse, and his throat hurt so bad he couldn’t even whisper, he stopped screaming. It was time to use his right arm. He bent that at the elbow, raising his right fist up, and then he straightened his arm out, slamming his fist into the ground. Or, if it wasn’t the ground, whatever the hell it was.

Simon kept that up as long as he could. Until he couldn’t even close his right hand anymore. Until he couldn’t wiggle the fingers because it hurt so much he screamed. Until all he could do was cry from the pain.

He had no idea what day it was. No idea how long he’d been stuck there. Unable to get up. Unable to move, pretty much. All he remembered was the ground shaking. It was an earthquake. Everyone scattered. Panicked. All the training, all the practice, all the drills. “Climb under your desk.” All that crap went away when the building started moving, and the ground started acting like a trampoline with a football team jumping up and down on it.

He should be hungry, he supposed. At least he should be thirsty. But somehow, he wasn’t. For all he knew, he could have been there for hours. Or days. He had no way to measure time. No way at all.

Simon decided to stick with his routine. A simple one. Make a lot of noise. And when you can’t make noise anymore, take another nap. So, he closed his eyes, and slowly drifted back to sleep. He’d sleep for a little while. And then, when he woke up, he’d make more noise. Someone would find him. He had to believe that. Someone would find him.

In the meantime, what else was he to do but wait?

 

I composed this tale for fun, based on the prompt for the 38th ThursThreads flash fiction challenge. The challenge is hosted weekly by Siobhan Muir. There are always spellbinding entries in the challenge, and some amazing works of fiction. Please explore them all, read them all, and enjoy them.