As a little bonus (and thanks) to all of you who bought a copy of Quake, I’ve decided to post a scene written from Ana’s son Theo’s point of view. This didn’t make it into the final book, but I still love this scene so much that I want to share it with you. (Please note: This scene hasn’t been through my editor or proofreaders, so it may have some typos. Hope you enjoy it anyway!)
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Theo’s limbs trembled.
He remained on his hands and knees, head bowed, shaking in the sudden stillness. Closing his eyes, the winter sunshine slowly warmed his shoulders, and a sea breeze teased his scalp and tiptoed down his partially exposed spine. The day felt normal—if he kept his eyes shut tight. If he closed his ears to the screams, crashes, and rumble of falling masonry.
But this day wasn’t normal, not even for a kid born and raised in the earthquake-prone capital city. That’s what had happened.
The big one.
And what often followed massive earthquakes? The answer emblazoned across his eyelids in neon letters.
Disaster knowledge 101.
Theo staggered to his feet, gingerly testing his weight on shivery legs. He patted the mobile phone dangling under his tee-shirt on a lanyard. The phone didn’t feel broken and he tried it. No signal. He expected as much, and shoved it back under his shirt.
Shading his eyes, he saw his mate Malcolm sitting on the grass nearby, head hunkered down between his knees. He jogged over toward him and the small cluster of other dazed boys hanging around.
“Get up. We gotta go. A tsunami could come after a quake like that.”
Stretch, the tallest boy in his class, blinked owlishly at him. “Year nines aren’t supposed to leave school grounds without permission.”
“As if that matters now.”
Theo turned at the sound of Brandon’s voice. Brandon and Caleb hung out together and would make his life hell on a daily basis if he gave them any opportunity. Sure enough, Caleb hovered beside Brandon, his arm draped over his mate’s shoulders. Theo glanced down—Caleb’s left ankle had puffed up like a kid’s water wings under the white sports sock.
He met Brandon’s eyes. The other boy’s sneer remained conspicuously absent, a sure sign he was scared shitless like the rest of them.
“Could there really be a tsunami, Theo?” Caleb said.
“Yeah, and I don’t wanna be on this field if there is.”
“What about them?” Malcolm pointed back toward the crumbled remains of the old brick wing and the new wing next to it.
Faint shouts and louder screams arrowed out across the grassy field. Their PE teacher had gone back into the old wing to take a phone call after ordering their class to keep running laps. Theo didn’t want to think too closely about what had happened to their teacher.
“We can’t help them if a tsunami wipes us out. If we get up to the lookout and after thirty minutes nothing happens, we’ll come back down.” He turned to Brandon. “We haven’t got time for Caleb to hobble. Grab my wrist and make a hammock.”
They carried Caleb in a fast lope to join the largest group of boys, gathered in the field corner by the maintenance gate.
Malcolm reached the group first. “Dudes. Theo reckons the quake may’ve caused a Tsunami, says we need to head to higher ground.”
A few boys muttered, others argued pros and cons, and the remaining few looked at Theo with wide, shocked eyes.
“Your leadership skills suck, man,” Brendon said behind Caleb’s back.
Theo jerked his head away, swallowing hard. Who made him the leader? He hadn’t asked for this and he didn’t want to be the one responsible. Adults were supposed to be the leaders, the responsible ones. Adults were supposed to tell you what to do in an emergency.
So why should he say something? Suddenly it was all on him to get a bunch of terrified kids off their butts and moving?
All the other adults were trapped inside the school, so no one else would. He couldn’t stand by and just do nothing.
Theo clenched his teeth together, took a deep breath and bellowed, “Shut the hell up.”
Caleb and Brandon twitched in surprise. The others gaped at him.
“If a tsunami doesn’t come, you can say I told you so later. But I’m getting off this field and up to the lookout. If you want to stay alive, stop pissing around and come with me!”
Only a few people staggered along the footpath behind the school. The grounds were situated in a popular family-oriented area, a flat expanse of middle-class houses leading to a calm sweep of beach and the city harbour. Bush-covered hills lined Seatoun’s invisible rear boundaries and a two traffic lane tunnel cut through them to the neighbouring suburbs.
Theo and the boys headed toward the tunnel and the nearest high ground.
Caleb noticed it first. “Uh, guys? What’s that sound?”
Both Brandon and Theo stopped, nearly tipping Caleb out of his human litter. Theo didn’t need to cup his ear and he certainly didn’t require a neon sign to tell him what the approaching roar meant.
“Run!” Theo’s voice cracked, straining over the wall of noise.
Ahead some boys bolted, while others stopped and frowned.
Theo tightened his grip on Brandon’s arm and said, “Hold on tight, Caleb.”
Brandon’s eyes met his, stark and full of dread.
“Leave him,” he mouthed.
Theo shook his head. Brandon yanked his hands from Theo’s and Caleb fell sideways to the sidewalk, dragging Theo with him.
“Every man for himself.” Brandon spun around and galloped off.
Theo scrambled to his feet and tugged Caleb upright.
Caleb gaped at Brandon’s back as he fled, jumping over cracks and leaping up onto the bank near the tunnel. “He dropped me, the bastard drop—”
“Shut it, man—we gotta run.”
Theo risked a glance behind him. Holy crap. Bad, bad idea. The swiftly advancing grey line boiled and foamed—blocking the horizon in its churning mass.
“Now!” Theo hooked his arm around Caleb’s waist, and together they lurched forward at a shambling trot. Behind him echoed a cacophony of screeches, hollow booms, and sibilant hissing, like milk boiling over in an unwatched pot. The stench of sea brine and feral sweat clogged his nostrils, and bitter copper coated his tongue.
Caleb twisted around mid-stride. “Hurry!” He tightened his grip on Theo’s shoulder, almost whinnying with fear.
Theo tucked his chin into his chest and gave it all he had. He sensed, rather than saw, other people racing close by. Footsteps smacking on the sidewalk, unintelligible shouts and screams, Caleb’s rasping breath—all flickered across his eardrums, but he didn’t acknowledge anything. He ran.
Voices shouted his name. Theo spotted Malcolm’s ginger hair tucked into the branches of an ancient pine, off to the side of the tunnel entrance. A steep and unfriendly track wound through the grove of trees and up alongside the tunnel—a well-trodden short cut kids used to reach the houses above.
They dashed across the deserted street, and for the first time since age six Theo didn’t check for traffic. He figured God owed him a break after this morning. “I’ll go first. Pull you up.”
Theo leaped onto the bank and whipped around to Caleb, who stretched out his arms to him in a little-kid-pick-me-up motion. Yanking Caleb’s hands, he hauled backwards, and Caleb stumbled up the easiest part of the steep incline.
Glancing over Caleb’s shoulder was a mistake. It didn’t look like a wave. It didn’t even look like the white-capped ocean that surrounded Wellington’s coastal suburbs. A brownish grey monster of foam with teeth of crumpled metal and chunks of masonry surged up the road. Nothing resisted it—houses, cars, trees, screaming pedestrians—everything fell under its sweeping path.
The tsunami was all but on them.
Theo wanted to run. The stuff of nightmares wouldn’t get him, if he let go and ran. His mother and sister and poppa’s face flashed into his mind. He wouldn’t hesitate to save them, but did he want to die for a kid that made his life hell on a regular basis?
Screw it. He lunged, caught hold of a protruding tree root and pulled Caleb up with his other hand, every single arm muscle about to split and ping away like snapped guywires.
The wave slammed into the bank as they clawed and scrabbled higher up to where the dirt gave way to trampled grass. Relief, sweet and sharp, as hands hauled them further away from the churning, sucking vortex below.
Caleb touched his arm, his eyes shiny, his lips trembling. “Thanks…mate.”
No energy to reply, Theo nodded and scrubbed his palms over his face.
Minutes later, slumped in a tree fork with his bleeding and torn fingernails tucked under his armpits, he allowed a moment to squeeze his eyes shut. The water roared and thundered, the wind sifted through his sweat-damp hair and the sun hammered indifferently down on his scratched arms.
Right now he didn’t want to plan what to do next. Right now he was just a scared thirteen-year-old kid—weary, sore, and most of all, desperately wanting his mother.
Copyright Tracey Alvarez 2018