FFF 04: Earthquake

It was as though earth had shaken down around them. No, the earth had shaken down around them. They hadn’t known each other before the earthquake—all standing on the sidewalk minding their own business while waiting for the next bus—but as they shook off the dirt and visually checked each other for injuries, they knew that suddenly the earth had made their business each other’s business.

“You okay?” the Asian man asked in a heavy accent that neither of the other two people could really identify.

“A little shaken up, I admit,” the rich black woman replied, brushing what dirt she could reach from her Prada business pant suit. The Asian man and the high school goth looked at her, trying to decide whether or not she was joking, but neither mentioned her unintended pun. The way the woman held herself, it was clear that though she was affluent now, she hadn’t been born rich, and she knew a hard day’s work when she saw one.

“I’m fine,” the goth said, reaching one pale white hand down to pick up the Coach handbag from the street and give it back to the lady.

“I’m Sandra,” the woman said, offering a hand to the man and high schooler in turn.

“Yun,” the man said.

“Cain,” the goth girl said, adjusting her black backpack over her black peasant shirt and menagerie of silver jewelry.

“Cain?” Yun repeated, obviously skeptical.

“Yes,” she answered, sizing him up as though they were about to fight. “Take it or leave it.”

“Fine,” Sandra said, not really caring what the girl’s name was. “Everything attached that’s supposed to be attached? Nothing broken or hanging weird?”

“Nah,” Cain said, though she stepped gingerly on on foot and then the other as if she wasn’t sure the earth wouldn’t just open up underneath her at any moment.

Yun rolled his shoulders and cracked his knuckles. “Seems fine,” he pronounced.

Standing there on the sidewalk, the three unlikely comrades began to take in the damage the earthquake had created in the world around them. The downed powerline across the street was hanging over several cars parked underneath a large flashing sign which read “CONSTRUCTION AHEAD”. The line sparked and sizzled, but there was no one around at the moment to mark off the area as dangerous and potentially lethal.

Behind them, the door to the dive bar open at 3 PM stood wide open, a huge crack in the concrete running straight through the threshold and into the dimly lit cacophony of overturned chairs and flipped tables. Except for the snapping of the downed powerline, the street was eerily silent. It didn’t look like anyone was in the bar, either, though they could be sure.

Cain headed for the open door and ignored Yun, who tried to stop her by saying, “That’s 21 and up only!”

“Nobody’s doing any drinking right now, anyway,” Sandra said, following Cain into the darkness beyond what the bright day-lit sidewalk really allowed them to see.

Yun looked around the street again, but it didn’t look like there was any movement or obvious signs of life, so he turned and brought up the little procession’s rear.

“Whoa! Grab the doorframe!” Cain ordered just as the earth began to shift under their feet again and Yun was knocked halfway to the ground. When the rumbling stopped, the bar’s hanging lights created an strange swinging effect that made the three of them step just a little closer to one another.

“Doorframes and hallways are the safest places during earthquakes,” Cain said.

“How—?” Sandra began.

“Didn’t you ever have earthquake drills in school?” Cain asked impatiently.

“I grew up in Chicago,” came Sandra’s response. As they moved toward the back of the bar, she ran one hand over the length of the counter.

“Ah!” Yun exclaimed. “Snow days!”

“Yes,” Sandra agreed, giving Cain a pointed look.

The goth flipped a chair upright with one twist of her hand and sat down on it backwards so that she could rest her arms on the top of the backrest. “You guys have a plan?” she asked.

Yun and Sandra looked at each other and then back to Cain.

“Where is everybody?” Sandra asked.

“Good question,” Yun agreed, looking around the bar as though he’d find the answer along the wall in one of the kitschy picture frames that hung haphazardly there.

They could hear the wailing of sirens and car horns outside, and the sound seemed further off than was really likely.

“Call your parents,” Sandra told Cain, pulling a mobile phone from her purse and handing it to the girl, who accepted it reluctantly.

While Cain dialed, Sandra and Yun tried to figure out their next move. “Find out if family’s okay,” Yun said.

Sandra shook her head. “I don’t have any family in the area.”

Yun nodded agreeably. “Me either.”

“Where are you from?” she asked him.

“Chinatown,” he said, pointing the direction to indicate where.

“They said stay here,” Cain interrupted, tossing the phone back to Sandra, who just barely caught it before it landed with a smack on the wooden table beside her.

“We’ll wait with you,” Sandra said, looking at Yun. He nodded.

Cain shrugged. “Whatever.”

This post is part of Flash Fiction February.

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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