Sunday, 1 November 2009

MULTIPLY United Friends Challenge #192: The Earthquake

Sassyangelac’s Challenge

Write a story in which your main character goes mad from sleep deprivation. You may write it in the first person. Your character may be choosing sleeplessness if you like that angle better than him/her/you being unwillingly sleepless. The cause(s) of the sleep deprivation is up to you; it (they) may be real or imagined. However the symptoms or side effects your character experiences should be real (hallucinations, paranoia, loss of short-term memory, tantrums, psychosis, etc.) and the ensuing madness should crescendo on Halloween night

I will try to write it down exactly, but my thoughts are still a hazy cloud. They said I should sleep, relax, but how can I, there are things that the human body just cannot cope with.

A normal day’s work, I had two operations in the hospital to perform, each one as complicated as the other and a need for concentration. Perhaps routine, but when a human life hangs on a surgical mistake, there is no such thing as routine any more. I removed my mask, the patients were now being cared for by others on the hospital staff and I made my way to the canteen for a cup of coffee.

It was then that I noticed a noise from outside the hospital. We were on a hill overlooking the city and were used to the sound of the traffic, but this was different. It seemed that all the dogs in the town decided to bark in unison. It frightened me, this brought bad memories. It was not the first time. The windows began to vibrate, as if there was some mighty strength pushing and pulling at an exceptional speed. A few moments of tranquillity, no dog barks, no window shaking, but the floor became independent with a rocking motion. Time to leave, it was an earthquake. Warnings had been given that there would be another coming probably, but as always you just pushed it onto another day. Just forgot that the pendulum was moving over your head.

People rushing in all directions, beds being pushed out into the open and hoping that the lift would still be functioning. I did what I could, prepared patients for a transfer, even managed to get my last operations safely out of the hospital. What does safe mean, you just hope that the earth tremors cease. I looked down from the hill at the town, and my heart was in my mouth. It was then I started running, running. I reached our house, the place where it had been standing.

Yes, the house was there, but transformed into a heap of loose bricks and mortar, nothing really recognisable as a house except for the children’s swing in the garden swaying to and fro, and the remains of the Halloween decorations, torn and collapsed. Suddenly the white plastic skeleton had another meaning. Maria, Angela were my first thoughts. My wife must be somewhere under the rubble and my daughter. I was mad with fright. I began to dig, with my hands. People said we will help, but they had their own trouble. I had no time, just dig. Finger nails breaking, searching and searching, listening, but nothing. The earth trembled again, but I did not notice it. Others said seek refuge, but no-one could tell me where, and without my wife Maria and my child Angela, I could not stop.

Night came, someone passed by and asked if I wanted something to drink. I could have killed that person with my bare hands. You do not drink when you are digging, moving earth, hoping for a sound, a baby crying perhaps. I think someone had placed some oil lamps on the ground, although I did not notice it.

The next morning approached, skies grey with dust clouds that had arisen from the winds blowing across the areas flattened by the earthquake. I heard a voice next to me

“Take a rest, relax, there cannot be anyone under that house. It has been so long and the complete roof collapsed as well as the top floor of the building.”

“Leave me, go, it is not your business. My wife and child are here. Maria, Angela” I called, but heard nothing. Just dig, my hands had no feelings any more, my eyes were staring into an emptiness, but my actions were regular, as if my body had become a machine. One stone after the other, put to one side. Then suddenly as if someone had tied a red bandage around my eyes, I saw something that brought me out of my stupor. Red, red, the material of Maria’s dress. A White arm showed above the mound of rubble. Dig, dig, dig. No time for thoughts. Maria, Maria, Angela I was calling, but no answer and then I heard it. I returned to a realistic world, no longer in the dream of digging for something. A child was crying somewhere in the dirt and grime of a destroyed house.

I felt others around me and I began to remove one stone after the other on Maria’s body. She came out of the destruction, she was complete, but she was dead. I clutched her body to me, my eyes were filled with tears. I was too late for Maria. It was then that I heard the cry of a child. Angela, my Angela. I saw her brown curls, could smell her sweet breath. She was lying in the remains of the house, in the place beneath where he mother was found and she was alive.

I knew no more, I took her in my arms and walked carrying her.

It is now All Souls day, we had found Maria and Angela on the evening of Halloween, perhaps it was fate. They told me I had been digging, stone after stone for near two days without food or sleep. Maria is no longer, but Angela is alive. She was a little dehydrated but alive and now I should sleep, but I could not sleep; visions of my Maria and Angela in a house that collapsed around them. They told me to drink and eat, I could not. It was then I moved my head and saw Angela sleeping peacefully in a cot next to my bed. I closed my eyes. This happened ten years ago. Angela looks so much like her mother. We do not celebrate Halloween any more, but we visit Maria’s grave on All Souls Day. I can now sleep better, but sometime wake bathed in sweat, my fingers and hands numb. My doctor told me it was in the imagination, there was no physical reason why I had no feeling in my hands any more.

Click here for more

No comments:

Post a Comment