Now what? Facebook? Status update – “I’m on 116 Wakefield Street, somewhere between the eighth and the first floor, come and find me?” Skype? I imagine the emergency services are insane at the moment, with calls everywhere. How far did the earthquake spread?
People have been predicting it for years, that we were next. And they were right, whether they wanted to be or not. I begin to type, trying to keep the terror at bay. Strange, how it builds. When I first woke I was almost resigned to my situation, ready for death. But the longer I stay here the worse it becomes, panic and fear biting at the back of my throat, barely contained behind my clenched teeth.
My thigh is beginning to cramp and my left buttock has gone dead. I don’t know what has happened to my legs below the knees, only that the pain is enough to make me almost pass out when I focus on it. The clicking is still going, getting more erratic with each passing minute, which makes me envelop a tiny bud of hope that it may be human. The idea that someone else is alive and near enough to hear is strangely comforting. I call out.
“Hello? Is that someone?”
A few seconds of silence, then a click again. I wait, breathing slowly. Nothing.
“Are you alive? I mean, are you human?”
Silence. I feel solitude begin to wind its way down my spine, a trickle of fear. I am alone. Alone and trapped, with no way out and days and days before I am found. Another click breaks the long stretch of nothingness.
“Click twice if you are human!” Hysteria makes my voice break, and the knowledge of how stupid my sentence is makes me want to cry in a defeated, tired kind of way.
A click, followed shortly by another. My heart jumps and adrenaline spikes in my veins. I can hear my breath in the tiny space. The air is getting stale, like when I hold the duvet over my head for too long. I wonder how long I’ve been here. There is someone, a few metres away from me, hidden somewhere in the debris. I feel a huge surge of responsibility and an ice cold trickle of fear at the thought of how badly they must be hurt that they have to click to communicate.
“Are you okay? Click twice for yes!” I yell.
One click sounds. I wait, but the second doesn’t come. Terror threatens to take over again.
“I’m going to tell them we’re here, okay?” I shriek. My voice cracks with the strain. I sound like a crazy person, like the woman in the park my mother used to skirt us around. “I’ve got a laptop, and I’m going to tell them we’re in this building – that we’re alive. Okay?”
Two clicks, then silence. My head is throbbing with the effort of yelling. I begin to type an email, short but succinct. I send it to everyone I know, my mother, my lecturer, an old boss, someone I once bought a longboard from on TradeMe. Everyone on my contact list. I press Send, then feel the anti-climax.
It’s not enough. An email isn’t going to save my life. Our lives, now. I try Skype, but no one is online. I try to call the emergency services, my fingers desperately clicking across the keys. The phone begins to ring, the green spheres being linked by the black line as the call waits to connect. My entire body is tense with anticipation, with the imminent balm of being able to speak to someone who can do something. There is a tiny click as the call connects.
“Emergency Services, state your emergency.” The voice is female, crisp and efficient, waiting for whatever bombshell I have to drop.
“I’m stuck in a collapsed building! I’m on 116 Wakefield Street in Wellington, I was on the eighth floor, there’s someone – “
“Hello?” She interrupts me.
“Hello! I’m here, can you hear me?” I scream at the computer, willing it to work, willing her to answer. I hardly register the two clicks that sound from somewhere to my left.
“Hello?” She repeats. “I’m sorry, but I cannot hear you. Please hang up and redial.” She says it so coolly and calmly, as though this happens everyday. As though a life isn’t hanging on the other end of the line. The call disconnects. I stare at the laptop, horror dawning on my face. The microphone. It broke, two months ago, and I never got it fixed.
The horrible reality of this begins to dawn over me, the fact that help, whoever it may be from, isn’t coming. I, and someone who is in a much more dire state than myself, am at the mercy of someone languidly pulling their phone out of their pocket and deciding to check their emails, or slowly making a cup of tea before meandering over to switch on the computer. Every breath that I take is seconds off my life, off my breathing space and my state of mind. I can feel the terrifying helplessness beginning to wash over me. A pop up window appears. You are now running on reserve battery power.
A low howl escapes me, and I feel useless tears leak from my eyes. Incessant clicking fades into the background.