Voices. I can hear voices. My eyes pull open again and I am unsurprised to find that I am in the dark, unable to move. It’s as though this is my reality now, I’ve come to terms with it. But there are definitely voices. They sound loud and rough, somewhere to my right. I turn my head sluggishly to stare into the darkness at the sound. There is quiet for a while, then a definite word.
I watch, puzzled. Is someone on the phone? Maybe there’s someone else with a phone, and they are calling for help. I watch the black some more. The word comes again. It’s a man’s voice, loud and abrupt. He sounds like someone who gets shit done, I think to myself. He probably wears overalls and fixes his own plumbing. And a hardhat. Something in my brain is trying to tell me something. I can almost feel pathways zig-zagging furiously through my head, but the thing I am trying to realise is just out of reach. My brow furrows, and I listen again.
“Hello? Anyone alive in there?” The voice is getting quieter.
An explosion of movement from my body as I realise they are outside, that it’s help. The pain sears through my legs again but I ignore it, gritting my teeth as I yell back.
“Hello! I’m here, I’m in here!” I scream until my throat is ragged and sore, the huge noise threatening to break my tiny space apart.
There is a moment of silence, then the voice again, a little louder.
“Are you in there? Yell again!” It sounds as though it’s above me, still somewhere to the left.
“Yes I’m here! Below you!” My heart is thumping in my chest and my throat constricting with the eagerness to be heard.
“Okay, we’re going to get you out. You’re going to have to keep yelling, can you do that?” His voice has changed now, it’s softer, gentle. This scares me, it makes me wonder how bad it is.
“Yes,” I shout, my voice breaking.
I begin to rant and rave, my voice dropping and cracking on occasional words. I yell to the clicker, but there is no answer. When the voices get quiet I panic, but they chat back mostly. I can hear things being moved, huge heavy things that sound painful and intimidating, scraping and heaving above me. There is a sharp sound of metal pulling against metal and a shaft of light enters my area, making me squint in pain.
“In here! I can see light!”
“Can you hear me now?” The voice sounds as though it’s right beside me, a disembodied sound in the semi-dark. The light dims as he speaks.
More things scrape and bang and I can hear the talking and grunts of the people moving them around. There are screams in the background and sirens, and the jarring drill of a jackhammer from far away. With each passing second the light surrounding me gets brighter, until I can see the laptop on my thighs and my top soaked with blood. The thing against my head is the wall that lurched at me, lying on an angle from my feet to my face. The window frame that sat beside me is warped and twisted, shards of glass littered across the duvet beside me.
I know I should feel euphoric but I just feel tired and dazed, as though nothing is real. A face appears beside me beneath low angle of the wall and I turn to look at it, taking in only the white dust settled in his short beard.
“Hey there. We’re going to get you out, okay? Can you do that?” He says it gently, like he’s speaking to a wounded animal, or a particularly stupid child. Usually this would annoy me, but today I just nod.
“Good girl.” He looks down towards my feet, at where they trail into darkness. I see the shadow cross his face.
“It’s alright,” I say. “Just get it off.”
He nods briskly.
“Alright boys, she’s under here, so we’re going to lift this wall. Her feet are crushed underneath it so –“
I stop listening, my mind telling me I don’t need to hear what they are saying. The man with the white dust beard tries to warn me, to count down until they lift it but I shake my head, gritting my teeth. When the impact finally comes it is worse than anything I have ever experienced, ripping and tearing, like knives in my flesh and fire on my skin. The pain comes with a hyper-reality, a heightening of noises and sensations. The sirens blare from below and my scream hurts my own ears.
A light rain is falling and the drops kiss my skin, melding into the dried blood on my clothes. The sky above is grey, beginning to tinge black at the edges. Night is already falling, or is it finally? I watch the clouds as the men lift me, ignoring the red ambulance lights tossing their beams into the ruined street. I hardly notice the men’s passage over the uneven ground. It’s only when they have deposited me into the street, into an ambulance with a woman with a head of tight black curls and a hooked nose that I notice the destruction.
The street around us is gone. Crumbling ruins of building spill onto the neat yellow and white lines of the road, like Lego structures broken by a toddler. A needle punctures my arm and I wonder idly what it is. For pain maybe? I try to form the words.
“How long ago was the earthquake?”
The woman looks at me in surprise. She seems startled that I can speak. This makes me feel sick. How many others couldn’t speak?
“Ten thirty. Eight hours ago.” She returns to my feet. I don’t watch.
Eight hours. Eight hours I was stuck in that hole. I turn to look at what was once my building. Only a pile of rocks remain, just two storeys high. The man with the white beard is stepping lightly across the top stones again, ducking down into holes. From another I see a man and a woman pull a large, heavy shape from one of the pockets. I realise it is a body and the world spins for a second.
The lady with black curls tells me to shush, and I lie back. Within seconds everything goes black.