Tag Archives: destruction

stuck – part five

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.

“Hello?”

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.

“Yes!”

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.

Read part six here

Read from part one here

stuck – part three

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.

Read part four here

Read from part one here

stuck – part one

I’m stuck. There’s nothing I can do to move. My legs are pinned by what feels like 12 tonnes of plasterboard, ceiling paint and rubble. It’s dark here, in my three feet of space. All I can see is the glow of this laptop, the white light of human engineering, miraculously unharmed by the fall. All I can do is type. Dust has filled my mouth, the result of so much GIB shredding I guess.

There was no warning, nothing. Just a low rumbling of the earth, the nano second of growl before the impact came. I’ve felt earthquakes before, of course I have. It’s hard to live in New Zealand and not feel them at least once. But always the slow rocking type, gentle, almost lulling me to sleep as I lay in my bottom bunk, listening to the trees creaking outside with the rhythmic swaying. Never this violent. It was like something hit me, something huge and feral and intent on my death. I saw the far wall reach for me, lurching towards me like a drunken man outside a brothel. I hardly had time to react, only pulled my legs closer. The next thing I was aware of was dust in the air and a white light, and, so faint I almost thought I was imagining it, the far sound of sirens.

My head hurts. I was hit on the left side, and I can see blood trickling down my chest from a gash on my scalp. I can’t reach it though. I can’t move my hand past my shoulder, something is squeezing me from all sides. I tell myself that it’s fine, head wounds always bleed a lot, don’t they? I’m saying I a lot. But there’s no one else here. There’s no one else that I can see or feel, just the heavy, muffled silence of eight floors of rubble. I was on the eighth floor, so high the lift didn’t even go right up. I don’t know where I am now. I don’t remember feeling as though I was falling, but I must have. I don’t remember anything actually. Because I was hit on the head. I remember learning about this at Uni, that your current thoughts are just swirling around in your mind, not committed to memory until a few seconds later, and a jolt to the head can interrupt that. That’s why all people remember of being mugged sometimes is someone rushing towards them, then blankness before the sound of the attacker’s running footsteps.

I guess that’s what happened to me. I wonder where I am, how many metres of space are below me and the earth, how high I am, suspended in this teetering pile of rubble. There were people in the room next to me, I could hear their music earlier. I try to call out, but stutter on the dust. I try again. Nothing. My heart begins to beat faster and I imagine them, just metres away from me, pinned by the tonnes of bricks and wood, maybe a rogue brick smashed through a skull. This makes me shiver and I wrench my mind back, through the tiny fissures of air and space that lead to them, back into where I sit in my tiny bubble of space.

I force myself to take stock of my situation. I am alive. I have light, and a functioning laptop. I have air, although I don’t know for how long. A cold finger of fear touches me at that thought and my breathing immediately becomes shallower. I am bleeding, but not in considerable pain. The blood from my head has made its way to the middle of my bra now, it’s working its way through the dense fabric of underwire and lace. A few moments later I feel it roll down my stomach and off to the side, curling around my back before it drips off. The space is so silent I almost hear the droplet hit whatever is below me. A bed. I was sitting on my bed, writing for work. Now the pillow is shoved up behind me, the mattress curled up in front. My legs trail into the darkness behind the computer light. I try tentatively to move my feet. A white hot spark of pain shoots from my toe to my hip. Good. They are still connected to me. I can still feel them, still move them. I try again, and the pain makes me retch. My mind begins to drift, begins to see other places that don’t exist, a red haze descends.

Is this how people die? Is it more a giving up, a last release than anything else? It’s tempting, if it is. It feels like sleep. The blood is still sliding down through my hair, pooling on my collarbone then rolling down my chest, following the set path until it drips, with a tiny, almost inaudible thunk onto the white duvet beneath me. Maybe that’s what’s making me tired. It feels warm and friendly, a part of me come to the surface.

No. A tiny, insistent thought patters at the soft folds of sleep that beckon me. No. Try. At least try. My eyes close, then snap open, before slowly closing again. Maybe this is it. There are worse ways to go, than being tucked up in a soft white cocoon, red blood meandering down your spine. There are terrible, horrible, violent ways to go, surrounded by hate and spite and tearing noise. But here there is only me, and the soft press of everything around me, and my eyelids, so soft and heavy. It would be so easy, to go like this. Like I had come full circle, back to the womb, tucked almost in the same position, surrounded by the same warmth and darkness and lack of air. Just for a few minutes. Then I’ll try. My eyes flutter closed, and the dark engulfs me.

Read part two here