From the Rubble

copyright 2007/2015


It was dark, cold, and whatever force that was pressing on her body was heavy. Every breath that she took was painful. Breathing was nearly impossible because the force on her chest was much too strong, and so each gasp for air made her right side inflate and shifted her entire body in that direction. The force was indeed slanted to the left. But what was it? Her aunt would not have placed a board on top of her. It was even too heavy to be a board.

Had the ceiling collapsed? Was that why it was so cold? But the ceiling could not just collapse. The neighbours above them would have fallen on top of them and there would be chaos, not this rather profound silence. She could not hear any noise at all.

Katie tried to move, but the force was not letting her do more than breathe and wiggle slightly. Wiggling only sent barbs of pain along her nerves, but she was at least reassured that her toes and fingers, as well as every bit in between, were working somewhat. Slowly, she shifted to the right of her bed, letting the pressure of the force ease slightly off her lungs.

Worms wiggle everywhere they go, Katie mused to herself, and they eventually get to where they are going.

But the pain of it! How bruised was she? Had her organs been crushed, or burst? And why was it that she could barely hear herself as she rubbed against the sheets and ceiling – if it was the ceiling? She longed to be able to flip her body over, because she hated wiggling backwards. It seemed to be taking forever for her to reach the edge of the bed.

And when she finally did so, she realised that going any further would be a problem. What if there was something sharp on the floor?

The force had dissipated and was no longer pressing against her, but she could feel its presence only millimeters away from her head. Her arms and legs were still trapped in their sleeping position and if she continued her wiggling, she would tumble off the bed onto her rear at best.

Suddenly, she could hear noises. Sirens were wailing outside and helicopters were flying past her window. There was a dull roar of screams and shouting, and above it all, her teeth began to chatter. Her head began to ache from all the noise hitting it at once, but especially from the clacking in her mouth. It was loud, uncontrollable, and only aggravated her pain.

Was that her aunt’s voice calling her? Her aunt’s bed was along the outside wall, and perhaps the ceiling had not fallen down there? But if the ceiling had fallen, why was there no one from the building to do anything about it? Her friend Mary lived in the apartment above and one over from hers. Surely, even if the floor in her apartment had not collapsed, she would have awakened, or her mother would have, and investigated the slanted floor?

And what about their neighbours just above them? Surely a collapsing floor would have roused them from their sleep. She had seen them on the stairs coming back from the cinema, and then they had said that they were heading to bed. It was not as though they were still out. Most of the apartment building’s residents should have been home at this hour. But Katie heard little coming from inside.

No longer content to remain wedged in her bed, she delicately manoeuvered her feet out into the void behind her. They scratched along the ceiling’s surface until she lowered them toward the floor.

Everything was slanted, she soon realised, as her feet reached the floor sooner than she had expected. Her rug had slipped, leaving her feet to land upon a cold, hard surface littered with pebbles. At least, they felt like pebbles, whatever they truly were. Katie managed to get a solid footing and then push herself off the bed.

Almost instantly, her body was overcome with cold. The window was shattered, she noted as she turned around to face the only light source in the room, and wind was blowing into the apartment. She needed a blanket, but there were no blankets to be found. Her sheets were stuck on the bed. Finding her slippers was also proving to be too difficult for her aching head. Miserably, she curled herself up into a shivering, aching, bloody lump on the floor.

Blood was indeed pouring out of her head, she decided. She could taste the salt, and when she instinctively wiped her face, more blood only surged to cover it again. Her eyes were dripping red tears onto her white pyjamas.

Not that her pyjamas were white anymore, she realised. There were dark patches where blood was pooling and her entire body felt wet and sticky – wet, sticky and a dark shade of red. The pain of it only grew in intensity; now she could feel the gashes and bruises. They seemed to be everywhere. What had happened? This had to be a nightmare. But if it was a nightmare, what was causing her to hurt so much? She never felt pain in her dreams that was not somehow real. What would cause her to feel as though the ceiling had collapsed if the ceiling had not indeed collapsed?

“Holy God have mercy,” she sputtered, but even her mouth was bleeding. She coughed and tasted more blood, thick and noticeably brighter when she instinctively spat it out.

She heard a whirring noise and then gradually a flurry of lights appeared in her window. White light momentarily blinded her and she tried to move away from it, but then the light stopped and hovered outside her window, still keeping its focus on her.

Please, she prayed, unable to form words except in her head. Please let this be a helicopter.

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