This is a book I started writing a month or two ago. I don’t know if I’m going to continue (I stopped at 9 chapters and 12,500 words), but I thought I’d post the first chapter.
Beware: This is a rough draft, and you may find mistakes! Otherwise, enjoy! (I may post another chapter or two if you guys want me to… but I may need some persuasion…)
Watching the bustle of cars on a road a hundred feet below you and seeing the towering buildings that scrape the sky gives you a sense of how small you are in relation to the world. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s something incredibly eye-opening about living in a city. It makes you realize that it isn’t just you. There are other people, billions of them, who are going about their everyday lives just as you are. They have routines, plans, ideas, dreams. I like looking down on San Francisco from my apartment window in the mornings while I eat breakfast. I watch the distant cars and people that look like beetles scuttling across busy streets, horns and sirens blaring.
I never tire of watching. It helps to remind me that there’s more out there; that there are so many places I haven’t been, so many people I’ve never met.
I let out a sigh and lean back in my seat, averting my eyes from the world below and staring into my bowl of cereal with distaste. One thing I do tire of is having the same breakfast every single day. There isn’t much time for anything else, though, as I have to be ready for Mom to drive me to school by seven.
Being summer, it’s bright enough outside at this early hour to see the city. Honestly, I like it much more when it’s dark. The city is lit up by millions of speckled lights from the skyscrapers, acting as a sky full of stars that extends to the ground.
Mom hurries into the room and grabs her purse from the counter without glancing up. She reaches into the bag frantically, her eyes wide with concern. This isn’t a new occurrence; Mom loses (or thinks she’s lost) things all the time.
“What now?” I ask tiredly, resting my chin on my propped up arm.
Mom shakes her head. “Never mind, I got it,” she mumbles, pulling something from her purse. It’s only when she brings it up to her chest and clasps it around her neck is that I realize that it’s her locket. Inside is a picture of her, Dad and I. It was taken six years ago when Dad finished Coast Guard Training in Cape May, New Jersey. He has two years left of his term, and then he’ll live at home.
He and Mom nearly separated around the time that he enlisted, so he just decided to live on-base so they could have some space. It was really stupid.
It’s pretty ordinary just living with Mom now, though. It’s brought us closer together.
“Are you almost done?” Mom asks, looking down at the watch on her wrist.
I frown and push the bowl away. “Yeah. Let me brush my teeth and I’ll be ready to go.”
“Okay. We have a few minutes, so you don’t need to rush.” she says, grabbing the remote off the counter and switching on the news.
I clear my bowl and head to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I’m too lazy to do much with my hair today, and even if I style it I know I’ll look completely average anyway. Brown hair, brown eyes. I’m basically as ordinary as someone can get.
When I return to the dining room Mom is leaning against the counter, her eyes glued to the TV and her mouth set in a grim line.
“Those morons,” she mutters.
“What’s going on?”
She turns her head sharply in my direction, looking dazed. “We have to go.”
“I need to get my backpack-”
“No,” she interrupts, her tone stern. “We aren’t going to your school.”
My heart rate picks up. Something’s wrong.
“Where… are we going then?”
Mom grabs her purse and tows me from the room toward the door without turning off the TV. “I’ll explain on the way.”
The next few minutes are mostly a blur. Mom practically shoves me into the car, before getting in herself and starting the engine. The traffic is bad- even for San Francisco. The air has a strange smell to it, like the ocean… but oppressive. It’s like the air pressure is stronger, forcing the scent of wind and water upon us. The humidity causes beads of sweat to run down the sides of my face, or maybe I’m just sweating from anxiety. I’ll never be sure.
“What’s going on?” I ask again once we’re driving.
Mom doesn’t answer for what feels like an eternity. I can see her furrowed brow in the mirror, and the wide brown eyes that dart around the world outside like something is going to jump out at her.
“Mom?” I repeat, trying to contain my nervousness.
She blinks, and then shakes her head as if trying to clear all of those thoughts away.
“There’s…” she trails off, and then takes a deep breath. She looks angry. “There’s a large-scale hurricane coming. It’s supposed to hit in a few hours.”
Once the wave of fear dissipates, confusion replaces it. “But that doesn’t make any sense,” I say, my voice slightly hysterical. “NHC is supposed to give warn us thirty-six hours before it hits… aren’t they?”
Mom is silent, and I remember her comment when she saw the TV originally. ‘Those morons.’ I have a feeling that there’s more to this than she’s letting on, but what else could there be?
“Now there’s a mass evacuation,” Mom continues.
“Can’t people stay inside during hurricanes?” I ask stupidly.
Mom’s eyes narrow. “Sometimes. This one, though… it’s massive. Five hundred mile hurricane winds, they said. Nothing’s going to survive this thing, trust me.”
I don’t realize I’m chewing on my nails until I’ve bitten down to the skin. It’s an unbreakable habit, it seems. I try to focus on this smaller problem instead of the larger one without success. There’s a hurricane coming in only a few hours. I could die today.
I could die any day, a voice inside me whispers.
That’s true. There’s just more of a probability of it happening today.
I jump as Mom blares the horn, and look out the windshield at the mass of cars beeping frantically. Panic rises inside of me.
“How are we going to get out? Are we taking the Oakland Bay Bridge?”
“We’re going to try,” Mom says, shaking her head wearily. “I don’t know what else to do… but the bridges are going to be crowded. It’s not like we could go south, though… we wouldn’t make it in time.”
I’m trying not to cry, and it’s painful. Everything is happening so fast. It’s sort of like when you’re watching a movie and all of the action starts to happen all at once, leaving the characters confused and helpless.
The traffic moves slowly, and it’s nerve-wracking. After half an hour, though, it’s as if the rows of cars shifts and we’re moving again. I try to be relieved by this, but the pounding in my head and the trembling inside of me is just as bad as it was a few minutes ago.
I don’t talk for a while. I watch the city fly by, maybe for the last time. It’s weird to think that all of it could be gone in just a few hours.
Another ten minutes fly by before the cars stop moving again. The winds have picked up, and people are becoming frenzied. It’s as if, all at once, the crowd of cars go berserk. The bridge is less than twenty minutes away now, and people want to put as much distance between themselves and San Francisco as possible. They’re jumping from their cars and running toward the bridge, now, as if the hurricane is right behind us. With the wind the way it is now, knocking down signs and throwing stones, it might as well be.
The radio buzzes to life, beeping loudly before announcing in a static voice, “We ask that everyone evacuate calmly. The hurricane seems to have grown in speed and wind power, and will hit land in about forty-five minutes. I repeat, everyone must evacuate calmly. The hurricane is-” The radio begins beeping hysterically and then plunges into static.
Mom’s frozen, watching the onslaught that’s going on outside.
“That isn’t possible,” I find myself saying shakily. “How can a hurricane change so dramatically?”
Mom still doesn’t move. When she speaks, her voice is even. “It can’t.”
When she doesn’t elaborate, I open my mouth to ask what she means. The radio starts beeping again, cutting whatever words I would have asked off.
“Please evacuate calmly. The hurricane has hit the west shore.”
An involuntary scream leaves my throat, and before I know what I’m doing I’ve unlocked the car door and stepped outside into the humid, tingling air. I can sense it. The hurricane will be here soon, and all of this will be gone. Maybe I’ll be gone, too.
Mom slams her own car door shut, and comes around the car to get me. “Let’s go,” she urges, grabbing my hand and holding it firmly.
Then we run. Soon I can feel other people on all sides, and we’re all struggling to get to the bridge. The only thought that’s racing through my mind is that I won’t make it… this is it… this is how it ends…
I can hear screams and honking cars all around me, but it’s nothing compared to the screaming of the wind. The buildings groan as the force of the air presses against it, and I can hear the raindrops beginning to hit the roofs.
As minutes slowly melt away people grow more panicked, and I’m suddenly less afraid of the hurricane killing me and more about them. I’m shoved to the right by some strong force, and I feel the connection with my Mom’s fingers break. I scream, trying to get back to her. I think I can hear her calling my name, but the word is lost in the million other sounds that wail in my head like alarms.
“Mom!” I cry, tears running down my face. Something else crashes against me, and this time I can’t stay up.
I fall to my knees, and the stampede continues over me. I can’t seem to get to my feet now, and no one cares if they notice me. I’m trampled by a hundred pounding feet that don’t try to avoid stepping on me. I’m only another obstacle that keeps them from getting away from this doomed place.
Suddenly escaping isn’t so important. With the last of my energy I drag myself under one of the parked cars, praying that it doesn’t move. I then lay limply on the ground, the pain of impact the only thing I can focus on. My vision is blurry so I stop trying to hold my eyes open. Instead I give in to the agony, and let it envelop me. I won’t try to run anymore. I’ll stay here, and then it really will be the end. The end of all worrying, the end of all pain….
Someone pulls me to my feet, but I can’t stand. I begin to fall again, but they hold me up. I force my eyes open, a thread of hope left inside of me.
“Hurry, come with me,” they say. It’s the voice of a middle-aged man.
“I… can’t….” I mumble, slouching again. I just want to sleep….
I feel my body being lifted over his shoulder before the darkness invades my mind.