the line

person in black sweater hold a grey road bike
Photo by on

No one expected an earthquake. Especially not Maeve. She knew the country was perched on the Ring of Fire, but it seemed a distant thing. She had always pictured Maui, fishing up the island with his whale-bone hook, she never thought about the great plates that her land teetered on, the edges that did not quite meet.

The line in front of her shuffled forward. She took a step and sighed.

She had been at home when the quake hit, it was four in the morning after all. She had woken, sluggishly from a dream. In the dream, she was on a boat and it was rocking, the water splashing over the prow and into her face. The first few moments she opened her eyes it seemed she was still dreaming, that she was adrift in the darkness a thousand miles from shore. But then she registered she was in her bed and it was her bed that was rocking. The wardrobe doors were banging open and closed like someone was hammering to be let in.

She took another step forward. Her bones felt heavy, she wanted to sit down.

She had felt wet and she couldn’t understand why, then she had seen the glass of water that she left on her beside table every night—the years accumulated on her tongue in the darkness, and needed to be washed away—it was laying on its side, twitching slightly as if it were alive. The water pooled on the table and dripped onto her pillow.

She had gripped the sides of the bed, all at sea. She knew she was supposed to get under the doorway, she remembered that was safest. But she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t move and the rolling went on and on. It was like the darkness itself was screaming—a long silent scream, a scream that couldn’t be heard.

She still heard it now, as she stood in line, everything she had left in the world in a bag upon her back. There was nothing special in there. Some clothes and her glasses, bent and chipped at the top of one eye. It was like looking through a prism, the top right corner of the world fracturing away like a crystal. It didn’t bother her, the world was more fractured now than she had ever known it and seeing it manifest like that soothed her somehow.

There were a few things, not many, that she wished she could have found. Her wedding ring, her rosary, a photo of Jim–the one in his uniform, creased between the pages of her bible. She sighed. The line was taking a long time.

She shuffled forward a few metres more. She thought of Jim. She wondered how it would have felt to roll over to him in that darkness. To feel the warmth of his chest. To curl her hands in his hair. Instead of facing the yawning dark alone.

The line edged forward a fraction.

She closed her eyes and pictured Jim. She continued to wait.


This story was inspired by a photo prompt

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