We walked along the beach at the end of the world, holding hands for the last time. The temperature was rising and lava bubbled out of the ocean. Fish floated on the surface and lined the sand in heaps, their scales glistening beneath the sun that was clouded by smoke. The ground rumbled beneath our feet and I turned back to face the volcano that threatened our lives, then looking down at the small face of my sister, who’s wide eyes were set on the bubbling and frothing water. She squeezed my hand even tighter; I was surprised how strong she was. “I’m scared, Angie. I want Mommy and Daddy.” With the last words she started to cry and I scooped her up, cradling her head against me.
Mom and Dad…
There had been no warning…
Today had started out as the perfect day. We were on vacation, the sun was warm, and the ocean was nearly as blue as the cloudless sky. Mom and Dad were at the spa together and I was watching my sister make sand castles. That’s when the earthquake hit. We were from the Inland Empire; quakes were nothing new. But this was something entirely different. I grabbed my sister and the rest was a blur. I’ve never run so fast in all my life. In my mind the thoughts raced past at 100 miles per hour. Get to the center of the island, I told myself. You have to get away from the beach. What about Mom and Dad? Surely they knew. Surely they would be there. Everything would be okay.
Everything was not okay.
What hadn’t been destroyed in the earthquake was drowned in the tsunami that followed. It wasn’t until I saw my mother’s body, lying contorted and bruised, still wrapped in the complimentary hotel robe, when I realized. Nothing would ever be the same again. I searched the whole city for my father, my sister on my back, my eyes blurry and burning from smoke and tears as I waded through trash and remains of vacations gone horribly wrong. My screams echoed through the empty resort town. The only thing I found was a picture in my mind of him, like my mother, tangled and broken with his skin slowly turning gray beneath heaps of concrete and tacky postcards.
I blinked back tears. I had to stay strong. We’d all be together again soon anyway. Everyone on the island had said that the volcano was dormant, but then again, no one was planning on the quake either. The dragon was awake, and it wasn’t going to sleep until it had destroyed everything within sight. I ran my fingers through my sister’s long, soft hair and kissed her head. “Everything’s going to be okay, I promise.” It was a lie, but she wouldn’t have the chance to know that. There were no rescue boats. Everything had been washed ashore and was lying in mangled heaps. The water churned faster and the ground rumbled more and more. “I love you,” I whispered, the last word cut off by the roar of an engine overhead. My eyes shot up as the helicopter passed over, a man scanning the beach.
I’ve never run so fast in all my life.