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The aftermath of the earthquake was devastating. Austin looked in horror at the sight of dead bodies strewn across the coastline. The stench of flesh and decaying bodies pierced the air. Half an hour earlier he hadn’t a care in the world, he was with his girlfriend, Ashley, at the beach. After renting jet skis, they both had agreed to ride in the ocean’s clear water. Both were having a ragingly great time looking out on the horizon while blazing through the water when the water beneath them began to ripple. They looked toward the shoreline where they could clearly hear thousands of shouts and screams of terror even though they were a good distance from the coast. They could faintly make out houses and buildings collapsing to the ground with what had to be deafening sounds. Telephone poles were falling, electrical wires snapping and causing even more danger for the frantic citizens below.
People were dropping to the earth unconscious or dead as moderately heavy objects dropped upon their heads. Instinctively, some of the wealthier folk ran to their boats and fired up their engines to get out to sea away from all the destruction but most just ran around in frantic circles too shocked and surprised to think of the best way to get to safety, such as standing under a doorway. During the Earthquake, thousands screamed in horror, climbing over others, attempting to get to safe spots away from the destruction. Many had no regard for anyone’s safety but their own; people were being scrambled over and others stampeded. An elderly couple were being pushed this way and that tossed around, helpless. Later, seismic data would reveal the quake to be a 6.9 magnitude, one of the worst earthquakes to ever strike India.
After the earth stopped it shuddering, Austin and Ashley waited until they felt it was safe to dock their vehicles and set foot on land. It was then that the stench hit them. A putrid, horrifying smell burned in their nostrils, it triggered Austin’s gag reflex and when he asked if Ashley was okay, the response he got was her leaning over, convulsing on the ground next to him. The sight before them was almost too much to bear. This was just an innocent visit to Uncle Harry, she thought to herself. This is only supposed to happen in films, not in real life. “Uncle Harry!” she shouted aloud.
“What are you talking about?” Austin said in ragged breaths. He was performing CPR on a small child about the age of eight who was playing in the water when the earthquake struck, causing him to ingest a fair amount of water. The boy inhaled deeply and coughed up the filthy water. Ashley cringed back at the awful sound of his coughing seizure.
“Thank you,” the boy croaked.
“Don’t talk.” Austin said immediately. If the boy tried to speak it could damage his esophagus or he could choke on more water.
“We need to go and find Uncle Harry, I need to check and see if he is alright; he could’ve been killed!” She shuddered at the thought, she couldn’t imagine her uncle, lying on the ground, broken and damaged, or worse.
I can’t just leave the boy here,” said Austin, surprised. “I need to help him find his parents!”
“I’m not saying that you need to come with me.” Replied Ashley. “I’m going to go by myself, meet me at the island.”
“Ashley wait, no I don’t want you to leave, what if you get hurt?” Austin posed the question.
“I have too,” she replied and ran toward one of the jet skis. Austin tried to call after her, but she was already, screaming away from him, water shooting up behind her. He watched her until she was a speck on the horizon. Austin was angry with her; she could be so stubborn at times.
He would deal with that later, “Where are your parents little guy?” asked Austin.
The boy hesitantly replied in English, scrunching his eyes, concentrating upon every word before he said it. “I no know.” It then occurred to Austin that almost none of these people here knew English. He began to ask if the boy if he could speak any English, but then decided against it, realizing that the boy had been trying very hard, racking his brain for any English that he knew. He obviously didn’t speak it well.
“Ahmib!” a woman’s hoarse voice was heard in the distance, Austin looked to his right, a tall, thin woman was running with tears rolling down her cheeks to pick her son up into her arms. The woman muttered something to the boy Austin didn’t understand, the boy responded by pointing at Austin. But when the woman looked up Austin was long gone.
Blasting through the water to catch up with Ashley, Austin was having a hard time seeing clearly when every couple of seconds water was being tossed up into his eyes. His eyes were really bothering him. The sprays of salt water had them bloodshot and stinging like mad. But Austin kept on, blasting through the water at 50 miles per hour. A speedboat cut him off and threw wakes in his direction.. If you’ve ever been on a boat going 50 mph and you hit wakes head on, then you’ll understand what happened to Austin. He rode to the crown of one particularly tall wake and then gravity and inertia worked their magic pulling the jet ski to the crown of the next wake, bringing him full force to the bottom of the next. The shock on the small boat threw Austin up into the air like a rag doll, he saw the world twist around him, the coast upside down. He smacked into the water with a “THUD”, sank and resurfaced after about 30 seconds.
The whole left side of his body felt as if it had been set on fire for exactly one second and then was put out by someone smacking water on him. His cheek and torso were blood red, and bruises were already starting to form on his calves and thighs. He slowly moved his head to face the jet ski. It was flipped upside down in the water, bits and pieces of it floating in the water around him. The waves were gently lapping against its hull. How am I ever going to get that running again? He pondered the idea, then swam over to the small boat and flipped it right side up, every little lap of water against his skin causing him excruciating pain. Very cautiously he hauled himself up to sit upon the shredded up seat. He felt the heat of the engine against his legs. He tried to start it, no response, not even the partly satisfying sound indicating that the engine was trying to start. After trying a few times more he realized that it was hopeless. Austin was going to have to swim the rest of the way.
Now if you’ve ever tried to swim across a big mass of water before, then you can understand that the distance to travel looks a lot shorter than it really is. Well, unfortunately Austin had never swum more than a mile at the same time in his short life. The distance to the island from his position was three miles. Austin didn’t know that yet though.
Ashley had reached the small island about fifteen minutes ago and had been frantically searching for her uncle since then. She shouted, she screamed, she shrieked his name, but to no avail. Inhabitants of the Island were shouting loved ones names, crying sobbing and weeping while holding mangled, maimed bodies in their arms. Bricks and pieces of wood were strewn across the streets. Buildings collapsed, houses destroyed, all of this destruction made it extremely difficult to navigate through the streets to her uncle’s home. Everything was so different; all of her landmarks were not standing anymore. Ashley couldn’t bear look at them. It would be too much for her to handle. Quick, short intakes of breath could be heard all around. This only made her even more worried, questions buzzed around in her brain like an angry swarm of hornets. Was he alive? Was he injured? Was he searching for her?
In fact, the answer to all of her questions was, yes. He was alive, he was mildly injured, just some bruises and cuts here and there and he was out looking for her. Ashley’s uncle was a very wealthy man. He owned a general supply chain across the Indian Peninsula. He had purchased one acre of land some ten years ago, when only a few hundred others lived there. He resurrected a modest home on his land. The island began to rapidly grow in population. After founding his chain of stores, he purchased more and more land and expanded the size of his house until it was gigantic.
Uncle Harry had every type of boat that you could think of. After the earthquake struck, there was only one thing on his mind, Ashley. He sped down to his private dock and selected the fastest boat that he could find. Hopping in the driver’s seat he turned the ignition and the engine roared to life. He screamed out of he dock and blasted toward where Ashley and Austin were. On the way out he spotted a small shape with what he thought was fins coming out of the water every couple of seconds. He didn’t think much of it, except that it was probably just some odd sort of fish. Harry was an extraordinarily intelligent individual, but we it came to common sense; sometimes he just drew a blank. About 30 seconds after he passed the strange creature, he realized that it could be a human being in dire need of help. He veered into a 180-degree turn and sped back to the still slowly moving figure. He halted about 30 feet away from the creature, so as not frighten it or tear it to shreds with the propeller. Harry could barely see the shape, he squinted his eyes to get a better look, then drew his head back in surprise. He rubbed his eyes to confirm what he was looking at. “Austin?” he asked to what he still thought was a trick of the sun’s glare on the blue water.
He was surprised when the thing responded, “Mr. Peterson?” He sounded dog-tired and out breath. “What are you doing out here?” He also was convinced that his eyes were playing tricks on him. Due to his exhaustion, he was wondering if he was hallucinating.
“I was about to ask you the same question.” Harry replied.
“I was riding over to the island,” he began, ”when someone cot me off and I hit their wakes, which threw me flying up into the air. The jet ski was damaged, so I decided to swim the rest of the way.”
“Where’s Ashley?” Harry asked urgently.
“She drove over to the island about 20 minutes ago.” He answered.
“You let her go alone?” asked Harry, his voice full of rage.
“ She left before I could stop her.” He defended.
“Well hop on in, we’ve got no time to lose.” Said Harry worriedly. Austin heaved himself up onto the boats hull and over the side. No sooner had he done this then Harry went into full throttle.
“Whoa, watch it!” Austin was almost thrown off the boat. He took a seat next to Harry and hung on for dear life. They made it to the dock in a matter of minutes, where surprisingly, Ashley was waiting for them. Nobody had any time to say anything or rejoice before they heard thousands of bloodcurdling screams a quarter of a mile away from them where people were bounding frantically away from the sea. The water was rushing out to open ocean.
“Run!” Harry shouted. All of them sprinted away from the water. Although, Austin did not understand why. That was when he saw it.
An enormous wall of deathly, black water screamed toward the coast. Screams from thousands of mouths piercing the air. The white curls of foam at the top of the wave seemed to form little skulls. The water looked as if it had a face, grinning a malevolent smile. It looked straight a Austin, and laughed at his disbelief as if to say that death was coming and that there was no way to escape it. I am dead; we are all going to die here on this very day. He thought to himself. “Ashley, run save yourself!” he ordered.
“No, Austin hurry, you can make it!” she urged, sobbing.
Austin looked to his right and saw the wall of death hit with a deafening crash. Bodies were flung into the air as if they were rag dolls. Broken, twisted, contorted bodies landed on the ground. Then the water hit on their side.
A black wall of water materialized over him.
The water enveloped him.