The ground pitches and twists like a shaken rug. I fall. The kitchen tiles pop about me, their adhesive unable to bend with the yaw of the floor.
The lights go out.
From upstairs, Candy screams.
“Earthquake, Candy! Daddy’s here!” I shout but a sound like the rumble of a thousand freight trains smothers my voice.
Cabinet doors slap open, shut, and open again as they belch china, mugs, and cookware in shattering waves. I cover my eyes as the sticky warmth of blood streams down my face.
I try to stand but am too dizzy. “Candy! Honey, get under …”
The house groans, guttural, sickening.
Powder, luminous in the flickering moon fills the room, white, choking. The ceiling … coming down. I roll, clawing my way to the stairs, to Candy.
The snapping split of a beam shredding, tearing from crumbling walls.
“Candy!” My voice is reflexive, but silent amid chaos.
She screams again, terrified, alone.
“I’m coming! Hold on! Hold …”
Something hits me from beyond the pitch and I’m weightless. For an instant the thunder ebbs and my vision fills with the softest of blues and whites. I look down and watch my body falling through the sliding glass door, shards like diamonds scatter about me.
I blink. Consciousness returns. The house warps, buckles, collapses.
I’m swallowed by hell’s maelstrom. But all I see is my precious baby, lost…
A hand grasps my shoulder. Pain, the grating of broken bones. I cry out as I awake.
A face in front of mine. Young, strong. “Is anyone in there?” He’s shouting, pointing.
Flames scar the wreckage, thick smoke billowing from the fissures in torn shingles. The gas main, it must have ruptured.
I try to move but my leg is twisted beneath me. “Candy!” I don’t recognize my voice. “My daughter!” I’m fixated on the inferno.
The young man shakes me, forcing me to look at him. “Where?”
I feel my heart, more turbulent than the ground had been. “Upstairs.”
There is no upstairs. It’s gone.
“I’ll find her.” He seems confident, certain.
Hope, just a glimmer.
He hurries toward the remnants of my devastated life.
Heated timbers explode, showering us with glowing sparks. The walls tremble anew, crunching, settling in a morbid dirge.
Another figure, larger, solid, steps into his path. “No, son. I can’t ask you to go in.”
The young man pulls away. “You don’t have to. I volunteer.” He disappears into a pall of smoke.
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