Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category

Frankie sat on the bed in the dark. Her left hand softly stroking the top of Maeve’s head as Maeve pretended not to notice until her fingers stopped, then she pushed her head back against Frankie’s fingers to get them to keep stroking again. To Maeve, this proved her genius as a canine, for she believed that not even Frankie realized what was happening and had no control over her left hand when she manipulated the auto pet function so perfectly.

As if reading her mind Frankie’s fingers froze against her scalp. Fearing she had just been caught by a psychic human Maeve tilted her head back and looked right at Frankie, tongue hanging out of one side of her mouth as cute as she could manage.

Frankie wasn’t looking at Maeve, nor was she looking at the cell phone in her right hand that she had been messing with for the last hour. Instead, her gaze was trained on something outside the window in the distance.

From the second floor bedroom, Frankie had a good view of the houses on the other side of the street. She thought she had seen something move from one house to the next. Still staring into the night she killed the light from the cell phone and placed it face down on the bed. Across the street, she saw two figures dart out from the shadows of a house and across the street in her direction.
“Shit.” Frankie softly cursed herself for spending so much time messing with the phone in the dark. The light from the screen was faint, but in this powerless world, any light was a beacon to those up to no good.

Maeve silently got off the bed as Frankie slid to the edge and grabbed her jeans. As Frankie slipped her feet into the pants and pulled them on, Maeve moved towards the doorway of the bedroom silently but stopped before she got to the doorway. She tilted her head to listen to the darkness downstairs.

Earlier when Frankie and Maeve had found the house, they had cleared it and left all doors inside the home open so no one could hide within or sneak in unheard. Frankie joined Maeve and placed her left hand on Maeve’s back. The hair on her back was down and for a second Frankie let a little hope take shape that they were going to move on to the next house. That hope died the moment she heard them rattle the doorknob.

The hair on Maeve’s back rose under Frankie’s fingers but she didn’t bark. Frankie ran a hand over her reassuringly and they both waited. The only other exit was the back door, but the stairs ran right next to the front door and it wasn’t worth taking the chance of being caught from behind if they tried to run for it.

Frankie stepped back slightly and Maeve shadowed her movement. They both jumped a little when the glass shattered downstairs. Maeve started to move forward but Frankie snapped her fingers and Maeve stopped, stepping back beside her once again.

They listened as someone unlocked the door and opened it. Whispering filtered up to them from the stairs, “It was a girl, a blonde, I swear to God.”
“I get her first. You had that old bitch last week.”

Frankie exhaled a breath she didn’t realize she was holding with a little annoyance, a little anger. In the dark Maeve looked up at her, waiting for a command.

“No,” Frankie told her. From downstairs the whispers immediately stopped but she could hear them moving towards the stairway. She stepped out to the head of the stairs and waited for them. From below, they looked like two silhouettes in the dark. The moment they saw her, Frankie let out a little yelp and jumped back into the bedroom.

She snapped once and Maeve moved to her side as Frankie slammed the bedroom door and snatched the shotgun up that was leaning against the wall beside the door. She could hear them scrambling up the stairs now, close to the top. They were coming in a hurry. Perfect, she thought.

She raised the shotgun to her shoulder, flicked off the safety and held the barrel about navel level, ready to swing it up when her target presented itself. As the two reached the door she took one step left to plant her feet in a firing stance, left leg slightly ahead of the right, shoulder length apart.

When the first guy burst through the door she leaned into the weapon and raised the barrel in one smooth motion as her finger squeezed the trigger. He never knew what hit him and the buckshot lifted him off his feet and tossed him sideways against the door he was still in the process of throwing open. Frankie didn’t wait to see him land, she racked another round into the shotgun as she pivoted on her left leg and brought the barrel around to the second guy who was trying to stop his forward momentum. He didn’t have enough time. The roar of the shotgun lit up the room a second time and his face melted along with part of his skull as it painted the hallway behind him.

Frankie looked back at Maeve who was simply watching the first guy. She chambered another round in the shotgun and then moved to the first guy who was wheezing badly and gurgling. Frankie removed the knife from her belt and punched it into the side of his neck before twisting it and removing it in three swift moves. Within seconds he was dead.

Frankie cleaned the blade off on his clothes and sheathed it before engaging the safety of the shotgun and sighing.

“I’m not blonde,” she told Maeve. “Guess we have to find a new place to sleep tonight.”

Maeve whined knowingly as Frankie gathered her backpack and jacket. She also retrieved the cell phone and tossed it in one of the pockets. After she shrugged into the bag she pulled the bedding off of the bed and sort of spread it across the doorway and hallway that was glistening with blood and pieces of skull.

There were a lot of things her 17-year-old self had to learn in the short time she has been alive, but listening to her dog lick someone else’s blood off of her paws was something she only had to hear once. It wouldn’t happen again if she could help it.

Frankie and Maeve stood in the living room, listening to the night outside the open front door. When they both felt it was safe they left the house and made their way out into the dark night, sticking to shadows as much as they could.

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He couldn’t take his eyes off of her face as he slowly lifted the front of her shirt.
Her eyes were closed, a mix of anticipation and excitement clouded with a bit of shyness seemed to wash over her.
He felt for the edge of her bra and gently peeled it away, the soft fabric not giving him much of a fight.
As he leaned closer she arched her back towards him. His eyes still on her face he felt her nipple brush against his lips as a moan broke the seal of hers.
He started to open his mouth when a something long and slimy pushed out from her nipple, brushed past his lips, and darted into his mouth. He reflexively gagged and tried to pull away but it slid deeper down his throat, pulling him to her like a tether. He tried to look down but could see nothing as his face mashed into her bosom. When he tried to nash his teeth together it simply slipped between them like a string, only to grow inside his throat. His breath was stolen as he tried to claw at her with his hands. Each time he raked his fingernails down her skin she shivered and moaned as she cradled the back of his head with her hands and whispered, “Thank you.”
He bucked and tried to pull free, but the only thing that moved was the pile of bones beneath her bed.
The shadows outside pushed against the glass of the window as they watched.
One of them scrawled in the condensation, “Beautiful.”

Is this fiction? Maybe. Or maybe once upon a time, I was a shadow. Maybe now you know why you sometimes catch me glancing at your chest. It isn’t perversion that drives me to do such things. It’s preservation.

Arson In Her Eyes

Posted: November 12, 2017 in Stories, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , ,
“Why do you always look away when I look into your eyes? Are you embarrassed by me or maybe you just don’t want me to see the pain in them?” I asked with a sigh of weariness.
She didn’t look up as she answered truthfully, “I’m afraid you’ll see the arsonist burning behind them and run away.”
I lifted her chin until our eyes met, a small smile on my lips, “Sometimes your eyes are all that keep me warm, I’m not going anywhere.”
I kissed her then for the first time with my eyes open, letting her see the beautiful reflection of her eyes in mine.
I felt her smile when she saw the flames.
I stepped out onto the Golden Gate Bridge in the early morning darkness. The yellow sodium lights casting cones of light that the fog swirled through along the walkway as cars and trucks sped by on the roadway. The walkway is a little deceiving because it looks the same but you start out on land and only realize you have walked out far enough to be truly suspended when the walkway starts to move.
As the vehicle traffic shook the bridge I reached my hand out towards the railing. If you’ve never done so, I highly suggest you do it slowly the first time, with eyes closed. Feel the vibrating railing jump up to meet your fingers like a cat seeking comfort. Let the morning dew steal the heat from your touch before you’re able to grab hold and find strength in the sturdiness of the railing itself. Let it flood through you with the power of something so massive yet fragile your mind pulls in two different directions of trust and distrust. Now open your eyes.
If you timed it right, it should be the witching hour, or as some may call it 3:00am. You have about two hours before the bicyclists start zipping past, and even longer before the tourists flood the walkway with hands full of cameras and soft drinks, letting trash fall from them like cancer while their kids take turns spitting off the side like teenage cocks pushing at undergarments on prom night.
My apologies, I just, I just don’t like people who are alive very much. That’s why we are here now. So I can introduce you to some of the more interesting people that I share the night with.
Where was I? Ah yes, the railing that hums energy. It is so relaxing yet terrifying, isn’t it? It is perfection, but not the only one. If you look closely at the cones of sodium light among the walkway you’ll notice how sometimes the fog seems to swirl in a strange direction. How the light breeze seems to have no control over it. That’s Marilyn. She likes to dance in the light. I guess five-year-olds like to dance a lot. I’ve stood out here and watched her for hours and just smiled. She’s only ever talked to me one time and when I asked her why she was here a look of fear came over her innocent little face and she whispered, “Daddy is in the dark” as she pointed down towards the black water 245 feet below. Then she smiled and resumed dancing.
Did you feel that bounce as the semi truck rolled by? Makes you grip the railing a little harder, doesn’t it? You’ll get used to it after a while. Come, let me introduce you to more people.
Damn, she’s here. You see up ahead by the South Tower where the walkway lights are out? They’re normally not out, but when they are it usually means that Kellie is here. She doesn’t talk, which is kind of strange for a three-year-old I know, but most three-year-olds aren’t thrown from the bridge by their father after he kills her mother and then jumps after her either. Marilyn is a little different. I learned later that her father told her to jump and then followed her over the rail as well, but he wasn’t quite as evil as Kellie’s father. Yes, there’s different shades of evil, even in death.
We’ll take a moment and see if she leaves. Look out to the East. I think those lights out there are Alcatraz but it’s hard to be sure with the fog and darkness. They play tricks on distance. I didn’t get a chance to see if there is a full moon (or near to it) but judging by the way the foam on the water is glowing like writhing serpents it could be. That means a pretty good size tidal change in the bay.
I used to stand out here in the dark just sort of meditating until the bridge drained me of heat and I was forced to retreat back to the parking lot and climb into my car, crank up the heater, and defrost a bit.
It doesn’t look like Kellie is going to leave so let’s continue on and make our way towards the North Tower.
Don’t try to talk to her. She just clings to the lower railing, hair matted and dirty. When we get close enough she will probably snap her head around and stare at us as she shakes in fear. It’s best to just make our way past her and give her space.
I think we’re far enough away now. Middle of the span, baby! Woohoo! Just over three-quarters of a mile but it’s all uphill from here. Haha, it isn’t that bad. Here comes Charles walking towards us. He’s the only one I know of that never shuts up.
“I can’t find him. I have to find dad. I have to keep him company.” Well, I didn’t say he talks to anyone, he just keeps repeating that over and over as he walks from mid-span to the North Tower. I guess his father jumped from the bridge and four days later Charles drove the same car here and jumped as well, leaving a note behind that said, well basically what you just heard. He’ll be back in a bit I’m sure. We’ll follow him back a bit, I want to show you one last thing.
Here we are, light post number 79. I figured it had some kind of meaning since I was born in 1979, you know? But yes, this is where I jumped from. I wanted to bring you here not so you could mourn me, but so you could witness something else. I know you’ve been struggling at times and sometimes even think that this might be the only option left. You really need to stop thinking that way, because this is not an option. I know you can’t help the thoughts but I am writing this in the hopes that somehow I can get it to you, for you to see, maybe they will let me leave it in an old book somewhere for you to find as a fictional piece of writing. No one has to know it’s real. Please!
Because while Charles, Kellie, and Marilyn are all lost up here, there is more to this story.
 
 
 
P.s.
I couldn’t finish, they wouldn’t let me finish until now. I’m so sorry!
The horror of it lies not up there on the walkway, but down below. Down in the black water, in the abyss of souls. Some 1,900 souls are down here screaming, pleading, begging to be plucked from the purgatory in which they are stuck in. Cracked, broken, hideously disfigured souls of sadness, madness, and evil. If there is a hell, it’s in the water, and I’m stuck down here with them, with you. In this never-ending despair. Because you wouldn’t fucking listen to what I was saying! Because they wouldn’t fucking let me finish it until you were dead and down here with us. I’m so sorry. I’m so fucking sorry. Why wouldn’t you listen?
I never imagined the city could be this full of sunshine. I imagined large shadows cast by skyscrapers and an almost solemn feel to the city streets. Instead, I was met with reflected light bouncing off of ever glass siding, people hurrying, and traffic bustling.
The only things I could see that reflected the burden of my own soul was the trapped wrappers and litter in the storm drain guards, unable to fly free. Everything else was a whirlwind of anxiety-inducing movement.
I made my way down the street, constantly being brushed aside as people pushed past my slower pace or knocked me back as they went the opposite way. I stopped once for a traffic light to change and looked up into the sky. The sun fired back a blinding stare that seemed to shine down upon me in judgment. I dropped my gaze as well as my shoulders as the light changed and a tide of us stepped off the curb and across the street where we met the oncoming tide halfway. Everyone seemed to slip by each other, yet I found myself colliding with someone and apologized as I admired their shoes and absorbed their muttered cursing.
Once I made it to the other side an argument could be heard arising from somewhere to my left. I glanced up to see a police cruiser with its lights flashing and two cops arguing with a homeless man. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, it was all just a garbled mess of city noise and muted voices. I hesitated as others just went about their day and parted like water around the confrontation.
A yell brought my attention back to them in time to see the homeless man had a gun in his hand now. A woman screamed as the officers unholstered their own weapons. The closest officer was motioning with his free hand palm down towards the cement. The look in his eyes was a plea as he whispered, “Please don’t do this.”
I was there then, standing so close I heard the whisper. It was in that moment that I knew why I was here. I had wandered these streets for weeks now with no purpose, until this moment.
In kindness, I reached out towards the homeless man. The closest officers eyes flicked from me to him as he said, “Just stay back.” But I wasn’t here to harm, I was here to help.
I placed my hand gently on the man’s shoulder and told him, “It’s okay.”
His head jerked around towards me and his body shifted as well. I started to smile for him when I saw the muzzle of the pistol and a flash. I never heard the shot that struck my chest. I just remember being pushed back by the velocity of the .45 ACP round as it rocked me back on my heels and caused me to take an involuntary step backward. I did hear the shots from the officer’s pistols though as a thunderstorm rolled through the city streets. It lasted all of five seconds.
There wasn’t as much smoke in the air as I thought there would be, even though you could smell the cordite from the gunpowder. As my hearing slowly came back to me I remember hearing the crackling of the police radio. A crowd had gathered only to take shelter and was now begging to gather again but no one spoke. Not that I could hear.
An officer was telling me to sit down and relax, that they had help coming for me. I looked down and found my hand pressed against my chest where the bullet had hit me. I pulled my hand away to find the collapsed bullet in the palm of my hand and no hole in my chest.
A woman looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “God bless, you’re bulletproof!”
My legs gave out then and my ass collided with the cement as I sat down heavily.
Tears begin to spill from the corners of my eyes as I looked up at her and replied, “I don’t want to be.”

Strangers

Posted: September 20, 2017 in Stories, Uncategorized
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I sat alone at 3am, staring into the darkest shadows the park had to offer, half convinced something evil lurked just out of sight.
From the highway, I could hear the cars, such a soothing sound at this distance. The low, never quite ending hum, changed only by the occasional shift in pitch depending on the vehicle, its engines, and its tires.
The leaves shook with the breeze when it decided to drag itself across the grass, sometimes pulling a faint scent of perfume to me from somewhere. Perhaps someone had dropped a bottle during a day trip or a picnic. I just smiled and welcomed the scent of jasmine.
As I sat staring out into the night I felt the bench shift and lift me up a fraction of an inch as if someone had sat next to me. I hadn’t heard anyone walking through the grass but as I turned I saw a woman sitting next to me. There was nothing menacing about her appearance and when she spoke I caught a touch of sadness quivering on her lips, “Do you remember me?”
I started to reply but she cut me off, “I’m sorry, that’s not the right question.”
I squinted but with her head down I couldn’t quite see her face until she raised her head and looked at me. I saw her eyes then, and the tears in them.
“Will you remember me?” She asked.
Before I could think to answer the park bench creaked and shifted, sitting me a tiny bit lower. She faded into the night then, without seeming to move at all.
I sat there for an hour longer before tears came to my eyes and I cried quietly. The breeze crept through my shirt and soaked into my soul, but the smell of jasmine was an hour gone.

Family Trip

Posted: August 1, 2017 in Stories, Uncategorized
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Every year was a hard fought battle to get as many family members as we could to go on at least one camping trip. Everyone would try to figure out the best weekend to make it happen so that those who didn’t have the days off could request them off far enough in advance. We’re talking four and sometimes even five generations of probably one of the world’s most chaotic and fun families to ever walk the earth.

This year was going to be a little different. Instead of packing cars and trucks and heading to the nearest mountain range or beach in California, we had won tickets to Japan.

There were some who couldn’t make it work, and a couple that dropped out at the last minute, but in the end, we arrived. Two grandparents, a couple aunts, one uncle, a handful of cousins, and their young children all landed safely in Tokyo and then dragged our luggage to a waiting bus that drove us to a small town called Onjuku in the Chiba Prefecture that rested on the eastern coastline of Japan.

The trip took us through some beautiful landscapes, all dotted with colorful signs, none of which any of us could read except for the occasional little round white sign with numbers inside a red circle that we all assumed was speed limit signs. There were also large round mirrors on metal poles at certain intersections so you could check for other traffic merging along with you. I don’t remember seeing one stop sign.

We drove through little towns that looked like they had been movie sets built to look like small 400-year-old villages, untouched by modern roadways or manufacturing, save for the one shiny brand new NTT phone booth in the center of town that was encased in tinted glass and looked so out of place, it almost seemed like someone made a mistake in placing it.

When we finally made it to our hotel in Onjuku, we all split to our separate rooms to unpack and agreed to meet back in the lobby in an hour. The rooms were small, but very much westernized for our comfort. When we gathered in the lobby a short time later everyone had a different idea of where to go first. We all quickly agreed that dinner would be a good idea once we realized we had little kids in tow as well as grandparents who get grumpy when not fed. My cousin Anna and her husband Michael went to go talk to the receptionist about local restaurants. None of us spoke Japanese, so before long they were standing at the check-in counter pantomiming spooning food into their mouths as the lady looked at them with a mix of terror and amusement on her face.

Another cousin, Michelle, decided that she was tired of the receptionist acting like she couldn’t understand what they were saying and started to storm over there but I grabbed her arm and begged her not to.

About ten minutes later we were all being ushered back onto a bus that took us out of town and into the cliffs overlooking the Pacific ocean. Not sure if our driver even knew what was going on we all enjoyed the scenery and tossed the smallest kids back and forth between us.

We arrived at a restaurant that was built out from the cliff face, part of it sitting on stilts above the water. Across the small road that ran past the building itself was just a wall of the mountain that had been covered in cement to prevent mudslides during heavy storms. As we shuffled inside, the smell of food brought smiles to even the most jet-lagged of us all. We were seated at a long banquette table that ran along the outermost wall where you could look out over the ocean and the beach below. The wet sand below us looked so inviting that even Jimmy commented that we should just camp out down there with a bonfire and some beer. The waitress overheard part of the conversation I guess and said, “No beach, beach in Onjuku,” and shook her head as she wandered off.

“Maybe it’s sacred or something, I saw a lot of Shrines around here on Google maps.” I offered.

“Yeah, so sacred they built a restaurant over it.” Replied Michelle as she rolled her eyes.

She had a point.

Our grandfather decided this was a good time to announce that he wasn’t hungry and wasn’t going to order anything, which brought a silent but felt glare from our grandmother. We all quickly looked away and stared intently at the menus. I spent a second trying to figure out if there was anything labeled, “Cooked beef, just for you dumb ass Americans.” There wasn’t, but they did have the menu items listed in English under the Japanese spelling.

Without any kids to keep me busy asking what they wanted, or a spouse arguing about ordering anything at all I found myself staring out the window.

The ocean looked so calm and peaceful, all the way to the horizon. The green-blue water sparkled with sunlight and the beach below glistened.

Anna leaned over and said, “Strange isn’t it?”

“Strange?” I asked as I looked over at her. It always kind of took me by surprise that she was the one cousin who could always kind of catch me daydreaming and knew where my heart was at any given time.

She smiled, “No waves.”

She was right, there wasn’t a wave in sight, not even on the beach, just a sort of small little mess of water lapping at the shore. It reminded me of being at a lake.

I let my gaze wander to some of the old pictures on the wall. One showed the restaurant as seen from a boat. The ocean was just below it and made it look like it was almost floating. I glanced back out the window and craned my head a little to look at the stilts under part of the building that I could see. They had barnacles attached to them and looked wet. The skin stood up on my arms and a chill ran up my neck as I looked back out to sea. Everything still looked the same. Calm.

I concentrated hard on the horizon but it was just a naturally darker shade of blue, nothing seemed strange about it. But it felt different now. It felt ominous.

When the waitress came back to our table and began taking orders I wanted to ask about the picture and the barnacles, but also didn’t want to be the idiot at the table who thinks the sky is falling and is wrong. When she asked me for my order I motioned her closer before pointing out the window and asking, “Can we go down to the beach after we eat?”

She started to answer as her gaze followed where I was pointing, but the answer died on her lips as her eyes widened.

“I’m sorry, I’ll be right back.” She said and almost ran into the kitchen.

Everyone looked at her puzzled as she disappeared through a swinging door and turned their attention back to me. I was already standing up and said, “Get your shit, we’re leaving.”

Uncle Craig replied, “Calm down. What was that about?”

“’No beach, beach in Onjuku.’” I quoted our waitress and then said, “but that’s a fucking beach!” I pointed out the window and watched as it registered.

“Let’s go.” He said as he swooped little Mason into his arms. My cousin Jimmy grabbed his son James as Anna grabbed her and Michael’s daughter Emery. We all were headed towards the door when the manager came out from the back with some other workers and they all looked out the window as the waitress pointed.

“We all need to leave, right now!” I said.

The manager squinted out the window but then turned to us with a huge smile on his face, “It’s fine, tides only. You eat?” He motioned for us to go back to our table. By this time some other customers were looking at us and back at them, curious as to what was going on.

I pointed at the picture, “Tides don’t change twenty feet or more!” I turned to push my family out the door.

I didn’t grow up near the ocean and was only half convinced I was right when the manager raised his hands’ palm up and said, “Old picture. No siren, no problem.”

There weren’t any sirens going off and I guess coastal towns would all have early warning systems in place for tsunamis.

I looked at Michael who just shrugged and said, “I’m ready to leave, we’ll find another place to eat.”

The manager turned to calm some other customers that were starting to ask what was going on. We all looked at each other and Alex asked, “So are we blowing this bitch or staying?”

I turned to look out the window but the same peaceful ocean sat out there, nothing had changed. There was no rushing wall of water that was about to wipe out half of mankind hovering above the restaurant.

I shrugged my shoulders in defeat and we all started making our way back to our table as Michael stood a little more defiant, “I still say we find another place or come back tomorrow.”

Anna replied, “Babe, it’s fine,” And ended the debate for good.

We all filed back into place at the table and the kids went back to playing with the chopsticks and using the chopstick holders as faux mustaches. I stared out the window trying to tell myself that I was only imagining that the dark line of the horizon was getting bigger, closer, or both.

“Knock that shit off.” I looked over to see Michelle staring at me.

I conceded, “Sorry.”

As we sat waiting for our food I used my finger to smear a line where the beach met the water on the window, then without moving, I closed my eyes and counted to thirty. When I opened them there was a bigger gap between where the smear was and the water line. The water was receding, and a hell of a lot faster than any tide could change.

I looked around to signal the waitress, but she was nowhere to be found. A minute passed and then the manager came out of the kitchen looking a lot more worried than he had previously. I waved at him when he looked at me but his gaze went right over my shoulder.

I made my wave bigger and caught his attention. I watched as his worried look melted when he focused in on me and a forced smile spread across his face as he hurried over.

“Do you have evacuation plans in case we do need to leave?” I asked him.

He nodded, but there was panic in his eyes.

Out front, three small buses pulled out of the parking lot and took off down the road out of sight. Alex jumped up and shouldered past the manager on his way towards the kitchen. Half the restaurant guests followed him with their eyes and turned heads. The doors swung shut behind him and then immediately burst open as he came right back out, “They’re gone!” he said.

All hell broke loose then. People grabbed their belongings and headed towards the doors, one girl screamed, which did nothing but add haste to people who were already running over each other to reach the exits. Some of us started to do the same but Michael told us to just wait and stay calm. He pointed out that there were only two other buses in the parking lot when we got here so all the buses were now gone.

I turned to look and could now see quite clearly a wall of ocean far out in the distance, the wet sandy beach below us had grown as well.

A little hand grabbed mine and squeezed. I looked down expecting to see one of the younger family members but instead found a girl of about four years of age, fear stretching her eyes wide as her bottom lip trembled. I told her, “It’s gonna be okay.” As I looked around to see if anyone was looking for her but everyone was still trying to push and shove their way out the front door. When I looked back down she was shaking her head slowly the way children do when they know you’re lying and are scared.

I asked her what her name was but she just gripped my hand tighter and bit her bottom lip.

“Time to go.” Uncle Craig proclaimed and we all made our way to the exit. Outside there were about fifty people all trying to figure out the best course of action to get to high ground. The road ran along the cliff face in front of the restaurant and although it did have some elevation to it in places, as far as we could see it didn’t rise any higher than the restaurant roof. Across the narrow road was a cutaway section of mountain that had been cemented over to prevent land and mudslides. There was a metal ladder bolted to the side of the mountain but the bottom ten feet were blocked by a metal door that was padlocked. There were a handful of people beating at the lock with fist-sized rocks.

We were all waiting to see what other people were going to do as well as debating if we should take off down the road, but no one really knew which way to go. I looked back down at the little girl who still had a grip on my hand and noticed she was just staring up at me, not looking around for anyone.

She had neck length brown hair that was parted in the middle and ran down past her chubby little cheeks on both sides, framing her big brown eyes and soft nose. There was something almost familiar about her, but I didn’t remember seeing her on the bus that we came in on or at the hotel earlier.

I looked up at the nearest group of strangers and asked if anyone knew where her parents were. A couple of people looked up only to turn their attention back to their own conversations and arguments.

Cheers erupted across the street and we all turned to see the gate swing free of the ladder as people started to climb up it. Others rushed over while the owner of the restaurant held his hands up in front of them trying to warn them in Japanese.

“That’s too many people,” Grandpa said and halted us as we all sort of shifted in the direction of the ladder.

A solid line of people started climbing their way up as the group below pushed in harder. Someone in the crowd called out for help, but it went unanswered as they fought to get to the safety the ladder promised.

Halfway up the 200-foot ladder, a lady screamed for the person below her to wait but he climbed over her, followed by others. I don’t know if she slipped or if someone nudged her out of the way but she fell a hundred feet to the ground, and no one even turned to look where she landed.

“We need to do something, we can’t just stand around here waiting,” Michael said.

“That ladder is our best bet, once we let everyone else go ahead of us we can help mom and dad up and carry the kids.” Uncle Craig offered.

“It’s too many people, Craig,” Grandpa argued.

Just then the snapping of bolts could be heard and we all turned our heads to see a section of the ladder jolt and break free on one side flinging people off. Those with kids tried to shield their eyes but you couldn’t stop them from hearing the screams, as well as the impacts those people made when they hit the asphalt.

Those around the base of the ladder dispersed, some going the way the buses had brought us in and a larger group following the restaurant owner as he waved and yelled in Japanese. When they started to pass our little group Jimmy asked a couple of people where they were going and finally, someone answered that the owner had said there was a path up the mountain just down the road.

We were all snatching quick glances out to sea and taking notice of how much closer the wave was but no one wanted to admit it. Alex grabbed little Mason and put him on his shoulders when Michael did the same with Emery, and although James demanded to be allowed to walk himself, Jimmy still snatched him up and put him on his shoulders as little James protested out of principle but didn’t put up any real fight. I noticed then that the little girl had let go of my hand and looked around to see if I could spot her but I couldn’t.

We all started to fall in with the group moving down the road towards the promised path up the mountain but something in the back of my head told me something was wrong. I glanced back at the restaurant and then sighed and pushed my way past a group of people to head towards it.

“Where are you going?” Anna called out. I shouted over the heads of the people between us that I needed to make sure the little girl didn’t go back inside. She frowned as people started to push her and the rest of the group along. I promised to be right behind them and then turned and shouldered my way back towards the restaurant.

As I got closer to the front doors I noticed a trail of something that led from the roadway into the restaurant, it looked like something had been dragged along. As I swung the door open, the smeared trail turned to blood across the tile and I saw then a woman sitting slumped against the wall, a trail of blood falling from the side of her mouth, her legs were all twisted wrongly and my stomach dropped at the sight.

“Help me.” She pleaded when she saw me. I knelt down next to her and tried to figure out how to help, but I didn’t know what to do. She tried to cough up the blood that was slowly filling her lungs but only managed to get a couple little bubbles of blood to form before she closed her eyes and was gone.

I stood up and checked the rest of the restaurant but didn’t find the little girl. As I made my way back to the dining area I knew I had made a mistake. The wave of ocean was towering now and moving fast. I could see it growing before me.

I felt my leg tremble when I realized there was no way I could outrun it, even if I knew where to go. I sat down at the table we all shared only a short time ago and stared out the window. I could see the veins of green and blue in the water, the seaweed that had been sucked up into it and churned now like a snow globe after being shaken.

A hand reached out and squeezed mine and I jerked my head around to see the little girl sitting opposite me, tears streamed down her full little cheeks now. Somehow I knew she wasn’t real then, like a solution that you have been searching for hours just finally and mysteriously reveals itself to you.

She saw the revelation in my eyes and squeezed my hand reassuringly. I looked up and asked about my family, “Will they make it?”

She nodded slowly and smiled.

“Good,” I said and turned to watch the tsunami rush in towards me as the restaurant began to shake.

“I love you more.” She said and I turned as tears and a sob burst from me. She was no longer the little girl.

“I love you too mom.” I managed to say before the window next to me imploded and the abyss took me home.