TALES FROM THE VOLCANO: The One Second Apocalypse [PART 1]
the best year ever.
living tiki personal note: Much apologies for holiday delay. My vehicle died beyond affordable repair and it’s taking me an hour and a half bus time getting anywhere [So, apologies as well for breaking this post into two parts.] One last bit of crap from 2012. Actually the very last thing was a tie between my home phone dying too and my kitchen sink pipe breaking off with rust when I was attempting to fix a clog. Vaya con Dios, 2012.
age of volcanoes post note: Did you know creative writing is hard? Yep, sorta found that out. But this fictional tale is yet another attempt by yours’ truly to conceptualize, comprehend and overstand this reality happening around me. Hopefully you can take something from it as well. This story originally starred the character named Garth, but I felt I could do a better job of describing “the one second apocalypse” by making myself the protagonist. Consider yourselves lucky – I originally was a supporting character with three women in a hot tub. It could happen.
The One Second Apocalypse
The knock at my door startled me.
Hearing Garth’s combat boots clamor up the steps to my apartment, it was predictably the next action he would take, yet I just didn’t expect it to be so loud and abrupt.
“I’m in the back yard!” I called out. “Keep the gate shut!”
Garth was my downstairs neighbor and a truck driver whom I’d only see sporadically. He was the type of guy who had his wallet on a chain, a belt buckle displaying his philosophy, and a new girlfriend watching his place every time he was out on a run who would hit on me by bending over and asking if I thought her jeans were too tight. The last one was Heather. She stole my barbeque grill.
Garth was able to hear me from my balcony, but not see, so loud thumping against wood told me he was again on his way. The gate unlatched and within seconds he rounded the corner of our duplex only to stop in his tracks.
“Whoa, dude… what the hell? You got a hot tub and…. you’re naked?,” he said as if I’d gone mad.
“Hey, I’m not alone,” I replied defensively and motioned to the woman in the tub beside me. “Haruka meet Garth. Garth meet Haruka.”
“Konichiwa,” Haruka greeted with a smile and slight bow of her head. She reflexively covered herself, pulling close a floating wooden bucket we were using for our drinks.
“I met Haruka almost a week ago at that new Japanese restaurant which opened up on 5th. She was four months into some internship with a Japanese company out here, but because of Fukushima related problems she’s now unemployed and has to return home soon. I’m just trying to make her last week in America memorable. Tub rental set me back a bit, but it’s an excellent way to start the new year and is most definitely worth it,” I emphasized by clandestinely pointing to Haruka behind her back. “Sake?”
“OK… but why are you naked? It’s freakin’ cold out today!” Garth replied as he slowly backed away – I assumed more due to me than out of manners for Haruka.
“Duh… it’s the way we hot tub here in America,” I stated matter of fact.
“What are you talking about? I don’t think anyon-“
“Ahem! Don’t you know? Like Japan, it’s our custom too,” I interjected while resuming my pointing to Haruka. I turned and spoke to her for reaffirmation. “It’s our custom too.”
“No it’s not,” She stated, smiling.
“Uh…. um….” I was horrible at recovery. “You mean to tell me that everyone I’ve ever hot tubbed with has lied to me? This is an outrage! An embarrassing and hopefully forgettable outrage!”
“Ha, ha… busted!” Garth laughed.
Haruka giggled while covering her mouth with a delicate hand. “It’s OK, I know you try to fool me – I thought it cute. I not bring bathing clothes anyway. Japan Onsen public baths are no clothes, yes, but men and women are separate. Americans are too obsessed with nudity, but I appreciate your effort. Not many men bold being naked in chilly weather.”
“Oh man, tiki, I think you just got busted and burned! I like this girl.”
I was becoming annoyed. “Garth, why are you ruining my afternoon?”
“Are you serious, dude? Have you not been feeling the earthquakes all morning?” he worriedly retorted.
“Sure… it’s just an earthquake swarm…. hardly enough to slosh water out of the tub.” As if on cue, the ground began to shake enough to rattle the nearby windows. After a few seconds it was over, and yet another contest began between the neighborhood dogs and car alarms as to who could bark the loudest.
“See? See?” Garth stated excitedly. “This is just the beginning. The Mayans were off by a couple of weeks…. the apocalypse is going down now!”
“Wait, what? The apocalypse? Are you kidding? We live next to grand central fault line, man. This is atypical, yes, but normal. And better a bunch of little ones than one great big one. I wouldn’t call it the apocalypse, though.”
“Dude, it’s not just happening here, it’s everywhere!”
“What do you mean, everywhere?”
“Haven’t you been listening to the news either? Everybody is having these earthquake swarms: Us, Japan, Europe, India… it’s the whole fucking planet!” he exclaimed with arms outspread.
The ground shook again, but stronger, changing Haruka’s demeanor to concern. I needed to diffuse the situation quickly or else my possible expectations for the evening would change from soft and warm Japanese hospitality to a panicked flight for survival. Mother nature wasn’t helping either. “Garth, we’ve both been sort of isolated for an hour” – I motioned towards a CD playing at a soothing volume – “but trust me, this is not the end of the world. OK, maybe there’s something geologically weird and unknown happening, but again, it’s not the end of the world. It sounds like the media’s trying to…” The ground trembled again. “Oh, come on!”
“That’s it, I’m outta here!” Garth declared. “Just got done loading what I need with my motorcycle and I’m heading out to this survival place a friend of mine has in the desert. Checking to see if you wanna come.”
“What, in your rig?”
“Yeah. Or follow.”
“This is crazy, man. I don’t think I’m in any position to make a split second decision like this.”
“That’s why we’ve got to go now, before everybody else realizes what’s really happening and all the outbound freeways get clogged.”
I turned to Haruka. “I don’t know what is going on, but you’re at a loss being in a foreign country. Anything you need or want to do, I’ll do my best to help you out.”
“What about you? What you want to do?” she asked.
“I’m not sure. I thought all these 2012 apocalypse predictions were nonsense, and figured I would handle any local catastrophe as it came. If the world’s going to end, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing right now. Really.” I touched the length of her arm. “Plus I really want to get the most out of this rental.”
Haruka was silent for a moment. “I… can’t think what to do. This is too sudden, no time for plan. No use for panic. I can only stay here and enjoy time, so I will do that. If earthquake gets worse, then I recommend we dry ourselves off and find safety.”
“I like this girl,” I stated. “I guess we’re staying.”
Garth felt his preparedness was being slighted. “Suit yourselves,” he replied. “You’ve got my cell, so I guess you can always call…. that is, if you’re still able to. Good luck.” He turned and went back out the side gate. Moments later his truck’s motor fired up and then faded away into the distance.
I and Haruka looked at each other in silence for a few seconds. A sudden blaring cartoon melody made us both jolt. “Sorry… my cell,” she said smiling while reaching for it on the small table just outside the tub. She looked at the screen. “It’s my parents.”
I couldn’t understand what she was saying, but I could at least understand the tone of Haruka’s voice given the situation. Her parents were checking to see if she was alright, and she was reassuring them as best as possible. It must have been near midnight in Japan, so obviously Garth was correct when he said this weirdness was happening everywhere. Haruka added confirmation after finishing the call: “They are having many small quakes in Hokkaido too. It woke them up. Their cat Yoshi is behaving crazy.”
“Are you OK? What do you want to do?” I inquired.
“Let’s finish sake and then we go inside and worry,” she answered.
“Sounds like a good plan to me.”
Forty minutes went by in four. One would think that hot tub plus alcohol plus nudity plus the end of the world equals I should have sprung for the damage insurance on the tub, but it doesn’t.
It equals shared contemplation.
Another quake began. I instantly noticed that the dogs in my neighborhood had turned silent. As I focused on discerning any barking at all, the tremor became stronger and continued longer than previously. Haruka was astute to the change as well, looking ready to conclude this part of our afternoon. Her expression became somber when the quake still hadn’t ended after a minute, and instead was increasing in magnitude.
“OK, this… has me concerned,” I remarked. This quake was notably different from the others. The sensation wasn’t a rocking motion as before but rather a rapid vibration, like driving on a freeway completely paved with marbles. The water in the tub reacted with the appearance of being disrupted by a rainstorm instead of the typical sloshing back and forth.
“Yep, I think it’s time to at least get dry and put some clothes on,” I said, making an attempt to get out. Another increase in the vibration of the quake caused me to lose my footing and I splashed down back into the tub. “Jesus! It’s getting worse!” Haruka looked at me and moved quickly to embrace me in a bear-hug. She was terrified. I couldn’t remove her from me even if I wanted to. Feeling responsible for her predicament I blurted out an apology. The worsening vibration made it comical.
“II’mm sssorryyyy, II tthinkkk II ssseerrriiiousssslllyyy uuunddderressstttimmmattteddd tthhee apppocccalypppsssse,” I chattered. She whispered something Japanese in my ear, kissed me, and then it hit us – the loudest thunderclap I had ever heard or felt. It was as if the Creator had fashioned a pair of giant hands and clapped them right next to our planet.
I must have been knocked unconscious – I awoke to blackness. Not total, as I started to discern bright white lights all around me. Some close, others very far away, so there was depth to my darkened perspective which gave the impression of floating in space surrounded by stars. What happened? I wondered as I gazed around. Had I been blinded?
Remembering I was in a tub of water, I attempted to detect any sensation of feeling but couldn’t. Neither wet nor dry, hot nor cold. My hot tub had been turned into a sensory deprivation tank. Had I been paralyzed as well? Where’s Haruka? What the hell is going on?
At that moment I began to hear a multitude of people screaming. Not all at once, yet the cries quickly rose to a deafening cacophony. I reached to cover my ears with my hands, and to my horror realized I no longer possessed either – or any body to speak of. Was I dead?
Billions were screaming in fear. Another second and I would be joining them….
To be concluded….