A low, loud rumble resounded throughout New Amhurst, but this time, Aisling was certain it wasn’t thunder. Her eyes darted around as she struggled to find the source of the sound. A deafening crack ripped through the air. She screamed as the buildings on Morgan Street collapsed, yet her terrified shriek died in her throat before any sound came out. Flames climbed high into the pale blue sky, rocketing past the tops of skyscrapers, above high-rises. Whips of orange and red burnt through the air. The fiery ropes slashed through Aisling’s vision as around her, buildings collapsed. Smoldering black smoke billowed where buildings once stood.
A shattered piano ruptured into a thousand pieces, its keys scattered like split teeth. Splintered staircases gave way. Fractured furniture burst as though it were made of sticks and cotton swabs. Tables caved in on themselves, and faucets exploded, water soaring up like volatile fountains. Bodies seemed to plummet from unspeakable heights. Each body slammed into the pavement, colliding to the ground with a wet smack.
Instead of looking up at skyscrapers and high-rises, Aisling stared at piles of smashed bricks and ruined stones cluttering the ground. Knickknacks of people’s lives wailed through the air. Picture frames whistled into the open skies and hurtled to the ground. Lamps crushed into pieces as they fell from top floors of apartment complexes. Copy machines slammed to the streets, crushing the asphalt as they toppled from office buildings. Television sets fired ricochets of broken glass, wires, and shattered circuit boards.
Aisling’s mouth hung open, and she could have sworn she screamed. Instead, the only noise coming out of her mouth was a barely audible rush of breath. Finally, after minutes of silence, she bellowed. The screech was primal; it was desperate, heart-breaking. When she looked beside her for comfort, it seemed as though the woman was being torn from Aisling’s side.
Unseen forces yanked the woman down Morgan Street in the midst of the chaos, where paper and paperweights alike tumbled from buildings that were mere frameworks of what they once were. Toilets exploded, water spilling over the rims, and buildings buckled in misshapen forms of steel from the heat of the fires as flames blazed higher. The woman somehow was pulled away from Aisling. As cardboard boxes crumpled on the street beside her, art projects, school assignments, expense reports, bills, all eddied into the air jettisoned by the pandemonium surrounding the woman. In desperation, the woman clawed at the air. The woman’s harsh shrieks filled the air, earsplitting and intense. It sounded as though the woman were being flayed alive, and Aisling flung her hands over her ears and sobbed. She winced as fat tears rolled down her cheeks.
What Aisling saw next overwhelmed her trust in her own senses. Redwood trees burst from the ground and split the pavement. The ground rumbled underneath her, and the asphalt broke apart as though being crushed by jackhammers. The trees towered over Aisling, and fear surged through her chest. Adrenaline felt as though it were rushing through her heart and expanding outward. She took several breaths to gather herself, but each breath felt shallow and only served to make her heart pound faster and harder.
The panic settled deep within the base of her lungs as her breath escaped in raspy wheezes. Her heart leapt into her throat and banged against her vocal cords. Its quick staccato measured in time with her fear. Her legs wobbled beneath her as she stood. She pressed her hand into the redwood, its bark rough underneath her touch. The wind picked up around her as unsettling as it was during the storm.
Aisling stood, her legs locked and stiff, yet they still felt as though they were made of rubber. A hard wind blew its final gust. She trembled as the leaves on the redwood rustled. A pure white feather floated to her feet. In the distance, broken glass jingled as it fell from splintered window frames. On its own, the sound harkened memories of wind chimes and light breezes, but when associating it with the tragedies that fell upon Morgan Street that day, it only called to mind sadness and the lives lost.
Again, I would love to give a big shout-out to everyone who joined on my first Facebook live Q & A session. It was great reading all of your questions, and it really made me think about my process as an author, how my poetry influences my fiction, and other aspects of the writing process I normally don’t think about.