The boy felt a tremor beneath him like a train running deep below the earth. The shaking nearly threw him out of his bed. He had never experienced this feeling before. The boy rolled over and turned on the green lava lamp on his bedside table: What is happening?
The earth began to creak and moan, swaying back and forth. His heart began racing—it seemed almost as loud as the earth under him. Then the kitchenware began to fall. The noise of shattered dishes and glasses pierced his ears. This made him cringe.
He desperately wanted his mother with him. He felt like he couldn’t breathe. It felt like his throat had closed and he could no longer swallow. The boy’s body became numb. Tears flowed from his small hazel eyes.
She had talked to him about these “shakes” before. “Crawl under your bed and stay until you stop hearing the loud noises. You’ll be safe—I promise,” she had reassured him. “These things are ordinary—for us at least—because of where we live.”
He enjoyed living in the Oakland Hills. The fiery pink sunsets and watching the fog roll in on hot summer days were some of his favorite things. The shipping cranes were pleasing, too. He loved to pretend that they were dinosaurs emerging from the bay to search for prey.
The boy grabbed his stuffed black cat beside him and shoved off his tattered duvet. He dangled his feet off the bed, searching for the ground. Although somewhat bumbling, his feet finally reached the cold wooden floor.
Falling into a push-up position, the boy quickly crawled under his bed amid the nebulae of dust bunnies.
He heard a slight movement. The sound of a door creaking open. His door. Light penetrated through the cracked opening. The boy’s mind raced with thoughts and anxieties. The gears moving inside his head generated infinite scenarios.
What if this is different?
What if this isn’t a “shake”?
What if his home has been infiltrated?
What if something has come to kill him?
What if those cranes were dinosaurs and they’ve thrashed about and eaten his mother?
He decided he would have to run. He would have to leave his room behind. His mother should be home by now. Where was she?
The earth was still shaking vigorously. He would have to move carefully, balance himself
The boy slid his body toward the edge of the rusted bed-frame, avoiding the metal slats above his head. He surreptitiously peaked his head out from under the bed and quickly glanced around his room. Nothing there.
He sprang to his feet and sprinted past the bedroom door. As soon as he reached the hallway outside his room, the lights shut off. He stopped abruptly. He stood still, but the earth still moved him. Terror penetrated his mind. Coldness saturated his body.
The boy began to wildly move his arms around in front of himself. Feeling for something, anything, reaching for light. He feels the wooden picture frame hanging on the wall. He grasps the wall’s corner. Slow, move slowly.
The boy feels through the darkness and into the living room.
He hears a whisper—a voice beckoning. His mother. What is she saying?
She knows he is there.
“Momma,” the boy mumbles. He hears the same soft whisper. It comforts him. He finds solace in it.
Follow the voice—the beacon. The boy scoots his feet across the carpet, grasping anything tangible.
The coffee table. The corduroy couch. The storage cabinet.
No, where is the storage cabinet?
He inches forward as if walking along the edge of a cliff. He feels the soft wood of the cabinet press against the skin of his big toe. It has fallen. The boy bends down and glides his hand across it. Closer now.
His hand skims over the cold metal knobs of the cabinet drawer, searching. He stops. Liquid. Thicker than water.
The boy drops to his knees. He tries to move his hand under the cabinet, but what he feels freezes him. The cold skin of his mother.
He moves his hands up across the sleeve of her cotton shirt and holds her head between his tiny hands.
“Brave of you to come find me, honey,” his mother coughs weakly. “I was runnin’ to your room after the earthquake started. Looks like I didn’t quite make it there. Wanted to make sure we were together.”
“It’s okay, Momma, I’m with you now.” The boy presses his wet face against his mother’s head and holds her tightly in the darkness.
He respires his anxieties and fears, and they disappear into the ether. The earth is finally still.