The world falls out from under you.
They said you were prepared for this. The drills, the talks, even the seismological understanding. But apparently your buildings were put through no such rigor, born at a different time.
You are buried now.
You know help will come. It’s come before, to find people under the rubble of the lives they thought they’d prepared for. It’s all a matter of how angry you can be – will your heat show up on their scanners? Too much cold, uncaring detritus around is the real threat. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
This is what they prepared you for.
You know that elsewhere, feet still walk on firm foundations, the blessings that come with their more monotone landscapes. Fewer ups and downs, no sharp shadows at twilight to make you wonder about the curves and edges of the world around you. Safety.
You know you will be on their commercials. What – a week at most, this time?
No – not that last one. It’s too dangerous for that last one. You risk other people’s lives and business meetings.
They will try to sacrifice. Ten dollars, ten cents. Any little thing helps, but you will not be dug out of here with the shovel of other people’s well-meant quarters. Lives are bought in time and effort. It’s a pity now much you have to pay for that, nowadays.
But still, you understand. You understand why they can’t send more. They need that money. For their bread. For their gas. For their kid’s new start-of-school pencil box. These are what they build their foundations out of, and who are you to deny someone else what they need to ensure their world rocks a little bit less when they hear of disaster and misfortune?
A teacher calls about a scraped knee.
A lover calls to break a heart.
A boss calls to kill a career.
The news chatters in the background about an earthquake in Katmandu.
They will gather their children with their sturdy new pencil boxes close to them and clutch at the steadiest thing they have, eyes watering over with gratitude at this small foundation, while they wonder – what if that were me?
You wonder what it would be like to be clutching that pencil box right now.
Beside you, your hands try to curl into claws but they can’t because the debris of ages ago’s poor planning and yesterday’s shit luck prevents you from moving. The world crashed into itself, a byproduct of trying to stand up straight on too unstable a spine. It’s the way it’s always been. It will be again, somewhere.
It’s just you, this time.
You imagine that out there, the world is still shaking for you. Fear, anger, desperation at the rubble that provides too much metaphor for how humanity has built itself. They will fight for you, out of their own emotions.
You smile, a quiver of hope small enough to force its way past the crushing deoxygenation.
Maybe it will be enough, those other people’s movements.
But for now, you are still.