Lunch time. Gossip. Sun. Happiness. But would it last? Time, we forgot about time.
Swinging on the gym like monkeys and running around like wild animals. The burning sun and beautiful atmosphere reminded me of Summer. Glittering, golden and gritty, sand, was the only thing missing.
The bell. It brought us back to earth, and we moaned and groaned our way back to class. We stumbled back towards the corridors, finishing our gossip and settling into seriousness. As we walked past the corridors, we held our breath, trying not to take in the rotten food smell. People would not even bother to put their scraps in the rubbish, just left them lying around. We could be living in a rubbish dump for all thats worth.
We rushed into our seats like angry elephants and stared at our visitor. She was rather podgy and had a bright yellow dress lined with fluro pink flowers. She told us her name in a kind voice, and looked around at us with her baby blue eyes. An apron around her waist gave us the clue. Clay. How could we have forgotten? Then her stare told us to straighten up and pay attention. Immediately.
We squished and squeezed our clay, forming a head with button eyes and a large beak. We lined the body with a knife and cut through the clay. Plastic surgeons. We were curving nails, ruffling feathers, and with our imagination adding colours from beak to claw. We didn’t even bother to glove our hands, or mask our face. Brown. Muddy. Fingers. After twenty minutes we had transformed our clay, given it a makeover! The clay was still brown, but just by looking at them you could see their beautiful coloured wings, flapping madly in the sun.
Suddenly everything stopped. No noise. No wind. No traffic. But out of all the fun we were having, we didn’t even notice. There was no sign, no signal, no roar that it should of had. It just came.
The plates of the earth smashed against each other. They were in a deadly competition, a race to the top. They were killing people at the time, moving the town with their giant feet, making buildings collapse, spreading smoke and ash across the city. Screams filled the whole street, but stopped suddenly when darkness appeared.
The seconds disappeared and we were running for the table. Howling, and the rumbling of the earth was all we could hear. I cried, holding the table leg as it shook my body. I had brought a guest, and his name was fear. I cried even when it stopped. And nobody could stop me from crying. Tears streaming down my face, I rushed outside forgetting my bag. This only happens in stories, I thought, not in reality! As soon as it stopped, we headed towards the door. But it never really stopped. The “courts”. As soon as we saw it we ran. Not listening to our teacher’s wobbly warning.
We tried to ignore the aftershocks, even though they pierced our hearts and made our legs stiff. Only when the aftershocks stopped did our legs turn to jelly, some even collapsed. Our teacher came over and tried to comfort us. But what was there to say?
I was so worried about my family. Are they okay? Where are they now? Are they hurt? But no one could answer those questions.
Suddenly I blurted out “But what will happen to all of the clay?” The podgy one, she just looked me in the eye and laughed. Why, at a time like this, would you, laugh? I didn’t think that for long, because my heart had cracked, like the road.
Someone shivered beside me. Albert. In his togs with only a jersey for warmth. He looked at me with teary eyes and I saw his agony and pain suffocating him. The pool. That was where he was when it had happened. Tsunamis, giant, terrifying waves building a wall of water before you. I only just noticed all of the bruises on his legs and arms. What would it be like to be in a confined space with no escape? What would it be like to have to follow the orders of the earth, and move from one side of the pool to the other, while it empties of water? What would it be like to be so full of happiness, and have it gone in a matter of dreadful seconds.
“Did anyone die?” someone asks from behind me. “This was worse than last time!” another exclaims. Last time. That tormenting night that told us all that Christchurch will never be the same... I suddenly have a terrifying image of my family lying dead before me. Albert tells me, with his eyes, that he is thinking exactly the same thing. As tears run down my cheek, Albert looks at me with sorrowful eyes accepting that there was nothing he could do. All I needed was a cuddle or a kiss, something to make the aftershocks go away.
At that moment, no one was able to help me. I felt sick at the thought.
But the weird thing is that I still want to be there rather than here. Even though my heart still stops, when there are aftershocks, home is where the heart is.
Author: Jude Kinza Van Houtte