It starts with a rumble, in some places a loud boom. Before you know it, everything around you is violently shaking.
It seems to last for hours, but really it’s only 30-40 seconds. Dozens of aftershocks follow, strong, but not as big as the first one.
It’s the middle of the night, sleep wants to claim you but the fear keeps you awake. Socks still settle against the soles of your feet, waiting in case of a midnight dash.
And it happens.
You sit up, phone clutched in your hand as your world begins to tilt. How strong is it going to be? Bigger than the one yesterday?
You get to your feet and bam, the whole apartment starts to sway. Everything is a jumbled mess. Things you had picked up from the first earthquake are back on the floor, strewn about in a wild mess.
Your head finds the edge of the table, knocking you senseless but not unconscious. You can hear everyone’s voices in your head: Get to the table, Get to the door.
Where do you go? Everything is fuzzy now, all you know is that you need to get out of there. You make your move to the door, forgetting the bag you packed only an hour before. Thankfully, the lights are still on.
Everything around you is vibrating, you can’t stay on your feet… Your head hurts so bad you’re sure that it’s bleeding… now you’re just waiting for the blood to drip into your vision.
Somehow, you reach the doorway, but not unscathed. Days later, you won’t remember the details, everything has a dark haze around it. You think the bathroom door handle gave you the wicked bruise on your hip. Maybe it was the box by the doorway that got your foot. But your arm, with the giant bruise and shredded muscles, that you have absolutely no recollection of.
In the doorway, you dare a glance back into your home. Everything is moving, you can see the doorway twisting and turning. Everything is flying around like some sort of Tasmanian devil has entered your apartment.
The lights go out, and you know, more than anything, that darkness terrifies you. Somehow you manage to grab your shoes, so many people have told you over the last day to get closed toe shoes and to be careful of glass, and race out the door. The initial quake has stopped, but the ground is already gearing up for a nasty aftershock. With speed you didn’t know you had, you race to your co-workers door. You’re screaming and crying, worried about their safety and afraid for your own life.
After what feels like an agonizing wait, he wrenches the door open and throws you under the table. For the first time since it happened, you feel safe. But then the reality of the situation hits you. Everything hurts, the world won’t stop shaking and before it happened, this uncontrollable fear gripped your heart. If you had listened to it, had gone and stayed with someone else, you wouldn’t have been alone and you probably wouldn’t have gotten injured. Looking back in hindsight, you’re terrified and angry at yourself for being so vulnerable and unprepared.
Even a week later, you’re still terrified, even though you’re in another city and the aftershocks don’t always reach you here. But when they do, that terror grips your body and brings back every memory. You can’t be alone at night. You have trouble even being alone during the door. Every time you’re alone, you have to fight back the tears. You remember the feeling, the shaking, the terror that gripped you and won’t let go, even now. Sometimes, in the dark of the night, while he slumbers peacefully next to you, the throbbing of your own heart sends you into a fit of terror. Every thing feels like it’s moving and you wonder if maybe one day every thing will stop, or if this is the new normal. You’re life is now a constant vertigo.
I wasn’t going to post this here, as you know I have a creative writing blog. But this is something really important to me. One day, I’ll post the full story, maybe when it’s not so painful for me to remember, because even now it terrifies me.
But I was in the Kumamoto Earthquakes 2016. I did survive. I was injured and have been dealing with the resulting concussion and the PTSD that it brings afterwards. I am terrified to go back to the city I had been falling in loving with. But I will find the courage and strength to go back