Time to Read: 5 min
Less than one minute ago the earth had shifted. It is remarkable how quickly your life can change. What had I been thinking? I should’ve signed the divorce papers, given the wife what was rightfully hers, and started over. I was still young enough. Millie, my wife, said I was having a midlife crisis. Who made her the authority on what percentage of my life had already been exhausted?
Three ungrateful children and a lot of expenses ensured that commonsense prevailed and I didn’t pursue a divorce, nor my wife didn’t leave me a dear John letter. But now, with death getting ready to deliver her final blow, I was regretting those decisions. So much for taking advice from people who didn’t live my pain.
I had rented a cabin, near Widows Creek Falls. It was surrounded by nothing but the cleanest air and the sound of nature. There was no sign of humanity as far as the eye could see. We’d be living off the grid for one weekend. It didn’t even have an inside bathroom, just a wooden outhouse. I was convinced by a friend that it would do us good to get away as a family. We arrived just at the break of dawn. Four human beings who’d been constantly at odds with each other for several months now. My eldest had decided she didn’t wish to be around our negativity anymore. A month ago, she had run off with a man I had never met. Hadn’t spoken to me since. This was what was left of my family; my evidence that I once existed.
Everyone had disappeared to their own sanctuary as soon as we got here. The kids found a nook to be on their phones, the wife busied herself with making the rooms, and I found the outhouse. I just wanted to get away.
My daughter had that look that reminded me why her mother hated me so much. She need not say a word. That smirk screamed you’re a failure and I don’t know why we even bother. She would only grunt went she saw me. My son had not even looked me in the eye for over a week. His silence was worse than the isolation I got from the girls. I comforted myself with the thought that they’d be off to college soon, then out of my house. Perhaps then my wife and I could find some closure. An amicable parting of the ways.
But then the earth shifted. Without warning, I was up to my ankles in muck in a shithouse. I scrambled to get back to the cabin, my pants halfway up my thighs. Debris was sliding downhill toward us. I barely made it inside before another downward shift happened.
Rubble came flying through the windows, as nature’s shrapnel tore holes into everything. Tree trunks, boulders, and rocks, some the size of a car engine, cracked through the roof and landed in what was supposed to be our living room. My daughter got hit first. I saw her catapulted across the room, her phone still attached to her hand, fear etched across her face. She landed just near where the front door used to be, dazed but alive. My son was pinned beneath the branches of a tree that had fallen on us. I might be able to reach him. The sharp pain just beneath my knee said I wouldn’t. I could see bone protruding from where my shin should’ve been. I clung to a branch, afraid to move. My wife was in one of the rooms. That part of the cabin had been ripped off from the main structure like it was made of Styrofoam. She didn’t survive. Her legs were jutting out from a mound of rocks and dirt. We were sinking and sinking fast.
I could hear the alarm of my SUV sounding a muffled siren, that no one would be responding to. My instincts were to save my children.
“Rebecca. You need to climb to the rear window. We are sinking.” She could hear me, but fear had paralyzed her. The confused look was resigned to die.
“Johnathon!” I screamed at my son, but he didn’t respond. “I’m coming to get you.”
Another collapse, and my daughter’s scream ended abruptly. The cabin sank at least ten feet, taking her to a premature grave. My son groaned, but his wounds; oh God his wounds. His eyelids fought to be alert, but a deathly pain was calling his attention elsewhere. The weight of the tree was crushing his torso. I watched, helpless as his soul deserted him.
I never thought this was how my life would end. Grief was taking its hold on me, but adrenaline was willing me to survive. Sweet surrender is a luxury that only a conquered man can afford. I had a lot more to achieve in this stinking world. I had one life to live, and it could not end with me being a failed father and a shitty husband. I wanted another legacy. No one would ever find us. It could be decades before they did. I would have simply been erased from the planet, never making my mark in the world. I quit believing in God or a hereafter in my childhood, and it would make no sense seeking a truce at this hour. The last words I had ever heard spoken about a God were, ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Words so final, there was no room for negotiating.
I yelled as hard as I could. A rage harnessed for years; a fury directed at the unknown, invisible God. I am sure he heard me, for in that instant the forest responded as birds escaped, and wildlife that instinctively understood survival, seized the moment to flee. I was trapped. The earth around me heaved, then sighed, and a rumbling sounded my death knell.
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