Shaken

He felt the ground rolling under his feet, and stopped moving. He held his breath. A few seconds passed by. Nothing. His imagination had tricked him. The ground rolled again, this time stronger and faster. Oh shit. This is real. He froze, unable to think, panic rising within him so fast he found it hard to breathe. He looked around him. People ran around, screaming. Earthquake! Earthquake! They shouted. Buildings started shaking. Noise overpowered everything else. Trees swayed dangerously on the sidewalks. Cars crashed into to each other, drivers distracted by their utter panic.

He ran for cover. Not knowing, not thinking, not seeing anything, as his instincts took over. He saw a nearby bench and jumped behind it, holding the back of his head with his hands to protect from falling debris. He realized that he wasn’t alone. A young woman lay in front of him, her head plastered to the ground. Her shoulders shook with fear. He wanted to reach out and rest his hand on her shoulder, but this would scare her off, so he did nothing. He watched her in silence. She appeared unaware of his presence.

The earthquake ended. He was safe. The girl stayed on the ground, her trembling decreased. He sat up and stared at her. She stood up.

“Oh!”

He grimaced, feeling guilty that he had not alerted her to his presence earlier. “Hi,” he said in a low voice.

“Hi.”

“Are you okay?”

She nodded.

“Everything’s fine. It’s over.”

“Yes,” she hesitated, “yes, I’m glad.”

She turned around and walked away.

He stared after her. Everything’s fine, it’s over. Over. Those words reverberated in his head. He wished he hadn’t said them. He longed for the shaking, the rumble of the Earth, the feeling of impending doom that drove every other thought out of his mind, the eerie peace that had come to him when he thought he would die. How strange.

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