Present Day Santiago
At 11:05pm on Tuesday 22nd, every single light in the city went out.
The skyscrapers were left like undulating black waves besides mountains which loomed like a monstrous carcass upon the earth. Above them, the sky pressed down heavily, lit by the eerie glow of the moon, and for one brief, fleeting second there was only silence as the city collectively took a breath and looked around with fearful eyes.
Fernanda was one of them. At nineteen years old, she was streetwise and worldly enough to handle herself in a crisis. Her brothers always told her so – if anything she was almost too sure of herself, they said. So when the city became enveloped in darkness she pulled herself up strong, threw back her head and laughed.
¨What is going on now?! There is always something up in this city! Just use your phone, guys.¨
She turned to her friends who were lit up by the moon´s trail, and pulled her phone out of her bag. ¨See?¨ She pressed the buttons but nothing happened. Now she felt a small sliver of panic run down her spine. To be without light was one thing, but without her phone?
¨Mine isn´t working either,¨ Hernan said and one by one the small group of 4 friends came to the same conclusion.
¨Well this is just bizaare¨ Paula whispered and huddled closer to Hernan, ¨what do you think is going on?¨
¨I´ll tell you what is going on. The end of the world, that´s what! ¨ Chortled Diego and grinned at Fernanda.
¨Are you scared, little girl¨ He said to her and now Fernanda laughed.
¨I am not as scared as you will be in a minute if you call me that again!¨ She retorted then reached for the papers. ¨Come on, let´s smoke before this gets really boring¨
¨I like the sound of that plan¨ agreed Diego, passing her a lighter.
As Fernanda sucked in and felt the first sharpness of the smoke pass down her throat, she felt a momentary fear. Moments later that fear was gone, replaced by a warmth that lit her whole body and soothed around her mind like soft feathers.
And then the ground moved.
Hernan let out a small shriek and Paula dropped to the floor. It stopped. And then it began again, swift jerks broken by a vibration that seemed to shake them from the inside out. The air was filled with the sound of car horns, buildings rattling, and people screaming.
¨It´s not stopping!¨ Hernan cried out as the ground heaved.
And then it did. But now the moon shone down with a yellow tint, it´s trail growing thinner as the air seem to choke with dust. And then the light disappeared completely.
¨What´s happening? What is happening?!¨ Paula grasped in the dark and found Fernanda´s hand, gripping it tightly.
¨Take it easy, Paula, it´s just an earthquake,¨ Fernanda soothed but Paula was trembling.
¨Why did all the lights go out first? Where´s the moon gone? What is going ON?¨
¨Be quiet Paula¨¨Diego hissed but before anyone could say anything the ground shook again, this time knocking all four of them to the ground. They lay in the darkness, one arm covering their heads and the other clutching the person beside them, white knuckled.
There was so much screaming. Everywhere people were crying, pleading with the heavens, begging for help but all the time surrounded by blackness. The ground swayed for minutes with shocking force, creaking and breaking around them.
Just as suddenly as it had begun, the earthquake stopped. Then Fernanda felt her hands and then her knees get wet.
¨Oh my god where´s this water come from – run!!¨ She cried, pulling her friends up off the ground.
¨Fernanda wait! I can´t see anything!¨ Paula cried but Fernanda dragged her along.
¨Do not let go of my hand Paula!¨ She bellowed and the two of them ran forwards until they could no longer feel water below them.
¨Fernanda where is Hernan? Hernan! Oh my god, Hernan!¨ Paula screamed but there was no room for her voice when the whole city was screaming.
Fernanda flicked her lighter but once she did she almost wished she hadn´t. Cars were upturned, powerpoles lay strewn upon the ground, and everywhere she saw people covered with blood.
¨Fernanda!¨ Diego appeared beside them and Paula grabbed his shoulders.
¨Where is Hernan?!¨ She shrieked.
¨¨I don´t know! I thought he was with you! I could see as much as you could,¨ Diego said and Paula shook him.
¨You´e a liar Diego Alvarez! A filthy liar. I know who you are – I know who your family are and I Know where you´re from. You´ve always hated Hernan and I bet you left him on the ground calling out for help!¨
Fernanda pushed Paula from Diego.
¨Paula what are you saying?! Calm down – don´t retaliate Diego, we have bigger problems. Look we have to find a safe place, go higher up, find some shelter in case it happens again¨¨Fernanda cautioned as Diego glared at Paula.
¨Yeah, right. You´re right. We need to help each other. But you, Paula, you cuica bitch, need to know that the second all this is over you will be apologizing to me and to my famiy – ¨
¨No I won´t! They are drug addicts and thieves, and I don´t trust you¨ Paula spat at him and Fernanda shoved Diego away just as he raised his hand.
¨What is wrong with you two? Stop this! There´s a hill over there and I´m going up it. Sort out your stupid issues later. I´m sorry, we can´t go back for Hernan because we can´t see and its pandemonium out there, look. Come on let´s go¨ Fernanda pushed past them and began walking towards the hill that she could make out only by the stream of lighters already lighting a path upwards.
Suddenly it began to rain, great droplets of ice that seemed to stick to them like tar. Walking became hard. They were all shivering. They plodded upwards, falling forwards, backwards, walking with a hundred others with flickering lighters that strained against the wind and rain from beneath jackets.
Halfway up the hill they found a large tree with a large crowd beneath it. Fernanda, Paula and Diego dropped to the ground and huddled together with their teeth chattering like glass shards.
¨I´m telling you, I saw this video on the internet. This guy was talking about exactly this. Some guy broke into a government base and put all this footage on the internet. It was up for 2 hours before it disappeared. They can do this. It´s them!¨ Someone was saying.
¨It´s climate change¨ someone interrupted and there were shouts of yes.
¨It´s the South American plates causing a monster earthquake. This has all happened before¨ someone else countered.
¨It´s our punishment for being bad Catholics!¨ Another voice wailed and there were whimpers.
Paula was crying.
¨My mother. My family. Oh my god – our house!¨ She sobbed and Diego snorted.
¨Seriously your thinking of your house right now?¨ He said and Paula glared at him.
¨At least I have a house. At least my parents work. At least I care about something – anything – that is not myself! At least I´m not as selfish as you¨ She cried between clenched teeth and Diego stood up.
¨If you were anyone else I would hit you in the face,¨ Diego whispered, ¨I will remember this, Paula¨ and he walked away.
¨Where are you going? You coward! You selfish coward!¨ Paula screamed after him then buried her head in her arms.
Fernanda stared after Diego, then at Paula.
¨What is going on Paula?¨ She asked and Paula sighed.
¨I swore I would never tell anyone. I didn´t want anyone to know because it was so … so stupid.¨ She took a deep breath. ¨Diego and I slept together after Nano´s party and then one thing kind of led to another and next thing I know we are seeing each other. But I didn´t want anyone to know, because of how my family are, you know what I mean? So anyway, we were creeping around, lying to everyone and it just became too much. One night we went to the park but my father followed us. He went crazy. He told Diego he wasn´t good enough to date his daughter and that he had to leave me alone. And Diego … Diego just did it. He just said goodbye. He just didn´t care enough to stand up to my family – to admit to his own family – who he wanted to be with. So we broke up. We fought a lot. And now tonight is the first night I´ve seen him since all that.¨
Fernanda took a deep breath.
¨Geez Paula. That is heavy. And Hernan?¨
¨Hernan asked me out a few weeks ago. I said yes. He´s a good guy – exactly the kind of guy my family would love, incidentally,¨ Paula sniffed, ¨Diego hates his guts and always has. You know what Diego is like.¨
Fernanda nodded. She did know, since Diego was her cousin and all.
¨I´m sorry – ¨She started but she was cut off by a cry.
¨What is that?¨ She whispered as a ray of moonlight appeared from the sky and shone downward to touch the tip of the Sky Constanera building, a colossal skyscraper that dominated the city skyline. The building seemed to glow as if with a red fire, while around it the other buildings shone. A buzzing filled the air and then the ground shook. A horrific sound filled the air, a deep boom that seemed to pulse from the earth itself. Seconds later and everything was gone, a huge chasm in the earth that swallowed the buildings whole. The only thing left was that huge tower, now with a green tint.
Fernanda couldn´t breathe. She couldn´t seem to open her eyes wide enough. Her tongue seemed to fill her mouth. She couldn´t feel her body except for the pounding of her heart.
So much noise.
She couldn´t look away, couldn´t look to her friend who had fainted on the ground, or find her feet as Diego pushed her aside to reach for Paula. Her eyes filled with tears that pricked like icicles – her body was ice. And then a sudden lightning bolt hit the sky, lighting people´s faces that were contorted with terror.
Suddenly there came a strange sound. Like the clashing of swords but similar to the pounding of footsteps or hoofbeats. There was a flash and the world went white. Fernanda found herself falling, falling, falling but never reaching the ground …
Fernanda woke up.
Chapter 1 continued here …