When my pen began to tremble in my hand and the ground at my feet, 600 km from the epicenter, started to diverge, I knew I was going to have to work overtime for the next few weeks. The thing is, I had envisioned this happening for a while, I just hadn’t gotten to it yet with more work being piled on my shoulders every second.
Alas, your landmark of the San Andreas Fault has officially split. People are sad, angry, grieving even, but I can guarantee you that none of them are more upset than me. Natural disasters are my least favorite things. Anyway, back to the Fault.
The San Andreas Fault is huge. It spans about 1300 km (810 miles for you standard measurement system users), to give you a picture.
I floated up to plan my route - who could I get to the easiest? Carried quickly by the rising smoke, I made it up without using much energy, which gave me even more time to assess my situation, as good problem-solvers (such as myself) do quite often, sometimes too often.
That’s when everything slowed down. If I were in a human form, my palms would start to sweat, I’d try to dry them off by rubbing them against my legs, but my arms would feel like syrup stuck at the bottom of the bottle, heavy and slow with low energy. My heartbeat would take over, controlling my mind. It would be the part of the picture that’s focused while everything around it is blurry. It would be fast and loud, it would block out my ears and make itself noticed at all costs. My face would get cold, yet hot as my nerves kicked in. I would feel physically fragile. I was discouraged, like I would never finish.
A large BOOM! and an even bigger SPLASH! folded into each other as land broke off, bringing me back to real life. I can do this, SNAP OUT OF IT! I scolded myself. If I were one of your T.V. actors, I’d splash some water on my face and slap my cheeks a few times.
My thought train left without me aboard and I found myself scrambling in all directions, but going nowhere. Calm down. Deep breaths. One moment I was too slow, the next too fast. I analyzed the crowd and spotted my first client.
Okay, here I go, I talked myself through it, I’m going to go get him. I’ll be quick, but I’ll do it correctly - I have a lot of clients to take care of.
The air dodged around me with a swooshing sound. Skin and blood. Lots of blood on this one. He was stuck, that’s for sure, with tunnels too small for him to get out of laughing in his face, staring straight at him. When the seismic waves got to him, he was looking in a storage closet. The wood splintered him, everything fell on top of him. He was suffocating. Most importantly, he was easy to reach.
Gasping for air, blood trickled out of his mouth. His left eye was closed tightly by force and both his optics had bruises around them.
“Here - take my hand,” I commanded mind. Ah, these ones are so obedient.
He sent me signals of curiosity, surprise, and fear. He wanted to ask the usual questions - “Who are you?”, “Where are you taking me?”, etc. - but of course, his human body couldn’t do little things like that anymore, he’d already touched me.
“You’ll see it when you get there.”
He drifted after me, like a child wandering after their mother. But he was not the ugly duckling in this story. He’s just like me - with the pale and the grim outline and everything. The feeling that he shouldn’t be there or you shouldn’t see him intensified with each glance, the feeling that you’re next in line.
He had a quick, easy trip, don’t worry.
I trudged along the path to the closest client I could get to - that’s the other thing about my job, so many people arguing about who needs me more, blah, blah, blah - this one just sat there. His eyes glossed over, he looked at me. Sitting in a big mansion, he seemed accomplished in life, appreciated by his fellow citizens. Look at me, going into so much detail. I had to take him by the arm. Something made a wrinkling sound as my fingers grasped around his bulky forearm. A letter in his hand read:
We would like to invite you to Porterville’s 42nd Annual Winterfest. We would be so honored for you, our own mayor, to come.
There will be games for all ages, food and drinks, too. Best of all, we’ll have many activities to help our community come together and help those in need this winter.
Please, fill out the attached R.S.V.P. form with the number of family members who wish to attend and their preferred meal choice.
We hope to see you and your family there!
The Porterville Country Club of Southern California
Well look at that, a mayor. Too bad he’ll never go to that winterfest. Well, at least he’ll be less busy, unlike me, why do you have so many wars - what’s the point? I collected him and with that he went on to his destination and I went on to mine.
I was off, ready to gather my next client, when my ear rang with my own name again and again. The noise seemed familiar, almost comforting, but oh, so annoying! It was a ring scraping a chalkboard made of cork, making everyone wince besides the oblivious ring-wearer. Soon enough, I found myself near the source of the sound. I argued my thoughts from earlier and won once again. That’s three times in a row(,) now.
A woman stood, staring at me with hope and, is that joy? She seemed perfectly healthy, about 90 years old. A small, calming smile curled on her lips, it had warmed many hearts before mine.
“I’ll see you later. I love you,” she finished to the group surrounding her before shifting around them and starting towards me. “I wasn’t sure you’d come.”
“You called me over,” I couldn’t conjure anything decent to say.
“That I did,” I caught a glimpse of the grandma wink and a felt little nudge. A small, playful giggle escaped throat. Her skin had already touched me. “I didn’t want you to feel compelled to come get me, I just wanted to let you know I’m here and I’m ready whenever you are, I’ve done everything I wanted to do.”
“What do y-,” my mouth started before my mind - finally, I understood. “Here, take my hand.”
She took a slight step forward and hugged me.
“Oh, I remember when you were this big,” she punctuated the ‘this’ to make me feel like I’ve grown and held her hand to her knees, bending over to some degree and releasing me, “You were so tempting! You followed me around everywhere!”
“I just wanted to come over and pick you up, give you a big hug, but I scolded myself saying, Miss Julia - you are not ready yet. You are going to greet him when you’re ready, but that is not today.” She patted me on the back, bringing more warmth with each touch. “Thank you for coming - you’ve been so very kind.”
“Thankyou,” I made sure to emphasize the ‘you’ part so she knew I wasn’t just trying to be polite, that I was talking about her, the true California poppy. I stepped forward, embracing her once more.
When we stepped away, I saw the tears in her eyes. They sparkled like the intricate crystals of her diamond adventures.
“Julia, would you like to see something?”
“Why, I’d love to,” she flushed.
“Here - come with me.” The thin skin of her strong, weathered hand guided relaxed into my bony palm. I wrapped my hard phalanges around her backhand, keeping it tight in my grasp. The fresh meadows along the side of my favorite street shone with their reminder of home. The air was a mother holding onto her dear child, slowly letting go as time goes on, but forever staying in their person. Memory Lane does that to people. We strolled past (pun intended) everything - the memories that had stayed with her forever, and those that left. All the good moments, some from before she was born. All the monumental ones too - her first step, her first time riding a bike, her first day of school, her graduation, and much more. It included her journey to the U.S. when she was in university, when she traveled to all the important places on her way to California just so she could get a feel for what the country was like before she settled in. The time her best friend abandoned her and the first time she truly talked to her future spouse. Even the time she spilled sauce on her sister-in-law’s wedding dress and that time she ‘accidentally’ got in trouble in kindergarten because she wanted to go home and see her beloved mother whom she missed so very much. Everything. All I had to do was watch her expression to know that she appreciated this montage of her life as much as I appreciated re-living it with her. Once we came to the three-way stop at the end of the avenue, we said ‘So long’ and ‘See you later.’ We meant it.
With that, I went on as usual. I greeted each client with a warm ‘welcome’ and parted each with a sweet ‘goodbye’. I continued my journey. My workload lessened; I decided to check in with former colleagues, warm smiles heating each room. Every day I look forward to my job. No matter the emotion my comrades portray when they first meet me, for they all leave with the same. Humans - forever morphing with Death.