Fiction Fridays – The earthquake

The earthquake hit Ischia, Italy at 8:57 pm. on a hot August day. It was 4.2 on the Richter scale, a moderate quake, not supposed to cause much damage. But the buildings in Ischia are old, and they had incorporated none of the modern earthquake-proof architecture into the infrastructure. So, there was mass confusion and much grief when the news reported two people killed and two children among others missing.

Matteo had been sitting in the kitchen going over the bills when the hanging light in the kitchen swayed, and the room undulated like a cruise ship in the waves. It sounded like a washing machine overloaded, rattling and shaking. He staggered as he stood, feeling woozy, stumbling. He had to get out of the house, outside, away from structures that could collapse.
Outdoors, it was chaos. People were screaming, running, and shouting. Sirens shrieked in the distance getting closer and more ear-piercing. Matteo watched in horror as the building up the street collapsed into rubble.

Matteo stood there paralyzed, then turned and ran back into the house, grabbed a backpack, and collected a few things. The house seemed to quiver, and the floor moved underneath his feet. Like Levithan had wakened from sleep in the subterranean world and now roused himself for battle.
Matteo braced himself in the doorway, taking deep breaths, waiting for the aftershock to quiet. Under a table, in a doorway or outside; that’s where you go during a quake. 
After a minute, in a moment of calm, Matteo dashed outside, down the road, skirting the devastation where he could. He had to get away, now was the time, if there ever was one.


Carissa, returned home when the all-clear signal went out. The streets littered with debris, workers still there, having worked around the clock. “Ciao,” she said, nodding to the firemen. Their dirt-smudged faces were bleary-eyed. It had been a long, devastating night.
Inside her home, Carissa looked around assessing the damage. Dishes had fallen out of the cupboards, broken glass on the floor. Papers scattered every which way in random checkered patterns. But mostly, it wasn’t too bad. Carissa breathed a sigh of relief. It was like that, you either got walloped, or you got off easy.

She grabbed her cell, punched Matteo’s number in, waited for him to pick up. But, all she got was a message, “This number is not in service.” It was torture, this waiting, this calling and calling, receiving no response. Carissa dialled Matteo’s sister’s number. That’s what they’d agreed to do, in case of emergency; call Sophia. Sophia lived in England now. Their contact was to be someone who lived far away so that if family members were separated during a disaster, and got to safety, they would have an agreed upon person to call. Sophia was that “person.”
“Carissa, thank God, you’re all right!” Sophia breathed. “Is Matteo okay?”
Carissa’s intake of breath was sharp and sudden, “No, no. Hasn’t he called you yet?”
Sophia’s voice choked, “No, Carissa, I’ve not heard from him, I’m sorry. But, listen,” she said, her voice growing stronger, “we’re not giving up, you hear me, girl?”
“Okay,” Carissa answered, quiet and intense, “we’re not giving up.”


Lorenzo went to the office. Matteo still not found.  Lorenzo felt panic coursing through his veins. As the boss, Lorenzo counted on being in control. He and Matteo had been working on a project, not a strictly legal project. Now Matteo was gone, and he had crucial pieces of knowledge. Lorenzo grabbed a paperweight off of his desk and hurled it against the wall.


Matteo, once he had gotten safely out of Ischia, had gone to the nearest drugstore and then had gone to a sporting good and cell phone store. He went to a hotel, checked in under a different name, went straight upstairs, grabbed the dye and coloured his hair, blonde. Matteo bought reading glasses, put them on pulled on the camo pants, t-shirt and hoodie. He shoved the burner phone in his pants pocket.
Next, he made his way downtown, to an American-run YWCA. There he went to a locker, pulled the keys out of his pockets, flipped through them until he found the right one, unlocked it and took out a duffel bag. He unzipped it glimpsed the cash and satisfied headed back to his hotel. Inside, in a side pocket, he found passports, visas. 
Matteo went back to the hotel, checked out, and headed to the airport. Time to disappear, he thought.


Carissa’s cell rang, it was an “unknown number.” She answered it, heard nothing but quiet breathing, “hello,” she said, “hello?”


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