Jake should have felt the rumbling ground, but he had his X-Box Infinity turned up, and the subwoofer always made the ground vibrate. Plus, he was pretty high. He insisted it improved his reflexes. The frantic action on the screen occupied his full attention, until the power went out.
“Aw, SHIT!” Jake shouted into the darkness. “MOMmmm! Power bill! Again?”
Then he remembered that today she had a shift at the clinic. He grumbled, unfolded his lanky frame, and shuffled through the cave-dark room, wincing every time his bare feet clipped a dirty dish or cup. There was an open pizza box, somewhere, and he didn’t want to step in it.
Something crashed above, marking the death of some glass trinket. The house was full of them. Mom’s hobby had once been collecting glass figurines, back when they could afford it, and she was going to blame him and have a fit.
He reached the stairs before he stopped to wonder who had knocked over the figurine. He was supposedly home alone.
He stood, openmouthed, at the bottom of the steps, wondering if he should just stay down here. Then the ground rumbled again, and he heard several more crashes.
Holy cat, an earthquake. Here?
He tried to remember whether it was safe to be in a basement during an earthquake. Or was that just tornados? He decided he’d be better off outside, where the only thing that could fall on him was the sky. He pounded up the stairs, threw open the basement door, and stopped, blinded by the late afternoon sunlight pouring through the back windows.
As his eyes adjusted, he saw broken glass all over the kitchen tile leading to the back door.
Shit. Good thing I didn’t run across that in my bare feet. Be mellow, man.
The rumbling ceased. He made his way across worn carpet in the other direction, grabbed his Crocs from where they lay near the door, and threw the deadbolt on the front door. As he stepped through the door, the ground lurched under his feet, and a rush of dust-laden air pushed him forward onto his face as the roof caved in behind him.
He rolled over onto his back. Nothing above but clear, blue sky. The front wall of the house still stood, just beyond his feet, the top edge roofless and ragged against the sky.
Maybe I should get away from the house.
He decided to roll, rather than walk, and stopped halfway across the yard. Several more rumbles shook the ground, none as bad as the jolt that had knocked him down, but the front wall of the house collapsed inward with stately grace. The door and doorframe remained stubbornly vertical.
A door to nowhere, man. Been that way for a long time.
He lay quietly on the dead stubble of lawn and the few spiky patches of natural xeriscaping where the desert weeds had blown in and Mom had let them grow, because they had pretty blooms in the spring. It was the only beauty left in the yard. The water table had dropped, and most of the trees in the neighborhood were gone. At first, they’d been cut down and hauled out, and people had planted new trees, which had not thrived. Later, as the economy dove into yet another recession, people had cut down the dying trees themselves for firewood, leaving stumps in their yards. Eventually they had just let the dead trees stand as they abandoned their houses. Water restrictions made irrigation too expensive for decorative greens, so the crisp Kentucky Blue lawns died, gradually displaced by hardier, drought-resistant species. They greened up for a couple of weeks in the late Spring, but then went brown, just like the hills that surrounded the town.
Another rumble shook the ground, and he heard the house collapse into the basement.
When Jake finally dared to stand, he walked back to the still-standing door, and looked at the pile of rubble that had been his home.
Jesus. Now what am I going to do?
He scratched his nascent beard, then turned and walked in the direction of the clinic where his mother worked.