“None of us had ever seen, wait no, imagined what was happening that frigid day in October. The sky went from a golden sunrise to a seemingly clear, cloudless blue, and then suddenly it went dark. Every time the lighting came, the sky would resemble a beaten-up face. Purpled with bruises. “
None of us had ever seen, wait no, imagined what was happening that frigid day in October. The sky went from a golden sunrise to a seemingly clear, cloudless blue, and then suddenly it went dark. Every time the lighting came, the sky would resemble a beaten-up face. Purpled with bruises.
After a few hours, the thunder began to ring in our ears, bringing us to our knees, sobbing as we saw our world ripped out from beneath us… and above us, and from every which way, as the wind blew like a ferocious lion. But somehow, the ocean that completely surrounded our little spit of land was like a fox. It would slyly run around, jumping up when you never would have expected.
15-foot giants crashing down every few minutes. But it wasn’t the size that terrified us. It was that they never seemed to want to stop. They weren’t frequent. No, quite the opposite. When we thought they’d come, they didn’t, and when they did, they rattled us, like a plain hurricane would rip away palm trees on some Hawaiian island. Ha! A Hawaiian island sounds nice right now.
It seems funny that I would like a Hawaiian island after growing up loving Auklet. The pine trees that used to grow in clusters along the sand and tall grasses. The small seabirds that the island was named after several hundred years ago. The days when you could truly feel a steaming summer air turn into the crisp autumn breeze that all the old locals would notice when you walked by. “It’s a breezy ‘un, isn’t it?” they’d call out.
But everything quickly changed. The trees would be no more, as well as the grass, until only the ground was left, but turned upon itself, so the golden carpet we’d once walked on became a ravaged landscape of dirt and rocks. And the only talk of a breeze for the next few months was the whistling wind itself that came without the shelter of the trees. But the wind wasn’t just whistling during the storm. It was screaming. The grey-shingled cottages shuddered and shivered, but they wouldn’t give in, not yet at least. The docks that stretched from the sandy beaches were gone before you knew they were there. After a few hours, the mid-island houses turned to beachfront, and the beachfront turned to dark, bottomless ocean. At a certain point, in the middle of the storm, it turned sunny.
It was like some sort of surreal form of torture, for as we islanders looked up from our shivering shelters, we saw the destruction that the storm had given our home. This, however, was not the worst of it. The true torture was when the lights turned off again, and we were engulfed into the crippling winds.
When I walked out from the tattered wooden structure, I felt like rushing back in.
But I knew I couldn’t. Although it seemed like there was nothing left on the island, I could hear the faint calls for help from beneath the rocks and sand. I began to pick out the voices of my childhood friends and even the kind shop clerk, George. “Is there anyone up there?” he voiced shakily.
I rushed over to the few planks, still showing above the ground and began to dig frantically. Suddenly, the ground fell beneath me, and I found myself lying next to George, his arms around his children.
“Fin!” he cried. “Help us!” I climbed out from the planks and George lifted out his two little girls. He climbed out with shaking limbs and immediately asked, “Where are the rest?”
George had always been like the father of our island. He always brought the locals together when we needed each other. I didn’t respond, but quickly ran up to the next pile of grey cedar planks and dug until the local doctor, Maria, climbed out. George let out a sigh of relief as he saw the doctor.
“We can’t waste any more time,” he said as he dropped down over a third ripped-down home and began digging until his fingernails were hanging on by strings. It took six more hours, but eventually we had found about three-quarters of the entire island. Of course, this was only about 35 people, but it brought some of us a sense of relief. George had sadly found the old hermit lying under the few planks that constituted his shack, without a pulse. He was surprisingly unscathed, but no one was asking questions. He had little connection to the rest of the islanders, but his death still brought much grief. Many who lived outside of town were still searching for family members, but most everyone was eventually accounted for. All except the island’s blacksmith, Conan. He and George had grown up together, and had been on Auklet longer than anyone else that was still living.
“We can’t jus’ leave ‘im out there!” Abbot, a friend of my father said.
Many of the older locals were worried about Conan, but George calmed them and said we would continue the search tomorrow.
As George walked away, into the darkness that surrounded us all, I saw the look of sorrow in his eyes.
No one slept that night. On top of the trauma we’d just experienced, we hadn’t eaten in over 36 hours. The schoolteacher, Keeley, took it upon herself to entertain the children with stories of fire-breathing dragons, princesses, and knights in shining armor. As she spoke, magical worlds began to form. Fairy tales and mystery lurked in her voice, and my mind wandered into the past.
A question I frequently asked myself pushed its way to the front of my thoughts: How did we get here? Most people who grew up here didn’t quite care about history. People from Auklet live in the moment.
‘The past is no more, the future ‘an’t be known, but the present is what we should live by.’ Everyone who went to school here knows that quote. And everyone lives by it. That is, everyone except me. I’ve always been one to wonder about the past. My father used to tell me off for asking about the island.
“It’s our home, and we love it. Why should we linger in what it used to be?” I can still hear his deep voice. And I can still remember when his voice faded away.
It was such a sunny day for what had happened. As soon as Maria had walked in, her expression turned to grief. He wasn’t dead yet, but by looking at Maria, it felt like he was. He’d had what Maria called a stroke. He tried to say goodbye, but his voice had already gone. When he tried to reach out, he found he could only move his right arm. By sundown, he was dead. I’m an only child, and my mother died in childbirth, but I had a very large family to grieve beside. Everyone on Auklet is family. No matter what happens, we stay together. When my father died, everyone was in front of the house in under ten minutes.
That night, it felt the same. Although we were grieving for our island, we were together, so we felt safe.
Only now did I realize how truly exhausted I was. My eyes felt like lead weights, and my limbs were like jelly. My brain felt like it had melted away, and my hearing shut down. But somehow, I didn’t fall asleep. I couldn’t. However much I wanted to, my body refused to fall asleep. It was a strange feeling. I soon began to feel a sort of anger. Although I probably had much reason to feel this way, I couldn’t trace my anger to anything directly. I simply was irritated. This irritation made me feel limp, like I couldn’t exert anymore energy, until, at a certain point, I just stared up at the sky and watched as the stars moved away, and the majestic bluish black of outer space quickly lightened, and the grey of dawn shone through.
By the time the sky had returned to its usual bright, cloudless blue, everyone was walking around, asking what they could do to help. In the past hour or two, George had begun instructing people in the building of a shelter from the remaining planks of their houses. I walked over to a group of old locals who were talking quickly and nervously.
“We ‘ave to go now before it’s too late!” one said.
“We’ll gather a search party,” said another.
I saw George walking over, a grim look on his face. They were talking about Conan.
“What’s all the trouble fellas?” George asked.
“We have to go back for ‘im, George,” the baker said in a calm voice.
I don’t know what made me do it. I hardly knew Conan. Maybe it was the mystery of it. Whatever it was, I stepped into the circle of locals and voiced two words:
George had taken me aside as soon as I said this. Searching for Conan wasn’t a dangerous task, but at the same time, Conan was like a symbol of the unknown. He was quite a mysterious person.
“You have to understand, Fin. Conan might be gone.”
“But he might be alive! We’re family. We simply can’t jus’ leave him to die.”
George looked at me long and hard. Then he simply nodded, and walked away.