Ella woke as she was flung from her bed. She hit the floor and continued to roll to the opposite wall, then tucked herself up small as the bed came sliding after her. She just fit in the space beneath it as it slammed over her, acting as a shield against the rest of her room’s contents. A terrified cat scrambled in with her and she wrapped herself around Dean as the world began to shake itself apart.
She choked on the dust that poured in through the growing cracks in the walls, the roar of destruction drowning out all else. Minutes passed like hours, and a half hour like eternity as the building shook and undulated. Just when it seemed as if one second longer would destroy everything, the city gave a last rippling shudder before the momentum shifted back the other direction with a jerk and the city fell still.
Sounds carried through the infrastructure; the distant echo of booms and the screech of twisting steel gave the whole scenario an eerie, dream-like feeling; but this was no dream. Ella stayed where she was, afraid to come out from under the shelter of her bed for a long while. Not until she realized Tanner wasn’t there with her did she convince herself she had to do something.
“Tanner?” Her voice was hoarse and it cracked as she called out for him. “Tanner, can you hear me? Anybody?”
When she did try to move, pain shot through her hips and shoulder, and her wrist felt twisted. Holding back whimpers of pain, she pulled herself through the ruins of her room into the middle of the floor. Her hands touched a metal cylinder, closing around it with a prayer as she felt for the switch. The cover was cracked but the bulb intact, and beam of light that cut the darkness was a questionable blessing, allowing her to finally see the destruction. The whole building was pitched at an angle and the dust made it too slick to get a good footing, but she sat up, taking stock of what remained of her surroundings.
The wall had cracked from the corner of the window; that was where most of the dust had blown in. The thick pane of glass was intact, but the continued sounds of the city settling made it seem as if it might fall in and crush her. She pushed herself back to the bed and sat up on the edge of it, sweeping the beam of light across the room.
From a pile at the foot of her bed where her bookcase and nightstand had been thrown together, she saw a tuft of orange fur. With a cry, she pulled the nightstand away, shoving books aside to pull Sam’s broken body from the wreckage. She clutched him to her chest, petting him, hoping he was only knocked out, but the way his neck hung it must have been broken.
Her body shook as she sobbed, grief overwhelming her. She didn’t register the sound of voices; not until she felt hands on her did she realize Tanner was saying her name. She blinked a few times, bringing his face into focus. He had one hand on her cheek, the other smoothing her hair back out of her face.
“Ella? Ella, come on, sweety, tell me you’re alright.”
“He’s dead,” she cried, hugging the lifeless form in her arms. “He’s dead!”
“I know it hurts, I know; but you have to tell me if you’re injured.”
She choked on her tears but shook her head.
“Alright.” He sighed, relieved for that. “Come on, try to calm down. Take some deep breaths. I’m sorry about Sam.” Her eyes closed and she sunk into his arms as he wrapped her in a hug. He repeated how sorry he was and she nodded. They sat for a time, silent but for her tears.
When she had managed to calm herself down a little, Tanner eased Sam’s body out of her arms and wrapped him in her pillow case. He promised they’d bury him properly when this was all over. That nice spot in the park she liked to go, near the bench under the maple tree; they’d bury him there.
Her heart ached like it hadn’t in years, but much as she wanted to retreat into herself, she knew this was not what she should be focusing on. It took a while, but her mind at last moved to the bigger question. She swallowed down the lump in her throat but couldn’t keep the waver from her voice. “What happened?”
“We crashed.” It wasn’t Tanner who answered, though. She looked to where Amir was standing in the doorway, propped against the jamb to keep his feet.
“Crashed?” Ella echoed. It wasn’t sinking in. “Crashed into what?”
[next: The Exodus]