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Contemporary Fiction

Note, wrote this between 5:15 pm and now (about 6:30) today, just to keep my hand in here. Hope you like it, although there is only a little dialogue in this one.



It had only taken a short time for the tidal wave to cover the island. It was seen offshore on its way in and ten minutes later it arrived. No one was prepared—how could they be? A massive wall of water three-hundred feet high does not take much time to cross many miles of ocean—on the other side of which a volcano had split off one side, sliding it into the ocean with a giant “kerplop!” Later, they called it a “catastrophic flank collapse,” but to me it was like dropping a ball of mud into a puddle. I know the results and could have easily imagined it on a far greater scale if I had not seen it first hand.


The scientific description of my new service would have been hilarious if there had been no one living anywhere within a thousand miles, because they had a name for the tsunami that came out of it: a “very low frequency, high impact geological event.” As it was, this “event” spelled disaster, destruction, death, and heartache beyond belief. And I would have been right in the middle of it, if I had not been in a helicopter watching the tidal wave at the exact moment it struck shore.


My name is Ailani Malia, and I worked for KFOTV as a weather person, my job being to monitor the situation from the air. That is why my crew were the first to see the tsunami coming, and why we avoided it. Afterwards, I could not tell you for sure whether I would have preferred to be in the air or on the ground. I know, that sounds strange, even bizarre, but you must remember that I had family there. In a frozen moment of time, I saw them all being inundated below the massive wall of water. It was terrible enough to make me think very hard later about the meaning of life and how precious it is. How important to cherish every moment and say everything that needs to be said today—now!


I was not thinking this when it happened, though, and in fact I was numb with fear for them. I began to weep uncontrollably, and my camera man put down the camera to console me. “No,” I shook my head, “don’t stop filming. You must get this. I’ll be all right.” I got myself together by remembering that often things are not as bad as they seem, and my natural optimism kicked in a little. But it was a hard sell as we watched the wall of water driving toward the beach with the speed of a jumbo-jet. In mere moments after it struck, the palm trees were all bent down very nearly horizontal and the roofs of the buildings along the shore were being demolished and pushed up away from the ocean, as if an incredibly huge linebacker was shoving them hard. Two by fours, and boardwalks, and glass, and every other kind of debris were all of a sudden weapons flying through the air and being whooshed around at great speed by the wave.


It became too horrible to watch, seeing people swept up like slips of paper on the water. Others further away were still running up the streets, trying desperately to escape. I could not take my eyes away, simply because this was my home, as well as my job to watch it play out and report on it. And that is what I was doing, talking into the microphone, calm now with an unearthly and unnatural calm. Like the moment before your out of control vehicle slides into the intersection—you not knowing if there will be anyone going the other way—and you feel like you are in suspended animation, watching but not thinking, not panicking but stuck in a time warp. I had that experience once, and this was the same thing.

Finally, the crest of the tsunami—which really did not look like a tsunami anymore, so much as the tide coming in a whole lot further this time—began to retreat. It had covered probably two miles of seacoast inward before this monster had had enough. Then, like a giant maw, it sucked it all back down, down toward the ocean—timber, trees, furniture, parts of houses still in tact—everything not nailed down or too heavy, including some of the people. They grabbed hold of whatever they could as they passed and clung to it for dear life.


I saw with some guilty satisfaction that the tsunami had not reached as far as where my people lived. Nonetheless, I was not relieved by this, for I had many friends, and even those whom I did not know were humans and fellow islanders. This was a catastrophe like none I had ever seen, or wanted to see again. I knew at that moment that my days were numbered here. I had lived here my entire life and, in fact, had never been off the island. But I would stay no longer than to see to those who needed my help and take care of business. It was the mainland for me. Yes, I would turn my back on my heritage, because I could not go through this again. I know, I know—there are natural disasters wherever one may live. My feeling was not rational, but it was my feeling.


A month later I had not changed my mind, although my mother, brother, and first cousin implored me to stay. I knew that they were not crazy; they were Hawaiian. I suppose that is a good enough reason to stick with your tradition and tough it out. They always call this place “paradise,” but it seemed to me there was a crack in paradise big enough to fly a jumbo-jet through. I love the ocean, the beach, everything Hawaiian. Heck, I am Hawaiian! That won’t change. I know that I could put a home on top of one of the mountains here and join the boys who stand around gambling over whose house will go to the lava flow next. That seems to be the thing to do when you are in the path of destruction: take it philosophically and live while you can. But, no thanks. They have not seen destruction from the air.


Besides, I hear that Wyoming has a lot of weather, so I should be able to find employment. I will keep the part about saying thanks and appreciating people now, but from somewhere else. After all, I do have social media.


In the meantime, I’ll have a horse and ride the range with the local cowboys. And try not to think about the beach or the sunshine. Of course, I may be the haole there—or whatever they call outsiders in Wyoming. But I hear they put on great barbecues. I’ll have my hoaloha.


Maybe when I’ve been in Wyoming a while I will change my mind. Who am I kidding? When the first snow starts falling, I'll probably head for the airport. Disasters or not, life is too short to punish myself for living and having feelings. Meme!

March 05, 2021 02:40

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17 comments

Nina Chyll
23:15 Mar 09, 2021

I may be really wrong, but my understanding of the initial tsunami wave is precisely what you describe here, in its later stages: "Finally, the crest of the tsunami—which really did not look like a tsunami anymore, so much as the tide coming in a whole lot further this time—began to retreat." I have never seen a giant wave crash the land, so it made me a little suspicious of the story right at the start. From what I've seen, tsunamis generally look more like a terrifying layer of water on top of the normal ocean surface which just spills ont...

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Roger Crane
04:45 Mar 10, 2021

Interesting observations, and all, and thank you for your comments, Nina. If you ever saw the footage of the tsunami that hit Indonesia some years ago (there was a movie about it called "Impossible"--I think that was the name), it did crash upon the shore. A 300 foot high (or even 100') wave will not just roll over the land. Yes, after it crashes onto shore it does roll up away from shore until it reaches as far as its mass and momentum will take it; and then it rolls back, very much like the waves on any seashore. But that perfection of de...

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Julie Ward
18:01 Mar 18, 2021

Really enjoyable story, Roger. I like your stream of consciousness style, and knowing that it was written so quickly makes it even more interesting. I'd love to read it once you've gone back to really edit it! I especially like the perspective of the tsunami through the eyes of a professional with ties to the people who are going through the tragedy. That's such an interesting conflict to explore. I also like the detached perspective Ailani has from the helicopter. Her hopelessness, her horror, the whole awful scope of the disaster unfol...

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Roger Crane
02:13 Mar 19, 2021

Interesting response, Julie, and thank you for your comments, which I always enjoy receiving. Yes, it probably could take some editing, but the thing is that I felt I stopped suddenly. Someone critiqued the story earlier, indicating that it was a little contradictory --did not like the "kerplop" to describe the physical aspect of how it happened, because it seemed like levity mixed with the horror of the reporter's observations. In my experience, people are often cool and objective in the midst of serious disasters or impending disaster, e...

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Julie Ward
16:26 Mar 20, 2021

I actually liked the "kerplop." (Maybe without the exclamation mark, but I tend to overuse them so they stand out.) It's a surprising little bit of language that got me into the head of the narrator. As if it's something she would think but not say, a jumbled little blip describing -in the moment- what she's seeing from the sky. And yes, it is a little bit of levity, perhaps a throwback to her childhood, which is being washed away before her very eyes. I have been forcing myself to write to prompts I don't like-or the ones I don't want t...

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Roger Crane
16:33 Mar 20, 2021

I like the way you think, Julie. And how you neatly explain in psychological ways the actions of the characters. I had not thought that far, I admit. And yes, writing to prompts (even those you don't like) is good practice. I was in a writing group before I moved, about three years, and every meeting (every two weeks) we wrote to a prompt, ten to fifteen minutes. Our prompts thought were not like this. We got a picture (often a crazy one--literally, and I don't know where she got them, made up pictures and others) and a sentence at random fr...

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Julie Ward
17:36 Mar 20, 2021

That sounds like the best kind of challenge. What a fun writing group! I bet some great stories -- and a lot of belly laughs -- came out of that one. I do love a surprise ending. Sometimes I think of them before the story falls into, sometimes they surprise me. I love it when that happens. So much of writing is intuitive, and allowing the story to take you where it's going to take you.

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Roger Crane
20:22 Mar 20, 2021

Yes. I may put one up here sometime if it fits a prompt. If I do, I will tag it so you know.

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Ellie Yu
16:31 Mar 11, 2021

(Critique Circle!) I found this story really enjoyable to read! I could easily picture the wave rolling over the land because of your vivid language. Your writing style is very evocative and it helps the reader picture what's going on. I also really liked this line: "How important to cherish every moment and say everything that needs to be said today—now!" It's a good theme to think about, especially during these tough times. If I'm being honest, I don't really have a lot of critique to offer: you stated that you wrote it pretty quickly, b...

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Roger Crane
17:17 Mar 11, 2021

Ellie, you are so right in several ways. I don't usually change tones "midstream" either, but in this case the description was so strong that I felt I needed a relief. Maybe not done too well, and that is where more time going over a story helps. You say the story feels "well-rounded." You are probably young (most here are), whereas I have been writing since I was your age and I'm retired now. I was not always writing, I did other things that were more or less exclusive for a long time in between. But living has its own way of mellowing th...

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Ellie Yu
17:47 Mar 11, 2021

When it comes to your guess about my age, you’d be correct - I’m still in high school, as my bio says. :) I hope to reach your level of maturity as I get older! Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

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Cookie Carla🍪
16:36 Mar 10, 2021

OMG!!! The pain and feelings, all the emotions, hit so heavy!! I loved every bit of this story. Although one thing I would say as much as feedback, the bigs chunks of paragraphs threw the story off a little bit. I think it would've been more executed if they were broken down a little more. Other than that, I really loved it. Keep writing!!

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Roger Crane
18:43 Mar 10, 2021

Hi Cookie, and thanks for the review (I get so few of them). I am first a novelist (4 out so far) and only lately a serious short story writer, so that accounts for my paragraph lengths in general--although sometimes one or two sentences can be a paragraph. However, I see too much needless division here, so don't get used to it is my advice. Look at most books. The dialogue, which should be divided by lines for each character speaking, are often not by new writers. But again, thanks for the constructive critique! I'm going to see what you've...

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Cookie Carla🍪
18:50 Mar 10, 2021

I understand completely exactly what you are saying. Many people on this website, let's just say aren't above 18 and isn't 18 either, and as a teenager myself, I don't like to read long paragraphs. But I get what you mean when you say don't get used to it because many people criticized my work specifically about my dialogue and I have yet to fix it. No problem!! I really liked this story and they way it seemed so thought out. I'd be happy to read any of your other stories any time :D

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Roger Crane
20:08 Mar 10, 2021

Funny, because that story I spent the least time on, about an hour and fifteen minutes, including editing. Less on each successive story here. After my better stories go through the contest mill, I may put some on here (if I can work it in with the prompts, which are very specific and difficult) to illustrate what I've been telling writers. But, you could read either of my first two (SciFi) stories and get it. The one Titled "The Q factor" is actually a SciFi romance, kind of Romeo and Juliet. The other--the Last Mistake, I took and expanded...

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Cookie Carla🍪
20:13 Mar 10, 2021

I'm not a big Romeo and Juliet fan, but I will read "The Last Mistake" in a little bit!! Also, is the 17K word novella published yet?

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Roger Crane
22:53 Mar 10, 2021

No, because I'm first entering the novella in the L. Ron Hubbard contest--one of the oldest and most prestigious. Then we'll see. I said "Romeo and Juliet" only because the romance ends similarly, but there the similarity stops. It is Science Fiction and on a far planet. This story was entered to the prompt at that time.

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