Thursday, February 25, 2016

California Night Mare (Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge)

The earth shivered again in California last night. Shallow quakes, a storm of them around 1.5 to 2.5 Richter magnitude, shook the coastal mountains between my city and the Pacific. Most were centered around Cobb, a town in Lake County several hours north of San Francisco, which is home to a number of hot springs. 

We didn't feel them in Santa Rosa.

My spouse and I haven't always been so lucky with earthquakes, though. There were a number of shakers while we lived in Southern California, not as low in magnitude nor as shallow, not hot-spring-triggered. One that rattled me thoroughly came around 6 AM, while I was at work on the third floor of an office building, the only person in the building at that hour.

Another time, we and some friends were watching a Los Angeles evening news broadcast when the desks, lights, and equipment on the TV screen suddenly began to swing wildly. Like some do with thunder, we began counting seconds: "One-a-thousand, two-a-thousand...." The count told us when to expect the earth-wave to hit central Orange County and us.

Quakes usually provide no warning. One second the ground is solid; the next, it is a quivering, heaving uncertainty beneath your feet. When you expect it, you can ride the wave like a surfer, balancing over its crest. But more commonly, it destroys your balance and ruptures your sense of rightness. The earth shouldn't gallop like a horse, darn it!

When I read the prompt for this week's Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Challenge, I knew that however much "a gallop" means horses to others, for me, it brings to mind an earthquake's motion:

February 24, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about galloping. It doesn’t have to be about horses. Is galloping a burst of energy, a run for freedom? Or is it a sense of urgency that borders on anxiety to get tasks accomplished? Explore the motion in different ways — a galloping stride, a galloping relationship or a galloping mind.

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California Night Mare

Deep in sleep, I am enjoying a pleasant dream, galloping down a beach, bareback on a white horse with a scarlet mane. The slow-motion rhythm of its pounding hooves speeds up suddenly, bringing my heart to a matching gallop.

With a start, I bounce from the dream to irritable semi-consciousness. The horse's hoof-beats have transformed into the rattle of the bed's bookcase headboard against the wall. "Darn it, hon," I grumble, eyes still closed, "Can't you just slide into bed instead of bouncing around?"

Distant from the doorway, a shaky voice answers. "I'm not in bed. It's an earthquake!"