Friday, December 25, 2020

Happy Happy Birthday

This is chapter 56 of The Inheritance, a serial fiction novel on FITK

Friday Evening, December 25, 2020, Seattle

Sean, Mary and Mareka were in their car, going to Pioneer Square in downtown Seattle for the holiday light show. Christmas day had been low-key but pleasant, in a marked contrast to what the year had been so far. Mareka had been thrilled with her gift (“A real cape!”) as well as with the ruby slippers that Jo had given her. Mareka’s Christmas wish was to share tater tots with the backyard crows and raccoons. She promised to only ‘chat’ with them and not to engage in any more ‘flying lessons.’ Mary had braided the scraps of thread scavenged from the old cape into matching ‘magic rings’ for her and Mareka, braiding a tiny red bead in each as a gemstone. “A little birthday magic we can share, to bind us together forever,” she told her daughter.

“Hey pops! Where’s Jo?” said Mareka, “Wasn’t she coming with us?”

“Hey Kiddo! She’s on a Bumble… ” said Sean, “… Some new dating service.” “If it doesn’t work out she said she would meet us in the square,” said Mary, “And if it does work out, well, ooh, la-la!”

Mareka frowned after hearing Mary’s remark. The idea of Jo having a boyfriend was disturbing to the child, especially in light of the attack by Jo’s ex a couple of weeks earlier. Mareka had always been possessive of Jo and was at that stage of childhood where she was trying to make sense of the the male-female dynamic. Mary, meanwhile, was thinking about the conversation she had with Jo that afternoon. Jo had summed up her frustrations with the dating scene and men in general: “It’s all Sean’s fault, I mean nobody I’ve met measures up to him. He’s such a… a… nice guy!” Mary laughed then, knowing exactly what Jo meant. “Nice guys finish last,” said Mary, teasingly, and they both laughed. “That’s way too much information,” said Jo, and then, turning mock-serious, said “Sean would never say anything like that.”

Sean drove the car into the Sinking Ship parking ramp, found a spot, and they all got out. Soon the threesome found themselves in the light-festooned Pioneer Square under the famous pergola. Mary was keeping an eye on Mareka, who seemed as interested in twirling her cape as she was in the lights. The rain, which had been a constant most of the day, had let up and the radar indicated a gap in the showers for the next couple of hours. The exhibits were spread out over several blocks and it took them nearly an hour to see them all. They returned to the pergola where they saw Jo waiting, alone.

“No luck?” said Mary to Jo.

“He was a capital N nerd—a Star Wars Fan—but only the earlier films, excepting Jar-Jar-Binks,” Jo said, “And even worse, he’s a blogger!”

“Saints preserve us,” Mary said with a laugh, “Deliver us from e-Vile!”

“I’m probably the subject of a post already!” Turning to Mareka, Jo said: “Wow! Your outfit looks great!“

“Thank you,” said Mareka, twirling and bowing to Jo, “I feel so pretty!” With that comment she clicked the heels of her ruby slippers together three times and said, “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

Sean found himself overcome with emotion. This was his family, a real family, something that he couldn’t have even begun to imagine ten years ago when he was an itinerant bachelor coder, bouncing from job to job, city to city, and bed to bed. He had been through a lot with these three, and he realized that this was the first time in his life that he felt unalloyed joy. No conspiracy theorists, Russian agents or political intrigues threatened them now. It was a good time for the big reveal. He looked at Mary expectantly and she nodded back.

“As we are all gathered here, in this beautiful square, on this special day, Mary and I have a special announcement,“ said Sean, whose speech was followed by a few caws emanating from the trees in the square, “It looks as if some of Mareka’s friends are also here for the announcement.” Sean took Mary’s hand and looked at her.

“You tell them,” said Mary.

“Mary and I are expecting a child, due sometime in early July,“ said Sean, “Mareka, you will be a big sister.”

“Ah, ah, ah,“ said the girl, speechless.

“Caw, Caw, Caw,” echoed the crows.

Three thousand miles away, in Reykjavík, Villí was in his bed in the still of the night. The wind had died down and it was a clear night, through his window Villí could see faint glimmers of aurora. He was thinking about the day’s events, especially seeing his pabbi and systir on FaceTime, which was OK—not as good as being with them—but he hoped that they would be able to spend next Christmas together. While Christmas in Reykjavík had been somewhat subdued, he did get some new clothes so he hadn’t been eaten by the Yule Cat. He heard the clock in the living room strike three, and then the silent night returned. A scratching sound at the window made him sit up.

Outside, perched on the sill, sat an enormous raven that was peering in and looking directly at the boy. Villí got up and went to the window. The bird was softly burbling. At first it seemed to Villí to be nonsense syllables, but after a few seconds Villí began to understand it: “Koma, koma, koma… ”

Looking up, Sean and the women could see that the eaves of the pergola, as well as the surrounding trees, were filling with crows. Their cawing became louder and continuous. Mareka, electrified by the birds, began to wave her arms under her cape. Breaking away from the others, she ran over to an open area in the square and began to dance in a strange, jerky fashion—putting on a show for the birds who responded in kind—fluttering and bobbing in sync with Mareka. After a minute of this Mary walked over to the girl and touched her shoulder.

At that moment the ground shuddered and then began to violently oscillate. Everyone in the square was thrown to ground as the power went out. In the darkness a cacophony of bird cries, fluttering wings, sirens and thumps of brickwork falling from the surrounding buildings echoed between the buildings. Great groaning and creaking sounds emerged from beneath them.

Sean got to his feet and took out his phone and set it to the flashlight mode. The pavement where Mareka and Mary had stood now featured a gaping hole. There was no sign of either mother or daughter. Another quake, even greater this time, dashed Sean to the ground again and his phone slipped out of his grasp and smashed to pieces on the pavement.

Then came the roar of rushing water. Sean was swept off his feet and thrown against an upright of the pagoda. As the water rose around him, Sean instinctively began climbing, stopping when he reached the structure’s rafters.

Villí had dressed and surreptitiously made his way out of the apartment. He was now walking along the path that ran along the ocean from Suðurstönd to Bakkvör. Following the raven, who had now been joined by numerous comrades, the mesmerized boy followed the birds to a rocky point overlooking Faxafloí. The ocean was turbulent. The treachery of ravens suddenly arose and began flying in a cluster around the boy.

Villí never saw the ‘sneaker wave’ that hit him.

By the time the water finally receded from Pioneer Square, floodlights from emergency vehicles had begun illuminating the scene. Sean worked his way down from the rafters of the pergola  and was stunned by the extent of the destruction. There were bodies strewn about, some still moving, others were just still. He began to look for Mary and his daughter and Jo, shouting their names. As he neared the chasm in the center of the square Sean was restrained by a policeman.

“There’s an emergency management center on Yesler and 5th,” said the cop, pointing up the street, “Check-in with them and let them know who you are looking for,”

“But I’ve got to find my daughter and my wife, and our friend.”

“You must leave here, NOW! There is 200-year-old underground city under the square that has been damaged by the earthquake and flooded by the tsunami. It’s all rotten and may collapse at any time.”

A falling facade from one of the buildings that adjoined the square was an exclamation point to the cop’s remarks, persuading Sean to heed its advice. He began to walk up Yesler, when he reached Prefontaine Place he stopped and looked back. Down in the square and over to the waterfront there were signs of destruction everywhere.

But the only thing Sean could see was his future crumbling.

Next Chapter:Epilogue

By Professor Batty

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