Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Day After Disaster: Chapter 1

Here's a sneak peak into The Changing Earth Series: Day After Disaster. Enjoy!

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Chapter 1

            Erika woke up in a panic to the smell of must and wine. She was frantic and could not move. Where was she and why did an immense pain overwhelm her? She tried to calm herself and let her tears rinse the stinging out of her eyes so she could focus, but there was darkness all around her. As her pupils began to widen to adjust to a dark room, she realized her body was buried from her neck down under some immoveable mass.
            Her mind started racing. She remembered going to work that day just the same way she had done so many times before. She worked in a small restaurant in the Sacramento Valley. It was called El Primero. This high-class Mexican restaurant was located in a beautifully remodeled Victorian home. The home had been built in the 1800s, and had always been beautifully maintained by its owners. Four years ago, an ambitious entrepreneur had bought the home to turn it into a restaurant that would bring Mexican food into the fine dining spotlight. True to its purpose, the chefs produced gourmet Mexican delicacies on a nightly basis in one of the finest kitchens in town.
            The restaurant was only a recent phase for the home though. Its main purpose had been a residence for multiple families. Sometime during the cold war, a paranoid homeowner had built a bomb shelter underneath the area that became the restaurant’s kitchen. The bomb shelter itself had remained virtually unchanged after its building, and rather then sealing it shut, the restaurant owner decided to make use of it instead. It made an excellent storage area for just about any supplies the restaurant needed to operate efficiently, and it wasn’t long until the employees started utilizing it as a break room as well.
            The only way into the bomb shelter was through a heavy door that sealed tight when shut. The stairs descended downwards, and the walls were lined with cabinet space. The wooden cabinets stored everything from dry foods, to napkins, to cleaners. At the end of the stairs, the room opened up into an area that was originally meant to be living quarters for nuclear bomb survivors. Since then, it had been strategically stacked with plastic water jugs for the water coolers, and shelves for more storage. There was also a table with a few chairs around it for workers taking a break and a huge oak wine rack that contained the expensive wines that the restaurant boasted which were specially chosen to accompany the Mexican dishes.
            Erika had run down to grab a new bottle of Merlot. She hated going down into that dark dungeon. The door would slam behind her with a bang that would make her jump. She had no choice though; a disagreeable customer insisted he would only drink their very finest bottle of Merlot, and the waitress had asked her to grab it for her since she had an order up. Erika had seen the bottle on the shelf, but as she grabbed for the bottle, a severe shaking began. California always shook from time to time. In this area of the world, the earth’s plates shifted regularly enough for the inhabitants to become accustomed to the nauseating shaking, but this time it was different.
            The earth, rotating on its course outlined in the depths of space, is a precious miracle of life. It has been a bountiful provider for its inhabitants for generations and generations of countless species. But these new inhabitants, the humans, they developed as no animal had before. They have an insatiable urge to grow, to expand, and to change the natural process that had sustained life for so long, and it was killing the great mother earth. The humans had finally gone too far. Not only had they cut, carved, and dug at the delicate skin in ways that had opened huge gaping wounds in the surface, they trampled the natural environment and destroyed all other animal species with little regard for any life but their own. They built everywhere. The earth’s own materials had been stripped from her, manipulated, and then stacked on her delicate surface like huge warts glowing and gleaming in the night. Mother earth had taken enough abuse. She began to shake like a dog trying to expel fleas that had been biting it and scratching it for too long.
            Erika, unaware of the extent of the earth’s fury, had been too close to the wine racks when the rumble began. When the quake began, she bent her legs to maintain her balance, but the wine rack began to rock back and forth. Before she could dodge it, the large oak rack teetered its last totter and fell smack on top of Erika. The incredible weight of the wood held her to the floor, and the scattered shards of glass from the broken wine bottles made her very apprehensive of her situation. She felt a stinging pain in her left arm and leg, but between the darkness of the bomb shelter and the moisture of the wine puddle she was laying in, she didn’t know how badly she was hurt.
            She tried to force the wine rack off of her as hard as she could. When she realized she was not going to be able to lift this rack on her own, panic overtook her again. She began to produce a sound as loud as her vocal cords could muster. She shouted and wailed, but her desperate pleas went unheard. Finally, exhausted, her crying ceased. Her throat was too sore to continue. She stared up at the heavily sealed door and realized that no one could hear her no matter how loud she yelled. It was useless.
            “If no one can hear me, I’ll have to wait for someone to find me. They’ll probably notice I’m missing in no time.” Erika’s worn-out vocal cords scratched as she spoke. While she waited for help, the pain began to eat into every fiber of her being. She had to think about something else but her mind was in a panic. The dark and quiet made it even harder to block out the pain, so she began to talk to herself. “I wonder why no one has come to look for me. They must know I am missing. That guy is probably grumbling more about his wine. I wonder what time it is. I wonder if Vince had made it home from work with Dexter before the quake hit. I wish I could call him.”
            Her cell phone was in her green bag that she carried to keep her personal belongings in. It was stacked right over there on a shelf with the other employees’ purses and backpacks. She looked toward it through the blackness, wishing she could reach it and call the man she loved so much. She knew he would always be there to help her, and she desperately wished he was there now to help lift the load that seemed to be crushing her into a pancake on the freezing cold cement floor.
            Pain, shock, and fatigue finally took their toll on the pinned woman, and she fell into a daze filled with dreams. She dreamed of her husband, Vince, with his brown curly hair and matching beard, his eyes that could see into her very soul, and his tall lean body that was perfectly accentuated by his little round belly. He had a great smile, and he was never afraid to announce his sheer joy of being married to her. She dreamed of her son, Dexter. He was already five years old, but it seemed like just yesterday that Erika had given birth to him. Erika had a fairly easy pregnancy, and on that day that she did finally hold him in her arms, she embraced a baby for the very first time in her life. At that moment, she learned that there was a type of love that was so unbreakable and remarkable it made her breathless even in her dreams. She had watched her precious baby grow into a little boy. His blond hair formed a perfect outline around his fine looking facial features. His eyes were a steely gray, and they seemed to hold an ancient wisdom within them.
            Erika’s dreams were shattered when she awoke to another rumble that made the heavy oak rack grind into every bone of her body. Her pain was searing. She felt like the herbs between a mortar and pestle, but these herbs were being marinated in Sauvignon Blanc and White Zinfandel.
            “What the hell is going on? They have to be looking for me by now. How long have I been here? Where is everyone? Gosh darn it! Someone help me! What if no one knows I’m still down here? Well, I have got to get out of here. My leg is throbbing and my arm for that matter. What if I’m really hurt and I’ve been trapped here for…for…God knows how long.” She finished speaking in a frantic tantrum of frustration.
            The rant of emotions seemed to give her a new strength. With a sudden flash of fierce determination, she decided she would have to free herself. She had to lift this thing off of her, but she could just barely recoil her arms enough to give a desperate heave on the rack. With all her effort, she lifted the heavy rack a tiny bit, but that was all she could do. It was so heavy, she had to quickly let it go, and it fell back on her bruised body again.
            “What am I going to do? This thing weighs a ton. I have to get out!”
            Erika’s mind reeled, logic was unreachable, but the instinctive survival side of her took over. Her eyes had adjusted as much as they could to the darkness of the shelter. She swiveled her head around, and in the shadows, she thought she could see a milk crate that had been used to transport the wine to the rack. It didn’t look too far out of reach; if she could just free her right hand. She heaved up on the oak rack again. This time she only tried to move it enough to move her arm. She found that the little bit she could push it up was enough to squeeze her hand up toward her head until she had it extended out above her.
            She couldn’t hold the rack up for long though. When she dropped the rack back down on her, there was only one arm to support the weight of the oak, and it fell hard onto her ribs. She exhaled as the wind was ripped out of her lungs. After she caught her breath, she knew that she had to free herself as quickly as she could. She needed to find out if she was seriously hurt because at that moment she felt like every bone in her body was broken. She reached out for the crate. She knew that it was essential to get a good grip on it and pull it directly toward her. Any attempt to just touch the crate might push it further away and diminish the possibility of escape from her wine rack cage.
            All in one movement she thrust the rack up and grabbed the crate. Her fingers slid through the square holes in the milk crate and she pulled it closer. The next step would be the most critical part of her wine rack escape. She gathered her strength, got the crate into position, and sent a silent plea to her God asking him for his help and the strength she needed to do this. She shoved as hard as she could. It was working. She moved the oak rack higher than ever before. With extreme precision, she held the rack with one hand and slammed the crate into a space just barely big enough for it to fit with the other. She did it. There it was right next to her shoulders.
            A huge load had been lifted off of her chest, but Erika could still not breathe easily. The incredible weight of the oak rack was only being held by one tiny milk crate. The crate began to bend under the heavy load. A wash of anticipation and adrenaline took control of her emotions. Even though her legs were stilled pinned, she was going to be free soon. The next step was not nearly as critical but all the more physically straining. She had devised a process of pushing up enough on the rack so she could keep sliding the crate further and further toward her legs. Then the crate, straining and bending under the pressure, finally reached the middle of the rack. Working the rack like a teeter-totter, she rocked it back so it rested on her chest and slowly bent her stiffened legs up toward her. Unconsciously, she was amazed the left leg moved, and more importantly, it meant that—despite the throbbing pain emanating from it—the bone was not broken. After her legs were curled into her abdomen, she began to rock the rack back where her legs had been. Free from the restraint, she wormed her way out.


Sara F. Hathaway
Sara F. Hathaway is the author of the The Changing Earth Series: Day After Disaster and Without Land. She also hosts The Changing Earth Podcast which blends her fictional stories with educational survival tips. Sara grew up in the country where she developed a profound interest in the natural world around her. After graduating with honors from The California State University of Sacramento with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, she launched into a career in business management. In her fictional novels her research and experience with survival techniques and forgotten life-sustaining methods of the generations past come to the forefront in a action packed adventures. She has used her background in business management to pave new roads for fictional authors to follow and she delights in helping other achieve the same success. She currently lives with her husband and two sons in California where she is at work on the sequel to her first two novels. For more information and a free copy of “The Go-Bag Essentials” featuring everything you need to have to leave your home in a disaster visit: www.authorsarafhathaway.com
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