Sunday, April 12, 2015

When the tsunami came.... An excerpt from The Last Wave - An Island novel

When the tsunami came....
An excerpt from The Last Wave - An Island novel

Chp 23: 26th December 2004; Pgs 262-264

"...Harish and Seema had not covered much ground themselves, and they ran now with renewed fervour. They ran past the small bamboo structure of the turtle camp and onto the road beyond. They should have taken the path to the right, where about 300 meters ahead, a narrow trail went steeply up a small hillock. It would have helped them gain valuable altitude, but time was precisely what they did not have. The water would be on them before they co

On the path to the left, Harish had, on his last trip here, discovered an incomplete single-storey concrete structure that was meant to become a forest camp. The local forest officer, the one before Das, had siphoned off the money meant for the construction and all that he had come up with was the framework of the pillars and a roof.

Harish made a quick calculation. This structure was now the only possibility of gaining some height in the short time that was available. ‘Follow me,’ he said to Seema as he darted to the left. The ground was overgrown with vegetation, but there was a clear narrow pathway through it that led to the stairway of the bare concrete framework.
The wall of water, meanwhile, continued to rise and was moving towards land at a speed that appeared to grow exponentially with the decreasing distance. Harish had kept a close watch on the wave, or what he could see of it through the forest. ‘Slow down, slow down,’ he tried hard to instruct it, as he clambered up the stairs.

From up on the roof now, about fifteen feet above terra firma, the movement of the ocean was clearly visible. There was no time. The wave would be upon them in a few seconds. ‘Hold tight to the pillar,’ Harish screamed to Seema, who had just reached the top. The sight from up there took her breath away. A huge, solid mass of grey water came rushing in, engulfing the forest camp, lifting it and then ripping apart the fragile construction as if it were a house of cards. Seema panicked and just about managed to hold on as the wave rushed over the building they stood on. The wave reached a height of about twenty feet and, fortunately for the two, the water hit them only at their knees. Even then, the current and the power was such that they would have been swept away had they not been clinging to the pillars.

The water gushed deep into the forest beyond. There was a couple of moments’ stillness, and then it hissed viciously as it turned back, withdrawing with a force and a vengeance that made the incoming wave appear benign in comparison. There was a flurry of action, of sound and movement. The swirling of the waters, the roaring of the winds, and the most frightening of them all, the snapping. Snapping of the trees around as the water first hit and then pulled away with unforgiving energy. Right before them, a giant evergreen tree went soaring into the sky – once unshakeable, resolute, now gone in a split second, snapped like a matchstick. It came crashing down, not very far from where Harish and Seema stood, hitting the moving water surface with a loud thud; then another tree and another and another and another . . . Seema tried to keep count of these loud thuds in a feeble attempt to divert her mind from her fear and panic. It was futile. She could neither keep count nor make out the thuds anymore – there were too many, too quickly, too loudly.

The entire landscape before them altered dramatically even as they watched. The thin strip of the coastal forest, about twenty metres wide, had been flattened. Not a tree was left standing and the sight before them had turned even more ominous. Just a couple of hundred metres from what might have been the earlier coastline, another wall of water had begun to build. Harish sensed it was definitely an angrier wall, and one that would come crashing in with even more vengeance.

‘Quickly!’ he called out to Seema, who was hugging the pillar about ten feet from him, ‘Remove the stuff you’re wearing. Take off your jacket, your shoes too. Quickly, before the water comes back!’

Both stood clinging to their pillars, now staring at the wall of water with macabre fascination as it closed upon them in only a couple of minutes. This was a much bigger wave and as it reached them, it appeared to deliberately hover above their heads for a moment, just for a split second . . . and then went crashing past – this time way above them.
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