The building shuttered, and dust fell from the ceiling. I know what you must be thinking. EARTHQUAKE!!! Am I right? Thought so. The thing is, that’s not it. This building that I’m in is almost four hundred years old. Most of the buildings here are. Anyways, it was the middle of the night, and I was sitting up on my small nest of yarn and blankets that I use for my bed. My nine-year-old little sister, Molly, who goes by Mo most of the time, was curled up next to me, almost like a cat, halfway between waking and sound asleep.
“Jennie?” She slurred, her half lidded, dull blue eyes peering up at me through her long strands of gold hair. “Wha’s the bildin’ shaking so much for?”
“I don’t know, Mo. Just go to sleep, and we’ll talk about it in the morning.” She nodded silently, and closed her eyes again. I, however, did not follow her to dream land, but stayed up, listening. Waiting.
I’m still not quite sure what I was waiting for, but I didn’t have to wait for long. Only about an hour later, I felt the building give a distinct shift, groaning and screeching like the ghosts in the stories people tell on bonfire nights. I gently shook Mo till she was half awake again, just in case. I’m glad I did. It saved our lives, as only two minutes later, there was a loud EEEEIIAACH of metal ripping and bending. People jerked awake around me as the sound echoed, and was joined by screams.
“Mo! Up! Now!” I shouted at her, grabbing her and dragging her roughly to her feet.
Sensing the urgency in my voice, Mo struggled to fully wake up, and let me guide her through the hall’s of half-awake people. I came across the stairs, hoisted Mo onto my back so she was riding me piggy-back style, and pounded down them, two at a time.
On the way down, I nearly ran directly into Harry, who’s one of my few close friends, and the smartest boy of our age. He was carrying his two-and-a-half year old little sister, Ima, and looked enormously relieved when he saw me.
“Jennie! I was going to go up and find you if you didn’t come down soon.” He said, his voice shaking slightly in fear.
“We have to get out of here.” I stated flatly, grabbing his arm and taking off down the stairs again.
“Woah! Woah, woah, woah! Slow down!” Harry exclaimed, his voice unnecessarily loud with how close he was to me.
“Why? The building is collapsing. If we stay for much longer, we’ll die.”
“What about the other people here?”
“This might sound cruel, but that’s not our problem. If they’re awake, then great! They might make it. But we can’t risk staying here much longer.”
As if on cue, the building groaned, and jolted violently. We tumbled down a flight of stairs, miraculously avoiding any broken bones, concussions, or other serious injuries.
I scrambled back to my feet. “See?” I asked, offering him my hand, Jenny somehow still firmly attached to my back.
“Fine. You win. Let’s go.” He replied, taking my hand and pressing little Ima closer to him.
As we ran down the stairs, the building gave two more similar jolts, and other frantic people began to join us on our descent to the ground floor.
Thank goodness Mo and I live on the fourth floor. There were ten floors to this place, and we were some of the last people out before the building seemed to explode. Somewhere around the center, the metal, wood, and all other things that make up the wall shattered, the top half of the building falling and crushing the bottom half.
A plume of thick grey dust rose into the air, blocking out the starry sky, ticking off bouts of coughing throughout the small crowd of people that had made it out in time. Among them, there were a few people that I knew. There was Jack, a 12 year old boy who was training to be a builder next year. He was standing next to his dad and older brother, Zander. Just a little deeper in the crowd, there was Richard and Rachel, 11 year old twins. Richard was hugging Rachel, looking pale and shocked, while Rachel was crying into his tattered, dusty shirt. My parents and all of theirs use to be good friends.
I looked back at the mound of rubble. The dust was beginning to clear, and people began to rush over to the pile to start to look for any survivors. It was just like last time. And the time before that. And… the first. No one was expecting it when the first building collapsed. It killed almost everyone in it. Only 10 people made it out. Including Harry, his parents, my parents, my older brother Ten, Mo, and me. Ten days later, my parents, Ten, Harry’s dad, Jack’s mom, and the twins’ uncle agreed that we had to find somewhere different. Somewhere safe. They went away, searching. They sent letters using trained pigeons and other birds. One day the letters stopped. We never heard from them again. Their dead.
Then, I had an idea. An idea so stupid, so absurd, so… perfect. It was an idea, a plan, a hope, that had only been put to the test once. I grabbed Harry’s arm again, and took off for the orange grove.