The Shaking

Seismic terror is about to strike...

Maverick geologist Brian McLean was ridiculed when he warned London and south east England were at imminent risk of suffering a major earthquake. But when the unthinkable happens buildings collapse, power grids crash, transport is gridlocked, and high-tech life grinds to a shuddering halt.

In the stunned aftermath courier Ryan Buckland journeys through a shattered city to be reunited with his family, Deputy Prime Minister Stuart Pullman sees the emergency as his chance to seize power, while nuclear engineer Alan Carter desperately tries to avert a far greater catastrophe. If he fails, destructive aftershocks will be the least of our problems...

A homage to penny dreadful natural disaster potboilers, The Shaking will rock you to your very core!

A 103,000 word novel. Rated PG 16.

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15. Chapter Fifteen

Sandbeach Caravan Park.

Only a few short minutes ago Irene Fenning had been tied down onto her bed, expecting to be lovingly abused for a while. Then in a few fleeting instants her world had literally fallen out beneath her; now the shock of it all was compounded by her imminent and most likely fatal entry into the muddy cascade tumbling into what used to be their home from home.

The first thing that struck her just after she grazed her back on the window catch as she passed through was how solid the liquid earth felt; and the unrelenting pressure it exerted on her as well as George, desperately clinging on for dear life. The cold, damp, irritatingly abrasive quagmire compressed her chest, pushing against her ears and tightly closed eyelids as well as forcing its way up her nostrils; she was aware of her rapid heartbeat pulsing throughout her body. Though she knew she'd not been immersed in the quicksand more than a few seconds the time seemed to have stretched into minutes, and the overpowering urge to breathe, even though she knew it would most likely kill her, was becoming irresistible.

Oh God no! Renie felt George's leggy grip around her waist loosening as he - not being secured in the lariat as she - was being dislodged by the resistance exerted by the slime as they were pulled through it. The stab of alarm which flashed through her nearly caused her to draw breath, but she fought down the instinct and prayed to the deity she'd not known since her repressed catholic schooldays that somehow her darling husband would have the strength to hold on.

Blind, deaf, and with her lungs feeling as if they were going to burst Irene lost all sense of time. She felt trapped in an unbearable eternal present - buried alive! But then, just when she thought the chafing pain in her armpits couldn't get any worse, or her lungs were going to burst and she would succumb to the mire, something changed. The pressure relented and Renie felt a lightness above her; they'd broken the surface!

But their motion didn't stop; the couple were dragged along at greater speed now. Irene dared to breathe - fresh air at last! - but didn't yet open her grit encrusted eyes. She could feel herself being pulled on to solid ground like a beaching boat. Spitting out some of the foul tasting earth which had forced its way into her mouth she called out questioningly, "George?"

There was an answering indrawn gasp and splutter "Renie! Oh thank God! I didn't think we going to make it!"

"Nor did I dear!" she replied, snorting out a large plug of grimy mucus.

The Fennings had just lost their retirement dream caravan and everything in it. Both of them were stark naked and covered in sticky filth; their bodies an assortment of scrapes. Renie's tight brassy curls were caked with mud, as were the couple's ears and eyelids. But they were alive and they still had each other. As Irene felt the pulling stop and Sam Bicknall's urgent footsteps approaching, she thought when it all boils down to it, that's all you need.

 

Eastbourne.

It was one of the legion of pavement A-boards which caused the pile-up. The Council should have banned those nuisances a long time ago and heavily penalised the obdurate, greedy businesses who regarded the public's Right of Way as their own private advertising space, along with confiscating the offending signs in question. But the bureaucrats had done nothing about the problem, abandoning their responsibilities and leaving visually impaired people or mobility scooter users such as pensioner Erin James to negotiate their way with difficulty around the obstructions.

She wasn't at fault, and even if Mrs James had been aware of the surge of people behind her fleeing the approaching tsunami reaching the junction of Cavendish Place and Elms Avenue, she couldn't have been expected to get out of the panicked throng's way in time. Instead the human tide caught her broadside on as she was trying to find a way around this particularly irksomely placed, water weighted panel board; the leading runners not being able to stop in time or avoid Erin and her electric trike as they were being pushed onward from behind.

Only a couple of minutes earlier Erin's world had been normal; then the shaking began and pieces of the high terraced buildings were bouncing off the paving slabs all around her. She'd steered herself off the kerb and into the relative safety of the road, only being hit by a few small relatively harmless pieces of stucco. Once the rattling had ceased everything went strangely quiet. Soon after she heard the frantic shuffling of thousands of footfalls growing louder in volume as they drew nearer. Seeing the approaching horde Erin attempted to manoeuvre an escape through the scattering of dislodged bricks, roof tiles, chunks of plaster and other debris littering the street.

Before she knew it the crowd were upon her; their momentum bowling her over and sending her sprawling into the road. Mrs James might have been crushed by the fear-crazed mob, but fortunately her toppled scooter provided a slight bubble of shielded space. Nethertheless more people, carried along by the force of the crush tripped over the upended power chair and were sent flying, some nearly landing on top of her.

All order and cohesion lost, the effects of the accident rippling through the stampeding rabble caused more people to stumble. No organised evacuation now, the mass became a shouting brawl of flailing arms and kicking legs; punches were thrown in desperate attempts to get clear of the slow moving log jam at any cost.

In the wake of the human squall Erin lay shaken and disoriented. Aching she tried to heave herself up but she was still suffering the effects of her fall. Then, thankfully, two pairs of helping hands came to her aid. "Obaasan; we will help you!" said a strangely accented young woman's voice.

"Oh thank you dear!"

"So sorry this has happened." the voice continued. Erin caught a first sight of her rescuers; they were a pair of asian girls, students or tourists most likely.

"It wasn't your fault. There's nothing for you to apologise for!"

"But I warned them of the tsunami coming! I did not know this would lead to so much regrettable disorder!" one of them replied. Her friend said something in an incomprehensible language.

"What's that?" asked Erin.

"It is Japanese saying." the friend spoke. "If you cannot help the world, you can at least help one person. Great danger is coming! We must save ourselves and you as well! Quickly we must go inland out of range of the wave; we will aid you. Is your wheelchair still working?"

"Wave? What wave? I dunno about any wave! But if you'd be so kind as to put my chair back on its wheels we can find out if it's broken."

Together the women righted the scooter, then made to carefully pick up Erin. Suddenly the expressions of concern in their faces changed to stark terror.

"What's wrong?" asked Mrs James; attempting to shrug off her confusion.

"It is too late!" replied the first girl, looking in the direction of the sea. "Tsunami is here!"

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