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I always did love Sadie. We were your typical childhood sweethearts who grew up and eventually got married. It was aged 12 when we shared a naive kiss and the rest was history. We bought our first apartment prior to becoming twenty somethings and lived happily ever after. At least, that’s what might have happened in a different place and another time. My wife considered my job as a research scientist boring. She would roll her eyes whenever I strayed onto the subject of my work. Not that I could tell her much as most of what I did was classified. My time at the lab began to consume me after a while. I came home slightly later each evening until a return in the early hours of the morning became the custom. I never really stopped to think what impact that might be having until one fateful night on a bleak, October evening. I hadn’t been feeling well and decided to leave and go home at around 20:00 hours. I can still see it now – opening the door quietly so as not to awaken anyone. Creeping along towards the bedroom and turning the handle. Finding a man there scurrying to put his clothes on, Sadie sitting bolt upright in bed with an indignant look on her face. I demanded to know what was going on. The interloper didn’t hang around, instead bustling passed me, clutching shoes and shooting out into the corridor. I was confused, angry, hurt. She got dressed, nonchalantly. I shouted at her imploring any kind of reason for cheating on me. Of course, it’s difficult to justify this kind of indiscretion especially when it’s happened under your own roof. After the initial acrimony, I eventually listened to her side of things. She had been left alone so often. We had become strangers, ships that passed in the night and all those other analogies that go with a break up. We had drifted apart and I hadn’t even noticed. We agreed to separate for a while. She took her things and moved in with her lover. And that was the way of things for two years.
It was on a warm day in spring a year later that I found myself absently scrolling down social media on my phone at my desk. I had thought about Sadie many times since that apocalyptic showdown – her curly, blonde hair, her enigmatic smile, the way her eyes lit up when she was interested in something. I’m not sure why but, on this particular occasion, I decided to drop her a text message that read simply “How are you?” P x. I hadn’t expected a reply but within seconds my mobile pinged. The response read “Am all OK. Should we catch up?” I considered this, taken aback at the thought of us talking again. My life since the incident had amounted to non-stop work and nothing else. I thought it would be interesting to talk again even if bitterness still raged inside me like a swarm of hornets. I looked down and tapped out an acceptance. We decided a meeting on Zoom would suit, what with me being based at a scientific research station in the Pacific Ocean at the moment. It was on that subsequent call that we said we would see each other again. Sadie’s dalliance with John the welder had only lasted for a few months. It seems that he had found the notion of loyalty simply too much and had gone off with a barmaid from the Blue Flamingo cocktail bar. This left his former love interest high and dry and she’d moved in with her parents in New Jersey.
I never was the king of romance. A man can change though. The plan was to meet on a secluded beach in Beruwala, Sri Lanka. We would rendezvous at a table for two looking out at the Indian Ocean on Valentine’s Day. And there we would talk and talk until the sun went down. Alternatively, I could engineer my own form of retribution for the pain and heartache of the last couple of years.
Sadie glided across the sand, sporting sun shades and a cotton, white dress kicking small puffs of sand into the air with her sandals as the sun beat down in the early afternoon. Palm trees lined the shoreline where the bay and mainland merged, interrupted by the occasional, shuttered shack and bar. She sat down gracefully on a white, plastic chair, two crystal cut champagne flutes laid out in front along with a bottle of Dom Perignon nestled in a grey, metal bucket with ice. She put her flattened hand to her forehead giving shade to her eyes and stared out to sea. Birds swooped and dived as alabaster-topped crests rose and fell in the distance. Sunlight glinted on the waves.
Sadie settled herself, scanning her surroundings and enjoying the calm. She had received a text saying that I was running late and might not be there for another couple of hours. Under normal circumstances, she would not have been happy but when idling in Paradise, it didn’t matter so much. She adjusted her white brimmed sun hat and slipped into reverie. It was at 12:58 that the mobile phone in her handbag vibrated announcing a call on Messenger. She swiped the green bar and my face appeared on screen.
“Hi darling. Be with you soon.” Sadie shifted about uncomfortably.
“Where are you?” she enquired.
“On my way. Don’t worry, I’ll be there. Probably 15 minutes.” I felt cold inside. Calculating. Duplicitous.
“It’s all a bit strange here. There’s nobody around. I’m not sure what’s happened to the sea and I’ve just realised that there’s no bird noise. There’s no sound at all.” Sadie’s view now was of a tide that was out with no sign of water for miles. Beach gave way to rocks and pools as the deeper recesses of the ocean floor replaced the undulations of the sandy carpet that went before it.
“I wanted somewhere discreet for us to meet.”
“Discreet? It’s fucking abandoned.” Sadie thought she could hear the faint sound of whooshing in the distance; the kind of sound you hear when you put a shell to your ear.”
“I will admit that this is a lovely idea. It’s nice that you have stayed open minded about us after what happened.” The buzz was a little louder now.
I looked at Sadie over the connection and admired the strength of character in her expression. She always was resolute and strong willed even if it was misguided at times. I had doubts as to whether I could go through with it. An idea was one thing, carrying it out was another.
“I know, I know, we’ve spoken about this. Everyone makes mistakes. For every action there’s a reaction, a consequence.” My mind wandered and I remembered a Valentine’s evening huddled together on the settee, drinking red wine and watching Sleepless in Seattle Sadie had a soft spot for Tom Hanks even if she said it was nothing more than that.
“There you go with that science babble again. Remind me what you do again?” Sadie grimaced. There was a discernible din coming from somewhere.
“I am still a seismologist, just like before. I’ve branched out these days to look at the physics of matter and deciphering the fabric of the Universe.” Sadie wore a dazed expression.
She looked away from her phone which had been laid flat on the table allowing a hands free conversation. In the distance a thin wall had appeared on the horizon and seemed to be getting bigger by the second. “What is that?” she mouthed.
“Sadie, I need you to stay calm.”
“Calm? Why, what’s going on?”
“That sight you can see is probably a tidal wave heading towards you.” The conversation stopped for what seemed an eternity.
“I know it’s difficult to take in but there was a recent forecast made that an earthquake could occur off the coast of Sumatra. There are early warning systems in place these days. Calculations showed that this could result in the Burma and Indian tectonic plates being displaced leading to shelves of water being propelled in several directions. It was possible, no likely, that the coastline around South-Western Sri Lanka could end up in the trajectory.”
Sadie absorbed this as best she could; the roaring now unmistakable as the dark blue, aqueous mountain got ever nearer. “Is this your method of revenge? I don’t suppose I have time to run now?” She wanted to run; she looked back at the coastline estimating how far she might get if she just got up and ran. There was no cover to speak of, no hiding place. The trees extended back a few hundred feet and she had been dropped off by taxi so there was no car to escape to. The cab driver had been under instructions to pick her up at 11am and to not listen to the radio during the journey.
“The tsunami will almost certainly penetrate for several miles inland.” Panic infested every molecule of Sadie’s body. She looked balefully at the phone. She wanted to be elsewhere, anywhere. She was frozen with fear. She also knew that her husband was some kind of genius and if anyone could get her out of this, it was him.
“I don’t want to die. I don’t deserve this.”
“I know, I know. I need you to trust me. Follow my instructions to the letter. There isn’t much time.”
I peered at my wife’s terror stricken expression. I wanted to save her now whatever that meant in terms of consequences. Anger had been replaced by searing guilt.
“Sadie. Get up from the table and walk towards the wave. I know that will be contrary to what your brain is saying to do but I need you to do it – NOW!” She rose from her chair, slipped around the side of the table and walked forward, gingerly. Huge crests careered towards her bringing Armageddon and carrying unimaginable volumes of water; the usual blue colour was brown-orange with metric tonnes of seabed churning within the deadly mass. She suspected that only seconds remained before nature’s express train wiped her off the face of the planet.
“OK. There should be a thin vertical line in front of you that probably looks hazy. I need you to put your hand out, grab the matter and peel it back. You will need to look closely.”
Sadie screwed her eyes in the gloom. She saw a shimmering slit that looked like some kind of rip in the air. It was about two metres tall. She reached out and found that the tear responded to her touch. She pulled it to the side and the schism opened wider. Light spilled out.
“Now JUMP through it!”
She could hardly hear these final words despite gripping the phone and holding right next to her ear, the cacophony of din was reaching a crescendo, spray coated her hair. It was almost pitch black around her.
Sadie closed her eyes and, in complete terror, leapt in the direction of the chasm. Millions of cubic litres of water engulfed the land where she had just been standing.
The news headlines reported that there had been an earthquake off the coast of Northern Sumatra, Indonesia at 11:01:02 with a magnitude of 9.1 on the moment magnitude scale. This had sent tidal waves rippling out in different directions. Locals in Beruwala told reporters that they had seen a 100 foot wall of water hurtle towards their resort at around 13:00 hours. It was about to make landfall and cause carnage when it had just as quickly mysteriously dissipated. There was just one casualty. An as yet unnamed scientist had been found drowned, face down on a beach although there was a woman spotted in the immediate area who appeared to now be missing. The fatality was assumed to be as a result of the natural phenomenon that had emanated out to sea although at odds with the subdued aftermath of the mortal threat to life. Some superstitious types suggested it was a price paid to God to save many others.
In a different place and another time, an alternative Universe, I am sitting outside a street café with the Eiffel Tower in the background. I am raising my glass in a toast to my lovely Sadie on this most romantic of days – it feels like it’s just us Valentines. The waiter has a napkin over his forearm as he emerges from the café, hanging baskets of flowers adorn the front of the eatery. There are other diners sitting at tables on the pavement. The air is warm, Paris blooms signal that spring is in the air. My loving wife is smiling, happy, at one with this world. We are discussing physics and metaphysics. I am explaining the premise that all actions lead to a reaction – Newton’s third law. My adoring partner leans on her elbow, listening, interested. She wants to know about the premise of multiple universes. It’s a subject I am researching. I suggest that there may well be many other existences, this may just be one of them. She says maybe we should have met on a beach in the middle of nowhere as planned – just us sitting at a table for two with the ocean lapping at our feet. I look across at the newsstand close by. I can read the headlines on the front of Le Monde carried by a man wearing spectacles and sporting a goatee. The front page declares “GREAT LOSS OF LIFE. GIANT WAVE KILLS THOUSANDS IN SRI LANKA.”
No copyright issues – image free to use at https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Clouds_over_the_Atlantic_Ocean.jpg
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Such a tense and imaginative
Such a tense and imaginative story. Who knows this could be real...anything is possible.
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Next time someone invites me
Next time someone invites me to a deserted beach for Valentine's Day - I'm going to politely decline.
Assuming somebody does...now that IS fantasy!
Enjoyable read, marandina!
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I liked it. Nice delve into the scientific aspects, enough to show you know what you are talking about, but not enough to bore the hell out of the reader. I also might be discussing multiple universes in my current novel, but not sure yet if I feel like it's necessary. Great writing.
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