November 19th, 2017 by Patrick Starks
It had been months since I fled the beautiful city of Seattle. It hadn’t been the same for a long time but the semi-molded fries from Dicks burgers brought me back to a memory when things were calm, when things were perfect—days of greasy burgers, strawberry milk shakes, and laughter were all I could ever think about as the days went on. But I was running low on gas, and out of caffeine as well. So, I decided it be best I just pulled over. I needed to close my eyes for a bit; I hadn’t slept for at least six days, and I really just needed to forget about all that had happened, although, love is one of the hardest things to forget about, at least for me it was.
And while I got cozy in my 2012 Kia forte, I dreamed about the city lights, I dreamed about the Ferris wheel, I dreamed about the markets, I dreamed about the space needle, but all the things that I ever loved about the city were now covered in ash—my world, my home was grey. I searched and searched for days praying that I would find just one survivor, but just like the city, the ash had consumed the people as well. There was nothing I could to bring any of them back, they all were all now just statues, artistically covered by the grey.
The buildings, now even the roads had gone to shit. No one could’ve have possibly prepared themselves for what had happened. The whole city was caught off guard, although we all knew the day would come, it wasn’t like we weren’t warned, it was in our faces the whole time. Every day, for at least a month, Komo five news would warn the whole city that we needed to evacuate as soon as possible, that Mt. Rainier would erupt soon. But we all took our time, it come down to just a week before anyone took it seriously. As far as we were from the sleeping volcano, most figured it wouldn’t reach the city, but they were idiots, as was I.
For what bridges were destroyed, for all that remained of Seattle—I sat broken, hopeless, but I at least had Jake. Out of all that had happened, all that I had lost, it was no surprise to me that Jake made it through hell and back into my arms. Jake was always a smart dog, but of course, me and my wife Hope always considered most bulldogs to be smart; I mean, what other dog besides a bulldog can skateboard, or at least are good at it. I don’t really know how Jake made it through his hell, but I surely remember how I made it through mine—it’s like a scar that never goes away, always reminding you of what happened, how you got the scar in the first place; psychologically playing with your mind, debating to yourself if the decisions you made was right or wrong.
You see, before the evacuation, before anything had gotten fucked up—everything felt right, everything was laid back, as most days of Seattle were—it was truly heaven on earth. Three days before the last day of evacuation, me and Hope decided we would take Jake out for one last walk around green lake, we both agreed all of us needed it. We planned to leave that same day, within the next four hours at least; she and I figured we would get ahead of the traffic that would build. We didn’t live far, just a mile or two away from the gorgeous lake, so it was easy for us to pack our things and make our final pit stops quick and memorable. It was Hopes idea to live close by, she always loved the vibes from green lake—friendly, peaceful, peaceful enough for her morning yoga, something I would always fail to do no matter how hard I tried to impress her.
I needed some coffee and Hope did as well, it was going to be a very long drive. So, Hope continued to walk Jake around the lake, as I went down the street to Pete’s coffee to grab our drinks—one latte, and one caramel macchiato, extra foamy—as the misses requested. I went in, and as usual got the red-carpet treatment of hell. I gave away most of my twenties to the shop, and on occasion, I can still smell the coffee in the palm of my hands. The coffee there was like radiation, the longer you stuck around it, the more it became a part of you, but what barista doesn’t smell like coffee, kinda comes with the job as most baristas should know.
“Hey dickhead! Long time no see, where the hell you been? Can’t stop to say hi anymore.” Manager Paul joked.
“I’ve always been here Paul, I live just down the street. But you know, the married life is what I’m all about now, nothings better than being next to Hope, you should know that, you were at the wedding.”
“Wow… I never thought I see the day?”
“What are you fucking talking about now Paul?”
“That woman got you so pussy whipped I can see the lashes around your balls, from the counter to your kakis. Jesus…”
“Oh go fuck yourself Paul. Just give make me my goddamn drinks already. And nice to see you to fat ass.”
“Tweddle dick, the pleasures all mine. But when this evacuation shit all blows over, and we get to come back home, don’t be shy to stop by once in a while. The crew misses you, and miss thang. You just tell Hope to bring her flat ass over here once in a while, I’m still her fucking cousin you know, were fucking family for Pete’s sake.”
And there it was, Paul’s classic for Pete’s sake joke, I could see it coming from a mile away. I gave him subtle laugh out of pity, but I honestly didn’t want to—pays to be a nice guy, really pays.
Paul and I both laughed for one last time, and ended our departure with a simple head nod. I had now had the drinks in my hand, I was ready to begin my new adventure with the woman of my dreams, our first adventure as newlyweds. Before I even had the chance to turn around towards the exit, the sound of a bomb echoed from the exterior of the door, and the sound was loud enough to make one way more awake than the coffee they’d drink, it was an unpleasant feeling. I dropped the drinks onto the floor, damn near slipping on my way to the door. When I breached it, the atmosphere was different than before, clouds of smoke now covered the skies. It was dark, it was misty, and my eyes teared up as if there were onions being chopped into the atmosphere. I could barely see a fucking thing, but Hope was my one reason, my only reason to keep trying.
Hope and Jake were nowhere to be found. All I noticed were the screams, people running to their cars, people getting trampled on the way to their cars—it was like I was in a movie, but no romance this time, only horror—like a Stephen king film or something. The longer I searched, the louder I yelled. The smoke just kept coming, and the closer it got, the thicker it became—more people would get trampled, some even ran over by cars the worst it got. Crimes were beginning to increase dramatically, and all I could think about was Hope and Jake, but at least they had each other.
I only had a few minutes before I or even Hope, or Jake, would be consumed by the smoke, by the people that fled from it—I needed to hurry but the faster I rushed my search the less progress I felt I was gaining, my world was turning upside down, to grey.
Just a few more minutes into the destruction I would find Hope. She was hurt, and it hurt me more than anything to see her that way. She was lying on the grass, she had little movement in her legs. I figured someone trampled her, or ran her over with their car, like the rest I’d see lifeless on the ground. But accident or no accident, I prayed to god that if I found whoever did it, that I would put my foot so deep in their ass that they’d be constipated for weeks on end. Still, I put all anger aside and focused only on the present. I tried picking Hope up, but she was in so much damn pain every little nudge I made would pull out screams form her soul that I never heard from her. It put chills down my throat, down my chest, to my heart—causing it to stop and go, unsynchronized. I hadn’t seen that many tears run down her face since our wedding day, and sadly, that day was no wedding day.
“I-I-I can’t move… I can’t move my legs.” Hope sobbed.
“I know baby, don’t worry I’m going to get you out of here. J-Just hold on okay.”
“No… There’s not enough time. I’ll be fine, just go, I’ll come find you. Go find Jake.”
Hope knew that she wasn’t going to make it, as much as she loved me, as much as she wanted to keep me by her side, she felt it would be selfish to bring me down with her, although, I would’ve done anything for her, even if it meant dying—till death do us part the saying goes. For better or worst…
“No, no, no, no, no. Just hold on baby, just hold on… I’m gonna get us out of here, just hold on, come on baby just hold on. Just let me…”
“No! Go Ray! Please… I’ll come find you when it all clears, yeah…”
I didn’t want to, I even hesitated and stayed a while longer, but for Hope, I ran, and I ran like hell, like a little schoolgirl, tears running down my face like waterfalls, in hope that I would be embraced by my papa’s arms, only there were no arms to be embraced—I was alone now, for the very first time in my life, I was alone.
I never forgave myself on that day, it still haunts me today, how I let my precious angel go…
I ran back inside of Pete’s Coffee searching for anything thing and everything that I could to protect me from the smoke, until it cleared, and then I thought about how me and Hope met—how we met in that very shop—it was where all the magic happened. She and I worked at Pete’s for almost three years together before any attraction for each other set into motion, at least that’s as long as it took her interest to be swayed. I on the other hand stalked, I mean chased her for days, for weeks, for months, even years before she gave a poor guy like me a chance. And once the chance was given, she and I with our hormones raging would sneak to the backroom on occasion, excusing ourselves to go grab some more pastries from the cooler, but the repeated process made it clear as day to our co-workers, to Paul even, that it was more than just pastries. But I begged to differ—Hope was pretty damn close to a pastry if you know what I mean, and if you don’t, well… I suggest you go get yourself a pastry then, I guess…
The cooler was the closest thing to comfort I could find, it was the one thing that brought Hope back to my heart. But being inside it was not as pleasant as I would imagine it to be, not anymore. Through the frosted door I could still hear the screams from outside, tons of screams, agonizing, and out of them all I wished for none of them to be Hope’s.
Over time I passed out from all the tears I cried, more so from the cold. I dreamed the same dreams I dreamed today, but the difference was that those dreams before still had Hope in them. I really wish I could just see her face again you know, but the pain I always felt from it would deter me from even remembering such thoughts, I just didn’t want to hurt anymore.
If anything, I know she was beautiful, I know she smelt like bubble gum, and that she had a laugh that gave a man like me goosebumps; although my mind had forgotten, my heart could never forget such perfection.
Hours later I’d wake up. Everything was quiet, the screams, the tears, everything had stopped, and all I could think about was Hope. I rushed to open the door to the cooler, but of course the damn handle broke off, knocking my pathetic ass ironically, on my ass. It was a good thing Hope didn’t see, she would’ve never let me hear the end of it. I was in a pickle, I didn’t know how the hell I was going to get out. Out of all that had happened, I just wanted to die, and so I waited for just that, to die, but before I did the sound of a gentle bark would give me reason to pause on the idea.
The gentle sound was you Jake. That moment was when our recovery, our healing began.