“Tidal Rebirth” by Meagan J. Meehan
Akashic Books introduces a new flash fiction series, Wilderness Wednesdays. Inspired by Nina Revoyr’s brilliant and chilling new novel, Lost Canyon, which is set in the Sierra Nevada and could be categorized as “wilderness noir,” this series will showcase hard-boiled short stories of men and women in perilous encounters with the natural world. But if you think surviving an encounter with a black bear, a 10,000-foot elevation, or a cell phone dead zone sounds difficult, try describing the experience in 750 words or less. Pretty wild.
This week, Meagan J. Meehan finds hope in the midst of a disaster.
She should have known something was wrong when the beach resembled a desert. She should have known a tsunami was coming when the radio reported about an earthquake in the Indian Ocean. Most of all, she should have been home in England, eating turkey and watching telly.
Winifred had gone to Thailand to escape spending the holidays with her upper class, highly connected, and extremely dysfunctional family: the alcoholic mother, the playboy father, the druggie brother—Winifred had come to hate the lot of them. She’d used a portion of her sizable trust fund to sneak away to an exotic country. Now it seemed that she was destined to die on foreign soil on Boxing Day.
The sea had rebelled, releasing a massive wave that ripped onto land, annihilating brick walls as if they were building blocks. Bizarrely, throughout the disaster the cloudless sky remained blue, sunny and serene, betraying no hint of the misery below.
Winifred was dizzy and groggy, unable to grasp exactly what had happened. One minute she had been dozing on a lounge chair, basking in the sun by the pool, and the next she had been toppled into the cold, salty liquid; submerged. Unable to get her breath, she had nearly drowned when she miraculously, inexplicably, broke through to the surface.
Gasping, she gripped the trunk of a nearby palm tree, holding on for dear life. The tree was swaying and bending yet holding firm. Winifred refused to let go. She would not surrender to her exhaustion or the incredible force of the water. Discordant noises filled her ears: glass shattering, concrete crumbling, metal twisting, people screaming.
Make a list of reasons to live and read it when you feel like self-harming.
Winifred could hear the therapist’s voice in her head, the one who had been tasked to keeping her alive after her second suicide attempt. Now she wanted nothing more than to live. She didn’t want to drown and that reason alone kept her holding on.
Water, water, everywhere . . .
The epic rhyme played repeatedly inside her head as she wandered the streets. The water had finally subsided and she had unhitched herself from the tree. She didn’t know where she was going; she was simply walking, looking, trying to wrap her mind around what had happened—or wake up, whichever came first.
She was not in a touristy area anymore. The backstreets had fared far worse than the reinforced, concrete buildings around the resorts. Homes and businesses were completely demolished. Winifred saw several dead bodies, already bloated from water and heat. She passed other survivors; some crying, others talking in an unfamiliar language. A man walked by stroking a shivering dog. A woman prayed in the waist-deep waters. Some people were taking photos and videos of the catastrophe, documenting the event.
Everywhere people needed help. They were bleeding and coughing, limping and shaking, but no aid came. Not a single siren wailed. The roads had been transformed into rivers and most of the emergency vehicles were flooded or stalled. Winifred wondered if the hospital was even still standing.
Suddenly a woman started screaming. She was standing next to a pile of rubble, pointing with one hand and gesturing to everyone nearby with the other. Winifred didn’t need to speak Thai to understand the message: the woman had found someone.
Winifred watched intently as two men created a sizable opening that the woman pushed herself into. Seconds later, she emerged holding a soaking wet child in her arms.
“Ma,” sobbed the little girl, gripping the woman tightly.
“Kalaya,” the woman cried in relief, hugging the child. Despite the horrific circumstances, everyone clapped and cheered.
Witnessing the rescue and reunion had a profound effect on Winifred. Amid the death, destruction and despair, there was still light, persistence, and hope. Survivors, determined to salvage what they could and expressing gratitude for what they still had—undefeated and unbroken. Never before had she so strongly felt such an unbridled appreciation for life.
The rest of her journey was a hazy blur. She somehow managed to get to the hospital, which was damaged but functioning. There she received shelter, food, and dry clothes. Several days later, she returned to Britain via a massive rescue convoy.
From then on, Winifred vowed to treasure life and was determined to thrive on the faith that she had found in the aftermath of the tides.
MEAGAN J. MEEHAN is a published author, poet, cartoonist, and award-winning abstract artist. She also pens columns for the Great South Bay Magazine, Examiner, and AXS. Meagan holds a Bachelors in English Literature and a Masters of Communication. She is an animal advocate and a fledging toy and game designer.
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Include the location of the story next to your byline.
—Please include a short bio with your submission.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions to Wilderness Wednesdays are typically posted 2–4 months after being accepted.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Oct 20, 2015
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