The earliest warning we had was swarms of gulls; flocks and flocks of sea birds speckling the skies as they came to rest upon the shores. This was days before the first tremors came, aftershocks from far off past the horizon where sky and sea kiss. I hope you never have to feel such trembles of the stable Earth, child. We had no idea what was hot on the tail feathers of the gulls.
The day it happened, the gulls screeched warning sirens as rumbles shook the ground. The next thing we knew, the city was illuminated by an orange glow originating from a column of fire that rose above the ocean, like the sun had returned for a second setting. The brimstone pillar lead up to a plume of ash that loomed above like a vengeful god’s chariot of destruction come to replace our beloved Apollo. As the wind picked up, the chariot loomed ever closer.
“Emergency warning. Gather your families and flee inland as soon as possible. Those who can not leave, cover your windows and doors to protect from ash fall.” The radio relayed to us. We couldn’t leave, too many young children to make it that far. Instead, we rushed to press towels and rags into every nook and cranny that could allow the sharp ash inside.
I took a moment and snuck to the window, drawing back the curtains to watch the cloud block out Apollo’s journey across the sky, turning day into night. Such a thing, I pray you never see. I let the curtain fall to hide away the chaos of outside.
Days later, another peek outside showed all the plants had changed from their usual vibrant green to a dull, dead yellow. This could have only come from the looming dark cloud above blocking the rays from above, effectively starving those dependent on Apollo’s rays.
As I sat inside, the only light coming from yellow bulbs casting dancing shadows on the walls. The outside was silent aside from the occasional small rumble that made us wait with baited breath. I kept asking myself if there would be another large one to thrust us back into chaos. The smell of burning outside became so familiar, sometimes I think it is still stuck in my nose.
We are only allowed outside for necessary supplies wearing thick masks to protect our lungs. We have started to receive news that islands closer to the eruption had suffered devastating loss of life due to the mushroom cloud and several meter tall waves that flooded and swept away whole towns. We were the lucky ones, child.
Weeks later and we are finally allowed to return to our normal lives. Well, as normal as they could be as we sweep and dust away the settled ash and debris pieces and look out over the edge toward the devastation littered over the cliffs. Many of the previously white houses now had blankets of grey and black draped over them, on others roofs had fallen in, burying the belongings inside.
A landscape that had previously been a verdant green was barely starting to recover from its yellowed death, a sprig of green with yellow flowers pushed up through the sheets of grey.
We were the lucky ones.
Disclaimer: This blog post is a work of historical fiction. Any connection to actual people or events is purely coincidental.