Three red lights flashed slowly over the door. Sarah knew it was sealed, the lights signaling “Extreme danger! No exiting permitted under any circumstances!” At least those were the words Director Marcus used. It wouldn’t matter how much she prayed, how much she wished for those lights to stop flashing; she wasn’t going anywhere.
It was easier to watch the door. Some stood near the windows, watching the black eddies swirl past five floors down from the tsunami shelter, waiting for the next wave to try and topple the stout building over and over and over. They peered up at the sunless sky, at clouds that only brought more rain… more despair. Sarah preferred the sight of the gray metal door with its cold indifference. At least the blinking lights could change at some point. They would tell her some when it was safe to leave, when she could finally reunite with her family.
“Are you hungry, Mrs. Francis?”
Hitoshi’s outstretch hand held a small plate of dried trout and buttered bread. The salty fish smell caused her stomach to contract, another connection to the water that kept her away from her children.
“No, thank you.” She pulled the gray fleece blanket more snugly around her shoulders as she met his worried brown eyes. His hair was neatly combed, and while his suit was as rumpled as everyone else’s clothing, his face appeared to have been washed recently.
“Would you like something else? You have not eaten much. I can get you-”
“What’s the point?” Her own blonde hair lay tangled and limp against her back, faded black streaks of mascara lined her cheeks, and her red eyes moved underneath puffy lids. The dark blue long sleeves of her blazer sported white spots where she’d wiped her eyes and nose over the last two days. “I have no one to stay strong for.”
Hitoshi’s gentle hand hesitantly reached forward and rested on her shoulder. “You stay strong for you.”
Meeting his eyes, she replied lifelessly, “I’m supposed to be dead.” Her finger pointed to her left towards the door, south-east. “I was supposed to be in Derdin, covering a story about school teachers’ wages, but I was called here.” She ticked off the series of events with her fingers. “If I hadn’t come to Lepsun City, if I hadn’t found a sitter at the last minute… if I had stayed home instead of telling my husband I’d ‘be right back,’ I would have been caught in the first wave.” A sigh slipped slowly into the air. “I could have died with them!”