Boxing Day – a relatively flat, somewhat anticlimactic day in many a household I should imagine. This was certainly true of ours growing up – all that build up and then POW – gone, for another 364 days.
Not in 2004 though.
Boxing Day – hang on…was it Boxing Day? And was it Christmas Day yesterday? I wasn’t sure. I was sure of one thing though. It was perfect. Warm, sunny and deliciously hot with the prospect of another beautiful day.
It was a Boxing Day that oozed a tropical paradise; the picture-perfect type that you see in holiday brochures with crystal white bleached sand, turquoise seas shimmering in the haze and elongated palm trees swaying in the warm breeze. It was a Boxing Day of such friendly culture; the local residents on this particular island were so humble and charming you wished you could bottle it, take it back home and let some of your miserable family members take a sip of it. It was a Boxing Day that offered the prospect of exploration and adventure.
It was time to move on and slow it down a little. The last four days had been the sort that you cherish; close company, great fun, a competitive volleyball scene and above all, the chance to catch up with my brother.
Piers – My elder brother and my only brother. My role model, in childhood and through early adulthood. He displayed and possessed so many of the better characteristics found in people:
Piers was honest and caring, kind and considerate. Piers was patient and precise, conscientious and modest. Piers was athletic, strong, sheepish and secretive.
His being was an attractive mould that I could ill afford to ignore…so I didn’t. I copied it as a platform and then tweaked it along the way adding my own character as it developed.
Piers had had a wobble in his early thirties but on this Boxing Day he looked great – he had brighter coloured clothing on and wore a cheeky self-chuffed grin on his face bringing out that sheepish nature.
It is known that the brain has the ability to process many thoughts in a nano second and like a scene from The Matrix mine went into freeze frame mode when I first heard it. Screaming – What was causing it? A playful water fight maybe?…like the ones the boarding students would have at the school I was working at or a rabid dog attacking one of the many strays that littered the island…well, possibly? A domestic fight between two of the women street vendors or a fisherman gone crazy brandishing a knife and threatening to use it? The screaming didn’t stop. It was louder than an isolated incident. The screaming intensified and was en mass just out in the street. The screaming was running through the café in a frenzy, knocking people over and engulfing them out through the back door and into the market. The screaming was everywhere and we couldn’t help but run. It was the panic. Not our panic, but the panic of those running around us. We must have looked like a swarm of ants, but without the order or the purpose.
The freeze frame mode switched to fast forward. We were moving, but at the mercy of the crowds dictated by the chaos. The screaming was everywhere…until we saw it.
“Water come, water come” shouted a local – and that is when it stopped. It was abrupt, instant – like we had changed channel on the TV – from a horror film to national geographic. The noise by now was chilling, metal screeching on metal, tree trunks snapping and splintering and the wind…the wind was howling like a scene from twister. The horizon looked different, it was boiling up, bubbling in front of us, getting bigger and heading right in our direction.
From the roof I surveyed the carnage. How did I get up here? What just happened? Why had the streets flowed like supercharged canals full of debris? Had the sea done it? Why was the sun still out, surely it should be raining? Where had the trees gone? Wow, the roof was really hot and littered with people in various states of dress and shock.
Time to assess: Sophie was safe and alive on the roof – check. Albeit just, whimpering and sobbing incoherently. Moments before she had been trapped, stuck and submerged under the moving landfill drinking its content to end her life. Somehow, miraculously, she had been spat back up to the surface seconds before the inevitable.
Nick was on the roof – check. Uninjured, completely dry, and still holding his bag. His decision to take the side alley was a wise one.
Ben was now safe – check. He had moved away from the pillar and got up onto the adjacent roof. We had been standing together. He had been in it, hit by it, and transported down the street. He was uninjured – how?
I was OK – check. My thumb was cut and my flip flops were missing? I was dry. How did I get on this roof?
Piers was…Where was Piers? – check. Where was Piers? – check. Piers didn’t respond to our calling. That’s when the island fell silent. Boxing Day had changed.