Buried in Ash by Nate Weil
Just half a minute ago all was calm. Then my world exploded. At least it looked like it had, with a fierce red sky and a menacing mix of fire, ash, and scorching hot rocks raining down, with huge boulders to boot, like the one that had thudded down next to me, sending me flying through the air. I landed hard on the ground. I wasn't hurt as far as I could tell, just stunned. I lay there, my thoughts scrambled like a coded message. I knew I needed to get up, to be anywhere but here. But my body stubbornly refused to obey so I gave up for the moment.
As my brain decoded itself and I became more aware, I realized that the ground was rising. And I wasn't. And it was rising fast. Not only that, it was sliding down towards the shore. It was like a flood. I stood up shakily and looked around. The town looked like a battlefield. Bodies were laying in the cracked streets, and survivors where running around... except that they weren't survivors yet. None of us were. The volcano kept tossing more projectiles at us. Most of the buildings had caved in, and those that weren't were in the process. I returned focus to my own situation. The thick ash was still rising and there was nowhere safe to go as far as I could see. As I realized this I started feeling sick. Nowhere to go. This was it. I looked back at the source of this doomsday. It was still spewing out hot rocks, lava, and pyroclastic debris at an alarming rate.
I was sinking deeper into the ground, which now had a thick sludge consistency. I kept trying to stay on top but it was impossible. I was slowly sinking. There was no order to my actions, I was just kicking and digging wildly, while choking on the silica cloud that reduced visibility and muffled sound. It was painfully slow, but I was definitely drowning. The ground was swallowing me up. About half an hour later, my whole body was covered. My eyes stung. My mouth and nose were clogging up, I could hardly breathe. Slowly, my head disappeared under the black ocean. I lost track of what was going on as I slowly fell unconcious. Then, the sound of the eruption slowed to a stop and I woke up. Almost out of breath, I frantically clawed to the top. Coughing up a liquid mixture of ash and blood, I lay gasping for breath. The pillar of fire over the volcano was barely bubbling over the rim now. And I was Alive. That was all I could do, is think those words over and over again. Slowly I sat up. I was sore, bruised, cut, and burnt all over. I couldn't remember where I was or why at first, but slowly it came back. A trip to Pompeii. With my older siblings and dad. The volcano erupted without warning. I got separated when the boulder, combined with the pre-eruption earthquake, threw me somewhere. So where was everyone? I looked around. The landscape now consisted of rolling hills of black. With, oddly enough, a light brown path leading off into the distant volcano. There was a long line of people trudging along the path, heads down. A group of about ten was also headed the opposite way, to the sea. I wandered over to the path, looking for my family. I finally found them, standing near the path. They looked almost as bad as me, but not quite. We all hugged and cried for a while.
My dad said, "we should get to the sea so someone can pick us up." I looked where he was pointing, then towards the volcano where almost everyone else was going. My dad and siblings started walking towards the beach, but I didn't. I stood there for a moment, looking at the beach, and then the other way at the volcano.
Then, surprising even myself, I said, "I think I need to go the other way." My dad turned and looked at me with a puzzled look on his face. We stood there, not saying anything. Then, slowly, he nodded without a word and turned back around. I started walking towards the volcano, along the new path. As I walked, I thought about my whole life. Everything. Not in any particular order. I just relived my numerous memories, good and bad. I finished just as I reached the top of the climb to the volcano. I looked down into the gaping crater. It seemed to go on forever, rapidly fading into mesmerizing pitch blackness. As I looked, a dim light appeared from somewhere below. The light was approaching, coming up from the volcano. As it got closer, it got brighter. It hurt, but I couldn't look away. I just stood there, my toes just over the edge, staring down with the rest of the people that had come up here. It hurt more and more and more, yet still I couldn't move. My mind told me to look away, to do something, anything. The pain was getting unbearable...
I wake up with a start. My throat is dry. I'm still half asleep and I wonder how I'm suddenly in bed now. But as I wake up more, I re-enter reality. But unlike any other dream, I still feel like somehow, all that happened. I can still picture it all vividly, more than any other dream. Like... A memory. Soon, my eyes start to close. I roll onto my side, and go back to sleep.
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