The being breathed. The fire in its belly stirred, flames folding over flames, dark oranges sparking into bright white: a swirling pit of heat and energy. The being breathed again.
With each breath the fire expanded and then shrunk. Only sometimes the fire grew a little wilder, reaching higher than it had dared before. A bold and bright flame licked the roof of the belly.
It caused the being to scream at its own inner terror.
A colossal crack appeared on the surface of the being, and with it, the sound of a thousand drums being played at once – except each drum was the size of a planet,
and they were beaten with a Titan’s fist. The being shrieked some more, its skin ripping at the seams, and it howled and writhed.
The wave grew from there. It started off small, miles away in the Pacific Ocean, but it had been given life by the tear in the ocean floor. Surely it began to gather momentum.
With a quickened pace it grew in size and stature. It began heading for the coast, hungry and with a terrible vengeance fuelling its rage.
Then it was taller, adolescent and learning to hunt, consuming more water as it ran for the land, growing ever more.
Closer to the coast, the wave was rising in height, half a metre, one metre, two, three…
With the walls of Japan in sight, the wave was at full adulthood and screaming with every inch it grew. Five metres high, ten, fifteen.
The tsunami bared all: a huge wall of power and might, stretching across the visible horizon, the chasm of water a deadly weapon of nature.
The coast looked feeble in comparison: weak and meagre. Each building trembled in fear at the sight of the tsunami.
And with that the great tsunami smashed through Japan’s first lines of defence, annihilating buildings, boats and cars. Humans were swept up in the terror, crushed and killed.
Those that could flee the scene did so, like wild geese fleeing a predator.
The tsunami was the most formidable of nature’s predators, though: unrelenting, unstoppable and ever growing.
Buildings were quaking in its wake, collapsing and with it bringing down people’s homes and livelihoods in one life-changing moment.
The debris was gathering in a tide of water that sucked everything it passed into its course; broken pieces of metal, concrete and plastic were tossing and turning in the great stream of chaos,
as people frantically flapped in the water to avoid the onslaught of debris. Others scrambled for safety among the stronger buildings, clambering up walls and onto the roofs.
They watched from above, fixated, fascinated even, by this incredible force of nature, their mouths gaping and their eyes widened.
It didn’t take long for the screams to ring loud, however, and the tears to flow. The damage was unrepairable, the loss of life unchangeable, the significance eternal.
The mother stirred the food in the wok. It hissed as vegetables and chicken sizzled in the oil and soy sauce. She reached above her head for a wooden spoon that hung from her utensil rack.
As she pulled it down some of the utensils rattled. Clink, clink. A cool breeze swept through her kitchen as she continued to cook.
Feeling thirsty, she went to the sink to pour herself a glass of tap water and looked out across the city of Yokohama in which she and her family lived, by the coast.
She returned to the hob and there was a rattle amongst her utensils. She looked up in confusion and saw them swaying in front of her. Clink, clink. Perhaps it was the wind.
She shrugged and continued cooking, thinking about how she was looking forward to seeing her children come home from school.
They were still young, her son and daughter, seven and nine years old respectively. She and her husband loved them dearly. Their father was out fishing.
Most days he caught a lot of fish,
enough to bring home income for their family - that was all they were concerned about: so long as there was a roof over their head and food on the table at dinner, nothing else mattered.
All the glitz and the glam that came with some high-flying city dwellers had never interested them. It was their children they lived for.
Again, her utensils rattled. Clink, clink, clink. Only this time for longer and with a bit more force. The furniture in her apartment shuddered a little and some pictures fell over.
She walked over to the desk in the living room and picked up a photo that had fallen over.
It was a family picture: her and her husband with their two children, on holiday in Disneyland, grinning in front of the famous castle. Clink, clink, clink, clink.
Her utensils rattled again, as did her glasses in the cabinet. She had to steady herself on the desk as the ground beneath her feet rumbled.
The noise of a horn boomed in the distance and she ran over to the window. People had begun to gather in the streets.
Was this an Earthquake? It had only been a mild tremor, they were used to that where she lived. No, something else must have happened… The horn sounded again. It was a warning… Tsunami!
She looked out over the sea and towards the horizon and could see something growing in the distance. Dread gripped her body as she thought about one thing only: her children.
She left the food sizzling in the wok and darted for the exit, she had to find them. Out on the street people were beginning to panic.
There was a protocol in place for where to go when the Tsunami horn was sounded, but that seemed to have escaped people’s memories as they ran through the streets in a hurry.
Law enforcement officials emerged in cars and vans with megaphones to try and restore order, but the mother ignored them and made haste for her children’s school.
In the distance, towards the cost, she could see a tide of wreckage developing.
Cars moved reluctantly in three dimensions, lampposts were ripped from their roots and lighter buildings were torn apart. Yet it wasn’t this sight that was most terrifying, it was the noise.
It sounded alive. And the sheer volume of people running in several different directions, screaming and shouting, lead to an eruption of audible panic.
There was absolute carnage in the streets of the city, but still, the mother fought on, sprinting over a road and turning left up a hill and towards the school.
As she continued running, her body aching in protest, she began to notice parents and students gathering outside the school gates.
The children, in their innocence and naivety, seemed unaware as to the gravity of the situation. Their expressions were either blank or a mixture of confusion and fear.
Why were they being ushered out of school before the end of the day? In contrast, the parents were in tears; there was utter hysteria.
Clutching at their children like a parasite gripped to a tree, they were directionless as to what to do next.
On the inclination of the hill, it was possible to survey the scene of the coastal region.
The tyrant wave was surely approaching, increasing in mass as it devoured more wreckage, remorselessly claiming lives as it went.
The mother bundled into the crowd, desperately calling her children’s names.
She frantically moved people out of the way to strike a glance at a child, praying that she would see the face of her son or daughter. Then a stream of pupils poured out of the school gates.
She surveyed them all: not him, not her, no, no… there! She cried and ran over to her daughter, embracing her and squeezing her so tight she could’ve crushed her.
She stroked her face and sobbed into her hair.
‘Where is your brother?’ she cried.
‘I don’t know, he left to get sweets at lunchtime,’ she said, her voice trembling. ‘What’s happening?’
‘We need to get as far away from here as possible, but first, we find him.’
The sweet shop was down the hill, towards the tsunami. The mother grabbed her daughter’s hand and they ran down the street, towards the terror.
They turned a corner into the side road where the sweet shop stood. The road had hitherto largely escaped damage due to the inclination of the hill.
People were huddled in groups, crying and screaming in fear. To their dismay, there was no sign of the boy in or around the shop.
But then, out of the corner of her eye, the mother spotted the child standing nervously at the junction of the main road.
But to her horror, he was on the other side of the road, away from her and across the torrent of water and debris. In that moment the world seemed to stop.
Her boy was alive, but the paleness of his skin would suggest otherwise. He was trembling, observing the fluid monster with utter fear in his eyes.
Even the sight of his mother couldn’t inspire any hope. But the mother only had one thought on her mind and that was to run and embrace him.
She would leave her daughter behind and attempt to cross the torrent.
As she approached the road water began to swell at her feet. Her feet became cold. Her heart beat faster.
All manner of objects were being carried in this river up the hill: household possessions such as crockery; chunks of corrugated iron and clay,
twisted and sliced so as to protrude sharp edges; metal signs and poles that were bent into sinister shapes.
To enter the water seemed suicidal for the threat of being annihilated by the debris was great. But the mother hoped that a path would emerge - her son needed rescuing.
Then, lower down the road, a car became wedged between a wall and a lamppost in such a way that it momentarily halted the flow of water.
Seizing this opportunity, she leapt across the road and bound into her son, sobbing as she clutched at him.
An almighty groan escaped from the car as it shuddered under the pressure from the torrent.
Suddenly it snapped out of its hold and leapt from its position – the force of the water too great to resist.
The daughter, still stuck on the other side of the road, could only watch, helplessly, as the car crashed into her family and sent them sprawling into the rapid torrent.
She would never see them again.