This story is by Luis A.J. and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I can’t believe it’s happening again.
I keep thinking about last year and I just can’t fully process it. Have we been so blind to global warming that it’s gotten to a point of punishment? Whatever the case, this time I’ll make sure to do everything in my power to protect my family. I won’t allow another incident like last year’s to happen again—it would break us to a point of no return.
For now, all I can do is secure the house as best as I can and make sure that everything’s in place. After that, all that’s left is to wait. Wait for that damned—
“Daddy,” I look up and see Stella shivering by the door.
I put on the bravest face I can manage to make her feel safe. “What is it, sweetie?”
She runs towards me with tears running down her cheeks and wraps her arms around me. “Daddy, I’m scared.”
“I know, sweetie,” I say, leaning down to give her a bear hug of my own. “but you don’t have to worry about a thing, daddy won’t let anything happen to you.”
She sniffs into my shirt. “Super promise?”
That brings a smile to my face. “Super promise.”
My wife, Marta, stands stiffly by the door for a second before joining the hug. I hold on to them as hard as I can and kiss them both on the head. “Daddy will keep you both safe.” Mid-hug, the thoughts of last year resurface, and the fear that comes with them, so I leave to finish double-checking everything in the house—I know just how important my role is in all of this.
The strong winds start showing up at four in the morning—I can tell by the shutters’ loud banging. The three of us sit in the living room, listening to the radio for updates.
“Hurricane Noah just made contact with the southeastern coasts of Puerto Rico, winds are expected to reach up to 170 miles per hour. Please stay inside your homes and make sure to…”
“Wow,” I whisper to Marta, “It’s even stronger than last year’s.”
“Yeah,” she says, “I hope the new front door holds.”
“Me too honey,” I say, while embracing them in a tight hold. “me too.”
I stare at our most precious picture in the house and see a happy family of four looking back at us. Memories of last year’s hurricane start bursting in—nothing good ever comes from them. I look at Marta and see tears running down her beautiful cheeks; she must be remembering too.
You see, last year our island got devastated by a hurricane that, unfortunately, took us all by surprise. It went right through us, causing numerous casualties in its wake; casualties, including one of our own.
We lost our oldest daughter, Rachel.
I could say that it was the hurricane that took her away from us, but that would be a lie. It may have been the source of the problem, but it was fear what held me back from fulfilling my duty as a father. It’s been a whole year, and there hasn’t been one day that goes by without thinking about what could’ve been; what would’ve happened if I didn’t freeze that day.
These past hours have gone by painfully slow. We’re currently under the eye of the storm. I use this as a chance to make sure that the shutters and front door are still secured and ready for the hurricane’s right side. The radio said that we’re experiencing the same impact (or worse) from last year. If that’s true, I’m worried that our house won’t be able to hold.
The winds pick up again. The radio says we should take shelter in our home’s safest room. Seeing that the front door is about to give out, I grab my family and we start making our way to the bathroom. That would be our safest—
“Daddy, look!” Just as Stella screams, I see the front door crack and get sucked out to the abyss.
Water comes in through the entrance and starts to wreck our home. I look back towards the bathroom to see if we can still make it, but a gust of wind smashes the bathroom door to pieces along with everything else. We have no choice but to crouch behind the closest column, and hope for the best.
The winds settle, but we have water up to our thighs. I pick Stella up and grab Marta’s hand to leave the house quickly, before we get pinned inside.
It isn’t any easier outside. It’s hard to walk against the current; hard to hear through the wind’s loud howling. I give Stella to Marta and clear the way for them while walking towards the closest intersection—to see if there’s somebody out there that can help.
As we get closer to the intersection, I start to hear a faint whistle. Marta seems to notice too, “Steve! Let’s get to the street post and scream for help!” I nod, and we keep making our way.
I reach the post by the corner, and I see there’s a rescue boat two streets away. I scream my lungs out to get their attention, but they don’t respond. The current keeps picking up, and the water’s up to my waist. Panic starts kicking in.
“STEVE!” Marta’s scream sends shivers down my spine. I get a bad feeling of what I’ll see.
My heart races, and everything around me slows down. I see Marta’s distressed face as she points toward a street post, half a block behind us; a post that’s the only thing between my baby girl and the abysmal current of water behind it.
I see what’s happening and freeze; it’s last year all over again. My mind sees Rachel holding on to a mailbox just before the current snaps it and takes her with it—except this isn’t last year, this time…
I bite my lips as hard as I can to snap out of it. I already lost a daughter to a hurricane, I won’t let it happen again. I look at Marta and scream to her what I was about to do—I know she wouldn’t like it, but it’s our best bet. I help Marta grab onto the post by the corner and I let myself slowly drift with the current to reach the post where Stella is. Marta screams at me, but I can’t really focus on her at all; I can only concentrate on what’s in front of me.
I can’t imagine how scared my little girl is.
I reach Stella and make sure the post is stable. I call out to her and I see her face—the bravest face I’d ever seen. “Daddy, I knew you’d come!” she says smiling.
“I super promised, didn’t I?” I say, smiling back. “OK Stella, I’ll need you to climb up daddy now!”
“I can’t daddy, the water’s too strong!” That’s true. Even I’m having trouble holding on.
“It’s OK, I’ll hold on to you and I won’t let go!” I grab her and boost her up to my shoulders.
Now for the hard part.
I walk slowly with my hands firm on Stella’s legs and look up to see Marta. She’s frantically pointing at what looked like debris coming our way—which could only mean one thing: danger. I pick up my pace, but I can’t go much faster against the current. Something cuts me on my thighs and hip, but I don’t stop. I won’t stop until I know Stella’s safe.
We’re about to reach the post where I left Marta and I can see the rescue boat coming our way—good job Marta. I look forward again and notice a big trunk heading directly at me.
There’s no time.
I stop caring about my own safety and focus on getting Stella to her mother. Marta takes her, then reaches out to help me towards the post. I smile at her for what seems like a minute, but I know it could’ve only been mere seconds—I know they’re safe; I know they’re going to make it. The trunk crashes onto me and takes me with it. The pain from the cuts starts to kick in—they must be deeper than I thought.
All I can do now is look back and smile.
I see the rescue boat reaching my family. Marta covers Stella’s eyes and pushes her up on the boat before she realizes what just happened. The rescue team then helps my wife up.
I should be pissed that this is how it ends, pissed that another hurricane took numerous lives and is about to take mine along with it. But I made sure to save the ones that matter the most to me; better yet, I know that they’ll make it.
Even with me gone.