I dreamed the sirens went off. Then I woke up, and they were still blaring.
The clock said three forty-five in the morning. My heart pumped harder, but I groaned. The sirens had gone off three times since we’d moved to Hawaii. It just meant we had six hours to evacuate before some non-tsunami made the waves a little bigger for about fifteen minutes.
I heard my parents getting up. “I’ll get the radio,” Mom said.
Dad’s voice sounded sleepy and puzzled, “There’s nothing on my phone,” he said.
“What do you mean?” Mom asked as she started down the stairs.
Dad followed her. “No text from nixle. There’s usually a text.”
“Mommy!” Clarisse called from her bedroom, her voice frightened. Last time there’d been a tsunami warning, it had been three weeks before she could get to sleep at night.
“It’s okay, Clarisse, I’ll be right back upstairs.”
Mom came back a minute later with the radio to her ear, a frown on her face. “It’s just the weather,” she said.
“The sirens are still going,” Dad said.
“We’d better start moving,” Mom said. “David, find your shoes and get your pack. Come here, Clarisse, baby, it’s okay, honey, don’t be scared.”
Since we moved into a tsunami inundation zone, Mom had made us all an evacuation pack. It had food and water for like, three days. Mine was under my bed. I thought about changing into some real clothes, not just my pajamas, but then I remembered that if something happened on the big island, like a massive landslide, we’d have about twenty minutes to get to higher ground before our house washed out to sea.
I grabbed a flashlight and my ipod and shouldered my pack. One quick glance around my room, then I was out the door and down the stairs.
Dad carried Clarisse. Her pink backpack with puppy dog ears was shoved up against his own larger pack on his shoulder. Mom came last. She’d grabbed a few loaves of bread from the cupboard, and still had the radio against her ear.
“Should we take the car?” Dad asked.
Mom shook her head. “The highway’s too close to the water.”
A steep hill rose behind our house, covered with jungle, with a utility trail that led up to the water tower. How far would we have to go until we were safe? I heard a neighbor’s car start, saw the lights on and heard shouts from my friend Cody’s place across the street.
“Stop,” Mom said with a sob. “It’s a shelter in place! Oh, Dear God, no!”
We didn’t move. The sirens wailed.
“Get back in the house,” Mom said, she grabbed dad by the sleeve and pulled, her teeth gritted.
We ran back to our front door. Before we got there, the sky lit up, pure white, from horizon to horizon, like some crazy mega lightning bolt. When that faded, a bright red glow still shone over the mountains, in the direction of Honolulu.
I looked. How could I not look? And I saw a cloud rising up over the mountains. Just a dome shaped cloud, red and black. I knew what that was. No one had to tell me. I’d seen it so many times, in shaky-black and white films. That was the top of a mushroom cloud.
I stumbled into the house and followed Mom and Dad into the laundry room. A rumble drowned out the sirens, rising to a roar that rattled the cans on the shelves. Clarisse screamed.
“It’s okay, baby, don’t be scared,” Mom said as the sound faded again. “Everything’s all right.”
Dad took a roll of plastic sheeting from the shelf. “Where’s the duct tape. Like this is going to do any good.”
“It’s there, above the washer,” Mom said.
I watched my parents taping a flimsy sheet of plastic over the door. “Two weeks,” Mom said. “That’s how long we have to stay away from the dust.”
Another rumble, this one louder, closer. The lights flickered.
“That was the military base,” Dad said.
Two weeks. I let my pack slide off my shoulder and hit the washroom floor. “Mom, what about Peter?” I nearly shouted it. My big brother, away at college. We’d never see him again.
“Maybe it’s just Hawaii,” Mom said. “Maybe he’s fine.”
“Mommy?” Clarisse said. “Do you think we have to go to school today?”