"Happy birthday Naomi."
"Still an hour to go."
"OK we'll wait," laughed Peter.
The birthday was to be celebrated on Saturday the 4 September 2010, but because of sudden change of plans by Naomi's parents who are leaving to London in the early hours of Saturday, the party was advanced for Friday the 3 September.
Naomi was the only child of Frank Peter and Doris Amelia Peter, both software professionals working for a UK based company.
Naomi, Neil, Peter and David are close friends right from their primary school.
Neil Adams and Naomi, after their schooling, have completed their graduation in Computer Animation at Hyderabad and wanted to go for higher studies in London. But because of certain procedural delay, their admission was rejected and Neil, not wanting to waste a year, sought admission in CPIT, the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology and is staying with a family friend in Hornby, an outer suburb near Christchurch. Naomi is very friendly with Neil and in a couple of years if all goes well, planned to get married.
Peter and David at 09.30 pm suddenly had the idea to ring up Neil and tell him about the preponed birthday party, but hesitated as it would be 04.00 am on Saturday, the time difference being six and half hours between Hyderabad and Christchurch.
"We will let the phone ring twice and disconnect it," exclaimed Peter, "Neil will definitely phone back as he knows Naomi's number."
At exactly 10.00 pm, Neil rang up, and Peter answered, "Neil we are celebrating Naomi's birthday today itself and thought that you may like to wish her."
"Wow, why today?"
"Because her parents are leaving for London tomorrow morning."
"Where is she?"
"She was here just a minute back," said Peter looking for her, "David has gone to call her, she'll be here any minute. What time is it?"
"It's about 04.33 am."
Peter laughed and said, "You didn't think it's strange about her calling so early in the morning."
"Peter when you are in love, nothing's strange."
"The party must be going in full swing. I can hear the music."
"What's a party without you?"
"Oh my God. Oh My God, Peter, the ground's shaking. Peter I think something strange is happening."
"Neil what's happening?"
"Oh God, Peter, I'll call back." And the line was disconnected.
"Neil was on the line?" asked Naomi, rushing towards him.
"It was Neil," said Peter slowly, "But he sounded agitated."
"Something strange had happened. Loud sounds and the line was cut."
"Did he say, he'll call back?"
The call came at 11.15 pm.
"No, it's me David, here talk to Naomi."
"Neil, what happened? We were all worried."
"Naomi, happy birthday."
"Naomi, Christchurch was struck by a massive earth quake."
"Oh My God!"
"As I was talking to Peter, there was this big bang and suddenly the house started shaking and there was this smashing sound, I thought a large truck had just driven through the front window."
Naomi listened calmly as Neil was silent for sometime, "It was the aftershocks again. Wow, this was the first time that I was in a middle of a massive earthquake. I did experience small quakes at Hyderabad, but it was nothing to what I experienced now. It was absolutely shocking and I was terrified and scared of what's going to happen next. I immediately opened the front door and running inside, banged on the bedroom door waking Uncle and Aunt and made them rush out in their night clothes. Only afterward we dressed in warm clothes. Oh, boy, it was good that your call came before the quake struck, thank you Jesus. Because I was fully awake I could stand the earthquake as it gradually built up and got bigger and bigger and scarier and scarier. For a short while I really thought the building I was in was about to come down. It's an eighty year old wooden structure, but there was no damage except for a photo frame which fell down and an old shelf which toppled down."
There was silence for a moment and Neil continued, "I rushed out to our neighboring houses and banged on their doors as I could not see any lights, to discover that they don't have any electricity. We are the only ones in that vicinity to have power, and oh God, I really thanked the good Lord, for that. Just imagine no power and these frightening big flashes of lights looked like lightning across the sky, are in fact power transformers exploding."
"Naomi, don't worry if the line gets disconnected," said Neil, "Because of these power outages and the aftershocks, anything can happen. The roads have massive cracks and it is dangerous to travel by car. One of our family friend, Stella and their family who stay two blocks away, are staying with us. Aunt Veronica and Uncle Paul are busy preparing soup. Hot soup and bread go a long way to make a scared person, to relax and be comfy. Everyone down the street are wrapped in blankets and oh boy, when they saw us with hot soup, they really felt happy and are cracking jokes. A bit of the Kiwi spirit, I suppose."
Naomi could hear the continuous rumbling sound and presumed that it must be the aftershocks which Neil had earlier explained.
"Naomi thank Peter for the phone call," said Neil, "It was because of that, that I was able to help my family and others, down the road. And Naomi, take care. I miss you."
"I miss you too, good night."
"Oh, no, good morning."
"OK, good morning, good afternoon and good night."
Victor Jasti lives in India and is passionate about writing short stories based on the Bible and real incidents. He also writes Christian fiction and poetry. Five of his poems were published in Temporal Currents compiled by an American author, Ms. Christine Tricarico.
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