This Can’t Be Real!
Outside Cliff City
Miunets after the Crash
Lea looks hopelessly. “Lee, you promised you’d never leave me. Where are you?”
Jayden looks at his twin, Ayden. “This can’t be real.”
“Lalit, please.” Lea Limb sits in the rain and stares numbly upward at the dust billowing out of the entrance to Cliff City. “No,” she states flatly. “No. This can’t be happening. I won’t believe that this is real. No. You can’t make me believe this. I won’t.”
Lea’s husband, Mark, and Paul Branch help Lea stand. They walk her back under the shelter of the pine tree. Lea collapses on the wet dirt. Mark sits next to his wife, hugging her tightly. Their twin sons, Ayden and Jayden, kneel behind their parents. The rest of the group stands close behind the family. No one blocks Lea’s view of the cliff. No one knows what to say. Words can’t fix this.
Lea turns toward Mark. “Explain.”
Mark responds, “Why don’t we head back to Crevice Village? Then we can talk through it all.” He starts to rise.
“No!” Lea demands. “Sit down.” She looks at Mark, at her sons, and at the rest of the work group. “Not one of you goes anywhere until you explain to me how this happened.” She pauses. “Lee promised me that he’d always be with me. He repeated his promise just this morning. I knew that I shouldn’t have let any of you come here today. My heart screamed that you should stay home. But no, I believed Lee’s promise.” Lea looks back at the cliff opening. “Lee, I believed your promise. You’ve never broken a promise to me. I won’t believe that you broke this one. No. Not this one.” She turns to the group. “Mark, start talking.”
“I’m not sure any of us knows exactly what happened,” Mark begins.
“I do,” Ayden says. He moves in front of his mother and sits down, looking directly into her eyes. He explains their plan to make the beam slide into the dirt, and how Uncle Lee slipped off the boulder and accidentally yanked on the rope.
“Oh no!” Jayden cries. “His yank was a mistake? I thought it was the signal.”
Ayden turns toward his brother. “Jayden, it wasn’t your fault. You did exactly as we planned.” He looks back at Mom. “Uncle Lee didn’t even know that he’d yanked on his rope, until he felt the hose shake. It had to be raining really hard, because the water came through much faster than we expected. Uncle Lee realized the danger. He knew that we couldn’t both be pulled up fast enough.”
Mark takes Ayden’s hand. “So Lee chose to save Ayden.” Mark pauses. “We were pulling the two ropes as fast as we could; but it wasn’t fast enough. The beam shifted. Lee took off his rope. We felt his side go limp, and Ayden’s side drop. We knew that only Ayden was attached. We pulled in the loose side as fast as we could. That force yanked Ayden out. We carried him to the basket and rushed back to help Lee.”
Paul continues, “But we couldn’t. The falling beam did exactly what we wanted it to do. It caused the column of homes to fall downward and crumble. The first smacked into the second. Dirt flew everywhere. The shaking was intense! Thick dust blinded and gagged us. We wanted to stay.”
“But you couldn’t,” Lea finishes flatly. “You had no choice. You had to get out. My brother chose.” Lea looks at the cliff opening. “Lee, you didn’t want to break your promise. You had to, to save Ayden’s life.”
A roar comes from the town. Everyone jumps up and moves away from the trees to get a better view. The ground shakes. The twins grab each other and fall to their knees. Mark grabs Lea’s arm as she moves forward. She pivots and glares at him.
“My twin’s in danger! I’m going up there. He needs me!” Lea screams at her husband.
Mark grabs her by the shoulders and pulls her to the ground. “No!” he commands. His tone gets her attention. He adds more calmly. “No, Lea. You can’t go in there. No one can. I know you’re scared for Lee. We all are, but there’s nothing any of us can do.”
A huge crash resounds from the town. Dust spews out. The ground shakes harder.
Jayden and Ayden crawl to their parents. “Mom,” Ayden says. “Uncle Lee made a choice to save me. I don’t think he’d want you to risk your life now for him. He loves you. He wants you safe.”
The shaking subsides.
Lea looks at her husband and sons. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I can’t do anything right now, except wait and hope and cry.”
“And believe,” Jayden adds.