I sprinted toward his side, but, as he turned around to face me, another strong shake struck the ground.
“Chr-” I began, again, though I stumbled on the earth and tumbled down to my knees before I could finish.
Bud fell to my side and poked his nose at my right cheek.
“Ugh,” I grumbled while the quake quickly passed.
“Amber!” an all too familiar voice yelled out nearby.
I threw my head upward to see Chris himself jog up to me in a pair of casual cargo shorts and heather gray v-neck. He knelt down in front of me, then, and reached out to grab at my shoulders as another shake hit.
“Oh, gosh,” I grumbled.
“I don’t know what’s happening,” Chris uttered.
“I don’t, either,” I shot back as we crouched.
The quake then subsided just as swiftly as it had started.
“Okay,” he went on, now standing carefully up, his hands still on my arms to guide me up as well. “We should probably get inside…”
I gazed up, into his squinting green eyes, and then nodded while the colors of the sky changed from bright to dark once more.
He moved his gaze from me to the distance behind me for a long moment before I followed his eyes and saw the sight of numerous red-orange streaks of color hurling themselves hurriedly from the high sky to the low area near the ground far ahead. I froze my own eyes on them for a second, until I felt a strong, cool gush of wind strike my face. And then, immediately after that, I witnessed a clash of bright orange with a part of the forest not too far ahead.
I stepped abruptly back while the clash exploded into an array of wide yellow and deep purple; I gasped when I heard the crack of a sonic-like boom.
I soon after felt a harsh tug on my right shoulder, and I spun toward it to see Chris shouting into my direction, though my ears were now ringing too loudly for me to do anything but merely read his expression.
He turned toward the gas station entrance on the left in nearly the same moment. Instantly after, he slid his hand down my arm and took off into its direction.
I paused for a split second and stared at his backside before making the decision to chase after him, past the four abandoned gas pumps in the process. Once to the frontside of the store, Chris swung one of the glass doors open, threw it back on its hinges, and then jumped through the doorframe.
I slapped my hands over my ears as another explosive noise rang out in the distance behind me, and then sprinted inside behind him.
Bud slid in, past my feet, right before the entryway sealed up once more.
Chris stumbled into a book rack ahead as I skidded to a stop directly behind him, my hands instinctively flying up to his shoulders in the process. As soon as we both halted, though, I glanced over my own shoulder to see the pavement outside the completely glass storefront gradually become shadowed by the darkening clouds up above. I turned back to Chris, though, when I felt him scrape himself off of the rack, and then stepped back from his backside.
He twisted to the left, paced quickly away, and then disappeared around the corner of a cabinet full of Doritos and Cheez-Its.
“Hello!” I heard him shout out, and then decided to follow in his footsteps to scan the rest of the tiny convenience store.
Against the far wall rested a line of refrigerators full of Gatorade and Starbucks bottles; all on the right were rows and rows of food, movie, and magazine racks, and, to the left, a slushy machine, nacho station, and cashier desk sat, though not even one other individual was in sight near any of it.
“Hello!” Chris repeated, walking around the side of the cashier’s counter. “Anybody here?”
He paused and fell quiet for a moment.
No response came.
He looked back at me, and then turned to pace around the food racks by my side.
I leaned onto one hip and lowered my eyes to the orange tile floor as I gently touched the side of the red metal stand on my right. Soon after, Bud rushed around me, both his nose and tail sweeping the floor.
I heard Chris’s steps cease once more, only for a short moment, and then glanced up as he quickly reappeared in front of me.
He shook his head and lowered his brows.
“There’s no one here,” he claimed.
I popped myself off of my hip and threw my hand back to my side.
“What are we going to do?” I questioned.
I shook my own head as he froze up, and then threw a hand up to rub my cheek as I took a shaky, partially deep breath.
“Amber!” Chris abruptly jerked out, and then launched himself in my direction. “Watch out!”
I gasped and threw my arm down as he jumped onto me, promptly pushing me down to the floor while a burst of glass shards pounded down around us.
I screamed out when I felt the stabs of their points on virtually every inch of my body that wasn’t protected by Chris’s.
“Ow, shit,” he muttered.
Soon enough, the explosion of glass quit, and I looked up at Chris as he gazed up and toward the frontside of the shop.
“What happened?” I mumbled.
He glanced back down at me, and then proceeded to peel himself up to his knees.
“I don’t know,” he answered.
I raised my head on my neck a little and studied the array of broken glass and numerous small, purple, and crystal-like rocks all around on the floor as he stood up to his feet once more.
“We need to get somewhere safer,” he grabbed my attention back.
“Wh…” I began back. “Where?”
Suddenly, another earthquake struck the ground under us, causing him to stumble in place a bit.
“Somewhere!” he yelled, and then shot a hand down for me to grab. Once I got a hold on it, he yanked me up on my legs, and then turned to shoot himself toward the very back of the area, near the refrigerators. I hurriedly followed, until we reached a large, metal door, and then stood back as he threw it open and jumped past.
I stepped into the next room, feeling Bud’s fur swipe against my legs in the process. I blinked and squinted through the pitch black air while the entry-gate slammed shut behind us.
Gradually but hastily, the shaking around us ceased once more, and I grabbed at what I believed to be a metal shelf on my right. After another quick moment, I glanced over at it and realized that it was empty, then assumed that every overturned box on the ground below it was a result of the constant quaking. After that, I looked over to Chris and witnessed him pacing around a number more boxes ahead, even more, smaller packages of cardboard falling out of them and onto the surrounding tiled floor. Bud sniffed the ground around him, and then hopped over the mounds of cardboard to explore the area farther.
I pushed myself away from the shelf, then, and stepped behind Chris as he turned back to face me.
“Now what do we do?” I asked.
Chris gave me a blank stare, and then shrugged. He turned back around and gazed over at Bud before saying anything else.
“Wait, I guess,” he stated, right before looking back at me from behind one shoulder. “I don’t really know.”
He twisted away, again.
“But,” I started back, now that he was stepping over a few boxes to get to where Bud was. “What if… this… is, like…” I struggled with my words as Chris shot me another glance. I stared back at him for a long second, and then finished. “You know…”
He immediately shook his head.
“It’s not,” he claimed.
After another moment, he continued to the back of the moderately sized, dark space, and I, myself, glided my eyes to Bud, who now sat across the pile of cardboard between us.
“We should just,” Chris began, again, as he turned to peer into a toppled stack of boxes on the distant left. “Stay here for a while.” He turned away from the mess and squatted down to sit on a lone, closed package. “And stay calm…” I trailed my eyes down to my feet, but he quickly pulled my attention back. “Amber.”
I couldn’t see much of his expression through the darkness, but I did see him nod slightly at me. Right after that, he pulled a second box up to his side, and then patted it.
I took a breath, and then nodded back. I proceeded to step carefully around the mound in the center of the room, and, afterward, made my way to sit on his near left.
I squatted down on top of it, just as he had, and took another breath as Bud both walked up to me and rested his snout on my knees. I reached out to rub his ears while a slow silence fell around us.
“So, um,” Chris started to break it up. “Sorry about the movie plans.”
I let out the quietest giggle, as did he.
“Yeah, well,” I began back, still petting Bud’s head. “I heard it sucked, anyway; bombed the first week.”
“Even John Travolta couldn’t fix it,” Chris added.
I chucked and leaned back.
“Yeah…” I muttered.
Another long moment of quiet began to surround us.
“And, uh,” I went on, now looking up and over at him as I released Bud. “I’m sorry about… what I… said last week…” I pursed my lips momentarily. “You’re actually… um…”
I trailed off as I looked down to the slit of floor between our seats.
“A really great friend,” he finished for me.
I shot my head back up at him as he nodded and smiled just a tad.
“Right?” he questioned.
I paused, again, and then pushed a weak smile of my own.
“Right,” I stated.
We both surrendered to silence once more. I glanced down as Bud sniffed his way across the room from us, and, after a minute or two, Chris piped back up.
“Well,” he started. “If anything, we can at least do a quick pump and run before we leave.”
I flickered my eyes back to him.
“But the electricity… your car…” I objected.
“It’ll come back soon enough,” he shrugged.
I looked him over for a long moment.
“It’s just some sort of storm,” he went on. “It’ll pass.”
“Hey,” he stopped me short. “It’ll pass.”
I gave him another once over, and then looked down to my clammy hands in my lap.
“But…” I softly continued. “The news… it… it said…”
“Amber,” Chris snatched my gaze back. “It’s gonna pass.”
He glared at me, and then nodded.
Not even a second later, a flash of blinding light and destructive sound flared from somewhere on my left. I instinctively screamed out as a strong, hot burst of wind knocked me off of my seat and onto my back. In the same moment, I was hit by hundreds of tiny splinters of wood and Chris let out a yelp of his own.
As soon as the occurrence passed, I began to feel the stab of what felt like a thousand aching bruises up and down my backside. I closed my eyes as a flush of dust swept over me, and then coughed out a metallic taste from my mouth.