Time for the WEP challenge. This month the prompt is, 'Great Wave.' I want to thank Denise Covey for starting this group along with the lovely ladies who assist, Laura, Nila, Yolanda, and Olga. I appreciate your hard work. And now for my submission:
René Descombes lifted his catch of fish and stepped from the small boat. He could see the bonfire on top of the third hill to celebrate St. John’s Day. His friends and fellow fishermen joined him as they trudged up the beach toward the hills.
Marram grass grew along the sand dune. By the time they reached the third hill clay replaced the sand. The sun had slipped behind billowing thunder clouds. René could taste the moist air as well as the smoke from numerous contained fires.
Before him were the tall white sea cliffs of France. To his left stretched a thick forest that climbed the bluff. On his right were more hills and beyond that the vast ocean which connected to the channel where their fishing boats rested on the shore.
The people of Leblanc had gathered around their cooking fires and took the food to the tables by the bonfire. Laughter filled the air. René’s wife, Margo stood stirring one of the pots.
He dumped the fish on a nearby table and pulled her in for a kiss, rubbing her extended belly where the babe grew. “You are as beautiful as you were this morning.”
“And you as charming.” Her hands rubbed his back before she pushed him away while smiling. She cut his fish.
Leblanc held nearly seven hundred souls, all gathered for the feast. Tomorrow, they would travel several leagues inland to their church for St. John’s Mass.
Steam from his wife’s pot lifted over the round edge and smelled of onion and greens. She filled her hands with the prepared fish and dumped it all in, then wiped her hands on the apron.
“I don’t see Mayor Hugues,” René said.
“Nor will you.” Margot laughed. “Not until the feast is ready and there is no more work to be done.”
René looked south toward the white cliffs that jutted straight up from the village. At the top was the mayor's grand house.
Without warning, the ground rumbled and shook beneath his feet. He righted himself and took Margot’s arm to prevent her from falling.
“What is it?” Margot asked.
The rumbling stopped for a second, then started again. A great crack splintered the cliffs. The sound like thunder made him cover his ears. Lifting his eyes to the precipice he saw that the cracks in it were massive and then slabs of rock separated and fell bringing the mayor's house with it. On impact, the rumbling noise crushed those houses too close and shot out boulders toward his fellow villagers. Screams replaced the laughter, several of the people were hit and flew backward toward the channel, crushed by the boulders.
René took a step, his intent to run and help. Margot caught his arm. “No, you can’t help.”
He remained with her and glanced at their own hut, further from the village than the rest and far from the cliff. Thank God, his hut still stood.
The cries of his fellows had become a blare of noise from screams, crying, and voices yelling making it impossible to understand the shouts. The bonfire had escaped its enclosure, setting marrow grass on fire and a few of the villagers as well. Some rolled on the ground while other villagers helped by using blankets to put out the flames. Still more ran down the hill toward the sea only to fall before reaching it and die. The fire then leapt from their bodies to spread unchecked.
The tables with food had all overturned along with the cooking pots. The pleasant aroma of fish stew was replaced by burning flesh.
The earth heaved upward, and he pulled Margot away from her pot. He took her hand and ran further up the hill. Away from the fire that soon reached the place where they’d been standing.
He turned to see what she was pointing at. The ocean had sucked backward. He could make out fish stranded on the beach. Then terror as the water returned, the tide growing higher in seconds, overtopping the dunes. He grabbed Margot’s hand again and they ran further up the hill toward their hut. When he looked back, the ocean had swallowed the first two sets of hills and the one they had been standing on was crumpling into the tidal wave. The scent of salt swallowed the smoke from the fires, while the roar of the waves replaced the villager's cries.
He pulled Margot down and they both rested on their knees. To his horror, he witnessed hundreds falling into the surge. A great cry lifted from the women who’d had the presence of mind to run with their children to higher ground. They hugged their children close who were all screaming so that the noise was deafening.
Rene clasped Margot close as she trembled while stillness settled around them. Shocking in its quiet after so much noise. The only sound that remained was that of the waves of water receding.
“What have we done to displease God?”
To that, René had no answer. They both remained on their knees, in shock at the horrors. He became aware that Margot was shivering and put his arms around her. She wept on his shoulder.
The storm arrived and lightning lit up the black sky. The resounding thunder made him jerk. He hadn’t realized until now that dusk had become night. The clouds above opened and a downpour drenched him.
“Come.” He pulled Margot to her feet.
Their hut was close and while the white cliffs had spared it, the earthquake had not.
“Wait here.” René entered the pitch-black building and felt for the blankets with his hands. A second rumbling made part of the roof that still stood fall and he managed to avoid being hit. Grabbing the woolen covers, he turned back toward the door.
“Do not worry, I am well.” He emerged from the building and took her hand.
“Where will we go?”
Word Count 997
This is a deleted excerpt from my short story, The Beginning of a Legend. I changed the protagonist to that babe growing in her belly, Arnoux. If all goes well, I will be releasing this story along with Book 2 in The Chronicles of Gil-Lael, The Rise of Lord Sinon, later this summer.
Comments are welcome.
To read what others have submitted for this June challenge, go here.