Chapter 4

Written by: Linda Alley

Kurt’s parents inched along Mt Eden Road in their blue Corolla, occasionally bursting up to speeds of 20 kilometres an hour. They were on their way to the home of Jasmine’s parents in Mount Eden. The street was surprisingly unscathed. It was the pedestrians who were causing the delay. Civil defence officials in fluorescent vests zigzagged across the road, threading No Access tape between the lampposts, while teenagers took selfies next to the cracks that had appeared outside the Valley Road International Church.


“Isn’t it Jasmine’s birthday this weekend? Perhaps he got up early to surprise her,” Felicity said.

“Quite likely,” said Richard, gripping the steering wheel as his eyes darted from side to side, scanning the streets for anyone close to Kurt’s age.

Ten minutes later they were at the foot of Mount Eden when a series of short, high-pitched beeps pierced the air. Instinctively, Richard covered his ears, stalling the car. Felicity’s hand clasped his knee. It was a signal they had heard demonstrated once before, a signal Richard had hoped they would never hear again.

Like moths to a flame, the crowd around them turned towards the harbour. Richard risked a quick look in the rear vision mirror. The congestion was worse than Harbour Bridge in rush hour. Squinting ahead, he saw there was already a large group at the summit lookout, laden with tramping packs, sleeping bags and bottles of water. Was Kurt with them? He’d been at the workshop. He knew the importance of getting to higher ground. At nearly 200 metres, Mount Eden, a now dormant volcano, was the highest point in the city. It was also the place where Richard and Felicity had first met while they were out jogging. Richard had been so struck by her bouncing red hair and mischievous green eyes that he’d rolled his ankle just as they were passing each on the track.

Her hair wasn’t bouncing now. Sleek with sweat, her fringe was plastered to her forehead, her eyes so wide that Richard could see his own reflection in them. He grabbed her hand as they joined the throng sprinting up the grassy slopes. 

“Come on, Fliss,” he forced his lips into the same smile he’d worn that day. “Race you to the top!”


Kurt didn’t know if he was facing the seabed or the sky. Water slammed against his chest, the pressure so intense that he was sure his lungs would burst out of his body.  Any second now they would join the debris swirling around him - life buoy, rubber mallet, fishing rod - no time to process what that meant. He had to grab hold of something. Anything. Then he saw it. The Skylark was floating high above him, or was it below? Its storm anchor stretched towards him like a ghostly hand. Kurt struggled forward, yet even as he reached out to it, he was thrust backwards. Pain erupted in the side of his head. His vision blurred, and then there was nothing


This chapter allows us to get to know the parents and their backstory a little bit and the scene creates realistic tension around the impending tsunami AND the door is left wide open for plenty of action in subsequent chapters. Great job Linda.
Thanks, Donna. While I was doing some internet research for this chapter, I came across some sound files of Auckland's tsunami warning system that helped give me a bit of an insight to what it might feel like to be in that situation and the hear the alarms.
This was a riveting chapter. With your usual excellent style you put us in a location where Kurt's parents can see the Tsunami. You captured the sense of unease about Kurt but their lack of knowledge is also not causing them to panic which is exactly as it would be. Meantime, oh my goodness...the horror of Kurt's situation. Well imagined and beautifully crafted.