Sam’s eyes snapped open. The dark room was grainy with the promise of morning. She lay still as the sound of sirens rose from the fog on the marsh. At first, Sam understood. Just as everything presented while straddling a dream is accepted without question. The sirens somehow made sense.
When the sirens began a second time, Sam bolted up. She stumbled to the sliding door and scanned the light beyond the glass. The Kawainui marsh was the same. The Ko’olau mountains still steepled in prayer beyond it. But it all felt different. A dense shroud of grey pressed its belly into the thickets of mangrove. The trees looked bent like blades of grass.
She stood at the door, pulling the dream back. A woman, her mother but not her mother, her finger circling the rim of a crystal glass. Sam felt like she knew something she hadn’t known before. And then the dream slipped away, a stone sinking into the pond of her mind.
A shot rang out, sending a buzz down the walls. Sam didn’t move. She watched the wind digging into the cane grass. A mango rolled down the slope of the roof landing with a splat on the pavement outside the door.
The storm warning sirens were not an unusual sound. One morning each month, every district on the island sounded the sirens for 60 seconds to test them. They were an eery sound, a beautiful sound. But all those years of being taught to crawl beneath her desk in grade school; all the history about Pearl Harbor and the tsunamis and hurricanes, occasions for the horns to sound, had never really meant much to Sam.
Now, she stood staring out the patio door as the dark lifted and the the neighbors’ palm trees flailed like flickering candles. A large coconut dropped onto the roof, sending another bang vibrating down the walls and farther away, another siren sounded.
Sam’s bedroom door flew open and there stood Carol, her hair bristled, her eyes wide. Sam felt the sudden impulse to run to her, to hug her; maybe to bury her face in her shoulder like she did when she was a little girl. But the impulse was strange because Sam had not hugged her mother since she had outgrown her at the age of fourteen. It had begun to feel like hugging a small wooden doll. Sam was at least five inches taller than her mother so it was strange to look down at the wiry little woman and still fear her.
“The babies!” her mother squeaked, the words in such a pitch that she sounded like a newborn kitten.
“What’s happening?” Sam pushed past her mother and into the living room. She said it again, softer this time. “What’s happening?” The TV remote shook in her hand as she fumbled with it. When she looked to the doorway, her mother was gone. Carol always had to tend to things more important than her. For a moment, Sam was angry. But then she was relieved that Carol was not standing there, watching her shake so hard that she had to steady the remote with the other hand to use it.
After flicking through the stations, she paused at a blue screen with a ticker strip rolling across its middle. It had the constant tone that Sam knew as the test of the emergency broadcast signal.
HURRICANE APPROACHING. LOCATE EVACUATION CENTERS. ENACT EMERGENCY PLAN. TUNE RADIO TO AM900 FOR INFO… BEEP… HURRICANE APPROACHING. LOCATE EVACUATION…