“If this life be not a real fight, in which something is externally gained for the universe by success, it is no better than a game of private theatricals from which one may withdraw at will. But it feels like a real fight.”
-William James

The sand was golden and fine, like salt. Seashells dotted the shore. You could hear the Palm trees’ leaves rustling in the slight breeze. A small group of children were running up and down the tide line, which suddenly began to recede. Several tourists sitting in lounge chairs and enjoying tropical drinks brought to them from the hotel bar by young boys noticed the water going further and further away from the beach. Some dogs, probably just mongrels, started to bark.
The children followed the water as it went out towards the horizon. A few of the native men and women walked out with the water, wondering at the lowness of the tide at this hour. More shells of unique structure were revealed as the water left the beach. Beachcombers began hunting them like small treasures. Even some of the people from the hotel and other tourists who had been drinking their mai tais got up and walked out as far as they could.
Something ate at the mind of one woman tourist who watched the scene from her hotel balcony. The sea was going out too far and too fast to be a normal occurrence. She tried to explore her mind for an answer as a tingle of fire lit up her spine. Danger, she thought. This wasn’t right. All those people down on the beach were in danger. Tsunami. That was the word that came to her mind. But what if she was wrong? She wanted to warn everyone to get away from the beach, but was scared to be thought a foolish woman tourist. An old native man was calling out randomly down the beach, screaming something she couldn’t understand. The dogs ceased their barking and began to howl like wolves. The woman had never seen dogs act this way before. She called out to her friend back in her room to come quick. Something was happening to the ocean. Her friend arrived, having just gotten out of the shower. She had a towel turbaning her wet hair. The woman pointed out to her friend the way the ocean had receded now to perhaps half a mile offshore. “It’s got to be only one thing then, hasn’t it?” her friend replied. She was a strong woman and a quick thinker. She ran, towel thrown to the bed, out into the hallway, looking for the fire alarm. She found it several doors down and broke the glass. When the alarm began to sound she ran back into the room. “The only thing to do is get to higher ground,” she said. The two of them decided to take the elevator to the top floor. There was no time to get a car and drive very far. They’d have to take their chances. Before they left the room the woman called the front desk and told the man who answered she thought there was a tsunami coming. He thanked her.
Down on the beach, people began to become aware that there was possible danger coming. A man holding a small toddler ran away from the beach as fast as he could, calling out “tsunami!” A woman on horseback kicked her heals into the beast’s flanks and headed away. She stopped when she saw a small child by herself,
crying, pulled the youngster up onto the saddle in front of her and galloped away from the tide. There were at least a dozen people who had followed the water out as far as it went. People were scattered all along the area where the water had been only twenty short minutes ago. When the two women from the hotel reached the tenth and top floor they went to the beach side where there was a balcony overlooking the scene. “Oh, my God!” said one. Words failed the other, for in the distance, about a mile out, they could see a great mountain of water the size of which their brains couldn’t comprehend. And it was building, growing larger as it headed for the coast. They could still see several people way out on the sand who seemed oblivious. They began shouting at the top of their lungs, knowing even then that they wouldn’t be heard. But maybe there was a chance still for those on the beach below. Many of them looked up at them and tried to understand why they were screaming. But some of the people had already seen the big wave coming fast and hurried away from the beach. Some were screaming as they ran. But the women could see many small children looking lost. Nobody was taking them away. They would surely be crushed by the oncoming waters. All at once the two women stopped their entreaties; they could only watch as the horrific scene played itself out. The wave had already reached those who were the furthest out. Of course, they couldn’t hear the screaming, but they did begin to hear a low rumbling sound as the water came closer. It sounded like a freight train if you put your ear to the ground near the tracks.
Then everything happened as if in slow motion. The tsunami seemed to eat up the ground and everything or one in its path. It wiped everything clean. Now almost everyone on the beach was running and screaming. One of the women noticed a very old couple still holding hands together in chairs in front of the hotel. They just looked into each other’s eyes. Tears prickled down the one woman’s face as she realized the couple didn’t have a chance and knew it. Produce was strewn about the upper beach where the vendors had tried to take their carts hurriedly with them. Soon others from the hotel had joined the two women on the balcony. “We’d better get back from this balcony if we’re to survive.” It was hard to take their eyes from the destruction, but they all ran for the opposite wall down the hallway. One of them suggested the stairwell would be safest, and everyone agreed. They hunkered down as best they could, waiting for the impact. “God have mercy on us,” someone said tearfully.
Down on the beach the wave had already killed a dozen people. The great wall of water had arrived at its original tide line and plummeted on towards the many buildings, mostly hotels, that lined the area. Trees were uprooted and boats were tossed around like playthings. The old couple was gone now. The water hit the hotel straight on with a huge jolt. The people in the stairwell heard screaming. Water rushed into the balcony, breaking the glass door with ease. Seawater rushed down the hallway towards the stairs and came at them up from the bottom as well. Several of them were crying and screaming and clutching at one another. Their clothes got soaked, but the walls seemed to be holding. Beneath them, the wave kept going with the force of an atomic bomb. Nobody on the ground was safe. Old grandmothers died while holding little ones, trying unsuccessfully to keep a hold of them as the water pulled them from their grasp. Even the strongest of men was nothing to this body of water and was tossed around like a toy. A few people managed to clutch the tops of trees as they were floating past them, clinging for their lives. One old man was carrying a small child while he kept them afloat on some jetsam. There were some horses desperately trying to tread water. The small group of people in the hotel stairwell survived with some scrapes and two broken ribs. They were lucky. Many more had not gotten away in time because there was no official tsunami warning in place in this very popular tourist getaway. In the end, thirty-two hundred people were killed on that island alone, mostly tourists. On a talk show not long after the giant tsunami took the lives of so many, a woman thanked Jesus that she had changed her travel plans at the last minute or she might have died, too. Shauna Troy thought that was outrageous. Was it Jesus who decided?