Even though I grew up in southern California I’d never had the experience of being in an earthquake. It wasn’t until I had packed my bags and left the sunny shores of the West Coast with all its bounty and glory and traded it in for the endless expanse of the Great Midwest and life on the Plains did I feel the earth shift beneath my feet.
I don’t know what drew me to Bloom, Kansas. After all, I was a quasi-successful managing partner in the exploding dot com arena. The money was quite good, the night life even better, the girls exceptionally hot and the neighborhood that I lived in was on the rise. Property values were going through the roof as was the balance in my bank account. To put it in layman’s terms, I had life by the balls.
But then, in the back of my mind I got what can best be described as an itch. It was one of those thoughts that started off slowly at first and was easily pushed aside by other more entertaining thoughts but as time passed away, it seemed to grow stronger until I was all but consumed by the idea. For some reason my eyes kept seeing image of Kansas, The Sunflower State, with its stately fields of wheat blowing gently in the breeze and in my ears I heard the soft song of the Western Meadowlark calling out for me to be rescued from my former decadent lifestyle.
Off course, when I told my friends of my plans, they thought I was crazy
. At first they begged me to reconsider but soon afterwards the begging turned into cajoling. Upon seeing that I was serious, they turned to outright threats and I was soon forced to sell my stake in the company and relinquish the profits. Any other man might’ve reconsidered his options but me, I was a man on a mission.
I sold most of my possessions and decided to make a bare bones attempt at living off the land. I bought some real estate in the form of a foreclosed farm that had seen better days. The barn was in ruins and the land hadn’t been tended to in years. Still, it felt good to have the feel of the warmth of the soil under my feet instead of that of the cold gray cement.
I bought a small used tractor and began to cultivate my meager plot. Much like most other Jayhawk farmers, I tried my hand at planting wheat and other grains but the first crop didn’t take. My neighbors, if you can call them that, shook their heads in dismay and concern at this city slicker turned farmer but I was determined to see this thing through. Kansas would either kill me or cure me.
Winters are rough in Kansas, rough and lonely. Some nights it was all I could do to pass the time in a relative sense of sanity and make it through to the next day. I tried and kill time in any way I knew how. I started up by fixing up the barn and mending some broken down fences and soon, time became my ally instead of my foe.
I think it was in early March, I was out surveying the land deciding which crops would go where when all of sudden I felt a rumble beneath my feet. The horse I was riding , a fine steed that I named Akemi and who had kept me company on many a cold night, gave a mighty snort and lurched out from underneath me. I tumbled sideways, my feet stuck in the stirrup and he galloped back to what he thought was the safety of the barn. All along the way my head was bouncing off the ground, to and fro, forward and aft, like a rag doll in the hands of a frustrated child. Still, I could hear the rumble growing louder and louder.
Akemi made it to the barn and headed straight for her stall. It was only then that I was able to extricate myself from the stirrups that had held me captive. The ground was still shaking and the fear in both of our eyes was as alive and as real as we were. I managed to tie her to a post and close her stall door behind me. I left the barn, winding my way through a staggering path back to my homestead.
Soon, it became quiet, almost too quiet. The earth had stopped its rumbling and the birds had stopped their chirping. It was as if I had the entire planet to myself. I was about to pick up the phone to call my neighbors when I first heard the sound.
It was the barn. At first the noise started out as a gentle creaking sound like that of a loose floorboard. Then, it began to grow louder. From my window I could see dust shaking loose and the building began a gentle swaying motion. I hung up the phone and ran towards the barn.
I had to save Akemi!!!
I was about halfway there when it all gave way. I heard the sounds of boards breaking and saw a mountain of dust and hay explode from the building as it seemed to fold into itself. A small plume of smoke lingered and drifted in the middle of ground zero and it was I could do to bring myself to find my dear, dear Akemi.
I headed to where I thought her stall might be but there was nothing left to mark it’s place. I wandered around the debris, calling her name and hoping to hear or see any sign of life. I was throwing boards of wood about randomly screaming AKEMI! AKEMI! AKEMI!
After about fifteen or twenty minutes, I’d finally found her. She was laying on her side and her eyes were glazed over and her tongue was lolling off to the side, she wasn’t making a sound. I tried pounding on her once proud chest but the sound was hollow. Akemi, my Akemi, was dead.
Akemi is buried on the north face with her nose pointed towards the sunrise. I think she’d like it that way. It’s now June and I’m thinking about selling the farm and moving back to familiar confines. I think I know what’s holding me back.
Every now and then, when I stand by myself with my leg propped up on a post with a piece of wheat stuck between my teeth and I gaze at the sunset and I can feel the faintest breath of a breeze whispering through the still Kansas nights, I swear I can hear it saying “Akemi, Akemi, Akemi”.
For saikano…and for his alter ego, saikanova