The Islands at the End of the World

The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan

Book: The Islands at the End of the World by Austin Aslan Read Free Book Online
Authors: Austin Aslan
It’s just like the uneven bars.”
    “If you miss, you could fall out of your harness. I don’t—”
    “I won’t miss.”
    Dad groans. I wait until he’s sitting on the ground with his feet planted at an angle up against the low wall and the rope doubled through his belay device and choked off with two loops around his good hand, and then I stand up on the edge of the lip, my feet balanced just below the railing. My chest is pounding. My senses are sharp, and I focus on my target like a sniper.
    Another round of gunfire. My eyes dart to the chilling flicker of light. A different window.
What are they doing?
    Dr. Makani’s voice echoes in my head:
“Seizures can be induced by stress. You need to avoid any adventures …”
    Way too late for that
. I glance down and see tongues of flame pushing smoke out of more windows. A coast guard boat in the bay attempts to reach the hotel’s burning facade with its fire hoses, falls short. The ground—I might as well be a mile high.
    My pills. I can’t go on like this, and we’re not going anywhere without the keys
.
    I look at Dad. He has pulled the rope tight against his right hip, locking the belay device. Ten feet of rope dangle in a loop below me. I’m ready. Dad wears a look of pure agony.
    I focus on the handrail eight feet away.
If you were doing this six feet off the ground, you wouldn’t even hesitate. Piece of cake
.
    I step up onto the handrail, leaning my weight forward into thin air, and I leap.
    My hands latch firmly onto our lanai’s railing as my feet dangle against the wall, desperately seeking purchase.
    “Leilani!” Dad shouts. He can’t see me because he’s locked in place on the floor.
    “Got it! Don’t move.”
    “Thank God.”
    More gunfire. I pull up with my arms and shoulders and swing my left leg around enough so that I can jam my foot between the wall and the handrail. The rest is muscle and sheer determination. I pull myself over the edge to solid ground without a hitch.
    “I’m in. I did it!”
    Dad stands up. From across the gap, he eyes me with terror and triumph and pride.
    “Didn’t even need the rope.”
    “Go! Now!”
    I dart into our dark room, aided by alternating red and white lights, snatch my meds, toiletry kit, and the keys. Gunfire. The alarm buzzing. Hunted. Every muscle begs to flee.
    Dad and I meet in the corridor, race down the long hallway to the farthest stairwell, and spiral down toward the lobby, our bags banging after us. As we pass the fifth floor, I hear gunfire behind the stairwell door. I yelp. Dad and I pick up our pace and catch up to a logjam of people trying to pour through the final door into the lobby.
    We heave forward, struggling to stay upright with our things. Unseen smoke burns my throat. In the lobby the crowd thins, and we race for the garage. Men near the mainentrance tackle people as if they’re felling stampeding wildebeests. Locals. Tribal tattoos. One tosses a bag of pretzels atop a cart loaded with groceries and toilet paper.
    Some sort of gang raid?
    We leap across the hallway, fly down the last stairs, and run to our car.
    Seconds later we’re dodging other cars. Dad squeezes my hand as the truck ahead of us jumps the curb and speeds across the gardens. We pull forward and flee over the canal.
    I silently study the destruction that has taken root in every direction as we slip into the dawn of a new Hawai`i. The glow of morning illuminates the city. Smoke rises like columns holding up the sky. Abandoned cars, shattered and burnt to smoldering shells, are scattered everywhere. Trash bins spill their guts upon streets and sidewalks. Storefronts are cavities of empty racks and shattered glass. All that remains are the postcards and souvenirs lining ABC Store shelves. The beach is empty, and the bay contains only a few coast guard vessels.
    “Has it really only been a week?” I marvel.
    “We’re all werewolves under a green full moon.”
    “It’s going to get much worse.” I try

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