Rainfall was a lovely sound to sleep to for most people, but not Chanda. Even if it was 1 AM, they were still jet-lagged from spending a year at university in Ireland. They laid lazily on their right side, their cat Rami making himself as small as possible to fit along the curve of Chanda's legs. Their phone lit up their face in an eery sort of blue light, enhancing the planes of their angular face and the shadow of their droopy, deep-set eyes. They barely fit in their old bed, but it was better than the one at uni. This bed was theirs alone, contoured and worn by only their twists and turns. So, while small, at least it was familiar, comforting.
The rain got heavier suddenly, signaling a new cloud burst. Chanda shifted to listen better, hoping it'd lull them into putting the phone down for the night. After all, they had two whole weeks of the winter holiday to begin in the morning. If only they could sleep. However, there was something in the air that spiked Chanda's senses. It was dark, looming, dangerous. It made them distrustful of the steady rain and the dark, humid blanketed night. So no sleep would come. Rami's head perked up to a sound that he deemed suspicious, unfurling himself and padding slowly to the window. Chanda's eyes followed, curious. They had trust in their cat, so whatever he found odd, so did they. Succeeding the motion, Chanda heard the tell-tale cracking of a falling tree. It grew louder and faster by the second. Chanda barely had time to snatch Rami away from the window and run into the closet before the tree came crashing down. Just as they closed the door the tree slammed through the room, destroying their room and further still. Chanda screamed, terrified by the great clamor the impact caused. Things were falling and snapping under the tree's weight, and the snapping of branches sounded like whips and gun shots.
The rustling of wet leaves and the patter of rain, once so innocent and poetic, were now like little demons, teasing Chanda with their chaos and ruin. There was screaming all around, from neighbors and friends outside, little Pinga in the next room, mother in her room. Chanda tried to push open the closet, but the tree effectively trapped them inside. Rami fidgeted in their arms, the powerful Bengal's miaou only adding to the cacophony. Chanda tried desperately not to panic, not to think about dying, but all the noise was overwhelming. The adrenaline pumping through their veins was demanding action of some sort when there was none to be had. They felt claustrophobic, the tickling of clothes felt like whispy fingers pulling and teasing. The smell of shoes and cloth made Chanda gag, the darkness, once a friend, now terrifying and suffocating. Rami wouldn't stop his noise, and Chanda tried to shush him. Then there was a heart-stopping crack outside, followed by the creak of another tree falling. Chanda couldn't try to predict where it would land, and had no hope of running away fast enough.
Chanda pressed themselves in the furthest corner of the closet, curling over Rami protectively and closing their eyes tight. Praying for either salvation or a painless death, they couldn't help but think of all their achievements, 20 years spent trying to make everyone and anyone proud, all about to be crushed by a tree. It was too soon, too unfair, almost unreal. They and their family would be reduced to a tragedy on the news and then forgotten. So unfair. The same crash came down on them, but Chanda wasn't crushed. Branches whipped all around them, cutting and splintering. Chanda screamed and tried to scoot back, but a massive amount of damage had been dealt already. A heavier branch smacked mercilessly on their head and Chanda went weak. Weakly scratching at the door, all Chanda could hear was the screams and the rain. The tingling in their whole body soon rendered them numb, and finally overcome by the sensory overload, Chanda went slack.
Chanda woke up in a hospital bed the next day, surrounded by whiteness and sterile chemicals. They grimaced, trying to focus on something but finding nothing. Their head hurt, their everything
hurt, but why? Why were they here? Blinking slowly, Chanda tried sitting up, but the motion demanded too much from their body at the moment. Suddenly, frantic speaking from the television finally snapped Chanda's attention into focus. Wearily looking at the screen, Chanda went cold at the sight of their wrecked house. Two massive trees--ones they and Pinga used to play in-- had buried themselves into the house. They recognized their room, Pinga's room next to theirs, and the miscellaneous debris that used to be cherished belongings. It seemed like nobody could survive that, but someone had. Chanda, for all they were worth, wished it wasn't them. Chanda just stared at the house, no longer a home. Everything flashed back all at once: the rain, the first impact of the tree, being trapped in the closet, and the second, horrid crash...Chanda could barely breathe.
The screen shifted to show faces: Pinga's, mothers, theirs. The news reporter's tone took a sympathetic note as she described the state of them all. Mother and Pinga were dead, one was thoroughly crushed by a tree, the other pinned and a lost cause by the time help arrived. Only the son survived, but in bad condition. Chanda felt like a boulder was crushing their chest in. Shiva worked swiftly, but Chanda couldn't understand why they were allowed to live like this. Was Rami still alive, even? Chanda couldn't remember if the sweet cat had stayed in place when the second tree came down. Ironically, it was the possibility of losing even the cat that made Chanda break down. It hurt to even cry, but it was overshadowed by the emotional pain, the grief. The holiday wasn't supposed to start like this. It was supposed to be with a big breakfast and jet lag. It was supposed to be light banter with Pinga until mother pulled their ears. Rami would try to steal some upma and they'd let him because they didn't much like upma. It was supposed to be a holiday, not a death sentence.
Chanda didn't care that it was unbecoming to wail and cry so openly. Their entire world had come crashing down, literally, what did propriety matter when one had no family anymore?