Seismic Shockwaves Batman! 

Seismic Shockwaves Batman!

Its something to midnight and Iím nowhere near sleeping. Itís a Wednesday, but Iím thinking about calling work and telling them Iím taking a four-day weekend. Iíve cracked the password for my housemateís computer, and Iíve been exploring the music sheís downloaded onto it. Discovering new artists, and reuniting with old favourites.

Finally, I queue up my top five or six mellow hits and get into bed. Lying there, I know sleep is still a long way off. But there is something at once comforting and exquisite about the music, and I wrap myself in it like an embrace.

From a long way off, I hear a dull roar. Of a lorry on Lomagundi Rd, perhaps, or an aeroplane echoing off the low clouds. Thereís been lightning flashing the whole night. Perhaps the thunder is finally catching up.

But the roar turns into a rattle and I swear I can feel my bed shaking. I stand up, thinking maybe its just me. But the windows are jerking and the door is banging. The whole house is moving. Something triggers deep in the recesses of my reptilian brain and I know Something Is Not Right. Im squatting on my bedroom floor in my night shirt trying to remember the Earthquake Emergency Procedure.

--Stop Drop and Roll? No, thatís for if youíve found yourself on fire.
--Storm Cellar? No, I think thatís for tornadoes.
--Earthquakes! Go to the ground floor and sit under a door frame. Or a table. Or something.

But instead I just stand there. Thinking, surely, this is not really happening. Iím in Zimbabwe. We donít do earthquakes.

After a minute or two, the house falls still again. The blaring sirens, screeching car alarms and barking dogs in the neighbourhood reassure me that this wasnít all in my head. My heart is racing. There is something indescribably disconcerting about that moment of panic. That instantaneous loss of control when suddenly somethingís gone terribly wrong. And thereís absolutely nothing you can do.

I start to hear my neighbours outside. I slip on a pair of shorts, my glasses and my false tooth and go outside to join them. A white pensioner in her pink dressing gown barely hiding her frayed floral nightdress. An Indian man looking bleary eyed but desperate for answers. The security guard, relieved perhaps for a bit of excitement during an otherwise excruciatingly boring night detail. A black mother, children in tow, speaking rapidly.

--Was it a bomb?
--Unlikely. No one heard an explosion.
--A truck? Impossible. It lasted too long.
--An earthquake? Heavens. In Zimbabwe! Is that what they feel like? Now we know.

Itís not that we really think thereís anything to be done. Thereís been no damage. The earth just shook for a few minutes. And now itís stopped.

But there is something comforting in our shared fear, amazement and confusion. For that one moment, we are connected to a common awe. This is not just any night. Natureís acted out. And to sit inside and ignore it seems irreverent. So we pass a few moments together before drifting back inside to bed.

The next morning, itís on everyoneís lips. The gardener reckons it was an explosion somewhere in Mazowe. The security guard figures there was a tidal wave in Madagascar. When I check the news, I find out that really is what earthquakes feel like. A 7.5 tremor in Mozambique, hundreds of kilometres away, shook our windows and rattled our doors in Harare.

I think about the panic I experienced, home alone, when I felt it. And I entertain a small fantasy that the president, now 82 yearís old, would have suffered heart failure. Sure, itís a bit far fetched. But maybe those goddesses were just warming up.

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