Bleak City

Bleak City by Marisa Taylor Read Free Book Online

Book: Bleak City by Marisa Taylor Read Free Book Online
Authors: Marisa Taylor
Tags: Bleak City
Edward, both dead in the trenches.
    Andrew was like Edward. Edward had worshipped Marjorie, his glamorous big sister who had escaped the family home to a better life. When the war began, she encouraged him to go into the army. It was a way to get away from home, away from the angry drunk taking out the terrors of the previous war on his powerless family. Andrew had Edward’s dark, thick hair and his eyes were the kind of blue that turned to grey when the light changed. Like Edward, Andrew had been soft and easily led. But Marjorie had encouraged Andrew to conceal that, to hide any weakness, any situation where someone would try to take advantage of him.
    Marjorie’s parents had been killed in the Blitz, but the others might still be out there, her other brother and her sisters. They had survived the Blitz, she knew that, but what of the years that followed the end of the war? What about their children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren?
    The war had changed Marjorie, the grief of loss had squeezed her heart and made her hard. Had these earthquakes reversed the process? She hoped not. It would take another lifetime to undo the regrets the young Marjorie would have felt had she known the choices the older, grief-hardened Marjorie was going to make. And Marjorie didn’t have another lifetime, she had, at most, a handful of years to decide what legacy she would leave behind.

Rubble Necking
November 2010
    During the last months of 2010, the people of Christchurch became used to the aftershocks. Some mastered the art of sleeping through anything, others mastered the art of functioning adequately on interrupted sleep. A game arose, that of guessing the magnitude and location of an aftershock before the government’s geological sciences agency could publish a quake report. This agency’s website, Geonet, experienced more traffic than it ever had before, and tens of thousands of ‘felt’ reports were submitted to describe each individual’s experience of a particular quake.
    This is something people fail to understand unless they have been through a series of earthquakes: It’s not the magnitude of the quake that determines how you experience it, it’s how close to the epicentre you are. So although the July 2009 Dusky Sound earthquake in the southwest of the South Island was larger than the September 2010 quake, 7.8 to Darfield’s 7.1, it was less damaging because it was far away from major population centres.
    The Darfield earthquake, although it occurred in the countryside, was near a large urban area. As the months wore on, that urban area, home to 375,000 people, was shaken by repeated aftershocks. There were over 1700 individual earthquakes of magnitude three and higher from the initial Darfield earthquake until the end of 2010. Thirty of these were magnitude five quakes, and more than a few were very close to the city. Many of these quakes were centred under the townships of Rolleston, Springston, Lincoln and Prebbleton just west of the city, which was disconcerting for the residents of these quiet satellite towns, but they were also disturbing for the residents of the city itself.
    One 5.0 aftershock just a few days after the Darfield earthquake was centred just south of the city, under the hard volcanic rocks of the Port Hills, between the port town of Lyttelton and Christchurch. Its motion was sharply up and down with little warning between the rumble and its shaking, unlike the quakes from Rolleston and further afield, and it occurred just before eight o’clock on a Wednesday morning. So close to the city, it was a brutal shock after four nights of sleep-interrupting aftershocks. An exhausted few packed up and left Christchurch at that point.
    But most became used to the regular aftershocks, and learned to live with the interruption to their lives. Parts of the central city and badly damaged commercial areas were cordoned off, and fences went up around buildings that were regarded as too dangerous to be

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