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12 June 2007 @ 10:34 pm
 

It has been less than two days since an earthquake rocked the small island that has been home to the survivors of United Flight 839, but already those remaining in the camp have done a sufficient enough job of reconstructing some the small lean-tos that were rocked down by the motion. The four that have been repaired are hardly sturdy, but they're an overhead roof at least. Yet it would appear that Cipto Rakata, at least, is not in the mood for anything over his head right now. He sits some distance from his own shelter, bent over a gridded notebook held open to a page of numbers in groups of four, some with dots or arcs above or below, some circled. It's essentially the same position he occupied at the time of the quake, though today, the worry lines on his brow are more pronounced, he adds something to the page far less frequently, and his nose keeps wrinkling at an increasingly persistent scent of sulphuric smoke in the air.

Clovis helped repair everyone else's shelter and is now finally back to trying to repair his own little vacation home. It means a lot of work to get it up again, but aside from fishing...he really hasn't got much better to do. He approaches Cipto with a few branches in his hand, "Hey, you seen where all the extra wire was stashed?" Then he tilts his head to try and see what the other is working on. "What's that, some kinda weird number puzzle?"

Cipto put in some considerable repairwork himself, despite the vertical challenge inherent in fixing roofs. He's earned the chance to sit down and work on rather different projects! At the particular moment that Clovis approaches, though, Cipto is not writing, but rather engaging in a particularly intense nose wrinkle, which has not quite faded when he looks up toward the rock star. "I have not seen, sorry," he responds with a shrug. The second question, however, elicits both a headshake and a smile. "No. I am writing a piece. I have more paper, if you need."

"Not right now thanks, man." Clovis then squints off towards the camp. "I'l gonna go search for some spare wire. Hope we didn't use it all up fixing the other shelters." He's grown a bit attached to his little stick hut.

The smell seems to intensify, more smoke than sulfur for the time being, and definitely not coming from the direction of the campfire. Cipto's face scrunches up and he rubs both hands against his closed eyes and then one against his nose; when he finishes, he looks upward with distinct concern in his eyes. Yet, after some pausing, he manages to figure, "If we had enough before they broke, there should still be enough somewhere?"

"Yeah. I think someone's moving shit around and not telling people," Clovis kicks at a bit of sand. "I just hope we don't get hit with an aftershock just after we've got everything put back together again."

From somewhere by the treeline, Monet ends up wandering into sight. She is dressed in someone else's black t-shirt, and the same pair of jeans she was wearing before the crash. With her nose wrinkled as she walks past where Clovis and Cipto rest, she comments, "The air stinks worse than the bathroom at a New York City subway station. Whatever the hell this is had better pass." She does not stop to converse however, and continues down toward the water and away.

Cipto rubs his nose again, then exhales sharply and audibly. "There could be..." He winces, then mouths a few words before uttering them. "In Jogja, it was May, but then July. I do not know." In the humid air, the sulphuric smell lingers and does not get cleared by wind.

"What's that mean, exactly?" Clovis squints up towards the sky. "Look, I'm gonna go look for the wires. There's some fish left from yesterday for dinner." With that, he wanders off towards a pile of things.

"I think...but I do not want to think it is..." Cipto begins, frowning up at the sky. The blueness of tropical near winter sky seems to have a layer of haze between it and the ground that might be better suited to Los Angeles than the middle of nowhere. As if on cue, the environment chooses to clarify things for the likes of all occupying it. From some indistinct source that can only be determined as From Above, several chunks of soft gray rock come whizzing down to sprinkle the campsite, one landing a scant foot away from Cipto, another coming down directly before Clovis' path. It's safe to assume there are more than a few others elsewhere as well.

Clovis seeks wire for hut repair. Cipto attempts to compose. The volcano begins to raise a stink...


It is not a large rock. The light gray oblong shape sitting in a shallow divot in the sand is perhaps the length of a small man's outstretched hand at best, yet the small man that sits beside it only tenses his hands into near fists as the light impact sends a fine spray of sand over his bent knee and open notebook. After the initial surprise, he bends forward at the waist, forehead pressing against the cross of his ankles for several seconds that feel longer than such in his mind.

At an arbitrary point of decision that there is nothing else immediately impending, Cipto straightens slowly, screwing his eyes shut as he brushes the sand out of his bangs and rubs his nose once more at the persistently hanging odor of sulphuric smoke. The motion could be taken as exaggeratedly slow. It could even be taken as reluctance to consider the object that provoked his reaction. But after several seconds further, Cipto takes a slow breath through his mouth and leans to the side, cupping one hand to scoop up the rock and the sand under it.

It is not a large rock, but it weighs even less than it looks like it should. Even accounting for the extra weight of the sand, it still comes away as lighter than the small notebook still perched on Cipto's other knee. He allows that sand to filter through his fingers as he lifts the rock to eye level. The inner edges of his brows press upward with a small furrow between them, even as he squints and frowns at his specimen. Yet this is not the analytical expression of a trained geologist, or even a student in that field. Cipto's breaths become slower and more forced and his nostrils flare as he continues to stare at the innocuous gray stone. This is the expression of recognition through personal experience.

Cipto has seen plenty of the stuff en route from Yogyakarta to Surakarta, a common but no less sinister memento from the uneasy slopes of Merapi, which lies so close between both cultural centers. And he's seen it on the waterfront on his few excursions to Jakarta, supposedly still remnants of the cataclysmic demise of Krakatau one hundred years before his own birth.

Yet for all the unfamiliar surroundings and lack of connection to the outside world for the past couple of weeks, this is one commonality with home that Cipto would rather do without. It's even less welcome when taken in conjunction with the other disjointed signs that now are tied together so familiarly by the entrance of this little piece of rock. Earthquakes are common enough throughout Java, but the last time Cipto recalls one coming in conjunction with that sickly sulphuric smoke and flying rock even with in the city was on the same day that Merapi sent pyroclastic flows cascading down its slopes to the suffering of villages directly in the way.

"Gunung berapi!" Cipto calls, voice high pitched with dismay, though the ring of the last syllable cut off as he bites abruptly down on his lower lip, letting the rock dump back onto the sand as he presses his eyes tightly shut in an effort to control the outward manifestation of the unpleasant emotion that rolls through his mind. Residual shame from his near-frantic reaction to the earthquake two days ago only emphasizes the self- and culturally-imposed imperative to not let his distress show.

<< {You know how to take this,} >> Cipto thinks to himself, thoughts roiling even as his tense expression remains otherwise constant. << {You lived through Merapi. There was a reason for it. You lived through all the quakes. There was a reason for it. You lived through the plane crash and now you are here. There must be a reason for both, and there would be nothing to learn from that reason just being to die. Perhaps the mountain is angry because we haven't yet figured out what it is we're learning. Perhaps... } >> Cipto's eyes slowly open and he looks in the direction of the mountain slope whose nature he now better understands. << {Perhaps the mountain is angry because it just wants us to leave it alone and go home.} >>

With this last thought comes a momentary reprieve from some of those deeply swirling concerns. Cipto's facial muscles begin to relax, but before they have fully assumed anything that could be called a truly neutral expression, recollections that older acquaintences of his told him creep into the back of his mind. Some of the older members of the gamelan in which he plays, as well as his parents, told of the eruption of Galunggung the year before Cipto was born. The cloud of ash extending up from the caldera destroyed the engines of no less than two planes, bringing both down in emergency landings in Jakarta. Other planes were diverted around the area until the eruption calmed.

Planes diverted around the area.

Cipto's jaw tenses, his eyes screw shut once more, and he again folds forward so that his forehead rests against the cross of his ankles.