GLIMPSE by jane higgins

GLIMPSE by Jane Higgins


Guest author post at PaperbarkWords blog by Jane Higgins

Glimpse is a story about earthquakes and what might happen if some of us could see them coming.

The world of Glimpse comes from my own experience of a series of earthquakes that rocked my city of Ōtautahi/Christchurch a few years back.  

Jane Higgins (Text website)

It began on a September morning in 2010 when our city was shaken awake by a magnitude 7.1 quake. That’s a big quake. But it struck on a Saturday before sunrise when most people were asleep and the epicentre was out in the Canterbury Plains, a long way from the city. And so, astonishingly for such a severe quake, casualties were low: two people died.

One of the things we learned in the months that followed is that when there’s a big quake, there’s never just one. Our world rumbled and shook daily. And then, in February 2011, a huge aftershock hit: it came around lunchtime on a busy weekday and it happened right in town. Many people died or were badly injured. We lost power, running water, roads, bridges and buildings.

For weeks afterwards, large parts of the city were cordoned off and guarded by soldiers. I remember the darkness: at night there were no streetlights, no shop lights, no lights from any apartment or business. Just darkness and quiet and soldiers.

I remember the explosion of the rat population: people had fled from shops and cafés, leaving food half eaten on tables and mouldering in damaged fridges with no power. I remember piles of rubble. And liquefaction that spewed from the earth and set hard and heavy on streets, in gardens and under houses. 

We all learned a new normal: saving fresh water, being thankful for portaloos, not walking under awnings, taking a wide path around fenced off buildings.

And our world continued to shake. We had nearly twelve thousand quakes in two years.

When I began to write Glimpse, all these things came to mind and found their way into the world of the story. And because our quakes kept coming and it felt as if they would never end, I got to thinking how good it would be if we could predict them with enough time to be ready when they struck.

Glimpse is about people ‘seeing’ quakes before they arrive. But I suspected that this probably wouldn’t turn out to be as wonderfully straightforward as it sounds.

Something as mysterious as glimpsing would surely attract not only scientists and civil defence planners, but also oddball conspiracy theorists and doomsday cultists. That’s why People for a New Nation turned up in the story. And after disasters there are always those with an eye for a business opportunity. Enter Glimpse Corp. 

Some people, in their grief and trauma, would be drawn to the false hope of the cult or the false promise of fame and an easy dollar. And some of them would get burned, see the lie and turn away, but not before damage was done.

That’s what Jonah and Evie and the people of Downtown East are dealing with. That, and the exhaustion, the chronic stress and the anxiety that last for months and even years in an on-going disaster like this.

In my hometown, I saw all that, but I also saw people cope, help out, refuse to give up. Leadership turned up in unexpected places. Our destroyed and vacant spaces were made surprising and beautiful through the people power of grass roots groups like Greening the Rubble and Gap Filler. The walls of broken buildings blossomed with urban art. People built community with kindness and generosity.

Glimpse is about the ways that, in the worst of times, people shine. Friends matter. And a mistake you made once in the extremity of a disaster needn’t define your life.

Glimpse at Text Publishing

Jane Higgins’s website

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