by Mary Ruth Pursselley -
An earthquake rattled Celeste awake. She sat up and slapped the switch on the wall, filling the room with dingy light. A ceramic figurine skittered in a frantic dance across the top of the dresser before toppling over the edge. She leaned out and caught it, barely.
The walls still shook; this was stronger than the usual tremor. Celeste looked up at the familiar crack in the plaster ceiling of her room. It was expanding, shrinking, shifting, expanding again.
Flailing out of bed, Celeste grabbed her boots and hurried into the hall in socked feet. Evidently her fellow tenants had the same thought. The bedraggled crowd jostled to the end of the hall, down the stairs, and through the front-room towards the outside door. The front-room windows revealed gritty morning light but faced away from the mountain, which was what everyone wanted to see.
Outside, Celeste squinted through agitated clouds of ash as she hurried around the side of the tenement house to get a look at the volcano. It felt like the quake might be calming down, but there could still be an eruption coming.
A column of smoke towered above the mountain’s cone, fanning out against the atmosphere in an ever-widening blanket. Sheba’s halves were black shadows near the edge of the smoke-cloud.
The quake stopped. Sirens signaled the closing of Adagio’s watergates, but the mountain seemed to be quieting down—or gathering itself for a blast. Either way, it didn’t matter much.
People around her began groggily making their way back inside, and Celeste decided she might as well get some more sleep. No way was she going up that mountain today. She looked down and realized that in addition to her boots, she was still holding the figurine that had fallen off of the dresser—a white-robed girl with a benevolent smile, and a pair of silver wings growing from her back.
Mom had called it an angel; smiled at it, even talked to it. She’d said it represented real angels watching out for them. Celeste looked around her. The idea of angels didn’t seem very likely. But…
She looked back down at the figurine. “Don’t go trying that nose-dive thing again—just in case.”