When I wake up it is my birthday. Mom and Dad aren’t there, but I hear their voices, so I walk down. They are standing at the front window. They don’t hear me. I look out the window. I feel like I got up too early. Nothing looks right. The cars are upside down. The tree in front of our garage is lying on the ground and everything is shiny like it just took a bath.
Dad notices me for the first time. He kisses my cheek. With red eyes he tells me happy birthday. My parents’ eyes are focused outside, checking their phones frequently. It’s dark outside. Finally their phones buzz. We go outside. It’s safe now. Dad puts my yellow raincoat on me. Outside smells like the ocean, in a way that hurts my stomach. The bats are gone from the doorway. People are coming out of their houses, touching the puffy paint and dark line on the front of their houses higher than my head. All the houses on our street are normal, mostly. There is a deck that is just sticks. A lady sits on a cracked tree with her hands on her cheeks, looking out with no emotions.
The houses are crumpled. The boardwalk looks like someone picked it up and twisted it around. The water looks like a bath now.
People are moving water from basements with buckets. I see a skull on the ground. I feel a scream coming up from my stomach. Dad leans down to me and says, “It’s just Halloween decorations, Caroline.” And the scream stays in my neck.
More Halloween decorations have fallen all around and they look scary. We walk on a ghost-looking wet wedding dress, hung up in someone’s gutter on a white hanger.
Back at our house, mom lights a birthday candle, and sticks it in some of the ice cream that is melting from the freezer and sings happy birthday. Then we all go sit on someone else’s porch furniture that’s blown onto our lawn, and watch the red sunset.