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This report is taken from PN Review 216, Volume 40 Number 4, March - April 2014.

A Quaking of Smallish Things Gregory O'Brien
9 am, 20 August 2013 I am sitting in the corner of the bedroom, listening to the house. Sometimes the wooden beams, as they creak and contort, sound like voices. An occasional gasp. A cluck. A groaning. It is three days since a 6.6 earthquake rocked Wellington and we are now feeling the after-shocks. In updated parlance, we are amidst an earthquake cluster or swarm.

On the afternoon of the first of the recent spate of quakes – 21 July – I was standing on my sister-in-law’s lawn when birds suddenly vacated the surrounding trees and began flying in unusual formations; a dog curled up into a ball. Next thing, leaves on over­arching branches were vibrating, refracting a savage, otherworldly light; then the trunks began to swivel and the ground roll. At this stage, piles of bedside-books in the literary households of Wellington would have been tumbling, and, a short distance up the coast, my friend Mary-Jane was standing in the middle of her living room, clutching her well-populated goldfish bowl, trying to stop the contents from emptying onto the floor, while paintings were flying from the walls and glass was breaking around her.

9.30 am Most of the quakes since then have been minor by comparison, and many have hardly been felt. Yet even the subtlest tremor still manages to elicit a sound from our home. Occasionally, a sound like a plucked violin. An inexplicable plink or a twang. With its utterances and sighs, our house – a double-brick structure, one of eight built in Wellington by a migratory Hungarian, circa 1929 ...

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