A Girl Called Jack Cover Photo

A Girl Called Jack Cover Photo

Monday, June 22, 2015

Chapter 3



Editor's Note:  I know, I know ... Ali Baba's treasure is just as story.  And you're right.  Desi and Jack have a few things to learn as they grow up during the story.  As you read this section, remember that plans can be made but that doesn't always mean that's how things turn out.

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Jack turned to look at Desi and some of her distrust must have showed. He told her, “Ain’t like that Chica.  You ain’t the type and if you were no way would I want you around Concha.  I just figure we help each other out until we can figure things out.  The girls keep each other entertained when they’re awake and we get to take turns and get some sleep.  Ain’t you tired?  I know I am.  What do you say?” 

“Depends on what you mean by help.” 

“I mean three summers ago I was working with Uncle Ray’s crew and we were doing some work on this rich guy’s hunting vacation kinda place; one of those mansions made to look like a log cabin sort of thing.  I look like my dad … you know … light enough to pass without causing problems … so they were always sending me to town to pick up stuff.  Well I make friends with this guy at the lumberyard and he’s always telling me stories when I go.  Some of those stories are about an area he used to hunt and fish in when he was a kid and it wound up being on the land the rich guy was building on.  Then the inspector marks me for underage and makes sure I can’t work as often as Uncle Ray wanted me to so he sends me off into the woods to get lost so the inspector don’t give us a hassle over it.  I find real interesting things out in the woods.” 

“What kind of interesting things?” 

“Like this old cellar where a house used to be.  Ain’t wet or anything except for one corner and I dug it out and it was just an uncapped pipe from an old well.  It has a steal door on it and everything. Might be a good place to hide out for a while.” 

“In an old cellar.” 

“Hey, better than waiting around here to get worked over or burned out.” 

For some unknown reason Jack felt she could trust Desi.  He’d always been a stand-up guy in school.  His grades hadn’t been spectacular but he was still smart.  His grades would probably have been better if his family life hadn’t been so crazy.  His mom died when he was little and his dad eventually remarried a young woman he’d knocked up.  That one ran off leaving Lena behind.  Then his dad died in a construction accident and his uncle had moved into the house with his family which was not exactly on the small size. 

Jack leaned back against the pile of storage tubs that she had placed around the tent and fire place to try and find a way to hold the heat in closer.  She scrubbed her nose trying to warm it up and then said, “Ok, say I’m willing to listen to this idea of yours … what do you have that will close the deal and make me more than willing to listen, but ready to follow you.” 

Desi shook his head but smiled.  “You sound like your old man.  Close the deal huh?  OK, how about this?  There ain’t no houses or nothing around that cellar.” 

“Except for the rich man’s hideaway.” 

“No, not even that.  The place burned real bad a couple of months ago.  The insurance company called us trying to get some information to make sure all the guys that worked on the building originally were legal and licensed.” 

“Of course they weren’t.” 

“Actually all those guys on that job were.  It was a stipulation of the contract or something like that.  Most people don’t care … they just want cheap labor.  This guy?  He wanted it all above board.  But there was some kind of scam going on.  Uncle Ray punched me the one time I asked so I didn’t ask no more.  But they were buying expensive stuff then selling that and buying cheap to build the house with.  The rich guy knew so I figure it was a scam from the beginning.  You know … premeditated arson or whatever you call it.” 

Shrugging Jack said, “Ok, so there aren’t any houses.  So?” 

“So it means fewer people we have to worry about on top of being in the middle of nowhere.  The girls stay safe.  You staff safe.  I don’t have too many to fight to keep ‘em off you three.” 

“I don’t need you to protect me.” 

“Hey.  It’s my way of paying my way.  See?  You help me with Concha and I help you keep Lena safe.” 

“Ok, whatever.  So it sounds like a good location … but it’s a hole in the ground.” 

“I can fix it up.  I had enough time to imagine what I’d do that summer.  The cellar is big but not too big.  One end even has an old fireplace in it like it used to be a finished basement for a house or something.  If we can’t get the fireplace to work I figure we get some kind of stove set up and put it on the end away from the door … put up some kind of walls to hold the heat on that end and we can keep it warm enough for the girls.” 

Jack chewed the inside of her cheek.  “What about water … and food.” 

“That’s iffy but it’s gonna be bad for everyone right quick here too.  I been cleaning out empty houses … doing my own bit of creeping …” 

“You what?!” 

“I been cleaning out places people have abandoned, that better?  I don’t take personal belongings, just food and some stuff like that.  I got it stashed not too far.  Josh’s place is still got stuff in it too.” 

“And how do you know that?” 

“Went in through a window.  Looks like they tried to take the whole house but found out there wasn’t room so had to leave a lot behind.  Most of it is junk but I think they screwed up and left behind a tub of food and stuff like that.  We go through some more houses, but do it quick so we don’t use as much as we’re bringing in, and then head out.” 

“And how do you expect to do that?” 

“Your dad’s truck, the one with the topper on back.” 

“You mean the one he got when Grandpop died?  No gas … diesel I mean … or not much.  Dad was using what he had stored in the generator for when the power would go up and down.  It’s down so much now I don’t even bother with it.” 

“There’s some in the Donovan’s shed – it’s labeled diesel and it smells right.  And there’s a couple of cans in Josh’s place as well.  I bet if we look we’ll find enough here and there that will fill up both tanks on that monster of your dad’s.  Put some gas treatment in it.  Two tanks – topped off – will get us where this place is.” 

“Two tanks?  Just where is this place?” 

When Desi told her she yelped, “North?!  You really think going north is smart?!  Have you heard the weather predictions?  They’re saying it could be worse than that year without a summer, just like a couple of centuries ago.  This might even be a couple of years without a summer … maybe another Little Ice Age.  And that’s if we don’t all choke on the volcanic ash if Yellowstone blows.” 

Desi nodded.  “I’ve heard them talking about it on the radio.  I found a wind up one in one of the houses I went through.  Sounds like something we studied in school.” 

“We did study it in school.  A lot of people died back during the colonial times because just one big volcano blew on the other side of the world.  It changed the weather so much that crops didn’t make, it snowed for almost ten months in some places.  Places froze that had never frozen in living memory.  Desi … maybe you have a stash and maybe I have a stash but both our stashes together won’t last a whole year much less longer than that as we try and figure out how to make sure no one …”  Jack glanced at then tent and then whispered, “Make sure no one tries to do something we don’t want them to.” 

“I hear you.  But you and me … we’re in the same boat.  We’re gonna have to do something and do it soon.  You wanted me to sweeten the pot to close the contract well, how’s this?  I know where the rich man stashed some stuff of his own.  Uncle Ray didn’t know I was watching but several times he would take off at night with the little Cat and dig and build these concrete vaults I guess you would call them.  Then the rich man would come in behind him and put stuff down in the vaults and then Uncle Ray would cover them up and hide them so well you almost wouldn’t have ever guessed there was something there to begin with.  I know where several of these vaults are and I made a copy of a map that Uncle Ray made notes on that gives me a good idea where the rest of them are located.” 

“God Desi … what kind of deep game was Mr. Raymundo into? Besides, no way would they still be there.” 

“I’m willing to bet that at least some of them are.  All we need is maybe one or two.  They were pretty full.” 

“Full of what?” 

“Barrels. Barrels of food and stuff.” 

“Oh puh-leeze.  In two years food would be spoiled.” 

“Nope; not this kind of food.  Some of it was this survival crap like you used to see on those reality shows.  Some of it was wheat, rice, corn, beans, dried fruits and vegetables; the kind of food my aunt would buy for the lean times when Uncle Ray would have a hard time finding work.” 

Trying not to hope too much Jack asked, “Seriously?” 

“Yeah, and not just food.  The vaults I saw them fill also had guns and ammo and stuff like that in them.  Each vault looked like it had a little bit of everything you might need if you were trying to hide out from something – or somebody – for a while.  Think about it Jack … we could hole up and hide out until things blow over and maybe even come out better than a lot of other people.  OK, maybe that last is kinda wishful thinking but if nothing else, I won’t have to watch my sister get sick and die like they are saying is going to happen to a lot of people around the world if this weather keeps ups.  Between this volcanic winter and whatever weird crap has been happening with the weather the last couple of years it is going to be bad.  But we can try and make it not as bad as it could be.” 

Jack was tempted to believe in what Desi was selling but she wanted to know one last thing.  “Look, putting aside the robbing from the rich Robin Hood deal I need to know … why me?  There’s gotta be other people around with more to throw into the deal.”

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Chapter 2



Jack tightly gripped the handle of the gun their father had always kept in his nightstand that she had started to carry with her all the time.  Creeping to the door when the knocking came again Jack called, “Who … who’s there?” 

“Yo … Jackalene.  It’s … (some garbled Spanish) … it’s Desi.  Can we come in?  I gotta get Concha out of the cold.  Please.  I can’t carry her anymore.” 

Recognizing the voice even though it was one she had never expected to hear again she peered out the spy hole but could see nothing because the electric was off.  “Who all is with you?” 

“It’s just me and Concha.  I swear it.  Please.  I can’t keep her awake and I’m busted up.  I just need a place to get her warm for the night.” 

Jack cautiously opened the door and seeing only Desi and a small bundle in his arms she told him, “Hurry.  Did anyone see you?” 

“No.  I’ve been hanging out in the Donovan’s shed but …” 

Jack looked at the boy she’d known since Kindergarten … actually not a boy anymore but it was hard for her to think of him any other way as he had never been the type his brother had been.  “Bring her in here.”  As soon as Desi carried his little sister into what was left of the firelight she said, “How long has she been like this?” 

“She’s been acting funny for the last couple of hours.  Can you fix her?” 

“She’s cold but … but not blue, just pale.  I’ll build up the fire.”   

Lena picked that moment to pop her head out.  “Jack?!” 

“Get back in there before you get cold,” Jack ordered as gently as she could. 

“Is … is that Concha?  But she left and wasn’t coming back.” 

Desi, used to dealing with lots of younger kids said, “Didn’t work out that way babita.  Your sister was very nice and let us come in out of the cold.  But you should do what she says.  You don’t want to wind up as cold as my sister is.” 

“It’s warm here in the tent.  She can stay with me.  We always shared a tent at Girl Scout camp and I shared my sleeping bag with her when we went to the same sleep overs.” 

Desi glanced at Jack and she nodded and said, “Yeah.  That’s a good idea.  I think she’s mostly just tired.”  Looking at Concha Jack chucked her under the chin.  “Hey Concha.  Wanna sleep with Lena in the tent?  She says it will be just like camp and the two of you can help keep each other warm.  Lot’s of blankets in there.” 

The young girl, eight just like Lena, looked over at her big brother.  “Desi?” 

“Sure.  You’ll be warm.” 

“Don’t leave me.” 

“Hey, do I look crazy?  Now move and be a good friend … don’t hog all the covers or put your cold feet where they don’t belong.” 

A spark of something appeared in the girl’s eyes and she tried to laugh but she really was exhausted.  Lena, eager to have her friend stay with her so neither one of them would have to be lonely, quickly made room in the tent and in no time both girls were back to sleep.  That’s when Jack looked over at Desi and saw he wasn’t much better off than Concha. 

“I suppose asking for details is going to have to wait.  Here, drink this.” 

“Save it for Concha.  I’m fine.” 

“Bull.  Just drink it, it’s mostly just watered down bouillon anyway.” 

“Huh?” 

“Powdered broth.  I’ve thinned it out.  It’s barely has enough in the water to give it flavor.” 

Desi still hesitated briefly before taking the mug Jack offered him.  After he took a sip he looked at Jack with a frown.  “You lie better than you should.” 

Jack gave a small grin and shrugged.  “You were being stubborn and I’m not up for a fight.” 

“You don’t look like you are up for much of anything.” 

“Gee thanks.” 

Desi shrugged.  “I … I’ve been listening.  To what’s been going on in the neighborhood.  I know about your parents … and about Josh.” 

Jack stood up and backed up fast … too fast.  She swayed on her feet and it was only Desi reaching out a hand to steady her that kept her from falling over.  “How?  Did he say something to you?” 

“No.  I heard his old man ripping into him every time he even thought about warning you that they were leaving.  I thought he would still man up but then I saw him leave that note for you.  I thought it was directions on how to catch up with them but … but then you found the letter this morning and I figured he’d taken the coward’s way out.” 

“You … you saw?” 

“Yeah.  I almost came out but I figured you wouldn’t appreciate it too much.” 

Jack didn’t know whether to be horrified, embarrassed, or furious.  She settled on trying to be nothing since the other three would just be a waste of energy.  Desi must have sensed her choice because he relaxed a little.  “I figure it was better to tell you up front than screw up and let it slip later on.” 

“What later on are you talking about?” 

“Not much of one from the sound of it.  I just figured it was better to be honest.” 

Thinking Jack finally nodded.  “Yeah.  Honesty.  More than I got from Josh apparently.  Even if he did have to leave with his family he could have said something beforehand.  Goodbye in person … something.  We’ve been going together for almost two years.  I never even suspected that leaving was on any of their minds.” 

Desi shrugged.  “If it means anything, he wanted to say something.  It was his Dad and Uncle.  They got some deep game going.  Some plan.  And it didn’t include inviting anyone but family along.  Donnie was told he had to leave Kate behind too.” 

“What? But they’re engaged!” 

“Yeah.  Donnie and his Dad got into a real fist fight over it – not just shoving but like they were going to take each other out – and then Donnie took off yesterday.  They were trying to wait on him to cool off and come home but I’m thinking that it wasn’t ever going to happen.  What he said to his ol’ man sounded permanent.  Donnie probably headed over to Norton Hall to stay with Kate … at least that’s what his mother thought.” 

Jack shook her head slowly.  “How long did you say you were staying in that shed?” 

“I moved us there after the Donovans died.  We had been staying in a lean to I made in the brush on the other side of the utility easement.  But the wind is a killer and started knocking parts of our camp down every night no matter how I tried to tie stuff off.  Then we got run off by some homeless guy claiming the camp was his.  He tried to grab Concha but I got her and took off to the only other place I figured we could stay until I worked out some connections.  People came and went out of the Donovan’s house a couple of days but they never bothered with the shed.  And then they just stopped coming.  Still a lot of crap in the house and I’ve been worried about them Creepers coming around to ransack the place and maybe find us.”  He shrugged.  “The shed isn’t much but it kept the wind off us better, there was just no real way to have a fire in there without suffocating on smoke.” 

“No kidding.  But that still doesn’t explain what you are doing playing homeless people in the first place.  Mr. Raymundo told Dad …” Jack stopped and took a breath at the sudden sharp pain.  “Mr. Raymundo told Dad that you all had your tickets and permits and everything and were going home to your family in Tegucigalpa.  What happened?” 

“What happened?!” he asked angrily.  “First, Honduras ain’t my home.  Here is.  I was born here and I’ve lived here my whole life.” 

“Ease up Desi.” 

He worked the stiffness out of his neck.  “Yeah.  You and your family never gave me any crap like some did.  Sorry.” 

“I don’t need sorry.  Just ease up.  I haven’t got the energy to be anyone’s enemy right now.” 

“Yeah.  Yeah, ok.  But see, that’s the thing.  Nobody south of here wants anyone that isn’t a citizen of their country.  They got too many people flying into their vacation homes and looking for rentals and all that.  There’s not enough room for everyone.  So they turned the tap off.  They are only accepting citizens; and anchor babies … well our dual citizenship has been revoked.  They say our folks had us in the US then we can stay in the US.” 

“So where’s the rest of your family?” 

“Uncle Ray … all his kids were born in Honduras and he’s got papers to prove it, just like Don.  Angelia and her kids went to go live with that ex-husband of hers in Barranquilla.  He got out of jail and saw the light or something like that and wants to be a dad to his kids.  He’s got this place worked out with his brothers in their export business.  Angelia has said she’d think about making it permanent but … anyway that’s where they are.  Uncle Ray, well he tried to fake it and get us aboard anyway but when the chips were down he gave us up and took off without looking back.  He said I’m nineteen and that it is plenty old enough to be a man and take on the responsibility of a family.  And I ain’t even mad at him for me … but he almost wouldn’t let Lena have her luggage.  He did take the little bit of food that was in there out before finally letting me have it.” 

“Wait.  Mr. Raymundo just left you at the airport?!” 

“Yeah,” he answered trying to not feel anything about that in the same way that Jack had decided to feel as little as possible about many of her own troubles.  “We slipped out when there was a riot at the airport.  I … I was just looking for some space to make a plan.  It took a lot longer to get us here than I thought it would.  I had thought to ask your dad for a job but … I’m … I’m really sorry Jack.  Your dad was a good man … and your momma a fine lady.” 

Steeling herself against the pain that wanted to roar back to life Jack nodded.  “Yeah.  They were.  Thanks.  But even if … well … if nothing had happened I don’t know if Dad could have hired you.  All the contracts that he’d had for carpentry work, they were getting cancelled.  He didn’t have any at all on the books the day they …” 

“Man,” Desi said with a sigh.  “You got any ideas what you and the nina are going to do?” 

Jack shrugged.  “I am trying to figure it out.  I’ve got temporary custody of Lena but the way that social worker lady said it it is only temporary until she can find a way to take Lena away.  Of course that could have been a bluff to push me around to sign some papers I wouldn’t sign but I’m not taking any chances.” 

“She’s gotta be scared.  Poor kid.  Foster care ain’t no place for a baby like her.” 

“Lena doesn’t know.  And I want to keep it that way until I can’t.  You need to be careful too Desi.  I was out last night … well … I was out last night and …” 

“Hey, I ain’t gonna judge.  But don’t plan on going to see Vern anymore.  He got picked up by the National Guard and got beat on pretty good.  He’s dealing with the creepers, maybe where most of his stuff comes from.  But whatever you managed to squeeze out of him last night is probably the last you’re gonna see … at least from him.  With my own eyes I saw them cuff him and toss him in the back of some military truck heading north to Orlando.” 

“Sucks for him but I hadn’t planned on it anyway.  He almost wanted interest on what he charged me for the groceries … if you know what I mean.” 

Desi almost growled.  “Yeah … guys like him … yeah, pretty easy to get what you mean.  What did you have to trade anyway?  I hear they ain’t taking money or jewelry or much of anything like that.” 

Matter-of-factly Jack explained, “I found a stash of pot in my parents’ room.  Apparently Mom was smoking medical grade stuff to try and keep her appetite going or for nausea or something … I couldn’t read the doctor’s handwriting.” 

“I didn’t know she was that bad off.” 

“I didn’t either.  They … they kept stuff from me, stuff … stuff I wish I hadn’t found out the way I had.  But anyway … when I found the bricks of pot they had all the government stamps on them and everything.  I know it’s bad but I figured they’d be worth something with the way things are going.” 

“I hope the sum a ***** gave you a good deal.  Last I heard weed was more expensive than high grade meth.  The weather has killed all the grow operations north of here and a lot of the ones to the south too.” 

“Yeah.  I got a good deal,” Jack acknowledged in understatement.  “I thought maybe you were Vern or one of his guys come to take it back.” 

“No.  And I’ve been on the lookout for crazies like that.  There’s been some break ins outside the subdivision but they haven’t started here yet.  Creepers got busted up pretty bad when they found out they pushed the wrong block of houses, but they won’t stay out much longer.  They’ve got too much at stake, just like the rest of us.” 

“Probably ‘cause they think we’re too poor to mess with yet.  But that won’t last.  I’ve heard the news of what is going on further north up in the big cities.  The only thing slowing it down here is how cold it is getting; around here people aren’t used to it.  People didn’t expect it to get this cold down here.  I didn’t, not like this.  The orange trees have freaking icicles hanging from them where the rain keeps freezing.  It is cold enough even the dirty water is starting to freeze.” 

“Yeah.”  They were both silent long enough that Jack had started to remember things she was trying to forget and that’s when Desi said, “If you really ain’t got nothing to do and no place to go I might have an idea.”

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chapter 1



“I’m cold Jack.  Can we put more wood on the …” 

“No!”  Jack regretted the tone as soon as she saw the young girl’s bottom lip quiver.  Backtracking and apologizing Jack told her little sister, “I’m sorry Lena, I shouldn’t have yelled like that.  The thing is I don’t know how long this storm is going to last.  There’s snow coming down out there.” 

“Can I see?!” 

Trying to hold in her irritation at having to explain things over and over she said, “No Lena.  You know the rules.  And every time we go in and out or move the blankets off the windows we let more cold into the house and we don’t have enough wood to keep doing that.  We need to … we need to be careful with what we have.  I don’t want to burn anything from here in the house because most of the stuff has chemicals in it that could make us sick.” 

The young girl tilted her head to the side and then asked, “Like the Donovans?” 

Jack nodded and sighed.  “Yeah, like the Donovans.  We could choke on the fumes.” 

“And never wake up.” 

“And never wake up,” Jack confirmed. 

The young girl shook her head saying, “I don’t want that to happen to us.” 

Jack shook her head wearily.  “I don’t either so that’s why we need to save the wood we have and use it smart and careful.  If you’re cold why don’t you crawl back in the tent and cover up.” 

“I get lonely in there.” 

“I need to think Lena and … and if I lay down I’m going to go to sleep and won’t do the thinking I need to do.” 

Quietly the young girl asked, “Are you thinking about Momma and Daddy?” 

Jack sighed.  “Some.  But …”  Jack worried that Lena still hadn’t grasped the full import of what had occurred and what it meant for them. 

Quietly the young girl said, “I know they aren’t coming back.  I know they are in Heaven watching over us and all that. Just … just if we don’t think about them at all we’ll forget them.  I … I …” 

Jack reached up to the fireplace mantel, plucked down a picture and tossed it to Lena to hold.  “Don’t worry Squirt, I won’t let you forget them.” 

“But if we have to leave …” 

“We’ll take what we can.  That’s what I’m trying to think about.  Definitely take the pictures and stuff like that … and the important papers … and what food we have left … and lots of blankets, especially the quilts Mom made.” 

“And Daddy’s stuff too?” 

“Yeah, that too … especially some of that,” Jack said referring to the guns and knives her father had collected and then had to hide from a bureaucracy that had attempted to confiscate what was his by right.  “And even if for some reason we didn’t have any of that you have me and I’ve got lots of stories and pictures in my head that I’ll share with you.  Now do what I asked please, get in the tent, cover up and get warm, and get some sleep.  I’ll be in as soon as I can.” 

“Okay Jack.  Just don’t leave without telling me like you did yesterday.  It was scary not knowing where you were.” 

“Sorry Squirt.  I didn’t think I would be so long that you would wake up and I wouldn’t be here.  But I brought back food and wood didn’t I?” 

“Yes.  Just … just don’t do it again.  You might not come back.  Like Momma and Daddy.” 

Jack looked at Lena, trying to imitate how their mother had dealt with her, and she finally crawled into the tent and did as she was asked to do.  In no time Jack heard the young girl’s breathing settle into the deep rhythms of sleep and it was with some relief that Jack could finally lean over and have the silent cry that had been pent up all day.  It had been a little over a week since the cop and social worker had come by to tell them that their parents’ bodies had finally been officially identified among the dead of the multi-vehicle pile-up on the interstate.  There had been a backlog in the coroner’s office and it had taken longer than it should have.   

This was the Deep South; ice wasn’t supposed to be on the road but it was and people seemed to lose all commonsense on top of everything else going on.  Someone driving an SUV had hit a patch of ice doing 65 miles an hour.  Careening out of control they banged into several cars and a semi, creating a chain reaction where those cars lost control and ran into still others.  A total of forty-two vehicles had been involved resulting in multiple fatalities.  Their parents had been driving Jack’s mini cooper to save on gas.  The mini cooper had been something her dad had found at an auction and they had spent a couple of months making it road worthy right before Jack graduated from high school.   

Because of spikes in fuel prices that had started after the nuts in South America had nationalized their oil fields and dramatically cut US supplies to show solidarity with their Russian overlords after Russia had backed an anti-US dollar regime taking over things in the Middle East, the mini cooper became the family’s go to car for most of the traveling they did … especially long distance travel which is what their parents had been doing.  They’d had no choice but to travel almost two hours to get to a private practice that would accept their family insurance so that their Mom could see a doctor.  State Troopers had found the mini cooper’s license plate amongst the debris littering the highway.  The mini itself had apparently disintegrated during the impact so it had taken a while to confirm what Jack had known in her heart as soon as her parents had never shown up that night or called to let her know they were safe.  She had then been forced to deal with lots of official paperwork and during that discovered that Mom was a lot worse off than her parents had been letting on. 

“Am I supposed to find comfort in the fact they went together?” Jack wondered for the eleventy-dozenth time.  “Because if I am … I don’t.”  But the cause for her tears that night wasn’t the loss of her parents but a different straw in the load Jack was carrying.   

Jack was about to start crying again when there was a loud knock on the backdoor.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Prelude


It was just one disaster after another.  Some people began to wonder if it was Armageddon; weird cults started to spring up garbling together all sorts of science fiction and out of context Biblical scriptures to prove it and gain followers.  And if it wasn’t Armageddon people were wondering about, they thought it was a more mundane end of the world scenario.  Either/or to be honest.  It definitely was the end of the world for a lot of people. 

The beginning goes something like this: 

Once Russia and China had decided enough was enough of mucking up each other’s plans to take over the world, they decided to collaborate and went into the Middle East, crushed most of the regimes both physically and financially and replaced them with secular regimes that were just as bad if not worse but who were amendable to playing the game the Russo-China way. The two super powers then divvied up the region between them while the rest of the world quaked wondering what was next.  That pretty much put a chokehold on the world’s economy.  Russia also exerted a lot of influence and control in South and Central America.  The US Dollar, after losing ground around the world for several years, experienced a brief surge as investors hunted for a safe haven to escape to and then went into free-fall as people realized there was no escape for anyone at that point.  Of course there were repercussions.  You can’t remove a major cog in a piece of machinery and expect the gears to continue operating properly.  Within months the rest of the world – except for the elites – was also experience economic collapse.  If you listened to most people they believed the elites to be masterminding the chaos and blamed the rich for the straits they found themselves in.  If anyone had listened to the elites they would have found them to be just as confused and panicked as the rest of society, wondering how their carefully crafted plans and enterprises could be failing as miserably as they were, that it must be the fault of the entitlement crowd who wanted something for nothing and benefits without risk.  It became tedious listening to both sides blame the other. 

And then, as the world was bickering and throwing words in a prelude to throwing bombs, the unexpected happened, something not even the elitist of the elite were prepared for.   Truly a worst case scenario.   

With almost no warning Laki, the Icelandic volcano, erupted in a near repeat of its 1783 eruption.  It developed over a hundred craters all of which were spewing hot ash then molten lava.  The volcano kept going for days and the longer it did the more talking heads on television spoke about things like sulfuric aerosols and volcanic weather patterns and scientific terms that both confused and frightened a lot of people. 

In the midst of trying to determine the effect Laki would have on the economic depression the world was already suffering, Mount Baekdu in North Korea where it bordered China awakened and blew its top.  When it went it threw over 1000 times more ash into the air than the Icelandic volcano eruptions though it lacked the lava features.   

The airline industries of most countries were already grounded.  And a good thing too.  Because three weeks later something truly catastrophic happened.  Four major volcanos went off like the world was belching one right after another; Vesuvius then Stromboli then Etna and lastly Santorini.  None of them were as bad as they could have been, or even as bad as Laki or Baekdu, but the point was that they each went without any real warning and since they’d been quiet for so long population centers had encroached into unsafe proximities.  The people near Vesuvius died in their beds.  By the time Santorini blew they died in the streets trying to escape.  Think the horror of Pompeii only captured by thousands on social media as they tried to leave behind something of themselves besides ash. 

No one has been able to explain it yet except for a few freaked out conspiracy theorists on late night radio shows like Coast to Coast, known for its weekly dose of doom porn.  Their explanations didn’t really have a lot of basis in fact but in theory, hyperbole, and hysteria.  People talked because they were afraid.  The theories they came up with were supposed to help them manage their fear, give it some kind of structure that could be dealt with constructively; however, more often than not all they did was scare themselves more.  Truth is stranger than fiction and if they had been given a glimpse of what was coming many of them would have refused to accept it as reality. 

What really caused panic and threw both China – already having trouble dealing with the eruption of Baekdu – and Russia into a tizzy is when the supposedly long dormant and thought to be extinct Ararat volcano blew.  It blew so violently in fact that its ice cap was completely obliterated as was the peak nearest to it known as Little Ararat.  It was thought at first that a nuclear detonation had occurred and in fact Turkey activated its nuclear arsenal and launched a counter strike on several of its neighbors.  That didn’t do anything but add to the nightmarish chaos. 

The world was in so much shock it didn’t even react to the eruption of Kilimanjaro.  What’s Africa after all?  But they sure sat up and noticed when Krakatau and Tambora blew because the combined effect created immense tsunamis that took out the naval presences there that were protecting the international envoys that had gathered to try and hash out some kind of peace agreement before things got worse. 

Shock.  There’s no other word for it.  Already the weather was changing and there were all sorts of documentaries being broadcast on “The Year Without A Summer,” an historical event that took place in 1816 that caused unprecedented illness and famine as a result of a stratospheric sulfate aerosol veil caused by a severe volcanic eruption. 

When Mount Fuji went in Japan the world barely had the energy left to whimper.  Then Bezynmianny – a volcano in Kamchatka, Russia that had been erupting almost constantly since it had reawakened in 1955 -  and Klyuchevskaya – located on the Russian coast where it meets the Bering Sea and which had started its last eruption cycle in 2007 – began erupting more fiercely, prompting Russia to finally refocus its energies on something other than world domination.   

Some in the US, up to this point, had been gleefully rubbing their hands together at the catastrophes that their enemies had been experiencing.  It was payback time; if they wanted aide and assistance then they’d have to come crawling on their hands and knees.  Some even claimed it was God showing the US favor. However those with more commonsense had been sticking pins in maps and predicted that Illimani and Katmai in Alaska were next.  They weren’t wrong.  Anchorage was the first major US city to be all but destroyed by the volcanic dominoes. There were some people with more than just commonsense and they had started to plan and prepare for what seemed inevitable.  A multi-year, world-wide catastrophe that would likely be a turning point in the human race if not a near extinction level event. 

Next volcanic domino to fall was Mt. Ranier followed quickly by Mount St. Helens, both of which proved to be heartbreakingly destructive, killing tens of thousands of those that had hung on to the fatal idea that it couldn’t happen to them.  Then Lassen Peak, the southernmost volcano on the Cascade Ridge began to rumble to life after several decades of quietude.  From that point people wondered what would be next, The volcanos of Mexico or the super volcano under Yellowstone? 

But even in the midst of such world changing catastrophes, people face their own personal world-changing events.  The end of the world would have been easy and soon over.  Less suffering that way.  For those waking up after the end of the world as they knew it and finding they were still alive that was the real catastrophe.