I should pretty much stop promising stories on set days, it never seems to work out. Hopefully you’ll find it in your heart of hearts to forgive me, specially because this is a pretty cool update.
First, today I reached 52,000 words on Birth of God. Which for those of you who don’t know is about 200 pages or so. The book is coming along nicely, though it’s also a bit sad having to say goodbye to characters that will not be featured in the rest of the series. Oh well, that’s how it goes. I can’t wait to resume work on the second book in the series, Life of God.
Second, today I wrote a whopping 6,500 words. That was aided by the fact that I had to stay home sick from work today, but regardless, that is a butt load of writing. For comparison, I set a word goal of writing 1,000 words every week day, and 2,000 every weekend. Needless to say, I blew that target out of the water today. Of that, only 2,500 went towards Birth of God. The other 4,000 went towards another little short story for your entertainment needs.
So, without further adieu, here ya go. Make sure to leave a comment, say you like it, even if you didn’t, and just in general spread the word.
January 3rd, 2023
2:34 am Eastern Time
A red light flashing incessantly on the dashboard pulled Matthew from his Sudoku. His blue eyes were dull from fatigue as they glanced up from behind his thickly brimmed glasses. Setting the newspaper aside, he leaned forward, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose with his index finger. Ignoring the tuft of greasy black hair that had fallen across his forehead he pressed the touch-screen of the monitor in question. Matthew felt his pulse skyrocket as a stream of seemingly random numbers and letters filed across the screen.
“Oh my god.” The words leapt from his mouth as he reached across the desk for the phone, knocking the half full cup of lukewarm coffee into his lap in the process. “Damnit!” he yelled as he jumped to his feet.
Matthew pawed at the moisture spreading in the crotch of his pants as he picked up the red receiver of the phone. Dancing nervously from foot to foot, he kept his eyes pinned on the monitor as he waited for the operator on the other side.
With a click a voice came from the other end.
“Director Brooke.” The voice was heavy and gruff as if the owner had been torn from a cycle of deep REM sleep. Under different circumstances, Matthew might have wondered what those dreams had entailed.
“Sir, this is Dr. Rice over at Goddard. Sorry to have wake you, but we have a situation.”
Those words must have snapped the Director to attention as he suddenly sounded very awake. “What kind of situation?”
Matthew cleared his throat. “A Carrington flair, sir.” He said hoping his voice didn’t betray the panic he felt rising in his throat.
Silence followed by heavy breathing came from the other end of the line. Matthew rubbed a sweaty palm against his pant leg as he switched the receiver to his other ear. “Sir?”
“How big?” the Director’s voice sounded small and frail.
“I can’t say for certainty, sir. There hasn’t been a flair of this type in over a hundred years.”
“Do we know where it’s likely to hit?”
“I have no way of knowing that at this time, sir.” Matthew felt the words catch in his throat. “It could hit…everywhere.”
“I’ll inform the President. Track down Dr. Davis, tell her to get to the White House fill her in on the details, she’ll know what to do.”
“Yes, sir.” Matthew grabbed his Iphone from the back pocket of his denim jeans. Scrolling through the list of contacts, he found Dr. Margaret Davis.
“One more thing.” The Director’s voice was steady and sure. “How long do we have?”
“Minutes… Maybe less.”
“God help us.”
January 2nd, 2023
11:45 PM Pacific Time
Luke Stevens sat at his desk staring out the window at the dimly lit street. The words on the page were blurring together as one, making comprehension impossible. Headlights of an approaching vehicle blinded him as the car turned in front of the office building. Luke turned away from the window as the red taillights vanished in the distance. Twisting carefully in his chair so as not to disturb the neatly stacked pile of papers, he grabbed the half empty tumbler filled with the sweet brown liquor. Ice cubes clinked together as he held the glass up to the soft fluorescent lamp light spilling onto his desk. The whiskey danced in the light as he poured the sweet nectar down his throat.
The cellphone, trapped beneath a pile of paper, started vibrating like a snake rattling its tail in preparation for attack. A stream of whiskey escaped the sides of his mouth as Luke shot forward in his chair, startled by the sound. Running the back of his hand across his stubbled cheek, he fished the phone out from beneath the carnage that was his desk.
Melanie Stevens flashed across the phone’s screen. With a beep, he accepted the call and lifted the phone to his ear.
“Hey babe.” he said as he placed the glass back in its familiar condensation ring on the wooden desk.
“When ya coming home, Luke? It’s late, and Val’s been up all night.” Melanie sounded at the end of her rope as Luke glanced down at his wrist. “You aren’t the only one with a career, ya know? I need to get some sleep otherwise I’m going to be useless tomorrow.”
“I know, I’m sorry.” He said rising from his chair.” I’m just finishing up. I’ll be home in ten.”
“Okay…” Luke could feel the longing in her voice. “I love you.”
“You too, babe.” Luke hung up the phone as he took his suit jacket from its hangar on the wall. He stopped to take one final look at his office as he opened the door. Just a couple months earlier he was about to make partner at the largest law firm in L.A.
Look at him now. This was his kingdom. This was his throne, a small office barely large enough to accommodate his stacks of books and piles of awards and commendations. Everything lay strewn about the office haphazardly; he didn’t even see the point in unpacking. The things you do for love.
The night air was crisp as he stepped out of the building. Pulling his suit jacket tight around him he hurried to his car parked at the end of the street. Pressing the unlock button on the sensor attached to his keys, the mini-van’s red and white taillights flashed in the darkness. The street was void of any activity, as it always was at this time of night in little old Richland, WA.
Luke slid into the front seat of his 2010 Dodge Caravan. Another sacrifice he had to make when they left L.A. That’s not to say that the mini-van wasn’t capable of laying down some rubber if he wanted to show the soccer man’s of Richland who was boss. But then again, it didn’t exactly leave a sense of satisfaction like his BMW M3 had.
As Luke pulled out into the street a flash lit up the night sky overhead. He craned his neck to look up through the windshield as the mini-van’s engine faltered. With a sputter and a kick the vehicle’s engine stopped turning. Rolling down the street with no power, Luke pressed on the brakes. The brakes squeaked in protest as the vehicle came to a stop. Without power steering, Luke had to rely on pure muscle and elbow grease to steer the stalling vehicle towards the side of the road.
Popping the van into park, Luke hopped out of the front seat. A tingle ran down his spine and he wondered just how much he had to drink as he stared up at the night sky illuminated by bright light as if it was mid-day. Scanning the horizon, Luke could not detect the source of the abnormal light.
Something wasn’t right. In Los Angeles, sure… with all the lights, and businesses, and cars, night could definitely look like day. In the middle of nowhere? No… something was definitely wrong. Luke felt the tiny legs of fear crawling down his back, causing his innards to clench in disapproval.
Purple, greens, and orange lights danced across the sky and Luke wondered if he was witnessing the Aurora Borealis. Was such a thing even possible here? He hadn’t a clue. Being a city boy didn’t exactly prepare you for this.
Pulling his eyes back towards the ground, he was suddenly aware that all the street lights had been extinguished. Hopping back into his van, he turned the key in the ignition. The car fought to turn, but to no avail. With sad sputters, it failed.
“Damnit!” he said slamming his fist into the steering wheel. “I thought we bought this thing cause it’s reliable!”
Grabbing his briefcase from the passenger seat, he slammed the van door behind him as he began the mile long walk home. The car didn’t respond as he pressed the lock button on his keychain. Still no response as he pressed the button again, this time harder, digging his fingernail deep inside the sensors button.
“What the hell is going on?” he said refusing to go back and lock the vehicle by hand. If he was home that car would be gone in five minutes. Here, it would probably be safe indefinitely.
Luke reached into his pocket and pulled out his cell phone. The screen remained dark as he flipped it open. Pressing the power button, the phone remained unresponsive. “Great.” He thought shoving the useless device back into his pocket.
The sound of Luke’s footsteps falling hard against the black asphalt broke the midnight silence as he began running home.
January 2nd, 2023
11:59 PM Pacific Time
Walter’s eyes were wide as quarters as he held the flashlight up. The small beam of light cascaded over the metal flooring as he navigated his way through the maze of hallways. Emergency generators had come online minutes after the initial black out. To conserve power, the overhead lighting was kept as dim as possible. Walter’s old eyes strained against the low light conditions as he made his way to core.
“How’s everything looking, Walt?” the young man’s nasally voice squawked like a bird over the radio.
“Shit if I know, I can see less than a bat down here. You sure we can’t turn the lights up a bit brighter? I mean come on, these are some pretty unsafe working conditions.”
“You think this is unsafe… Just wait and see how hairy things get if the power doesn’t come back on in the next few hours.”
Walter shuddered to think about that. He had been around long enough to know what would happen if they didn’t get the electricity back up and running in the next 4 hours.
The flashlight dropped from Walter’s fingers as his head slammed into a low hanging girder. Walter cursed as he rubbed his head. A trickle of blood oozed down his cheek as he dropped to his knees to find the flashlight.
“Why didn’t we send one of you young bucks down here, I can’t see shit.” he said angrily into his radio.
“I’m too pretty, and you’re just too expendable.” The man’s voice said jokingly from the other end.
Ain’t that the truth? Walter thought as his fingers wrapped around the flashlight. Standing carefully, he continued his journey into the dark underbelly of the Plant
Taking a left at the end of the corridor, Walter’s light fell on the three large diesel power generators churning away. The fumes left him feeling dizzy as he approached the generators. He could feel the vibrations running from the soles of his feet to the top of his head as he put his ear plugs in. Walter gave each of the three generators a thorough scan with his flashlight. Satisfied that all three would continue operating at maximum capacity for the foreseeable future, he turned to walk away.
Lifting the radio he said, “Everything looks good down he…”
A blast suddenly ripped through the thick concrete wall behind him sending the lean old man flying through the air. Pain shot through his body as he pin balled off the wall back to the hard ground. He could taste copper as his mouth filled with blood. The ringing in his ears was nauseating as he propped himself up on his elbow. Green flames lapped towards the ceiling sending a wave of heat blasting into his face. The feeling of having a white hot poker jabbed into his flesh seized him as he tried to raise an arm to shield his face from the fire.
“Walter?! What’s happening? Is everything okay?” Walter could barely make out the sound of the young man’s voice over the roar of the fire. Frantically, he looked around for the radio.
Crawling across the floor, he pulled his body across the debris towards that small glimmer of hope.
A second explosion, smaller than the first, rang off in the distance above him. The ceiling made a sickening crack, sending a ball of adrenaline coursing through his veins as Walter instinctively covered his head. Squeezing his eyes shut he recalled an image of his wife on their wedding day as the ceiling came crashing down around him.
January 3rd, 2023
3:10 AM Eastern Time
President Madison Parker turned as the large steel doors shut behind her. She didn’t like the feeling of being buried deep beneath the Earth. This was as close to a coffin as she ever wanted to come, no thank you. Just go ahead and cremate me thank you very much.
“Madame President if you’ll follow me.” She followed the armed guard down a long hallway. Pulling up at the door at the end, he snapped her a salute before stepping to the side. Despite all the electronics, and plush leather furniture decorating the room, the low hanging ceiling did nothing to help her forget where she currently was.
“Stu, would you care to tell me what the hell is going on?” Parker said taking her seat behind the large oak desk.
The Secretary of State looked back at her with blood flushed cheeks. All the other color had disappeared from the bald man’s flabby face as if he had already spent years deep in the subterranean bunker.
“About forty-five minutes ago we got a report from Director Brooke over at NASA.” He said covering his mouth as he let out a cough. “It seems the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory otherwise known as SOHO relayed a series of reports to Goddard Space Flight Center out of Maryland.”
“I don’t need every little detail right now, Stu. Give me the big picture and then we can work back.”
“Sorry.” He said looking away from the President to the woman sitting in the chair to his right. “The Sun has released a solar flare towards Earth.”
“Not just any flare, Madame President.” The woman interrupted. “A Carrington flair.”
“Who are you and what does that mean?” Parker said looking the thin woman up and down. She had the look of an academic about her. If she let down her hair, and got rid of those ridiculous oval glasses, she might even be a looker.“
“Dr. Margaret Davis with NASA. I’m here per Director Brooke’s request.” She said extending her hand to the President. Parker was surprised at the Dr.’s grip as she took the woman’s hand in her own. “And a Carrington flare is the largest class of solar flare we know of. There has only been one reported case of this type of flare in modern history. It wreaked havoc back in 1859, and it guarantees to do a lot worse this time around.”
“What kind of damage are we looking at?” Palmer said leaning forward on her elbows.
“In 1972 a huge solar flare knocked out long-distance telephone communication across Illinois. Fast-forward to 1989 when a similarly sized flare crashed into Earth’s magnetic field causing a geomagnetic storm. The field of magnetism that surrounds our planet literally quivered at the impact. In Canada, the effects of the blast plunged six million people into darkness for nine hours.”
“So, we’re looking at losing power and telephones for a couple hours?” Stu said showing visible relief as he sat back in his chair.
“No, I don’t think you quite understand. Those are the largest solar flares in the last forty years, the Carrington flare gets its name from an event that took place in 1859. That blast was more than twice as large as any we’ve ever seen in our lifetime.” Davis paused to swallow as she moved to the edge of her seat. “This blast will be about that size, if not larger. What we are looking at is the destruction of our power infrastructure. The solar flare will overwhelm the power transformers world-wide, it will debilitate all forms of communication from radar, cell phone, and GPS. We are looking at losing every satellite in the flare’s path. And that’s not the worst case scenario.”
Parker locked eyes with Davis as she did her best to remain calm.
“There are over seven hundred nuclear reactors worldwide. Without electricity, the plants will not be able to keep the reactors cool. They will turn diesel powered generators, but that is only going to buy them hours at best. I’m afraid it could take months to get our power grid up and running again after a blast this size.”
President Parker sat back in her chair as the Davis’ words sunk in. Her eyes drifted over to Stu whose face had blanched again. With his beady little eyes bugging out of his head, she only hoped she didn’t look as terrified as him, right now.
“I’m afraid that even if are somehow able to contain half of the nuclear reactors, we are still looking at global annihilation. The tidal wave of radiation will irradiate anything and everything that breathes and will permeate the topsoil leaving an environment hostile to life as we know it for the foreseeable future.”
“Oh God.” Stu said as he buried his face in his hands.
“We’re looking at global extinction.” Davis said ignoring the Secretary of Staff. “Not just for humans, for everything, minus cockroaches.”
A feint smile crossed President Parker’s lips at the Dr.’s attempt at levity. Given the circumstances, a smile seemed to be the only thing keeping her from breaking down there on the spot like Stu.
“Well, that’s not exactly what I was hoping to hear.” Parker said reaching an arm out to the telephone on the corner of her desk. “Get me General Raeder, now.” She said holding down the intercom button.
“Dr. Davis, thank you for coming to see me. I’m sure you have family and loved ones you would much rather see at this time. I’ll have an escort take you wherever you need to go.” She said rising from her chair.
“Thank you, Madame President.” Dr. Davis said as she followed an armed guard from the room.
“What the hell are we going to do, Maddie?” Stu said from the other side of the room. Standing over the bar in the corner he turned quickly with a glass full of whiskey in both hands. She took the glass from him and studied it thoughtfully.
A tall man with a square chin, thick muscles, and close cropped hair, that had long since turned silver, suddenly emerged at the door. “Madame President.” He said with a low gruff voice as he snapped a salute.
“General Raeder, we’re implementing Noah’s Ark, immediately.”
“Noah’s Ark?” Stu repeated from behind Parker. “What’s that?”
“It’s exactly what it sounds like, Stu.” She said finishing the glass of whiskey in one long pull. The brown liquid burned as it ran down her throat. “It’s humanities only chance for survival.”
January 3rd, 2023
4:00 AM Pacific Time
Luke held his three month old daughter Valerie against his chest as he paced the room. Melanie smoked a cigarette in the corner as she stared out the window at the dancing lights in the early morning sky.
Valerie, even on a good night, was plagued by restlessness. Her cries sent chills down Luke’s spine, and he could tell that Melanie was increasingly on edge as he rubbed the small child’s back in hopes of soothing her back to sleep. For hours they had been awake, as if the infant sensed the cosmic imbalance and was crying out in protest. Luke’s legs ached as he forced himself to keep moving. Something very bad had happened. All the power in the house was out. There was no light, save the dull red embers burning from the tip of Melanie’s cigarette and the green and orange aurora burning up the sky.
“What do you thi…” Melanie started to say as the feint whispers of a siren began to sound off in the distance. The color leached from her face as she looked to him with wide eyes. Luke felt his stomach churning as Valerie let out a fresh cry.
“What’s that?” Melanie said.
“I dunno?” he said shrugging his shoulders, trying his hardest to appear undisturbed. “Maybe a tornado siren?”
“Do they get tornado’s here?”
“The Beakers…” she said pointing a finger at the window. “their heading to their back yard.”
Luke joined his wife by the window. Placing a hand on her shoulder he leaned over to follow her finger. Sure enough, there they went Ray, Lisa, and their two kids Abbey and Michael. Holding hands like a row of ducks they filed between the fence and their house as they made their way to the backyard.
“Should we go ask them what’s going on?”
Melanie was already out of her seat and across the room by the time Luke finished his words. Following close behind, she yanked the front door open as she trotted across the yard to the Beaker’s house. As they followed the fence line to the Beaker’s back yard, Luke realized Valerie had stopped crying.
He let out a small smile as they rounded the corner of the house. That smile vanished instantly as he saw the Beakers filing down into what looked like a bomb shelter.
“Ray?” Melanie raised her voice over the sound of the siren blaring in the distance.
Ray twirled around with wide eyes as he held a shotgun at his shoulder. Luke darted between the man and Melanie which he instantly regretted as he realized he was still holding Valerie. Wincing, Luke turned to the side to shield the baby.
“What are you doing?” Melanie said with shock in her voice. “What’s that siren? What’s happening?”
Realizing who they were, Ray pointed his weapon towards the ground. “I’m sorry. There was an accident over at the Columbia Generating Plant.”
It took a moment for Luke to understand what the man was saying. Suddenly he remembered that Ray had worked at the nuclear power plant for the past fifteen years.
“What kind of accident?” Luke managed to say feebly, fearing he didn’t actually want to know the answer.
“I dunno… none of it makes any sense. All the powers out…everywhere… phones, lights, cars, nothings working… Without electricity, there’s no way of keeping the core of the nuclear reactor from overheating. I was there earlier tonight, we have diesel generators that can keep it cool for a bit, but something happened… they blew up…” Even in the low light, Luke could see the man’s tears streaming down his face. “I ran all the way home. There’s no stopping it… it’s going to blow.”
Luke felt as if somebody had just kicked him in the gut. “What do we do?” he said looking over Ray’s shoulder at the bunker.
“I’m sorry… I truly am.” Ray said raising the weapon again. “I have to think of my family. We have enough supplies to last us a bit, but we can’t fit any more people. You’ll have to find someplace else.”
An explosion like a thousand claps of thunder shattered the morning. The siren stopped abruptly as Luke angled his eyes towards the mushroom cloud reaching towards the sky in the distance.
“Please…” Luke said stepping forward. Ray cocked his weapon as he slowly backed down the stairs of the bunker. “Please, please, take Val. I beg you.” Luke held out the small bundle of child as he choked on the tears streaming down his face.
Ray’s eyes darted between Luke and the baby. Luke could see the inner turmoil on the man’s face as he finally said, “Okay.” With one hand still on the weapon, he took the small child in his other. Valerie let out a cry that seemed to shake the world as Ray disappeared into the dark hole of the bunker.
“Thank you…thank you…” Luke said as he forced himself to turn away from the bunker. Melanie was kneeling on the ground with eyes wide open. Her face was frozen as if carved from marble.
Luke dropped to the ground and wrapped his arms around his wife as they stared up at the cloud fast approaching.
Should’ve stayed in L.A.
Thanks for reading, as per always I didn’t do any kind of editing or read-through, so hopefully everything got transferred from my brain to the paper accurately. Let me know if any of it didn’t work out.
© 2012 Anthony Vicino