Science fiction story. It struck callously. With no mercy. Now, they were earth's last hope! The Invisible Lands. Now at Amazon for 99 cents.
The Invisible Lands
Men, women, children and babies. It didn't discriminate. It came like a thief in the night and destroyed them all in fire, quake, flood, and tumbling buildings. The world was struck by an earthquake so large that it shook down the majority of cities around the planet. Millions died the first few seconds and billions after that.
When it was over a shattered world rushed to find out why it had happened?
Someone had struck the surface world from its interior.
A Special Forces team is put together to enter the world and find the secret enemy. They fail to come back.
A second team is now entering and time is running out. Will they be able to stop the next attack, which will be an extinction event?
The Invisible Lands
New science fiction novel. After Shock One. Something or someone had destroyed their world. Sci-fi at its best!
Now available at Amzon!
Billie has survived the Big One that struck San Francisco and other major cities throughout the world. Now he is determined to save as many as he can as he helps fellow survivors chart a new course and direction for their shattered lives. But his guiding star is not in the heavens, but flying through them.
Is he a man of vision, or an aged Hippy who has had too many smokes, as he works to bring the survivors to a new land?
Now available at Amzon!
The Sum of All Fears
Journey to the Center of the Earth
By John Pirillo
No one knew how long they'd been down under as they were beginning to call their trek through the vast, seemingly unending tunnels and labyrinths of stone and molten lava rivers. Yet, no matter how far they walked, or how long, it seemed the path was never ending.
Once they had gotten excited when they found what could not be ignored: Proof that Jules Verne had actually made a trek beneath the earth. The only question was how he had gotten so far and how he had found his way back home. Perhaps more importantly yet, why?
Why had he made the journey?
Why had he risked his life and that of his party of brave friends?
What had they hoped to achieve?
If they could answer one of those questions it might yet help them determine a positive and perhaps saving turn in their own downward spiral...it had to be that...into the interior of the planet, Earth.
Rush, a former explorer, had been at the height of his career, preparing to ascend Mount Everest with the woman of his life, whom he had been fighting with in their mountain chalet in Switzerland when the Big One struck.
His fortune, his fame, his life, his love had all been swept away by cascading avalanches of snow, ice and rising walls of lake water.
Just like that Rush had lost everything. All hope. All life.
It had taken the Special Forces and their mission to enliven his heart again. That and finding men and women, who like himself, were haunted by a past they hoped to forget and a future they hoped to save.
Everett was a spicy Brit, a Professor, a climatologist who had warned everyone that something big was in the air, but no one had believed him. And after it happened, no one believed it then either. He had been there in London, just a short distance from the famous headquarters of the last two Beatles when the Big One had struck.
He had watched in horror as building had been lifted like child's toys and plummeted back to the ground in thousands of pieces, seen civilians smashed, rended, and torn by flying debris, collapsing edifices, and hurtling pieces of metallic cars that had lost control.
Both men had a lot to forget and now. And now?
Rush and Everett looked more and more like the cavemen they were beginning to look like. They had both given up trying to keep their beards shaved and their hair short. Now, they just threw their beards over their shoulders, and wrapped their hair in tight bundles on top their heads.
"If the President could see us now, he'd think he'd gone back in time." Everett grouched, picking at the tiny creatures that now inhabited his scalp and hair. Yeah. It was hell down there. Bugs were everywhere. All sizes.
"Rowlf!" Their tall bug like companion noted and both men just grunted, sounding like Cavemen too.
Rowlf barked in his grinding low voice and both men did their best to ignore his laughter. It was becoming more and more irritating and besides he was starting to look like a walking turkey breast. None of them had eaten for about eleven days now. Water was abundant. Their trek had brought them to an underground stream that poured downwards along their path.
Without the water, no doubt both men would have died long ago. Both were familiar with the concept of fasting, but neither particularly enjoyed having to do one because they had no other choice. It's one thing to fast when you know you can raid that frig at any given time, but when the only thing you can raid is an eight foot plus Insectoid, who also happened to be a friend, then fasting became distasteful as well as painful.
"Remember when there used to be KFCS all over the place." Rush reminisced during one of their more and more frequent stops.
Rowlf listened behind them, still as a statue, for some reason he'd become more and more quiet as the two men slowly starved to death. Whether it was because he feared for their lives, or was himself beginning to see them as walking meals, no one knew. No one wanted to conjecture or voice their own fears, knowing each had enough as it was to weigh their minds down.
"Yeah. And the fries at Burger King. Those new fancy ones that were low fat." Everett added, wiping at the spittle gathering in his mouth as his hunger pains kicked in again.
Last time they did that he had thrown up.
It was supposed to make you throw up. Being hungry, but when the stomach hurt that bad, it no longer obeyed the laws of the universe, but began turning in on itself. He could tell his body was beginning to eat itself up. He could put a finger around his wrist effortlessly. Before it would have taken his hand to do that.
Rush nodded. "And when grasshoppers and night bugs were the worst of it."
Rush glanced over at Rowlf, who was still silent. "My apologies, Rowlf, no insult intended to your family line.
"Rowlf nots buggy." He finally said, then lapsed into silence.
Everett looked at Rush. "See! Now look what you've done. You've insulted our meal...I mean our best friend."
Rowlf stomped off, leaving the two of them behind.
Everett pulled himself up and wobbled on his legs a moment, then sat back down.
"Great! Just when dinner was getting so close."
Everett chuckled. "You know I didn't mean it."
"Yeah, but he doesn't!"
Everett sighed. "Do you ever wonder...?"
"If we're the last humans?"
"Constantly." Rush said with a grunt, picking at another critter trying to get into his right ear. He caught it and held its struggling form out before his friend. "Whose turn?"
Rush made a face and popped the bug into his mouth and began chewing it. For a brief moment it struggled for its life before his teeth mashed it into bug matter and juices, which he savored for the length of time it lasted. About two seconds.
" For all we know the Hollow Earth Special Forces are just echoes streaming down towards the center of the earth now, hollow memories in a hollow world of hollow souls fleeing to nothing and nowhere."
"Wow! That was really philosophical." Rush pointed out with a sigh. He scratched at his head and clasped another struggling critter between his fingers.
Everett scowled at the creature and shook his head. "I'd rather die."
"You will die if you don't eat." Rush reminded him.
"We're dying anyway. They're living off us. We're living off them. The balance is shifting not to us, but to them. You know it. I know it. We're just meals on wheels."
He barked with laughter.
Rush joined him.
The two men stopped as suddenly as they had started.
"I wonder what it's like to be with a woman again."
Everett looked over. "What? My hair too much for you?"
"You idiot! I like girls, not Neanderthals!"
Everett made a girl swing of his beard hairs and a cutesy smile, fluttering his eyes in a mock flirtaceous glance at his friend. "Not even once...for old time's sake?"
Rush scowled at him. "There's never been an old time's sake and there's not going to be a new time's sake. We'll be dead first."
Everett let his beard hairs drop back over his shoulder again and sighed. "Do you think angels have sex?"
Both men got very, very tight faces and then they broke into a laughter so bright and clean that both got their energy back, even if temporarily.
Rush stood up, t hen gave his friend a hand up.
They leaned on their stone spears and eyed the direction Rowlf had gone. "Down or sideways?" Rush asked.
Everett snorted. "Does it even matter?"
"Well, for one the water goes down...."
"And for two, Rowlf went that way."
"He's our friend." Everett agreed.
Without another world both men made their way along the moss lit path that wound round and round great glowing lichen covered boulders and past glowing streams of lava that coursed in channels parallel to the water they needed to survive.
As they descended the path broadened.
Everett suddenly stopped and put a hand up.
Rush looked at him, almost falling over he was so weak.
Everett grabbed him to steady him. "You smell that?"
Everett pointed ahead. "That. That!"
Then Rush smelled it.
Both men held onto each other and hobbled as fast as they could to reach the origin of the smell. They forced their sore feet, their weak muscles, their tight backs and sore arms to carry them the hundred yards necessary to reach a weak fire, set by a stream of molten lava.
Rowlf sat there on a stone, while he rolled over with a thinner stone, shaped like a branch, several odd looking bloated things that steamed in a bowl of water he had forced from the flowing stream to lay next to the molten lava and warm it up to cooking temperature.
Both men stumbled to a stop as Rowlf turned to eye them. "Twaste wike chicken!"
He cackled and both men laughed.
"I don't care if it tastes like my old tennies right about now." Russ said, and then his eyes rolled up in his head and he fainted dead away.
Rowlf got up and hurried over to Everett who was barely able to lay his friend down, before he also collapsed. He lay beside Russ and closed his eyes.
"Whatever you do, Rowlf. Don't bury me next to that lice infected sonuva bitch, will ya?"
And then he lost consciousness as well.
A bright light flickered in his face.
"Go away!" He cursed.
The light flickered again.
"I said go away!" He cursed even louder.
Then something stuck him in the arm. He screamed, and then woke up all the way.
General Miles Davison loomed over him, watching with a smile, as Nurse Betty administered to him. She stabbed him with another shot, after which he cursed again, but not at her, instead at Russ who lay next to him, watching silently.
Russ reached a hand over. "We made it, pal."
Everett looked again at Nurse Betty. "Do you like to dance?"
She stabbed him with a third shot and he began to lose consciousness. "That isn't an answer." He slurred, and then vanished in a peaceful slumber.
She turned to Russ, who was looking ready to go out himself. "If it wasn't for your friend, Rowlf finding us, you'd both be dead. What in the world did you two eat that horrid thing for?"
Russ grinned. "When in Rome..."
General Miles sat down next to Russ and patted him on the knee.
Then Russ became aware that dozens of men and women were gathered about him and Everett, all smiling. "Did I die and go to heaven. And if I did, why aren't any of you wearing wings?"
Nurse Betty laughed and turned to General Miles. "Can I keep this one?"
And that sweet voice was all that Russ heard for the next sixty four hours as he descended deeper and deeper into the Hollow Earth alongside his best friends, Everett and Rowlf, as they searched for a way home.
At last it's ready and available. My first big book production with great art and a great story. Journey to the Center of the Earth!
Journey to the Center of the Earth. Millions died. Now millions more may. Who will save them? Buy now at Amazon Books now for $2.99
The unthinkable happened. Earthquake. There was no help. Millions died. "New York Down "A Journey to the Center of the Earth Story By John Pirillo
New York Down
"A Journey to the Center of the Earth Story"
By John Pirillo
Their apartment overlooked the park. The sun was shining, warming the beautiful oasis stuck in the middle of a concrete jungle of towering gods of iron, steel and concrete, Plexiglas and streaming ribbons of iron and plastic beasts that honked, cursed and swore their way through the catacombs of the massive city. "Funny, how one can get used to almost anything."
Her father, a spry old man of fifty-five laughed. He swept the graying hair from his face, and then turned back to the salad he was making. What kind of dressing, Claire?"
He looked up at her, the laugh lines around his eyes deepening for a moment, foreshadowing the onset of old age. "Come on, you never use Balsamic!"
"I do now."
She came over. Clapped a hand to the Sylvania stuck between the oven and the dishwasher and opened its first and larger door. She surveyed the shelves on the right inside of the door, scouring past the pickles, the mayo and the various jams and jellies. Her father's breakfast love. And then spotted the unopened bottle of Balsamic. She rescued it from its loneliness, shut the door behind her with a bump of her hip, and then heaved at the screwed top of the vinegar.
It made a slight groaning sound, then surrendered to her grip and came loose with a loud complaint and a rush of air.
"Tah-dah!" Her father yelled. He came over and raised her right hand, the one not holding the vinegar. "And the winner is..."
She giggled like a small child for a moment. He always brought her back to such fond memories of her child hood. Even though he was a rugged school teacher, who could holler with the best of them at the rowdy kids who made up the classes these days, he was a comedic and very funny father who would stoop to anything to get a laugh.
"Don't let him kid you like that, Claire, or I'll never get a moment's peace when you're off on the plane back to the sunny realms of California."
Claire spun around and gave her Mom a hug, one hand around her shoulder, the other still holding her captured Balsamic vinegar.
They hugged a long time and then let go. Her mom's cherubic face beamed at her with pride and motherly love. She ached inside, knowing she was leaving within a few minutes. She was already missing them and she hadn't even exited the front door yet.
"Bark!" Came a beloved voice from nearby.
Claire stooped down to catch up Sparkie, the cute little Chi with floppy ears that she had given her mom for Christmas. Chi had been a puppy she'd rescued from the pound. She knew she had to save it when she saw it barking happily and chasing its tail when the other dogs around were sitting forlorn, as if awaiting death or just barking, as if angry at their fate.
She had felt for all of them, but there was no way to save them all. So she had saved the one that had called out to her heart.
"Hey Sparkie!" She chided.
Sparkie licked all over her face, driving her into a frenzy of happy laughter.
Her mom finally rescued her from an aching stomach and lifted Sparkie into the air, where it kicked its legs and tried to lick her face. She cradled it in her arms, and then eyed Claire as she took the salad bowl from her father, set it down on the kitchen table, which was laden with a beautiful yellow cloth and sparkling white polka dots.
He came over and kissed the top of her head. "Gotta keep your strength up."
Her mom had scalded him. "Then where's her bacon and eggs?"
He gave her a sad look. "She's a vegetarian now. She can't eat such things."
"Dad!" It's not like I died or anything."
He laughed, and then pulled up a chair opposite her to watch as she ate. Her mother fretted at the coffee maker which had begun making choking sounds, retrieved three cups as best she could with Sparkie in her arms, and then set them on the table. She put Sparkie down, got another cup and filled it with milk for the dog. He began lapping it up, making glugging and gurgling sounds as he did.
Claire watched him a moment, then returned to her salad. "Where'd you get the olives, Daddy? There weren't any in the frig last night."
He gave her a shrug. "Must have wandered in from our neighbor's fridge."
"Dad!"Claire scalded him.
"He got up early, disturbing my beauty sleep and went down to Ernie's."
Claire nodded. She remembered the tiny Italian store with the huge Bronx man, who always had a smile to spare and an extra plug of bubble gum for her when she went there. "How's he doing?"
"Ten pounds more and a lot meaner." Her father replied, sipping at his coffee, which her mom had just topped off.
Her mom topped her cup off, then her own, and replaced the coffee pot into the coffee maker. She sat down with Claire and took her hands in hers. "Don't leave."
"Damnit!" Her father said, cutting himself with a knife as he was slicing tomatoes in his own dish of salad.
Her mom gave him a nasty look. "You did that on purpose."
He didn't say anything, but got up to leave. Supposedly to get a band aid, but Claire had seen the tears in his eyes. He had cursed her mom not because she was wrong to ask, but because he didn't have the heart to ask himself. She read it in his face and his posture as he vanished into the small bathroom.
Her mom looked at Claire again, squeezing her hands. "He doesn't have much longer, you know."
"I'll be back soon. I promise..." She froze midsentence, her voice choked up, and then she finished. "In plenty of..." She mumbled a curse, then broke free from her mom's grip and rose. "I'll be back, I promise. Next time. Next time I'll stay longer. I swear it. They owe me a huge chunk of time off."
Claire's mom nodded, but she didn't believe her for a moment.
"Hank, get your hairy butt in here!" Her mother hollered.
He popped out of the bathroom with an oversized bandage on the damaged finger. He looked at it pitifully, like a small child who had just lost their most favorite toy. He ran over and hugged Claire to him as her mother lifted the handle of the rolling luggage case she had used for the trip to New York.
"I love you, Pops!" She said in the midst of the crushing hug he was giving her. He couldn't hide the tears anymore or the choking sounds. He just nodded, and backed off to let her mom take over. Which she did in full measure.
Finally, Claire looked to Sparkie, who ran over and leaped into her arms. "Love you too, you little rascal."
The dog licked her good-bye, and then still wriggling like a hopeless storm cloud, she handed him over to her Mom, took the handle of her luggage as her father opened the door and rolled it out. She looked back at them. "I love you."
They couldn't speak. Their eyes were as wet as hers. Sparkie answered for them, barking over and over.
She went to the elevator, pressed its button and looked back. They still stood there watching her. But Sparkie was silent. He had that look on his face all animals get when faced with the inevitable, stoic and unmoving. The elevator clanged as it opened behind her. She waved one more time and then entered; shutting off the view of the only people she had loved so much in this life.
As the doors closed she felt this kind of rattling and Sparkie had leapt from her mother's arms. As the doors were closing she saw the dog running towards her. The doors closed and she swatted the tears from her eyes. It was messing her eyeliner up and she would look like the Wicked Witch of the East once she reached the street if she wasn't careful.
The ride down was long and felt as if it would never end.
The taxi she had phoned for, miraculously, stood idling in front of the apartment building. She gave one last look at the building, imagining her family still standing there watching the elevator, hoping against hope she would change her mind. She didn't.
"Kennedy." She told the driver.
He nodded, raised the flag on his fare, and then zoomed into traffic, nearly clobbering another rushing cab. As the cab accelerated into traffic she reviewed her life. She had become a celebrity announcer and reporter. She was known around the world, but she had no one special in her life. She didn't have time for it. She had a career to build. But her parents. She had asked them to move out to California and live with her. Not just once. But every time she phoned or visited. She had plenty of room in her Beverly Hills home...
"You gotta be kidding, doll!" Her father had exclaimed in his best James Cagney impression. "What? And leave Broadway and the Statue of Liberty? Your mom would never forgive me. And I would never forgive me. Not even my shadow would forgive me."
She'd laughed and waited until next time they met or she phoned and repeated her offer. Never accepted or even considered. She felt the weight of a loneliness rise in her chest, and then was startled when the cab seemed to hit a hard bump.
She had been more lost in her thoughts than the time had seemed. They were pulling off the road into the stretch that led into Kennedy's main passenger terminal. But they never made it that far. The road was getting more and more bumpy. The cabbie was swearing up a storm, cursing his car and shaking a fist at it, when the road ahead and the nearing traffic suddenly shot upwards, shaking off cars like a dog shakes off water.
Their car was struck by a rolling SUV and knocked into the parking lot on the right. They slid to a stop. The engine was spewing smoke. She stumbled out of the car. The cabbie didn't move. The ground was shaking like a giant was moving it back and forth and up and down. She could barely move, but she managed to struggle to the cabbie's window. She banged on it once, and then froze. His head was at an odd angle and blood was pouring from his slack mouth.
"Oh God!" She cried out.
Then she saw the main terminal building begin to heave upwards and crack as it did so. A jet rushing along the runway suddenly veered to its left as the runway opened up, revealing a deep chasm. The jet crashed into another jet parked along the runway. They exploded.
The main terminal building spilled a swarm of ants, all seeking to escape the doomed building. Hundreds of people squeezing out, screaming, hollering, roaring to be safe. None of them made it. But she didn't see that, she was knocked to the ground. The taxi startled rolling towards her. Other cars came bouncing up and down towards her, as if the ground were folding up on both sides. She scrambled to her feet and ran. She had gotten maybe ten yards, despite the shaking, when the pavement snapped shut on the cars and screaming occupant, then dropped from view.
Some of the passengers from the cars clung to pieces of pavement that were still shaking violently. She looked on in horror as dozens fell into the opened chasm before her eyes.
Then she came to her senses. It was as if a light had been turned on. She turned back to look towards New York City. The Empire State Building was rocking back and forth. She was frozen in place, not believing her eyes when it broke apart and fell in pieces from view. Skyscraper after skyscraper broke and tumbled.
But her thoughts were not about the massive edifices of concrete and steel.
"Father. Mother!" She croaked. The dust from the debris about her was choking.
And those were the last two things she remembered before she was flung hard against an overturned bus and lost consciousness. When consciousness returned, she lay in a pool of her own blood. She felt her head and it was moist. She hurriedly tore off some of her blouse and wrapped it like a tourniquet about her forehead, staunching the flow of blood.
She stumbled awkwardly to her feet.
Everything was deathly silent. Maybe for about ten seconds, and then as people woke up from their stupor, or fear, or unconsciousness, the air became filled with the sounds of horror, wailing and anguish.
She stumbled around the bus, feeling like a helpless child. Her mother and father. They had to have survived. They just had to. But as she looked at the smoking ruins of New York City, she knew they probably hadn't.
A New York Blue, who had been patrolling the airport when the quake struck, looked up from an older man he was trying to save. "Do you know anything about strokes, lady? They ain't ever taught us about that."
She dropped beside the older man. His face was turning blue. "I don't think it's a stroke. She gently lifted his body with the Blue's help. They both looked at the piece of carbonite steel that was stuck in his back. Right into his lungs.
"Damn!" The Blue had sworn, then crossed himself and muttered a small prayer when the older man had died, not once ever having opened his eyes.
They both stood up and surveyed the dead and dying all around them.
Then they heard another sound. A far worse one.
In the New York harbor, the boats that had been tossed about violently, some of them crashing onto the docks, or overturning were suddenly finding themselves running out of water beneath them.
"Tsunami!" Claire hollered over the rushing, roaring sound that was gathering. They both turned and saw the huge black and blue waters boiling and surging several miles offshore and rising higher and higher.
"Oh shit!" Blue swore, and then crossed himself again.
Claire didn't know why, but as she looked around, she spotted an overturned diesel truck. The driver had fled, leaving its door open. "Inside. Quickly."She had urged, already rushing for the open door.
The Blue gave her a look of utter disapproval. "You kidding, lady, you'll be like a cork in a turbulent bathtub of water, only dead!"
"And what will you do, swim for it?" She cried over her shoulders.
She reached the truck, but the door was too high to reach. She felt rough hands gently raise her to the door. "Need a lift, lady?"
She caught the edge and drew herself inside. She turned back; saw the waters of the bay rushing in at hundreds of miles an hour. A huge shadow fell over the crushed airport that had once been the pride of New York. "Hurry, hurry!" She urged.
She reached a hand down. He caught it and she strained to pull him up.
He looked back over his shoulder; saw how close the waters were. He smiled up at her. "Aw, I just remembered I forget to get my cat."
He let go and landed on his feet. He smiled up at her. "Good luck. You're going to need it. All of it." He said as he turned to face the huge mountain of water about to drop on them.
She wiped at further tears in her eyes, managed to shut the huge truck door and lock it. She rolled the window all the way up, then knowing there was a rear compartment, scrambled into it, praying it had a door she could close. It did. The last thing she remembered before all hell broke loose, was sliding the door shut, and locking it and burying her under the mattress she found there.
"Mom, where's the salad?" She asked, as her father smiled at her from the living room, reading his favorite comic book. Spiderman.
"She's in the bathroom. Had a wee to do." Her father laughed.
Claire shook her head and got up to grab the salad for herself. At nine she was just getting tall enough to reach the middle part of the counter. Though it was a stretch, even for her tall figure.
"Hey look at this, will ya?" Her father hollered.
Claire forgot about the salad and ran to stand beside her father as he looked out the window. A very bright sun was rising over the park, and it seemed so big and bright that it was unreal.
"Honey. Isn't it beautiful?" Her mom had said from her side. She looked over and took her mom's hand. Her mom squeezed tight. "Love you."
"Love you too, Mom."
Her father ruffled her hair playfully. She laughed, and then he looked into her eyes and smiled. "We'll never be far away."
She wondered about why he was saying that, when the apartment began to shake and crumble apart. The whole time her parents stood beside her, holding her close, comforting her, as the world around her went more and more crazy.
"She's going to make it."
Claire felt a hand on her forehead. "Tough cookie."
"Hey, I know this doll!"
"Yeah. The announcer."
She felt herself being lifted gently and a moving motion. She was finally able to open her eyes. Nearby was a Marine Chopper, with a Red Cross symbol on it. Some people were already inside it, their faces filled with shock and anguish. A child was crying horribly. No one held it or heard it. They were lost in their own horrors and terror. When she was lifted into the chopper hold, she managed to hold up an arm. It was painful. The child rushed to her and she crushed the tiny girl to her, holding her tight as much for herself as the child.
"It's all right, sweetie. Everything's going to be all right."
The Chopper lifted with a huge growling sound and arced to the left, heading inland. As it turned she could see the devastation of the harbor and city. It was all in ruins, and little lakes now filled portions of it. She wept silently, the child no longer crying, sound asleep against her, lost in its own world of sorrow.
She wept. Not for herself, but for the loss of all those below. And for her parents. No. She smiled. Not for them. She turned her face away from the tragedy below and in her mind's eyes she saw her parents smiling at her again, their bodies surrounded by white light.
Doom Mountain "A Journey to the Center of the Earth Story" By John Pirillo. The Big One strikes. Only one will survive Doom Mountain!
"Journey to the Center of the Earth Story"
By John Pirillo
Tumbling down like soft kisses from the sky wet, flaky winter fell onto his hair, his shoulders and arms as he went down the long slope before him. Strewn with fallen trees, massive scorch marks from the wreckage of a passenger jet that finally gave up the ghost and crash landed, spewing its passengers and guts across the mountain, leaving only memories and what might-have-beens echoing in the air.
He paused a moment to pray for them, knowing that it was too late to help the fallen ones recover, but not too late to forgive himself for not being able to catch them and save their precious lives. His name was Father Brown. He was a Church of the Real God pastor and proud of the work he had done over the years, but nothing could have prepared him for what he saw as he descended the mountain.
The mountain itself had crumbled in many places, leaving huge chasms he had to find another way around, or else struggle to cross, hoping he wouldn't plunge into their depths as he did so. It was a treacherous and dangerous decent.
As he eyed the smoking ruins of the jet, he thought of the retreat he had scheduled for this weekend, where his followers could learn more about the earth and the delicate balance that man and environment danced together. He was not a spiritualist, a man who condemned the weak. He was a simple man who held a vast amount of faith in the goodness of God and the growing goodness of man.
After all, men were not beheaded for stealing anymore, nor their hands cut off because they were thieves. Women had rights. Men had rights. Gays had rights. It was as it should be in the kingdom of God and of man.
But something had still gone awfully wrong. And he prayed every waking moment for God to show him what it was, so that he could pray for it to be undone, to spare those still struggling to survive, and were yet to struggle from the results of the massive aftershocks.
He flashed back to the retreat on the top of the mountain and the narrow dirt road that led to it from a single lane highway that only truckers usually traveled, bringing cut trees down the mountainside to the saw mills deep in the valley below. It was still the edge of winter, and so there had been none of those traveling the single lane when the Big One struck, or else there would have been more deaths than had happened.
He felt his face flush with anger at himself, and his throat constrict with grief as he thought of the twenty one souls who had been in the meeting room waiting for him as he prayed outside. Had he been inside with them, maybe things would have ended differently.
He remembered turning around when the first jolt struck. Startled, he had been about to enter the building, when a second jolt struck, even stronger. He was flung from his feet. He heard screams inside the building. He got back to his feet to go inside and see if anyone needed help, when the Big One finally lashed its whip and took the whole building down into the gaping mouth of the mountain beneath it.
He hadn't realized that the building was built over any kind of subterranean structure. No one had told him. He suspected someone knew, but failed to disclose it, thinking this event would probably never happen. So much for wishful thinking.
He had been thrown backwards, away from the mouth of the mountain that opened wider and wider, engulfing the building and the screaming people inside. The most heart-breaking moment was when a mother, June Allison, reached the door as it began to break apart with her child. Three years old.
"Please catch him. Save him, Father Brown."
He had managed to scramble to his feet, but the moment she flung the child, the gaping mouth had opened too wide and the building was swallowed hole, breaking apart as it did in splinters of screaming humans, no longer blessed to be alive. Victims of a crime they would never understand. Nor he.
He had reached for the child as it flew through the air, crying its heart out, "Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!"
He almost had the child when the earth beneath him rose and shook him backwards, but flung itself up and over the child, smothering its cries of pain and loss, then dropping over the building, burying it forever.
He had lain there stunned and broken, a mannikin used for the worse by nature. He stared at his hands, cursing them for not being longer, cursing himself for not being stronger. What good was he, when he couldn't help those he was there to protect and nurture? Why had God let this happen to all those good souls, to him?
He lay on the trembling earth, occasionally being thrown up or sideways, but never into the massive pit in the top of the mountain where all his followers had been consumed by the most massive earthquake in modern history.
He lay there, in shock, hurt, bruised, aching in his heart, mind and spirit.
He lay there for hours, wading through layer after layer of self pity, sense of betrayal and anger towards God, and then the earth began to settle again. When it did, he sat up. Above him in the skies massive storm clouds pitched forks of lightning at each other, lancing the blue heavens with piercing flames of blue fire.
The hair stood up on the back of his neck, his head and his wrist and forearm.
Then a miraculous thing happened. One that restored his faith.
A small doe stumbled into the opening before him, followed by its parents. A large buck and its mate. They stopped and watched him, making no further movement, but the doe continued towards him, haltingly, but steadily, having just found its new legs. It was new born. Even in the midst of so much pain and death life goes on.
He sat there still in shock and pain, his eyes bloodshot from crying, his throat hoarse from screaming out in useless dismay.
Then the doe reached him. It gently stretched its neck, and then nuzzled his face with its nose, which was moist and firm. He looked into its eyes and saw...hope. And salvation.
He was about to reach out and touch it, when it vanished, as if never there. He looked to the parents and they still stood there. The buck swished its bushy tail, made a short snorting sound, shook its rack at him, then it and his mate walked proudly back into the trees and brush that were so t hick at the top of the mountain.
He sat there a long time, absorbing the impact of his vision, the feel of the soil beneath his body, the crackling of thunder and lightning above, the strong wind that had begun to whip through the trees not knocked down. So many were. Yet, so many also stood as well.
He stood up and staggered a moment, recapturing his balance. He didn't look back. He knew what was buried there. Instead, he began making his way down the mountain. The single lane road that abutted the dirt one was broken up and shattered its entire length. It's like it had been a string of rope so brittle it had broken from the momentous force of the Big One. There was no way home on that path of destruction. Most of the road had fallen away, leaving huge gaps he would have to leap if he dared to follow it.
He doubted he had it in him to do such things anymore. He was sixty nine, approaching seventy. Still youthful in many ways, but also feeling the years weigh down on him, as his body complained about the many bruises he had just suffered.
He limped at first, but as he continued, something altered his stamina, and he stopped limping. He almost felt like running. Don't ask why. He just did.
He retreated from his memories and examined the wreckage again. Maybe he could find something of use there. He had lost his cell phone in the quake. It had been on his prayer table, set aside during the prayer of silence he and his congregation always partook in.
He began to tear up again and wiped at his eyes, smearing the memories on the sharp rocks of reality. It was gone. All of it.
He reached the wreckage, praying as he climbed around it. Not a living soul stirred. Bodies were everywhere, broken and sightless like dolls broken and set aside. The light snowfall was beginning to dress them up, making them look like fallen snowmen and snowwomen.
He saw several children and for a brief moment hope flared, then when he saw the impossible position of their necks and bodies and their glass eyes, frozen in death, he shuddered and looked away.
He went through the pockets of a man who was less broken and bloody than the others. He found a cell and was about to pull it out, when the man's eyes opened and he gripped Father Brown hard by his shoulder. "It wasn't our fault! Tell them! It wasn't our..." Fading out. "Fault."
His eyes stayed open and his grip fell from Father Brown's shoulder.
Father Brown said a brief prayer over the man, then stood up and faced the direction he knew he would now travel alone for a time. Surely there would be rescue copters this way, but he saw no point in waiting. If it had struck so hard here, there must be greater need elsewhere. He was nothing, if not practical.
He lifted the cell. The battery was fully charged. He dialed emergency.
He dialed every number he could. No tone.
Finally, he switched the cell to Chrome and punched in a web address. Weather channel. That would report what had happened. Chrome came up perfectly, but no webpage imaged. No address he punched worked. Finally, Chrome reported that the server connection was missing.
It was then, at that moment, that he realized the Big One had struck much more deeply and widely than he had thought. He looked across the mountain towards the valley below, where the city of Marysville was. Huge billowing clouds of dark smoke filled the air. He looked towards Yuba City and the same.
He descended slowly to his knees, and then bowed his head.
He didn't pray out loud. No one would hear him. There might not be any left to hear him here, or anywhere else.
He struggled against the deep sense of grief he felt, as the skies became a battlefield of hard falling rain and hail, lightning strokes and thunder.
Amid that he once again saw the doe, and felt its nose upon his cheek. He raised his eyes to the sky. "I...will...not...give...up!"
He stood uncertainly for a moment, and then continued his descent. Praying with all his heart and soul that there were still some alive he could help. For this event must strike a terror so deep and horrible that any caught in it would need all the hope they could experience. He felt the presence of the doe walking alongside him, even though he couldn't see it. It gave him strength and courage to face what must be done and the challenges he must overcome.
"Though I walk into the valley of death..." He began praying, his voice lost in the thunder and lightning flashes as he continued to descend. And as he walked, fear grew on both sides of him, but before his eyes, the warm image of the doe remained, fixed in his heart.