Hell Hath No Fury
"A Journey to the Center of the Earth Story"
Alex Benton was a survivor. Most everyone in his city was. Those who had escaped the wrath of the Gods as the Preacher told it. "Hell Hath No Fury," the Preach had said, his voice pounding into his brain. "No fury like a spurned God. He shall raise His Mighty Fist and pound into dust those who have defiled his sacred garden!" The words sang through Alex's mind like the razor edge of a saw through wood.
Standing at a bit over six foot tall, he was a mere twelve years old, but to most people he seemed much older. Too old for a child. His red hair was long and stringy. He never cut it. Swore he never would until something in his world made sense again. He couldn't understand why God would pound his city to ashes, leaving him an orphan and his mother and father and younger brother like squashed lemons beneath the foot of their home.
He had come home from school. A miraculous survival according to the few teachers who had pulled him out of the wreck and ruin of his science lab. He had been going to the bathroom at the time in the small side bathroom attached to the room. When it began to shake, at first he thought it was cool and rolled with it, yelling happily. He heard his friends inside the classroom yelling too, and he thought it was a happy thing for them as well. He didn't know at that time that the whole room was collapsing in on them, and would soon slide into his small room and collapse it over him, pinning him next to an unflushed toilet, his pants hiked down to his tennies, and his face bloodied and hammered from pieces of walls that slashed and bashed him mercilessly.
It lasted only for about thirty to forty seconds, he reckoned, but it was so strong. So strong. He wiped at his eyes at that thought, his imagination visualizing the terror on his mother and father's faces as they realized they were going to die, even though they had tried to rescue his brother and failed miserably.
He wiped at his eyes again and stared at the rack of groceries that was still intact before him. He had dug down into the basement of a local Seven-Eleven, that stored most of its canned and bottled items below the main floor. That's the only reason they had survived the building collapsing over them. Everything above was in ruins.
He grinned when he saw the rack on the right. He climbed in the rest of the way, dusting his dirty jeans off. A useless motion, but one he had learned when younger to do when his mother would holler at him for being dirty all the time. Again, he wiped at his eyes. He couldn't understand why his eyes kept misting up on him.
On the side wall, like manna from heaven as his Preach would call it, were row after row of Mars candy bars, Three Musketeers, Hershey's Chocolate Bars, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and countless other candies...of a bar shape or otherwise. Not only had he found real food to eat. He had found REAL food to eat.
Reaching back into the hole he had dug into the basement, he pulled inside a large burlap sack he had found at the collapsed hardware store. Rudy's Hardware it had been. No longer. Rudy was also one of the unlucky ones. He had liked Rudy. A lot. The huge man. Even taller than him with arms like thick tree trunks used to toss him like a pineapple at the local fairs for fun. He had screamed in terror, but asked for more to his father's delight. His mother and father had taken a lot of photos of that fair. He dug into his right pocket and fumbled out a dirty photo of him and Rudy and his parents. Something wet fell onto it. He put it back hastily, less it be ruined like all the others he once had.
Steadily, he began filling his sack. First with canned beans and corn, easy to cook over an open fire, and then Hershey Bars and Cinnamon Hots. His favs.
The sack full he thrust himself back into the hole and began nudging himself and dragging his sack along the long tunnel he had dug into the basement. Waiting for him above were two families. All that were left of Biggstown, their home for years. Pa Avery and Ma Avery and their poodle Smoochkins stood to the right. But not for long. Smoochkins lived up to his name and rushed up to Alex before he could crawl all the way out and began licking up a storm on his face, barking happily, is tiny tail wagging strongly enough to cast a gentle wind in his face.
He laughed a tiny bit. His first in weeks now, and then slid the rest of the way out. On the looks of the families, all disappointed, he gave a thumbs up and their looks turned hopeful as he dragged out the huge sack he had filled up.
In moments the small group, which also included Ingles Mongolfi, a French girl and her brother Yves, the other remaining family, helped to distribute the food. They all carried some of it in their backpacks and makeshift bags to the shelter they had constructed off the main road next to some collapsed buildings. It had stopped shaking so violently. The aftershocks had diminished, so they figured better a strong wall to the rear for protection against the freezing cold that was sure to come sooner than later.
Ingles and Alex got out the two pots they had found one day beneath the old Friar's Gas Station and filled them with canned corn and beans, then added some spices they had made from crushed twigs and leaves gathered from the local woods, about a hundred yards away. They lived in a pretty remote part of California. Not quite in Placerville, not even near any recognizable town at that time.
Biggstown was more of a tourist thing that had flopped into being during the rush by apple seekers close to Apple Valley, a place where the locals went to purchase fresh apples and pears. One day they would have to head that way to see if anyone had survived there.
But today, they didn't care about anywhere else.
They huddled close, the intimacy of their dinner warming their hands and stomachs, and hearts. After through with their meager meal, Pa Avery got out his harmonica and began to blow some old tunes on it.
Ingles snuggled next to him on one side and her brother on the other. They were about two years younger than him. He treated them like family, because they were now. And he would do anything. Anything! To protect them.
As the blaze of their fire began to dim down, they began to prepare for bed. Humble piles of bed clothing found in numerous collapsed buildings and the one remaining hotel, which they stayed away from because it was haunted. Those piles were what kept them comfy and warm at night. They tucked in, fueling the fire to keep out the cold seeping into their makeshift shelter.
The sound came again from the Hotel. It was an odd sound. Like a cricket that was screaming for its dear life. That made them all scoot just a bit closer. Like he had thought earlier, the place was haunted. No one lived there. How could they? The population of four hundred and fifty that made up their town was gone, except for them.
They had spent the best part of several weeks digging out and burying all the bodies. It was a horror that Alex would never forget, nor forgive. He didn't believe in God, even though the Preach said there was One.
Pa turned on their small radio and it made static sounds, then the Preach began to croon to them with words of hope and salvation. "Soon a brave force will find the evil that has scoured our planet and punish it. Like the mighty wrath of God they shall descend into the Earth and remove forever more our sadness and sorrow."
He chuckled in his half-conscious state, the a wave of dreams swept over him and brought him to a more pleasant time and space with his mother and father. A recurring dream that he hung onto with all his might. For one day he would see them again. He knew it. The Preach said it was so. He smiled in his sleep. Maybe there really was a God, he mused for a moment, before taking the plunge into deep sleep and relief from the terrors of the Big One.