2007 Science Fiction Book of the Year
It was late, just into the wee hours. The air was cool, in the lower sixties, and the sky was clear. The stars, as usual, were spectacular. The Moon wouldn't rise until just before dawn. The news over the last few days were warning of an intense storm and I wanted to be ready. The harvest from my garden was due to start in a week and I had done what I could to protect everything. I had just come up from the cellar, checking on provisions, and that blue firefly darted in front of me. Then the wind picked up.
Before heading to the cellar I had started a fire in the fire pit outside and it now cast quick shadows that strobed the horses panic prancing. The dogs cowered and hung on my heels. Then there was a jolt.
It came up through my feet and nearly snapped my head off. Then I was on the ground, pinned with my dogs by a trembling that undulated through the Earth. In the dance of the fire I saw the wooden tool shed fall in on itself. Cacti and small trees danced a shimmy, many until they snapped in half. Small boulders and large rocks slid and bounced. I saw my horses stumble and forced to the ground. My dogs whined and yelped like frightened pups, still frozen at my feet. Myself, I was unable to move as I witnessed the terror unfolding. Then the moon raced across the sky at an ungodly speed, the wind kicked up, and all Hell broke loose. I swear I heard demons laughing.
The trembling seemed to last forever, but only until dawn. During those endless hours I heard terrible crashes and thunderous cracks. Lightning split a cloudless sky that quickly filled with choking dust and silt. The lightning pierced the dust with dull cracks, illuminating the low ceiling and all below it. I saw great movement in those brief moments of flash. Great movement of the land itself. Solid desert floor rolling like an ocean swell. I naturally disbelieved what I saw, instead blaming the illusion on the brevity of the light and the ground vibrating beneath me. An optical illusion I concluded.
I was pinned to the ground by the vibration that had followed the trembling. It made my entire body numb. Several times I believed I was going to die; the vibration seemingly to stop my heart, then jerk starting it a moment later. The intensity of the vibration gradually decreased, and my heart pounded without interruption, but the grip of the vibration over the rest of my body was unrelenting.
The new dawn rose as I lay motionless. The sun came up further north than I've ever seen. The mountains to the north are taller, piercing the sky with a new profile. What the hell had happened?
Before I could stand my horses got to their feet and bolted out of the broken corral. I checked my home. Only one vault was undamaged. The main dome and two others were heavily cracked, the dome also had a gaping hole in the side. One vault, the kitchen, lay in rubble.
The land around me was disarrayed. Broken plants littered the desert floor as far as I could see. In the distance I could see movement. I stared in disbelief as it seemed to head towards me. I glanced around for a weapon, knowing that at the least, I would have to dig out my guns. The dogs started to bark at the horizon. Whatever was out there was upwind. I would know before them. Minutes later, after an unbearable amount of time fidgeting and fretting, the movement became recognizable - it was my horses.
As I headed towards them, I righted my sundial. At noon I would have to remember to set it. As I went about cleaning up and salvaging what there was, I recalled the newscast I had watched the day before.
It was internet via satellite link. They were wishing everyone the best of luck at their location. The coming storm was going to be global in nature, something to do with solar flares they tried to explain, but it was obvious that either they didn't know what was going on, or simply weren't telling us because it was going to be extremely bad.
They thanked everyone for staying calm. The few incidents of large scale rioting had been quelled. Relief areas were scrolling across the bottom of the screen. If you survived and could get to a relief area, there would be food, water, blankets, clothes - items for survival. That, of course, if the relief area survives.
Then the President came on.
"My fellow Americans and people of the world. I encourage everyone to stay calm and stay indoors until the storm passes. Government scientists have assured me that this is not, I repeat, this is not due to global warming. It is being caused by unprecedented and massive solar flares the scientific community has never before witnessed.
"There are relief areas setup around the country for those who may need assistance after the storm subsides. We firmly believe that many will not need assistance, and that we will all come through this with only minor damage and inconvenience.
"As all you of know, I am a deeply religious man. Why God has chosen to do this is beyond our comprehension. But God is merciful and works in mysterious ways. And I, leader of the free world, do not question him. I will be praying for all of us.
"Thank you and bless you all."
Merciful? Then why he is doing this?
I haven't heard anything since. I haven't been able to connect to the 'Net, nor make a phone call: satellite, cell, or two-way radio. Nothing is working. It seems that every piece of electrical equipment I have is toast, useless. The jeep won't even click.
* * *
After cleaning up and around my house, I took a look at the garden. Most of the plants were unsalvageable. The ground had shook so hard that the roots were pulverized. Nearly all of the carrots and potatoes were mush. The peas and beans faired better off, but the amount of destruction left me concerned how I was going to eat in the not too distant future.
Next I checked my well. The water was muddy, full of sentiment, and had a foul smell. I would not even be able to strain it to clean it. And there was no way to discern how long before it cleared up.
I grabbed my hat and hiked to the stream, both dogs following along.
The topography to the stream had changed. Plants and trees were broken and laying on the ground everywhere. There was a new hill and huge rocks had fallen from cliffs. I was amazed at the force that had done this, and just as amazed at what had fallen and what still stood.
An hour later I was at the stream. It was in worse condition than the well. I wouldn't be able to retrieve water from it neither. We returned home. I would need to figure out a way to survive the coming weeks.