The Big One………………..Chapter 22

                                                            Abe Yoder sat his horse that stood there with head raised, ears straight up and every muscle in it’s body tense. There was no more movement for the moment and so Abe made the decision to swing down and tie the horse to a nearby rock then move slowly towards the carriage to check things out. The horse that lay dead in the traces now stank something terrible and so Abe covered his nose fighting the gag reflex in the back of his throat. His eye suddenly caught a quick movement near the front wheel of the carriage but it was gone quickly in a flash of pink. Abe shook his head thinking that was weird so pulling his flat crowned Amish hat forward on his head he continued towards the back wheels and was almost there when his heart gave a start.

                                                          “Boo”, shouted the little girl as she jumped from behind the carriage.                        

                                                          She looked to be about three years old with shoulder length curly blonde hair and dirty dirt streaked cheeks with tears that had been as she had been crying. Her eyes looked disoriented as she had not eaten properly in a couple of days and her pink dress was dirty. There was a large bag of chips sitting nearby that she had probably been eating from but no other person at least living seemed to be nearby. Abe took her in his big arms and walked over to where five charred bodies lay over a large crack in the ground

                                                          “Mommy and Daddy”, said the little girl pointing towards two of the adult sized corpses.

                                                       Abe’s heart was touched by compassion as he quickly undid the traces from the dead horse and brought his own over hitching it up quickly. There was a number of daylight hours left to travel and so he fed a nice meal to the little girl from his supplies and she ate hungrily almost gaging and he had to urge her to take her time. They then set off in the buggy at a good pace and the little girl snuggled under the blanket as Abe put his arm around her.

                                                     ” What is your name”, he asked?

                                                     ” Emily”, she answered slowly and then settled down and went into a deep exhausted sleep.

                                                        Far off in the distance a coyote yapped and wild dogs barked and howled. A new day on this earth was upon them and  they rode into an uncertain future. Abe prayed silently for this little life beside him, for himself and for traveling mercies. Amen.

 

The Big One……………….Chapter 21

                                                                           Dave Rippley now had two friends in Bill Langley and Kevin Cross and they spent the next two days exploring and getting to know one another. The three knew a thing or two about animals and so they shared the chores. Dave had a feeling though that there were things about farming that none of them knew and he silently hoped that someone would soon come along that could do some teaching and explaining. There was four bedrooms in the house with a fifth one that could be made into an extra place to sleep on the ground floor. Bathrooms were in abundance with a shower, toilet and sink on the main floor and a full bathroom upstairs.   The well was drilled and had great water pressure and of course with   the large wind and solar power station in the woods there was never a lack of electricity. Gas no longer shot into the air and there was birds in the trees once again but not in any great abundance. The only thing that shot into the air anymore was the water geyser at the other end of the vast green meadow they now lived in. Not long after supper that evening the three men toke a walk over to the area and pool of warm water surrounding where the geyser came out and then over to the waters edge where Dave’s make shift boat still sat. The other two men were amazed at the handy work of Dave and told him so. All of these things seemed like a dream to Dave and the new developments with his two new friends showing up were turning into a big plus for him. The three headed back towards the house and barn with the evening sun now lowering and shining on one side of the house. The animals must be put away for the night and that would mean rousing them from their grazing. The three were so involved in conversation that they never saw or heard the helicopter until it plopped down right in the middle of the animals scattering them in panicked fury to the four winds. The first thing that the men noticed squinting through the blast of wind from the propeller was a bag that detached from the bottom and thumped to the ground.                                                       

The Big One……………….Chapter 20

                                                                                Frederick Casper was the lead scientist on the five hundred foot research ship now traversing the atlantic ocean. The Conquest Of Science as it was called had been without engine power for over twenty four hours and had been adrift ever since. Frederick or Fred as he was called, could see that they were reaching what appeared to be what remained of the American eastern coastline. They had been at sea when the quake had happened and now instead of fifteen people on board there was only five. He Frederick Casper and four young female scientists and if young Tabetha Long did not recover there would only be three. The crew had been doing compulsory sea rescue drills as per the requirements of the ships main fund raising contributor The American Science And Research Agency. The ships captain James Portman had grown angry with the bungled efforts of the exercise and had gone down to the main deck to set them straight leaving Casper, the only other trained and able ship pilot at the wheel. The quake then struck with sudden furry spewing gas and water everywhere. Three of the girls had been below preparing a special lunch but the forth one Miss Long had been on deck and was the only survivor………for now. She had been hit with an indirect shot of the gas and had then been hurled into some mesh covering that had saved her from being washed overboard with the others when the ship was smashed and beaten about for some twenty minutes. The four seat research helicopter by some miracle had not been thrown into the ocean and was none the worse for wares. Casper now guided the ship inland as the flooding situation was still very bad and there was no problem keeping the ship to deep water. The sun was shining nicely now and he figured they were probably now in what used to be Virginia as mountain peaks showed here and there. The door to the captains main control room opened and Fred turned to see the three ladies come in wiping tears from their eyes, twenty three year old Loraine Michaud , twenty five year old Amber Gershwin and forty eight year old Donna Case. Loraine simply chocked out two words, ” she’s gone”.

                                                                 Fred had never been one for warm and fuzzy words and so he simply went to the girls and held them while they cried. Never in his fifty two years on this earth had he ever experienced so much interaction with the opposite sex and his confirmed bachelor awkwardness was showing. Fred and Donna both had the helicopter training on the ship but it was Donna who suggested that they fly inland more to see what they had to deal with in terms of land availability and ship passage. It was then at that very moment that they were all given a jolt as the ship ran aground.

                                                                  “Damn”, shouted Fed but everybody knew with one look around the ship that they were not going anywhere and with one effort they fueled the chopper packing what food they could. Fred performed a pre trip inspection and they lifted off for parts unknown.

                                                                      This helicopter was bigger than most and held a good amount of fuel. It was also ahead of its time in that it also had a solar charging cell but in order to activate it one must set the bird down. Donna opted to use fuel for this trip as she was at the controls. Checking out the lay of the land was not the only reason for this trip, for strapped beneath the helicopter in a body bag was the remains of their dear friend Miss Tabitha Long.

                                                                      They flew in silence for hours over state lines in a westward direction and when they entered what seemed to be the mountainous region of Colorado Donna was just thinking of turning around when Amber Gershwin shattered the long silence with, ” home sweet home”.

                                                                    They had all forgotten that she was from Colorado and suddenly Fred pointed below to a plane stuck in the tree tops below and a barn nearby with a house. Donna had always been a good pilot but her biggest challenge had always been soft landings. This was made all the more clear when she plopped them down hard in the meadow right smack in the middle of grazing horses and cattle.

The Big One……………….Chapter 19

                                                                              The flight was one of vigilance for Bill but young Kevin Cross was fast asleep, deep in a dream world about the happenings of the past couple of days. In these dreams he ran across the hill side overlooking the pacific ocean dodging large cracks in the ground that constantly tried to swallow him up. Just when he would think he may be safe a huge gush of water would blast from the earth shooting him off into the middle of no where and he could hear the voices of his parents and see his mothers face. He would then be sitting at the kitchen table as a boy watching his mother pull pans of fresh baked goods from the oven. Oh the smell of that wonderful corn bread or those chocolate chip muffins with gobs of liquid banana in them. Suddenly his mother dropped a tray on the table and the whole room gave a lurching shudder. Kevin awoke to Bill shouting

                                       ” We are stuck in the trees, we are stuck in the trees”.

                                                                        Looking around and rubbing his eyes Kevin could feel the sway of the high trees that they were stuck in the top of. There was suddenly a distant shout of a mans voice saying hello from somewhere below and Bill shouted back.

                                                                      “I will go and see if I can find a ladder, said the mans voice. Just try to sit tight for now”.

                                                                      It seemed like an eternity until they could hear a sound of scrapping against a nearby tree as someone put a ladder in place and then the face of a young man appeared.

                                                                  ” Hello there my name is Dave Rippley, got yourselves in a bit of a fix I see”.

                                                                Bill spoke back with his laid back humour, ” story of my life I am afraid. Bill is the name and this here is Kevin”.

                                                                 The men all nodded their formalities and then set about trying to get the two men to safety. This proved to be dangerous because the plane was very unstable in it’s current position and one wrong move could plummet everyone to the ground. Moving Kevin to the middle of the plane to maintain balance, Bill managed to take hold of a rope fastened to a tree and swing to the ladder. Kevin was weak and somewhat unstable but he managed to do the same. Once on the ground Kevin suddenly realised that this was the first stable ground he had set foot on in a while and he sat there trembling. Bill and Dave seemed to silently understand and they simply stood on either side of him with a hand on each shoulder. Some times simple silent understanding is the best thing we can give one another.

The Big One………………Chapter 18

                                                                                 Abe Yoder grew accustomed to his journey very quickly but he really had no choice. He moved through what used to be Pennsylvania and was into Ohio within a couple of days. He knew he had done so because he passed an old welcome to Ohio sign as he traveled a short distance on what used to be a highway. Detouring was part of this journey and he found it very distasteful but necessary and the horse seemed to handle all of this very well. Abe’s grandfather had often said that a good man could handle most any hardship with a good horse under him and this young man was finding this saying to be true. Gas was still shooting up in the air at times but it seemed that it happened less often. Ohio was much more flooded than Pennsylvania but Indiana was a different situation all together. Abe and his horse had not gone three miles into the state when a huge crater loomed in front of them requiring the two to travel around it due to the fact that it was so deep one could not see the bottom. A couple more miles found another crater and then another. When riding through the other states Abe often saw belongings and other objects strewn about but Indiana seemed to have nothing left of it but craters. Abe was almost overjoyed to enter Illinois and things seemed much different right away with green grass and some trees in places. He found a highway presently and followed it westward and stopped for the night near a truck stop. He rarely approached buildings due to possible danger or mishaps. He was awake before first light and had a quick bite to eat from his supplies and after giving his horse a drink from a nearby stream and some grain was off once more. They had not gone far when it seemed they were approaching a city of some sort and there appeared to be abandoned vehicles and bodies strewn about. There was flooded areas and broken up ground as usual but Abe did notice that off to one side there was a tourist place. A closer look revealed a nice carriage with a horse that lay dead still in the traces, probably killed by gas or something. Abe then froze as he noticed something moving on the other side of the carriage and his horse raised its head giving a snort.

The Big One………………..Chapter 17

                                                            Dave Ripley felt he had hit the mother lode upon entering the cabin that seemed small from a distance but turned out to be a two story affair with a large dirt floor basement. The basement was packed with all manner of supplies and had a lantern that hung on a nail at the top step so that one could see their way going down the stairs. Upon entering the basement area there was a number of lights that could be lit for the whole area. Behind the cabin there was a lovely barn with a large coral and plenty of hay and grain. There was a lush green pasture and plenty of seed storage for crops. There was plumbing in the house and a large drilled well outside. The whole place ran on wind turbine and solar panels with a good sized storage and distribution facility situated back in the trees. One look in the barn told Dave that an Amish family had built and lived in this place. There was five horse stalls in the barn and only four of them had horses in them. There was a place to store two carriages but only one remained. This family had probably departed before the disaster but had not made it back. Dave thought now about his family that had been in Denver when it had all happened and the sad likelihood that they were no longer alive. A noise out back of the barn brought him to attention and walking out back he saw another coral with sheep and goats in it. Many of them had young and there was a pump system set up so that water flowed into a trough on demand. The hay and feed manger was long empty and so Dave filled that for them and they made a racket clamouring for the food but he made sure there was more than enough to go around. The next few days when not tending the livestock Dave was out looking around. The large sulphur water pool that shot into the air on a daily basis had just finished it’s course this fine afternoon when it was replaced by a sputtering sound from above and a shadow passed over Dave as he turned looking up just in time to see an off white twin engine plane swoop low and crash into the trees beyond.

The Big One…………….Chapter 16

                                                                        Kevin Cross actually sank in the water about six feet and looking up in horror and shock could see that the large object responsible for him being in the water by landing beside his raft was not sinking but floating. He swam back to the surface, pulled himself back onto his raft and rolled over on his back peering at a mid sized twin engine water plane. It was off white coloured with two ski like things on either side. The driver side door was open and a man who appeared to be in his fifties was sitting there toying with what appeared to be a radio. He seemed to know Kevin was there and spoke slowly to him as he kept his eyes on the radio.

                                          “Hey there, we seem to be in the middle of some pretty bad stuff hu”?

                                          Kevin could not believe how relaxed the man was giving what had just happened and could only manage to blurt out “what the hell man, you almost killed me”.

                                            The pilot gave a sigh setting down the radio and turned to Kevin extending his hand. ” Bill Langley is the name, I ran out of fuel and had to crash land. I did however spy a boat over yonder, we should see if it has any aviation fuel because a lot of those models do run on plane fuel, worth a try anyway”.

                                            The weight of Kevin’s ordeal seemed to be crashing down on him now along with the dehydration and the good natured pilot understood. Reaching into his side compartment he grabbed a water bottle and handed it to Kevin who gulped it down so fast he almost made himself sick. Bill toke Kevin’s hand to steady him and helped him into the plane.

                                            ” Tell you what, we should try to get over towards where I saw that boat and see what we can get”.

                                           Cranking the engine gave a bit of life but only enough for a rough idle and they were able to get over to the boat where Bill climbed aboard leaving Kevin to rest and nap. There was a small fridge with food and water in it. There was also a few beers and some frozen fish. The main find was when Bill opened a storage compartment and found three containers of fuel and a shot gun and two handguns with ammunition for both. Bill quickly filled the planes tank and let Kevin sleep a couple more hours.

                                              When Kevin awoke Bill was fiddling with the radio again and turned looking at him thoughtfully. ” Look young fellow I know we have all been through a lot here lately but there is nothing left of good old California and there is only one place I can think may be safe. My aunt and uncle in Colorado have a nice spread in the mountains with a landing strip nearby, what say we try our luck there that is if I can get this beast off the water”?

                                                Kevin simply starred at him and then simply nodded his head, had a bit to eat and was asleep before the plane was back in the air.

The Big One…………..Chapter 15

                                                                       The horse was behind some upheaved ground eating at some blades of grass and Abe Yoder recognized him right away as a young year and a half old stallion that Anna Colbenze a few farms down had owned. Anna’s father had wanted the horse gelded but she convinced him to keep the horse for breeding. The horse was a handsome long legged American Standard breed with a dark brown coat and two white socks on the front hooves. Anna had ridden this horse and although Abe had not done so himself, he had on occasion patted the horse while visiting the farm. The horse raised it’s head and gave a snort upon Abe’s approach but seemed to recognize the amish youngster and settled back down to chomping on the bits of grass he could find. Abe knew what he would do and early at first light managed to gentle the horse named Ziggy and ride back towards the area where his farm had once stood. There was much detouring to be done due to broken and flooded ground coupled with gas that still belched up into the air here and there. The Colbenze farm was the first one that they reached with the old farm house gone except for a small portion of the backside that was still somewhat intact. The barn on the other hand being a large four branch dairy operation was in amazing shape considering what had happened in the last couple of days but Abe knew he must be careful all the same. He managed to find a good saddle and feed sacks in the barn and the backside of the house turned out to be the kitchen and so he was able to pack a good amount of food. He then mounted the horse and headed towards the three Yoder farms but had not gone far when upon a rise he was able to see that there was no way that he would ever get close because that entire area was one huge crater from which smoke still billowed. Abe’s heart broke anew once again as he sat his mount weeping his shoulders heaving with endless sobs. This went on for close to an hour and when he was done he felt drained and so he lay down in the shadow of a large old tree stump and slept. As he slept he dreamed of a visit he had made to his uncle and aunts in the mountains of Colorado, a wonderful green valley with their cabin at one end. Before he awoke he knew where he would go and and when he did awake before noon he set out on his journey.