I have had an exceptionally busy week. My plans to write the next chapter of The Mysterious Arboretum had to be shelved or else I’d have ended up with it rushed and unsatisfactory. So instead, I’ve pulled a favorite short story from my archives. Originally written and posted in November 2015, Cities In Dust was inspired by the Siouxie and the Banshees’ song of the same name.
Sunday, August 18, 2018 was one of those dates on the calendar that people chose for their special events. Why? Because when written numerically it read 8/18/18 or 18/8/18 depending on where you lived on this globe. The people that lived to tell about that momentous day in history simply call it “818.”
Scientists had been worrying for decades about the possibility of an extinction event: an asteroid strike or something man-made like a global nuclear holocaust. When the rumbling beneath Yellowstone began in late July, the scientists felt an overwhelming sense of dread. Could the massive super volcano be about to blow? Geologists calculated that Yellowstone’s regular eruptions were happening every 600,000 years. The last one had occurred 630,000 years ago. It was overdue.
Beneath the surface of Yellowstone National Park lies an enormous magma chamber. It’s about 45 miles across and 8 miles thick at it’s thickest point. If it were on the surface, it would be approximately the size of the state of Rhode Island and reach past the altitude where airplanes fly. That whole mass is essentially a giant bomb.
The last time Yellowstone erupted, the ash from the blast covered nearly all the states west of the Mississippi River and parts of Canada and Mexico. If it happened again, the world’s food supply would be in peril. Half the supply of grain that feeds the citizens of Earth is grown in this region. Famine would be widespread. The impact on the climate would be catastrophic as well. Volcanic winter would be triggered, growing seasons disrupted. How could the world survive?
An emergency phone call to the President of the United States by the Senior Senator from Wyoming, led to an investigation by the Department of the Interior. Committees were formed, multiple opinions were sought. A panel of geologists was assembled to observe, assess the situation and report back to the President.
There are always nay-sayers, people who bury their heads in the sand and deny the truth even when it stares them in the face. Unfortunately, the voices on the panel of geologists that the President of The United States chose to trust, were the ones who wrongly believed there was nothing to worry about. On Sunday August 18, 2018, people got engaged, got married, and did all sorts of memorable things.
The rumbling had quieted on Friday, August 16. The “denier” geologists congratulated themselves on being right. But then, at 8:00 AM, Mountain Daylight Time, on 8/18/18, in the state of Wyoming, USA, the super volcano blew. Everyone within a 700 mile radius was killed instantly. Violent earthquakes were triggered by the blast. Omaha, Denver, and Salt Lake City were all leveled. More died as the ash cloud spread. The United States population fled it’s central and western states. The eastern seaboard teemed with refugees. Alberta and Saskatchewan in Canada suffered the same fate. People crowded Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador.
It’s been 5 years since “818.” There are only 550 million people left on the Earth. No one lives in North America anymore. Well, except for the science outpost. There is no United States of America, no Canada, no Mexico. I was one of the fortunate ones. My relatives in Poland were willing to take me in. I am a recluse, hiding from the public eye, avoiding anyone who might recognize me. You see, I was the lead geologist on the panel who advised the president.