THE PASSAGE, A SHORT STORY, SIGNS AND THEORIES
The Passage is a story about several different groups as they experience a pole shift. The Passage was first writen as a script, then
later as a short story. It is the short story that is being presented here, with character descriptions from the script. The passage has
not yet appeared in a publication nor on the screen, though repeated interest has been shown by those in the business. The story
follows Danny, a young journalist, encounters the cover-up when he tries to publish a theory held by a local East Coast professor. In
this first segment of the story, Danny is discouraged at being dismissed by his editor, Mr. Maya. He goes on a camping trip to the
West with his girl friend Daisy. Hitting it off with another couple, Frank and Jane, up in the Rockies, they discuss professor Issac's
theories and the congruence of prophecy and folklore and geographic evidence.
The story begins in a newsroom on the East Coast, New Jersey.
Amid the clutter and bustle of the newsroom, Danny is tossed into his chair, leg up and arm back in a relaxed sprawl exuding the casual arrogance the young have toward the imperfect world they inherit. Snatching the plain black phone on his desk, barely into its first ring, and tucking it between his waiting shoulder and ear, Danny rolls his body like a wave over the desk toward a pencil stub and open pad of paper in one smooth and well practiced motion. "Newsroom." This is the moment reporters wait for, the pregnant moment when a blockbuster story might come to them by virtue of their being there to take the call, to get the lead, and Danny is anxious to show the world how real reporting is done. Flipping his head back and tossing his thick black hair back, combing it briefly with two fingers and the pencil stub, Danny is now in full intake mode, his face immobilized and eyes unmoving and unblinking. "Could you repeat that?" Adopting the story, Danny is scribbling on his pad now, leaning forward with a slight frown. "And this professors name again?" Danny Jerks his head up and staring blankly across the desk and across the room, is suddenly defiant. "No, no, I'm not too young to know." And raising his voice for a firm finish, to leave the newsroom in no doubt as to who is in control: "I'll look into this, and if it has any worth at all, you can be sure I'll follow up on it." Danny punches some numbers into the phone, leans back into his creaking chair, and says "Hey babe, want to take a drive?"
Danny heads out to follow up on his lead, Daisy beside him in the car.
The drive to the campus is pleasant, along a winding wooded road, speckled with light coming through the overhanging branches. Late spring. The
weather has been unusually warm and erratic, so that even between two young people in love the weather dominates the conversation. Daisy, who
views the world from her person outward, takes a limited view. "The yards dry up, and then it pours so hard the grass seed washes away.
Every yard on our street looks chewed up." Danny glances sideways to the slender girl sitting beside him, her soft brown hair pulled back from
her face, and her smooth high forehead undisturbed by concerns outside of her suburban neighborhood. "Global warming, and we're making it
worse by having to truck groceries all over the place. Even at that, no melons this year at all." Danny has the coming interview with
Professor Isaac on his mind, and moves the conversation there. "Could be because we're going to have another pole shift?" Daisy says,
"Because of the weather?"
Danny suppresses a smile and launches into an attempt at an explanation, but is sorting things out in his mind at the same time. "We've had wandering poles, and the poles have been in different places. No one quite knows why. But this guy we're meeting claims he has the answer. The weather is just a symptom." Daisy says, "So he has a fix?" Danny glances up at the swaying tree branches, and says, nervously, "Hope we don't get another tornado coming through. After last week, out of the blue..." And shaking his head and looking worried, he falls silent, mulling things over. Danny pulls his battered blue Toyota into a visitors slot in front of a solid stone building, small square institutional windows spaced unimaginatively across the front. He and Daisy roll out of either side of the car and look around for the entrance. Daisy grabs her bag, slinging it over her shoulder, and follows Danny as he starts off across the parking lot. Inside the ponderous wooden doors of the geology building, they encounter a slight and obviously weary janitor, bent over a wet mop which he is sloshing back and forth almost angrily. "Professor Isaac?" The janitor jerks his head and eyes to the side, toward the hall to the left, not bothering to answer. The young couple wander down the hall, glancing to the right and left at the doors as they pass.
Danny and Daisy find the professor in his classroom.
The professor glances up angrily when Danny pushes the door open and strides in. Spring term is over, and always annoyed by the demands of
students he considers beneath him, intrusions during his free time are barely tolerated. The professor catches himself and putting on the smooth and
well practiced mask meant for the hordes of students clamoring for his attention after lectures, says with feigned indifference, "Yes?" "I'm a reporter
with the Tribune, sir, and would like to do an article on that lecture you gave on Crop Circles in Cedarburg the other day. You know, the
one about where our weather changes are leading." The professor drops his mask, and looks with sharp and inquiring eyes at Danny, scanning
his face. "I didn't think newspaper people were interested in anything but celebrity mudwrestling, or that I might be getting married to
some aging socialite. That's all you folks seem to cover these days, weddings and funerals and ball games." Danny smiles, and tries to take
the assertive. "Crop Circles have met with a lot of theories, but the most recent seems the most plausible. The Helix is clearly DNA ..."
Danny is quickly interrupted and put down by the professor, who rattles out facts, staccato style. "And the history of Crop Circles? If it's DNA
then why start with simple circles, then circles within circles? And what idiot would teach DNA to farmhands!"
The professor catches himself again, letting his disdain for the common man show. "Now look, son, don't prate that sting of theories at me, I know them all too well! These symbols don't have anything to do with DNA, they're telling an astronomical story, they're telling us what's bearing down on us, and soon. We've got one more planet in the solar system, and it's a monster! Its what some call Wormwood or Nibiru or Marduk, and what Sitchin claimed the ancient Sumerians called the 12th Planet. But by whatever name you call it, it spells death and disaster for those of us perched on planet Earth!" Danny's open and friendly face has changed into a grim stare, and seeing a receptive audience, the professor continues. "Look, I'll spell it out for you. At first the circles were isolated from each other, as the planets in the solar system are from the 12th Planet when it is away on its long elliptical path." The professor stretches his arms apart, then touches his right hand with his left and swings it to the left again. "Then there is a line drawn between the circles, as they begin to influence each other with their magnetic fields and gravitational pulls against each other." The professor brings his hands together with a snack, sending his left had off into the air.
"Then the scorpion, which is the 12th Planet with its many traveling moons, one of which struck the proto-earth in the past and created the lop-sided globe that is the earth today. We've got a deep gouge in the Pacific ocean and the land lump of Pan has been breaking apart with each passage of the 12th Planet - continental drift. The scattered proto-earth waters create what we know as comets now, dirty snowballs of frozen ocean water." The professor flicks the fingers of his right hand open, as though sending water drops off into the air, then rolls both hands together, around each other. "And then the helix Crop Circle, which shows that the rotation of the earth is now being influenced by the approaching 12th Planet, the lumps in the cores of these planets rolling in synchronization, like swimmers." The professor smiles at Danny, who is in shock, standing with his mouth slightly open and blinking eyes. The professor turns back to sorting papers, his task when interrupted, when Danny finds his voice. "This is known, right? I mean, it fits, but, but, ah, is this just academic? Are you saying those analogies are true? If you know this, then, ah, who else, I mean, ah, does NASA, does ... they're going to tell us, right?" The professor glances up at Danny, smiles at him, at his naiveté. "You'll soon find out."
But when Danny's Editor finds out what he wants to print, the reception is not what Danny expected.
The editor of the Tribune moved slowly around this crowded office. His baggy pants, wrinkled around the seat and sagging unevenly below the knee announcing without fanfare the editor's priorities. The Tribune is successful, but the margin, as with all products that depend upon the fickle public, required a nervous eye. Zack Maya found he had to be a politician more often than a reporter, and where this did not set well with his perfunctory personality, he had learned to accept this as a fact of life. Some news came with a price, when printed. Zack eases into his worn leather chair, flipping the pages of a story laid on his chair seat with barely time enough to grasp their meaning. Glancing up through his bifocals at Danny, who has been watching from his desk and has come to lean in the doorway, the editor is brief and to the point. "This won't fly." Danny frowns and slips into a wooden chair in front of the editors desk - the defendant's chair, not meant to be comfortable. "It'll get read." "And who's going to pay the merchants for damages, for the riot that this might cause?" Danny's frown deepens. "I don't remember riots when that movie about asteroids came out." "That was maybe, this isn't saying maybe." Zack Maya looks unblinkingly across the desk at Danny, peering up over his bifocals. "Nukes aren't maybe. We've been living with them forever. Protests maybe, but not riots." The editor tosses the story across his desk to Danny, settling back into his chair. "Nukes are still maybe. Someone has to push the button. You're not sitting in my chair, Danny, and I'm telling you, this won't fly." Danny scoops up the story, his mouth opening and closing as he processes and rejects arguments, blinks twice, and slowly rises and walks out the door without a comment. Outside the editor's office he stops and is lost in thought, his face smooth, showing no emotion. Finally he mutters "Bull shit" and grabbing his jacket, strides out of the office.
Danny, angry at his story being trashed, is not willing to let it stop there. He calls the Professor.
"Yes professor Isaac, this is Danny Ward from the Tribune again. Well, I want to do the story but I think we're going to have trouble with my editor . Do you happen to know why he won't publish the story?" Danny is leaning into the shelter that the public phone provides, his left hand over his left ear. Taking the call from his office at the University, the professor pauses for a moment, debating. "Well Danny, I think we'd better meet off-line. I know just the place."
The Professor has headed for his favorite fishing hole, where they can presumably talk privately.
The wooded campus at Brandon University backs up into the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, crisscrossed with trails worn smooth by the pounding feet of jogging students and faculty. For those familiar with the maze, the trails led to treasures in the woods known to few. The professor is fishing with his cap down, back against a tree along the river. When Danny arrives, he is breathing heavily from the climb. He fishes a notebook out of an inside pocket within his lightweight jacket, and flips the pages, having tucked a pencil stub momentarily behind his right ear. "Danny, a friend of mine at a large observatory has been tracking an incoming object, but has been told to keep mum about it if he knows what's good for him. Says this has been going on for over a decade, what was reported to be Planet X years ago. They were looking for it, they found it, and now they're tracking it. It comes through the Solar System every 3,600 years or so and pretty well tears up the Earth. Well, that's the extra planet I was telling you about. Its real! Its inbound! And none of us is ready for it, that's for damn sure. And that's precisely why the government doesn't want the public to know about it. They're not ready for it either."
Danny had been expecting this. The editor rejected his story too quickly, barely reading it. "Is that why the weather's gone nuts and the compasses don't ever seem to work right anymore?" The professor lifts his pole and flips the line out into the shallows again before answering. "It's going to be a pretty rough ride, son. Mammoths were found flash frozen in Siberia, been frozen like that for thousands of years, with buttercups in their stomach. Buttercups, where there isn't a blade of grass for hundreds of miles, now. The Earth turned under them, son, and moved them to a polar zone. They weren't the only species to go extinct for no obvious reason. There've been dozens." Danny, relieved to be having a discussion over the issues, is nonetheless taking this all in but not yet willing to buy it. "So maybe there was grass up there earlier, but an ice age started, you know, maybe the ice and snow came later." The professor glances sideways at Danny, gauging his skepticism to be slight. Like most young people, he is loath to let go of his idealism. The professor is familiar with this resistance, and these arguments, and takes them in stride. "And then there's the tidal waves, whale bones found on hills 400-500 feet above sea level in Ontario. In Sicily there's bone piles in the rock crevices that include just about every animal in Europe and Africa, all broken into bits as though the waves carried them there and smashed them into bits against the rocks."
Playing the role of protester, Danny is laying out every argument that comes to mind. "So maybe a meteor fell, like what killed the dinosaurs, fell in the ocean and caused a giant tidal wave." The professor continues, laying out what he know is overwhelming evidence for those willing to listen, as Danny clearly is. "Chief Mountain in Montana took an 8 mile trip over the plains, and the Alps have moved hundreds of miles overland. We're talking about slabs of rock thousand of feet thick. What force is moving those mountains? There are seabed fossils in the Himalayas, for God's sake." Danny protests, weakly. "Oh, that happened millions of years ago." Seeing the wall crumbling, The professor continues. "Niagara Falls is running in a channel that's less than 4,000 years old, son, and several lakes on the West Coast have existed for only about 3,500 years. Sound familiar? Scientists have known for some time that the ocean level dropped 20 feet world wide, simultaneously, guess when - 3,000-4,000 years ago." Danny eyes are shifting from side to side as he rapidly searches for rationale explanations. "We had an ice age, the glaciers melted, everyone knows that." The professor chuckles. "Ice ages? Hah! Is that why we have coal seams under the ice in Antarctica? The ice didn't descend from the North Pole during the ice ages, the Earth moved that part of the world up to the polar regions, that's what happened."
Danny is running out of arguments. "It's all theory, no one knows for sure." The professor flips his line out into the river again, easing back against the tree trunk, knowing the argument has been won. "There's plenty of human history to support it. Its part of Egyptian and Mayan written history that the rivers turned blood red during the 12th Planet's passage, and what do you think the Bible is talking about in the Book of Exodus when it says the rivers were turned to blood? Moses walking in the valley of the shadow of death? That's the volcanic dust blocking out the sun. You want to know why Moses and his folks could walk through the Red Sea? The sea floor heaved, that's why. That's the last time something like this happened to the Earth, and we're about due for another one." Danny, now almost relaxed as he realizes he has lost the argument, is not quite willing to admit defeat to someone in his father's generation. "That part of the world has problems with volcanoes, that's all." But the professor, familiar with the impertinence of youth, presses on, knowing that facts and more facts are what will allow Danny to accept the conclusion. "The Earth stops its rotation just before the shift, that's well recorded. That's in the Bible too, in the Book of Joshua. The Sun stood still in the sky for more than a day. And over in Mexico, on the other side of the world, it was night. And all this accompanied by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and immense tidal waves."
Danny has fallen silent, but finally says, "So what do we do?" Having reached the end of the game, the contest between generations put aside, the professor admits his own weakness. "I know what I'm going to do. I'm not waiting for anyone to tell me to do it, either. I've got a place up in the hills, and as soon as things get funny, that's where I'm headed."
Frustrated, Danny decides to take his vacation weeks and take Daisy camping.
Danny is sitting in the drivers seat, his elbow out the window and hair blowing in the wind, an open collar sport shirt laying damp against his tan neck. His eyes are half closed against the bright sunlight shinning in the window, as he glances sideways to drink in the lanky body of Daisy in her shorts and halter top. Taking off for a camping trip, where he can have her near him around the clock, should make him forget the unease he has felt since that day talking to the professor, and the anger he still feels at having his story cut. "Well these 2 weeks are going to do the trick. I just hope it isn't going to keep raining." Daisy, for her part, is also looking forward to two weeks alone with Danny. No phone. No editor. No assignments. No canceled dinner engagements. Most of their friends are married, and many with small children in arms or on the way, and she rarely has opportunity to pry him away from his enthusiasms. "What's with this weather? It's been 2 weeks now of rain, rain, rain. We should have driven the boat." Danny switches on the radio and dials it to a news station. "And those of you who are traveling I-22 need to switch over to I-24 and ... We're just now getting this from our remote truck ... yes I-22 is now under water. I repeat I-22 is now under water."
At this point in the story, we encounter another group, a ranch family in Utah. We meet:
We are introduced to the ranch family in a marsh on the ranch, where Billy has gone exploring.
Billy wades into the local swamp. The water is cool against his bare legs, taking his mind off the hot sun. Billy catches frogs and grass snakes and then lets them go, being basically good hearted. Walking along the mud path weaving along the swamps edge, he tosses small rocks at chipmunks, missing them on purpose. Billy muses about what it might mean to be a frog, or a chipmunk, and beyond lacking a cruel streak, is playing the odds. Maybe next time around, that could be him. Billy spins around and tosses the chipmunk a piece of cookie for forgiveness. Billy stops, shock still, his eyes scanning the water. All is silent. A puzzled look comes over his face, and he blinks.
Billy seeks out his Gramps.
Gramps is in the tool room in the barn, hiding out again. Retirement does not suit him, and where he has no cause to regret coming to live with his daughter on the farm, being a perpetual guest is also a difficult role for the guff old man to maintain. Here, among the tools, he is in his realm, unchallenged as the authority, and feels he is adding something solid, something real, to the family's well being. Going by the nickname Red, more for his tendency to get behind issues quickly and passionately than the touch of red in his shock of graying hair, the old man finds these moments when he is alone and unchallenged restful. His kingdom may be a dusty room full of rusting tools, but increasingly, this is where he spends his day.
Billy comes up to his Gramps, uneasy and wanting to share with the old man, who always has an ear and a keen interest in his grandson's exploits and discoveries. "Gramps, all the frogs are gone." "What you say Billy?" "There's no noise, no jumping around, did someone else catch them all?" Gramps considers for a moment. "I heard something about that on the radio, that all the frogs were disappearing and no one knew why, for sure." Pondering mysteries comes to an abrupt halt for higher priorities when they hear Martha, Billy's mom, call from the house. "Dinner, don't be late" An unnecessary warning, on a farm, the men folks are seldom late for dinner, and then not by choice.
Meanwhile, at the campground, Danny and Daisy meet another couple, and hit is off. We meet:
At the campground:
The evening has brought a cool breeze moving through the trees, and Danny and Daisy are sharing a beer with some campers from the site next to them. Danny is perched on a convenient rock, and leans forward, putting his elbows on his knees, a serious look on his face. "I'm in the newspaper business, and ordinarily we chase a story down and if it has any appeal at all, rush it to press. Well, I had a real live wire, a local prof who had a theory about crop circles, gave a talk at a local club and someone in the audience was so impressed they sent me the flyer. What the heck, we print everybody else's theories about crop circles - it's math, it's DNA, whatever. His theory was that we've got another planet in the Solar System, comes orbiting around only once every 3,600 years or something, and these crop circles show up just ahead of another visit, like a warning!"
Danny holds up two fingers, counting off on them as he speaks. "Two things are bothering me here. One, he had a damn good argument, and two, my editor wouldn't let me print the story." The campsite neighbor, Frank, is pleased that the campground has at least one party he can talk to, beyond the usual chatter about mosquitoes and barbecue sauce. "You're talking about Sitchin's theory. He claimed some ancient records showed that this planet exists, and that number - 3,600 years - these ancients had a term for it." Danny sits up, back ramrod straight, suddenly energized. "Well, dang! My editor went ballistic when I presented the story. I've never seen him like that. So now I'm wondering, if there's nothing to it, why did he react like that? So I went out to see this guy, and he told me the media is being silenced. He told me the government knows about this, has the dang thing in its sights and is watching it barrel towards us, and is saying nothing to the rest of us!"
Rubbing his forehead, Danny tries to recall specifics from his river bank chat with the professor. "Mountains pushing up, tidal waves rolling across the coastlines, howling winds, and of all things, red dust. Red dust." A slight flicker of a smile plays over Frank's mouth, seeing Danny's consternation. Having lived with the legends, and with a wife well into New Age prognostications, Frank had come to find these theories almost stale. "Oh, there's something to it all right, at least all the prophecies point to it in one way or another." Finding an opening, Jane leaps in. "The Hopi speak of the Purification Day, when the whole world will shake and turn red. And White Buffalo calves are being born, that's another Indian prophecy about the millennium coming true."
Loathe to let his wife take the center stage completely, a constant battle between them, Frank joins in again. "There was an obscure channeled work by an Ohio dentist, about a hundred years ago. Oashpe, I think it's called. Talks about a Red Star that travels and causes a lot of death. Says that souls are harvested at that time, that's the term used, harvested." Glancing at her husband, and seeing an opening, Jane says "Edgar Cayce saw California covered with water." But Frank has the prize prophecy. "And then there's Mother Shipton, several hundred years back, who pretty much predicted the same thing back in merry 'ol England. She had a good track record on predicting our technology, too." Frank stands up and quotes Mother Shipton:
"For seven days and seven nights
man will watch this awesome sight.
The tides will rise beyond their ken.
To bite away the shores and then
the mountains will begin to roar
and earthquakes split the plain to shore."
Still emotionally unwilling to accept the situation, even if his intellect is telling him otherwise, Danny interrupts. "Aw, come on! You can't be serious!
Do you really think that's going to happen?" Jane comes to the rescue, as she always does when opinions differ. "Lets see what the cards say."
Jane pulls out her Tarot Cards and shuffles them, spreading them out in a fan like fashion, face down on the blanket below spread out over the pine
needles. She turns the top cards over, one by one. The first card is the card of Death. Danny, eager for some reassurance at this point, says "Opps."
Meanwhile, some folks in the Military, in the know about what is coming, are torn about the cover-up. The Zetas, inhibited by the rule of non-interference into the affairs of man, are restricted in what they can do. The cover-up is an issue in the hands of man.
The Colonel and a Zeta are meeting in the shadows.
The room is dark, lights off, as a private conversation is going on. Standing in the shadows is a middle aged man, fit with no signs of middle aged spread or slack muscles. A military man, Colonel Cage considers being fit the first bastion of discipline. Tightly disciplined, he lives by rules both military and personal, which often are at war with each other. The colonel is not alone. He is talking to a figure taller than he, bone thin, with an enormous head seemingly too heavy for the stick thin body. But there is grace in the motions made by the long lanky arms, and the colonel seems not to notice or be alarmed by the shape of his companion. He has long been accustomed to conversing with this visitor from Zeta Reticuli.Where a conversation is going on, only the voice of the colonel can be heard. Yet the intensity of the words shows that an interchange of ideas is clearly going on. "We can't tell them. Don't think I don't want to. It's orders, and orders are orders" The colonel breaks down a bit, moving his hands in front of him in an emotional way, as though groping for an answer, a resolution, that will not come. "My God, don't you think I want my neighbor's children safe? They practically live at my house. But if I say anything I'll disappear. What will my Mary and the kids do then, for God's sake!"
We meet more of the ranch family.
But even a slowing rotation doesn't stop the daily chores. Life goes on.
Martha is normally up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her hard working husband. Big Tom wolfs down his breakfast, slurping coffee and shoveling in eggs and fried potatoes like there is no tomorrow, talking between swallows about the chores he has lined up for the day. "Yeah, Maw, found a broken fence yesterday, better get that fixed before the cattle discover the break." Big Tom glances up to gesture in the direction of the broken fence, and stops mid-sentence as it is stone dark out and the dawn should have painted the horizon with orange streaks by now. He is silent for a moment, his arm out-stretched in mid-gesture. Then he falls back to eating, but keeps glancing out the window, nervously, a puzzled look on his face. He checks his watch, glances to the clock on the wall, and asks his wife what her stove clock says. "Martha, what time do you have?" He holds up his watch and she stares at her clock and then they both stare at each other. When he discovers they are all in sync, he shakes his head and goes back to wolfing his breakfast down.
Meanwhile, back at the campground.
Danny's eyes pop open in the darkened tent, though no sound or motion has awakened him. He shines a flashlight on his watch and a puzzled look comes over his face, as it shows 10:12 in the morning. Yet it is still dark. Feeling him stirring, Daisy wakens. "Can't you sleep either?" The couple assumes they are having insomnia, the watch broken, and Danny is just settling into snuggling with Daisy when they hear voices from the New Age couple next door. Danny pulls on his pants and goes out to investigate. The campfire is still smoldering from the night before, the smell of woodfire lingering in the air. Frank is looking at his watch too. Daisy says, "Our watches seem to be fast." A bit stunned and confused, the campers stand around the remnants of their campfire, looking first at their watches and then at each other. Frank and Danny compare times, "10:16", "10:14", and stare at each other. Danny goes to check the clock in his car, which also reads 10:16. Jane is stirring last night's campfire, adding kindling, and puts some water on for coffee. Having no explanation for why their clocks are wrong, and not wanting to admit to themselves how frightened they are, the campers joke around. Gradually the dawn rises, and the group shows their obvious relief.
Those who cooperated with the cover-up, told the menace will pass and the the real danger is panic, are furious at being duped.
Zack Maya, the newspaper editor, is frantic, red in the face with anger, and standing as he phones a friend from his office as he is too agitated to sit. He is looking at his watch and where it appears to be dawn outside, his watch and the clock on the wall says 11:07 AM. He shouts into the phone. "What the hell's going on! You told me there wasn't any danger, you asshole. I did what you asked me to do, now what are you going to do about this!" When it becomes apparent that the friend hung up on him, the editor holds the phone away from his ear, staring at it, and then muttering under his breath hangs up, looking decidedly despondent. Beeping traffic and hysterical shouting can be heard out the window.
Life goes on, even in the face of the inexplicable. On the trading floor of the Stock Exchange, there are shouts and traders running to and fro with cell phones to their ears, but the floor is uncharacteristically empty and quiet. Traders and dealers are standing around, staring at the big clock which now reads 11:11. People are huddling in small groups, talking quietly with each other. The TV monitors hung from the ceiling are tuned to CNN teams talking about the daybreak, hours late. Out on the busy street, a drug dealer who would normally move through the crowd rapidly, making his contacts and moving to safer streets, stands with his back against a brick wall, eyes scanning the sky, cigarette in hand. A bum comes up to bum a smoke, and is absentmindedly handed the pack by the dealer, complete with lighter. An executive in a dark gray suit steps out of a cab, smooth black briefcase in hand. He notices a fine red dust powdering the sidewalk, and squats to pick up a pinch between his fingers, rubbing his fingers together. The fine dust is everywhere now - blowing off the tops of moving cars, settling into cracks in the sidewalks, and coming down onto the anxious up-turned faces like a fine mist.
Back at the campground, the fine red dust is powdering everything, but this passes notice due to being scattered by the branches overhead. Danny has come back from picking up groceries at the local Stop-n-Shop, and goes to opens the trunk, finding that his finger leaves a mark on the trunk lid. He runs a finger through the dust, staring at the tip, puzzled. Frank is returning from the stream, fishing pole in hand but empty handed otherwise. "The stream is turning red, like blood, and the fish are bobbing up one by one, belly up, dying from whatever it is." Daisy puts her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide open, an anxious look in her eyes. Jane says, "My God, the prophecies are coming true".
Danny is punching the buttons on his cell phone now, listening, then punching another set and listening again. He's getting static, no ringing. "I'm not getting through, nothing's working." Danny glances up into the sky. "These things work off the satellites." Frank is already bringing their camping supplies to their car, breaking camp. Jane is taking down their tent, throwing the poles in a pile as though she were racing against time. Danny is rubbing his forehead, trying to understand. "The campground store didn't have any news either. Their newspapers haven't been delivered, nor any of the regular delivery runs." Seeing everyone in the campground starting to break camp, as though what others are doing is an imperative, Danny also starts to break camp. He walks to the campfire and starts stacking supplies in a box, silently. Daisy pulls her makeup case close to her, as she sits on a log, and begins to do her nails with great concentration. She begins a monologue about polish types and broken nails that she or her friends have experienced, though no one is listening. "I just can't get my nails to grow! My friend Celia had real success with a new polish that builds the nails up, though."
Meanwhile, back at the ranch.
Big Tom has his tool box open along the fence he is repairing. His jeep stands several feet away on solid ground, as cattle tend to walk along fences, creating deep ruts well hidden by the tall grass. Like many ranchers, Big Tom tended to take better care of his equipment than himself. The cattle begin milling about and mooing, groups starting to bolt in this direction or that, then changing their mind and bolting in the other direction. Some groups are even running into each other, like a misdirected stampeded. They are alarmed yet confused, getting some signal that Big Tom can't sense. Then he hears it, a low moan from the earth, barely perceptible at first. But the moan keeps up, rising and falling but not going away, as though the earth were in agony. Big Tom turns pale, drops his tools, leaving them where they lay on the ground, and stumbles back toward his jeep. He drives off crazily, not even shutting the door until well on his way up the dirt road.
Big Tom careens up to the drive, screeching his brakes and walking quickly into the house. He heads for the phone. Martha says, "Won't do no good. I can't get through, nobody can get through." She is calm, Tammy, her young daughter, leaning into her where she sits in a kitchen chair, having a beer. Big Tom and Martha exchange a long look, no words spoken. Finally, Big Tom breaks the silence. "That looks good, think I'll have one." Red comes into the kitchen and announces he's stocked the storm cellar. He has Billy in tow, his helper, who goes to wash his hands. He has been brushing his hands together, but glancing at them sees they are dirty. Billy casts a glance at his mom and heads toward the sink, not realizing that something more serious than getting a reminder is going on. A loud knock on the front door stops Big Tom from easing into a relaxed posture in the familiar wooden chair he has just dropped into, and he recoils to go answer it, his curious Billy at his heels.
Danny is at the door, dust streaked in the sweat running off his face, the others in the foursome standing alongside their two cars in the drive. "Hello, do you have any gas to sell, the stations don't seem to be open." Big Tom, surveying the visitors and sensing they pose no threat, allows himself to be relieved to be getting some news. "Not surprised. Jed probably took his hounds into the hills already, he's been talking about the end of the world, and probably figures it's come". Danny doesn't answer for a few minutes, the sounds of insects singing in the sun loud in the silence between the two men. "Well, has it?" Big Tom motions to the foursome now on the porch. "Might as well come in for a spell, the day's getting hot already and it doesn't look like its going to end." At the mention of time, Danny glances at his watch and gasps. "My God, it's almost midnight!"
Later, in the kitchen of the sprawling ranch house:
What seems like days have passed, and the long dawn that doesn't end and the accumulating heat are wearing at the group. Grim and focused on the drama being played out on the world's stage, which they all sense will end at some point soon, the adults are being civil, not wanting to add to their problems. The men are simply quiet, looking out the window as though expecting something to happen. The women peel potatoes and help Martha with her mending, making small talk to keep the youngsters from realizing the seriousness of the situation. Everyone is in shorts, a film of sweat evident, but no one complains about the heat or worry except Daisy who is almost whining, a continuous expression of exasperation on her face. Daisy is going through the motions of being an adult, but makes little noises of frustration when drawers don't open smoothly or something isn't where she expects to find it in the cabinets. Finally she looks pointedly at Danny but he just looks grim and shakes his head. They're not going to get in the car and drive elsewhere, as this is clearly not a local event. This has been a long running argument between them, one discussed whenever they retired to one of the bedrooms for a nap together. Daisy is trying to initiate the discussion again, publicly, hoping to win support, and Danny has about had it with her. One of the children in the group is likewise having problems understanding the situation.
Tammy leans against her mother, who is sitting in her place at the kitchen table, and asks, "When can my dolls go to the swimming hole for a picnic again?" Martha wraps her free arm around her and gives her a little hug, understanding that the child wants to cool off, and get out of the tension in the kitchen. "Soon, honey, soon." Big Tom is walking back from the spring house with a bucket of water in his hand. The pumps have stopped, are stopping repeatedly due to the erratic power supply coming off the grid lines, the switches tripping as soon as the reset button is pushed. Big Tom stops in his tracks, feeling a slight but continuous tremble in the ground. His wife Martha comes running out of the house and into his arms, the buckets now dropped to the ground, sloshing and spilling over. The kids are running up behind her, crying "Mom, mom!". Panic is in the air. Danny and Red come around the corner of the house, from the garden, onions and tomatoes for the gumbo Martha was preparing in their hands. Red's pale face accentuates the red tinge in his graying hair. He says, "The moon is on the move!".
Suddenly everyone standing is thrown several feet. Big Tom is thrown backwards, skidding on his rear, Martha on top of him. Tammy sits up, holding her scrapped and bleeding elbow, rocking back and forth in pain and crying hard. Billy staggers to his feet, standing pale and shaken, his arms out to either side and slightly crouching. Big Tom, rolling up to a sitting position and easing his wife to the side, frowns and says, "What the Hell!" The barn, laid on a concrete slab, has been lurched off its foundations and moved halfway into the sloping barnyard. The house has crinkled in the middle, the walls folding in on a broken support, but is still glued to its foundation. Daisy emerges from the house, screaming, accompanied by Jane who is holding both hands to her bleeding head. A massive split in the earth begins ripping across the field behind the barn, opening and closing again, yawing open several feet and then quickly closing again. The sky darkens as a hailstorm of what appears to be gravel starts peppering the landscape. The group reacting to their injuries and shock in the yard put their hands over their heads and dash back and forth, needing shelter but leery of going into the broken house. Lighting crackles overhead repeatedly, though there is no rain, and in the distance there is a whooshing sound, as a falling blanket of fire drops on some trees along a stream, setting them afire.
The group, led by Red, dashes into the storm cellar. Red says, "Knew this would come in handy." Daisy is hysterical and keeps screaming at Danny, "Make it stop, make it stop!" Everyone is ignoring her. Martha is wrapping her apron around Jane's head, instructing her in a calm voice to press her head, "there, right there" to stop the scalp wound from bleeding. Her face is covered with blood. Frank say, in a matter of fact tone, "I think my arm is broken." His arm is seen dangling at an odd angle, the trauma of the moment so great that he didn't notice this until they were safe in the storm cellar. The winds outside are howling louder, and the bolted metal door of the cellar is rattling with the force now and then. The only light in the cellar is a battery operated lantern. Big Tom is setting Frank's broken arm, Danny holding Frank from the back, his arm coming around the front and holding Frank's good arm in a grip tight enough to keep him from striking out in pain. Big Tom says, 'Now!" and pulls as Frank cried out and lurches back, kicking his feet. Red is standing at the ready, a splint made from a chair leg in his hands, with Billy at his elbow, trying to help. Behind them is a drama just as compelling, going unnoticed. Tammy is squeezed back into the corner of the room, hugging one of her dolls, her face a frozen mask and voice silenced.
An hour later the winds have stopped howling. Red throws the bolts holding the storm door tightly shut, and pushes on the door slightly, opening it a crack. Big Tom, hesitant and cautious, sticks his head out, glancing around. All is calm, only the broken landscape attesting to what had occurred only an hour before. He is closely followed by his Billy, with Red and Martha's bobbing up and down behind them, trying to see. Martha blinks and struggles to hold back her tears, seeing the life they built so painstakingly devastated, every building tossed a kilter, branches torn off any trees left standing, and the windmill a twisted tangle in the corner of the barnyard. Big Tom says, "At least we're still alive," and then, showing his practical nature, "I'll go see if the pump is still working. We need to store and hold any clean water in the tank before it drains away." Big Tom walks through the splintered wreckage. Red stands with his hand on Billy's shoulder, both standing silent and still. Martha, too, is frozen, her hand to her mouth.