Tuesday, 25 June 2019

How Soon Is Now? A novel by Gary Walton: Chapter 15: The Tunguska Event



Chapter 15: The Tunguska Event

Oasis

“Champagne Supernova


Someday you will find me
Caught beneath the landslide
In a champagne supernova in the sky
Someday you will find me
Caught beneath the landslide
In a champagne supernova
A champagne supernova

'Cause people believe that they're
Gonna get away for the summer
But you and I, we live and die
The world's still spinning round
We don't know why
Why, why, why, why

How many special people change
How many lives are living strange
Where were you while we were getting high?
We were getting high 

I was back in Leeds, in the city, it was dark and I was alone, something was chasing me, something bad, I couldn't see it but I could feel it and it was gaining on me, I was cold and running out of breath but stopping wasn't an option, I was overcome with a cold fear embedded in my stomach. As I ran passed shop windows I caught a glance of my reflection in them, to my horror, I was naked, in my rush to get away from the terrible thing I hadn't realised I was naked, it was almost upon me now, I felt it's hand reach out for my shoulder, I sat bolt upright, my eyes wide open with fear, Maggie had her hand on my shoulder.
"Shssssh honey, it's just a dream, take it easy, deep breaths, " said Maggie.
She pulled me close to her.
"Whoah, that was a bad one," I said.
"Your ok now honey, it's gone, just a bad dream," said Maggie quietly.
"These dreams are getting worse," I said.
"Well that's not surprising considering what you have been through recently," explained Maggie.
I sat there shivering in Maggie's arms, my t-shirt and boxers were wet through from sweat," I have to go freshen up," I said to Maggie.
"You go freshen up and I'll get the breakfast going," she said.

Maggie served breakfast in the kitchen, the news was showing on the wall monitor.
"You are on your holiday my darling, what would you like to do today," I asked?
"I guess we can go for one of our long beach walks," suggested Maggie.
"That would be great, we could take a packed lunch with us and walk for miles," I said.
The TV flickered, " we interrupt this program to announce,"... A Hurricane Warning is in effect for Antigua, Barbuda, Anguilla, Montserrat, St. Kitts, and Nevis, Saba, St. Eustatius, and Sint Maarten, Saint Martin and Saint Barthelemy, British Virgin Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, Vieques, and Culebra. A Hurricane Watch is in effect for Guadeloupe, the Dominican Republic from Cabo Engano to the northern border with, Haiti. The National Hurricane Center said the distinct eye centre of Hurricane Ian, was located near 16.7 degrees north latitude and 57.7 degrees west longitude.
That's about 270 miles (440 km) east of Antigua and about 280 miles (445 km) east-southeast of Barbuda, in the Carribean. NHC noted that reports from NOAA and U.S. Air Force Hurricane Hunter aircraft indicated Ian continues to strengthen and maximum sustained winds have increased to near 195 mph (340 kph) with higher gusts. Ian is an extremely dangerous category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. An NOAA representative had claimed Ian will be the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin with 195 mph winds and the actual hurricane area bigger than the size of France and Belgium.
"Woah, that's a biggy," said Maggie.
"Thar she blows, man the mast-heads! Call all hands," I said jokingly.
"I'm gonna freshen up," said Maggie, laughing.
I started clearing the breakfast dishes when another news story made me stop in my tracks. An X16-class solar flare, one of the strongest ever recorded was headed our way. At 1202 UT, sunspot AR3766 unleashed a major X16-class solar flare--the strongest solar flare in more than 20 years. X-rays and UV radiation from the blast were set to ionize the top of Earth's atmosphere, causing a strong shortwave radio blackout over Europe, Africa, and the Atlantic Ocean with possible problems for space satellites. Now that is a biggy, I thought.

I made up some cheese and salad sandwiches and put them in the little ice cooler along with several bottles of water for the long walk ahead.
I stepped onto the balcony, the weather was perfect and the beach was already filling up, Maggie and I would head north where the beaches are deserted of tourists and locals. 
Another story on the news grabbed my attention; the Israeli army claimed that its troops came under fire near the disputed border with Syria. The attack took place overnight as troops “operating in an enclave near the Syrian border fence identified shots fired toward them,” according to a military spokesperson. The troops fired back in response. No injuries from the Israeli side were reported. The incident occurred amid heightened tensions in the area over Israel’s deadly airstrikes in Iran recently. Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria, citing efforts to halt Iran’s attempts to establish a military foothold there.

We stepped into the sun, hand in hand, giggling and excited, just like two teenagers in love for the first time.
We headed north with the sun behind us, it was hot but not uncomfortable, the end of August early September was usually a very pleasant climate in North Holland, it was still very dry but the temperature had begun to drop, today was such a day.
We walked along the waters edge away from the crowds for a good hour.
Maggie and I both began to notice a strange smell in the air, a smell of fish, and as we headed further north the smell became stronger.
Maggie spotted the first one; "look," shouted Maggie.
I walked over to where Maggie was standing, a dead seagull lay next to her foot.
"Don't touch it, Maggie, you could get sick," I warned.
"Oh I wasn't going to touch it, look, there is another,"  she said.
She pointed to another dead gull a couple of metres away.
"There are a few dead fish in the water too Maggie," I shouted.
"And that smell," she said gasping.
The smell was increasing dramatically as we walked along.
As we carried on north, the number of dead birds and fish increased by the thousands and the terrible smell became almost unbearable. More dead gulls lay all around the shoreline.
"What is killing these animals," asked Maggie, concerned.
"I think the fish have died from an algae bloom and the birds have died from eating the fish," I explained.
The shoreline was now littered with dead fish and seagulls, the stink was intolerable. I looked north, it was the same picture as far as the eye could see.
Thousands upon thousands of dead marine life clogged up the water's edge.
"There must be millions of them out there," Maggie said.
It wasn't just fish and birds, thousands of little starfish, mussels and clams were also washing up. Maggie complained her eyes were stinging and she was having difficulty breathing. The ocean was spewing up its contents, "come on Maggie, we have to get away from this, it's dangerous," I said as my eyes began streaming.
We pulled away from the water's edge and headed east into the dunes, the offshore wind protected us from the harmful spores of the algae bloom, Maggie and I managed to breathe normally again after a couple of minutes.
"That was absolutely disgusting," said Maggie coughing.
I held Maggie's head in my hands, her eyes had turned red and streams of tears were rolling down her face, I could hear her laboured breathing.
"I think we should head inland away from the sea and into the dunes and the forest," I said, also coughing.
We sat there, staring out at the massive fish kill, the beach was eerily silent.
"As the sea warms, this kind of disaster is happening worldwide," I explained to Maggie.
We both took a long swig of water and I poured water into Maggie's eyes and dried her face with a paper towel.

We headed off into the dunes in a southerly direction, I didn't want to get lost, there are more than 100.000 pine trees planted in the dunes which keep the sand away from the nearby towns, the forest is a natural reservation. The first time I went into the forest and the dunes I got lost and only managed to find my way out just before nightfall, I had been very lucky and I didn't want that to happen now Maggie was with me. Every season, German and Dutch tourists visit the dunes, however, the area is so vast it is possible to walk all day and see no one, with that in mind, I decided to stick to the trails. The pine and perennial trees kept the sun filtered out, bringing a wonderful coolness as we walked. The grass, however, on either side of the trail was tinder dry and bleached white from the sun, the whole forest was a fire hazard.
Maggie's phone rang, she answered.
"Hello."
"Yes, that is correct."
"When"?
"HmmHm."
"Wow."
"Really.'
"Oh my goodness, well thank you, yes I will, thanks for ringing," Maggie hung up.
"What's happening," I asked.
"That was the office, something strange is happening," explained Maggie, she sat down on the grass.
"What is it Maggie," I asked sitting next to her.
"Can you remember when we first met, I told you I had a theory, nothing more than an idea really, the idea that the Tunguska event in Siberia Russia which in 1908, could have been the devil being thrown down to Earth as described in the Bible and is the largest impact event ever recorded on Earth," said Maggie.
"Yeah, I remember," I said.
"Well, the office just rang to inform me, large areas of the blast area of the Tunguska event in Siberia have collapsed into huge sinkholes. The Russian President has drafted in soldiers to investigate the “collapsed areas” in the remote region of Siberia with some news outlets claiming the sinkholes may have been caused by leaking methane," said Maggie.
"Wow," I said, looking at Maggie.
Maggie went on, "the Russian government has also sent in teams of geomorphologists, geologists, hydrologists and land-surveyors to assess the carnage, which seems to have happened overnight.
"What could that mean," I asked Maggie.
"Well, honey, until I dig a little deeper I don't really know, there is an area in Russia, called ironically, the end of the world by locals, where huge sinkholes have appeared and experts blamed this on methane release from permafrost melting as the climate warms, the Tunguska area is further south, I don't know if permafrost exists there" explained Maggie.
"Listen, honey, this might seem a little crazy to you but in situations like this Bible scholars are more worried something came out of the whole, rather than the sinkhole falling in on itself," said Maggie.
"What do you mean," I asked, confused.
"Ok honey, quote; A Revelation to John 9: 1 The fifth angel blew his trumpet. And I saw a star that had fallen from heaven to the earth, and the key to the shaft of the abyss was given to him. 2, He opened the shaft of the abyss, and smoke ascended out of the shaft like the smoke of a great furnace, and the sun was darkened, also the air, by the smoke of the shaft."
She went on, "In other words, a fallen angel, (the devil?) will open the shaft of the abyss releasing terror upon the world for five months, I'm not saying that this terror will happen today, I just think it is an unbelievable coincidence, consider where these sinkholes have happened slap bang in the area where I believe the Devil was thrown down to Earth."
"This whole thing just keeps on getting crazier," I said.
"C' mon Maggie, it's getting late, let's head back," I said.
We headed back, hardly speaking, I could almost hear Maggie's brain ticking over.

We got back to the apartment early evening, Maggie began straight away making phone calls to various academics to find out more about the Russian sinkholes, I opened a bottle of wine and ordered a couple of pizzas. I took my wine and laptop to the balcony and decided to catch up on my emails. The first on to catch my eye was two US warships had sailed through the closely watched Taiwan Strait, turning up the pressure on Beijing after the Indian, Japanese, South Korean and Australian governments had jointly released a very chilling warning yesterday, claiming the remarkable rise of China as a military power. A rise which could lead to an Indo-Pacific war of unprecedented consequences and the Chinese expansion in the Indian and the Pacific Ocean should be a huge concern to the world at the moment. The gesture by the US comes at a sensitive time in US-China relations and is likely to draw criticism from Beijing.

According to the BBC, several nations, including China and Russia, are building powerful nuclear bombs which are designed to produce super-electromagnetic pulse (EMP) waves capable of devastating all electronics, from computers to electric grids, for hundreds of miles, according to a newly-released congressional study. This new way of warfare is called many things by many nations: In Russia, China, and Iran it is called Sixth Generation Warfare, Non-Contact Warfare, Electronic Warfare, Total Information Warfare, and Cyber Warfare." Nuclear-electronic warfare also is called "Blackout War" because of its effects on all electronic devices. The report reminded me of my discussion over an EMP strike with Maggie a couple of months ago.

The massive destructive force Hurricane Ian had made landfall on, Barbuda, Saint-Barthelemy and Saint Martin in the Caribbean and the islands were now being battered by nearly 200mph winds. French islands Saint-Barthelemy and Saint-Martin have also been 'battered extremely violently' with even sturdy government buildings being destroyed along with Barbuda and Antigua.  
It's the most powerful hurricane in ever recorded the Atlantic basin with winds approaching 200mph and the hurricane is the size of France and the experts are expecting a catastrophe.
Hurricane Ian, packing winds of 185 m.p.h., made landfall in Barbuda, an island of about 2,000 people, the National Hurricane Center said. There were reports of damage to buildings, including a police station, and of phone lines being down. The eye of the storm had moved away from Barbuda and was passing over St. Martin, the hurricane centre said. The northern eyewall was "pounding Anguilla," the centre said. The Category 5 storm was churning toward Puerto Rico and threatening havoc and widespread destruction on several nearby islands, including St. Kitts and Nevis; the Virgin Islands; and Hispaniola, shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Cuba is also threatened by the hurricane.

Slender brown arms wrapped themselves around my shoulders, Maggie's soft lips kissed my cheek.
She sat next to me on the balcony and let out a long deep sigh as she grabbed my hand.
"You ok," I asked?
"Don't tell me we have to fly out to Siberia," I laughed.
"Noooo," replied Maggie laughing.
"We can't do anything now except wait for the Russians to release their findings," explained Maggie.
"There is permafrost in the area, the Tunguska event happened along the same horizontal line as Yakutsk, which just happens to be the coldest city in Russia, so I guess these massive sinkholes could be caused by methane from thawing permafrost," suggested Maggie.
The doorbell buzzed, it was the pizzas.
We sat there eating, not talking, the walk had given us an incredible appetite.
It had been a remarkable start to Maggie's vacation.

I updated Maggie on the progress of the massive category five Hurricane Ian's devastation it was causing in the Atlantic Basin as we wolfed down our pizza.
After the meal, we sat hand in hand sipping wine and watching the sun slowly dip under the horizon.