The ProspektoЯ

Posted: August 27, 2011 in Fiction

The ProspektoЯ

An Apocalyptic Short Story

By: Michael Allan

The Big Bang

Coffee? I thought yes please I’ll have coffee. The thought spun in my head stirred by the spoon of that thought. Coffee; I can’t smell it or taste it. Hell; down here I couldn’t find it if I wanted too. My name is Riley Howard; CEO of Howard Software I still write code but I do more handshaking and marketing than I’d like too. I live in Scottsdale, Arizona. Is it nice? Yeah it’s nice enough; trendy and modern but just Western enough to be low key and comfortable and you can find great coffee. There I go again; come on dude focus. I haven’t slept much in days. I’m not even sure how many days. My phone with the neat calendar went dead not to long after. I never could remember to keep it fully charged.  After what?

Well; I’m still trying to figure that out. I woke up on a Friday morning; I thought I’ll take the day off work and start my weekend early. I decided to drive up to Jack Ass Mountain the old scrub covered plot of desert I bought after my software company took off and actually made some real money. On the property is an old silver mine; I bought it for that reason; that and the silence. It is that remote desert silence that can only be broken by rolling tumbleweeds or a Red Tailed Hawk. I studied geology in school along with many other things; but Geology always stuck with me. Focus. I left Scottsdale at 9am and drove west into the Sonora Desert sun I had a thermos of my favorite coffee. A half charged cell phone; some snacks for the day and a case of bottled water. I always take a case to leave in the mine because it’s hard work even as a hobby miner. Water comes in handy. You can pour it on a rock to highlight its color and composition so I keep lots of water there. If I knew now what I knew when I bought this land I would have dug a well.

Focus. So I get to the mine about 10:30am; unlocked the gate and parked the truck. I went to the opening of the mine and opened its gate the rusty screech breaking the silence. I felt the cooler air coming from the shaft. Ah it feels good to feel and smell that air wash over me. I stowed my supplies into the mouth of the shaft with my gear. I have the usual things a compass some hammers several picks and shovels for tools and a lot of string for my surveys. I pulled the cord on the generator and it broke the silence again. But I tolerate the smell and noise of the thing. Light; water, air. Coffee? Damn I left it in the truck. I went to my truck for the coffee; I had to let my eyes adjust  to the light. I closed the truck door and glanced upwards towards the sky. The Sun was bright and hot but something was odd. That’s an awful bright star for mid morning I thought? Shrugging it off me I ambled back to my hobby. I grabbed my gear and threw it into the cart; the old time mine cart you saw in the Indiana Jones movie. Yep; I have one and a caver’s helmet with a battery powered light to lead the way.

I heaved the cart downward into the shaft keeping the brake dragging just enough to let in glide but not run away to a crash at the bottom. Yep; I did that too. Once. I was about a hundred yards into the shaft when I was thrown from my feet and slammed against the rock face. Dust and debris flew around me in slow motion it seemed. Then silence. And darkness. Terror struck me like a fist to the jaw. I was rattled and uneasy. I wasn’t injured; save for a bit of pain to my knee when I hit the mine floor. What the hell was that? I don’t use explosives and there isn’t another mine for miles?

I switched on my light. In front of me toward the shaft end was clear except for the dust and some rock that had fallen but nothing serious. I turned toward the mouth and there it was, nothing but rock. Whatever had just happened collapsed about 100 yards of tunnel. I was stuck in my hobby now, rather than it stuck in me. I reached into my pack for my phone but there was no signal. That was useless. I had 6 hrs of light left in the rechargeable battery that powered my lamp; 6 hours to daylight. I took stock of usable supplies I had 1 case of water, a box of energy bars and my coffee. No time for coffee now. I had to move quickly I checked the rock around me and it seemed to be solid and no danger to me. I emptied my cart of my gear and began filling it with debris. I thought “I’m supposed to be taking rock out of here not putting it back in!” I had filled the first load in a few minutes and went deeper into the mineshaft as far as I thought I needed to go based on my quick calculations.

Matter

Digging. I think to myself “I’m not a miner I’m a software guy”. I’m a miner now as reality sets in. I don’t have an office staff to dig me out of this mess. It’s up to me and I better get very busy as the clock on my phone tells me I have used 1 hour of my battery. I had 5 more hours of light to hold firmly too. I paused for a drink of coffee; but just a short break. I get back to my task at hand. I am working very quickly; cart by cart filling and dumping. I try to quicken my pace as I am now hanging tight to less than 4 hours of light and well away from my freedom of this hole. I resolve to not let this become my tomb. Only one person knows where I am Sonya; my longtime friend and Vice President of Programming and Research and Development. She is my right hand and my confidant in all matters of business and life. I hired Sonya out of school at ASU where she was dabbling in many things but not really focused on one. I read her right away as a very smart and well organized woman who really has a drive and desire to get things done; she just needed direction. I suggested programming and with her analytical mind she took to it quickly and Graduated Magna Cum Laude’ I am very proud of her. I wish she were here now.

I think and dig cart after cart; trying to stay focused and drinking plenty of water. I’m saving that coffee hopefully for a cup in the warm Sun. I realize that I am now 2 hours from complete darkness and I might have cleared only 30 yards of stones. Just enough to be able to get the cart to the face and still work exposing its tracks set into the hard stone floor. I need to rethink my use of time. It’s going to be very black very soon in here and I need to be able to work “blindly” so I memorize my surroundings now a picture burned in my head. As I take the next load I count the number of steps to my pile of rubble deeper in the mine. Think. Focus. I go back toward the opening pile and check my time. 1 hour and 10 minutes of light left. Precious and wonderful light. Something I took for granted and cursed as I left the mine everyday for the last 2 years. Focus. I’m now thinking wildly, not quite a panic but a definite change in my rational. What can I do? And; then it occurs to me test fly this thing. Take it from beta right to final release! Yes! I take a pull of water and courage from my bottle. I turn to the pile and switch off the lamp. Now it will only be used to check my progress or clear something I can’t feel. Steps counted back and forth will give me a bearing on the time to turn it back on! A plan!

Calm washes over me as I feel relief in this decision. I continue my work counting, counting north and south it’s now a mantra. Cart after cart I march on; time seems to stand still in the darkness. You really have no sense of how long it’s been without light; our Sun that burning disc in the sky that passed through Pharaohs’ so diligently struggled between his Soul and the avatar of Osiris. Now my Soul struggles to fight off the Demon Apep of Darkness. Darkness the demon; I have to agree with that as I contemplate my next surge of effort. But I’m tired very tired; I think I’ll just rest a bit and think this through.

Dark Matter

I startle myself; was I asleep? And for how long was I sleeping? I don’t know! I switch on the light in a panic. I jump to my feet and surge to my pack. 4 hours! I lost 4 hours to sleep? I don’t get 4 hours of good sleep at home why now? Why Here? Focus. Think Riley think! I’m still tired now confused and lack energy? A nap used to rejuvenate me, a cat nap over lunch in my office and I was good for 8 more hours! Think man think! Good grief! I’m using up my oxygen! Hypoxia! I’m in deep shit here and now it’s starting to scare me. One person knows I’m here I have no way to let the world know it. I’m still way too far from the world I want to be in. I have not experienced panic like this in my life? What would happen if I died here? How long before they dug out my mummy? Here lies the mummified corpse of an idiot who had to have a hobby deep in the ground? Idiot; I should have gone to work today. I have to get a grip; I have to move tons of solid rock. Conserve oxygen and energy with a dead battery in complete darkness.

Problem solving: 1. Understand the Problem. 2. Establish Objectives and Priorities. 3. Execute the plan. 4. Develop Alternative Solutions. 5. Choose the Best Alternative and Implement.

I don’t think when we wrote the Company Handbook we had this hole in mind. The problem: Buried in the ground. Objective: Survive. I have executed the primary plan and I’m failing miserably. Alternatives? Focus Riley stop sniveling and man up. Survey string; I have my survey string. I can tie it to my datum at the end of the shaft; reel it out and count the knots 1 knot every foot. I don’t need to haul the whole pile out! I can try to “mole” along the top of the debris pile pulling my survey line with me! It’s worth a try! I’m a dead man if I stay here huffing up all my remaining O2 I might get some extra air along the top as a draft effect. Execute alternative plan; yes I am.

Energy

My new direction has energized me at least for now I can’t sit here and hope for rescue I am losing my air I can live for a time without light. Supplies? Rucksack with small drilling hammer, water, coffee, drill chisel, nearly dead and useless smart phone turned timepiece. All the tools of a PC in your hand are useless in the ground. I should have been smarter. I am smarter than this. But I have fallen before; my first programs were mash ups that were plagued with mistakes I wrote. I didn’t understand a loop fully; my Perl skills were dreadful. I thought once I had programmed “Hello World” I would be on top of it! But I learned and as all great Leaders do they surround themselves with talent; it reduces the “I screwed it up” effect. I amble up the face my dim light showing me the dim path of least resistance. I am weaving my way through like a human mole.

Sniffing for fresh air; my nose dulled by the time underground. My taste is all peanut butter from the Energy bars I brought. “Note to self” bring assorted flavors when you are trapped inside a mountain. The rubble has been pretty easy on me to this point I think I have gained 30 yards on this exit from my Black Hole. I should be approximately 30 to 40 yards from freedom and the Sun. My phone is so dead now I have lost the clock and track of time. The rubble pile approaching the mouth is much denser. It must be from the part of the mountain face that collapsed straight down leaving no pockets to navigate through. I’m not dressed for being a mole. Let me just say that to myself here. My elbows hurt my knee is throbbing I feel like shit honestly. At least when I die they’ll see I was trying to escape this tomb of darkness. Maybe it’s time for acceptance? Maybe I won’t make it out of here alive? Maybe giving in to the Demon is all I can do since I can’t fight it any longer. Maybe some rest will help me I’m so tired so very tired.

Riley falls into a deep sleep; and he doesn’t know it but outside his dark world at this moment his “outside”  world of light has been devastated by a large asteroid. The main asteroid was an iron ferrite similar to one that “buzzed” Northern Italy in 1994; it ended with an explosion over the town of Lugo with the energy of 14 kilotons and generated a shockwave strong enough to set off seismometers. It disintegrated; this one did not. It had a Richter scale value of 10.6 and was what would have been the largest on record. It shook Riley for 7 minutes but he had no sense of that time in the darkness of the mine. It impacted in the area of the 4 Corners leaving a crater roughly 72 miles in diameter. It had the explosive force of 108 Mega Tons. Riley’s life has changed forever he just doesn’t know it yet.

A smaller but far from insignificant fragment impacted in the Cave Creek, AZ. area causing smaller scale but widespread devastation of his home and all he wants to return too. Small fragments also impacted many other areas of the United States and Mexico. His business; his home and his friend are gone. All that remains of Phoenix and its Metropolitans is a shattered burning landscape. Many challenges await Riley if he can reach the surface. His story of survival has just begun and he better get ready for it.

Gravity: Riley’s Nightmare Continues.

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Comments
  1. Jus says:

    This is a great piece of writing. keep going with it!

  2. TY Justine you’re very kind to have read it; and took the time to comment on it! I enjoyed writing it. I am going to continue Riley’s story.

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