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GALACTIC TSUNAMI

By: David L. Souers

Chapter 13

Migrations

The call that came in the previous evening from Danielle had unnerved her parents to say the least. Their leisurely dinner was soon forgotten, and Jimmy’s thoughts of an amorous evening was also discarded out of hand.

As he hung up, Ellen asked, “Jimmy, what’s wrong?” She could see by the look on his face, even before he broke the connection, that something was definitely amiss.

“It seems that the Mayans weren’t perfect in their predictions. The gathering seems to say that we’re running out of time. Danielle says to get the hell out of here as soon as we can!”

“It’s going be a long night by the looks of it, huh?”

“Uh huh, I guess I’ll have to take a rain check on my reward for being such a hard worker all day.

“Hey, that was going to be my line!”

“OK, we’ll both take a rain check, and have twice the fun later.”

They were still laughing over that, when Jimmy remarked, “Let’s finish loading everything we can take, and get the heck out of here while the getting is still good!”

The large leaf bags were a godsend for packing their clothing, sheets and blankets. Ellen had picked up three large boxes of them while she was at the grocery store getting the items for the barbecue. She had almost walked on by them, now she was very glad that she hadn’t.

Without bothering to make things pretty, they filled bag after bag and stacked them by the trailer. Breakables came next, and soon they were loaded in between the cushioning leaf bags. Small items like the photo albums were tucked in to keep the rest from shifting. The plastic pails were stacked next. They were taped shut with duct tape, and formed a veritable wall in the back of the trailer. Canned goods, in their original boxes, were stacked over the axle from floor to ceiling.

Jimmy commented, “There, that will keep us from to much or to little weight on the tongue of the trailer. About four hundred pounds should be about right to keep from having any problems, and the sway bars will help to keep us going down the road, and not off of it.”

At three-thirty in the morning, the truck was loaded, the trailer was nearly full, and they were beat.

“Ellen, lets get a quick shower and a couple of hours of sleep. That way we can travel all day tomorrow, and not have to stop early.”

“Sounds like the best plan I’ve heard all day.”

It was less than a half an hour later when both could have been heard, “sawing wood”, totally oblivious to the world.

Neither of them were what they would have termed, refreshed, the following morning when the alarm went off at daybreak, but they rolled out, and after a quick cup of coffee, set about finalizing their preparations.

While Jimmy tied the beam type antenna, that had been acquired with the ham radio, to the roof of the trailer, Ellen was taking the fresh food from the refrigerator and placing it into a large cooler chest. She had frozen three gallons of spring water in the big chest freezer, after she had removed a pint or so from each one to allow for expansion. They would be used to keep everything in the cooler chest fresh, as well as to provide a nice cold drink, as they melted down.

Watching Jimmy place the chest into the space that had been reserved for it in the back of the truck, Ellen made an observation, “Hon, if you move that box over just a little, I think we can load your recliner in that space right there. All you’d have to do is make sure the tarp keeps it dry ‘til we get there.”

With a big grin of happiness, he said, “I’m sure willing to give it a try!”

Fifteen minutes later, they gave the keys to the house to Don and Ann, who had seen all of the activity at their neighbors all night, and figured they were going to head out early. They had set their alarm to get them up, in time to say their goodbyes, because they didn’t want to miss their only chance to see them off.

Putting his .44 magnum Super Blackhawk under the seat next to the bag of gold coins, Jimmy turned and shook his friend’s hand. They all exchanged heartfelt good wishes to each other, and as they pulled away, Ellen yelled out the window, The freezer is over half full of food, use it up before it spoils.” They hadn’t even bothered to have the utilities turned off. They figured that the wave would do it for them.

It was early enough that the city streets were still quiet. The morning rush was just a trickle at this time of the day, and it sure didn’t break Jimmy’s heart not to have to fight it, while driving the big rig. East bound on the interstate a few minutes later, they noticed that the traffic that was coming towards them was increasing in volume, as the city workers came in from the outskirts to their jobs in the city proper. Not too long after that, it had mushroomed to the point that it had slowed quite noticeably.

Glancing over at his wife, Jimmy commented, “I sure wouldn’t want to be in a traffic mess like that when that wave comes through. They all live in the desert, and I’ll give you good odds that most of them don’t have enough water to get to town, if they have to walk. Not that it would do most of them any long term good if they did get to the city.”

The southern route was not too bad as far as steep grades went. The few hills that they encountered weren’t enough to make them show any signs of overheating, or to slow them down enough to be noticeable.

Coming through the next big city was a piece of cake. They were too late for the morning rush, and too early for the lunch brigade, just like Jimmy had anticipated. With most of the city now behind them, Ellen asked him, “How about some breakfast for your hard working wife?”

“I was just about to mention that my stomach was getting a little too close to my backbone, and that I could hear them talking to each other down there.”

“Ha, those two are always talking to each other. There’s a truck stop that looks as busy as it can be, up ahead. I’ll bet you and your talking insides can get enough food to keep all three of you quiet for an hour or two in there.”

Jimmy hit the turn signal and eased over to the exit lane. “I’m sure willing to give them the chance, before I start feeling faint or something.”

“Uh huh, Who’re you fooling. You could live off the fat of the land for a week at least Hon.”

“Well, it sounded good ‘til you came up with that.”

The food was as good as the full parking lot indicated it might be, and as usual, Jimmy was so full he couldn’t hardly take care of the servicing of the truck and trailer as they prepared to get back on the road.

“But Ellen, I’m just eating for the hunger that’s coming.” It was one of his lines that he used before the wave to elicit a laugh from her. Now her serious look said that she knew it might just be so.

“Let’s hope not, Jimmy.”

The big ford V-8 didn’t have any problem with the rolling hills that they began to encounter as they made their way southeast towards the New Mexico line, and not long after that milepost had been left in the rear view mirrors, the terrain once again flattened out as they crossed the desert. With only the distant mountains to mark their seemingly slow progress across the open expanse, Jimmy commented, “How’d those early settlers ever get across this hell hole with horses, or oxen and wagons? It’s bad enough in a truck.”

“They must have been tough as nails. The ones that didn’t die out here, anyway.”

“Well, I’m glad were heading for a place that’s, more than a little bit, more hospitable to us humans.”

A few miles past the first big desert town, they stopped at a roadside table and had a quick lunch out of the big cooler chest. Giving thanks for their good fortune so far, they had no idea that Don and Ann’s flippant skepticism had degenerated into real paranoia. Ann had begun to fill every available container with fresh water, carefully adding a couple of drops of bleach to each one. Don was out trying to buy some non-perishable foods at the same time. Unfortunately, it was a classic case of, too little... too late...

With a beautiful setting sun just touching the horizon behind them, they crossed the Texas border, and not to long after dark swung into a chain type motel, and were soon checked in, showered, and dining in the establishment’s eatery. Jimmy wasn’t very impressed by the venue.

“Why can’t they attach truck stop diners to these motels, so you can sleep well, and eat well too?”

“I think you just like the portion size more than the food at those diners.”

“No way! I like them first because it tastes more like what I like to eat, and I like them second best, because they give you all you want to eat. When I get that yuppie chow, I end up paying twice as much money for half as much food, and it invariably ends up tasting like something that never makes it to my list of things to do over.”

“Well, I’ve got to admit, this dinner is not a culinary masterpiece, by any stretch of the imagination. Oh well, it’ll hold us ‘til tomorrow, I guess.”

Like many Arizonans, they had crossed over into the land of Tex-Mex, Mexican food, and the first taste of it was one too many. They were used to the chili verde, or in plain English, green pepper Mexican food. The ground up dried red peppers that were so prevalent around here were not exactly unused where they came from, but they weren’t used so indiscriminately either. It was the equivalent of having a meal in Boston, and the next one in Atlanta. Even a big bowl of beans didn’t taste the same in both places by any stretch of the imagination.

Reentering the room, Jimmy put the bag of coins in the top drawer of the small nightstand, and put the big Ruger on top. He would be able to reach it by simply stretching his arm out, which is just how he wanted it.

Everything had been loaded into the rig with forethought to prevent the most valuable items from easy accessibility, and although he had parked under the big mercury overhead lamp, he was up to check on it several times that night. At least once every two hours or so, was inevitable.

Ellen woke to the sound of the running shower. Slipping out of bed as stealthily as she could, she tiptoed into the bathroom, and slid her hand behind the curtain. Stretching her arm out, she gave his posterior a quick pinch.

“Hey!”

As the sound hit her ears, his hand caught her wrist and drew her into his steamy embrace. Their plans for an early start, were but a distant memory.

Instead of ham and cheese omelets at the restaurant, they had donuts and coffee that was procured at the mini-mart while Jimmy fueled and serviced the rig. Ellen smiled as she handed her husband one of the raised glazed. “We lost an hour, but I think we can live with it.” Little did she know what an hour could mean...

Negotiating the worst grades of the trip later that morning, without any problem, they soon entered the rolling hills that would eventually take them to the southern portion of the great plains.

The town that was just west of where interstate 10 headed south to San Antonio, and I-20 went nearly straight east towards Dallas was chosen for a lunch break. Finishing his sandwich under the big mesquite tree sitting on the, much to hard, cement bench at the picnic table, Jimmy put in a call to his daughter.

“Hi dad. How far have you come?”

“Hi yourself. We’re at Kent, Texas. What have you learned since I talked to you last?”

“Nothing new. We just know it’s to close for comfort. Gary and I are working nonstop trying to take care of everything we can. By the time you get here, we’ll have enough room for your supplies and most of your stuff. If you will leave your tools in the trailer so we can use it for a workshop, we’ll have plenty of room for you, mom, and the rest of your stuff. Gary says we can make a wood heater out of a barrel, and have a place where we can do any kind of project that we need to get done.”

“That’s better than just letting my trailer sit empty, huh? We can use your horse trailer to haul anything that we need to haul.”

“Those are Gary’s words exactly. He said it would be nice to have a place where he can work out of the elements. And with the weather conditions that are expected to be headed this way, no one will want to work in them.”

“Well Hon, we’re ready to get on the road, so I’ll talk to you later. Bye.

“G’bye dad. Stay in touch. Keep on trucking.”

Setting out a couple of minutes later, Jimmy commented, “It sounds like we might not make it before the wave hits. At least Danielle is worried about it. I could hear the concern in her voice for us.”

“What do you want to do about it?”

“What can we do Ellen? It’s beyond our control, that’s for sure. About all I can think of is, to do what Danielle said, keep on driving. If we don’t stop except to eat and fuel up, we should be able to make it by tomorrow morning.”

“That sounds good, but we’re not kids anymore. Can you hold up?”

“I think I can, if you can give me a break once in a while. I don’t see any reason why we can’t, if we pull together.”

“I do just fine in my old wagon, but I’ve never pulled a trailer before.”

“As soon as it’s time for a pit stop, I’ll let you give it a try. With the sway bars, it’s not too different than driving your car. Just remember, no sudden moves. Not to the left, not to the right, and remember that it won’t stop as fast as it would without the trailer, even if it has it’s own brakes.”

Two hours later, Ellen’s white-knuckle grip threatened to break the steering wheel as she slowly brought the truck up to cruising speed. Under Jimmy’s quiet instructions she slowly came to realize that it wasn’t really all that difficult to keep the truck in her lane without swaying into oblivion.

“This isn’t as bad as I thought it would be Jimmy.”

“You’re doing fine. Just as long as you don’t do anything sudden, and remember to leave plenty of room between you and the vehicle in front of you, you’ll be fine”

Fifteen minutes later, she started to comment to Jimmy that she thought that she was getting better at her new job, when she realized that he was fast asleep on the seat next to her. She nearly woke him up, but thought better of it, well aware that he had a long night in front of him, and this was the best time for him to rest. The thought of driving the rig at night didn’t enthuse her in the slightest, did. Nearly one hundred and fifty miles had accumulated on the odometer before he finally started to stir, and he probably would not have awakened then, but he felt the truck slowing down and woke with a start.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing Hon. I’m just pulling into a rest stop before I explode”

“Now that I’m awake, that sounds like a good thing to me too.”

They went ahead and fixed a snack before they left the rest area, and Jimmy took over at the wheel while they finished their sandwiches and cup of lukewarm coffee on the road.

“We’re going to have to stop for fuel soon. When we do, be sure to fill both thermos bottles with coffee. This stuff leaves a lot to be desired. I’m going to need some of that truck stop coffee. You know what I mean, the “forty weight” that those truckers are always talking about, its coffee as thick as motor oil. It really isn’t, but it’s still designed to keep you awake, and moving down the road. We are still a long way from our sanctuary, and I won’t be happy ‘til we pull into the front gate.”

The lights of Dallas were just a glow in the rear view mirrors when Jimmy hit the piece of metal sitting in his lane. Actually, he followed his own advice about not making any sudden moves in the steering department. He had seen the object in the headlights, but not in time to completely avoid it. The right front tire on the trailer took a direct hit, and exploded like a cannon shot. His equally loud, “Damn!” left Ellen sitting straight up, with very big eyes, as she was rudely awakened from a very sound sleep.

Letting off the gas, and letting the trailer slow down on it’s own, Jimmy eased the truck over to the berm and came to a stop. Putting his flashers on, he went around to the passenger side, and walked back to the trailer. Shining his flashlight on the tire, he could see that it was ruined, just as he had figured. His only consolation was the fact that it hadn’t taken both of the tires on that side out. Not only would it have been hard to control, but he only had one spare tire for the trailer!

Pulling the tire from its mount, on the front of the trailer, he got out his hydraulic jack and the four-way lug wrench. Mumbling under his breath, he went to work on getting the tire change behind them.

He was just starting to pump the jack up, after cracking all five of the lugnuts loose when he heard the sound of tires crunching on the gravel behind him. Looking back, he saw the highway patrol car, at about the same time that it’s emergency lights came on.

“Good evening officer.”

“Hi. You’ve got some trouble?”

“Nothing serious. I hit a piece of some kind of metal on the road and cut a tire. I’ve got a new spare, and a good jack, so the missus and I should be OK.”

Shining his own light into the back of the truck the officer commented, “That’s quite a load.”

“Sure is officer. We’re headed for a place that’s green for a change. I finally retired, and now we’re going to say good-bye to that desert for good.”

What year is that ford?”

“It’s a nineteen-seventy.”

“I haven’t seen one that looked that good in a long time.”

“Thanks. I get a lot of compliments on it.”

Jimmy hadn’t stopped working while he was talking, and it wasn’t to long until he was retightening the lugnuts, and throwing the spare and the tools into the back of the truck.

“Do you know of a place that’s open and has a tire that I can buy, and have mounted, to replace my spare?”

If you take the Titusville exit, about four miles up the road you should find what you need, about a half mile to the north. That would be a right turn off of the exit ramp.”

“Great! I’ll stop and take care of it there. By the way, thanks a lot for staying and holding the light for me, it sure made it easier to change that tire.”

Pulling back onto the interstate, Jimmy couldn’t help but breathe a sigh of relief.

“You sure were extra polite to that officer.”

“All we’d need is for him to find my cannon and a bag of gold under the front seat! We would have been laying face down in the dirt while they ripped everything we owned to shreds. By the time that they figured out that we weren’t transporting any drugs, they’d take the gold and all of my guns as, ”evidence”, and leave us our food, and all of our possessions scattered over five acres. Classic government over-kill in the war on drugs. Now I can finally think of one damn good thing that the wave will bring. We won’t have to put up with any more of that kind of crap, or the drug trade that fostered it.”

They dropped the tire off at the small station, and drove down the block to a diner that had it’s light on. They ate their first hot meal of the day, and filled the thermos’ again with fresh coffee.

They crossed over the border into Arkansas just as the first hint of the predawn began to lighten the sky, and much to their amazement, watched as the vehicles around them lost their lights, and seemed to slow to a stop, as one.

“Uh oh.....Something’s up!”

“Ellen watched as the effects of the wave unfolded around them. Even the big rigs were coming to a stop. Their diesel engines were still running, but they all had computerized light controls and other switches, so they just sat in the dark, wondering what had gone wrong.

When the accumulated fuel pressure dropped low enough, they would sputter and die, just as their gasoline and electric contemporaries had done, seconds before.

An old truck came at them from the east. It’s lights and engine unaffected by the burst. It was moving quite slowly, and Jimmy imagined that the driver didn’t have the faintest clue why he was still moving in a world that had suddenly come to a grinding halt around him.

All of the big highway illuminating lights were black, and no sign of lights were visible anywhere within the limits of their vision.

“Damn it! We’re only about an hour from Danielle’s.”

“So much for that hour I said wouldn’t matter. I’m sorry Jimmy.”

“Don’t be silly. It was one of my better hours in the last decade or two. We’ll get there, as long as we keep our wits about us.”

Slowing the rig to twenty-five miles an hour or so, to avoid the vehicles that hadn’t managed to get clear of the roadway, they both seemed to hold their breath for miles.

The traffic had been fairly light when the wave hit, but there were more and more people wandering onto the roadway, seemingly in a state of shock.

With less than twenty miles remaining in their epic journey, they saw a big tractor-trailer stopped in the right hand lane, and a highway patrol vehicle blocking the left one. A police officer was standing between the two, with a flashlight in one hand and a revolver in the other.

“Jimmy, he’s motioning for you to stop.”

“That’s not going to happen. Just smile, and hang on!”

Nearly stopped, he floored the old truck and whipped the wheel to the left. Down into the shallow median, around the obstruction, and then another fairly severe turn, this time to the right. It was over in a few seconds, but it felt like an awfully long time to the pair. They had heard a lot of yelling, but no shots.

“Honey, what was that all about?”

“I think that eighteen wheeler must have hit a stalled car. He must have been trying to keep on trucking without his lights, and hit that car before his fuel died.”

Why didn’t you stop for that officer?”

“They would have commandeered our truck for sure. There isn’t much running out here, and I’m going to keep heading for Danielle’s, no matter what happens. There are going to be lots of people that will take anything we have, and if we let them, we’ll end up out of luck. I was counting on the fact that, that officer didn’t have a clue about the scope of the problem he’s dealing with, and rather than blasting away at the public with his revolver, he got our license plate numbers if he was lucky, and figured he’d nail us for leaving the scene of an accident, reckless driving, and anything else he can think of.”

“Oh no!”

Jimmy couldn’t help himself, as he started laughing. “Who do you think he’s going to report our transgressions to? He’ll be doing well if he can make it home to take care of his own family.

Turning off the interstate, they slowed even further, as the lane changing option that they’d been using to avoid the inevitable stalled cars, became tougher on the rural two lane highway.

Turning into the west driveway at his daughter’s house was the signal for Jimmy to literally collapse over the steering wheel, at about the same time, as the rig came to a halt.

“Jimmy, are you OK?”

“You bet...Now I am!”

On the big mountain overlooking the city, an old man sitting in a decrepit pickup truck, that was parked on the lover’s lane, turned to watch a huge airliner slam into the darkened city far below. He was also headed for greener pastures. He’d wandered these mountains for years, and one of his expeditions had led him to an old tunnel that went far into the very mountain that he now stood upon. Nearly a quarter of a mile into the tunnel, he’d found a diamond drill hole that the miners had put in to try to find the elusive vein of ore that had pinched off where the test hole began. Tilted up at a slight angle, the hole produced about a quart of water an hour, twenty-four hours a day. It was far more valuable than any ore that they might have discovered in the drill cores. The old man drove the truck down the nearly invisible jeep trail that went to within a quarter of a mile of the entrance, and started carrying the first load of supplies to the mine from the back of his old truck. He had already cached many truckloads in the back reaches of the drift, and he figured this one would be the last that he’d need for several years. The old man walked an invisible trail right to it. He was a man that had survived longer by around him and heeding everything that was available for his evaluation.

Standing at the entrance of the tunnel, the moonlight showed his face to be as craggy as the convoluted mountain range that encompassed his newest refuge, but his eyes seemed to be those that would be found on someone who was wearing a younger man’s clothes. The wave had passed. Hopefully his soul mate’s parents were now safe. Down through the ages, he had met very few like her, and to keep her from pain made his heart sing with joy.

When she had told him that her parents were living in the desert, many years before while she was at his mountain cabin, he resolved to try to save them from this day, if he could possibly do it. Her many incarnations had suffered much pain over the ages, and if he could save her any more, he would do so at almost any cost.

He had tolerated the Mayans long enough to instruct them in astronomy, math-ematics, construction, and written language, but at their graduation had forsaken them and their bloodthirsty ways. They had used his knowledge to set their oral traditions into stone for those civilizations yet to come. His final gift had been the knowledge of the day that the present, “Great Age”, would come to an end. He wasn’t sure why his calculations had been off by so many days, but he figured he’d have plenty of time to work on it.

Far below, Don and Ann held each other, trembling and crying. The noise of the airliner slamming into the ground, less than a mile from their house, had nearly thrown them from their bed. They’d tried the lights, the portable radio, and even the car, but all were dead, and they knew for sure that they had made a potentially fatal, life decision, when they ignored their neighbor’s warning just a few days before.