Yellowstone National Park was a place of awesome-beauty, a landscape of surreal contrasts exploding from the living rock and shifting mountains.
It draws millions of visitors every year to wander its grounds and traverse its trails, including some who are simply driving through
It was a sanctuary for wildlife; a thousand little creatures preserved in their habitat as well as the apex species, the bison and the elk and the wolf who hunted them for food.
Yellowstone was made a National Park in 1872, through a law signed by United States President Ulysses S. Grant, one-hundred and twenty years before they discovered the volcano lurking beneath the fantastical landscape.
Yellowstone was a cradle of life, nested above the most deadly natural feature of planet Earth.
Earth’s molten core burned beneath its thin surface, a cauldron of liquid rock boiling below the mantle, deep inside a vast chamber filled with super-heated and poisonous gasses.
In the park, the most popular features for tourists, beside the landscape itself, were the hot springs, the bubbling waters and high flying geysers that blasted off with incredible regularity.
Heat from deep within the earth created these phenomenon. It melted exotic minerals in the waters, giving them bright, colorful and psychedelic trappings.
Some of the pools were so toxic and acidic they could melt the flesh off a person’s bones in seconds.
Changes in the pattern and timing of these geysers gave the tell to the monitors, that the Catastrophe was approaching, but it was too late.
The scientists of Earth only noticed the volcanic activity when the mountains surrounding Yellowstone Park began to lift.
They noticed a change of several centimeters over hundreds of square of miles of mountain range, between the newly conducted surveys and the surveys that had been taken a hundred years earlier.
At first they thought that there must have been a problem with the original surveil, but they ruled out that possibility in short order. The science of surveying was well established at the time they were originally done, even the equipment that a person would use to make those calculations had not changed much in the intervening decades.
The math was the math and it was sound.
It took the best geologists among them years to figure it out, that the changes were actually caused by geological uplift. The understanding of what that meant, its implications, took even more years to complete. They had to change their perspective significantly, they had to look at the area of uplift with satellite imagery and that is when they noticed that the entire Yellowstone Park was a massive volcano.
Even then, they did not know how significant the problem was.
Geologists from across the country began to study the park in minute detail. Looking at every strata of rock they could see exposed in the surfaces of the surrounding mountains, measuring, and re-measuring, and through their diligence they discovered the long cycles between eruptions of this killer volcano.
A six-hundred thousand year cycle, a cycle of planetary doom.
When they knew what features to look for, they discovered other such volcanos around the world. They discovered the volcano in Indonesia that last erupted seventy-four thousand years ago.
The Earth’s volcanologists, climatologists, and geophysicists weighed in. It was a small cabal of people. They correlated data from arctic ice core samples, soil samples, tree ring samples. They began to understand just how devastating an eruption of a volcano this size could be.
They were just beginning to understand it.
They were hoping it would not erupt in their lifetime.
Those hopes were in vain, the entire planet was under threat, no-one was safe.
There was a rumbling.
The seismographs told the tale.
They had been graphing it for years, but disbelief had crept into the analysis. The story was blacked out, even as the tar in the roads cutting through Yellowstone, above the volcano began to melt, cracking from the heat and the top researches on the site resigned to protest of the deliberate misinformation campaign the government waged to keep people in the dark.
The government knew the disaster was coming. They just could not be sure when. It might not happen in their lifetime, or it might happen tomorrow. It was an impossible thing for them to plan.
Those who understood the nature of the problem, and those who did not quite get it, they were all together in the same web of uncertainty, making the laypersons view as valid as the expert.
It was a quiet day in the great park.
Yellowstone was always quiet.
Deep beneath the earth something was happening. Pressure was building. Molten rock was bubbling, rushing into the great chamber.
The wildlife in the nature preserve sensed it first, birds took off with their entire flocks. Bison fled in droves. The wolf and the fox and the coyote followed them, all creatures great and small sought a path of escape.
Most of the humans looked on, befuddled.
A few knew what this meant, or believed they did. They sounded the warning. Some of them were alarmists, they were perceived as people who were always ringing the bell, Chicken Littles crying out, The Sky is Falling!
It ended up in the news of the weird.
Few of the researches fled the park, the all knew it was hopeless.
They wanted to see their families, perhaps one last time before it was all over. Those who could did, those who couldn’t opened bottles of Champagne and toasted the end of the world.
Their life’s work was now complete.
The survivalists retreated to their shelters, basking in the esteem of vindication.
They were being proved right.
Every living thing on Earth, above ground or in the air heard the explosion.
Everything, even the most remote creature in the deepest ocean, felt the blast.
Every creature walking or standing, stumbled and fell as the planet lurched, shuddered and shifted on its axis.
Fault lines cracked open, leaping a thousand years forward in the space of seconds.
It was a massive upheaval, it was turmoil on an unimaginable scale.
Skyscrapers came crashing down in cities around the world, as the continental plates groaned and twisted.
Planes and low orbiting satellites fell from the sky.
Chaos followed quickly upon the sound wave.
The desperate prayers of the dying-faithful rose up to greet it.
In security centers around the world the most astute military planners knew what had happened. Nevertheless, they were utterly bewildered by the scope and the magnitude of the devastation.
The level of instantaneous destruction was beyond any of their calculations, the collateral damage to geological and hydrological systems was not anything that anyone had conceived of.
Communications were down around the globe.
Nuclear reactors were off line and began melting down.
Tsunamis were rising in the shallow seas.
It was the end of the world.
It had been over six hundred and forty thousand years since the last massive eruption of the great North American volcano, six hundred and forty thousand years of pressure had been building.
Volcanoes erupted around the world all the time.
There were other smaller volcanoes of this type in other places.
The only witness to the last event was, who had been there seventy-four thousand years ago, when the last massive caldera blew.
The Indonesia volcano nearly wiped out the human race. It reduced a population of millions to just a few thousand. That volcano, while one of the largest on Earth, was only a tenth the size of the monster in Yellowstone.
When the Yellowstone Caldera blew, the Earth shook, the entire planet felt the rumble. The magnetic poles reversed, the world shifted on its axis, and wobbled in its orbit.
The stars, when they became visible again, would never look the same.
None of the scientists, the geologists and seismologists, none of them had any idea just how much power would be expelled when the eruption finally came.
None of them had long to contemplate their error.
If they had known they might have tried to do something about it, even in consideration of the risks. They might have tried to ease the pressure from the sleeping giant, but they never had a chance.
Life would certainly reestablish itself. New species would emerge. Some humans would survive, but they would all be changed.
Even still, the planet was doomed, its orbit was altered, and that alone spelled the end of the line for Earth.
Ashshot in to the stratosphere and fell back to the ground, burying North America in poisonous dust.
Clouds of fine particles and streams of deadly gases blanketed the entire world, blocking all light from the sun.
Within days nearly every living creature on the face of the earth was dead.
Those that survived were the most determined.
There were many who had readied for some kind of doomsday. They had prepared for nuclear war, an alien invasion, a zombie apocalypse, but not this.
A majority of those survivalists either died in the preliminary blast, and the subsequent correlated upheavals of the chaos that ensued.
Many died trying to reach their secret bunkers while roads became impassable, they were buried in the fallout.
Nevertheless, there were many who did make it.
Many who had sequestered themselves in hidden enclaves, in secret compounds. Some of them worked together.
For them, their stores of food needed to last years beyond the decades they had planned for. It would take that long for the sun to reappear, longer still for farming to be possible.
Human beings quickly became their own worst enemy.
Outsiders became foodstuff.
Cannibalism set in, as it always did, and quickly as it always did in times of crises.
It was, once again, the end of civilization.
The human race had faced this before, it was difficult, nearly impossible, but they had an Observer helping them in the past, they had Jim.
They made it through.
This time there would be no rescue, no wisdom from beyond, no help of any kind.
Volcanic eruptions of this magnitude were the prime movers of planetary evolution. Even the oceans were not immune from the fallout. All organic matter on the surface of Earth perished, becoming just another layer of clay. An event like this was a crucible, even more so in the present time than it had been in the past.
What was taking place in this iteration of the evolutionary cycle was something brand new. The biological evolution would take place as it had hundreds of times before in the history of the planet. In this cycle, however, a cognitive evolution was taking place at the same time, an evolution of the group consciousness, it was a designed evolution, it had been carefully planned by Jim, over the past seventy thousand years.
It was intended, and it meant that the human being who survived would have transcended into a brand new state of being.
There coming would change the Empire in the far reaches of the galaxy.
Half of the world’s population perished within days of the blast, most of the rest in the weeks, and months that followed.
By the end of the year, without intervention, the number of human being living on Earth would be down to a few thousand, or less.
Every species was affected; mammal, reptile, avian, insect. Those living on land were hurt the worst. There was widespread extinction. Entire ecosystems were just gone. Only nature’s apex survivors would continue; the crocodile, the turtle, and the frog.
Coastal areas provided recourse for the survivor. There were fish, there was water, there was mobility and there was power.
But it would take decades before the poisons were filtered from the atmosphere, all mammalian life would change as a result, but life would endure on the other side.
Part Three, Earth
Chapter Eighteen, Disaster
A Novel – In One Chapter Per Week
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