The blood-orange sky was bruised with belts of deep purple when Gnarr let out a thunderous yawn that echoed for miles. He stretched his arms and legs, stiff from their lengthy slumber, far and wide forming a swollen 'X' across the rugged mountainside. When he sat up, a forest of dry trees beside him snapped like twigs and the stale earth shifted, forming a wrinkled ridge near his lower back. Throat dry and muscles tight, he turned his head slowly, squinting far off into the distance. The weight of his eyelids made everything around him look hazy and unfamiliar. But that's to be expected after sixty three million years.
In a language only he could understand he called out, "Momma, I'm hungry!" and pounded a fist-sized crater into the ground. The only answer was his own series of grunts and grumbles bouncing back at him.
He was accustomed to waking up every morning to the smell of his mother's favorite recipe; his family's version of freshly baked cookies with a tall serving of cool milk. This morning was different. There was no sweet warm fragrance wafting in the air. And no sign of his mother.
"Where is everybody?"
Were they playing a trick on him? Was it his turn? He often played Hide and Seek after dinner with his siblings but that was when the light went out over the horizon. Camouflaging oneself was much easier then.
Several miles west, a red light flashed. "Sir, come quick!" A young man, wearing a white lab coat and spectacles was hunched over an 'L' shaped needle nervously plotting "2.6 at 21° 8' N, 86° 44' W. Foreshock?"
The head researcher peered over the young man's shoulder. "Hmm..looks like a small temblor. Nothing to worry about."
To the south, a shipping container, suspended 30 feet in the air swayed momentarily while being loaded onto a freighter due northwest. Aside from raising a few heart rates, all was well and the container was safely loaded. Work resumed.
In the north, throngs of families awaited with great anticipation as final preparations were made for the latest launch. The buzz of the crowd swelled to cheers as the earth began to tremble ever so lightly. Moments later, an announcement was made postponing the launch until further notice, pending future seismic activity.
With nothing but miles of desert before him, Gnarr slightly disoriented, rubbed his bloated belly with one chapped hand and braced himself on a large rock formation with the other. He stood up with great effort, casually blowing a low hanging cloud out of his way and then made his way eastward, each step covering no less than a city block. As he ambled along, his stomach bellowed and gurgled with increasing intensity. Locating his family and being fed were the only two things on his mind.
From one mountainside to another, Gnarr wandered around aimlessly, kicking over boulders and stomping his feet in frustration. If this was a game, it wasn't fun anymore. Upon reaching the coastline, he plopped down to rest and listlessly jabbed his finger into the sand. As the sun continued to set, Gnarr scooped up a ball of sand and chucked it into the sea. Moments later, far across the great expanse, he noticed the rippling of waves.
"Aha!" he said as he lifted himself up and bumbled into the water. His family loved playing water games and Gnarr was thrilled at the prospect of finally joining them. As he waded through the ocean, he flapped his arms with glee. He shouted their names and called out to his mother. Just then, some lights in the distance began to flicker and smoke began to rise. Dinnertime. With fervor, he quickened his gait.
Thrilled with their day's boon, Amani and Josef pulled back their lines and redirected their dinghy back toward shore. Their mouths salivated at the thought of filling their bellies with mackerel stew, peas and rice and an ice cold Kalik Gold or two.
"All crab fine dey hole, eh, Josef?"
"True, true. We be da best fishermen in all de island Amani."
The tiny boat sputtered along. The two friends reached across the seat to give one another a congratulatory fist bump when an unexpected wave surged from behind, causing them to lose their balance and slip.
"Wybe! De sea, she shakin' her bunggy," Josef said, propping himself up and clutching his elbow. "Amani, you alright?"
Amani wasn't alright. His nose had struck the cockpit and split open just below his brow. Sitting up carefully, he looked over the boat's stern and saw an enormous wall of water rushing toward them.
There was to be no mackerel stew dinner for these two this evening. Nor for anyone else residing along the coastal village. The upheaval hit shore unexpectedly and was unlike anything they'd ever seen before.
Breathing heavily and slightly dazed, Gnarr arrived at the site of the smoke and fire. Heaps of flames and embers were spread for miles, but his family was nowhere to be found. Confusion soon turned to anger and he released a ferocious roar that radiated a blast of hot air across the already charred fields. Undeterred, he saw that his only option was to continue northeast. So off he went.
Trudging through miles and miles of earth and water, Gnarr eventually grew weary, but with nowhere to lay his head, he pressed on until he saw up ahead a second patch of land. Unlike the one before, there was no light beckoning him to hurry and no sign that a reward awaited him this time. He paused and tried to remember when and where he last saw his family. His last memory of them was playing Hide and Seek on a warm, humid late afternoon. It was his turn to hide and up to his family to find him. He knew all the usual places to hide, but this time he was determined to win.
While his friends and family merrily scrambled about, dipping their heads into the seas, peering over treetops, and splashing through rivers, Gnarr was keen on finding the perfect spot in which to tuck away. The moment the others covered their eyes, he tiptoed into a valley and slipped into a hollow place in the ground. They'll never find me here. And right he was, for seconds turned to minutes, and minutes turned into hours. As time passed our stealthy friend grew increasingly tired. He curled up against a ledge, and deep inside the mouth of the underground cave, quietly fell into a deep sleep. Nothing in the air even remotely hinted at what would happen next.
Hundreds of crags the size of train cars hailed from the sky with great force, blistering the earth, splitting it apart and swallowing everything within reach. Dust and rubble shot up high into the air and a thermal pulse fired off in every direction. The result was a rain of molten rock and storm waves of radiation evaporating anything and anyone out on the surface. If it wasn't burrowed in the ground, or deep underwater, it was vaporized to extinction.
For years, debris remained in the atmosphere, blocking out the sun and dropping the temperatures to unbearable degrees. Covered in an enduring frost, life on the earth would never be the same.
That was to be the last time Gnarr would ever see his family or friends, but he didn't know it at the time. He had so cleverly found the perfect hiding spot and as he'd intended he did indeed win the game. But, now he was not happy. Though spared from the devastation, his friends were gone. His family disappeared. And now standing in the middle of the Atlantic he had nowhere to go. Helpless and afraid he had difficulty breathing. Weeping turned to sobbing, until all he could do was look up to the sky and cry.
It was the end of another six straight day, twelve-hour shift and Davi was looking forward to his three-day furlough. In just seven more minutes, he'd be driving the long road home high up in the hills where his girlfriend, a home-cooked meal, and a soothing hot bath would be waiting.
"Davi! The boss wants you to head over to the mixer and check the temperature. The sugar pulp isn't separating. Over."
Davi rolled his eyes and reached for his two-way radio. "Sir, you're breaking up. Can you repeat that? Over?"
Standing on the catwalk, high up near the top of the extraction tower, Enzo tried waving his arms and shouting as loud as he could to get Davi's attention, but the noise from the steam turbines down below drowned out any attempt at success.
Unanticipated high winds were interfering with the two-way radio's signal and both Enzo and Davi and the hundred other workers were unaware that a colossal wave was bearing down on them. The wave crashed down, collapsing the processing plant as if held together with paper clips. The assault was so immediate there was no time to react. Boilers exploded in succession, fires flared up, and water swept up everything in its path.
Seven thousand miles away, tourists visiting the Boca Do Inferno were snacking on Bifana sandwiches at a seaside cafe. Hundreds of feet below, the faint sound of the crashing waves played in concert with the hum of conversation among the guests. Further inland, vacationers were traveling north toward the Capitol, approaching the bridge over Rio Trejo.
It was another quiet evening in this part of the world as families and friends gaily spilled out into the streets to share some wine and break bread with one another as a way of welcoming the long weekend. How could they have known that all around them, the fortified structures designed to protect them were quickly undergoing immense amounts of pressure? Tiny pops sounded off, followed by hairline fissures extending in every direction as if mocking the way the slow rising rivers snaked across the land.
Before long, fractures turned to gaping holes and massive amounts of water burst through. Millions of gallons rushed through the streets, raising automobiles, carrying them away, devouring homes, and ripping buildings off their foundations. Screams were muffled as entire neighborhoods were submerged at once. What once was a vacation destination featured in high-end travel brochures was now a cesspool of shattered dreams and unfulfilled memories.
Just as the big ball of light dipped into the sea, Gnarr caught his breath and slowly let it out. A soft, pillowy cloud floated past him offering a moment of comfort. He watched the cloud caress his left shoulder and followed it with his eyes, as it gently pulled apart into smaller fragments, quietly disintegrating into nothingness.
Engulfed in darkness, Gnarr was overcome with the real sense that he was alone. The grief over losing his family and friends was overwhelming. A quiet rage bubbled up inside until he could no longer contain it.
He stomped his feet crushing large chunks of coral; reached down, grabbed fistfuls of oceanic crust and threw them as far as he could. Sunken ships, truck wreckage, crashed airplanes, anything his enormous paws could find as he thrashed about, flew great distances into the air, like tiny plastic toys. His outcry could be heard for miles and long after his tantrum tapered off, his voice continued to reverberate, fracturing the otherwise silent night.
Defeated and weak, Gnarr struggled to remain standing. He gazed out into the horizon and watched the sky and sea turn white as his eyes rolled back. His knees buckled. His body went limp.
"It's getting late Mithan! We better hurry or Aunty will be mad," Feni said, prodding the lead bull with a tree branch. Five cows back, Mithan threw small pebbles at his lazy cow as it trailed far behind the herd. Though it did quicken its pace, it wasn't without protest. "Bahan, look!" Mithan said, pointing to the top of the nearby hill where plumes of smoke were rising under the glow of the moon. Just around the bend, a stream of red-orange liquid meandered its way downhill toward the neighboring village. Bits of ash fell from the sky.
Four thousand feet above the valley of El Chalten, Benito and Alex were mere flecks against the soaring peaks of Cerro Torre in southern Patagonia. The cloudless sky was a deep blue, but that was little comfort as the ice cold wind cut through like a knife's blade. Even so, this was a dream come true, as they'd spent years training for this trip and few climbers could match their natural instincts.
Which is why when Alex felt the rope tug at his belt he called down "Benito! Todo bien?" It wasn't like Benito to not maintain the proper slack in the rope. Benito repositioned his body after letting a few stray pebbles tumble pass and replied "Hold on!" He inspected his harness to ensure that all was secure and then looked up to give Alex the thumbs up. As he gave Alex the signal, a stone slab sheared off, and shot straight down the rock's face, just missing Alex's head. Benito was not so lucky.
The rope snapped and instantly, Alex too, was free falling. A stampede of rubble and boulders followed closely behind.
Just west of a remote island near the Bering Sea, a pair of Sail drones self-maneuvered the icy waters, continuously taking measurements of meteorological and oceanic activity.
A phone rang at home base. The on-call engineers received data indicating that sensors had picked up a rapid increase in temperature. As the engineers scrambled to determine the cause, opposing currents collided forming a maelstrom several miles wide, sucking the Sail drones into the ocean's depths and losing its signal.
Across the Americas, nuclear families were settled in for the night and tuned in to their favorite late night talk shows. In between the sprinkles of laughter and commercials for auto insurance, entire city blocks caved in as enormous projectiles slammed into homes and apartment buildings, dropping entire neighborhoods below the street's surface. A single point of origin could not be detected due to the fact that the assault was partially caused by the nation's own satellites which had been inexplicably veered off course.
Regaining consciousness, Gnarr struggled to raise himself up and crawled on all fours across a wide stretch of desert land where he could lay himself down and catch his breath. The water around him was warm and milky white, much like what his mother once gave him each morning. He was tired and hungry; his eyes could barely stay open. But, they remained open just long enough for him to see the early stages of the waning moon. Its various shades and textures formed familiar faces that appeared to speak to him. He stared at it for quite some time. A blanket of calm and insight draped itself around him. Measured, he reached out toward the heavens with an open hand, plucked the moon from the sky and plunged it into his pool of milk. "Mm...peculiar," he muttered, his utterances sailing off into the starry sky. "Tasty."
Savoring its nooks and crannies, he licked the cookie's sides and dipped the waning moon back into the milk until it fell to the bottom. "Gulp!" He drank every drop of the moon milk and soon fell asleep in the black night. •