I wrote God’s Bolt a short while ago. It is available from Amazon in both paperback and in a digital form.
It tells the tale of a young woman trapped on the Space Station as the world is destroyed.
Here is section 1:
Year 2178 – Impact day
I have never felt so utterly alone. A raging storm of nausea was gnawing at my belly as I began my routine morning broadcast – except that there was nothing normal about this one.
‘Good morning everybody,’ I said cheerily, putting on my best smile. ‘This is Helen Southcote beaming down to you from the United Nations International Space Station.’
I was totally unsure of the wisdom of continuing these tridee broadcasts, particularly on such an auspicious day as this. Who on earth was tuned in? Surely they’d all be in a panic, desperately seeking safety for themselves and their loved ones. Nobody would be at all interested in any platitudes from me. But the powers that be, in the form of mission controller Brad Noone, had assured me that it was necessary. The psychologists thought that it might help to continue with normality and reduce panic. Who was I to argue? They’d provided me with a script. I suppressed my anger and upset. Put aside my personal feelings about what had happened to my friends. The show had to go on. I was doing it for the kids, I kept reminding myself – it was for the kids.
‘The earth sure looks beautiful spread out there below me.’ I showed them images of the planet below me with its green seas and swirling white clouds.
With a lot of trepidation, which I hoped did not show too much, I turned my attention to the subject that was foremost in everybody’s minds. ‘Preparations are well underway to deal with the remaining threat from Chang’s comet,’ I assured them. ‘Missiles are poised to destroy the largest incoming rocks but President Khun Mae Srisuk has urged everyone to either seek sanctuary in the prescribed shelters or to evacuate to designated regions of safety. There are bound to be some meteorites that will cause some collateral damage. Better to be safe than sorry.’
I offered them one of my best smiles. The cheery tones sounded so phoney to me.
‘This promises to be one of the most spectacular shows you’ll ever see,’ I promised them. Be reassuring I’d been instructed – be upbeat. Lie. Even the most optimistic reports were predicting widespread damage across the United States, Canada and into Russia. The earth was going to be bombarded with the biggest deluge of rocks in recent history. Chang’s comet was a monster and even broken up as it was, presented a real danger to the survival of the planet. They just had to hope that this time the scientists had got it right and every single major threat would be neutralised. It was a big ask. They had not managed such a brilliant job up to now. This last ditch effort was to target all the remaining large rocks and pulverise them in the upper atmosphere so that the remains would burn up on entry. If all went to plan it was certain to be the most amazing display. The worry was that if a single one of those chunks of rock was missed……………….……….. well that didn’t bear thinking about. ‘Make sure you watch from safety!’ I chastised them. There were always some thrill seekers who sought to put themselves in danger. ‘As for me, well I’ve got the best seat in the house, a real grandstand view. UNISS will be in exactly the right place to record the whole sequence of events and you can bet that I’ll be relaying it to you live as it happens!’
I then proceeded to give them a dull and boring update on the various experiments taking place, the weather, solar activity and conditions in space. Normality. That’s what I’d been instructed to do.
‘This is Helen Southcote signing off until tomorrow. Be safe! See you soon’
‘Good job!’ Brad Noone intoned in his dulcet tones after I’d shut down. That was high praise coming from him.
‘Yes, Good one Helen,’ Happiness Ntobe added more enthusiastically. There was an element of wonder in her voice. She found it hard to believe that I’d pulled off such a jaunty performance in the face of such a terrifying prospect. I didn’t need telling. The mood back at Mission Control was one of great trepidation. It was tinged with fear verging on terror. They knew the real picture of what was coming and their confidence was not exactly riding high. Their minds were fixed on their family and friends. But I was a seasoned professional at the age of 33. I’d learnt to control my emotions. I’d been broadcasting for eight years now. I was used to it.
The rest of the day was mine and it lasted an eternity. Time dragged. I immersed myself in the routine of the station. I had to check on the work of all my absent colleagues; looking in on the horticulture work of Jeff and Bander’s, the weird zero G chemistry of Lynn and Izabel’s as well as my own work. I saved Jomo and Remi’s lab until last. That was still too painful. It set me crying. Then I did a check of the station security. All the time I was doing my rounds I kept up a running commentary with Eunice, the station’s computer, and the guys at Mission Control – Brad, Neil, Janice and Happiness. I think they were doing the same as me – desperately trying to occupy themselves, to take their minds off what was shortly going to be happening, at least the human components were. Eunice was just a chunk of metal, plastic and electricity. She had no mind. I don’t think it worked for any of us though. No matter what I was doing I kept getting images of a huge rock battering into earth and the planet being smashed to smithereens. I wished I’d never seen those damn sensationalist media images. Stupid, irresponsible rubbish. President Khun Mae Srisuk should have put a stop to it. They never should have gone out.
In the afternoon I resorted to putting the music on as loud as I could in order to drown out my thoughts and did my exercise routine with even greater ferocity than usual. Even that didn’t help though. Nothing could rid my mind of those images that were clogging up my head.
After an eternity, the twilight horizon crept over the edge of the planet and the coast of the United States of America crept into view. Despite the mass evacuations it was still lit up like a giant funfair. The sight of it sent chills through me. I could imagine the scenes in the cities below me. I’d seen the news reports. It was pandemonium. Impact was centred right over the Eastern seaboard. One of the most populated places on earth. I know they’d moved most people out but it still did not bear thinking about. I could imagine the huge throngs of superstitious religious lunatics – those who had called the event God’s Bolt and believed this asteroid was an act of God, sent to punish us for the sins of humanity – gathered on the hilltops praying to God and exalting him to spare them. Part of me desperately hoped they would prevail even though my rational self ridiculed their foolishness and maliciously hoped a meteorite or two would land right among them and put an end to their nonsense.
Already the sky was lit up with a criss-crossing of orange streaks from the early vanguard of rocks liberated from the blasting of Chang’s Comet. They were harmlessly burning out in the heavens and putting on quite a display but one that was merely a precursor to the main show.
I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and it was nothing to do with the lack of gravity. I was a seasoned pro when it came to weightlessness. No – I knew the number of planet-busting rocks that were heading our way. Shortly we would see whether all the preparations had paid off. The closer it got the more anxious I was becoming. My head was full of doubts. I could sense the uncertainty that existed down there on Earth. If they were not convinced how could I be? I just hoped our depleted and unpractised military knew what they were doing and could neutralise the threat. Ironically I just hoped that the long decades of peace resulting in the run-down of all military weaponry had not completely emasculated them. My confidence was not super high. I knew we had very little left in the kitty to throw at the threat. I knew more than most of the magnitude of the operation; it was running more on hope than logic.
At 10.23 p.m. Eastern Time the main show began.
I was seated in the viewing gantry with Mission Control plugged in. The many tridee displays showed the scenes from a variety of sources both on Earth and out in space. I found myself flicking from one to the other. People in Mission Control were talking out loud, oblivious, commentators for various channels were babbling, it was all a background cacophony to me. The heavens were lit up with trails of meteors and the explosions of surface to air missiles – I knew that all our larger missiles had been expended.
By 10.35 p.m. my hopes were on an upward trend – it was beginning to look as if we were weathering the storm. My spirits were rising. I was beginning to think High Command had pulled it off. Then it happened. A huge ball of fire arced through the sky as various explosions blossomed around it but failed to make any dent on its progress. I watched in horror as it descended and scorched its way to the ground. I swear the whole planet shuddered when it hit. The strike was just inland of Washington. Even from this distance I could see the enormity of it. A great welt of livid molten rock, expanding swiftly to become what looked to be the size of a third of the entire country, was flung into the air as a broiling front of superheated air and dust radiated out at supersonic speed. The seething gasses rushed across the ground as crimson clouds were flung up into the upper atmosphere threatening to reach out into space itself and even engulf the space station.
I watched horror-struck and numb. Though I was so very far away the speed of the expansion of that livid cloud was staggering. It was consuming the rest of the continent at an alarming rate in a glowing storm while yellow fires blossomed into a huge swirling cloud above the impact site and huge lightning bolts raged. The Earth seethed with livid orange flame.
Around me the various channels roared and went silent as they too were consumed. Mission Control was amongst the last to go; based as it was two thousand miles away in London. My mind grappled with the horror of what I was witnessing. I could not conceive that Brad Noone, Happiness Ntobe, Neil Cox and Janice Cervantes along with that whole centre at Mission Control with all those dedicated staff, were gone. It was too much to take in. I could not allow myself to even think about Jomo and the others. I could not. That just could not be. I could not allow that. No!! No!! NO!! I shook my head in disbelief. This could not be happening. I squeezed my eyes tight shut.
Over the next three hours I watched silently in some strange unreality, dissociated and analytical, as the rest of the planet was consumed by the boiling sea of fire. Through the thick fiery skies I counted four further enormous impacts further north in what must have been the States, Canada and Siberia. It confirmed everything of my worst fears for me. The last of the stations from the other side of the planet went down. The whole world was silent now and gripped in that raging torrent of fire. From where I sat it looked as if the whole world had become a ball of molten rock, a superheated furnace.
The worst had happened.
All night I sat there watching the scene below waiting for it to sink in. Things had settled somewhat. The whole planet was now a glowing writhing ball of crimson and orange cotton wool. It now looked almost serene from up here but I could well imagine what it was like down there – the force of that blast and the heat of those winds. No matter how deep underground anyone had gone I knew there was no safety to be had. Nobody was surviving this event. This was every bit the extinction event the media had predicted. I kept telling myself that it had not really happened. This was one of those media simulations.
Somewhere down there my family and friends, the colleagues I had said goodbye to just days before, my lovers, they were all gone. Nobody could have survived. They were gone. I had watched the solid rock of the Earth’s crust ripple, fold and rupture releasing torrents of fermenting magma. That can’t have been real can it? It was a tridee. It was special effects. It could not possibly be real – could it? I could not imagine it so it couldn’t have happened. It was too enormous.
Strangely I felt like laughing. It was absurd. All that huge effort that had gone into conservation was wasted. All those precious plants and animals were gone. The ironic thought came into my mind that we had been killed by a surfeit of peace. If only we had not disarmed and done away with all those nuclear weapons. If only we had kept the missiles. We’d fallen victim to our own desire to become civilised. If this had happened a hundred years earlier we would have blown that huge chunk of metal into dust.
That was the ultimate irony.
I still could not really accept it. I did not believe what my eyes were telling me. It was not happening. I was not really watching it for real. This was nothing more than a sensational tridee programme.
It occurred to me that I was on my own. That was when it hit home. I was on my own. I would never see them again. I would never see anyone again. I was completely on my own.
I forced myself not to give in to hysteria. Once I’d started down that road there was no telling where it would end. But once those thoughts were born they could not be unborn. I kept feeling what it was like for a wall of searing heat to vaporise a human being. That is what had happened 4 billion times.
Despite the logic of my own eyes I kept imagining that somewhere down there, perhaps in a submarine at depth, someone would have survived. But I knew that was impossible. The thin crust of the world had been fractured into a million pieces. The tectonic plates would have been ripped apart. I knew the science. I’d seen the magnitude of the impact. The magma was flowing freely, the oceans boiled. Nothing could have survived – at least no life of any sophisticated nature. I had no doubt that the extremophiles, the bacteria and algae adapted to extreme temperatures of volcanoes and underwater vents, would survive. In a billion years or so perhaps the planet would be green again and a new range of organisms would call the planet home. But what good was that to me?
Strangely I did not feel like screaming like they do in the tridee movies, though I thought that maybe I should. No tears came to my eyes, no swearwords to my lips. It was beyond all that. I was completely numb.
I think I spent hours, days, in a stupor just staring down at the raging planet and not registering a single thought. I did not eat or drink and not even Eunice’s chiding registered with me. My universe had been blown apart. Everything I loved was gone. I could not take it in. Somehow, despite the obviousness of the possibilities, I had not prepared myself for this. It was too big, too enormous. I still refused to believe it. Perhaps it would all settle down and be OK?
I was outwardly calm, though the inside of my head was raging as it futilely tried to absorb the facts. It was gone. The whole Earth was gone. They were all gone. I would never see anyone again – not anybody. I would never see green fields or blue skies ever again. I was on my own. I would spend the rest of my days in this Space Station, this cage, this hell. I would never see Mum and Dad, or Joe and Richard. They had been burnt alive, seared to a crisp. Everything was just ash. My friends and lovers were gone. They were seared with fire. Seared to cinders. Everything was destroyed, smashed, broken, burnt, consumed, swamped with magma, broken apart. There was nothing to heal. I was on my own. I was on my own. I was on my own. For the rest of my days I was stuck in this prison. I would never breathe proper air. I would never walk on the Earth’s soil. The silly thought came into my head and tore at me – my dog was gone. All dogs were gone. All animals were gone. They were flecks of heated ash in a hurricane of fire. Nothing could have survived. I was on my own.
My head was roaring like the atmosphere on Earth. My mind was raging like that hurricane on Earth. It was eating me up.
I think I was trying to shock myself into reacting, to feeling something. But the feelings would not come.
I stood mindlessly staring out at the ball of fire below me and that ball of fire was in my head. What it was doing to the planet it was doing to me – eating me alive. That naked molten lava was in my head burning my brains. It was agony. Those hurricanes of fire were burning up my thoughts, whirling them into raging whirlwinds of scattered meaningless thoughts. My sanity was whirling, spinning, tearing itself apart. It was a monster. It was something out of my worst nightmare but thousands of times worse!
It was all pointless, all hopeless. I could not face it. I could not face the future. I did not want to be alive. They were all gone. Why me?? WHY ME!!! I FUCKING DID NOT WANT TO BE ALIVE!! I WANTED TO BE WITH THEM!!!! I WANTED TO BE WITH JOMO!!!!
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