Ozark Retreat - Chapter 8 and Epilog


Ozark Retreat - Chapter 8

It was another short growing season, but enough food crops and fuel crops were produced and processed to allow all the remaining compounds to survive another winter. Which was as bad or worse than the previous one. One of the few services the federal government had resumed was the National Weather Service. Anyone with shortwave capability could get regional forecasts. The forecasts were broadcast twice a day on the Time Standard frequencies. The long range forecasts were calling for continued cool summers and savage winters for at least four more years.

There was talk of trying to relocate the MAG further south to avoid the worst of the weather. Brady was ambivalent about it, sometimes agreeing and sometimes not. The decision was put off for another year. Game was beginning to come back into the area, and there was much new growth of vegetation. Brady was careful to only let the firewood team cut deadwood. There was quite a bit of it from the radiation and the ash fall. He wanted every living thing to continue that could. The volcanic ash was already breaking down, enriching the soil where it had accumulated.

Star and her new shadow, Claudia, were at Brady’s housing unit helping him do a spring cleaning. He’d always been a neat housekeeper, but so much of his time was taken up with MAG business he had let the housekeeping go.

Claudia and Star were on each side of Brady’s bed, making it up. Claudia didn’t see the wistful look on Star’s face, as she looked over at Brady, putting clothing away in the closet, and then looked at the bed again, as she carefully smoothed the coverlet.

All three felt the sudden tremor shake the place. And all three ran out into the open, not so much for safety since the construction had stood up well to the earthquakes related to the Yellowstone super eruption, as to get to the communications station and find out what was going on.

As they ran toward the blast shelter Star asked, “You think it’s Yellowstone again?”

“Different feel,” Brady replied, going down the steps to the shelter. “What do you have, Connie?”

“Reports just now coming in, Boss. Looks like it’s some of the New Madrid earthquake zone letting loose.”

“Might not be too bad, then,” Brady said. “It acts up every once in a while. Let’s just hope it’s not the ‘Big One’.”

“Don’t tempt fate,” Star said.

Another tremor rocked them on their feet.

“See,” Star said.

“Still small,” Brady said.

More people were coming into the shelter, looking for news. Brady told them what he knew for the moment, and then sat down beside Connie to monitor the situation. Star and Claudia went back to Brady’s housing unit. “What do you say we make him a pan of brownies?” Star asked.

Claudia’s eyes lit up. “Yeah! He’d like that!”

Star ruffled Claudia’s hair. “So would you, wouldn’t you?”

Claudia smiled at her substitute mom. “Yeah. I guess so.”

“Me, too.” Star led the way into Brady’s kitchen. She’d rearranged it herself that morning so she knew where everything was.

Brady hadn’t come back by supper time, so, with a little smile on her face, while Claudia studied her schoolwork, Star fixed them a supper. Brady came in the door just as she put things on the kitchen table.

He sniffed the air as he came toward the kitchen. “Hey! What’s going on?”

“I thought you might be hungry, it being supper time,” Star said. “What news do you have?” she asked.

“Definitely the New Madrid Earthquake Zone. Both shakes were felt in a wide area. Wow! This looks and smells good. I didn’t even know you could cook.”

“I’ve been helping in the community kitchen some when I’m not busy elsewhere.”

“You’re always busy, it seems like,” said Claudia, putting her books away.

“Wash your hands,” Star reminded her.

Claudia did so at the kitchen sink, and Brady did likewise. He moved to seat Star when she started to sit down. “Oh. Thank you.”

Grinning, Claudia waited until Brady moved to her chair.

“See, Claudia,” Star said, “Manners aren’t dead.”

Brady took his seat and reached for the entrée. “May I say Grace?” Claudia suddenly asked.

Bringing his hand back to his lap, Brady said, “Yes, Claudia, of course.” He looked over at Star and saw that her eyes had misted over.

Claudia thanked God, and Jesus, and Star, and Brady.

After she said Grace, Claudia immediately reached for the biscuits. “My Mom used to make biscuits all the time. They’re my favorite. Biscuits and rabbit stew. It’s the best.”

“Really,” Brady asked. “Well, the animals are coming back. Maybe I can get us one or two if Star agrees to cook them.” He looked over at Star. So did Claudia.

“Will you, Star?”

“Sure I will. I never have, but if you help me I’m sure I can do it.”

“I used to help Mom all the time.” She turned to Brady. “Can I go with you to hunt? I’m pretty good. I’ve shot rabbits before.”

“I believe you told me that before. Sure.”

“Could we make it a threesome?” Star asked.

“I don’t see why not. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to shoot your vierling.”

“What’s that?” asked Claudia, after swallowing a large bite of biscuit.

The conversation turned to guns and shooting and hunting and fishing. Claudia held up more than her end of the conversation, as she seemed the much more experienced of the three. The closest Star had come to hunting was shooting skeet with her father. Brady had only hunted a few times, at the invitation of a couple of his employees who hunted.

It was Brady that suggested they watch a movie after their dinner. Claudia and Brady helped Star clean up and do the dishes. They took their brownies and milk to the living room and discussed a movie from Brady’s collection of DVD’s.

Claudia was sitting between Star and Brady on the sofa. She fell asleep almost immediately. Brady fell asleep soon after. Star got up quietly and eased an afghan over the two, and then sat back down to watch the end of the movie.

She shook Brady gently after the movie ended. “Brady,” she whispered. “Wake up. Movie is over. Brady.” She shook him again. He came to with a start.

“Oh. Movie is over? I guess I fell asleep.”

“I’ll say,” Star replied, still speaking softly. “I need to get Claudia up and off to bed.”

“Oh. Sure.” After a moment’s hesitation Brady said, “I hate to wake her. Why don’t we just put her to bed in the second bedroom?”

Star nodded and removed the Afghan and Brady picked up Claudia. He carried her to the second small bedroom and left Star with her to get Claudia in bed. He gathered up the brownie plates and milk glasses and rinsed them in the sink in the kitchen.

When he went back to check on them Star was standing in the doorway of the bedroom, watching Claudia. “She never even woke up,” Star told Brady, her voice very low.

“Brady,” she said then, stepping right up to him. He leaned back against the door jam. “I want to stay, too. With you.” She leaned forward slightly more and her lithe form molded to his. She kissed him gently on the lips and then again more firmly.

Brady responded to the second kiss, kissing Star deeply, his hands going to her back. He took her hand then and led her to his bedroom.

The next day she moved her things and Claudia’s things into Brady’s place. They were a family now.

Ozark Retreat - Epilog

Author’s note: Please excuse my butchering of Tectonic Science.

The tremors didn’t stop. They had shock after shock during the winter, sometimes two or three a day. Brady read up on the history of the New Madrid Earthquake Zone. He didn’t like what he found out. There had been a whole series of moderate quakes leading up to several big ones during 1811 and 1812. The pattern seemed to be repeating itself.

From what the amateur operators were telling him the world was acting up geologically all over. Yellowstone had blown and The Pacific Rim was alive with erupting volcanoes now. Some had been active, but many dormant ones were becoming active again. There were even reports of some new fissures opening up and creating new cones in several areas.

The material going into the atmosphere from the volcanoes was one reason the National Weather Service kept pushing back the timeframe for the climate to return to a more ‘normal’ set of seasons.

Brady, Star, and Claudia were working in their section of the garden when the world around them seemed to go wild. Noise beyond what one could imagine sounded and the very ground dropped from beneath their feet. Claudia screamed and Brady and Star both tried to grab her but all three fell to the ground when the ground itself stopped falling.

Brady had no reference of how far the ground had subsided, but he felt like he had fallen several feet.

It was generations before scientists pieced together what had happened that day and several subsequent days. A tectonic movement of epic proportions had snapped the North American Tectonic Plate in two from deep in the Gulf of Mexico up the Mississippi River Valley and over to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway.

For eons the bedrock deep under the center of the United States had been stretched thinner and thinner. The surface would have sunk with the bedrock, except billions of tons of eroded rock coming from the Rockies and the Appalachians, and even the Ozarks, had filled the sunken land in, just slightly slower than the ground was sinking.

When the plate separated magma began to stream upward in hundreds of places. But it was still deep in the earth and much of it cooled and hardened quickly, sealing the crack except for here and there. A new line of volcanoes arose along the length of the split.

The waters of the Gulf of Mexico flowed northward over the sunken ground, stopping only when it reached Cape Girardeau, Missouri in the north, the Ozarks in the west, and the foothills of the Appalachians to the east. The Gulf of Mexico was now the American Sea.

Water flowed from the Atlantic into the new sea, and the Pacific flowed into the Atlantic. It took years for the oceans to equalize. In that time old currents disappeared and new ones were created.

The tremors continued for days. Communications were out. Brady and his group, and the other groups close, had no idea of the extent of what was happening. They only knew that the greatest earthquakes in recorded history had occurred. And they had survived them. So far. There was doubt in some minds about their future survival. One thing they noticed and couldn’t explain was the occasional scent in the air much like that of the sea.

They also couldn’t explain the loss of so many Amateur Radio contacts along the Gulf Coast. At first. Then the reports started to come in. Brady and the others found out they were only a few miles from the new coastline.

But life in the Ozarks went on for another year. There had been marriages and births and some additional deaths. Some of the marriages were between residents of different compounds. One of the births was Star and Brady’s son, Joshua Brady, named after Star’s father and Brady.

But the Ozarks had become a very small gene pool. There was pressure to go exploring and find some of the other survivors they talked to on the radio. Also to set up a presence on the new coast to take advantage of the bounty of the sea. So Brady’s MAG, in cooperation with the other Ozark locals, set up a plan to go to the nearest coast.

But that is a story for another time.

Copyright 2006
Jerry D Young