Baptism of Fire (for Loyal Lady Dee) -
05-20-2012, 12:58 AM
Hey! Hey! This is Jabber J on KLOL Radio this evening! It's seventy-two smokin' degrees, and I'm burnin' up the airwaves with the hottest hits! Comin' up, we got Soulja Boy, Young Jeezy and Jay-Z, and more! So, stick around, gotta pay the bills, and we'll be right back!"
Dr. McKinsey Adams, seismologist and assistant supervisor of the Nevada Environmental Disaster Agency, turned irritably toward the new intern, Craig Imahara, sitting at his computer terminal, jamming to the latest tunes. How he hated these college kids they threw at him, all tech-savvy but having no idea what was expected of them. He was supposed to be training them to be the next generation of disaster trackers, but all they did was tune into satellite radio, play online computer games, chat, email, and go cybershopping, among other things. He rapped Craig sharply on the shoulder.
The young intern almost jumped out of his seat. "You got those graphs ready?" Dr. Adams asked, "or are you too busy playing Guitar Hero to do your job?"
Craig pulled out a coil of paper from the bin at the bottom of the seismogram. "Right here, Dr. Adams."
Adams took the coil with a grunt of thanks. "Less rock, more research, okay, Craig?" he said.
Craig nodded, turning down the volume of his computer and clicking back onto the shear wave velocity data reports he had been assigned earlier. Adam took the coil back to his desk and unrolled it. Though he was only an assistant supervisor, he still ran a tight ship as far as NEDA was concerned. At forty-seven, he was still physically fit with a metabolism of a man half his age. He had to be. Being the top seismologist in the agency required a lot of field work as well as long hours poring over seismographs, taking readings and giving presentations to government bureaucrats to keep the funding from drying up. The stress load would have killed a lesser man.
Adams unscrolled the graphs for the afternoon, taken from the southern part of the state, near Las Vegas. Hardly anything registered there, but the Entertainment Capital of the World occupied a fault-bounded basin filled with alluvium up to five kilometers deep, with major faults in neighboring Death Valley. Sin City may glow with a thousand neon lights, but it had feet of clay.
Zero point zero, zero point zero, zero point three, zero point five--practically flatline as far as he could see. All was quiet on the Southern front, he thought. Around four PM, however, a one point five had registered, the highest he had seen in that region. True, it was the equivilant of a construction site blast taking place deep underground, and would barely be felt by anyone on the surface, but it was enough to cause some concern, but no panic. It was probably the rippling effect from a tremor from furthur up north. The southern tip of Nevada always got the aftereffects of shockwaves from the faults upstate, often so minor no one even knew there had been an earthquake. Adams called the Reno branch of NEDA to confirm his findings. Later he'd call Carson City. They'd confirm it was just a minor tremor up north that made its way to Vegas. It was a routine procedure, no need to ring any alarm bells.
Leslie Fanning, known to her fellow Wiccans as Sunsinger, shuffled the deck of Tarot cards in the usual ritualistic manner--cut, then shuffle, then cut again. It was her favorite morning ritual, like reading the paper or singing in the shower. It gave her an idea of what the day would be like for her before she left for her day job as an EMS dispatcher. It saddened her that she could not share her Wiccan way of life with her co-workers. Either they were skeptics, like her supervisor, Morton, who scorned anything that hinted of the paranormal, or they were religious zealots, like Regina, her fellow dispatcher and a Jehovah's Witness who left her church's magazines in the break room. One particular issue denouncing Wiccans as Satanists made her blood boil, but she couldn't make a federal case about it because then she'd be facing a mob of them outside her front door, intent on converting her to Jehovah's way of life. That she didn't need.
The cards she used were a quarter larger than a standard playing deck, specially ordered from Paranormality.com. Of all the decks she had used, this one was the best by far; they just felt right in her long, delicate musician's hands. She played the recorder for her coven on various occasions: handfastings, births, solstices, feast days, or whenever the mood for music struck. She also read the Tarot for her fellow Wiccans on request. Mostly, she read them for herself, like this morning.
Leslie laid three cards on the crimson velvet covered table, specially reserved for Tarot readings. She carefully laid the rest of the deck aside and turned each card over to reveal the past, the near future, and its outcome. She looked at the first card on the left.
The Fool, reversed. Not a good sign. It symbolized foolishness, instability, and the wasting away of creative energy in bad choices and rash decisions. A bad time for commitments. But the second card in the center was worse--the Tower, symbolizing disruption, conflict, change, sudden violent loss, ruin and dramatic upheaval. But, she reflected, it all would lead to enlightenment and freedom.
The third card, Death, seemed to confirm that hopeful note, for it revealed the beginning of an new life as a result of underlying circumstances due to past events and actions. The end of one phase of life would signal the beginning of a new one. Some major event would come as a wake-up call for her to begin anew. Yes, that was the message in the cards.
She swept the cards back into the deck and put everything away. It was time for her to go to work, and even Wiccans had to make a living. As she left her apartment she saw her neighbor, Lucas Hasselbeck, a young struggling musician just coming home from a late-night gig. Leslie couldn't help but feel sorry for him. Lucas had married his high-school sweetheart before the ink on their diplomas was barely dry. Isabella had been his strength, his inspiration, his main supporter when others told him to give up. Though they struggled to make ends meet with her day job as a drycleaner and his night gigs, she never stopped believing that he'd get his big break. When she had been killed by that drunk driver who had been going ninety in a forty mile an hour zone while pursued by two police cruisers, all the life seemed to drain out of him. Yet, to his credit, he kept going, doing it for Isabella, his muse in death as she had been in life.
Leslie had played guitar and recorder duets with him during his better moods, but she never ventured to ask him out for a drink or anything. He still pined for Isabella, though she had been dead for less than a year now. Goddess willing, he would come around, she thought as she stood at the bus stop. Grief was the price to pay for love.
Costa Sarantakos, Criss Angel's second oldest brother and as much a heartthrob as his more famous sibling, knelt beside his bed that morning, face buried in his arms. The dream had come back again last night, and this time he had cried out in terror when he awoke. It was the third time this week that he had that very same dream. He just couldn't understand it. Why was he having the same nightmare over and over again? Was he going crazy or something?
When he and his brothers were growing up in East Meadow, Long Island, whenever any one of them had a bad dream, their father would ask if there was a sin on his conscience. If not, then it was either something he ate or something else was bothering him, like at school or work. Then Dad would tell him to say a prayer and go back to sleep. So there was Costa, on his knees by his bedside, seeking solace from prayer, only solace didn't come so easily.
Ruins of buildings, like Ground Zero. Fire and smoke. Dirty, sooty, bleeding people begging for help, reaching out to me to help them. But I don't know how to help them. I'm not a doctor, or a fireman, or anything. I am as helpless as they are.
Hot tears burned his eyes and soaked into the bedclothes. He was tired, but he was too scared to go to sleep again. He felt ashamed of himself, a man in his mid-forties behaving like a child afraid of his own dreams. He needed to get up and get on with his life. They were dreams, that was all. Figments of his subconscious, a sweeping out of mental clutter from his brain.
But it was the same dream, over and over again, for three nights in a row. How could he explain that? Stress? No, it was something deeper, something more significant.
Dear God, he prayed. What are You trying to tell me? Is this a warning? Is this a prediction of the end of the world? Or is this a sign of something else? Or am I just going nuts here? Oh, dear God! Please, give me an answer!