Claude Walker | Bicentennial-By-Buttons

(Excerpt from The New Madrid Quake Chronicles; Copyright © 2011 by Claude Walker; ISBN: 978-1-4620-7035-0)


The planet is comprised of dozens of continentally-sized "plates", constantly in motion, restlessly elbowing each other for preeminence.  Sometimes they glide past each other, two massive ships in a long night.  Or they press up against one another directly, or perhaps one plate inches up over another plate. 


The huge plate far below the Mississippi River was feeling a different kind of pressure, though.  Below the plate itself, deep, near the fiery core of the earth, a bubbling white-hot stew of magma, gases, rocks and sheer pressure was pushing upwards.  It had been persistently trying to find a seam, maybe an ancient fault line, any escape route up to the surface, and would not be denied.  Pressure and friction had been building down there for centuries; the "North American Plate" below the Mississippi River was at a breaking point.  It shuddered, sending shockwaves up through bedrock.

Birds and snakes had been feeling the rumblings for days, and many fled.  Larger animals, too, had sensed the Doom from below; deer, fox, even field mice knew it was time to go, and a silent, frantic exodus during the night would save some but not all. 


The humans were not as perceptive. 

While Wau-quay, River Turtle, Apolonia and others experienced the strange tremors, the human instinct to flee was not as distinct as for other creatures.  Around 2:00 a.m., a young Delaware sentry at Blue Turtle's encampment was the first to realize that Doom was about to pay humanity a visit.  The quiet night on the riverbank erupted in a thunderous noise.  At first, the sentry thought they were under attack, that the Americans had found them.  He began his crow call.  But when the ground started rolling in waves - waves like those he had seen only in the big lakes - the young sentry knew he faced a more serious threat.  Within seconds, the shaking from far below made its way to Earth's surface.  Trees began shooting straight out of the ground, roots and all.


The stunned sentry ran back to the camp to warn the others, but a hissing crevasse opened up in the earth and the young man slipped in and down forever.  The first victim...


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