Morning for Sokroshera Chapter Eighteen

By Timothy Smith, 2020

Morning for Sokroshera Chapter 18

Tim’s novel of Russian America (Kodiak Island area)

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Friday, April 3, 1964 – Inside the cliffside fort during the largest aftershock (Plot spoilers removed where possible)

The shaking of the ground was almost immediate—the epicenter of this aftershock (preliminary magnitude of 7.0) was less than thirty miles away out in Chiniak Bay. The whole mountain felt to Judson like a school bus that has just dipped into a large series of potholes. To long-time residents, it seemed as if the island were suddenly being turned into a pile driver. In the old bunker’s mess hall, the lights abruptly went out, and there were two metallic crashes, as though at least one of the light stands had fallen over. It was a far more abruptly violent quake than the big one of a week before, but thankfully, it was over in a few seconds. When the shaking stopped, there was a second rumble, an even louder roar, and a quick vibration in the floor. The hallway outside was suddenly filled with dust, although in the dark, no one could see that. At first, Judson couldn’t see anything, but at least the motion had stopped. He was vaguely aware that the noise had also stopped, but it was hard to tell, because his heart was pounding rapidly and insistently in his ears. Finally, his eyes adjusted a bit to the feeble light filtering in from the open blast door down the hall and to the right. He couldn’t even see the door to the outer hallway, which was partly closed.

Just then, the lights came back on, and moments later, in rushed Billy Jr. and Marla, waving their arms to clear the dust. Herman picked up the light stand that had fallen over, and sure enough, one of the floodlights had broken. The other crash had been their fan, now lying in a tangle on the floor. Herman also retrieved a flashlight that had lain, unneeded, on one of the tables, and had managed not to bounce off in the quake. Herman had been incapable of locating it while the lights were off, and everyone was having breathing trouble that could only partly be blamed on the dust in the air. Billy Jr. spoke first, his voice insistent though shaky. “You...  guys... better come with us!”

Billy Jr. had his own big flashlight with him, and shone it down the inner hallway toward the foyer and the open door to the cistern. They could barely see a huge mound of rocks and pieces of concrete through the dust, and it was a good guess that the pump room and everything beyond it had collapsed when hit by the weight of the granite slab above. The cistern was now filled with rubble and huge sections of the former ceiling of granite. “Uh... Looks like nobody will get into that cave again,” said Marty. “That must have been the second rumble we heard,” remarked Brother Toma as calmly as he could, “When the... uh, roof to the cave collapsed.”

“I ...think it’s bigger than that,” Billy Jr. said, his voice none too stable, and motioned for them to follow into the outer hallway. Dust was pouring from the opposite end, from the entrance to the tunnel that led to the ladder room. “Looks like this half of the mountain collapsed in on itself,” said Herman, a bit shakily, and I’ll bet the crack in the guardhouse up there finished what it started.” “Oh, there’s more!” said Marla, her voice now nearly as high pitched as Anya’s could be. “Come look at the road.”

They stepped outside, shielding their eyes from the brilliant noontime sky. Billy Jr. cut in, a little less shaky now. “While we get used to the light, lemme explain why my generator cut out. During the quake, the damn thing hopped about ten feet down the road. It kept upright somehow. I waited until I was sure the shaking stopped, and then Marla and I dragged it back over to the extension cord, and plugged it back in. Damndest thing you ever saw! It was still running the whole time, and it even acted like it was running... away!” That’ll be funny someday, thought Judson, his heart rate still pretty much through the roof since the quake hit.

Marla disagreed about what was the damndest thing. “I dunno, Dad, I think this over here might be...” Marla’s voice faded away. She pointed, and finally continued. “Uh, look at where the spring used to be!” Marla was standing rather tentatively a few feet from the edge of the road. Below her, a two-foot wide, ten-foot long section of the roadbed was now missing. Herman and Judson peered over and almost threw up. It was a straight shot of freshly broken rock all the way down to the surf of Cape Unuak, far below. The little meadow, where ages ago they had eaten lunch beside the spring, was completely gone. The waves below were now partly obscured by the dust of the collapsing cliff face and roadbed. “Do you... Is there... uh... sorry!” He coughed, collected himself, and finally spit it out. “Got enough room to get the truck out of here?” asked Judson finally, his voice a bit shaky, as though someone had just played “Saved your Life!” with him at the edge of the Grand Canyon.

Author’s note: this sharp and violent aftershock was a real event, on that date, and ended up being a 6.9, only 30 miles from my fictional island.



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