Consider now that all that has been described so far occurred within the first fifteen minutes after event inception. In that quarter hour, these scenes were repeated in every city, town, neighborhood, home and farm house affecting everyone at work, at school, at play, on the road, on the water, in the air, or under the ground.
A swath of land representing one percent of the planet’s surface had been wiped clean of every sign of human habitation save the footprint left upon the earth when all that we created had vanished. There were exceptions, however, and those would come to light as the event continued toward the west – exceptions that gave us a fighting chance to preserve something of our culture and make a stand for survival.
Attempts were made to peer into those areas of devastation so as to better understand and prepare should the phenomenon remain on its current course. The military was providing continuous video feeds from planes on both sides of the event: those patrolling north and south along the safe side, and those pacing the leading edge as it sped quickly toward the Atlantic.
In contrast, the civilian world was provided little in the way of new video information other than that supplied by the fleet of television helicopters flying just outside the disrupted zone, using their maximum telephoto magnification to capture scenes of the unfolding pathos.
Though some turbojet helicopters were capable of reaching an altitude of more than 7,500 meters, the news gathering variety could hover at only half that, but still giving their cameras a potential horizon of more than 200 kilometers from London, theoretically allowing them to resolve images in Cardiff on the west coast.
In practice, however, haze, dust, heat waves, and the thickness of the atmosphere at an oblique angle over that distance reduced the practical range to something less, especially in terms of details. In addition, the rate the event interface was travelling had already put it beyond the horizon before it could be seen.
As a result, as the second quarter hour of the event began, the only images publicly available were of the destruction in its wake and were distant, muddy, and low resolution, giving the emotional impression that this was the aftermath of a localized disaster that had already happened.
This all changed for viewers still glued to their televisions when a jumpy shot covering the whole of Spain as seen from above with a hand-held camera filled their screens. The image zoomed into a blur, then gradually came into focus revealing the event interface, seen diagonally from upper left to lower right, as it moved inexorably westward across Madrid.
Shortly after the first military video from London was arriving in the United States, a ground controller at NASA had directed the crew of the International Space Station to point their camera out the window as they approached the Iberian Peninsula and, remembering the tragedy on 9-11, had passed it on in a live feed to new agencies, without considering the panic it might generate.
Like an invisible eraser, the event passed over Adolfo Suárez Madrid-Barajas Airport wiping it clean, then continued through the suburbs toward the heart of the old city. There was no dust along the interface line and no rubble behind: the buildings and infrastructure were not disintegrating, just ceasing to be.
Fortunately, the resolution was not sufficient to see people falling from newly non-existent buildings and planes in the same manner as London, but the impact was palpable as celebrated landmarks such as Santiago Bernabeu Stadium, the Royal Palace, and the Plaza de España were easily identifiable from space one moment and gone the next.
The International Space Station, like most payloads, was placed into orbit traveling from west to east to take advantage of the sling shot effect of the earth’s rotation, not unlike a playground merry-go-round, saving on fuel and thereby allowing greater weights to be lofted.
Circling the globe every ninety three minutes, it approached the interface line at approximately 28,000 kilometers per hour, bringing the two headlong together in just under five minutes at which time the signal was lost.
Just below New Zealand lies the Antipodes Island Group – so called because they are the nearest land mass to the point on the globe geographically opposite to that of London. And it was in New Zealand proper, forty-five minutes later at the Mount John University Observatory, that one of its five telescopes, following the projected path of the ISS, was able to capture a silhouette image of astronauts’ nude bodies as they transited the moon.
When the space station went dark, it was assumed by most that NASA had cut the signal, but the public had seen enough: something horrible, inexplicable, and unprecedented was happening in Europe. What if it didn’t stop there?
In contrast to the event’s straight line, panic spread out from London like a bomb blast in all directions at once. Those to the west who had not yet been deprived of their televisions ran from their homes in absolute terror that was more intense with increasing proximity to what was coming.
First thoughts were to bring their families together or hunker down with friends. Some never made it to their front door. Others made it through the broadcast before their screen and everything else vanished around them.
Those quick on the draw immediately made contact by cell phone and arranged gathering points. For most everyone else, the cell system became so overloaded that within seconds it was impossible to make a connection, cutting communication long before the event arrived, adding to the panic already at work.
imagine the mental state of those who had now seen the effect of the event, it’s present location, and the direction from which it was coming. Nothing had yet been published about natural items remaining, nor that new things could be created in the event zone after the interface had passed. All anyone knew at that time was that everything of a material man made nature was soon to vanish from their world, and those they cared most about were in imminent peril.
Manchester was gone as well as Birmingham, Edinburgh, and Liverpool. Glasgow was wiped clean, then Gibraltar and Tangier in quick succession. There was no time to consider the loss of art and architecture nor of family albums and traditions. All was lost in scant minutes and all that was left were suffering and fear.
Flying over Dublin and Lisbon a line of jet aircraft could be seen, a mixture of military and civilian craft that had been quick enough to get in the air before the event arrived and fast enough to stay ahead of it, looking much like a bombing raid from World War II.
Boeing’s 777 was one of the fastest commercial jets, cruising at Mach .84, and capable of maintaining Mach .89 for sustained flight. Other planes of less speed were gradually overtaken by the interface, and as their tails dissolved they fell from the sky only to be vanished completely before the wreckage could hit the ground. This provided a good, though tragic, indicator of the speed of the event itself, but as of yet, there was no centralized information center to which it (and hundreds of other observations) could be reported. That would soon change in the second hour.
As the first hour closed, the event line had moved past Ireland to encroach on the coast of Iceland, and farther south, it was bearing down on the Canary Islands and about to leave the African continent to plunge into the Atlantic on its way west.
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