Here’s the next installment of my science fiction thriller series, The Event in which a mysterious force sweeps around the globe erasing anything made by the had of man.
Episode 21 – Countdown to Disaster
Brazil was the second largest beef producer in the world behind only the United States, and like its neighbor to the north, each country maintained nearly as many head of cattle as head of people. With an overall population well over two hundred million and the second largest military in the Americas, also behind only the United States, Brazil was as well-equipped to save the lives of its people and provide aftermath protection as any nation on earth, which was why global attention was focused on both the preparations for the event there and the results of the aftermath.
The event line was expected to come on shore at the coastal resort of Recife, the most easterly major city in the Americas, roughly two hours and sixteen minutes after inception. Historically the first slave port on that side of the world, modern Recife normally looked similar to Miami with its multi story hotels and white sand beaches crowded with colorful umbrellas, primarily on Recife Island, which was connected to the mainland by four bridges.
This geographic attribute led to the early evacuation of the island as survivors would have no easy way of crossing the coastal waters once the bridges had vanished. But it also provided the solution for another problem that had originally appeared in Valencia where, after the event’s passage, no one could tell the guards from the inmates, and a number of violent attacks resulted.
Several prisons surrounded Recife, but with little time to make arrangements for holding the incarcerated, it was determined to release all minor transgressors and transport the violent offenders offshore to the island, to be at least temporarily inhibited from interacting with the general population once the bridges had gone, thereby allowing officials to focus on establishing basic controls and directing the expected mass migration to the nearest survival camps.
Unlike many countries, Brazil had no dedicated Coast Guard but tasked its navy with that mission, so for more than an hour prior, rescue helicopters had been airlifting crews from military and merchant ships and boats too far out to make it to shore in time.
For those beyond the circle of recovery, communications were established to allow the sailors to contact their loved ones, and instructions were given for seeking out any non-manufactured goods that might float, either in their ships’ stores or in their holds.
Though little hope was held for their survival, two weeks after the event’s passage, three sailors from a ship north of Recife were found alive on the beach near Cayenne, the capital of French Guiana, having fashioned a raft of harvested coconuts they lashed together with uncured hemp fibers and then been pulled by the Southern Equatorial Current along the northern coast of Brazil.
Several similar stories were reported south by Rio de Janeiro, the last near-land point after the Brazil Current splits from the Southern Equatorial Current at Recife and runs south to meet the Southern Current several hundred miles to the east of Tiera del Fuego.
For decades the Brazilian government had maintained a fleet of off-shore moored buoys and satellite-monitored free-floating drifters that reported a variety of ocean conditions in contribution to a number of international programs. Now, they provided the exact location of the event interface as it approached the coast, giving rescuers warning to return to the relative safety of land and enabling the government to broadcast progress reports to the population, culminating in a countdown not unlike watching the Great Ball fall on New Year’s Eve.
Continuous coverage was sent by satellite uplink to master editing rooms which intercut live video from news teams on the ground with aerial imagery from the Brazilian Air Force and still pictures from space to create the greatest possible dramatic montage, culminating in the final minute before the event would reach land. Spot ratings determined the program drew more viewers world-wide than any other in history save the UEFA Euro 2020 event seen by 5.23 billion people, and just aced out the previous second place holder, the Rio 2016 Summer Paralympics, which had pulled in more than 4 billion. One television executive was reported as having sardonically quipped “We’ll take number one next season.”
The on-screen clock clicked down from 60, superimposed over: Flocks of birds taking flight along the coast, picturesque shot of Recife seen from the historic town of Olinda just slightly further east and closer to the event line, aerial view of ships disappearing out
at sea, drone shot of the entire metropolitan area looking toward the sea and the coming event, pan shot of jets flying away from the city toward the west, families drawing closer together, city streets of people pausing their frantic last-minute preparations to look toward the east, close shot of adults holding their children close, people edging toward relief stations, last few residents leaving their homes, congregations in front of their churches singing and praying, dogs running wild, burly men tightening their grip on baseball bats, a young girl clutching her favorite stuffed animal, a crazed man throwing handfuls of R$200 banknotes in the air, hospitalized people on stretchers taking their life-ending meds while their loved ones comfort them, nurses and orderlies standing by those in casts with natural recasting materials, the Brazilian president and his cabinet looking strong but compassionate in the capital, cutaways of transfixed viewers around the world who have stopped their own preparations….
The final shot was a split screen with dozens of images from multiple camera positions.
When it came, the event took out the historic town of Olinda, just 3.5 kilometers away, in an instant. At that longitude, being just 8 degrees below the equator, the speed of the interface was roughly 1650 kilometers per hour, arriving in Recife just 7.5 seconds later, and completely crossing the entire metropolitan area to the east just 15 seconds after that.
One by one, the images on the screen went dark until all that remained were aerial shots from the Air Force documenting Recife’s final moments to viewers around the world as the line of disruption was clearly seen erasing the city leaving nothing but plants, animals, and the earth itself.
In every nation, people at all levels remained in stunned silence. The more compassionate began to weep for those the tragedy had now afflicted, the more passionate wept for themselves.
Continued aerial coverage of the aftermath displayed disparate reactions. Appearing at that distance as ants, crowds of people moved like flocks of birds or schools of fish. In some areas, calm remained. In other parts of the vanished city, they gathered around relief stations. Here and there mass fights erupted and moved through the throngs like the red spot on Jupiter.
Strangely, there was little of the expected panic; the public had been well-informed and materials and supplies well-prepared. Besides, where were they to run? Very slowly a mass migration began toward the nearest of the survival camps.
Based on its consistent speed, the event line would cross all of South America in roughly three hours and pass through all of North America three hours after that, affecting nearly one billion souls.
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