Part Five: Apocalypse
The characters in this book are fictitious.
Any similarity to real persons is coincidental and not intended by the author.
2011 – 2016^©^ by Vincent Pet
All Rights Reserved.
No parts of this book may be reproduced without express written permission of the publisher.
“I thought I wouldn’t see you again, Ling. It has been a very long time.”
Ru Sun stared warmly into the eyes of Ling as she entered his garden. He’d been waiting for her.
Ling nodded, somewhat coldly, and sat down facing him. “My work is over, Ru. I am officially retired.”
Ru Sun couldn’t help but smile. “So what will you be doing now that you’re retired, Ling?”
“Your sarcasm will not bring anything positive to our situation,” she replied dryly. “Four Chinese families have successfully been launched. Unfortunately, the other twenty six units were replaced by foreign countries, including four American families.”
Ru Sun nodded. “That is well, Ling.”
Ling did not agree. “They will not survive. In a moment of crisis, the family units will not be able to work efficiently together. They are doomed. The foreigners are just parasites on our base and they don’t have our knowledge or the training necessary to live long in such a harsh environment. Your wish to contact other governments has been granted at the cost of seeing China defeated.”
Ru Sun retained his composure. “Ling, you came a long way to see me. What exactly do you wish to tell me?”
She rose up from her chair. “Ru Sun, I had plans for our people. I personally selected thirty of our finest family units with impeccable Chinese integrity and culture along with one hundred of the brightest Chinese minds to populate our moon base. They would have survived until the crisis passed to return and repopulate China. You have abused of your fame and power to overthrow my vision and betray China in the process. I have come to tell you that I will never forgive you.”
Ru Sun shook his head with disappointment as he looked with infinite sadness into Ling’s accusing eyes.
“Ling, didn’t you hear what the Americans told us? Didn’t you see the evidence from Area 51? Do you understand that the world will never be habitable again for the human population? The human race is about to die, Ling – at least on Earth.”
“Lies! All American lies and we have all fallen for them!” she vehemently spat at Ru Sun as the veins on her forehead bulged.
“Then I’m afraid there’s nothing else we can say to each other. I do agree with you on one thing, Ling. We are doomed and we won’t be able to live long on the moon, unless we believe in human ingenuity and God. The moon base will only be able to provide limited shelter and buy the survivors a little more time. Hopefully a few years.”
Ling stared defiantly at Ru Sun. “Some of us will survive in our underground bases, Ru, and we will one day walk the Earth again. I do not know if it will happen in my lifetime, but if it does, I will think about you as my feet walk on this very spot where your garden was, Ru Sun.”
Ru Sun remained silent as Ling left, leaving him with the envelope that had been given to him just moments before her arrival. It was his free pass to one of the deep underground shelters that would house thousands of chosen citizens. He ripped it up very slowly into small pieces. He’d rather burn in a split second than die slowly like a trapped rat.
There’s a general misconception that our sun is a small, average star. That’s not true. The average size of the stars in our galaxy is about half the size of the sun. The Sun’s energy is produced by nuclear fusion reactions where hydrogen is converted to helium. The surface of the sun is called the photosphere. On top of this lies the chromosphere and the outermost layer of the chromosphere is called the corona. Sunspots are a cooler region of the photosphere and can be huge. In March, 2001, a sunspot thirteen times the Earth’s size was observed. Solar flares originate from sun spots and are literally explosions that burst with the energy of millions and millions of hydrogen bombs. When a solar flare hits the Earth’s atmosphere, it can play havoc on electronic devices. In March 1989, a solar flare left 6 million people without power for nine hours in North America as it shut down a Canadian power grid. Solar flares are quite common but at times a flare can be so powerful that it can eject a stream of superhot gas into space. This is known as a CME, coronal mass ejection, where part of the corona gets thrown into space with temperatures exceeding tens of millions of degrees.
A few weeks after they met, Brad received a letter from his old friend, Height.
Forgive me if I didn’t stick around for the fireworks. Call me a coward, but I could never stand the heat. Maybe, God will come down and save the world, but I have my reserves on this. He already destroyed the world once by water, and if He Himself said that he would use fire next time, who am I to doubt Him? No, I don’t want to be snuffed out by fire. After I mail this letter, I will go find myself a nice old oak tree under this magnificent blue sky and fall asleep for the very last time. It has been a great adventure, hasn’t it?”
On the bottom of the letter, Height wrote the date and time of the fatal event.
A few months later, Brad was abruptly awakened by Jessica.
“Brad? Something’s happening to the sun. It’s grayish! I can actually stare at it without blinking. There’s something going on. It can’t just be sunspots!”
Brad closed his eyes and remained in bed a little longer. He heard his wife leave the room, paying attention to the movement of her footsteps as she brushed across the hard floor. They were as delicate as they were sensual. He rolled over to his wife’s side and thought about the sunspots.
They had started a month ago. A new one had appeared recently. It was growing at an alarming rate. The general population had been edgy for the last few days, but not more than that. Society rolled along with its usual frenetic pace. There had been some alarming reports from a few in the scientific community, but most scientists downplayed the events by assuring the populace that it was the sun’s normal eleven year sunspot active phase and would last for a year at most. True, they said, there had never been sunspot activity as energetic as this current cycle, but not enough information was known about sunspots to know if it was normal for the sun to be this active at this stage of its history.
“Brad, I don’t know if I should go. It’s like twilight outside.”
Brad placed his foot firmly down on the floor. He knew it was the last time he would ever get up from bed. For the last few months he had replayed this day in his mind. He had thought about having his whole family at home. He had thought about going somewhere alone where he had never been to before. He had thought about going to the most expensive restaurant in the city with his wife, or curling up in his favorite chair to reread his favorite book. He had thought of what to wear, what to eat, what to drink, and even about the last words he’d ever pronounce. After all, he knew the exact second the CME would hit the Earth. In the end though, it didn’t really matter, did it? The most satisfying thing he could think of was to live out the day normally. Why should he act like someone else for one day when all his life he had lived like Brad Walsh?
“Go ahead, Jess. Holly’s waiting for you. Plus, isn’t it this afternoon that violin prodigy friend of hers is in concert?”
“Yes, Belinda Stern. Remember that name. She’s going to be really famous one day.”
Holly was Jessica’s best friend. It was about an hour drive to her place and another three hour drive to the country house by the lake. Jessica would have been staying there over the week-end.
As his wife dressed, Brad went to the bathroom. He debated, of all things, if he should brush his teeth or not. Might as well, and while he was at it, break in the new brush too.
The TV was on as Brad reached the kitchen. Jessica had already finished her breakfast. Brad glanced at the TV. Luckily he had cable. The satellite dishes were for the most part, inoperable.
“They’re not saying much about the sunspots, are they?” he asked.
Jessica followed his eyes to the TV set. It was one of those morning shows. An expert was talking about how to dress sharply at work in order to be noted for success. He recommended bringing two suits, a conservative one for the morning and a trendy one for the afternoon.
“…the morning is when most of the work is done, so you want to give a professional image to your peers as if you’re ready to go, go, go. In the afternoon, you have to convey a relaxed, easy going, confident attitude as if you’re on top of things, you know, that stress free image as if everything is rolling fine even if you have no idea of what’s going on…”
“Brad, if I’m not able to get in touch with you over the week-end, don’t worry! I’ll be fine. I’ll see you on Monday. Remember to pick up the kids Sunday evening!”
Brad nodded. The phone lines had been on and off for the last month as sunspot activity played mayhem with the communication satellites in orbit. The kids, meanwhile, were on a hiking trip up north organized by the social activity club Jessica’s parents belonged to. Every year, the grandparents brought their nephews and nieces with them for a week-end out camping.
A sudden, painful seizure took hold of him as he thought of them. He breathed out slowly. He still felt their hands around his neck as he hugged them as tight as he could while they said goodbye. He filled them up with kisses, much to the chagrin of his son.
Jessica turned hastily towards her husband like she had done a million times before leaving. She was in a rush to start the new day.
“I’m set and ready to go! Like my new outfit?”
He nodded as he came up to her, his chin firmly clenched as he tried not to tremble in her presence. He wanted to tell her how attractive and sharp she looked, but his throat choked up and he wasn’t able to pronounce one word.
She suddenly stopped, with her packed bag in her hands and looked with concern at her husband. He had been unusually mellow these last few months, easily given to emotional outbursts. It was very unlike him.
“Brad, you don’t look that good,” she said with a worried voice. “Is everything OK?”
He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her quickly into his arms so that she couldn’t see his face.
He hungrily searched her mouth. After a surprised moment of hesitation, she returned back his blistering, passionate kiss as their lips abandoned themselves on the other.
“Wow!” she said somewhat flabbergasted, even if with a suspicious look on her face. “You haven’t kissed me like that in years! Brad, you’re sure you’re fine?”
“Yes,” he managed to reply with a raspy voice as he delicately touched a strand of her silky hair. “I just had a very bad dream this night and it left me a little shaken up. That’s all.”
She frowned at him. “Didn’t I tell you to lay off the fries at night?”
Her words brought a smile to his lips.
She hesitated. “You want me to stay?”
She suddenly smiled as her eyes lighted up. “Don’t think that I’ll forget about that kiss when I come back home… I’ll be wanting a lot more, mister!”
A few seconds later, Brad was left gazing out the window as Jessica hurriedly made her way to her car. His mind was numb as he remained staring at the curb long after her car had disappeared. He finally tore his eyes away from the street and glanced up at the sun. It was smoldering behind a grayish filter, almost as if it was peeling away.
Brad sighed, not quite knowing what to do until that fateful moment scheduled for late afternoon. Agitated, he grabbed the TV remote and channeled mindlessly from station to station, realizing that what he was seeing would be for the last time. A pang of fear swelled up in him, but he quickly smothered his emotions. He had to keep thinking.
There was an analysis on one station about the recent activities of space launches and he sat down to listen to it. A panel of experts was trying to comprehend what was happening. Brad understood their disarray as they struggled to understand and decipher the confusion of the last few days. The government had seemingly abandoned the population and not much information was seeping through anymore.
“There have been fourteen launches into space that we know about during this week alone. NASA is keeping tight lipped about it and the only statement we have received is that we are participating with China and a few other countries in the moon base operation.”
“Is it a coincidence, though, that these launches have intensified since the sun started to play havoc on our communication satellites? What are our governments not telling us?”
“Talking about what they are not telling us, one can’t help but notice that the sun is very bizarre today. There are the usual reports of people saying that the end of the world has arrived!”
“Well, Russia has issued a statement that it’s not the sun that is odd, but that a few unknown volcanoes have blown off in the Pacific coast and that our atmosphere is loaded with particles that are distorting the sun’s image and light.”
An unexpected knock on the door, though, suddenly turned his attention away from the TV screen. He opened his front door and was surprised to see two military men standing in front of him.
“Mr. Brad Walsh, the Brad Walsh of Area 51?”
Brad blinked in disbelief and cautiously nodded. Had they found out that Height had revealed sensitive information to him? Wouldn’t that be ironic if he were to be arrested hours before nothing would ever really matter anymore!
“Yes. I am that Brad Walsh.”
One of the soldiers – he was unsure since he had never seen uniforms quite like that before – brought up a small box that he had been firmly clutching in his hands. He opened it and handed Brad what seemed like an odd looking, bulky cellular. The soldier noticed his puzzlement and explained it to him.
“It’s a special phone designed to work through extraordinary events – like after an atomic attack or events such as this one.”
Brad nodded as he timidly took the phone from the soldier. It was heavy.
“Just press the green button to access the line. If the line goes down just press the yellow button and wait until you are connected again. And sir, this is a private call. We will be waiting outside until you decide what to do. Not more than ten minutes, though.”
Brad took the phone inside with him as the two men made their way back to their all-terrain jeep to wait for whatever decision was expected from him. It didn’t make much sense. What could he actually decide in a moment like that?
He stared at the phone. Area 51… again. He breathed in deeply and pressed the green button.
“Brad Walsh here.”
“Brad! I’m so relieved that they found you!”
Brad’s heart tightened.
“Dora? Is this really you?”
As soon as he pronounced her name, his voice broke, tainted with the bottled emotions that had been locked inside a piece of his heart. He could not describe the joy of hearing her voice despite the desperation of the moment.
“Brad, listen to me. For once in your life, listen and do what I tell you to do!”
He held his breath, not understanding what was happening. Her tone was warm, worried and as equally desperate as his.
“Before Ron died, he told me that you knew that the world’s coming to an end today. We’ve been working these last few months with our allies and a few other governments. The Chinese moon base is not fully completed, but we’ve sent up as many people as we could. Our orbiting station is fully manned and all available space crafts that can hold people are lifting off into space. We have also dug bunkers deep within the Earth and are hoarding supplies and people to the deepest caves around the world.”
Brad interrupted her. Dora’s voice was frantic as she rambled on.
“Dora? What good will this do? Height told me everything, yes. He told me that no one will survive. Even the moon will be scorched, probably not as bad, but even if there are survivors, their supplies will run quickly out. As for survivors on Earth – it’s ludicrous just to think it! The ground will melt! Even if by some miracle a few people do survive in deep underground complexes such as Area 51, how long will they last? Minutes? Hours? Maybe a day? And if by pure chance, they do survive longer than that, what then? Live in fear that at any moment something can go wrong with no new parts to replace equipment failure, with no food once it’s gone, and no air once it runs out? What will they do? Where will they go?”
“Shut up Brad and listen to me! I’ve been able to get you one spot on the survival team just an hour ago. You will not be able to reach Area 51 in time, but there is a military base not too far from you that should offer good protection. Go now!”
Brad swallowed hard. His mind was reeling.
“I can’t, Dora.”
“Brad, listen, please listen! We already know that we will not be able to survive any length of time, if we do survive at all. But there’s hope. There is a theory circulating that many people believe in and which we are placing all our hopes in. The alien abductions, Brad! All those encounters of the third kind! We think that aliens, probably aliens that we don’t even know the existence of, have been taking humans to the future throughout our history. And why not? It would make perfect sense. Maybe some collectors want humans or maybe humans are living in a sort of reserve on other planets. We don’t know, but we are transmitting into space a rescue message containing all the places we will be at when the CME hits. Sooner or later, another time faring species will get our SOS and rescue us, or at the very worse, sell us to another race. I know it sounds horrible, but it is our only hope!”
Brad shook his head.
“This, this is wrong, Dora. I don’t want to live as a slave in a sort of zoo as an amusement item!”
Dora’s voice was clearly exasperated and furious.
“We have to survive, Brad! Let us survive first and then we can start taking back the future with our own hands. But we have to survive first and I want you with me, Brad! Can’t you understand that? Can’t you understand how much I’ve missed you, how much I love you?”
Her voice faltered and Brad heard her clearly sobbing this time. Brad’s mind was reeling. She had just uttered the word that he had always shunned away from. From the first moment he laid his eyes on her, he had felt a particular meaningful sentiment inside of him which he perfectly understood, but had always tried to deny.
“Sarah,” he whispered as his heart beat wildly. “I have this reoccurring dream about a little girl called Sarah… a little girl with your eyes.”
He heard Dora gasp. Her voice crackled with pain, pleading, beseeching him to come to her as she reached out for him.
“Yes, Brad. Our daughter! Our beautiful daughter, Sarah. Brad, please Brad, please! I’m begging you. Come to me. I need you to be with me. I’ve tried, but I just can’t live in this reality without you near me!”
Brad was breathing with difficulty as he tried reasoning out his disjointed thoughts. There had to be a rational explanation to all of this. There just had to be. His mind flashed back to their last day together at Area 51 when she revealed her secret fantasy. He had always known that she was speaking about him that day – an invented story where she was President and he was her husband, the inventor of time travel. For her, it was not imaginary. Dora really believed what she told him that day. He cleared his throat.
“I can’t come with you, Dora. I have no recollection of the fantasy you once told me. Jessica is my wife and I have two wonderful kids whom I love dearly. The rest is maybe a dream, a wish…”
Brad’s mind rushed madly in search of any plausible explanation that he could find as he continued his last sentence.
“…or a planted thought. For all we know we might have been subjected to alien mind experiments at Area 51. Remember that the aliens are telepathic. It could very well be they used their mental powers to project alternative realities.”
Dora screeched out her pain as she desperately tried to convince the only man she loved.
“I’m not dreaming, Brad! I’m not dreaming! I am your wife! I did everything you told me to do and suffered through every minute of it! I’d rather have died in your arms under the alien attack because we failed the same, Brad! We failed and this time there is no time machine to send us back to try to avert this fate. Even if we could, what good would it do? The abnormality that Ling discovered in the time ping and which we all thought was a result of the alien attack or nuclear holocaust was in reality this CME! How could anyone of us have known that our own sun would destroy us?”
Brad remained silent, having very little idea of what Dora was telling him.
“Ru Sun was not a famous historian and archaeologist in the true timeline! He never discovered the Nine Chapters of the Mathematical Art that could have warned us about the CME. That knowledge was never excavated from the ground in the real timeline, and even if in this timeline it was, China and the US did not cooperate together. And you, Brad. In this altered timeline you never joined NASA, but you really did! Not only, but you lead the scientific team at Area 51!”
Dora pressed on, hardly giving Brad time to put in a word, even if his mind was too shocked to think of anything to say at that moment.
“You were right about one thing, though. No one understood the true meaning of the alien ship until it was too late. The laws of time travel in this altered timeline were never discovered. Only you had the insight needed to do so, but you simply couldn’t, Brad. You simply couldn’t. I made very sure of that.”
She spat out her last words with disgust.
Brad was breathing heavily as he felt a great weight suffocating his heart. “Dora… stop this… please. It isn’t doing us any good.”
Dora wasn’t listening as she continued to spill out her bleeding heart.
“You married Jessica because you and Bobby never came to search for me at Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the evening of the day that we should have met. Do you remember a woman, my step-mom, who asked you for directions on a muggy day of July? She flirted with Bobby as my dad was inside picking up food? Do you remember that young girl who wouldn’t look at you as she sat in the back seat of a car in front of Freddy’s restaurant? Do you?”
Brad swallowed hard. For some reason, he did. That day was crystal clear in his head. It was the night he had first gone to bed with Jessica. It was the night he first dreamt of Sarah.
“That day never should have happened like that! Do you want to know what really happened, Brad? My step-mom never came out of the car. As you rounded the corner, our eyes crossed. It was magic, but you were too shy to approach and you hastily looked away. As soon as my dad pulled out of the parking lot, though, you would enter the fast food restaurant with Bobby and ask a harmless question. Did the stranger mention where he was going? Bobby, who was always on the lookout for a great adventure, would drive you to meet me that very evening! It was just a bland, harmless question – a question which would have led you to eventually discover time travel and led me to the Presidency. With four beautiful children and the greatest love a woman can ever ask for. In the end, our sacrifice didn’t matter, Brad. It wasn’t the time machine that you invented that doomed us!”
Dora swallowed hard before continuing while Brad listened with growing astonishment to every word she pronounced.
“I did what you asked, Brad. I pretended this whole time that I didn’t know what that alien ship at Area 51 really was. I went back in time to lose you and change the course of history to give humanity another chance. But, even if we haven’t succeeded, there might still be hope. I supplicate you. Please go to the shelter. Please, Brad! We confronted the end of the world once. Let’s confront it one more time and give ourselves a chance to be together again. Please Brad.”
Dora continued to struggle with her emotions. As much as Brad wanted to believe her and offer her some comfort, he knew that the only reality that mattered was the one he remembered. The rest was pure speculation.
The dream, however, could have been easily induced if he’d been drugged. Yet… yet, the dream had started a long time ago. Well before Area 51. Well before going to college. How could he explain that? He couldn’t. If he couldn’t be certain of anything anymore, he had to rely on what he trusted to be the truth.
Brad believed in Jessica and the family he had. He kept his mind focused and firmly anchored to the only reality that he was aware of. It gave him the equilibrium he desperately needed as the storm raged in his head.
“Jessica is my wife,” he told Dora with calm finality, allowing no other possible interpretation. “I will only reconsider if Jess and my children are coming with me.”
Neither spoke for what was a long time as each struggled with their respective emotions. When Dora did speak, her voice was burdened with inconsolable grief.
“I tried, Brad. I tried getting them a place with you, but yours was the only one approved on the survival list.”
Barker shook his head.
“Out of the question! Refused.”
Dora’s dejected eyes were swollen and red as Barker elaborated his decision.
“The base has already been secured. No one is leaving.”
Then he peered at her with hard set eyes.
“Walsh said no, didn’t he?”
“I don’t understand any of this, Dora, and frankly, I have too many other things to take care of at this moment than an infatuation. I suggest you accept his decision and move on.”
Dora smiled weakly as she left his office and made her way to her room. The other six beds that would accommodate the chosen survivors were already crammed into her apartment. Fortunately, none of the guests had arrived yet.
Dora took the piece of apple pie she had prepared that day and cut a big slice for herself. Then she took a key she held in a locket around her neck and opened a small jewelry box. Inside there was only one item. She took out the wedding band and placed it on her finger, where it belonged. It was an exact copy of the one she had chosen with Brad. It was the first time she wore it in this timeline and it fit her perfectly, just like the real one once did. Then she took out her thick diary and reminisced. Most of the things she read she couldn’t remember anymore, but the story was so beautiful that she still cried after all these years.
When there was but one bite remaining on her plate, she took the small bottle of cyanide she had brought from the lab and emptied the contents on the last remaining morsel of pie.
Dora put the piece in her mouth and swallowed, clutching her dear memoirs tightly in her ringed hand.
A heavy silence permeated the room. Brad was alone, sitting in his study, there where Height told him the terrible truth. He rose slowly to his feet and walked over to the window. The walls of his study were lined with shelves on either side containing all genres of books he had collected during the years. He placed his hand on the book Dora had given him the first time they met. It was his book, the one he had called a joke and which she had defended. He smiled fondly.
Dora was right on that day he first met her at the hotel. He had always run away from who he could have been. This time, however, he would face the storm knowing full well what it meant. He would courageously face the tempest even if he knew he would not come out of it alive. It was tempting to grab a chance at life by running to the shelter, but he could not live with himself knowing that he had cheated death when his family couldn’t.
Six hours later, a sharp, bright light interrupted the twilight atmosphere. Brad jumped to the window. An orange light bathed him and his curious mind wondered about what his eyes were observing. It was the most peculiar sight he had ever seen, yet so suggestive and marvelous to behold. The stars were shining in half the sky as a side of the sun seemed to have stopped functioning. On the other side, the sky was a beautiful, savage red as if it was setting. He looked at his watch. There were two hours remaining.
They were the shortest two hours Brad Walsh ever experienced. He tried to think of every face he had known, every smell, every taste he could remember. He tried to recall all the things that had given him joy, all that had made him cry. He finally did grab a book, a dictionary, and simply glanced at the words in a random fashion to see what reaction each word would bring him. He pronounced each syllable on the tip of his tongue, paying particular attention to his voice. When was the last time he had really listened to his own voice? Funny, he always thought it was deeper than it actually was. There were even some words he spoke which he discovered for the very first time. This made him inexplicably proud.
Then he looked at his watch and panicked. His heartbeat increased, he started to hyperventilate. No, he must have more time! He hadn’t finished yet. He wanted to water his plants, to drink a cold beer, to look at the photos of his parents, to picture himself when he was young in that park across his old home with his dog Ralphie always searching for the coolest shade under the trees… what was the park called again? He had it on the tip of his tongue. He needed more time, but there were only two minutes left as his eyes stared fervently at the seconds counting down.
And then he closed his eyes and imagined. For the first time since he was a child, he imagined himself lifting off to Mars. He imagined Bobby beside him. He imagined lifting off from the world and leaving this small planet behind. On the ship he heard the voices of all the people in the world. Jessica, his children, Height and Dora were with him. Even Ralphie, with his cheerful barking. All the people he cared and loved, as well as Sarah.
No Bobby. Not Mars. Not this time. It’s still too close to the sun. Let’s not take the chance.
He saw Bobby at the controls next to him and knew that nothing could ever go wrong if they just stuck together. He looked at Bobby. Bobby looked at him. They were eight years old again. They were full of confidence. Death was just a meaningless word reserved for old people – nothing else.
Where to then? Bobby asked with his swaggering tone.
Any star, Bobby. Any star.
End of Part 5
Area 51 is a 9 Part Series
Part One: Mission To Mars
Part Two: Revelation
Part Three: Contact
Part Four: Conflict
Part Five: Apocalypse
Part Six: Pendulum
Part Seven: Alliance
Part Eight: Rebirth
Part Nine: Mission to Mars II
Resignation sets in as Brad starts the morning of Earth's final day. The world population has come to realize that the governments are hiding information as the sun grows dimmer and communication starts to falter. As a certain part of the government scrambles to prevent the human race from extinction, Dora offers Brad an unexpected opportunity to save himself as she finally confronts him with the truth.