By Eduard Joseph
Published by Eduard Joseph
© 2016 Eduard Joseph
Front cover design by Eduard Joseph
Where to find Eduard Joseph online:
This is a work of fiction. The events and characters described herein are imaginary and are
not intended to refer to specific places or living persons. Any resemblance to any person or
persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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The right of Eduard Joseph to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him under the South African Copyright Act of 1978 (as amended).
ABOUT THIS STORY
This story was inspired not only by a dream I had, but also numerous articles and videos I’ve seen about the hypothesis of a mystery planet at the edge of our solar system, which could account for the apparent [+ discrepancies+] in the orbits of the giant planets in our solar system, particularly Neptune and Uranus
The theory is that Planet X has an elongated orbit around the sun, almost like a comet, and that it’s supposedly heading back into our solar system; nearing the completion of its 3,600 year orbit around our sun.
Though NASA denied the existence of this planet, many scientists and doomsday conspiracy theorists believe that NASA has been aware about its existence for almost forty years and will be forced to make the doomsday announcement within the next few years when Planet X will be visible to the naked eye.
The theorised orbit of Planet X:
The first time the world heard about the notorious and illusive Planet X it sounded like far-fetched science fiction at the time, and sometimes still does, but it doesn’t make the threat any less real or imminent: a star or rogue planet on a collision course with earth.
Just like every year, new doomsday prophecies and conspiracies surfaced back in 2014 and none of them sounded more intriguing and unreal as the theory of a rogue planet that may or may not collide with planet earth in 2017.
The topic of Planet X was on everyone’s lips by 2015 when NASA and world leaders all denied the existence of this supermassive earth-like planet and its elongated orbit around our sun that reportedly took 3,600 years to complete. What NASA didn’t realise at the time was that the best way to convince the public you’re not telling the whole truth was to deny it. It was proven time and time again by famous denials; such as the one by Bill Clinton and his intern scandal.
During 2015, the internet group Anonymous gained notoriety and fame by hacking, cracking and sharing all sorts of top secret files, plots and other shenanigans of world leaders, the wealthy and everything in-between.
It was on August 2015 that Anonymous uploaded another viral video about a government cover-up; this time about Planet X. The conspiracy theory was that NASA sent a Voyager to the limits of our solar system back in the early 2000’s in an attempt to “study” Pluto, but the real reason for this mission was to establish whether or not the theorised Planet X, also known as the Biblical Wormwood or Nibiru, truly existed.
The mission was abandoned in 2010 with NASA claiming that they’ve concluded their study of Pluto, but the truth was that they found the theorised Planet X and were scurrying to devise some kind of contingency plan after studying its orbit – an orbit that slingshot it from trillions of miles beyond Pluto, through our solar system and around the sun every 3,600 years – narrowly missing earth each time, but causing havoc every time it entered the inner solar system.
Anonymous hacked the NASA systems and shared the vital need-to-know information with the world so that we all may have a fighting chance.
December 2016: With the cat out of the bag, the first images of Planet X approaching Jupiter were released by NASA and it finally hit most people; something was heading our way that we couldn’t understand and couldn’t stop. Though we couldn’t see it with the naked eye in the night sky, we knew it was out there – heading our way with nothing to stop it.
The effects were undeniable. The gravitational pull of the approaching Planet X not only disrupted Jupiter’s rotation, but also caused enormous weather anomalies like hurricanes and superstorms on Jupiter’s surface. It would graze Jupiter at just under an astronomical unit; roughly half the distance from the earth to the sun.
January 2017: Images released by NASA of Planet X side-by-side with Jupiter as it approached showed the unimaginable size of the rogue planet – though it was dwarfed by Jupiter, it was nearly ten times the size of planet earth; causing a lot of concern as to what would happen to earth if such a small rogue planet could wreak havoc on a giant like Jupiter.
August 2017: The rogue planet passed through the asteroid belt; sending hundreds of asteroids our way as it approached Mars and new calculations showed that a collision wasn’t eminent, but rather that it would be a near-miss in astronomical terms as the planet would propel itself past earth at just over half an astronomical unit on its way to slingshot around the sun.
We were warned, however, that the close encounter wouldn’t be without unprecedented effects; some people heeding the warning while others ignored world leaders’ pleas. At the end of September 2017, a downpour of asteroids and meteors ravaged Europe and Asia – killing millions of people. Those who didn’t die during the initial impacts died soon thereafter in the flash-fires, earthquakes and tsunamis caused by the impacts.
Tsunamis and earthquakes ravaged the coastlines of every continent – washing sea waters inland for fifty miles. People living in the now new coastal cities moved closer inland in anticipation of more tsunamis, but those were the least of their worries.
After the tsunamis came the collapse of technology and the riots; making the governmental evacuations a daunting task. Technology was no more as solar pulses from the approaching planet short circuited most items with a motherboard or hardware and those who remained had to rely on relics of the pre-modern world to communicate.
Though later than predicted, the rogue giant slowly approached earth and the effects became more drastic. Sweltering heat waves caused most people left behind to flee from the cities. Those who couldn’t afford the underground refuge constructed by government or didn’t want to leave the cities were the first to die due to the elements.
The days were excruciatingly hot while the temperatures plummeted to below zero at night. When Planet X finally revealed itself from behind the night sky clouds like a demented dream, those brave enough to withstand the wintery nights ventured out with old Polaroid cameras and took the very first images of the monstrosity in all its intimidating grandeur, but the novelty soon wore off at it became an image everyone saw every day after that.
Stephen was one of the brave ones who stayed behind the city – not that he wanted to, but rather because he couldn’t afford the underground sanctuary and did what he had to do to survive. Life wasn’t what we were used to – it was take what you needed and survival of the fittest.
The city he lived in was mostly abandoned, but was home to about six or seven thousand other expats like himself trying to stay alive long enough to wave goodbye to the rogue planet.
Stephen stood next to the rustic Land Rover with his one arm resting in the ajar door as he stared at the sunrise. He had about two hours before temperatures became unbearable and getting supplies became a daily scurry and was what kept them alive.
The warm morning air was already causing him to break a sweat and he wiped his forehead with the back of his hand as he brought the Walkie-Talkie to his bearded mouth.
“Sam… come in.”
There was a moment of static before a voice responded over the handheld device from an era gone by.
“It’s gonna be a close one today.” Stephen said, “Summer is approaching and sunrise is earlier each day.”
“Are you ready?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be in this nightmare we call life.”
Stephen nodded, “Over and out.”
He got back into the car, put it in gear and sped down the abandoned street like a bat out of hell; changing gears like a drag racer. Abandoned cars and crevices in the street left behind by the rolling earthquakes from long ago sped by as he cut through intersections that no longer caused traffic jams.
Twelve city blocks later and he got to his destination; along with about fifty other cars that caused an instant traffic jam outside General Lee’s General Store – the only store for miles that still traded.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Stephen sighed as he geared down towards the traffic jam.
The car that idled in front of him had a sticker in the rear window of a dead stick-figure family with the words, ‘Planet X killed my stick family’ above it; making Stephen wonder whether it was just a smart joke or whether there were any truth to the sticker.
He knew he couldn’t do anything except be patient, so he waited in the queue of cars until he could pull into a parking bay. As he switched off the engine, a woman and her daughter scurried pass hand-in-hand towards the store and it brought back memories of his own wife and daughter as they were hurried along by the military on the day the military ushered his wife and daughter into the bunker. He had just enough money to pay for their passage and though it was the most difficult thing on earth to watch them being escorted underground, he knew he did the right thing.
He pushed their faces to the back of his mind with all the other warm, fuzzy family memories as he gathered his strength and got out of the car just as an obese man shoved past him and scurried off to the store.
“Hey, watch it!” Stephen called out after the man.
“Sue me.” The man said uninterested.
“You made it.” He heard Sam’s voice behind him.
He greeted his friend with an embrace and a smile as if they haven’t seen each other in years.
“What’s going on here?” Stephen asked as he glanced at the crowd pushing through the front door of the store.
“Word got out that Lee’s running out of water.”
“What?” Stephen was worried.
“Don’t worry. I got here early enough to get bottles for the both of us.”
Stephen let out a sigh of relief and watched through the window as people on the inside fought over the last bottles of water. The obese man from earlier on shoved a woman aside and she fell to the ground as everyone started pushing and grabbing at the last three bottles of water.
“Things are bound to get ugly.” Sam said, “Mind joining me for a beer?”
“Beer?” Stephen was confused.
“I know a place.” Sam winked at him with a smile.
Sam kicked in a boarded-up door and they climbed through the wreckage of the long forgotten Club Zero21. The air was stuffy and dark, but Sam knew his way around from his wild nights back when life was still normal. He put the boarded-up door back in the frame and led Stephen over to the bar; stepping behind the bar while Stephen sat down on one of the high-chairs.
“What will it be?” He heard Sam from beneath the bar.
Sam fidgeted with something and then the white fairy lights dangling from the top of the bar lit up. He straightened himself out and smiled at Stephen who seemed impressed to be in a seemingly functioning bar.
“This place has a generator.”
“And it’s clearly a well-kept secret.” Stephen added.
If the hordes of people in the city still fighting to stay alive should learn about the generator they’d tear the place down to find it. In the dark world they called home, generators were in high demand and in low availability.
“I used to come here often before…”
“Before the world ended?” Stephen joked.
“The world is far from ending. We just need to adapt to our current circumstances.”
Sam took out two whiskey glasses and poured them each a glass of 20 year old imported whiskey. He handed Stephen one glass and gestured a toast with his own glass before taking a sip.
“Never pictured you to be a whiskey drinker.” Stephen said.
“You gotta make do with what you have.” Sam’s face contorted. He wasn’t used to the strong taste.
Stephen took a more sophisticated sip and toyed with the glass; looking deep in thought. Sam pulled the barman’s chair closer, sat down and leaned in closer – pretending to be a barman.
“What’s on your mind?”
Stephen chuckled and shook his head at Sam’s silliness.
“Barmen are qualified therapists, you know.”
Stephen chuckled again and took another sip of whiskey which went down a little warmer than the first sip. He glanced at Sam who seemed very serious in his pose as a barman. He had so many things that bothered him or haunted him, but nothing really mattered anymore with the end of days knocking at their door.
“I heard Melissa died of heat stroke yesterday.”
Sam shifted a bit uneasy and uncloaked his barman persona; taking a sip of whiskey.
“That’s… I’m sorry to hear that.” Sam said, “She was a nice girl.”
“She wasn’t meant to die.” Stephen said drifting away in his thoughts, “She never did anything to anyone and didn’t deserve to die such a horrible death.”
“Neither did any of the other thousands of people who died over the last couple of months.”
Sam took a sip in thought; he used to love Club Zero21 and mostly returned for the fond memories he had, but the fond memories were also what haunted him. He usually went there on his own and drowned his sorrows, but it felt good having Stephen with him for company.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m good.” Sam said, “Now let’s finish this bottle of shit. We deserve a boys’ night!”
Sam raised his glass confidently and clinked it against Stephen’s.
They kept drinking until the bottle was empty and the room started spinning. The dark, cool bar was the perfect hideaway from the heat and they kept drinking until six that evening when the sun normally sets.
As they staggered out into the street, clinging to each other to stay upright, they immediately broke sweat in the heat. Sam stared up at Planet X in the distance as he wiped the sweat from his forehead. His drunkenness made him a very loud, but unwise prophet – much to Stephen’s amusement.
“I hate that bitch up there.” Sam mumbled, “She’s the reason for all of this. I had a good life before she came and ruined it. I had it all and now…”
Sam stumbled and Stephen helped him regain his footing.
“And now look at me.” Sam yelled at Planet X, “I’m drunk and left behind by society because of you.”
“Let’s get you home. You clearly don’t handle your alcohol very well.”
“I’m fine.” Sam insisted as he stumbled forward.
Stephen wrapped his arm around Sam’s waist and the two of them walked down the twilit street towards Sam’s apartment building that was further on down the street. The building he called home was completely deserted and he turned the basement into a cosy little home. One of the secrets of surviving the intense heat was to stick to basements or any other low laying areas.
Sam collapsed onto the bed; falling with his face into the pillows and grunted as his body came to rest.
“I’m never drinking again.” Sam moaned as Stephen shut the door and locked it.
Stephen walked over to the bed; taking great care not to fall over and then sat down on the edge of the bed. He helped Sam get out of his shoes and then lay down next to him on the bed.
“I needed that.” Sam said from inside the pillow.
Stephen stared up at the ceiling mould that spun above him and then turned onto his side; staring at the framed photo of Sam and Alex on the nightstand. The photo was taken about a year earlier and they seemed happy. Sam never really talked about what happened to Alex, but it was always evident that he never got over the loss.
Fourteen months earlier
Sam stood in the shower with his head bowed as the water streamed down his body like waterfalls. He had his eyes shut and tried to make sense of everything that happened in the last couple of weeks, but couldn’t wrap his mind around the undeniable truth that felt more like a bad dream he couldn’t wake up from – a recurring dream he had ever since news broke about the impending disaster that nobody could run from.
It has been only the two of them for years. Sam’s parents were both dead and he’d never met Alex’s family. He had a fallout with his parents years ago and they’ve never spoken since – not even to tell them that he was planning on proposing to Sam.
Alex sat on the bed of their bedroom ten storeys high and watched news coverage of the approaching rogue planet. He was completely mesmerised by the story as if hearing it for the first time, but it was the only story on TV for the past month.
A diagram of the solar system came on and he turned the volume up.
“Here you can clearly see the eight planets and the dwarf planet Pluto orbiting our sun in a perfect circular motion. It takes our planet exactly twelve months to orbit the sun and the further away the planet is, the longer the orbit takes. Pluto takes a staggering 248 years to orbit the sun once and when it was discovered back in 1930, it had not even completed one third of its orbit.”
The diagram of the circular solar system changed to include an elongated oval path of Planet X reaching well beyond our solar system.
“Like many other rogue celestial bodies in outer space, Planet X doesn’t conform to the normalities of circular planetary orbit, but rather an oval orbit reaching thousands of astronomical units into outer space before finally looping around the sun. Scientists have long speculated the existence of such a planet and it was finally discovered in 2014 by NASA’s Voyager as it entered our solar system for the first time in over three thousand years.”
Alex changed the channel and found another documentary about the approaching danger; this time accompanied by dramatic music and threatening images of asteroids.
“Planet X will make its way through the asteroid belt as it enters our solar system and like every time before, it will bring some of those asteroids heading straight for earth. Planet X was responsible for the extinction of the dinosaurs by pushing a supermassive asteroid out of its orbit and hurdling it towards earth. It also caused the last ice age when the gravitational pull of this rogue planet caused earth’s poles to shift.”
Sam stood in the doorway for a moment with a towel wrapped around his waist and his arms folded across his bare chest. Alex looked like a scared boy as he sat in front of the TV. He was always the impressionable one while Sam was the level-headed one.
Sam walked over to the bed, picked up the remote and switched off the TV; making Alex look up.
“You’re worrying about nonsense.”
“It’s not nonsense.” Alex insisted, “The evidence is all over the news and social media. That thing is on its way and will be the end of all life on earth.”
“It’s just mass hysteria; like Y2K. Do you remember Y2K?”
“I was in high school.” Alex said reminiscent.
“And nothing happened.” Sam reassured him, “There have been at least a hundred doomsday predictions since Y2K which never happened. This thing will pass us like… Halley’s comet and we won’t even know it.”
“I don’t know. I have a very bad feeling about this. This thing is massive and NASA couldn’t even see it until recently. I can’t help but feel that this might be it for us.”
Sam sat down next to him and lay a comforting hand on Alex’s thigh. He longed for Alex to stop worrying about every little thing. He strongly believed that Planet X was just a bunch of mumbo jumbo, but could see Alex was truly worried.
“Whatever happens, I’ll be by your side.”
Stephen was the one who was by Sam’s side when they were left behind by the mandatory evacuations and they banded together to ensure each other’s survival. Sam saw him as his big brother and always felt a bit safer with Stephen by his side. He learned long ago that you should keep your friends close and your loved ones closer and wished he held on to Alex. Ever since he lost Alex, he felt more like a boy rather than the confident man he was before.
Sam turned onto his side and as his hand draped over the side of the bed it landed in water; waking him up with a jerk. Dirty water was almost level with the bed and Sam sat upright as he shook Stephen until he woke.
“What’s going on?” Stephen asked confused.
“I don’t know, but I don’t like it.”
Stephen edged off the bed and dunked into the water that was knee height. The water was warm and salty to the taste. It took him a moment to realise what was happening and then Stephen spit out the water.
“We need to get going. The sea levels has risen.”
Without second guessing or any questions, Sam got out of bed, grabbed a backpack from the top shelf and stuffed some clothes into it followed by the framed photo. He stared at Stephen; waiting for guidance and then, without a word, the two of them opened the basement door and more water flooded in.
They pushed their way through the waist-level water in the corridor and made their way to the shattered glass doors of the main entrance that must’ve given way underneath the weight of the water. They stepped out into the watery street shadowed by Planet X looming in the sky overhead.
“It’s closer.” Sam finally said.
“The planet will keep getting closer.”
“I mean death… It’s getting closer as that thing in the sky gets closer.”
Stephen could hear the defeat in Sam’s voice and turned to face him. He needed a prep talk and though there wasn’t really time for that, Stephen stepped up and tried to put Sam’s mind at ease.
“You’re not going to die.” Stephen insisted, “You made it this far… think of the odds you’ve overcome. This isn’t the end. The worst is already over – or at least I think it is. The planet will get closer and more and more things will happen to us, but we’ll make it and we’ll be standing there on the horizon; waving goodbye to that son of a bitch as it disappears.”
Sam gulped, pulled himself together and nodded a bit more confident. He couldn’t fall apart now just because of a bit of water. Though he was still scared that it might be another tsunami like the one on the day he lost Alex, he knew the only way to survive was to keep hope alive and keep going forward.
“You’re right.” Sam agreed.
“Are you good?”
“Yes.” Sam asserted.
“Then let’s get going. We can’t stay in the city. It’s too close to the ocean now.”
“You think it’s a tsunami?”
Stephen noted a massive flock of bird overhead flying away from the city and he knew that trouble was on its way. Trouble bigger than a bit of flooding… trouble bigger than a tsunami.
“No.” Stephen said with a crack in his voice, “I think this is bigger.”
“I think it’s finally happened.”
“What?” Sam was growing concerned.
“I think earth’s poles have started shifting.”
Stephen was afraid that he might be right and if the poles started shifting it meant that the ice caps would start melting which would cause massive flooding in most coastal areas. They had to get further inland, but how could they risk the soaring temperatures during the day? How could they get out of the city?
As hope started waning, Stephen spotted a small cabin cruiser drifting towards them about a block away.
Stephen once promised his daughter, Jesse, when she was just five that he’d take her on a boat trip as she was always fascinated with boats, ships and vessels and said that one day when she grew up she wanted to join the Navy.
With most of the Navy wiped out by the tsunami of January 2017 and the world falling apart at the seams, it seemed like Jesse’s dreams would never materialise… that and the fact that she and her mother was stuck in an underground bunker waiting for their unknown fate.
Stephen steered the cabin cruiser down the ever deepening water of the downtown streets; looking for any other survivors – coming across Jessica who stood on a vendor’s rooftop as it slowly submerged into the rising waters.
A few blocks further down, they spotted a group of five people stranded on the roof of a double-decker bus fearing the rising waters and calling out to be saved, but Stephen was concerned about their own safety. The cabin cruiser was small and already cramped with three people on board and though they could still take on two more people, it was too much of a risk. The panicking people could capsize the cabin cruiser and then they’d all be stuck.
He steered the cabin cruiser left into an intersection and away from the stranded people whose calls for help increased in desperation.
“Stephen?” Sam was dumbfounded.
“We can’t risk it.”
“He’s right.” Jessica said, “They’ll drag us down.”
Sam nodded in silence and stared back at the group of people as they disappeared around the bend and out of sight. He’d never leave people behind as he too was once stranded and somebody came to his rescue – the same somebody who now turned his back on those in need, but there was no point in arguing as he knew that once Stephen had his mind made up there was no changing it.
“So where are we heading, skipper?” Sam finally asked.
Stephen’s uncertainty shined through in his silence, but he kept his head high and protruded the confidence they needed to trust him.
“And where’s that?” Jessica asked.
“We’ll keep going until the water subsides and we’ll see from there.”
Jessica wasn’t fooled by his calm exterior and knew he didn’t have a clue what he was doing, but she was there on his grace and didn’t want to wear out her welcome by arguing with the clearly confused skipper. No matter where they went they couldn’t outrun the global effects of Planet X as it was everywhere. Months ago it was on the news as a phobia in outer space and then without warning it was at everyone’s doorstep. How do you outrun a planet? She knew all too well that running was only delaying the inevitable.
Nine months ago
Jessica and her mother, Agatha, sat huddled together on the sofa and watched with eager eyes as the anchor-man on the news updated the nation about the evacuation procedure that would take place in the next couple of days.
With the howling wind of the storm outside and the rain furiously banging against the boarded-up window, Jessica had the volume turned up to hear what was being said. The only thing more dire than the storm outside was the way her mother tightly clasped her hand – so tightly that her knuckles turned white.
“The president has declared a state of emergency in light of the increasingly violent natural disasters that are currently ravaging the world as Planet X approaches earth. The intensity of its gravitational pull will continue to disrupt earth’s rotation that will cause longer days as well as affect earth’s inner core from spinning slower which will cause the electromagnetic field to weaken and allow the sun’s harmful rays to slowly cook the earth.
“It is estimated that over a third of earth’s population will perish in the coming months as the rogue planet approaches and once earth is stuck in its gravity, another third of humanity may perish due to the elements. It is because of this that governments around the globe, including our own, started to construct underground dwellings to house its people. These underground havens, however, come at a price and only those who can afford it will be allowed to enter.”
Agatha switched off the TV and the two of them sat in silence for a moment; listening to the pounding storm outside – each one too afraid to say what they were both thinking. They knew that with no money, it was the end of the line for them both.
“It has to be the end of days.” Agatha finally said with a heavy sigh.
“Mom… we’ll be alright.”
A tear ran down Agatha’s cheek, “How? We have no money. I can’t even save you from this.”
“We don’t need their underground bunker. We’ll make it on our own.”
Jessica wrapped her arm around her mother’s shoulders and pulled her in closer for a hug; swaying her back and forth like her mother used to do when she was little.
“I read somewhere that if this thing’s orbit around the sun is really a couple of thousand years, the last time it entered our solar system was in the time of Noah which may explain the great flood.”
“Let’s talk about something else?” Jessica insisted with a warm smile.
“There’s nothing much else to discuss. It’s been raining furiously like this for three days. What if our sandbag barrier doesn’t hold?”
She kissed her mother on her forehead and embraced her tightly just as thunder roared and lightning lit up outside; sending rays of light in through the cracks in the window boards.
“They’ll hold.” Jessica said, “They’ll hold…”
Swaying back and forth with her frail mother in her embrace, Jessica glanced at the boarded-up windows; unable to see what kind of horror was lurking just outside. She could hear the ferocity of the storm and hoped to God the tightly stacked sandbags would withstand the rising waters. She packed them just as the Youtube video explained and her hunky gym-instructor neighbour helped her, but she was just as worried as her mother.
The sandbag barrier, however, didn’t hold…
The skipper stood at the helm in nothing but his boxer-shorts with his wet shirt tied around his shoulders in hopes of cooling himself off a bit, but it was basically futile. Sam came up the narrow cabin stairway with two glasses of ice water and joined Stephen in the small bridge of the cabin cruiser. He stared at the city street that was now a canal and handed Stephen one of the glasses as he took a sip of refreshingly cool water.
“Thank you.” Stephen said, “Where’s Jessica?”
“She’s asleep downstairs in the berth.”
Stephen nodded and steered the cabin cruiser through the few obstacles still peeking out of the rising water.
“We were over a hundred miles from the actual shoreline.” Stephen said, “Who would’ve thought the sea levels would rise again?”
“You know; we could’ve tried to help those people.”
“There’s enough space on this boat.” Sam insisted, “There are six bunk-beds downstairs. It might’ve been cramped, but—”
“But nothing. Do you actually think they would’ve picked us up if the tables were turned?”
“Yes I do.”
“You’re sadly mistaken.” Stephen said, “I know from experience people don’t just help strangers.”
“You helped me…”
“How?” Sam insisted.
“It just is. Can we just drop this? What’s done is done.”
Sam nodded in silence, but wondered how someone so caring could turn so cold so quickly. If mankind was to survive, they needed to stick together – not leave one another to die at the mercy of Mother Nature.
“What the—” Stephen said; staring off into the distance.
Sam looked up and spotted an obstruction further on up the watery road what looked like a beaver dam wall constructed from wood, rubble and traffic signs. It wasn’t clear whether it was the product of flooding or whether it was manmade so they approached with caution.
“What do you think it is?” Sam asked as the boat slowed down.
Stephen glanced back over his shoulder at the lengthy city block behind them; it would cost valuable time turning around and going back – time he wasn’t sure whether they had to spare. They had to continue – through or over the blockade.
“I don’t know, but I don’t like it.” Stephen uttered.
The boat came to a complete halt a few feet away from the barricade and the two of them stared at it from behind the bridge window; scrutinizing it to figure out what it was and what to do next. The world around them was quiet – too quiet. Even in an apocalyptic world you’d hear something other than the tranquil waters splashing against the boat with subsiding ripples.
Stephen switched off the engine and stepped out from behind the bridge to get a better look. The rubble were stacked tightly together almost as if forced into place – begging the question; ‘who built it and why?’
Jessica came up the cabin stairway; asking, “Why did we stop?”
Sam gestured for her to stay back and she stopped halfway up the stairs; staring at him – waiting for answers, but the two men stared out in silence at the object that stood between then and safety.
“Stay hidden.” Sam cautioned.
“Why? What’s going on?” Jessica whispered.
“We’re not sure, but it looks like trouble.”
A loud splash next to the boat made Sam turn around with a jerk to find Stephen afloat in the water; wiping droplets from his face.
“What are you doing?” Sam gasped.
“I’m gonna take a better look.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”
“Me neither.” Stephen agreed, “But at least the water’s refreshing.”
Stephen smiled at Sam who folded his arms across his chest in protest and then swam towards the obstruction. He grabbed a hold of it and tried to yank it, but it was sturdy and unable to budge – making Stephen realize that it was put there on purpose.
Stephen turned around to face the boat, “I think it was put here for a reason.”
Without warning, a noose slipped around Stephen’s neck, tightened and lifted him out of the water; dragging him halfway up the impediment as he struggled not to be strangled.
“Stephen!” Sam cried out horrified.
“We’ll be taking your boat.” They heard a thunderous voice say.
Sam noticed a bare-chested, muscular man covered in tattoos standing on top of the obstruction with a gun in one hand and a devilish sneer on his face as one of his comrades reeled Stephen in. Stephen’s fingers were digging into his neck in an attempt to free himself and his face was turning purple from suffocation.
“Don’t make me tell you twice.” The man insisted he cocked the gun at Sam.
Sam slowly raised his hands in surrender as Jessica warily made her way up the stairway towards the hull. There was no telling what the men would do, but she could tell they were in serious danger.
Sam and Jessica huddled together in the corner of the dark and damp room as a muscular comrade dragged Stephen in and tossed him in their direction. Stephen landed on his side and gasped for air as he removed the noose from around his neck. Sam crawled closer to his aid.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine.” Stephen coughed.
The comrade didn’t look back as he walked out, picked up a wooden plank and shut the iron door. From the sound of it, they used the lumber to barricade the door from the outside and then there was utter silence. Sam aided Stephen to sit upright against the clammy cement wall.
“I knew this was a bad idea.” Sam said.
“I told you; people don’t help strangers.” Stephen insisted, “Not nowadays anyway.”
“What do they want from us?” Jessica wept, “They’ve got the boat. Why won’t they just let us go?”
“They’re pirates.” Stephen realised, “And they don’t want us to tell people about the operation they’ve got going here.”
“So why not just kill us?” Sam asked.
“I’m not sure. Where are we?”
“It’s an old bomb shelter in the basement of a building.” Sam said, “Barricaded with sandbags.”
Stephen slowly staggered to his feet and walked over to the door. He inspected it and then with all his might he slammed his shoulder into it; hoping to budge it.
“You’ll just dislocate your shoulder.” Jessica said, “It’s not budging. We’re stuck down here.”
It’s easy to lose track of time in the dark and with no watches, they quickly lost track of time. Judging from his growling stomach, Stephen calculated that about twelve hours or more went by since they were locked up in the bomb shelter. Their captors never came back to check whether or not they were still alive and the growing fear was that they might never return.
“It’s hard to believe that this is it.” Sam said; shaking his head in defeat, “Who would’ve thought it? I survived two tsunamis, the loss of the love of my life, one earthquake, a treacherous relocation inland and a never-ending heat wave only to die in a dark basement.”
“Don’t give up just yet.” Stephen said, “It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”
Sam chuckled in despair, “I think the tsunami got the fat lady months ago.”
“Would you stop sulking?” Stephen insisted.
“The world’s ending and I have nobody.”
“You have me.” Stephen asserted.
Silence befell the room as Jessica shifted a bit uneasy and Sam gave Stephen a profoundly perplexed look. Stephen knew the cat was out of the bag and that he had to come clean, but telling the untold truth was never an easy thing – no matter who or what the consequences.
“I didn’t save you by accident.”
“What do you mean?” Sam asked puzzled.
Heavy silence befell the room as Stephen realised he could no longer keep the truth hidden from Sam. He had tried so many times before to tell Sam the truth, but simply couldn’t.
“I went looking for my brother.” Stephen finally spat out, “Alex was my brother.”
“What?” Sam was dumbfounded.
“I heard something that shocked me to my core on the day of the evacuations. As they ushered my wife and daughter to safety, I saw two men arguing with the army who wouldn’t let them in – they wouldn’t let them in because they were gay… they were told the reason for the bunker was to preserve humanity and repopulate – something they couldn’t provide. I knew right then and there that my brother was out there somewhere and that I needed to find him.”
“But you found me instead…” Sam sighed, “You were too late.”
“I was too late for my brother, but I could save you.”
“Why?” Sam asked, “Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?”
“I’ve tried many times before, but… I just couldn’t. I was ashamed that it took the end of the world for me to reunite with my younger brother. And I was too late…”
A tear ran down Stephen’s cheek and he lowered his head; wiping the tear away. Sam moved in closer and wrapped his arms around him. Sam was glad he knew the truth. It meant that Alex was still with him in a way and he clung to Stephen; imagining it was Alex and he could feel the earth move under him like the day they met.
It took Sam a while to realise that the earth beneath them was actually rumbling and he let go of Stephen. The three of them slowly got to their feet; staring down at the ground that rumbled louder and louder. Their first instincts were to run, but where to? So they huddled together in the clammy corner and watched as the shaking walls shed cement dust with each rolling rumble.
A massive jolt shook the entire building and they nearly fell over, but kept to the corner as the room started shaking more violently.
They heard their captors running outside the door and Stephen stumbled across the shaky room towards the door; banging on it in desperation to be freed.
“Hey!” Stephen called out, “Don’t leave us here! Open up, you bastards!”
A deafening fizzing, swooshing sound followed by screams on the other side of the door answered his desperate plight and then Stephen stepped back – realising that the safest place to be might just be locked inside the bomb shelter.
[And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning bright as if it were a lamp… and the star was called Wormwood… and many men died.
[And a fifth angel blew his trumpet, and I saw Wormwood falling from heaven to earth and it was given the key to the shaft of the bottomless pit.
[And the sea will rise over the city and its roaring waves will cover her.
All was quiet in the dark room that held them captive after the inexplicable commotion outside died down. Sam and Jessica stayed back while Stephen cautiously stepped closer to the door – afraid to see what was on the other side. It’s been almost twenty minutes since the earthquake ended and there hasn’t been a sound since making Stephen fear the worst for the men on the other side of the door.
Cement dust shifted in the silence as Stephen stepped closer to the cracked wall. Sam and Jessica kept their distance in fear that the basement would give way and crush them if they ventured too close to a seemingly unstable wall.
“Be careful.” Sam uttered.
Stephen didn’t look back, but nodded as he fidgeted with his fingers and then reached out towards the door. It was warm to the touch, and when he pulled on the handle, the door opened as the charcoaled barricade disintegrated.
The corridor outside was charred black and filled with smoke, and when Stephen stepped out he saw a charred body crumpled in the corner. Whatever happened, happened quick and without warning. Their captors didn’t stand a chance.
He gestured for Jessica and Sam to follow him and they joined him out in the opaque hallway; covering their mouths in shock and for the smoke.
“Dear God.” Jessica coughed, “What happened out here?”
“Just more of Planet X’s aftermath.” Stephen avowed.
They made their way out of the building; climbing over rubble and clearing their way out into the street where the last bit of water drained down a massive fissure that ran along the length of the street. The city outside was littered with unearthed trees, upturned cars and burning windows.
They glanced up beyond the smoking buildings and windows with flickering flames and stared up at the conquering presence of Planet X. Though it was still millions of miles away from our moon, it was closer than the day before and appeared to be at least a hundred times larger than the moon – dwarfing it.
“That thing is getting closer and closer each day.” Jessica said, “Though it is a marvellous sight to behold, it’s a scary one.”
“And each day brings new threats.” Stephen added, “Every day Mother Nature thinks up a new way to try and kill us thanks to that bastard in the sky.”
“I wonder what it’s like.”
“What?” Stephen asked.
“Up there.” She said with a nudge of her head, “I can’t see anything except clouds… do you think its surface is like earth’s?”
“Do you mean –”
“Do you think there’s life on Planet X?”
“Doubt it.” Stephen said, “It theoretically only gets close to the sun for a couple of months every three thousand years or so. It’s safe to say that planet is a frozen graveyard.”
Jessica kept staring up at the marvel that hung over their heads and wondered what secrets the surface of Planet X kept. Could there be oceans and mountains like on earth? What was hidden behind the veil of clouds?
“Is it possible?” Sam said in thought.
“What?” Jessica asked.
“Is it possible that the approaching presence of that planet could result in flash firestorms breaking out?”
“Anything is possible these days.” Stephen said, “Two years ago the idea of a rogue planet was absurd and now it’s dangling over our heads.”
A rumble in the distance made them all look east and they witnessed the top of a building crumbling and collapse to the tenth floor. Though the rest of the building seemed sturdy, it wasn’t a chance Stephen was willing to take.
“We should keep moving.” Stephen announced.
“Do you even know where we’re heading?” Jessica asked.
“Further inland – away from the rising ocean.”
Sam and Stephen started walking away, but Jessica lingered for a moment; wondering whether sticking with them was the best idea or a notion that might get her killed. She stared up at the colossal planet in the sky and shielded her eyes from the sun. There was another object – a third object – in the sky that caught her attention and intrigue… it looked like a moon.
“Guys…” She uttered and they turned around.
She kept staring up at the sky in disbelief – the rogue Planet X brought along its own orbiting moon which was three times bigger than our own moon and a pale shade of blue.
“Look…” She said; pointing up at the sky.
Stephen’s heart sank to his feet when he saw it. Planet X was worrisome enough and now the realisation that it had an orbiting moon brought even more complications – complications of an E.L.E… Extinction Level Event – almost the same as the giant-impact hypothesis that earth collided with another planet, Theia billions of years ago. If it should happen again, it would be the end of mankind forever.
Fourteen Months Ago
Jesse’s room was a stereotypical eight year old girl’s room with pink walls, and fairy curtains and soft, fluffy toys that decorated her bed of oversized pillows as well as a big poster above her bed of the USS John F Kennedy and though it didn’t match anything in her bedroom, she didn’t care. She didn’t have many friends and spent most of her time alone in her room playing with toys, but since she learned about Planet X’s approach from kids at school, she was obsessed with it.
Since then she put away her toys for a laptop and a search engine to find out as much as she possibly could about the thing that was threatening to take away her future in the navy before it even begun.
It was a Tuesday afternoon and just like every other afternoon, she sifted through hundreds of videos on Youtube to find more information about the illusive and deadly threat that was hurdling towards earth from the darkest corner of space. Most of the videos were homemade videos by people expressing their own fears, but she was able to find a few documentaries and news clips as well. She’d seen most of them, but every now and then she found a new video on the subject, like she did that afternoon by clicking on a video by Professor Black.
“This thing,” Professor Black said, “has been entering our solar system every 3,600 years for millions of years and has brought untold disasters with it every time. Calculations and evidence show that Planet X, Nibiru or Wormwood, as the Christian Bible calls it, passed by earth 3,600 years ago and caused the massive flood God told Noah to prepare for. We know the flood happened and we found evidence of the ark years ago, but we also found carvings depicting that this planet was visible behind the storm clouds that lasted for forty days.”
“As it enters our solar system it has to go through the asteroid belt – sending asteroids towards earth just like it did when it came around millions of years ago. That’s right. We now believe that the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs was knocked out of the asteroid belt by Planet X.
“Planet X, Nibiru or Wormwood – whichever you want to call it,” Professor Black continued, “will pass by earth much closer this time and bring along with it much more unprecedented disasters than it did in the time of Noah. We’re taking about tsunamis, earthquakes, shifting of earth’s poles and continental displacement. This planet is a monster in comparison with earth and though it will pass by us hundreds of thousands of miles away, its gravitational pull will be so intense that we will feel it here on earth.”
Stephen knocked on the door, but when he didn’t get a reply, he peeked in and saw his little princess captivated by the video she was watching on her laptop.
“Jesse, what are you watching?” Stephen asked as he stepped in.
She didn’t respond and watched the video with captivation; hanging off the edge of every word Professor Black spoke.
“There is also a possibility that this planet is bringing its own moon along for the ride.” Professor Black said, “And depending on its orbital path, it might slam into or graze earth—”
Stephen closed the laptop much to her protest.
“I was watching that!”
“You’re just scaring yourself.” He said as he sat down next to her.
“We need to know what to expect. We need to be prepared.”
“It’s going to miss us.”
“Its moon might not.” She insisted.
“You need to stop worrying. You’re still a little girl. Worrying is my job.”
He ran his fingers through her silky black hair and kissed her on the forehead. He loved her so much and it broke him to see his little girl worrying about things no child should ever worry about. He knew there was no pretending that everything would ever be alright, because things never will be the same.
He longed for the days of butterfly kisses making the monsters in the closet go away, but she was growing up faster than Planet X’s approach and he knew there was no hiding the truth from her – no matter how upsetting it was.
The three fugitives of fate stared up at the sleepy moon that not just added a new degree of terror, but also an anomalous sense of ardour to an otherwise callous and desolate city. It was a sight that needed to sink in to be realised, but Stephen knew staying put would be the death of them. Planet X might be closing in at a sluggish pace, but it was clear that the moon’s orbit around its planet was much faster – disaster could be upon them within a day or even less.
“We should get going.” Stephen said once more; sounding like a broken vinyl player.
Sam nodded in agreement and nudged Jessica to follow them as they walked down the street and away from Planet X; carefully crossing narrow and wide fissures that split the city streets in half like veins.
They walked in silence – each lost in their own thoughts of survival and acceptance of the dire situation they were in. Sam glanced at the broken display window of a toyshop as they passed it; reminded by the fact that he’ll never have the adoption discussion with Alex – something that made his heart ache with every step he took.
“Do you think the people underground are still alive?” Sam asked.
Stephen hesitated, “I hope so.”
He’d been trying to get his wife and daughter out of his mind all day so that he could concentrate on staying alive, but it was a question he’d been asking himself ever since the army closed those iron doors behind them on the day he last saw his family.
“It’s the United States government we’re talking about!” Jessica reassured them, “If they could put a man on the moon, I’m pretty sure they could construct an underground bunker that could withstand the end of days.”
“And yet they couldn’t derail Planet X.” Sam said sceptically; thinking of Alex with a broken heart.
“We’re talking about an entire planet.” Stephen said, “I doubt there was anything anyone could do to prevent this.”
“Oh, please…” Sam grunted.
The building tension was not easily missed and Jessica decided that it was up to her to lift the spirits of her fellow travellers and decided to tell a joke she once heard – a joke which couldn’t be more appropriate given the circumstances.
“You guys wanna hear a joke about the end of the world?” Jessica asked, “So anyway, two priests stand on a bridge with a sign that reads, ‘The end is here!’ The first car that passes ignores them and the second driver yells at them, ‘just leave us alone you religious freaks!’ When a third driver yells at them while driving by, the first priest turns to the second priest and asks, ‘don’t you think we should change the sign to say the bridge ends here?’
Jessica chuckled at her joke, but the others weren’t amused and Sam simply gave her a mundane expression as he glanced at her over his shoulder.
“Well, I thought it was an amusing joke.” She said; clearing her throat.
They walked past the zoo’s unhinged gates and Sam glanced in at the chaos beyond the gate; wondering whether the poor animals were evacuated along with the humans or left to perish.
“Do you think they evacuated the animals?”
“I’m pretty sure they took two of each species like Noah.” Stephen said.
“And what about the rest?” Jessica asked dismayed, “Were they just left behind like us?”
“Most probably.” Stephen said, “Life is cruel and nobody knows it better than animals. It’s a daily game of survival of the fittest for them.”
A heavy purring-sound – sounding a bit like a car idling – made Sam glance to his left and he spotted a lion lying on the hood of a dented car a few yards down an alley. He froze instantly; keeping his sights on the lion as the other two kept walking.
“You guys…” He finally uttered.
Stephen turned around and saw a completely petrified Sam standing a few feet from them and walked back to him.
“Sam? What is it?”
“Look…” Sam whispered.
Stephen felt the life drain from his body when he spotted the lion – and it was clearly aware of the humans as it stared at them with its intimidating stare. Jessica walked over to Sam and Stephen and when she spotted the lion she gasped and before she could scream, Stephen grabbed her and covered her mouth with his hand.
“Don’t make a sound. Don’t move. Maybe it won’t see us.”
“It’s not a T-Rex, Stephen…”
“Just keep still…”
“It already saw us.” Sam whispered.
The car dented and moaned as the lion shifted and climbed off. The three of them took a step back with fear when the lion started walking towards them, but they kept as still as they possibly could; all the while in a stare-off with the king of the jungle. It walked up to them and stopped a few feet away – nearly causing Sam’s heart to stop as he found himself face to face with Mother Nature’s most effective killing machine.
The lion stared at the three of them for a moment, huffed uninterested and walked away; leaving them holding their breath in disbelief. When the lion was about half a block away, Sam gasped for air; shivering from head to toe.
“That was intense.”
Jessica felt sorry for the lion and couldn’t even begin to imagine what it was thinking or what it had been through just to stay alive.
“He’s like us.” She said in defeat, “Just waiting for death…”
Uttering “we’re not gonna die” seemed futile as Stephen himself was wondering whether they’d survive the moon cataclysm. He was one of the few people who didn’t pay much attention to the frenzy back when Planet X’s approach was first announced and even tried to deny its existence until he saw it with his own eyes, but what he can remember was that if it had a moon it could spell disaster.
“He’s alone.” Sam said as he watched the lion disappear around a corner, “We have each other.”
“Oh thank GOD!” they all heard a voice say behind them.
A woman with tattered clothes, frizzy hair and looking a fright seemed relieved to see others. Without hesitating, she gave them each a quick embrace, stood back and straightened her dirty blouse.
“I thought I was the only one left in the city.” She said, “I’m Mary.”
“I’m Stephen and this is Sam and Jessica.” He introduced them.
“This is just crazy!” Mary said thrilled, “Did you see the flash fires that engulfed the city?”
“No, we missed that unfortunately.” Sam said.
“Oh what a pity.” Mary gasped in awe, “It was a sight to behold. The flames washed over the city like ripples on a pond. I honestly think Planet X’s arrival might just be the single most important thing to happen to mankind.”
Mary recollected the devastating fires like a fond childhood memory and Sam glanced at Stephen with a look that said, ‘this woman is clearly deranged.’
She snapped out of her hypnotic state and smiled at them, “So where you heading?”
“Inland.” Stephen said bluntly, “And we should get going before it’s too late.”
“Oh!” Mary gasped excitedly, “We should travel together! I’m heading to a small settlement about fifty miles away.”
Sam and Stephen glanced at each other with reservations about her sanity and their safety should they travel with a certified lunatic.
“I have a working car.” Mary said; sweetening the deal.
Planet X gigantic mass dominated most of the eastern sky; the top of it dissipating completely from sight. Though it was hundreds of thousands of miles away from earth, its perceived size was a radius of ten miles; suspended in the sky about half a mile high. Its icy blue surface acted like a mirror – reflecting most of sunlight and not only brightening earth, but heating it up as well. Its unnamed moon’s perceived size was about a mile across and slowly descending towards the city below.
Stephen kept a worried eye on the sky behind them as they drove to the city limits in hopes of escaping whatever disasters the moon was bringing and though Mary was driving as fast as she could, the moon stayed the same size in the rear-view mirror while the buildings rushed by and shrunk into the distance.
“Can’t this car drive any faster?” Stephen asked apprehensive.
“I’m doing nearly eighty.” Mary said in her own defence.
“Earth’s moon orbits the earth at about 1 mile per second.” Stephen said, “It’s safe to assume this moon moves at about the same speed. You need to go faster.”
“How would you even know that?”
“My daughter was obsessed with Planet X.” Stephen said with a sigh.
“Was? I’m sorry for your loss.”
“No.” Stephen chuckled, “She and her mother are safe in the underground bunker. I just wish I could be there with them.”
Jessica and Sam sat in the backseat; staring back at the moon like children – both fearing what might happen if they don’t get out of the city in time.
“He’s right.” Sam said; still staring back at the moon, “The distance between earth and that moon is getting smaller. We need to get out of here much faster.”
Mary glanced in the rear-view mirror at the formidable monster behind them. She could clearly see the darker lunar maria that were scattered across the paler highlands of the moon and resembled a demented skull at first glance. The moon was clearly much closer than it was when she first met the group and so she stepped on the gas pedal until it was pressed firmly against the floor.
Sam noticed a scared Maltese scavenging through the rubble that lined the street up ahead.
“Stop.” Sam said while opening the door.
“Are you nuts?” Mary yelled as she slammed on the brakes; jolting everyone.
“There’s a dog.” Sam got out.
He approached the sidewalk and crouched down as he held out his hand to the frightened dog that finally inched closer to smell it. Sam patted the dog and finally picked him up; caressing him as he walked back to the car.
“What’s your name, boy?” Sam asked as he checked for a collar, “No matter. I’ll call you Skip.”
“Have you lost your mind?” Stephen asked when Sam closed his door, “You can’t jump out of a moving car!”
“And for a stupid dog!” Jessica added.
“I couldn’t just leave it behind. It’s all alone and its family is probably dead.” Sam gave Skip a kiss.
“Can we go now?” Stephen insisted.
Mary put the car in gear again and sped off; glancing in the rear-view mirror at Sam with the dog in his arms and missed her children. Though they weren’t her actual children, she still loved them as her own and missed them; wondering whether she’d see some of them again one day.
And then she saw the unmissable monster moon that hung low over the horizon behind them and it made her realize that some of her beloved kids may not have survived the unparalleled odds. She fought back the tears and stared out at the city street before her as she steered them through the maze of fissures and abandoned cars; towards the colony.
Fourteen months ago
Before the battle for survival started, Mary was a science teacher at a high school. Teaching was not only her passion, but her entire life and she adored every child in her class. Unable to have children of her own, her husband of ten years left her for his mistress and they started a family of their own much to her dismay – but there was no point in grieving for things she was never meant to have.
“Liquid displacement.” She wrote the words on the blackboard, “Does anyone know what that means?”
She turned around to a classroom of blank faces; some resting on their upturned palms out of boredom. In the far corner, Samantha texted on her phone; paying little attention to the class.
“Displacement occurs when an object is immersed in a fluid, like water, and pushes the fluid out of the way; taking its place. The volume of fluid displaced can be measured and it is from this measurement, one can calculate the volume of the object – it should roughly be the same as the volume of the displaced water.”
Benjamin sat at the front of the class and was seemingly the only one interested and taking notes, but Mary smiled at them all nonetheless. She understood they were still young and that it was difficult paying attention in class when there were other things to worry about, like a rogue planet approaching with impending doom.
“Samantha?” she asked.
Annoyed, Samantha looked up as she lowered her phone, “Yeah?”
“Did you understand what I just explained?”
“I wasn’t listening. None of this will matter in a couple of months.”
“You can’t really believe all the hype?”
“I’m just here because I can’t take my mother sulking at home all day.” Samantha said, “She’s upset because she wasted her entire life and never became that famous actress she wanted to be. And how’s she’s gonna die like everyone in about a year when that planet crashes into us.”
Mary could see her frustration and sympathised; wishing she could make everything better, but how? She knew all too well what it felt like to be scared and feel abandoned when you need your loved ones the most.
The bell rang out in the hall and everybody jumped up and started packing away while Mary stood at the front of the class with the chalk still in her hand. She stood, lost in her thoughts, for a moment and then put the chalk away with a smile.
“Remember to read chapters eight and nine for Monday!” Her announcement was met by various groans and moans.
Samantha was one of the last students to leave and Mary stepped in front of her as she approached; making Samantha look up from her phone.
“Are you alright, Sammy?”
“If you ever need someone to talk to—”
“I’m fine.” Samantha reiterated and walked away.
“My door is always open.”
She wasn’t sure whether Samantha heard the last statement as the door swung shut and let out a sigh as she sat down behind her desk. There was a stack of papers she still needed to grade, but for some inexplicable reason, Samantha’s words still rung in her mind – none of this will matter in a couple of months.
What if she was right? Mary tried to convince herself otherwise just as she did when she found Peter cheating on her, but she knew sooner or later she’d have to face the truth that was slowly approaching them from the furthest corner of outer space.
Though she enjoyed grading papers, she found them less appealing that afternoon. Staring out at the clear, blue sky beyond the classroom windows it was hard to believe that it was hiding a monster that could mean certain death in a couple of months. Where did it come from? Why has it been hiding all this time and what was it bringing along with it? What secrets did this rogue planet hold?
“What are you?” She asked herself, “Why are you coming here?”
The settlement of survivors was situated in a field about 47 miles outside of Topeka and was home to about two hundred people who set up tents, RV’s and caravans to form a little community – there was even a big communal tent where everybody had meals and despite the impending danger in the sky, life went on the simple way.
Some of the playing children ran closer as Mary pulled into an open spot; eager to see the new people and pet the dog. An elderly man with a salt-and-pepper coloured beard stepped closer as excited kids dispersed.
“Welcome.” The man said, “I’m Patrick.”
“I’m Stephen. This is Sam, Mary, Jessica and that over there is Skip.”
“We’re always glad to have survivors join our group.” Patrick said, “We have fresh spring water and hot food.”
Sam glanced back in the direction they came from as Patrick spoke; wondering whether they were far enough from the descending moon and whatever danger it brought. Maybe he was worrying about nothing? He used to be the sensible one until the day he lost Alex – that was the day when he started to worry about his own mortality and though Stephen was like a big brother, he couldn’t bother Stephen with every little fear that popped into his head.
“We don’t get too many new arrivals,” Patrick said, “But we have spare beds to set up in the communal tent.”
Skip jumped up against Sam’s leg; begging to be picked up so he obliged. Holding Skip against his chest, he could feel the uncomfortable fear Skip tried to hide and it made Sam think of the theory that animals can feel disasters approaching – and he stared at the foreboding moon in the faraway distance again. He pat Skip’s head as the conversations around him faded into white-noise and kept staring at the moon in silence until Stephen laid a hand on his shoulder; jerking him back to reality.
“Are you alright?”
“I’m fine.” Sam said with a nod.
But he wasn’t alright. It’s been a while since Mother Nature acted up and Sam was fearing the calm before the storm and it was too calm for his liking. They couldn’t outrun Planet X or its moon and they were only safe in the camp for a short period of time before it too would be in the firing line of the rogue planet.
“It’s just weird, you know.” Sam said, “It’s finally hitting me. There’s no escaping this thing. It’s coming for us and we can’t outrun it.”
“You can’t think like that. You just have to have faith.”
“In what? God?” Sam was sceptical, “I doubt God even exists never mind that he’s behind this.”
“This isn’t you. This isn’t the Sam I know. Since when do you give up this easily? You’ve always been taking this Planet X thing head-on.”
“I know.” Sam said, “But lately I’ve been wondering whether it’s all worth it.
“My grandson’s around here somewhere.” He heard Patrick say, “He’s such a sweet boy. You’ll love him. He’s probably off playing with his friends. Come! Let me show you around our little establishment.”
Stephen tugged at Sam’s upper arm and he turned away from the planetary sight in the distance with a vague smile of unease and they followed Patrick and the rest on the little tour of the camp. Patrick talked non-stop about every dweller and what accomplishments they’ve made in the past month, but Sam wasn’t really listening. Planet X was still at the back of his mind – calling to him like a siren to a sailor.
Planet X’s moon hung low over the city of Indianapolis where most of the buildings were submerged in the rising Atlantic Ocean. The moon was rushing down towards the city at 1.5 miles per second – less than a minute from impact with the abandoned city. Though it wouldn’t be a direct hit, the orbital path of the moon meant it would drag itself through the city with catastrophic consequences.
All of the coastal cities were underwater, making the desolate, sinking city of Indianapolis the latest seafront city. Neill was probably the only one who stayed behind in the city and made the rooftop of the highest building his home and it had a magnificent view of the submerged city with the moon descending into the ocean about two miles offshore.
Rushing wind tugged at Neill’s clothes as he cooked a can of food over a fire and he stood up to get a better look at the ocean just as the brim of the moon slammed into the ocean; dragging itself along its orbit like a peeler paring a potato. The impact displaced water to create an impact wave that grew in size and velocity as it rushed towards the city with the gargantuan moon behind it; dragging itself towards Indianapolis like a spoon scooping up ice cream.
The growing wave slammed into the outer buildings; consuming them with ferocity that shattered windows and crumbled pillars.
Neill knew the end has come as the sun disappeared behind the massive moon as it rushed towards the city. It slammed into buildings; disintegrating them like a bowling ball rolling over ants. The building started rumbling beneath him as the constant roll of impact tremors shook the building and all he could do was watch the moon destroyed city block after city block while rushing towards him.
Neill let out a heavy sigh and lowered his head in prayer as the moon slammed into his building and demolished it.
**]Seven minutes until Planet X’s moon reaches Topeka
Unaware of the impending disaster, Stephen, Sam, Jessica and Mary sat down with the rest of the dwellers in the communal tent for a late lunch consisting of steamed vegetables and freshly baked bread. The atmosphere inside the tent was warm and inviting, with everyone laughing and talking about everyday things in an attempt to forget the horrible reality they were stuck in.
Skip sat next to Sam who sneaked him a couple of pieces of bread while listening to the chatter around their table; dominated by Patrick who joined them at table eight to tell one of his stories.
“So we stood at the waterfall… buck naked…” Patrick chuckled, “and those little bastards stole our clothes! We had to walk back to town with our junk in our hands, and let me tell you – it’s something we laughed about later, but it was the most embarrassing thing back then.”
“Midgets stole your clothes?” Jessica laughed.
“It sounds like you and your brother were close.” Stephen said.
“We were.” Patrick said with a fading smile; shifting uneasy.
“He died?” Sam realised.
Patrick nodded, “When the rolling earthquakes hit Springfield.”
“Sorry for your loss.” Mary said.
A nine year old boy excitedly ran up to Patrick and he embraced the boy with pride, “This is my grandson, Elijah.”
“Grandpa!” Elijah announced excitedly, “The moon!”
“He loves Planet X.” Patrick said; hushing Elijah, “He always wanted to become an astronaut. You should see all the drawings he has of this alien planet.”
“Grandpa!” Elijah insisted.
“Not now, Elijah.” Patrick hushed, “We have company. Go play with the other boys.”
Patrick pushed Elijah away with a playful slap on the butt and turned to his lunch guests; “You have to forgive my son. Everything out of his mouth these days is about that planet and its moon.”
“Boys will be boys.” Mary said with a smile.
Sam watched in silence as the conversations around their table continued and Elijah ran off with two other boys; passing a girl tugging at her mother’s arm until she got up and followed her out of the tent.
A slight, but constant tremor started shaking the table and made Sam glance down at the rippling water in his mug. The tremble quickly quieted down most conversations in the tent as it grew in intensity – causing some glasses and water decanters to fall over.
A scream echoed outside and Sam knew his worst fears were being realised. He jumped up, grabbed Skip and rushed to the tent’s flap doors along with many other dwellers. Once outside, Sam stopped dead in his tracks when he saw what was causing the rumbling earthquake; the orbiting moon was dragging itself along earth’s surface – demolishing everything in its way and it was rushing towards them at an incredible rate.
“Oh my God…” Jessica said behind him.
“RUN!” Somebody screamed.
“There’s no use.” Sam said in defeat as he stroked Skip’s head.
Stephen, Mary and Patrick rushed out just as Elijah ran up to them and Patrick picked up his scared, but excited grandson. Stephen’s first instinct was to run, but he couldn’t just leave Sam who was clearly petrified about the site before them.
“We should go.” Stephen said.
“Go where?” Sam asked, “It’ll be here in less than five minutes.”
“It’s still five minutes we have to make a run for it! Now let’s go!
Stephen grabbed a protesting Sam by the upper arm, but eventually they both started running like everyone else from the camp. Everyone was running in the same direction – away from the approaching moon and the debris it dragged along with it and though it was still about very far away, it would get to the camp in minutes.
“I can’t run like this!” Mary cried; gasping for air and slowing down, “Wait! Hold up! I’m too out of shape to be running from the apocalypse like this!”
She stopped to catch her breath and clasped the stabbing side stitch as she watched the others running away. She was out of breath and found it hard to breathe let alone call out without dry heaving.
“Wait…” she finally uttered, but nobody heard her over the increasing tremors.
A large shadow crept up on her and then consumed everything in front of her – making her turn around with dread to see the moon nearly upon them and waves of debris being dragged along as the brim of the moon excavated the earth. The sight of the planetary monstrosity dragging along pieces of a Boeing sent a chill down her spine that made her forget about the side stitch and the fact that she couldn’t breathe.
She started running as fast as her legs allowed her; having trouble keeping her footing on the shaky ground as the tremors rolled, but she kept running and fought back the tears of distress – praying to God that she’d make it to the others and get out of the path of destruction in time.
No matter how fast she ran, the others and the edge of the shadow were always a hundred feet from her reach and the trembling earth shook more violently until finally cracks tore open. She jumped over a crack as another one formed to her left and she knew the moon was right on her heels.
The sound of creaking metal made her glance back over her shoulder and she saw the moon slowly lifting out of the debris and lunging the Boeing cockpit at her; crushing her before she could even react.
Sam, Stephen and Jessica were amongst hundreds of people running for their lives without looking back. They couldn’t look back as they had to concentrate on the shattered earth before them if they were to make it.
“Don’t look back!” Someone called out.
Stephen looked back over his shoulder at the object that blocked out the sun and Planet X as it rushed towards them; leaving behind most of the crushed rubble as it slowly started rising again. He knew they’d never outrun it, so he grabbed Sam and Jessica and ducked to the ground.
Mere seconds later the ascending moon came rushing over them – missing them with just a few feet and Jessica had to close her eyes and turn her head as a suffocating and claustrophobic sensation took hold of her. While Sam lay on his back and clung to Skip, Stephen lay on his stomach and watched as the speeding moon pulverised those still running in the distance.
Sam watched flabbergasted as the moon rushed by overhead at arm’s length and ascending every second. The moon’s surface seemed icy and the he could actually see his own warm breath in the cold atmosphere as he exhaled.
It took less than thirty seconds for the passing moon to ascend enough for them to stand upright and so they did; staring up at the foreign object that rotated and sped by about ten storeys up. All the commotion made Skip excited and so Sam put him down while keeping a close eye on the passing moon’s enormous size.
“We made it.” Sam chuckled to himself in disbelief.
Stephen draped his arm around Sam’s shoulder and the two of them stared up at the icy terrain overhead as it ascended even further up into the sky. Neither one of them ever believed that they’d survive such an event, but they survived it against all odds.
Sam felt something tugging at his body, “Do you guys feel that?”
“Yes.” Stephen said apprehensively, “I don’t like it.”
Skip started barking uncontrollably at the moon and then without warning, an unseen force jerked him into the sky and towards the rising moon.
“What the hell was that?” Sam gasped.
“Gravity.” Stephen dreaded, “Let’s go!”
The three of them ran east towards a group of trees with the moon still overhead and the growing gravitational pull tugging at them strenuously. Each step was a fight against unseen forces that wanted to lunge them into the air.
“Grab onto a tree and hold on tightly!” Stephen said as they reached the trees.
Jessica was falling behind just as Sam and Stephen reached the trees and grabbed on for dear life. Just as Jessica reached the trees, the gravity of the moon jerked her into the air and out of sight as her screams for help disappeared.
Sam shut his eyes tightly and hung on for dear life as the gravitational tug at his body intensified; swaying the tree back and forth until a root unearthed. A few moments later the swaying tree came to rest and the tugging sensation was gone. He opened his eyes to see the moon almost a mile up in the sky and increasing in altitude. They were out of harm’s way. They both let go of the trees and stood watching as the moon climbed higher and higher until the sun and Planet X was visible again.
They made it. They survived the end of days. It would all be over soon. Within a matter of days, the rogue planet and its moon would leave planet earth behind as it continued its slingshot orbit around our sun and into outer space again. The underground bunkers would open and release those who hid and Stephen could see his family again. Life would go back to normal any day now.
“I’ve been waiting a long time to say goodbye to this bitch.” Stephen said.
They looked at each other for a moment and then Stephen raised his middle finger at the soaring moon. Sam chuckled and then raised his middle finger as well and they stood like that for a moment as the moon moved further away and out of their lives, and though humanity would have to start over from scratch again, life would go on.
And life continued… when the underground sensors indicated that Planet X and it’s moon’s gravitational pull decreased, the doors to the underground bunkers opened; releasing those who it kept safe. At first the people of the world united and watched as the rogue planet decreased in size as it moved further away and then they united to rebuild what was left in desolation.
Stephen travelled back to Maine once the waters subsided and was reunited with his wife and daughter and though Sam didn’t want to go with him, he carried Sam in his heart.
Sam went his own way and decided to travel and see more of the world seeing that he received a second chance at life and it was during his travels that he met Patrick at the Grand Canyon which was now the Grand Canals and they had an instant connection that couldn’t be ignored.
At night the world could still see Planet X shining brightly in the starry sky as a reminder that things could’ve been worse and night after night it glowed dimmer and dimmer until it finally disappeared like a distant memory, but just like a distant memory at the back of our minds, Planet X returned to the farthest corner of our galaxy – out of sight and out of mind, but never truly forgotten.
SIMILAR WORK BY EDUARD JOSEPH:
When the entire continent of Australia disappears into thin air, Jack White, a professor of unexplained phenomena and folk lore is contacted by the government to assist them in cracking the case that has officials baffled.
In a race against time, Jack soon learns that the mysterious disappearances that are now ravaging the world is not per chance and finds himself transported to an earthlike planet billions of light-years from earth. Seemingly being the only humans, Jack and his son sets out to find other humans on the alien planet.
An excerpt from the book follows on the next page.
© 2016 Eduard Joseph
Jack gasped for air and opened his eyes. He was still holding on tightly to Timmy… They were still alive and stood in a field with grass greener than he had ever seen. What happened? When the nothingness overpowered them he could feel his body tearing apart and every part of his soul disappearing, and yet he was still standing in the field.
He looked at Timmy who looked up at Jack with fear in his eyes and smiled at him as he ruffled his son’s hair… By some miracle they were alive.
“We made it.” Jack said with a smile, “We’re alive.”
Jack kissed Timmy on the forehead. He was relieved that his son was alive. He couldn’t imagine life without Timmy. He wasn’t sure how exactly they survived the nothingness, but he was relieved that they did.
Jack glanced at the field around them – it was completely unfamiliar to him. The field was flat and there was no hill. What happened to the hill they were standing on when the nothingness approached them from all directions? The grass at his feet was lush and had millions of small, yellow flowers scattered across the field that seemed to stretch on for ever.
Jack felt his pockets for his phone, but couldn’t find it and reckoned that he must’ve lost it when the ash cloud descended upon them on the highway and he ran for dear life. He could still hear the screams for help as the ash and debris cloud consumed the people behind them, but he couldn’t look back or help them. Those screams will be etched in his mind forever.
The field stretched out for miles in every direction. Where were they? Jack studied their surroundings and then looked up at the sky which was a bright, deep blue with scattered pink clouds so light one could almost mistake it for white. He watched as a bird soared across the sky and then noticed that there were two suns in the sky; the larger sun was setting and stretched along the horizon for miles while the smaller one was at least one tenth the size of the larger one and was a few miles up higher in the sky.
Two suns? Jack wondered astounded. Where are we?
His theory about the worldwide disappearances was right; they had been transported to another planet, but what planet was it? Why could they breathe the air? Where were the other people? How could they be the only ones around if he witnessed thousands of people disappear into thin air? If they made it to this strange and unknown planet, surely others would’ve made it too? Except for the bird that soared across the sky, Jack didn’t see any other signs of life.
He put Timmy down and took him by the hand while they walked through the field as Jack investigated their surroundings. He finally crouched down and looked at the scattered small, yellow flowers tucked away between the grass; their petals were unlike anything he had ever seen – they seemed like little feathers and closed up at his touch.
“Daddy, what happened? Where are we?”
“I have no idea.” Jack said in thought.
He picked one of the delicate flowers and scrutinized it for a moment before it withered and died between his fingers. What a peculiar plant, Jack thought. Everything about their surroundings was peculiar. They continued walking towards a small group of trees to their left.
The branches of the trees had no leaves – only small, pink blossoms and dangling fruit. Jack plucked on of the fruits and hesitated as he inspected it, but then took a bite of it. It was sweet and tasted a bit like an apricot and when he was certain it wasn’t poisonous, he plucked another fruit and handed it to Timmy whom was a bit more hesitant.
“Go on.” Jack said, “It’s sweet. You’ll like it.”
Timmy inspected the fruit and warily took a bite while Jack stared back at the field and noticed a lonely elephant grazing into the field. Finally, he saw signs of life – life from earth. If an animal from earth made it to this strange planet, humans must’ve made it too. They simply had to locate others – they had to find Alicia.
A little creature the size of a watermelon scurried across the grass at their feet. It looked a bit like a hippo and had antlers that looked more like tangled thorns. The little animal glanced up at Jack who glanced down at it before it scurried away. It was definitely a native animal of the strange planet.
A moment passed and then a snake-like creature glided through the air like a snake on the water’s surface; hovering a few feet from Jack’s face. He stepped back and watched as the creature floated away on a breeze.
“If we ended up here,” Jack told Timmy, “Others must’ve made it as well. We have to look for others. We have to find your mother.”
The thought of finding others – of finding Alicia – was a comforting one; it meant that life would continue. Jack stared at the two setting suns again and was able to look at them without shielding his eyes. The density of these suns had to be different from earth’s sun – which meant they were definitely not in the same galaxy. He knew very little about astronomy, but can’t remember any documentaries about any known planets or galaxies with two suns.
“This place is amazing.” Jack said; still in awe.
He took Timmy’s hand and started walking again. He wasn’t sure how long before nightfall came, but decided to make the most of the daylight and find others. They came across more peculiar animals as they made their way across the lush field of grass and flowers and though the animals were wild, they seemed curious about the humans, but kept their distance. A small, blue animal that looked like a hybrid cat came close enough for Timmy to pet it with caution before it disappeared into nearby undergrowth; making the boy giggle. For a second the two of them forgot about the disaster that ravaged earth and brought them there.
They were both fascinated with the world they found themselves in; Timmy was amazed by the majesty around them while Jack was dumbfounded about where they were and how they got there. Though the world was picture perfect, Jack was cautious as he had learned a long time ago that looks can be deceiving – if something looked too good to be true, chances were that it was.
He stopped and watched in amazement as a school of brightly coloured fish-creatures swam through the air about three feet away. The creatures looked and moved like fish, but had wings instead of fins. His eyes followed the school of fish as they swam up towards the two suns and then Jack noticed that he was able to see stars in the sky above them. Though it was daytime, they could clearly see a constellation of faraway stars in the darkening sky.
About half a mile to their right a vine rolled down from a low lying cloud and a primate climbed down. Jack watched in astonishment as two more monkey-like creature climbed down the vine before it retracted into the cloud again. The primates glanced in their direction and then scurried off towards the distant trees.
“Monkeys!” Timmy exclaimed.
“I saw them, but I don’t think they’re monkeys.”
What other marvels awaited them in this alien world? Were all the creatures as harmless as the ones they’ve encountered so far, or were there more dangerous creatures out there just waiting to eat them? There were many mysteries that awaited them and the biggest mystery of them all was who brought them there and why?
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