Over Mount Fuji – Chapter 38 –

An Epic NovelWhen Byron, Nobuko and Wulfstein reached Sakura, the wind had intensified, knocking down trees. Inside, the villa creaked; the walls rattled and the lamps swayed. He grabbed Nobuko’s hand, squeezed it and ran to the window. As the wind howled, columns of red ash, smoke and rocks spewed skyward. A blitz of flares burst in quick succession.

“Mt. Fuji—it’s back!” Nobuko said, pointing, but nothing could erase the fear in her grief-stricken eyes.

“What?” Byron said. “That’s impossible.”

“How can that be?” Wulfstein scowled.

Byron searched over the horizon; his vision blurred. How could the sacred mountain vanish and come back in such a manner? After snatching the TV remote, he surfed through the channels. Nothing. Only static.

“Ee-eek! Ee-eek!” came the sound from EQ-Lun in the lounge. A network of seismometers around the archipelago had picked up volcanic tremors. Wulfstein turned to look. “Blo-o-op! Blo-o-op!” replaced the eek sound. He rushed to switch on his laptop. An orange outline of the archipelago appeared.

Byron leaned forward to the laptop. In despair, his vision blurred again, so he closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened his eyes, the orange lights had changed to red.

More explosions shook the ground. The lights flickered, the screen blackened and then returned. But the cursor vanished when the eek sounded again. An image emerged but wavered into a vague reddish outline of the Japanese archipelago. The red color changed to pink.

Wulfstein’s finger traced the outline. “The foundation is crumbling.”

The archipelago rocked. He manipulated the pointer, clicked, and the screen zoomed in to an aerial close-up of central Honshu. An unearthly image of a landscape appeared, a rough terrain of oddly shaped peaks and valleys. Again, the image moved.

Wulfstein tapped a few keys and the whole archipelago came into view. He magnified the scene, and by extrapolating the numerous dots, revealed a vague octagonal structure. He zoomed further, and a cross-section of a four-limbed creature appeared.

Byron and Nobuko stared at the screen; their arms entwined.

“What’s that?” Nobuko asked. “It looks like some kind of a creature—oh!” Her voice cracked.

“What do you think it is?” Byron asked.

Wulfstein gasped. “The earth is disintegrating.”

The screen flickered. The pink lines reappeared, showing a chain of islands.

Wulfstein murmured something; he tapped the keyboard again and the distinct image shuddered. The rumbling wind around them added to the horror of the image. Sakura’s lights flickered again.

Another eruption and a low roar emanated from the mountains. Sakura shook, and Byron limped to the window. Asphalt-like rocks fell in successive showers as though subterranean caverns collapsed upon themselves, creating more shocks. He staggered back. “Let’s have a clearer look.”

Wulfstein clicked again. An outline of a reptile floated across the view, then it faded and vanished. The image returned, its body joined by a curved tail, covered with a chalky glaze of silt. Its huge eyes jutted from an angular head.

“The image is moving,” Byron said.

“A seahorse!” Nobuko said.

“It’s damn close,” Byron insisted.

She stared. “Japan is like dots in the sea, superimposed onto the profile of a reptile.”

A blurry image popped up: a head with a body tapering to a tail.

“Hold on,” Wulfstein said. “I see a different image here.”

Byron edged closer. The image appeared similar, but had a more prominent vertebra-like column. It had a jaw with teeth, ribs, a pectoral arch and a chain of interspinal bones supporting a frame.

“The body has a few limbs.” Byron stepped back to refocus.

“What’s it doing?” Nobuko asked. “Swerving from side to side?”

Wulfstein tapped a key and stopped. “I didn’t expect this.”

The cursor kept blinking, pulsing and running on its own.

“Professor,” Byron said. Caught in his own fear, bile rose in his throat. “Can you make the image sharper?”

Wulfstein tapped in more strokes and the pink image blurred. He tapped again. The screen cleared and then the pink deepened into red, emitting a series of hissing sounds, like a lizard about to attack. But as the screen blackened, a long beep replaced the hissing sound. Then a white message popped up.

YOU HAVE FIVE MINUTES TO EVACUATE

Wulfstein typed in more commands. A grid of faint lines returned. The lines crisscrossed to form the archipelago, and still the cursor kept blinking.

Byron studied the outline of the double images. “What happened?”

“Check this out,” Wulfstein said.

After accepting the headset and magnifier from the Professor, Byron turned toward the screen. He knew earthquake and volcanic activities had activated seismometers and triggered an alarm signal that flashed on the screen. Five minutes to evacuate, but to where?

A message popped up. “TOKODO, THE LIFERAFT.”

Byron rushed to his room, grabbed the haversack from under his bed, and slung it over his shoulder. He hoped the liferaft could be of some use.

Wulfstein returned to his seat and tapped more commands. Mumbling to himself, he flipped through a series of images, stopped and stared, looking like he was delving into the hidden depths of nature and discovered its horrifying secrets. Finally, he managed to minimize the blurs on the outline, grasping the terrible implication with dismay. “I want you to see this, Byron.”

Byron yanked a chair to sit beside Wulfstein as the image brightened. The picture stunned him—a feeling of déjà vu threw him back to the Mariana Trench. “Professor, what’s that?”

“Here, you can see its horn, head, and mouth.” Wulfstein pointed to the northern island of Hokkaido. The neck was close to its torso at Hakodate. “Now, what do you see?”

A different color and distinct pattern emerged.

Red! The series of intermittent lights outlined a reptile. Byron shook his head, thinking that something might have gone wrong with the computer. Then, as he studied the image closer, an unsettling realization occurred to him. “Look, this is Honshu.”

Wulfstein pointed at the screen. Beeping lights blinked from a cluster of islands east of the archipelago. “Its claws are planted on the ocean floor.”

Nobuko squinted out the window. She looked like a frightened antelope sensing a predator, ready to fly. “Shut up! Shut up!” she shrieked. “I’m tasting salt already.”

Byron looked at her, then at the landscape. Winds had toppled much of the surroundings. Waters was racing onshore, pushing further inland.

“I lost my mom and two brothers,” Nobuko continued, her fear-filled eyes cringed at Byron. “I’ve  just lost my dad. Are we here to die?”

Byron stood, transfixed. Despite the urgency of her words, a creature of mythological significance hovering on the screen drew him back to the laptop. It didn’t seem real that the archipelago should be shuffled to look like a monstrous beast. He shook his head; his curiosity turned to astonishment. He shook his head again. “It’s a dragon.”

“Does it matter?” Nobuko cried. “I’m tasting horror. Who cares about the damn beast?”

“I’m sorry life is a horror, Nobuko,” Wulfstein said. “I’m also sorry life is pushing you over the edge.”

“I’ve gone over the edge, and it’s all for nothing.”

Nobuko’s breathing remained labored as Byron stumbled over to comfort her. He realized she couldn’t bear any more discussion in the impenetrable gloom. He held her close, trying to console her, whispering words of comfort, but he knew the end was coming, and his words seemed empty and lacked conviction.

WULFSTEIN APPROACHED NOBUKO. How could he assure her of anything? He shut his eyes for a moment as Byron stepped aside, allowing Wulfstein to put his hands on her shoulders and give her a fatherly hug. “I’m sorry. It’s only my life that is all for nothing,” he said, his words intense, overwhelming and deep. “I owe you an apology. I’ve risked your life through all these delays.”

Nobuko stiffened under his unfamiliar embrace. She stood still; her sobs rose higher.

“But you’ll live, Nobuko,” Wulfstein said, his voice reassuring and passionate. “I’ve this feeling that a cataclysm is going to strike, but I also have a feeling you’ll survive.”

Without warning, the beep sounded again, but Wulfstein ignored it. He wanted to say more, to comfort Nobuko, but the beep sounded louder, persisting. He turned, but another white message had popped up. Releasing Nobuko, he rushed back to his laptop.

YOU HAVE TWO MINUTES TO EVACUATE

Wulfstein tapped more keys, and an image at the top of the screen reappeared. Flares spilled out of the Kuril Islands. The outline turned red, then black and the screen began to dissolve into static.

He stared out the window in horror. The hum grew, the lights dimmed. Sakura groaned like a lone ship plowing through heavy seas. Transfixed, he stood motionless. The monitor turned blank.

“Damn. Damn,” he said. “Time’s up.” The cursor kept flickering, and then started running on its own. The beep came back to life as a pink message popped up.

RUN!

©) Joel Huan, author of Over Mount Fuji (available from Amazon and Barnes&Noble)

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~ by Joel on December 5, 2009.

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