Over Mount Fuji – Chapter 20 –

An Epic NovelAs the moon lit their path and the climb continued, Eileen sympathized with Byron, but didn’t know how she could change Wulfstein’s mind. Indignation fueled her steps while struggling to keep pace. What explanation could be found on top of Mount Fuji? Now her moment of acquiescence must come to its end.

“What does this expedition has to do with the missing planes?” Eileen asked Wulfstein. “We’ll all end up dead.”

Wulfstein turned to her. “Bear in mind your question at the lab had prompted me to study why electromagnetic signals were released before Unzen’s eruption. And didn’t you plead for a spot in my expeditions?”

Stunned for a moment, Eileen stood while her heart pulsated in odd beats as an image of the pyroclastic flows from the volcano that killed Jerry rose in her mind. Continuing meant risking her life, but leaving would betray her husband and his last words.

An eerie stillness descended in the moonlight, accentuating the Professor’s stern expression. “And didn’t I warn you that our trips would be risky?”

The rumbling stopped. It seemed nature had come to her rescue. Scattered  ash covered the slope like gray snow, and the mountainside transformed into a weird tapestry with no wind, no turbulence and no sound.

“Come on, Eileen.” Wulfstein led the way; sounding upbeat as if a storm had passed. “Let’s complete the last leg of our journey.”

Buoyed by Wulfstein’s spirit and imbued with Jerry’s sense of mission, Eileen pledged solemnly to herself—I’ve begun this journey, I will finish it. Expectation and confidence coursed through her. Was the expedition on the trail of a breakthrough?

Yoshino and Yamaichi strode after her with unspoken dedication. They must have understood what had happened from their teammates’ expressions and gestures, but she knew Japanese loyalty to a mission was unquestionable.

As Eileen plodded on, she relished the refreshing air despite the thinness that made breathing difficult. It would take a hell of a lot to reconcile all these phenomena—sinking land, sprouting islands, abnormal disappearances. Japan is, indeed, a strange land.

Caked with dirt, her legs throbbed. Her initial fear somewhat eased. She became more eager than at the outset of the trip. Gasping for air, and just before she reached the summit, she turned to check on Byron, who trekked behind.

Across the Great Kanto plain and the horizon, the dawning sky looked overcast, but still glowed with a fading moon crescent as the sun took its time to rise.

Elated, Eileen inhaled deeply. She focused on the scenery and drew strength from the broad expanse of Tokyo Bay and the coastlines, to the brightening seas and the Pacific Ocean beyond—giving the impression of a vast, silent serenity. She took snapshots and scribbled notes on her writing pad. From paintings to films, they reminded her the peak had been a popular backdrop for fantasies.

The clouds kept on moving; the sky kept on brightening. Eventually, the sun poked through, creating rays over the horizon.

“Ahh—” She stretched her arms. “It’s incredible.” Sunlight decorated the morning in pinkish-red colors and transformed the plains into something savagely beautiful that moved her spirit.

“We’re the first to witness today’s rising sun,” Yoshino said, his expression exultant.

“I can see why Japan has that as its symbol,” she said.

Floating with the clouds, Eileen felt like being transported to another world. Her giddiness swirled in the rippling mist, which roiled around as if it had a seasonal life of its own. She had never imagined a mountain climb could pique her interest like this, as if Mother Nature was well and active. Perfectly symmetrical, Mount Fuji had always been the epitome of Japan. But the volcano began from a furious rampage in 286 BC, which also blasted off a nearby lake.

“We’ve a history of fire-breathing monsters,” Yoshino said. “One lived around Lake Biwa, but our hero Hidesato killed it by shooting an arrow into its brain.” He pointed down the western side of the terrain. “Its massive black bulk can still be seen.”

Eileen took a few steps forward. Immediately, the edge fell away with dizzying suddenness to disappear into the churning billows of clouds. Gasping, she stretched to see over what seemed to be a virtual precipice, trying to penetrate the gray-white cloud that swirled about and shrouded her in dense vapor. Small, ragged gaps appeared through which fleeting glimpses of the lower slopes became visible.

As sunlight dipped over the western and northern rim, the first disturbing view of the mountain’s massive black bulk and the smell of sulfur renewed her sense of foreboding. In the far distance, light flooding the ragged contours, and peaks of a mountain range appeared, thrusting up like fingers of smoke through the clouds.

Yoshino gestured toward the ragged terrain. “See! It looks like pair of copulating dragonflies.”

Eileen laughed. “It’s your wild imagination.”

“Is it?” Yoshino said, pointing. Some mountain forests remained deep in shadow, while others glowed under the blazing sun, magnifying the golden veins of shimmering light around dark lava patches that had become visible far below.

Eileen squinted. Forests mingled with a necklace of rivers and lakes over a vast plain, resembling the tracks left by a crawling dragon in a love scene. “In everything, there’s some truth.”

“This is what the Emperor once said,” Yoshino emphasized. “He invented the term Akitsushima—Land of the Dragonflies.”

When rays of light slowly infiltrated the caldera, Eileen edged over blackened gravel to observe the crater. A stronger smell of sulfur filled the air, and a thread of steam drifted from the earth’s core. She knelt down and pressed her ear to the ground and a low rumbling sounded like a big heart pounding below.

Mists flew heavily over the mountain slopes and Eileen decided to stay close and assist Wulfstein as he worked tirelessly, laying down one instrument, picking up another and verifying the data collected.

“Carbon dioxide emissions have increased,” Wulfstein said. “I think we’re on dangerous ground.”

“This giant is awakening,” Yoshino said.

“And if it does,” Wulfstein continued, “it might be more than that.”

Eileen knew the danger. Miles beneath lurked an invisible menace. And it would certainly trigger Japan’s next Big One, swallowing up all the surrounding area. Now, heat from the crater rim melted some of the snow to form vapor. “It’s whistling like a kettle.”

Yoshino frown. “It may break the teapot.”

Eileen crinkled her brows. Mount St. Helens broke its one-hundred and twenty-three year-old silence when it exploded. Terrifying images of the Soufriere Hills in the Montserrat eruption after four centuries of inactivity blurred her mind. Further back, ‘in a single day and night of misfortune . . . the island of Atlantis . . . disappeared in the depths of the sea.’

“A volcanic eruption here could bring about a cataclysm,” Eileen said finally.

Wulfstein nodded. “It might happen like the island of Santorini.”

“You mean this Japanese archipelago is going under the waves?”

“In the extreme, Eileen,” Wulfstein said. “We’re talking only about extremes.”

For a moment, Eileen squinted across the horizon, imagining what it would be like after a volcanic explosion. The mountain might disappear, the great valley and plain would be filled with lava and ashes. But for the whole archipelago to collapse under the sea would be unthinkable.

Eileen kept her thoughts while the sun cast its light over the landscape. She assumed Wulfstein must have some hypotheses in mind, that the archipelago was, indeed, a long and irregular range of volcanoes. “You have a point here,” she said. “The implications are unimaginable.”

“The earth cycle has its own beauty,” Yoshino said. “It promises new life. That’s why Shintoism had inspired me to be a geologist.”

That’s an apt inspiration, Eileen thought. For a brief moment, she could imagine the earth shaking and Mount Fuji blasting. In trepidation, she gazed into the awful crater. Magma oozed through the crater like toothpaste. It seemed the planet was a vital living organism with its own lifeblood.

“The earth is constantly renewing itself,” Wulfstein said, clicking a few keys on his laptop.

Eileen sensed a feeling of heaviness and disorientation. Landmass sloshed back and forth as planet Earth went through a billion-year cycle.

“There’s this single continent,” Wulfstein added, pointing. “Then it breaks. Interior oceans develop inside the continent and push the landmass apart until they spread out.”

Eileen studied the circles on the screen as the Australian continent’s connection to the Antarctic pulled away, then the Eurasian landmass broke up.

Wulfstein flicked more keys. “Subduction appears here,” he resumed. “As the ocean floor becomes denser and descends into the asthenosphere, the dispersed continents are dragged back to join into a single mass and the whole cycle repeats itself.

“Because planet Earth is alive,” Wulfstein continued. “It has a soul, and we’re part of that soul.”

Having heard of this idea before, and now up on top of Mount Fuji, Eileen understood its true meaning, and though it could be a good theme for her article. Still, the danger to earth’s living organisms when its geological life changed in quick succession amazed and horrified her. Like crocodiles in a swamp, they lay stationary for a while, then attacked with voracious intensity. “And what will happen to our lives?”

“We either adapt or perish.” Wulfstein clicked a few more strokes. “Mid-ocean ridges widen the ocean, then they rise and dry up. But in the Western Pacific—”

EQ-Lun beeped and flickered in red and yellow lights, the earth shook. Seized with foreboding, Eileen hung back, her nerves rattled.

Blo-o-op . . . Blo-o-op . . . “Something is pulsing in the Pacific,” Wulfstein said. Sailing in from the horizon, chubby clouds gathered speed and obscured the sun. A flock of birds flew past, followed immediately by pelicans in a V-formation. Both faded into the mist and disappeared, but the sound continued.

Overwhelmed, Eileen arched her eyebrows. “Why are these pelicans flying this height?”

“They must have sensed something.” Wulfstein’s eyes darted round. “Yes, sound like bubbles releasing from the deep. And this is coming from the Mariana Trench.”

“How can you be so sure? Your sensors or equipment may be fallible.”

“My equipment is still far from being perfect.” Perspiration beaded Wulfstein’s brow as he tapped a few keys. “And yes, only God is infallible.”

A petrified moving mass appeared on the laptop. It looked like a swirl of cream in a cup of black coffee.

“What is stirring there?”

Wulfstein tapped more commands. “High electromagnetic fields everywhere.”

Eileen’s muscles tightened as another tremor shook the ground. “It must be a typhoon circling over the Pacific.”

“If you see a vulture hovering, somewhere, death is imminent.”

She grimaced at Wulfstein. What vulture? What death?

Anxiety flowed through her limbs. His ears pricked when the sound resonated; an innate power seemed to be driving him. She knew that the laptop had links to all the underwater parabolic eavesdroppers, and other hypersensitive listening devices around the archipelago, tracking sounds and movements.

“Look!” Wulfstein said as the sound hissed out louder. “We just had a 9.1 earthquake in the Marianas Islands.”

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

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~ by Joel on December 23, 2009.

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