The New Madrid Run

FOREWORD


      This planet, and ultimately its inhabitants, are moving toward the conclusion of an era, and very possibly, the end of a cycle in manís much longer history than most propose. It has happened before, it will happen again.

      As with most potentially calamitous events, Mother Nature provides warnings, and explanations, if the societies affected are advanced enough to understand. It is entirely possible that civilizations before us, who experienced monumental calamity have also left us warning, if we are perceptive enough to decipher it.

      This book is a work of fiction. The premise, however, and the concept that the planet earth could very possibly experience catastrophic geological and climatic changes somewhere near the end of this century, or the beginning of the next, is an extremely viable possibility. These disastrous changes would be brought about by a unique event due to occur the early part of the twenty-first century--the nearly perfect alignment of the planets in our solar system--a phenomena that has not occurred for thousands of years.

      This alignment, and the perpetually thickening ice mass of the South Pole, are part of the explanation for the approaching changes. The clearly perceptible wobble of the planet as it is affected by this gravitational pull and mass imbalance are part of the warning. The increase of volcanic and earthquake activity worldwide, the frequency and ferocity of violent meteorological storms throughout the globe, and the prediction of a devastating millennium solar storm are all admonitions by a changing planet. Yet, we can expect more....

      It is entirely possible that the coming alignment will cause sufficient gravitational pull as to change the earth's rotating axis in relation to other heavenly bodies. Due to this attraction, and the enormous weight of the accumulating ice in the South Pole, the tilt of the earth will no longer be able to overcome the centrifugal force of the spinning planet. At this point, the polar ice masses will be thrust across the earth's surface toward some point near the equator, and a shift in the planet's poles will take place.

      Prior to, during, and after this shift, there will be widespread geological disturbances and climatic changes. The geodetic or tectonic plates that represent the earth's crust will, themselves, shift in numerous places--particularly in those areas of severe faults. As these large rifts expand and contract, huge sections of Terra Firma will change shape. Some of the coastlines that border major faults may virtually disappear into the sea, and new land masses will rise out of the ocean as tectonic plates are forced together and buckle upwards. Entire mountain ranges will crumple and collapse.

      This massive displacement of land mass, coupled with awesome earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, will cause tidal waves of gigantic proportions, inundating coastal plains throughout the world. Areas of the globe which had previously experienced a temperate or even tropical climate may undergo rapid weather changes approaching severe northern, perhaps even arctic, conditions. Other regions, depending on location, may experience slighter climatic changes, but all of the earth will suffer alteration to some degree.

      For those who survive this cataclysm, the ensuing period of recovery will be harsh indeed. In a matter of hours, the parameters of civilization, as we know them, shall have been irrevocably altered and survival may well become the law of the land. The survivors of this holocaust will face not only the dangers and challenges of a changed earth, but quite probably, the baser ambitions of their fellow man.

      The possibility of a catastrophe of these proportions is not the product of the authorís imagination. Rather, it is a theory already expounded upon, and becoming more readily accepted by numerous scientists, geologists, and astronomers throughout the world. Furthermore, it has become the single-most consistent prediction by those in the New Age community. From Edgar Cayce to Ruth Montgomery, the forecasts of numerous prominent psychics are patently similar.

      In writing this book, I believe Michael Reisig has attempted to be as accurate as possible with the interpretive predictions of both the bona fide geological and psychic communities, using only a dab of artistic license in painting a portrait of a world gone mad. Yet, this is an adventure novel, meant to entertain. So read on and enjoy--but pay attention as you go; it could be a signpost to the future.

Richard W. Noone

PART ONE

THE CHANGE AND THE GATHERING

      "BEHOLD, YE OF LITTLE FAITH IN GOD AND NATURE. WITNESS THE CHANGE, BEAR TESTIMONY TO THE CLEANSING.       "SAVE YOUR WOEFUL WAILING, PHILANDERING PHILISTINES, YE HAVE SQUANDERED THE GIFTS OF GOD'S GREEN EARTH FOR A POCKETFUL OF COINS. NOW, AS SURE AS ARROGANT PRIDE GOETH BEFORE A FALL, AND WICKEDNESS BEGETS CALAMITY, IT IS TIME TO PAY THE PIPER FOR ALL YOUR DIRTY DANCIN' WITH MOTHER NATURE'S DAUGHTERS..
The Preacher

CHAPTER I

OF WAVES AND PLANES

SOUTH FLORIDA, SHORTLY AFTER THE TURN OF THE CENTURY

      The sun broke clear of the moisture filled cumulus clouds, reflected off the windshield, and warmed the cockpit of the small twin-engine Cessna as it made its approach toward the Marathon Airport in the Florida Keys.

      As he prepared for landing, Travis Christian was feeling pretty damned good about life. He stretched his large frame in the seat, ran a hand through his dark, curly hair and smiled slightly to himself. This week he had celebrated his tenth year as chief pilot and owner of Islandair Charters. He was doing what he loved and getting paid for it, and that was a hard combination to beat. It had been a long and crooked path from there to here, but he had made it.

      He was sixteen years old when he first received his fixed-wing license. By the time he was nineteen he had been recruited by Uncle Sam and was flying helicopters in Viet Nam. He was landing in places you couldn't get a Volkswagen Beetle into, then taking off with the screams of the wounded in his ears and pieces of his chopper disappearing as the enemy did their best to make his two year stay a permanent one.

      After Nam, he finished up his commercial pilotís rating with the help of the G.I. Bill and then bummed around the States for a few years. He was licensed to fly for a living, but so were thousands of other guys who were just out of the service. Flying jobs were scarce. He traveled from California to New Mexico, across to Texas and finally down to Florida where he fell in love-- not with a woman, but with a chain of islands called the Florida Keys.

      The Keys: mangrove islands surrounded by gin-clear, aquamarine waters. Tall palms stretched out over small, quiet beaches. There were quaint little bars, astounding sunsets, and tourist girls from all over the world. He had found where he wanted to be. All he needed was a way to make a living. About that time he discovered his second love in life after flying: sailing.

      He had been introduced to sailing by a friend who owned and chartered a sailboat out of Key West. The fellow needed a mate. His last employee, who drank even more than he did, fell off the dock and broke his leg. Travis needed a job, so he accepted the offer of employment.

      One bright morning, slightly hung over, Travis found himself headed toward the Tortugas on a 41 Morgan. The wind in the rigging sang to him like the Sirens to Ulysses. As he watched the sleek bow knife through the warm, clear water and tasted the salt in the air, he knew he would never be the same.

      Time passed, and he learned to sail. As with any good sailor, he learned the tides, the channels, and the reefs. He also learned to pay attention to that capricious lady they call Mother Nature. It wasnít long before he realized that the same ocean he found so peaceful and serene could, within a very short time, become an awesome creature, terrifying and merciless. Even so, he loved it-- or perhaps, because of this, he loved it. It was the same feeling of challenge and risk that flying gave him.

      He worked with his friend for about three years, sailing during the day and chasing the ladies of Key West in the evenings. Life was easy and certainly entertaining, but he still dreamt of having his own flying service. Finally he managed a part-time position with a small charter service on the island. It was also about the same time that he met a fellow pilot named Cody, and his life became ultimately more interesting.

      As the runway suddenly loomed ahead, Travis got down to the business of landing his plane. Backing the throttles off, feathering the props, and dropping twenty degrees of flaps, he set up a perfect final and settled the 310 gently onto the strip. He taxied over to the ramp, killed the engines and got out. Then he helped his passengers out of the aircraft.

      His clients were both engineers from Miami, working on a project in Key West. They needed two hours in Marathon to meet with an attorney. From there they were to go on to Key West, then back to Miami by the end of the day. It was a lot of bouncing around, but they were paying for it, and paying well.

      Travis figured he would touch base with his secretary in the cubicle he called an office here, and then have a little lunch. By that time, the engineers would be back and it would be off to Key West.

      Travis was putting the chocks under the wheels of his plane when he felt a strange sense of uneasiness come over him. He stood up for a second and looked around. The feeling rushed over him like that first gust of cool air that heralds the oncoming storm. It passed, but it left something in his gut, something that said, bad things are coming... Most people would have shrugged it off and gone about their business, but Travis and the feeling were old friends. He didn't understand, but he knew it was the reason he was alive today. He had experienced the sensation a number of times in Viet Nam. The first time he hadnít paid much attention to it. That day he was shot down behind enemy lines and came as close to being killed as he had during his entire tour. He learned to listen, to rely on it, and the feeling had saved his life and the lives of his crew, a number of times. Now, after all this time, standing on an airstrip in an innocuous little town in the Keys, here it was again--and it was bad. He looked around again, unable to find anything out of the ordinary. Finally, with one more glance at the plane, he walked through the gate and into the building where his mini-office was.

      As he entered the office, his part-time girl friend/full-time secretary looked up and smiled. "Hi, flyboy. How's it going?"

      Travis attempted a smile, still occupied with his ominous vibration. "Okay. I'm okay but it looks like it's going to be a long day. I don't expect to be back from Miami until about eight tonight."

      Linda studied him for a moment--the soft lines etched into his rugged but handsome face, the touch of agitation in his bright, hazel eyes, the set of his jaw. "You all right?" she asked. "You look like you just found a finger in your jelly donut."

      Travis stifled a laugh. God, she could read him well! He gave a short, uneasy sigh. "Yeah, I'm all right. Everything's fine. Anybody need flying anywhere?"

      She glanced at her notes, "You've got three for Fort Lauderdale tomorrow at eight a.m., and if you're willing to hang around up there until about two, I think we're going to get another triple for Key West on the return. They're going to confirm this afternoon."

      "Great! Switch on the answering machine and let's go have lunch."

      "Okay" Linda replied. "I'll do a quick lunch with you but then I've got to run over to my Mom's for half an hour. She's been really sick with the flu that's been going around and I promised I'd check in on her."

      "Not a problem, come on."

      With the prospect of a good week ahead, they decided to splurge and do Mexican at the Faro Blanco. Linda had a Margarita with lunch while Travis settled, reluctantly, for an iced tea. They had a relatively quick but enjoyable meal, discussing business and pleasure equally. Linda was always fun, and she had a good business head, which was a hard combination to find. Looking at her from across the small table he was reminded how attractive she was, as well. Her hair was sandy blonde, lightened by the sun and the sea, and her eyes were as soft and dark as a newborn fawnís. She had a perpetual, honey-colored Caribbean tan, and an economical little figure that reminded Travis of a college cheerleader. She was very close to what he wanted, and he cared for her a great deal, but he wasn't sure he was in love. She was well aware of his struggle with commitment, but she was banking on him coming around in time.

      When they had finished lunch, she took her car to her Mom's and Travis drove back to the airport. He noticed, as he drove, that the nagging feeling of unease had not abated in the least. He decided that he would pay special attention to flying today. He also seemed to sense something unusual about the air, almost as if there was an increase in the static electricity. It was difficult to describe, but he felt like the hairs on his arms were constantly prickling.

      He was stopped at one of the few traffic lights in Marathon when he felt the tremor. It was distinct enough to feel while sitting in his car. Then it happened again--but stronger. He thought to himself, "What in hell is that, an earthquake in the Florida Keys?" That was unheard of. There were no local faults. "Maybe someone's blasting a channel somewhere," he reasoned. In fact, it felt a lot like a couple of thousand pounders the 52's used to drop in Nam, and it felt like they had dropped them somewhere close by.

      He switched on the radio, and caught the announcer's frantic voice in mid-sentence, "...unconfirmed reports of additional major quakes in Japan and China as well as the South Pacific. There has also been unconfirmed word of a large land mass rising out of the sea in the vicinity of Bermuda and heavy volcanic activity from the Windward Islands through Central and South America. The big news, however, is that a quake of epic proportions took place in California at approximately seven-thirty Pacific Standard Time this morning. Everything is mass confusion from Portland, Oregon to the border of Mexico. There are no hard facts at this point, but it is believed that the majority of California, or at least, with relative certainty, the California coast, has disappeared into the sea! There are further reports of massive quakes on the eastern seaboard also, but at this time we have no idea of actual damage. The President, from Air Force One, already in the air, is calling for an emergency session of Congress to evaluate the situation here and abroad, and to determine appropriate action. We will continue to broadcast news on these and other events as we receive further information."

      Travis had returned to the airport while listening to the news. He parked his car in front of the building that served as the Unicom station and the FBO offices for several flight line businesses, and got out. As he put his feet on the ground, he sensed a vibration--an almost imperceptible movement of the ground beneath his feet. It was then that he heard a plaintive meowing, almost a crying. At first he couldn't place the direction of the sound, but as he looked up at the roof, he saw the kitten high above him on the rain gutter. The small, orange and white cat was perched there looking down and complaining loudly. The kitten had been a birthday present for Linda only weeks before, to keep her company while Travis was gone on overnighters. Travis glanced over at the big poinciana tree next to the building. That was obviously the route the errant kitten had taken, but now, unable to find its way down, it was frightened and vocal. Travis looked up again and shrugged. "What the hell, I haven't done a good deed for a while," he muttered. Actually, it had been a very long while.

      Travis knew where the access door to the roof was, so up the stairs he went. He found the hatch, pulled down the fold-out stairs and climbed up and out onto the roof. There, twenty feet away, still near the edge, was the kitten. He walked over slowly, speaking softly to the frightened animal. Then he stooped down and gently picked it up. As he stood and turned, he saw it...

      There on the horizon, barely distinguishable at that distance, was a wall of water--a tidal wave at least a hundred feet high and running the entire length of his vision. This colossal wall containing thousands of tons of water was bearing down on the Keys with the speed and intensity of a runaway freight train. As it gathered momentum, and rose to its full height, it greedily sucked the waters out of the flats, adding to its already enormous strength. In a matter of minutes, the Keys would face not just destruction, but complete annihilation.

      In a heartbeat he was bolting across the roof and through the hatch. As he raced down the stairs and out of the building, the cat, frightened by the rapid movement, tore at his arm with its claws and broke loose. There was no time to worry about it. He had only seconds.

      Knowing it was a futile effort, he ran to his office, slammed open the door, and yelled for Linda. She was still at her mother's, five miles away. She might as well have been in China; there was no helping her.

      When Travis saw the wall of water racing toward the Keys, he knew his only chance was the plane. After checking for Linda, he raced for the aircraft, nearly knocking down the gate attendant and a couple of baggage porters in the process. There was no point in shouting warnings to anyone, and certainly no time to explain. It didn't matter. Everyone on the island was as good as dead. He knew it, and he ran.

      As he reached the plane, the rumbling in the ground was much stronger. The surface of the earth was trembling, and a wind had come up out of nowhere. It was a hell of a wind, whipping at his clothes and throwing dust and dirt into the air hard enough to blind him. "Thank God this damned wind's coming down the runway," he thought as he shielded his face and pulled the chocks away. He jumped onto the wing, ripped open the door, and threw himself into the left seat. "No pre-flight today," he whispered tensely, as he rushed through the prestart procedure. Finally he hit the starter and was rewarded as the port engine fired into life. The rumbling was growing stronger still, and everything was starting to shake. He almost screamed with relief when the starboard engine cranked over and started. He had been having trouble starting that engine lately, but fortunately, not today!

      There was no time to taxi down to the runway threshold. The water would be on him long before he reached it. People were shouting and screaming, running in all directions. He realized, as he frantically turned the plane's nose down the taxiway into the wind, that his chances of being alive ten minutes from now were slim.

      He hammered the throttles down and gave himself ten degrees of flaps. The 310 leapt in response. As Travis concentrated on keeping her on the narrow taxiway in the gale-force winds, he glanced at the horizon for a second and gasped. The giant wall of water was aimed right at him, less than half a mile away. It was easily a hundred and twenty feet high, and as it crashed into Marathon, buildings exploded and disappeared. Instinctively he pushed the throttles tighter against the panel but there was no more power to be had, and he still needed another hundred yards to be airborne. Then he had to clear the wave.

      Everything went into slow motion. He was fairly certain that he wasn't going to make it, but he wasn't frightened anymore. It had been reduced to a contest between himself and the wave. If he won, he lived. If he lost, well, heíd damn sure go out kicking!

      The plane broke free of the ground as the churning, foaming avalanche crashed across the last hundred yards to the airstrip. The Cessna was arching upward, gaining altitude despite the buffeting by fierce winds but the barrier of water loomed before him, nearly towering over the aircraft . He slammed back the yoke and threw the airplane up, almost vertically, towards the top of the wave. His first thought-- natural instinct for a pilot-- was, I'm going stall this son-of-a-bitch. In the midst of it all he laughed fiercely to himself. If he didn't make it over the water, he was dead anyway, so what the hell!

      The monstrous wave reared up and curled over him, debris from crushed houses, decimated boats, and uprooted trees cascading down itís face. Spray and foam slapped the fuselage and windshield with fat, blinding pellets.

      Suddenly it was as if he was back in Nam, slashing through the sky and dodging tracers; the roar of fifty calibers and the yells of soldiers numbing his senses. He felt as though he'd just mainlined a quart of adrenalin. He didnít give a goddamn anymore. The streaming, frothing fingers of the top of the wave reached out for the tiny insect that was trying to escape its grasp. The engines strained and whined as the wave struck the plane. The stall warning buzzed in his head like an angry giant insect and Travis screamed.

      It wasnít a scream of fear. On the contrary, it was a challenge, a cry of defiance, an acceptance of whatever fate held for him. It was as if a primordial part of his being had been awakened; that primitive essence buried deep within modern man that harbors the uncontrolled desire to rush into the fray with weapon held high.

      The deafening roar of the water drowned his own scream in his ears, and the sky went dark. Sheets of spray blocked the sun and the top of the wave smacked the underside of the plane like a hammer, tossing him fifty feet higher into the air. Suddenly, when Travis was certain he was dead, the aircraft broke through. He was losing what precious little altitude he had, and barely in control of the plane, but he was on the back side of the wave--and alive! There was little time, however, to take satisfaction in this tenuous piece of fortune. He had major problems with his airplane.

      Besides being buffeted by winds of tropical storm strength, his starboard engine was sputtering and vibrating badly, probably from the impact of the water. He climbed, using both engines at half power. As the vibrations increased to a dangerous level, he applied opposite rudder, feathered the prop, and shut down the bad engine. The plane dropped toward the water, tossed like a leaf in a gale, as he attempted to stabilize.

      Sweat poured from his face, stinging his eyes. His shirt was soaked as he struggled with the controls and fought off panic as the shuddering aircraft fell toward the sea. Finally, only fifty feet from the tumultuous surface of the water, he manhandled the 310 into straight and level flight. Slowly, inexorably, he climbed to a safe altitude of a few thousand feet. He would need the height to buy him time in a crash landing, if the other engine went. Then, and only then, did he take time to look down at the surrounding waters. The sight took his breath away.

      The Keys were gone. Below, the debris-littered water agitated like that of a washing machine. The leviathan wave had passed, followed by several slightly smaller ones. They left in their wakes complete devastation. The islands were buried by at least forty feet of water. It was as if the Florida Keys had never been.

      Travis gazed down at the flotsam and jetsam everywhere. Anything that would float littered the surface of the sea, from palm trees and sofa cushions to huge sections of roofs. Miraculously, a few boats seemed to have survived, though most were badly damaged. A great many were capsized. He circled and watched as bits and pieces of what was left of his hometown rose and sank in the milky-green waters. There were all manner of things on the surface below, but he had yet to see a survivor. It was then that he was struck by the thought of Linda. Linda, his lover, his friend, was dead. So was every other friend he had in the Keys.

      The moment of introspection was interrupted when he glanced at his fuel gauges. "Son of a bitch!" he moaned to himself. " Less than a quarter-tank on each engine." He knew his chances of making Miami and the mainland on so little fuel were slim and nil. Hell, he wasn't sure there was a Miami anymore! It was time to make some important decisions.

      While Travis was contemplating his options, which also fell into the slim and nil category, he noticed a sailboat about a quarter-mile to the west of him. His attention was piqued when he realized that it still had one of its masts and was right side up. He had to do something in the next half hour, before the engine quit and he did his flying rock act. He took another look at the sailboat in the distance and smiled grimly. ďAny port in a storm,Ē he muttered.

      Still fighting the tremendous buffeting by the wind, he dropped a wing and banked gently downward toward the boat. He made a low level pass at about one hundred feet and got a good look at her. Then he did it again. She was beat up, there was no question about that, but she wasn't listing. Even though she'd lost a mast, the other seemed intact and appeared, miraculously, to have its sails neatly bound to the boom. "Well, Trav, ole Buddy,Ē he said to himself, "I think it's time to trade this girl in for a boat."

      He knew that what he was about to attempt was dangerous as hell, even in the best of circumstances, but the truth was, there weren't a whole lot of other choices.

      He took the plane up to eight-hundred feet and out a half mile from the sailboat, then turned around and headed back toward it. Throttling back while gradually losing altitude, he aimed for a spot one hundred yards in front of, and fifty yards to the side of the craft for a point of impact. Travis unlocked his door, grabbed a life jacket from under the seat, and made sure the landing gear was up and tight. He feathered the engine and backed the power off as the aircraft glided toward the water. He was still a touch hot as the plane approached touchdown. He pulled the nose up a bit and the 310 complied by losing speed. As the last twenty feet of height evaporated and the ocean loomed up on both sides of the cockpit, he pulled back on the controls and the tail section caught the water. The jarring impact threw him forward against the controls, banging his head on the door and knocking the breath from him. The plane continued slamming and skipping across the water for a few moments, gradually losing momentum and finally lurching to a halt. Suddenly it was quiet. The only sound was the clicking of the electrical system as it shut down.

      Travis, still a little dazed, gasped for air as the plane settled onto the rough ocean, and instinctively shoved the door with his elbow.

      The door didnít budge--that brought him around like a slap in the face.

      Forgetting his sore ribs, unconcerned about the blood running down the side of his head, he swung around in the seat and hammered the door with one hand while pulling the latch with the other. Nothing. As he turned in his seat and struck the door again, he heard the sound of the water rushing into the cockpit. He looked down in terror. Seawater was bubbling into the cabin from a gash in the floor. It was already covering his ankles.

      Suddenly Travis thought, "You goddamned idiot, the other door!" Painfully he pulled himself across the seat to the passengerís door, knowing freedom was only seconds away. He grasped the handle and shoved. Again, nothing. It was jammed just like the other one! The water was up to his knees and the plane was starting to list, nose first, into the ocean.

      Realizing he was running out of time, he forced himself to look--really look--at the door before attacking it like a maniac.

      It was then he noticed the stress buckle in each door forcing the locking mechanism against the jamb. The doors themselves weren't jammed - only the locks. Amazed at his own calmness, he suddenly knew exactly how to solve his problem. Travis reached into his chart compartment and pulled out a Colt .45 service model. He wasn't supposed to carry a gun while flying, but it was a throwback to another time when something like that had made him feel more secure.

      The water was at his waist, and his hand was shaking noticeably as he aimed the gun at the door lock and pulled the trigger four times. The sound inside the confines of the plane was like a cannon going off, but that was the least of his concerns. Better to be deaf than drowned. He brought the gun down and studied the damage that the hollow-point .45s had done. There was no longer a lock, just a six inch hole rimmed by ragged metal. He shifted his legs up on the seat and slammed his feet against the door. When it burst open, he wanted to cry out with joy!

      The weight of the engines and the water in the cockpit were rapidly drawing the plane into the ocean. With only seconds left before the aircraft went down, he threw himself out the door and onto the wing where he slipped and fell into the water. Still holding onto the life jacket and the pistol, he struggled to the surface and kicked off his shoes, but lost the .45 as he attempted to don the jacket and get it buckled. He wasn't ten feet from the aircraft when, with a gurgle and a groan, it was swallowed by the sea.

The New Madrid Run--Available at your area bookstore, The Survival Center: 1-800-321-2900, Amazon.com, or Barnes and Noble.com.

Also, Be sure to watch for The Hawks of Kamalon, by Michael Reisig, to be released May, 1999. 1