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The Magmatic Fear 1

The Magmatic Fear

The only thing on his mind as he finished the final equipment check was a hot meal and a Marlborough 100. Then he heard a lilting oath on the wind followed by a short burst of laughter and his dreams evaporated. Sure enough, there was his boss Freddy Davis charging up the hill inside a greyish cloud of dust; the wind strove desperately to unseat the tan cowboy hat from his head and reveal the pasty bald scalp beneath, but nothing could overcome the force of his hand on the brim.

“Aerobacter, what the hell are you doin’?” Freddy demanded between gasps for air at the hill’s summit.

The other man sighed. “Call me Dr. Proctor, please.”

Freddy looked up and swept a trail of sweat from between his eyes, sending it cascading into the fine black sand at his feet. His face was like a gigantic red candy, the kind that cause cancer in rats. “I’ve known you so long I should call you ‘Aero!’” Laughter quickly died in his throat and turned to gagging; after surfeiting himself from a canteen he continued,

“But that ain’t the point now issit? What I need to know is, why haven’t we detonated another one of them H-bombs yet?”

“These things take time, and patience,” the doctor said wearily.

“Patience? You know we’re four months behind schedule? Investors are quaking in their silver boots, pretty soon they’ll be dropping like malnourished mosquitoes left n’ right. Hell, even the Emir is starting to question our--your sanity for stalling the project. You can’t blame the poor man for wanting his island can you?”

“I’m sorry Mr. Davis, but we hit a snag. That’s all I can say at this stage in the project.”

By some miracle of nature, the other man’s sun baked features flushed an even deeper red. He started to speak, stopped, then spun around and shuffled down the hill swearing under his breath. “One more day Aerobacter, one more day!” he shouted without turning around.

The doctor let out another sigh, this one of relief, and headed in the opposite direction, the wind at his back. To his right, in concord with a growing aggregation of cutting edge mining equipment, the earth gradually shed layer after layer of its hide. Black sand gave way to compacted sedimentary rock, itself sheared away in thin layers creating a downward grade that culminated in a wide fathomless valley. Steel scaffolding, fulgent with the westering sun, descended in broad stratum down the valley until vanishing in living jet. Although he couldn’t see it now, he knew that deep in that yawning void a uniquely horrifying machine huddled over a recess of even deeper nothingness. It had lain dormant for some four months now, but soon it would quiver to life, and another nuclear payload would be delivered to Gaia’s womb and blaze her native core anew.

The sun had completely set on the island by the time he reached the mess hall. They served him leftovers, a cold hunk of pork and some flaccid asparagus, and he gloomily forced down the food with all the zeal of an invalid. Outside, the weather worsened considerably. A banshee wind stalked the darkened beach and the sea roiled under the oppression of endless purple clouds like levitating mountains. He couldn’t bring himself to smoke a cigarette.

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A good appetite whetter.

I enjoyed that, and I look forward to more.