“Our final childbirth class, ” Sean said, driving south on Aurora, “Are we ready?”
“I’m ready, God, am I ready. I was due yesterday,” said Mary, “We’ve got all the supplies we need for a home birth.”
“And we’re all set with The Swedish Medical Center, as a backup?”
“If it comes to that,” said Mary, “The midwife said they had the best birthing suites. Jo said that she could help out too, she was a doula for her sister, twice.”
“How are you and Jo getting along?” said Sean, “You have been spending a lot of time together.”
“She’s the kid sister I never had,” said Mary, “She’s got the gift, she just never had the chance to explore it until now.”
“You’re being careful, aren’t you?” said Sean, “She’s been through a lot.”
“She’s tough. A hardened killer,” Mary said, “Like me.”
Sean didn’t reply.
“Are you making any headway with Emily’s artwork?” said Mary.
“Some,” Sean said, “I’m correlating her activities with the art events described in the books she bought about The Modernists. Emily had already made numerous notes and so far they mesh with her diaries. My next step is to get into the archives of the authors of those books. I need to find photographs from those times, perhaps some letters or even eyewitness accounts. Everyone who experienced those events is long dead, but I’ve been in touch with some archivists… Whoa! Deer!”
Sean braked hard to avoid hitting a trio of deer that had emerged from Woodland Park.
“Let me out, at the corner, something is happening, I need to be outside,” said Mary, “Drive around the block, pick me up in five minutes.”
Sean pulled over and let Mary out.
“Are you sure you’ll be alright?” said Sean.
“It’s OK,” said Mary, as she walked into the park.
Mary went in about thirty yards, just far enough to minimize the sound of the traffic. Standing still, she could hear rustling in the undergrowth. Then came a sharper noise, a sound of claws on asphalt footpath, she looked up and saw a large coyote padding toward her. Her rational mind began to shut down as her animal mind came to the forefront of her consciousness. She gazed into the eyes of the creature and nodded. It bounded away and Mary returned to the street where Sean was pulling up.
“Let’s get home, we don’t have much time,” Mary said, stepping into the car.
“Sure thing. Is it the baby?”
“No. Earthquake. Soon.”
Jo had gotten off her shift at the coffeehouse and was in her new apartment, preparing a light supper. She found that after being surrounded by coffee and pastries all day, a salad could change her outlook towards food. She had the laptop that Sean and Mary had given her, the log-in said that it was Emily’s MacBook Pro. Jo thought it sweet that it had been named after Sean’s grandmother. Sean told her that it needed a different log in name to differentiate it from the other computers on the local network. He didn’t tell her that Emily had actually used it when she stayed in the apartment. Sean would let Mary decide when and if Jo would learn the story of Emily’s ‘resurrection.’
As Jo ate, she scrolled through her news feed. One headline caught her attention. She stopped scrolling and clicked through to the story:
SEATTLE'S BEST NEW-AGE SECRET ROMANCE
The strange but true story of death, deception and mystery behind the rise of Sean Carroll and Mary Robinson, his Witch-bride.
The world first heard of Sean Carroll in the “Billygate” affair, how he was “coerced” into pretending to masquerade as his dead half-brother. The story faded from the public eye, but it has only grown weirder in the last couple of years. netnewszine.com has learned that Sean has recently received a settlement worth millions from the estate of Virginia multimillionaire. Mary Robinson, his wife, is the force behind the wildly successful SpellApp, put out by the Icelandic “New Religion” internet church. How these two came to their present position of power, and the stories of the secrets they’re hiding, will be covered in a continuing series exclusively on techcreeper.com…
The first tremors hit as Mary and Sean walked into their apartment. They were noticeable, but not terribly strong. As they subsided Mary felt some discomfort in her abdomen so she went into the bathroom and sat on the toilet. Her water broke. Then the second wave of tremors hit. The lights flickered and then went out.
“Great timing,” said Mary, as she groped her way back to the kitchen, “My water broke.”
“Phone service has been knocked out,” Sean was using his phone as a flashlight to look for matches and candles, “Can you make it down twenty flights of stairs?”
“Oof,” Mary paused to catch her breath, “No. Is the internet still up?”
Sean opened his laptop. “The local network is still active—it’s got a back-up—but the router isn’t getting the internet.”
“Can you message Jo?” Mary gasped, “This is going way faster than it should. She should be in her place.”
Hilmar cursed his success. He was standing with a group of ‘true believers’ in a field at the base of Snæfellsjökull, the dormant volcano located on the west coast of Iceland. It was cold and dark. And it was four A.M. There had been a demand for a December Solstice gathering at this ‘sacred portal’ so he had put together a tour package; it quickly sold out. The actual solstice wouldn’t occur for nearly another hour, but everyone seemed glad to be there. There was some chanting, and several of the people were repeating the ‘SpellsApp’ chant for ‘fire.’ A cry arose from the group and Hilmar looked up from the coffee he was nursing. Hilmar had to admit that the looming mass of Snæfellsjökull, silhouetted by the starry sky behind it, was impressive, and now that an aurora display had begun it was, to use an overworked word, awesome. He began to feel the ground vibrate a bit. A mild earthquake only made the scene more impressive. A murmur began to spread through the crowd.
This is one trip they’ll never forget, thought Hilmar, hey, it’s getting pretty intense!
As the ground began to heave, Hilmar thought: People in the open aren’t usually at much of risk in an earthquake…
As he was thinking, there was an especially violent shock and, hearing a loud crash, he turned to see the tour bus had tipped over onto its side, slipping off the shoulder where it had been parked. Hilmar looked at the bus, this is some trouble, he mused. It will take several hours to get another bus here and people will need some shelter before too long. There was a small church just down the road, they could stay there if they had to. As he looked at the forlorn bus, he thought that his eyes were playing tricks on him—there was a red glow reflected on the top (now side) of the bus. A service vehicle already? he mused. A cry from the crowd got his attention and when he turned around he saw that at the top of the jökull a cloud of dull red steam was rising above the summit. A moment later the first tongue of fiery red lava appeared.
“Skít,” said Hilmar.
Jo’s laptop had also lost its internet connection when the power went out. She stood in front of the screen, pressing keys, frustrated and frightened. She was about to put her jacket back on and leave when she got a pop-up message from Sean’s computer:
Jo, can you come up? Mary’s in labor, we can use some help.”
Jo typed “OK” and sent the message to Sean. She shut down her computer and picked her phone up. No Bars. She looked out the kitchen window—the streets of the city were already beginning to fill with cars. On I-5, the traffic was at a standstill, almost as bad as rush hour. The rest of the city was black. Looking to the southeast, she saw a large red cloud in the distance, hovering above a brilliant lake of fire.
“Oh My God, it’s Rainier!” she said.