Prelude to the apocalypse – Gavin

Yellowstone National Park, USA.

When he felt the stresses of life, Gavin Clay liked to retreat from the world into the wilderness for a few hours. He always came to the same spot on the shore of Lewis Lake. He wasn’t much of a hiker, so Gavin picked an area he could drive to.

He liked the beauty of nature, but not the inconvenience of it.

This place wasn’t particularly secluded, but it was far enough from the road that there was little chance he would be disturbed. And when he did occasionally see people, they were like him, wanting to be left alone. That was often the draw of this paradise, the chance for solitude and alone time.

There was a chill in the air, the lake water lapping at the shore he sat on. He came here about once a month to unwind and fill his soul with how humans had once lived. He never stayed more than a few hours, because despite the fresh air and the relaxation, he couldn’t resist the draw of technology and the conveniences it represented.

The lake was a nice place to visit, but he wouldn’t want to spend the night here. Gavin had no illusions that he could survive out here. He was a man of the modern age, born into the benefits of science. If he was stranded out in the wilderness, Gavin would die quickly from the elements or from dehydration. There was no knowledge lurking in his head about how to make the water around him safe to drink, or how to build a shelter. He had no tools, and no desire to carry any.

He came here to get his fix, and then he would return to comfort knowing that the life of his ancestors was a burden he no longer had to carry. Electricity and sanitation made survival skills obsolete. Within minutes, he could be in his car heading back towards the blissful call of civilisation.

Gavin’s brother was different, a polar opposite. His brother could hunt and fish, went camping regularly deep into the wilderness. Gavin’s wife would often cuttingly say how she had married the wrong brother, usually when their arguments blossomed. That seemed to be more frequent these days, something that Gavin couldn’t understand. He provided for her, gave her everything she asked for. And yet she never seemed happy. His brother, on the other hand, lived by the seat of his pants. Gavin had a 401K that would see him sitting comfortably in retirement, whereas it was unlikely his brother had anything as simple as a savings account. What the hell was the appeal of adventure if you didn’t have a sound financial base to live off?

Out in the lake, Gavin barely detected the movement. He ignored it at first, not realising what it represented. But as more fish rose to the surface, Gavin finally realised that something was wrong.

“What the hell?”

The direction of the air shifted ever so slightly, the wind blowing inland off the lake, bringing the faint smell that he instantly recognised. Rotting eggs; it was unmistakable. As more fish began to bob up from the depths, Gavin rose to his feet. He didn’t have enough experience to realise the peril he was in. The fact that Yellowstone National Park was on a huge volcanic caldera was not known to him. This was the personification of natural beauty; how could there be any real danger here? Okay, there would be the occasional bear, but not here.

The smell grew stronger, and that was when his eyes started to water. On the surface of the water, maybe twenty metres out, bubbles started to rise, the water starting to froth and churn. He rubbed at his eyes, only then noticing that the skin of his hands was starting to itch. Gavin found himself suddenly gagging as a burning spread to his lungs. The air became thick, toxic, and he scrambled away from the water’s edge.

Beneath the lake, something had given way, allowing the poisonous gases stored there to release. Further out, a plume of steam erupted from the lake’s surface, then another. The ground under him trembled and, clawing at his neck due to the lack of oxygen, Gavin collapsed to his knees. The steam cloud expanded rapidly, washing over the shore, washing over Gavin. And that was when the pain really started. That was when Gavin’s skin began to slough off.

Hydrochloric acid mist floated over him, coating him, filling his lungs, burning and melting his eyes. The pain was unbearable, and he collapsed to the ground, the skin bubbling as it began to disintegrate. All around him, the foliage and the trees began to corrode as the gas attacked them, too. Gavin’s lungs gave one last attempt to keep him alive, and instead, he coughed up blood, his throat filling with dissolved lung tissue. Although unpleasant, it was a relatively quick death; the acid sucking all the calcium from his body. His heart stopped beating within a minute of his first exposure.

The gas cloud expanded, spreading across the road, killing half a dozen motorists who were unlucky enough to be passing by that spot. And all the time the ground rumbled, warning of its discontent. There was more to come.

So much more.

 

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