science fiction vignette

by Torn MacAlester

science fiction vignette

This morn­ing on the Night Watch Live AM, we are speak­ing with Nick in Mon­tana, who’s been liv­ing inside of the blast zone of Yel­low­stone since the explo­sion last year. Nick, we have a caller on line two, are you ready for ques­tions from the audience?

“Go ahead Sam,” I said, pour­ing myself anoth­er cup of cof­fee. “I’m ready.”

I’ve got Coot­er from Texas on the line. Coot­er, you’re live with Sam Dean on Night Watch AM and Nick from Montana.

“Hey yeah Nick, this is Coot­er. Ya doin’ all right?”

“I can’t com­plain Coot­er, what is your question?”

“I heard that there was a UFO near the park just before it blew. Did you see anything?”

I cleared my throat, “There had been a lot of sight­ings around the park region over the years. Per­son­al­ly – have nev­er seen anything.”

“They were prepar­ing for the volcano–”

– it looks like we lost Coot­er, we’ll see if we can get him back while we take this com­mer­cial break.

I set the phone to speak­er and moved over to the fire­place. Find­ing the hol­low-sound­ing stone, I worked it out of the wall. My hand fished around until find­ing my keys.

Back to the air with Nick. What is the sit­u­a­tion up there?

“The ground is still burn­ing in places here. I think it’s the roots of the trees. The ash from the explo­sion and the sub­se­quent fires makes it look like win­ter here all the time. Yes­ter­day we had a beau­ti­ful sun­shine. It almost looked like a great day to go ski­ing, but it’s ash – not snow.”

I can’t imag­ine a more beau­ti­ful scene, but should­n’t you leave, Nick?

“Yes, thanks. Sam, I’ve been up here for many years. I’m not going to aban­don my home.”

But, Nick. The gov­ern­ment sci­en­tists have repeat­ed­ly said that any­one with­in three hun­dred miles of the park needs to leave. It is not safe.

“Sam, it’s always been dan­ger­ous in this coun­try. Peo­ple often for­get that wolves were rein­tro­duced years ago. Besides, I need to fix my truck before I can leave. I can’t eas­i­ly walk out on foot.”

Nick, I’ve been won­der­ing. You claim to be the clos­est to the erup­tion who sur­vived. Where exact­ly are you?

“To give you an idea, there is a stretch of road between West Yel­low­stone and Big Sky Mon­tana. There’s a ski resort up there. I am about thir­ty miles north and west of that resort. I’ve got every­thing I need though. I have a place to stay that has an enclosed porch. I use it to keep the dust out of the house. I’ve had good luck.”

I under­stand that is the most impor­tant. I’ve heard claims that that dust is slow­ly hurt­ing everyone.

“It’s killing every­one Sam. You breath this stuff in, it com­bines with the mois­ture in your lungs and it forms con­crete. We’re all slow­ly suf­fo­cat­ing as our lungs fill up with cement.”

I’ve heard a Brazil­ian med­i­cine that can treat it.

“It’s too late for me,” I said. “I’ve been feel­ing my breath­ing becom­ing hard­er and harder.”

You can like­ly be treated.

“Sam,” I said, pulling on my coat. “I’m head­ing out to the near­est post office, it’s going to take me most of today to make that dri­ve. I’ll be send­ing you a key. A friend of mine will be ask­ing for it from you some­day. You’ll know who it is.”

I am sur­prised, Nick. What is all this about?

“You will under­stand when you get it.”

Reprint­ed from Fic­tion Fountain