The Final Harvest

By Joseph Mark

Patriot, New York Saturday, July 19, 1989 11:54 A.M.

The sun did not shine today, it didn't shine yesterday, and it probably wouldn't tomorrow. Tom Breslin didn't care. Thirty sad years of living, if you would call it that, formed this pleasant attitude. So, if mother nature or some volcano in Indonesia now gave Tom a red sky instead of the usual blue one, it was okay with him. The misery of others always gladdened Tom, and what better misery than one that affected the whole world.

Come to think of it, though, today would make it one week since there were clear skies and sunshine during the day, and the moon and stars at night. Tom remembered exactly where he was when that veil of ash and dried blood colored dust began to shroud his little corner of upstate New York.

Patriot, New York Saturday, July 12th, 1989 5:05 P.M.

Grandma Breslin had just pulled up his drive in her little new smoke grey Honda Accord. He remembered thinking how grandpa Breslin never liked to drive anywhere, and here she was, tooling around in her car and probably driving more in one week than gramps had in his whole life.

Tom loved little, not even himself; Grandma Breslin seemingly was his one saving grace. In his own limited way, he loved her as all good grandchildren love their grandparents. The irony was that the acts of a good person were not the ways of Tom Breslin. When it came to his grandmother and only with her, he came as close as was possible for him with regards to expressions of love. That is where the line was drawn however, and it was never crossed.

The strange fact of the matter was that there was a condition to Toms love. It was based on some instinctive need, a sort of counterbalance if you will. Without her, Tom was truly lost. That's why he would never allow himself to ever think about losing her. For if he did lose her, he knew that his souls hidden blackness would totally control him. Tom did not realize that Amanda Breslin, or no Amanda Breslin, when the time came, evil would control him, and that time was quite soon. In fact, it was just about to begin.

"Thomas Joseph Breslin, quit your daydreaming and help me with these packages." The unmistakable tone and those piercing eyes that only grandmothers and mothers have shook Tom out of his muse. "Aw grams, you know I can't eat all the food you bring me," Tom sheepishly told her as he helped her out of the car. "I know, but at least you won't starve. You would if you had to eat by your own hand." She looked at him in an affectionate and knowing way and said, "Tom, men may make the best chefs, but they are lousy cooks."

A little waft of coolness broke the still summer air. The shutters tapped lightly. "Tom, is it gonna rain? It sure is getting dark early." Grandma Breslin inquired with concern. That's when Tom gazed up at a sky that for some reason looked like it would never be blue again.

Tom's tone became slightly hushed and he spoke slowly as he replied. "Grandma, that doesn't look like a rain cloud or any cloud I've ever seen." The cloud shroud had by now covered more than half the sky. It was getting chilly. The birds, puzzled by this early nightfall began flying for their nests.

Tom hurried into his farmhouse. Amanda Breslin ran as best she could, her hammer toes aching her as she too tried to hurry. If there was a ready answer to this the sheriff might have one. As they entered Tom's sparsely furnished den, she said, "You're more old fashioned than your grandfather was. How do you expect to get any new without a TV or a radio?" Tom did not answer, instead he had the operator connect him with the sheriff. It took a little while and finally he was through to deputy Jim Daniels. Jim was little surprised to receive a call from a semi-hermit like Tom and he answered Tom's question as best he could.

"Now Tom, all I can tell you is what I heard on the radio about two or three hours ago. It seems some volcano or mountain or whatever blew up out in the pacific somewhere a couple of days back. That's what the scientists are saying. I can't tell you more because the commercial radios aren't working, and neither is the television. Tom, I gotta go because this is the only phone we've got, and the sheriff must be trying to reach me. Once last thing though, get the animals in. One of the reports says that this dirt floating around up there is really dangerous!"

Tom by remaining silent prompted the deputy to say, "Believe me Tom, some if it fell in California by Frisco and a lot of people were having breathing problems and some even died cause of it! Gotta go!"

Tom stared at the receiver and waited about ten seconds before hanging up. As the reality of the situation began to sink in, he turned towards his grandmother and for some reason smiled. "Thomas, what in heavens name is going on" grandma Breslin asked. She was shaken more by Tom's smile than the ever-darkening sky outside.

"What in heavens name? It would seem that your heaven has something to do with this, wouldn't it? Tom answered with a surrealistic and almost laughing tone. Grandma Breslin was frozen by a knowing evil gleam in his eyes!

Tom walked to the door and somewhat reluctantly went about the business of sheltering the animals. Amanda stayed inside, chilled by both the sudden coolness and Tom's sudden, distant manner. She worried about Tom when she really should have been worrying about herself.

She always thought of Tom as a good boy. Even as a grown man she pandered to Tom's boyish quality, a boyish quality that was just an act for her benefit. People told her this was a mistake. Something about Tom just wasn't right. But Amanda Breslin was always quick to defend her only living grandchild. What had he ever done wrong. He never had trouble with any of the deputies or the sheriff. They would always give her that fact. Yet people were put off him as though he were a natural enemy, the same way they did with his father and his father's father.

Only grandma Breslin loved Tom. The caution light in her soul would beacon her. She would ignore it, letting that still, small voice, that is inside people of conscience, only whisper its warnings.

New York City Saturday, July 12 7:17 P.M.

The phones at WNUZ would not stop lighting up. Bob Morris put his cup of belly burning coffee down and poked at one of the five buttons on his phone. "Bob Morris WNUZ," he said.

The woman at the other end of the line sounded downright panic stricken. "What is going on? It's raining red mud. My three years old son had gotten some in his eyes and they're burning him something fierce. My husband wrapped him up and took him down to Jersey Central. The stuff burns and blisters your skin if it gets on it. What is it?"

Bob did his best to try to put the lady at ease. He shifted in his chair and then he answered calmly, "All I can tell you is that it's from that volcano that blew up in Indonesia five days ago. The scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that this was the largest volcano eruption ever recorded. You must have heard about it on the news? People in in Hawaii reported hearing it blow, so did people in Japan, Australia and even Mexico!" The woman said she had been seeing something on T.V. about a dust cloud over the mid-west but didn't expect this!

Bob quickly inquired, "By the way, is everyone in your family indoors?" She answered, "Yes, yes, thank you. I'm sorry, I just didn't know who to call. My husband and I listen to your station all the time." She continued.

"That's another thing, we're having a hard time with the radio. The broadcasts are full of static." The woman sounded calmer now, but all around Bob people were almost frantic.

"Listen miss, what's your name?" Bob inquired.

"Joan Mattingly of Elder, New Jersey," she replied.

"Joan, keep listening to your radio, maybe this thing will clear soon. Anyway, Joan I'm sure your son will be all right." Bob said goodbye and was glad he has at least calmed down one person.

Bob's fans weren't the only people affected by this scourge from the sky. Bob was informed that some co-workers were presently being attended to by the medical staff.

Bob wondered to himself, "What is going on here? A volcano? No let me correct that. The Volcano! What were they calling it again, the people in Singapore, 'Tetano Moree', the Red Reaper?"

Bob got up and walked to the window. When he reached it, he stared out at a scene right out of a Saturday afternoon science fiction movie. There was blood, or at least what appeared to be blood everywhere. It was as if some giant had stabbed Manhattan and left it to die. Bob wanted to dismiss these thoughts as melodramatic, but he couldn't. What was happening out there was more frightening than any dream he ever had. There was just a hint of sad acceptance in his eyes and to someone standing behind him the combination of Bob's reflection and the red streaks on the window gave the eerie illusion of a man crying blood.

If Bob was able to look out his window and see 80 miles to the east he would have seen a much more normal scene. A father and his daughter enjoying the last rays of an early evening summer sun.

Westhampton, New York. Saturday, July 12th 7:30 PM

"What a lovely way to spend the summer!" Young Nicole O'Dan stretched her arms out as if to hug the whole wide world. As she spoke she did a little spin. "Especially since I'm spending it with you."

William O'Dan was happy also. It had been five or six years since he had a real vacation and since he had saved his leave, they would be able to spend as much time here at Westhampton beach as they wanted to. It was just Nicole and himself now. His wife of eleven years had died the previous winter in a strange ski-lift mishap in Vermont.

Young Nicole even at the age of ten was able to handle the tragic loss of her mother better than he the loss of his wife. Nicole's enthusiasm for life, and her constant smile, her need to be loved, was the only anchor Will had left in his life. Yes, this was going to be his and Nicole's summer. "Let's go Nicole," Will commanded in a nice fatherly way.

As he spoke, Will bent over and playfully picked up Nicole and placed her on his shoulders. He then turned to view the interesting red sunset in the west and he was amazed by the garish hues and swirling context of the clouds that appeared to be moving towards them.

"Red sky at night sailors delight", right daddy," Nicole chimed? Tom answered, "Usually Nicole, usually. Let's get into town and have our dinner, okay kid?"

Will and Nicole climbed into his VJ-7 and they headed east down Dune road. Behind them lay an empty stretch of beach and a rapidly darkening red sky.

Meanwhile in Golden, Colorado the seismologists at the U.S. Geological Services National Earthquake Information Service, were astonished by the increasing volcanic activity being reported in the wake of the 'Tetano Moree' eruption. Mauna Loa was beginning to erupt again, much more severely than in 1984 when the lava floods reached the outskirts of Hilo. Additional reports of even more eruption in Northern Turkey, and Chile were coming in; yet they were in the process of being confirmed. One confirmed report did show that there was another eruption of the El Chichon volcano in Mexico. The same volcano that erupted in 1983 and affected global weather patterns.

These developments were unprecedented; presently unexplained. And beginning to disturb the logical mind of chief seismologist Benjamin Monroe. He was the one who had to have the report on these upheavals ready in two hours, because in two hours the office of the President of the United States would be expecting it.

As Will O'Dan and his daughter Nicole ate dinner at the Blue Clipped restaurant, he noticed that an urgent bulletin was coming across the TV at the bar. Will excused himself from the table and went over and listened to the report that surprisingly was coming over an Eastern Connecticut based station.

The new anchor was speaking. "This is a WXCN special bulletin, all residents of Connecticut, Long Island, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are being advised to stay indoors. This is due to a caustic rainfall that has already injured hundreds in New Jersey and New York City. This caustic rain is a result of the massive 'Tetano Morre' eruption. As you are aware you are not receiving your usual New York City station on this channel. This is also due to the effects of the caustic ash. You will be advised again later. For as long as atmospheric conditions allow we'll be on. In the time remaining we will update you. Here for the live feed from the National Weather Services Center is our science reporter Michael Alexander. Mike, what is the situation?"

The scene shifted to the National Weather Service in Boston. There the rather young science reporter was seated with a large map of the world behind him and a Weathertex radar scope in from of him. Without acknowledging the lean-in, he looked directly into the camera and spoke in a serious tone.

"On Monday, July 7th at 12:17 AM Eastern daylight savings time there was an eruption of the 'Tetano Moree' volcano on the island of Mendopta in northern Indonesia. Over two thousand feet of the eleven-thousand-foot volcano was blasted into the atmosphere," he reported.

Dealing with the situation skillfully, the science reporter spoke on. "The first effects in the country were felt three days ago when some of the ash at the 35,000-foot level dropped lower than expected and affected San Francisco and Northern California.