The Turning: excerpts from the Armageddon sci-fi novel

Excerpts from "The Turning"

First excerpt

The chronometer on the instrument panel read 10:52. Harris tried to relax, swallowed hard to pop his ears, and looked apprehensively below. Nothing on the horizon. No flurry of activity. He double-checked his own watch, its time synchronized with the seven o'clock news of a TV network. The program had been dominated by distressing scenes of Orlando--Mount Ranier was temporarily taking a back seat. Rescue workers, wearing hard hats and Day-Glo vests, were shown combing--what seemed to Harris--homogeneous rubble. Dogs, stretchers, and ambulances proliferated in swarms, but they were clearly insufficient in number. The sheer magnitude of the disaster was mind-numbing--a combination of Hurricane Mitch and the Kosovo refugee exodus imported into a US neighborhood. And everywhere the camera pointed, there was the tear-stained lonely child, and the adults whose world consisted of a focused quest for food, water, shelter, and a ticket out of the hellhole.

Harris had switched channels, hoping for more upbeat news, but pornographic footage came across instead. A crazy cameraman shot the footage the night before, at the fringes of a mass looting, in a shopping center close to downtown Orlando. The authorities didn't even bother to send in police to quell the riot. The army simply rolled in with half a dozen armored personnel carriers and opened up with a withering cross fire of machine guns and twenty-millimeter cannon shells. The bloody carnage was over in seconds, as no quarter was spared. Later, soldiers emerged from their vehicles, kicking bodies and firing intermittently at anything that twitched. Harris had retched--his stomach already empty--partially from the content of the film, partially from disgust that a network, clearly in search of higher ratings, would air it.

The chopper rounded the tip of Manhattan and headed up the East River again. The chronometer moved another minute forward. Harris, still distracted by the early morning TV images, was startled as his earphones crackled to life.

“Over there,” the pilot shouted, his finger pointing through the Perspex windshield.

Harris craned forward, as the pilot slowed the helicopter and dipped the nose.

Something very broad, with a thin white crest, was encroaching upon the land. It was moving toward them at a frightening pace, upstream, against the natural current.

Second excerpt

They sweated for the next half-hour--half of the longer runway was clean. Gilmont glanced nervously at his watch. 10:20 a.m. Less than six hours to go, assuming their computations were correct. Four hours, at least, to Denver. Gilmont wanted to be on the ground when it happened ... in the right place. Eight miles up things might be fine, but there was no telling what secondary effects might occur … winds, earthquakes, and nascent volcanoes. He wanted an intact airport when they landed, not a collection of wrecked buildings and a Jackson Pollock landing strip

Scenes of Pauline kept flashing through his mind like strobes--Pauline in the grocery store laughing at an inane joke… Pauline in the bath with bubbles up to her neck… Pauline flipping her hair back when she was mad… Pauline's expectant eyes as he suddenly penetrated her.

Had they made it to the hotel? What were conditions like in the real world? Was complete lawlessness ruling the day? He hadn't even called his kids since Monday, although neither was in imminent danger.

He finished and turned, walked to the runway centerline, and started to brush toward the other side, cursing the fact that he had no sunglasses to counter the glare. Mercifully, a large cauliflower-shaped cumulus cloud started to obscure the sun. Sweep, stroke, sweep, stroke. The rhythm helped. It was tranquil without the constant noise of engines in labor, powering their attached heavier-than-air machines upward into the air, against the force of gravity. But every five minutes he would glance eastward, toward the Atlantic ocean.

He wondered what a mile-high wave would sound like, and whether he would hear it before it tore every muscle fiber and piece of connective tissue from the bones to which they were attached.

Droplets of sweat ran into his eyes, stinging them. He extracted the wad of tissues, wiped his eyes, and threw the ball away, blinking furiously. His hair dripped water, down the sides of his neck and cheeks. He ignored his palpitating heart, and the hot nauseous sensation that seemed to mimic heatstroke.

Then it started again, this time in the lumbar region. The tiny pinpricks, stabbing at the countless nerve endings.

Death was coming.

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