Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category
I had not intended to write this review, but could not resist because the impression to share was so strong. I had intended to review chapter three of Passing the Heavenly Gift, but that can wait. I finished Proof of Heaven a week ago and did not feel the desire to review it as I do with this book. Proof of Heaven can stand on its own, already reviewed by many people. Visions of Glory has also been reviewed in several places, but the negative reviews are too dismissive for me.
I’m not going to say my review is negative, and I am going to recommend you read it, but I’m going to offer a few words of warning. There’s just something strange about this book that I can’t put my finger on at the moment. Maybe by the time I finish the review it will be clearer. The negative reviews on Amazon and elsewhere declare that Spencer was deceived. I’m not going to go that far. I believe Spencer was sincere when he described what he said he saw.
Visions of Glory combines two of my favorite topics – Near Death Experiences (NDEs) and the Last Days. Like several of the reviewers, I was fascinated with the first third of the book as he describes what he learned in his first two NDEs. I had little problem with what he offered and found myself nodding my head in agreement with some of his descriptions. The spirit burned in my heart as I recognized and understood that Spencer had shared some wonderful truths with us.
LDS Blogging on Last Days
I don’t doubt that Spencer did indeed experience the NDE’s as he described them. But I am just blown away by the detail in the last two thirds of the book in his third NDE. Cedar Fort’s wording on the cover that this is “one man’s astonishing account of the last days” causes me to immediately think, “Well, that’s just his interpretation.” And indeed, that’s the first warning I’m going to offer. These are just one man’s views of the Last Days. Mine are certainly different.
With John’s recent passing, Spencer, not his real name, has contributed more to John’s blog, now maintained by others. You can get a better feel for Spencer there by reading his contributions as he answers questions put to him by readers. It kind of reminds me of the early days of Denver’s blog in which he was much more interactive with his readers. Having a popular blog in the LDS community can be burdensome because so many readers are at different levels of understanding.
In any event, after reading Spencer’s book (it really is his even though John wrote it), you can interact directly with him on the Unblog. Although I found Spencer’s description of some of the events of the last days to be fascinating, my focus has been different. What I would like to ask about, he would not be able to answer. I am more interested in how the widespread destruction is caused and how to interpret the events from the Books of Revelation, Daniel, Joel and others.
Invasion of America
Those who have read essays from my early years of blogging know my interest in the books of Anthony Larson, known as the Prophecy Trilogy. In there, you’ll find a description of the pillar of fire, for example, that is radically different from what Spencer describes in his book. You’ll also find much more reference to the cosmological causes of the great destruction that is to take place before the coming of the Lord, which are barely mentioned in passing by Spencer.
Now, I hate to go “out there” but I want to make a point that there are multiple claims of how the great destruction is going to come about. Spencer notes that there are many nuclear explosions, most caused by internal radicals, not by the foreign invaders. I read that part to my wife. She said it sounds like someone watched “Jericho” or “Revolution” and had a bad dream. I must admit I have never read anyone else talking about floods in Salt Lake as one of the signs of the last days.
Are you familiar with Denise Mendenhall, daughter of LDS author Doug Mendenhall? She lives without a veil. She gave a talk at Confetti Books in Feb of 2012. I have a recording of the event. In it she relates how the Lord told her to share that he is going to cause a huge EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) to hit the earth which will wipe out all technology based on the use of electricity and electronics, which is just about every means of modern communication and transportation.
Civilization will be Destroyed
Here’s my point. We’ve got Spencer claiming there will be a huge earthquake that will destroy most of the West Coast, cause massive flooding in Utah and precede an invasion by a large body of foreigners who take over the country. I’m not sure I understood the explanation for the flooding but I thought Spencer was describing the return of Lake Bonneville. He related that everything south of Point of the Mountain was under water as far as the eye could see. Strange.
So in addition to the huge earthquake, which is prophesied in the scriptures, without the floods, we’ve got Denise sharing that there will be a huge EMP and Anthony Larson pointing out that the great destruction of the last days will be caused by Earth’s close encounter with another celestial body. Spencer writes in his book that the earth passes by a huge planet on the journey back to God’s presence but that it has absolutely no effect on the earth or the inhabitants.
Although Spencer and Denise both claim that their visions of the end times are from the Lord, I’m going to go with what I have long held that the destruction of the last days, including the massive earthquakes, tidal waves and volcanic activity, are caused by the return of the Ten Tribes, who Joseph said were taken from the earth. This is in direct contradiction with what Spencer claims in his book – that they are living in deep caverns long hidden under the ice.
Celestial Mechanics and Time Travel
This is all conjecture and fun to think about but back to the point of this review. I offered one warning about Spencer’s book at the beginning. Here’s another: How is it possible that God could tell three different people, one of them a prophet, that the destruction of the last days will be caused by three different things: a massive earthquake, an EMP and a planet coming up alongside the earth? Could they all be correct? Well, actually I suppose they could be.
Imagine for a minute that you put aside what science teaches about celestial mechanics. Let’s assume that somehow a large planetary body could come close to the earth. Let’s further assume you accept the alternative theories of cosmology known as the Electric Universe in which plasma and electricity have greater influence than gravity, then yes, I suppose an EMP could accompany the earthquakes and other prophesied destructions found in the scriptures in rich abundance.
My apologies if my ramblings don’t make sense. I have tried to provide links to previous essays that might help if you haven’t been a regular reader of my blog. In Visions of Glory Spencer is clear that he has little to no background in technology. He marvels at the things he encounters as he becomes a translated being. I suppose his description of the portals will be the most difficult for scientifically minded people to accept. After all, he’s talking about time travel at that point.
All the Hot Mormon Topics
A few questions I am still pondering: Why such detail about the destruction in and around Salt Lake and little to none of the rest of the world? Why did they have to go to Cardston first before they went to Missouri? Why is the appearance of the Lord in the Conference Center to a select few not mentioned anywhere in prophesied events of the last days? Is the invasion of America by a foreign military a part of the events foretold in the scriptures? Why didn’t the plague kill more?
Is the book an exciting read? Yes, I couldn’t put it down. You’ll encounter plagues, earthquakes, floods, foreign invasion, changes in weather (kind of like Global Warming without the politics), changes in constellations as the earth travels through space, the return of the Ten Tribes, the long walk to Missouri, the building of the New Jerusalem, the gathering of the elect by the 144,000 and much more. But as some reviewers have written, it reads like a piece of good LDS fiction.
That is probably unkind. I don’t know Spencer. From everything I’ve read he is a kind soul. I would not have the courage to share what he has shared specifically because I know so many people would be inclined to mock. I have read the glowing reviews of others who said this is the most life-changing book they have ever read. Others have written that the Holy Ghost testified to them it is true. I’m not going to go that far. Perhaps I simply was not ready to receive it as such.
Inspiration for LDS Fiction
Some of my readers may know I am writing a trilogy of fiction based on the works of Immanuel Velikovsky and the Electric Universe cosmological views of Wal Thornhill and David Talbott. I have taken the opening chapter of Anthony Larson’s book, And the Moon Shall be Turned to Blood and have expanded it into what I hope will be an interesting and exciting story about how events could possibly happen in the very last days just prior to the return of the Lord.
My first book ends with the return of the broken off piece of earth containing the Ten Tribes. In fact, that’s the whole premise of the first book – that a planet will come close to the earth, cause huge widespread destruction and eventually position itself just above the magnetic North pole. In my second book I plan to write about life on Earth after the destruction of civilization and how we pick up the pieces. I confess I planned to write about the walk to Missouri to build up Zion.
As I read through the last two thirds of Spencer’s book I made mental notes about how I could expand this scene or that scene and incorporate it into my book. If I ever publish the first and find the anticipated satisfaction in its reception for which I hope, I’ll write about the return of the City of Enoch and again, the destructions that accompany yet another piece of Earth coming home. In my third book, I will write about what happens when the Lord does finally return.
One Man’s View
Most people don’t think about this stuff. None of us really has any material clue about how this is all going to come down, especially the timing and sequence of events. I like reading books like Visions of Glory because it gives me food for thought about how future events could possibly happen. Do I consider it a work of fiction? I’m not sure. Did the Holy Ghost reveal to me that what Spencer claimed he saw really will happen that way? I confess, no, I can’t say that.
I reiterate the point that Cedar Fort makes on the cover – this is one man’s view of things. He claims he was shown this in vision. At one point he made some reference that this may all be symbolic. At other times he was emphatic that he knew he was going to participate in these events at some future point in his life. I don’t know any translated beings but if you know Spencer in real life, maybe you should stick close to him to see if he is changed someday.
Please don’t be upset with my review if you feel I am mocking sacred things. I’m not. I have been a long-time reader of John’s blog. I have deep reverence and respect for those who have spiritual gifts that I don’t have. I suppose I am too caught up in making a living and relying on technology to do it. I spend every day working with routers, switches and wireless access points, servers, fiber-optic Internet connections and all kinds of things to keep the electrons flowing.
Technology for a Zion People
That’s why when I read in Spencer’s book how communications were cut off and yet there were some pockets of cities with electricity, I had to wonder why he claimed there would be no Internet. Wouldn’t that be one of the first things society would want restored once they had electricity? Even if it were just a small network in the local city not connected to the outside world, I am positive any civil authority would want that re-established as soon as possible.
He also mentions that the church had communications systems intact. OK, how did they do that? He never describes the fate of satellites, yet I believe in one case he noted the foreign invaders had some sort of GPS. The church relies heavily on the Internet and satellites to communicate with stakes all over the world. I realize that later on Spencer implies that they could keep in touch via their white seer stones but this is in the beginning, right after the big earthquake.
Spencer’s book is not about technology. It’s about becoming a Zion people. That’s why it fits in so well with John’s focus on the Unblog. It takes so many of the beliefs unique to Mormonism to levels that I confess I had never dreamed. Why would the Lord reveal such detail to Spencer that he hasn’t revealed to the prophets? Or if he has, why have they chosen not to discuss it, share it and teach us about it? Spencer doesn’t claim to be a prophet, but he sure shares amazing detail.
Fiction based on Dreams?
Final warning: John relates that as Spencer shared his visions he was impressed to tell Spencer about similar visions from other members of the church in our early history. Spencer claims he had never heard of them. Yet as I read Spencer’s visions I immediately called them to mind. Am I unique in that I knew of these things when a man with three advanced degrees had never heard of them? One could make an argument that the book was written from these previous visions.
The other visions and dreams are included in the appendix. The whole idea of going to Cardston first is based on a letter from Sols Caurdisto who toured the temple before it opened in 1921. The destruction of the cities of the East Coast that Spencer related the Angel showed him could have come directly from John Taylor’s 1877 dream, also included in the appendix. The 1884 dream of the plagues and Charles Evans dream of schools in New Jerusalem appear in Spencer’s narrative.
My conclusion: This is a fantastic book, a very enjoyable read. I recommend you read it. Don’t let my worldly skepticism deter you from gleaning wonderful truths shared about how the spirit world around us operates. But when it comes to how the events of the last days are going to go down, make sure you compare what you discover with what you already know from scripture. Then ask yourself as I did, “Has the Lord ever revealed such specific detail to anyone else?”
Note: Since I mentioned my book, you may be interested in reading a few chapters. It is tentatively entitled “Red Sky.”
“We’re going to crash,” the woman in the seat next to Manny said again. Her voice sounded like brakes squealing on asphalt. She wore a green flowered dress that reminded him of the American housewives of the 1950’s, her hair steel-wool gray. She held both arms straight out, elbows locked, a vice-grip on the sides of the seat in front of her. She’d been like that for the last five minutes, eyes closed, head down, weeping.
“Stop saying that, madam,” Manny said. He fought the urge to spew at the woman in his native Russian. “You’re getting on my nerves. The captain’s doing everything he can.” The flight from Salt Lake had been uneventful until they approached Denver. At 10,000 feet a cloud of red dust choked the engines into silence. An eerie blue glow surrounded the plane. The smell of burning ozone permeated the cabin.
The woman didn’t look up. Her lower lip quivered. She sobbed, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of death.” Even the flight attendants, who took their crash seats long ago, looked annoyed at her repeated prayer and irritating crying.
The plane jolted again. The passengers lurched forward. The woman screamed. So did several others. Manny gripped the leather case tighter to his chest. His life’s research. He looked once more through the window to the stricken engine. It sputtered, and then flamed out again.
With each sputter another lurch, then another, first one side, then the other. A coughing backfire of red dust mixed with blue flame. Some of the passengers had their phones out. The man across the aisle shouted into his phone. “I love you. Tell the kids I love them.”
A boy dressed all in black with a nose ring used his phone to shoot video, first out the window, then back to the terrified passengers. “This is so cool,” he said. The girl next to him, also dressed in black, slapped at him each time he said it.
The fields outside the Denver airport turned into runway much too fast. The woman next to Manny repeated her mantra—faster now. The strange blue glow that had surrounded the wings, which shimmered when they first hit the red dust, had now disappeared.
Another lurch. This time a whoosh and a roar. Manny turned to see the left engine catch. The woman’s chants stopped. She opened her eyes for the first time, popped her head up in the direction of the now firing engine. Her mouth opened, her breath caught on a whimper.
The engine on the other side of the plane sputtered then roared back to life. Some passengers cheered. Manny felt the plane level out. The tarmac rushed by not more than a dozen feet below. He saw the big white stripes which indicated the end of the runway. Too fast. There’s no way the captain would try to land now. Surely he’ll go around and try again.
“Brace, brace,” the captain said over the intercom. This is the first they heard from the cockpit since the power went out with the engine failure. The fine red dust still rushed by the windows of the plane. Manny put his head down, grabbed his legs with his hands. His arthritic fingers screamed in pain. “Please, please, let me live to get my research to the conference,” he said in a whispered voice to no one in particular.
The voice of a pastor in the seat behind them increased in volume. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…” Stupid fool. Too much talk about death.
Manny felt the jet slam down hard on the asphalt. It bounced. Screams erupted. The plane came back down—hard. The emergency lights flickered then failed. The sound of grinding steel drowned out the screams. “Oh shit,” the boy dressed in black said. “Not cool.”
Manny clung to his legs. His knuckles screamed while the plane continued to bounce. It slid for what seemed like an eternity; then came to an abrupt stop. The grinding noise ceased. The dim lights flickered back on. The smell of jet fuel surrounded them. Passengers popped upright, heads turned first one way then the other. He saw shock on some faces, happy surprise on others. Sounds of “thank god” floated in the stuffy air of the cabin.
The flight attendants jumped up, began to open the doors. They shouted to the passengers in the emergency isle to get the wing doors open. The woman next to Manny cried again, this time happy tears. He helped her to the wing exit and through. She clung to his arm the whole way through. The flight attendant told them to jump on the yellow chute and slide to the ground. Manny jumped, moved away from the chute and looked around.
Their jet landed in a ravine, a few yards below a service road. A red and yellow fireball rocked the landscape a short distance away. A private jet had also caught some of the red dust. It was not so lucky and crashed hard. Flames shot into the red-dust-filled sky. Manny’s heart filled with grief for the unfortunate passengers.
An old pickup screeched to a halt along the top of the ravine. A young man in blue jeans and sport coat climbed out. Manny clutched the worn leather briefcase to his chest, raced up the embankment toward him. The red dust that floated everywhere filled his lungs, choked him. He wheezed his way up the steep incline, age showing in his ancient joints.
“Can you take me to the terminal right now?” The young man stopped at the sound of Manny’s voice. He stared at him as though he’d sprouted horns.
He looked to be in his early thirties, and not all that successful, if he judged by the thread-bare sports coat, worn sneakers and much abused jeans. A CU logo adorned the back window of his truck. An educator he surmised. Yet he looked vaguely familiar.
“I’ve got to catch the flight to Washington D.C. right away,” Manny said. “I’ve got important information about this red dust.”
The young man didn’t move, just continued to stare at Manny. Finally he spoke. “Are you crazy? People are hurt down there. They need help.” His voice sounded familiar. Now Manny felt certain he’d seen him somewhere before.
Manny looked behind him then back at the man. “There’s no fire. Nobody’s seriously hurt. I must catch my connecting flight.”
The young man ignored him, turned then ran down the ravine toward the plane.
Manny walked to the man’s truck, opened the door. Damn. No keys. He looked up the road toward the terminal. He’d have to walk. He slid on his way back down the ravine.
He approached the captain who looked overwhelmed. Manny grabbed his arm. “Look,” he said, “my name’s Manny Volynski. Here’s my card. I just got off that plane. Fine bit of landing, if I do say, but I don’t have time to wait for the rescue crew. Gotta go.”
The captain stared at him the same way the young man had. Had everyone lost their minds? Manny turned and hurried up to the road, determined to get to the airport.
Why wouldn’t that young man give him a ride? There wasn’t anything he could do for the passengers of the plane. Emergency services were almost there. It bothered Manny that he couldn’t place where he’d seen the man from CU before. He racked his brain as he walked.
This red dust’s not a good thing. It came sooner than he calculated. He had to get to that science conference back East. Wait a minute. David. That’s right. That’s his name. He’s that university professor from Colorado who got him thrown out of last year’s conference. Arrogant educated fool. Thinks he knows everything.
The truck roared up behind him, screeched to a halt in front of him. David jumped out, grabbed Manny by the arm. “Where do you think you’re going?”
Manny tried to shake his hand off. “I just got off a plane that damn near crashed because of your stupid comet, which, my dear professor is not a comet at all. But we don’t have time to discuss that right now, do we?”
David dropped Manny’s arm like it burned him, took a step back.
“You told people on TV yesterday we’d have some beautiful sunsets for the next few weeks.” He waved his arm in the direction of the plane. “Is this your idea of a beautiful sunset? You didn’t seriously consider what the tail would do this close to earth, did you David?”
Manny recognized the momentary look of panic in David’s eyes. He nodded his head. “Maybe you believe me now? I tried to tell you about this last year.”
The young man’s mouth dropped open. He seemed to fight for control. “Get in the truck, old man. I promised the captain I would get you back. Although why he should be worried about one crazy old goat is beyond me.”
For a prize winning scientist, this guy seemed to have fallen off the honesty cart. “This red dust is from your comet. You know it is. Why didn’t you tell people the truth yesterday?”
David’s expression morphed from annoyance to shock then concern. He started back for the truck. “Do whatever the hell you want, old man. I need to get to my lab at the observatory.”
Manny jumped in front of the truck, pounded the hood with his fist. “Didn’t you hear me? It’s too late for that. We need to get to that conference–NOW. They’ll listen to you.”
David ignored him, opened the door.
Manny ran to the door, grabbed him by the lapels. “If you don’t come clean with what you know about that comet, a lot of people will die. They have a right to know.”
David’s eyes narrowed. He pushed Manny away. “It’s too late. There’s nothing we can do. Millions of people will die anyway. Now go away.”
Manny didn’t go away. He leaned closer. David backed against the doorframe of the truck. “What was your price, David?” Manny said. “A new observatory? A seat on the NSF board?” He patted the worn leather briefcase clutched under his arm. “I have the evidence right here. I’m taking it to that news reporter you were talking to yesterday. She’ll be interested.”
For a moment neither spoke. David scowled at Manny. “Are you threatening me, old man?” He didn’t get in the truck. He didn’t push Manny away. Their eyes remained locked, neither moved. A fresh dusting of the red powder fell around them.
Manny held out his hand and caught some of the powder, then waved it at David. “Robert Blackstone isn’t paying you enough to lie about what this stuff can do.” David’s eyes grew large at the mention of the name.
“You can help save lives. People will listen to you. But communications will be cut off in a few days. You know this. We’ve got to share this at the conference before it’s too late.”
David eyed Manny’s briefcase. He licked his lips. “We’d better get you to a safe place. Get in. I’ll take you to the terminal. We can talk.” Manny smiled as the truck began to move.
Copyright 2012 Tim Malone
“It’s obvious he still doesn’t understand celestial mechanics,” said her companion, who didn’t even bother to whisper. My daughter Cynthia turned around and glared at them. I ignored the whisperers and continued with my presentation.
“It’s time for scientists of the world, starting in this conference, to acknowledge there are other forces at work in the heavens besides gravity. Electromagnetism as a source of energy is billions of times more powerful than gravity. The planets are charged bodies.”
“So now you’re an expert on unified field theory. Get off the podium, Volynsky. Just because you knew Einstein doesn’t make you a scientist.” I recognized the other Harvard delegate as Harrison Stafford, who had been criticizing my work for years.
“As I was saying before I was interrupted, the historical record is clear. Earth has suffered natural catastrophes on a global scale both before and early in recorded history. The evidence for these catastrophes can be found in the recent geological record.”
“And you’ve been proven wrong over and over again. Give it up Manny. You’re a deluded crackpot. When are you going to accept the obvious?” I had known Harrison to be combative in his writing, but never rude like this in a public forum.
I turned to the moderator of the panel. “Mr. Goldstone, will you please ask members of the audience to be respectful? I was invited to present my research to an intelligent company of distinguished scientists. Is this a demonstration of the scientific method in action?”
Although it appeared Mr. Goldstone was amused by the outburst, he turned to the audience and obliged my request. “If there is time, we will have a question and answer session at the conclusion of the scheduled presentations. Please refrain from making comments until you are recognized.”
After a short pause he turned back to me and said, “You may continue Mr. Volynsky.”
I glared at Harrison. “I know only a few of you have read my works. Yet some of you have made public rebuttals. I understand some of my claims may seem a little, uh, unusual…”
“You mean crazy,” said Harrison.
“Doctor Stafford,” Goldstone started but Harrison waved him off.
“Time will bear out my claims. New evidence will come forth proving that the planets have not always been stable in the orbits we see today. The day will come when it will be common knowledge that Venus was once a comet on a collision course with earth.”
I tried to cut my lecture short but there was so much I wanted the people to hear. If only they would listen with an open mind. The fidgeting and coughs were becoming more frequent so I concluded with what I wanted them to remember more than anything else.
“Theories – that’s all we have. We weren’t there so we don’t know. We draw our conclusions from the same record – the geology of this earth and the records of the ancient people of this world. Don’t reject the ancient records because they don’t coincide with what we see around us now. The heavens once looked different than they do today.”
I sat down to a smattering of applause, anticipating the question and answer session to begin right away. I was disappointed to hear Dr. Goldstone announce that in the interest of time, the questions would have to be held until all presentations had been made.
Leaning over, I whispered to Cynthia, “Well, how did I do?”
“You were wonderful Daddy. You always are.”
“I can’t believe Harrison was so rude.”
“I don’t think he has read any of your books.”
We waited through three more presentations that afternoon. With each successive speaker it became clearer that this conference was not at all what I had been told. What I thought was going to be a vindication of my work was turning into a forum for attacking my theories.
The last speaker sat down and Mr Goldstone announced that there would be an hour break for dinner. This was preposterous. Half the audience would leave. How was I ever going to convince the scientific community what my years of research had revealed?
We found an open table at the hotel restaurant nearby. It was crowded and noisy. I almost had to shout so Cynthia could hear. It was so nice to have her here with me. I wish her mother were still alive to enjoy this trip to the West Coast. How I missed her.
“Cynthia, I think you’re right.”
“The biggest problem we have is that the most influential people in the field won’t read my books. If they did then we could at least have an intelligent conversation.”
Cynthia nodded in agreement. “From what I can tell, they have only read what Harrison has written. It’s obvious that he didn’t read more than a few pages, if any before writing that nasty review in his Science News Letter.”
How I appreciated that Cynthia had kept up with the controversy. I could always count on her. She didn’t dismiss me like so many others. She worked hard for her PhD, but never stopped believing in my work no matter what some of her colleagues said.
“Why won’t they take the time to read the sources? It’s all there in the books.”
“Turf wars, daddy. If you’re right then they’re all crazy. They can’t handle that.”
“I know I can never convince Harrison. His mind is made up. But no scientist should rely solely on what others have said without considering the evidence firsthand. That’s irresponsible.”
“No, it’s called keeping your job. Harrison is very powerful. If he tells them to ignore your books then they better not admit to anyone that they have looked at them.”
“So I’m a heretic. OK, I can accept that. But at least give me a fair hearing.”
Cynthia sighed. “You know I love you daddy, but I still can’t believe how naïve you are after all these years. People aren’t interested in the truth. They want things to remain the same.”
“But that’s the problem. Things change. Things have changed in the past and I’ve tried to give people the evidence. Things are going to change again. History repeats itself.”
“You know that and I know that, but you’re going to have to consider the possibility that your ideas are too radical for the scientists of our day. They will never accept your theories.”
“I can never believe that. I’ve got to keep trying. I know I’m right.”
Cynthia smiled at me. “That’s what I love about you. You never give up.”
“Let’s get back to the conference center. It’s time for the Q and A to begin.”
Copyright (c) Tim Malone, 2011
“I don’t like travelling,” said Jason as he rolled up his blankets. “You have to pack so much food and water and all those changes of clothes, especially for a long journey.” He wanted to complain some more but the look on his mother’s face stopped him short. Instead he asked, “How long will we be gone this time?”
“Jason, come here. Sit on the couch next to me.” After he had done so, his mother continued. “Do you remember when father told us about this journey a few months ago?” Jason nodded his head and his mother continued. “The famine has become worse since that time. We may never be coming back to our home.”
“What?” exclaimed Jason, “Not coming back? How can this be?” This was the only home he had ever known. He felt safe here and loved living in the palace with his cousins. Yes, he had gone on some travels with father, but only to the next kingdom to trade spices for sheepskins. “Where will our journey take us?”
Mother paused a long time before responding. She stood up and had her back to him and it looked like she had tears in her eyes. “None of us are really certain, Jason. We will follow the trade routes as far as we have ever gone before and then…” she trailed off. “We will follow the directions in the sacred scrolls.”
Although Jason was only nine years old, he had heard his parents read from the sacred scrolls many times. He had even snuck them out and tried to read them a few times himself. But they were hard to understand. They seemed mysterious, and were written in a cryptic kind of language that spoke of marvelous treasures.
“So we’re going to find the long-lost treasures of the scrolls!” Jason was very excited now and finished his packing as quickly as possible. Mother was relieved and helped him tie everything into the bundles that would go on the backs of the horses. They were lucky to have them. Some of the people were walking on foot.
Being a prince was no easy job. He had to act so dignified around the palace. But now that they were on a journey, he could ride and talk with his cousins and their friends without having to worry. They had fun as they chased the animals and took little side trips to see things they had seen previously on these trails.
Sometimes they would walk to let the horses rest. There were several families all travelling together. They needed to stay close for safety once they got past all the friendly kingdoms they had been through before. At last they came to the end of the known realms and were entering into lands that were full of many surprises.
One day, they woke up and found outside their tents a very curious round ball unlike anything they had ever seen before. It was made out of metal and had a couple of pointers that showed the direction they should take on their journey. Father said it was a gift from those who had gone before. He read it in the scrolls.
They could only carry so much food and had to rely on the men to hunt and find food to eat. Sometimes writing would appear on the round ball that told them where to go to find food. The writing seemed to show up just when they were getting most hungry and tired from their travels. Somebody was guiding them.
The writing told them to go towards the mountains they had seen for many days in the distance. It started to get cold as they began to climb the mountains. Jason was glad that they had packed the sheepskin blankets to keep them warm at night. He looked up at the stars and wondered why they looked different than before.
One morning there was a strong earthquake. Nobody was hurt but it scared the animals and the little children. Jason was not afraid. He heard the men talking around the campfire the night before that they were getting closer. “Closer to what?” he wondered. Mother looked worried and talked quietly to his father.
They had been going south for so long that the sun did not come out during the day any more. After the earthquake, it seemed to Jason that he could see strange things in the sky. It was getting darker and darker each day, but when the clouds parted he saw stars going by quickly. Stars aren’t supposed to move like that.
There were more earthquakes, but still they kept on climbing the mountains. Some of the men wanted to turn back, but Jason’s father would read to them out of the scrolls and they would agree to go on. Finally they came to a spot that was not so cold and had some shelter from the wind that was close to the highest peak.
“Here we wait,” announced Jason’s father. “Wait for what?” Jason wondered. Even though his father was a king, Jason could see that some of the people were not happy with where the king had brought them. Although a few mountain goats and a nearby stream provided food and water, this seemed like no place to live.
“We won’t be here long,” Jason’s father told mother. “Tomorrow you will see why.” And he was right. The noise started before dawn. It was a vibrating noise, long and low, as if it were coming from deep down inside the planet. They could not only hear the noise, but could feel it too. It got louder and longer and deeper.
Then they saw it! There in the sky above them was what looked like the moon, only it wasn’t a moon, it was another planet. Now it made sense to Jason why it looked like the stars had been rushing by. They had been moving faster and faster until they caught up with the planet and overtook it. It was now right below them.
Of course, to Jason, it looked like it was above them. Astonished, he watched as his father went out a little ways from the camp and raised his long staff in the air that he always carried with him. Lightning jumped from the staff towards the top of the nearby mountain that then caused something wonderful to happen.
It seemed like the whole top of the mountain opened up. Something started to flow between the mountain and the planet up above. The same thing happened from the other planet and the two energy flows met and merged. The noise was deafening but Jason’s attention was riveted on what was happening to his father.
He was rising up in the air, going faster and faster until he was out of sight. Jason turned to mother but she didn’t seem frightened at all. “It was all in the scrolls,” she explained. Your father is going to the other world to tell them we are here. They have been expecting us. We will be able to follow him a little later.”
At last Jason understood what the scrolls meant. The long-lost treasure was the world above them. They had been broken off from this world so long ago that nobody believed the scrolls anymore. They talked about the many things they would find in the world above. Jason could hardly wait until he could go there.
They had come home. No wonder his father said they weren’t going to stay there in the tops of the mountains. They were all going to go to the new world. He looked up in amazement as the beauty of the world above. It looked like most of it was water, which he had only seen in books. Mother said it was called earth.
I’ve seen dust storms in Denver before, but there’s something different about this one. I can’t put my finger on it. It seems so…I don’t know…red. And why is there so much dust in the air anyway? It’s not all that windy right now. It looks like the dust is falling from somewhere high up in the sky. It’s not being picked up off the ground and blown around by the wind. But that’s impossible. Dust doesn’t just fall from the sky like that, especially not in the winter. What could it be…? Mesmerized, Mitch Johnson continued to watch the red dust fall as he drove towards the Denver International airport.
“And planes don’t fall from the sky like that either,” he said aloud.
Mitch’s attention was diverted from his thoughts about the weird weather when he heard what he thought was a car backfiring. He looked up and saw a plane dropping much too fast for a safe landing. He was driving to the airport to catch a flight to Washington D.C. to attend a meeting of the American Astronomical Society. He had recently been awarded a prize for his work on the effects of planetary gravity on comets and was an invited guest to present a paper on the subject. It was quite an honor for such a young astrophysicist from the University of Colorado. Well, 34 seemed young to him.
It looked like the jet engines were surging and then flaming out. He heard the popping sound of the surges a few seconds after he saw the flames. But what really caught Mitch’s eye was the strange blue glow around the nose and engines of the aircraft. “What the hell is that?” he asked aloud. It was now apparent that the plane was in serious trouble. The likelihood that the crew would be able to land the jet dead stick on final approach was looking very slim.
Mitch quickly pulled over, grabbed his iPhone out of his shirt pocket and began shooting video of the aircraft. Just as he started recording, the engines popped once again and then miraculously restarted. And not a moment too soon, as the plane was less than 1,000 feet above the ground. He continued to record the landing, hoping to catch another sighting of the strange electrical glow on the leading edges of the plane, but it was not repeated. In an amazing demonstration of deliberate control, the pilot kept the nose up as the engines came back up to speed just in time to prevent a certain crash landing.
The jet finally slammed down roughly, a ways past the normal touchdown area, bounced noticeably and careened down the runway. Denver runways are very long, but it was obvious that this plane wasn’t going to be able to stop in time. It burst into the field past the end of the runway and ended up in a small ravine a few yards short of a roadway. Incredibly, there was no fire. Mitch had been on a flight from Las Vegas to Burbank that had overshot the runway back in 2000. He could just imagine the horror the passengers and crew must be going through right now.
He put his iPhone back in his pocket and raced to the end of the runway which was less than a mile away from where he had stopped. Even though there were many vehicles headed in that direction, Mitch was able to drive to within a dozen yards of the jet. He was one of the first to arrive on the scene. Most of the passengers had already escaped down the emergency slides and were milling around. He was surprised when one of them ran up to his truck as he stopped, clutching tightly at a leather briefcase.
“Can you get me to the terminal right away?” asked an old man with wild and frantic eyes. “I’ve got to catch a flight to Washington D.C. and I don’t have time to wait around for the emergency crews.”
Mitch stared at the old man slack jawed, but only for a second. “What are you, crazy? We’ve got to see if anybody’s hurt and help them!”
The old man looked around and said, “Look, nobody’s hurt. The pilot did an amazing job and got us down safely. We all got off the plane okay and now I need to catch my flight. Will you take me or not? I don’t have time to wait for a shuttle bus.”
Now Mitch was certain that the old man was crazy. He got out of his truck and began making his way toward the plane to find a member of the flight crew. The old man was right in step behind him but Mitch didn’t stop. He ran quickly down the little ravine and approached a uniformed crew member. “Is everyone alright?” he asked when he came to a man who appeared to be the captain. Surprised, the officer whirled around and looked closely at Mitch, tying to ascertain if he was a passenger.
“I saw the landing from where I was stopped along Airport Boulevard. In fact, I got the whole thing on video. Are you okay?” Mitch repeated.
It finally registered with the captain that Mitch was neither a passenger nor rescue crew. His eyes left Mitch’s face and resumed looking around at the passengers. He was trying to determine for himself the answer to Mitch’s question. “I don’t know yet,” he said. “I’ll be shocked if nobody is seriously hurt but so far everyone seems to be off the plane and uninjured.”
“What happened?” Mitch shouted after the captain, who had turned to find the rest of his crew. He had to run after him and repeat the question.
“It’s this damned red dust,” yelled the captain. “Look around. You can see how thick it is. It got sucked into our engines and caused them to flame out. We lost them on the way in at 30,000 feet and barely got them going just in time to land. It’s a miracle. If you got that landing on video I’d like to see it. I didn’t think we were going to make it.”
The old man suddenly jumped between them and grabbed the captain’s arm. “Look,” he said, “my name is Manny Volynski. Here’s my card. I was on that plane but now I’m leaving. I don’t have time to wait for the rescue crew.” And with that, he turned and hurried up to the road on a trot toward the terminal.
The captain stared at the card for a second, looked up and stared at Manny, who was already out of earshot and then spun back to Mitch. With desperation in his voice, he asked “Will you go after him? He can’t leave until the authorities get here.” Wanting to protest but seeing that it would be helpful to the overwhelmed captain, Mitch went back to his truck without a word to get the crazy old guy and bring him back.
He sped up the road and pulled in front of the old man cutting him off. Jerking open the door, he jumped out and confronted him. “Where do you think you’re going?”
“Look, Mitch. I just got off a plane that almost crashed because it sucked up dust from your comet that is now falling all over the Western United States. We were lucky just to get out of California let alone make it all the way here to Denver. I’m going to Washington D.C. to try one more time to convince your buddies that this thing is much more dangerous than you’ve been telling people. Now are you coming with me?”
Mitch let go of Manny’s arm and stepped back with a look of shock in his expression. “How the hell do you know me and what do you mean by ‘my comet’?”
“Come on! It’s named after you since you discovered it. You’ve been all over the news telling people how wonderful it is that we will have such a close encounter with your great comet. Don’t you realize by now that this dust is from your comet? I tried to tell you about this a long time ago but you never listen to guys like me.”
It finally dawned on Mitch that he knew this old man. He was the guy that kept showing up at astronomical conferences claiming that the earth was going to be visited by a planet in the near future. Even worse, he argued that a rendezvous with this planet would bring catastrophic changes to the world and disaster for people everywhere.
Seeing that Mitch recognized him, Manny continued. “I told you that this would happen. I even tried to tell you what’s going to happen next, but you had me thrown out of the last conference. Do you believe me now?”
“Believe what, old man?” Mitch snapped back. I only believe that you’re crazy. I promised the captain that I would get you back to the plane. Now get in!”
The desperation was evident in Manny’s eyes as he almost shouted, “You of all people should believe me. You know comets and have published papers on the effects of planetary gravity on comets. This comet is so large that when it passed by Saturn, it was pulled slightly closer to the sun. It went behind the sun at a steeper angle and is now coming a lot closer to earth than you have told the media. In fact, it’s coming tail first. We’re starting to pass through the tail and you know it. This dust is from your comet!”
Mitch did some quick mental calculations and began to put things together. He had been too distracted by his preparations for the trip back East and hadn’t gone to the observatory last night. Manny could be right. He hadn’t seen the trajectory of the comet as it came from behind the sun. Perhaps this dust really was from the comet. He forgot all about the captain and the plane. Now he only wanted to get back to his observatory.
“Get in,” he said to Manny. “I need to get back to the university.”
“Haven’t you been listening to me?” replied Manny. “It’s too late for that. You don’t need to make any more observations. The evidence is all around us now. We need to get to your conference and convince all the other astrophysicists what is really going on. They’ll listen to you and the governments of the world will listen to them.”
Although he wasn’t convinced at all, Mitch realized that they still had time to catch the flight, and he didn’t want to argue with him anymore. Manny got in and they drove towards the parking garage, arriving just in time to catch a shuttle to Concourse B where the United Airlines flight to Washington DC should have been boarding. The gate was strangely vacant and passengers were crowded around the counters. They had been in such a hurry that they hadn’t noticed that no planes were boarding or taking off.
“What’s going on?” Mitch asked a traveler at the back of the crowd.
“All flights have been delayed by the dust storm. A plane from California barely made it in. Some others weren’t so lucky. Take a look at the news on the monitors.”
This was not good. How could this be happening? Mitch thought to himself. Just yesterday it had been his face up on those monitors telling the world that this comet was no cause for alarm and that we should be in for some spectacularly beautiful sunsets. Astronomers a century ago caused great panic when they announced that comets contain poisonous cyanogen gas and that earth would pass through the tail of Haley’s comet. People panicked, nothing happened and astronomers learned not to share some things.
Not at all certain that he wouldn’t be recognized, and not wanting to explain himself, Mitch ducked into a lounge area to think. Yes, he knew that this comet was different. For one thing it was bigger than any comet he had ever seen. It was almost the size of a small planet. In fact, nobody had been able to get good measurements because of the way it was approaching the sun. They were hoping to make those observations today, but he had to catch the flight to the conference. No, this was just not good at all.
“I tried to tell you, but you just wouldn’t listen.” It was Manny again. Mitch had forgotten about him with all the excitement of the cancelled flights and the news of the dust storm displayed on the airport monitors. Manny sat down next to him at the bar. “That’s not a comet. It’s a planet and it’s going to cause a whole lot more destruction before it gets to where it’s going. You can warn the people and help them prepare.”
“Prepare for what?” Mitch exclaimed. “Manny, you’re not a scientist. You are not an astronomer. You know nothing about the world we live in. We spend our lives making observations and making sense of the things that fly around out there in space. You spend your days digging old myths out of books and manuscripts that contain nothing but folk tales. There’s no precedent for all your conjecture and theory. Your ideas of an ancient polar configuration of planets could not possibly be correct.”
It didn’t look like the falling dust was going to let up soon and Manny had wanted to talk to Mitch for a long time. This had turned out to be quite fortuitous that Mitch just happened to show up when the plane went off the end of the runway. Although Manny’s wife had died years earlier, he had tried to stay close to his daughter in California. He was very proud of her. She was a research scientist and worked at the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory. But she didn’t go in much for his theories either.
Manny was much calmer now. He sensed an opportunity to finally make his case to someone who had the background to understand what he had researched, discovered and written about over the years. He threw out an easy question. “If I can tell you what’s going to happen next and then what’s going to happen after that, will you at least consider that there may be something to these myths and theories that can help us?”
Mitch sighed. “Go ahead old man. It doesn’t look like we’re going anywhere right away. I think I already heard enough of your ideas at the last conference but I’ll listen just this one time. Hopefully they’ll let us board the plane soon. What have you got to say? If this dust doesn’t let up in five minutes, I’m going back to Boulder.”
Manny pulled a picture of his daughter out of the old worn leather briefcase that he always carried with him. It contained his charts and diagrams that he used to explain his ideas to anyone who would listen. The flight attendant told him to leave it behind when they jumped down the emergency slide but he took it anyway. “Do you see this picture of my daughter, Cynthia? She’s just like you – a scientist. She’s a seismologist – graduated from Cal Tech. She doesn’t believe me either, but she’s about to get a lot more data to study over the next few weeks than she has had in her 27 short years of life.”
As a scientist, Mitch didn’t believe in love at first sight, but there was something in those intelligent blue eyes that stared back at him from the photo. He was surprised at how deeply he felt emotions stirring within him at the sight of the beautiful girl. He had suppressed any kind of romantic feelings over the years as he dedicated himself to his work. Wait a minute…this was just a silly picture. What was he thinking?
Manny continued, “As the planet gets closer to earth, this dust we’re experiencing will be mixed with ash. Besides bringing jets down out of the sky, the dust will mix with the water supplies of the earth and cause them to be polluted. It will kill fish and will be a real problem to major metropolitan areas that will soon be without water. The ash will cause much sickness and death to anyone who is exposed to it. They must stay indoors.
“After a little while this dust is going to turn to hail sized pebbles. That will make some racket when it comes down. It will knock out power and communications systems all over the world. It will also take out most of our satellites. Think about how that will affect our way of life. Then we’ll pass though some sheets of petroleum-based material that will mix with the pebble-sized hail and catch fire as it falls through the atmosphere. Spontaneous fires will erupt all over the world, burning forests and cities alike. This is not unprecedented by the way. It was the cause of the Peshtigo fires of 1871.
“The falling debris will get larger and larger until it comes down like artillery shells. It will last for days and will wipe out the crops of the earth, burning them all up. About this time the earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic activity will begin in earnest. Nobody has ever felt earthquakes like the ones that are going to be caused when the planet comes close enough that the gravitational pull rips the tectonic plates apart with a force that is indescribable. Our planet will be covered in clouds and smoke and ash that get thicker and hotter by the hour making it more and more difficult to breathe.”
“Stop!” shouted Mitch angrily. “I’ve heard enough of your doomsday prophecies. This is just a comet coming by. It’s not going to cause the end of the world and you can’t go around telling people this kind of stuff. It will cause pandemonium and mass panic. Where did you come up with all this crap? Oh wait, don’t tell me. You read it in some ancient manuscript that you believe tells the story of what really happened sometime in our past. Well, I don’t believe it and you have no evidence for all this nonsense.”
“I didn’t say it would cause the end of the world,” Manny replied. It will just cause a whole lot of destruction. The planet is not going to hit us. It is going to come up alongside us and overtake us in the same orbit around the sun. Eventually it will come so close that the magnetic poles of the two planets will align. Because the oncoming planet is larger than the earth, they will rotate at a much slower speed. When that happens, you had better hope that you are not living anywhere north of a large body of water.”
“I know I’m going to regret this, but dare I ask why?” Mitch questioned.
Manny was almost gleeful as he finished his description of the events of the coming weeks and months. “You know that right now, the centrifugal force of the earth causes a large bulge of water at the equator. When the earth slows down, where is that water going to go? Back to the poles, of course! Boy I would love to see that view from space when it happens. Think of all the water in the Gulf of Mexico. Anybody who lives in the states around the Mississippi river is going to be wiped out by onrushing water. And the same goes for the Northern California coast and the Northeastern seaboard.”
“Are you through? Mitch asked incredulously as he stood up to leave.
“No, but that’s enough for now. I wouldn’t want to overwhelm you,” said Manny. Just concentrate on what I said first about this dust turning to pebbles and the possibility of fire from the sky. You can read about all the rest of the stuff in my books. It’s all there. It’s just too bad that you haven’t read them. You could help save people.”
Mitch was sorry that he had agreed to listen to Manny. He felt like he should say something to make it clear that he never wanted see this old man again but just then a news report on the airport monitor caught his eye. Everyone was crowding around to see the live video feed of an incredible scene coming from Seattle. It looked like heavy hail was falling; only it wasn’t hail. It was sand and pebbles falling in sheets like rain. But the most shocking thing was that some of it was coming down with fire. Yes, it was fire from the sky, something he and his colleagues had said many times could never happen.
Within a few moments it was gone, but not before several fires had broken out in the city. Looking away from the TV and out the windows of the airport, Mitch could see that the red dust had finally stopped falling. Flights would soon be boarding and leaving.
“That’s just a sample of what we’re in for,” said Manny, at his side again. “The dust and hail will be back and will be more widespread with each passing hour. We’ve got a small window before travel becomes impossible. I’m going to that conference to try to make a difference. It would sure help if you could introduce me and let me present evidence from the historical record. It’s all right here,” he said as he patted his briefcase.
Mitch took a long look at Manny although he was still skeptical. He said nothing as they got in line to board the plane. He was thinking. It would be career suicide to associate himself with Manny Volynski. He could play it safe, walk away right now, and go back to his telescope at the university. In light of the events of the day, his colleagues would understand if he wasn’t at the conference. But if what Manny said was true, then what would it matter? A career is nothing compared to saving humanity.
“Come on, Mr. Volynski. I want to look at those documents in your briefcase. Let’s go save the world and that beautiful daughter of yours.”
“I didn’t think you noticed,” smiled Manny, as they boarded the plane.
Copyright (c) Tim Malone 2009 – Painting of meteoroids (c) iStockphoto