Broken Things to Mend – Part One


Genealogy 002

These are my mother’s family history worksheets – her life’s work. Each book (and there are a couple dozen) contains hundreds of family history worksheets all filled out by hand or on her special typewriter with the wide carriage. What a labor of love.

This is not a review of Elder Holland’s excellent book, but I have borrowed the title. This is a journal entry that may or may not be of any interest to you. It’s about mental illness in an LDS family – mine. Some may feel it is too personal to share on a public blog. Tough. Don’t read it. I’m not asking for feedback. It’s just my formal preparation to meet with a few doctors over the next two weeks. It consists of two parts I’m trying to fix – 1) The influence of a mother with mental illness and 2) the influence of the 60’s and 70’s drug culture which was so prevalent in my life at one time.

Mental Illness in the LDS Church

A few years ago on this blog, I wrote an article about mental illness (Nov 3, 2007 – Psychiatric Disorders in Mormon Theology). It was based on an Ensign article from Elder Alexander Morrison, who, if I remember correctly has a daughter who suffers from mental illness. It was entitled, “Myths About Mental Illness.” He also published a 2003 book on the subject: Valley of Sorrow: A Layman’s Guide to Understanding Mental Illness for Latter-day Saints.

Like a Broken Vessel

I mentioned in a recent post here on this blog how pleased I was to see, hear and read a discourse in our last General Conference on the same subject from Elder Holland, entitled, “Like a Broken Vessel.” Many of you know Elder Holland has published a book entitled “Broken Things to Mend (Deseret Book, 2008). If we didn’t know it before, we know now the depth of Elder Holland’s feelings towards those who suffer from mental illness and especially from depression.

The Savior Wants to Heal Us

I cried as I watched and listened to his words. For the first time since Elder Morrison’s address ten years ago, a General Authority addressed what must surely be one of the Savior’s most heart-felt desires – to heal those who suffer from the effects of this mortality. If you have not yet read both talks, I highly recommend you do so. Elder Morrison teaches us some basics we all need to know and Elder Holland helps us understand how much this malady still concerns our Savior.

Personal Confessions in a Personal Blog

May I get personal for a moment? “Well, of course, Tim, it’s your blog, please, go right ahead.” I suffer from mental illness. I don’t think I’ve made a secret of it before but I have not been as direct as I am going to be in this post. Let me make it clear I am not looking for sympathy or pity, but do want it bring it to the attention of my readers in a personal way as never before. I am simply asking for your patience as I lay some groundwork that perhaps you may recognize. In sharing this, I am not confessing some great sin, but I’ll tell you what I’m doing about it today.

Part One – The Influence of a Loving Mother

Mother was a schoolteacher. Anybody who has read my background or has been with me for any length of time on my blog knows this. I adored my mother. She was smart. She was competent. She always seemed to know what to do and she could teach the gospel better than anybody I had ever heard, and I mean anybody. I loved to sit in her classes. I got kicked out of my own school district many times specifically because I knew I would get to spend a week in my mother’s fourth grade class on California history. I loved her stories of Romona and of the Rancheros. Mother made life exciting for this student who hates lecture and learns best through kinesthetic means. In other words, I have to do something with my hands before I can say I understand it.

Mother’s Advice Made a Lasting Impression

One Sunday, an incompetent high councilor was bumbling through his talk – basically reading it out of the Ensign. Mother quietly asked me to promise if I was ever called as a High Counselor I would practice to be a better sacrament speaker. She made me promise to prepare well, present well and make sure the congregation was fed by the spirit of the Lord. When I was called as a High Counselor, I tried to keep that promise. How I prayed each time for the gift of feeding the Lord’s sheep. Except for one thing, mother would have made a great priesthood leader if she hadn’t been a woman: Although she tried to keep it from us, mother also suffered from mental illness.

Mental Illness Seen as a Weakness

She didn’t share it with us – all the psychiatric visits, the uncontrollable crying spells alone in her room or the deep, dark depression hanging over her some weeks affecting our entire household. My older sisters did not see it as much as my youngest sister and I saw and felt it in our teenage years. How I felt for my mother, wishing there was something I could do for her, wanting to know what to say, anything, that would cheer her up and help her through this miserable time in her life. Later I discovered that just talking to her helped. She and I had many, many talks about the gospel and about life in general. How I loved and appreciated my mother and her wisdom. I learned so much from her about church history, the life of the Savior and the Bible in general.

A Short Bio and Learning to Read

You can read more about her in a post I wrote shortly after her death but it doesn’t do justice to the intellectual power of this woman who carried nine children, seven to full term. She devoted her life to teaching California school children the joys of learning literature and reading. That was her specialty and oh, she was good at it. I’ve related before how I learned to read the Book of Mormon at my mother’s knee at the age of five. This is one of my most sacred memories that made me the man I am today. I love that book because we read it together when I was so young.

Book Stores are Special Places

I love books because of my mother. She used to take us to all the exotic bookstores in Southern California and allow us to pick out anything we wanted. How I loved Vromans in Pasadena, because every time we went, I got to pick out another Peter Rabbit book and figurine. The Bodhi Tree Bookstore in Hollywood is closed now but holds precious memories of hours looking for books. We mostly went to the local libraries – a lot cheaper of course – but bookstores were a special occasion – someone’s birthday or holiday to be remembered with a special gift – a book.

An Early Love of Science Fiction

Most of the books I received as gifts were on the Caldecott and Newbery lists. I won’t bore you with the names of some of those classics from the 60’s when I was growing up but I will tell you that mother was so willing to help me keep my reading habit that when I turned to science fiction in high school, she continued to fund my purchases. How I wish I still had those classics today: Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke, Robert Heinlein, Jules Verne, Michael Crichton, H.G. Wells, and especially J.R.R Tolkien. She knew I loved Tolkien and I knew she loved me.

20,000 Ordinances performed

When mother became an older convert at age 35, two things dominated the rest of her life as far as I was concerned. First was her love of genealogy or family history. I’ve included a picture of the dozens of old family history books she compiled over forty plus years. I inherited her library and much of her correspondence. My sister has an equal amount and is a professional librarian / researcher. Mother knew more about how the family history department worked in Salt Lake then some specialists did. When she moved there she would teach classes. Sadly, her legacy of more than 20,000 names researched with each of the ordinances performed is only appreciated today by me and my two active sisters. Well, I suppose those for whom the ordinances were performed also appreciate it, at least I hope they do.

A Love of History – Religious and Secular

The other thing that dominated my mother’s life was studying the history of the church and sharing it with her children, at least her two youngest children who would listen. Her library of church books was huge. She would get so excited about learning some new facet of our history she would call just to tell me about it. This was long after I was married and moved out. While I served my mission in 1976-1978, she took it upon herself to graduate from institute. She made me promise to never share her papers but the older I get the more I feel she would approve of publishing what she learned through the CES program about the Book or Mormon, the Life of Christ, details of the history of Joseph Smith I have never read elsewhere and so many other papers she composed. She would even go to the Huntington Library to research early Mormon California history. I’ve always said it and I’ll always be grateful to be the son of an intellectual giant. Mother blessed me so much.

A Sliver of Darkness Amidst the Light

Why is it that so many of those who are blessed with the ability to construct wonderful research papers, or great works of art or inventions that bless and serve mankind, are considered eccentric, lacking in people skills or suffer from depression, mental illness or some other mental malady? I won’t share details, but mother could ruin a family get together quicker than anyone I have ever known with a single word or phrase, followed by sulking in her room until someone would come get her and help her understand she had not been personally insulted or that nobody had tried to embarrass her on purpose. How can such an intellectual giant be so emotionally sensitive?

Living With a Perfectionist

Mother’s mental illness was somehow related to self-consciousness. She was a perfectionist, oh, how she was a perfectionist. She would express her frustration on anyone who happened to be around her, usually my dad, but sometimes me, and we would encourage her to start again on whatever project which she was currently working. It usually had something to do with her Gospel Doctrine lesson. The Bishop took a real chance in calling her to that position, but as long as I can remember she either taught Gospel Doctrine or Family History during the years she and dad were active. As I related in her life story, she didn’t last long in Utah, meaning she could not relate to farmers and ranchers who served in priesthood leadership positions. She didn’t get that. Please don’t take offense. Mother thought a priesthood leader should be trained in the ministry.

A Mother Who Loved Doctrine

OK, enough about mother. I hope you get the impression I have deep and grateful feelings for my mother. I was the youngest child who was both spoiled and ignored, if you know what I mean. I’m afraid I also inherited whatever ran in mother’s family. I too am a perfectionist, although I hope and believe I have learned to deal with it better by watching her example of how not to respond. Like my mother, I love to teach. I love to study church history. I would prefer to attend a seminar on the life of some historical character or the influence of some organization on the development of a city or community than just about anything else. I love history, especially as it relates to our church. My bookcase is filled with biographies and doctrine. If you can believe it, mother also loved doctrine. We went to Education Weeks and Know Your Religion.

Utah Culture Was a Shock to Mother

Something happened to mother when she moved to Utah. She and Dad went there to work full time on family history after they retired. It didn’t work out. They stayed less than ten years then came back to California to spend the rest of their days in a city mainly known for retirement. Once they got to Hemet, they stopped going to church. Well, actually, I think they stopped going to church before they left Utah. Let’s just say that Mother’s feelings about Utah culture were the cause of their leaving the church. There was nobody in particular that caused them to leave. They did not lose their testimonies really, especially of Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon. But I can tell you there was something about the way Utah folks taught church history that rankled my mother. I won’t get into it. It’s not important to the story I’m trying to tell here. She was still involved in family history research, but she no longer attended church or the temple. I had so many conversations with her trying to convince her at least go and partake of the sacrament.

Dealing with Evil Spirits – a Little More Background

OK, now it’s my turn. This is my blog, and this is another personal blog entry, not meant to be a doctrinal dissertation or religious thesis. But I’m hoping maybe it will do someone some good. I have suffered migraines for seven months now. I’m not sure if the migraines are a result of the anxiety and panic attacks that started then or the other way around. I suspect the latter. I’ll let the doctors decide. I think my body, my mind, my spirit, my intelligence or whatever you want to say directs the body, has caused my migraines and the associated pain treatment. The body is pretty smart. I think my subconscious is doing whatever it needs to do to keep me from going through the panic and anxiety attacks I went through back on that night last February that sent me to the hospital twice in the same week for being out of control mentally and emotionally. If you don’t know to what I’m referring, email me and I’ll send you the document (see below).

Getting Professional Help is OK

Believe it or not, I have five appointments with five different psychiatrists and psychologists over the next two weeks. I’ve got to get my story down so I can tell it without coming across with a psychotic or neurotic outlook on life. Actually, I don’t care. Psychotic means a loss of contact with reality while neurotic, although no longer really in use, means fearful or worried about something – tending to worry in a way that is not healthy or reasonable. Let me see if I can give an example that will help. A psychotic is someone who sees evil spirits. OK, you can put that label on me. I’ve related it in several posts. If you haven’t read the document I wrote up to describe the events that sent me to the hospital back in February, I’m happy to share it. Just email me at tmalonemcse @ gmail.com. I sincerely think I fit more into the neurotic category: I am worried or anxious I will have an encounter with an evil spirit if I do not keep myself sedated, which I have done for the last seven months with the doctor’s help – lots of kinds of prescription medicine. That’s not such a good idea. We really need to face our fears, not hide from them.

Choose a Doctor Who Can Help You

By the way, the five different appointments are to see which one I like best. That’s the beauty of the American way: we have a choice, at least for now. Of course, I could decide not to bring up the real story of why I think I’m having these migraines. One of the first things I was asked by one of the doctors was if I was looking to go on disability. I can’t believe how easy it is. Maybe it’s just California. I’m not sure how long it lasts. All I’m trying to do is figure out what’s wrong with me, get it fixed and get the joy back in my life that I once felt before this thing happened. Maybe I do need to go on disability while I figure this out with these psychiatric visits (or to the psychologist as the case may be). Do you know the difference? Psychiatrists can prescribe drugs. Anyway, one could be on disability for many months while they figure things out and get fixed.

A Few Last Words About Mother’s Mental Illness

Can we ever really be fixed from the influence of the adversary? To her dying day, members of our family would not bring up certain events around our mother for fear of “setting her off” into one of her episodes. Even through gentle probing she would deny them in later years, I am an eye-witness to her attempted suicides, which all seemed to occur just before my mission. I know it was a coincidence but 1976 was both the best year and the worst year for mother. This is the year we went to many Know Your Religion and BYU Education Week Seminars as well as the same year she tried to commit suicide by overdose and by sticking her head in an unlit oven. I’m sorry to be so graphic. I remember one passionate discussion about confession that set her off. We had just come from a KYR lecture on the subject of repentance. I could tell something was wrong. She exploded when we got home exclaiming we should never tell a priesthood leader about something we had done involving the law of chastity, obviously a sensitive subject for her. I tried to discuss with her what we had just learned in KYR but it was not a good experience. I think that’s the occasion she said “the priesthood is just the men’s club of the church.” She was obviously distressed at the time.

Long Discussions With a Struggling Mother

As the youngest, I had a great desire to please my mother and make her proud of me. I did my best to serve a good mission, especially since my parents paid my expense. Central America was probably the least expensive mission in the world. We lived on less than $200 a month, but I knew my dad came off disability and got a job again just so he could support me on my mission. I was grateful they allowed me to continue to live at home while at school after my mission but by this time my mother’s episodes became so dramatic I had to move out. I saw and heard things my brother and sisters never heard since they were all married or in my brother’s case, in the military. Mother had a love / hate affair with the church that seemed to set her off into these difficult and very deep gospel discussions way over my father’s head. I hope that doesn’t sound disrespectful, but things that bothered my mother were simply not an issue for my easy-going father. So it was usually she and I that hashed things out, sometimes until early morning hours.

Mother Was Inactive when she Died – So What?

Not having grown up with a father or brothers, mother was still trying to come to grips with the idea of priesthood hierarchy. She was an intelligent, competent school teacher with a Master’s degree who had a real problem with men telling her how to teach a Sunday school class. I have her childhood journal in which she discusses helping her own mother teach Sunday school all during her teenage years. Trust me, mother knew how to teach, how to control a class and how to keep the class interested. They would ask her to teach the in-service lessons we later called the teacher improvement classes. To her dying day, I think what kept mother away was anger or disappointment at the men of this church who tried to tell her how to do a job for which she was eminently qualified. Humility -if only mother had learned humility. She always said that was her downfall in this life.

Part Two deals with the influence of the drug culture of the 60’s and 70’s (This will be a link when it is posted)

Our Libraries Get in our Way


GoodreadsScanI just discovered the scan icon on my Goodreads iPhone app. What I thought would be a totally manual process of entering my 2,000+ library of books into Goodreads has now turned into a manageable project. I just scanned a dozen and entered them in about ten minutes. You can even scan a whole bunch at a time and put them on the same shelf – read, to be read, or whatever.

My Worldly Possessions

This is a project I’ve wanted to do for years – catalog my library. I have only a few worldly possessions I would miss if I did not have them. 1) My computers. I make my living with my computers. Without them I would not be of much value to my employer. 2) My car, of course, because I live in Southern California and could not work the weird schedule I do without it.

A Source of Pride

3) My books. Ah, my library. I confess it’s a source of pride. I know that’s wrong. I love to collect books. When I get a new book, it’s usually on the recommendation of someone I trust. When I receive it, I scan through it, become familiar with the contents, decide if I want to read it right now and either read it or add it to the library, intending to get around to reading it someday.

Interfere With Knowing God

Denver Snuffer said the following about our libraries: “It isn’t the volume of the books we possess which helps our search into deep truths.  Indeed, our libraries may well interfere with knowing God.  It is the depth of how we live the basic principles contained in the scriptures which let the light of heaven shine into our lives.” (Denver Snuffer Blog entry, 23 March 2010)

An Early Love of Books

I know where this thing about books comes from – my mother. I grew up surrounded by books. Every room in our house growing up had a bookcase. The front room had hundreds, perhaps thousands, just like mine has now. Each bedroom had its own bookcase and mine was filled with Caldecott and Newbury award winning books. Mother made sure we had the best books to read.

Learned to Read Book of Mormon

Family trips to the local public libraries each week was my favorite thing to do. We did not grow up with television in our home so reading was the main activity of my youth. My mother read to me nightly and we read out loud as a family. It was an old cheap brown-covered Book of Mormon that I remember reading with my mother the year our family found and joined the church in 1962.

Book of Mormon Connects Me

She would mark out all iterations of the phrase “and it came to pass” as she read. “Didn’t sound like good English,” she said. I didn’t mind. I just learned to skip them when it was my turn to read. So I literally learned to read with the Book of Mormon before I was five years old. It’s no wonder I love this book. It’s special to me. I’ve connected to it through all phases of my life.

Love of Science Fiction

In High School I developed a love for Science Fiction. I read Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings series before it became popular. I read the Dune series by Frank Herbert – loved the books, hated the movie. Arthur C Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey, then Isaac Asimov Robot series, Robert Heinlein – Stranger in a Strange Land, Ray Bradbury – Martian Chronicles, Fahrenheit 451, Jules Verne, H.G. Wells, Michael Crichton. I read all the classics for many years in my youth.

Technical Reading – How Boring

Sadly, I stopped reading fiction after high school. I got a degree in computers and started my career and family. I read technical manuals for fun. I dug into books on programming techniques and network protocols, phone systems and the Internet. I make my living supporting computers and networks. I work for a private jet management and charter company at a local Southern California airport. I read a lot of news and blogs, especially in science and technology. But I still don’t read a lot of fiction. In fact, I’ve probably read less than a dozen fiction books in ten tears.

Someone Had to Write the Scripts

I’ve always had an interest in disaster movies. I’m fascinated to see Hollywood portrayals of how people will react to a terrible tragedy of global proportions. Most of the disaster movies have been blockbuster hits so I’m not alone in my interest. Earthquake (74), Dante’s Peak (97), Deep Impact (98), Armageddon (98), Day After Tomorrow (04), Knowing (09), 2012 the movie (09) and When Worlds Collide, first made in 1951. I think somebody is working on a remake.

Alternative Model of the Universe

I became deeply interested in Astronomy in college. I love the study of the Sun, comets, meteors, and the planets, especially the inner planets. I subscribe to an alternative view of cosmology different from the astronomical standard model, something called the electric universe. One of the most radical ideas of this alternative model is that the sun is powered directly from an external source, not necessarily by internal thermonuclear fusion. I know it goes against science.

Becoming a Professional Writer

For about the last four or five years I have been taking professional writing classes and seminars, mostly with Carol. She has been much more serious about this than I have. Her first novel has been accepted and will be published within the next month or two. Things move fast in the world of e-publishing. I’ve been thinking it’s time for me to catch up and finish the novel I started.

Odds are Against First Novelists

I read a disturbing statistic the other night. “According to one conservative estimate, upwards of 30,000 writers in the U.S. are currently struggling to write or publish their first novel. Perhaps .001% of them will be published at some point.” Wow. What makes me think I could write a novel that anyone would want to read or buy? I know some of those 30,000 aspiring writers.

A Work in Progress

I know a few of my readers have ventured up to the top of my blog section entitled “Red Sky – LDS Fiction.” It contains PDFs of the drafts I have taken to our monthly writer’s groups where we read and critique each other’s work. I have received some good public and private feedback. Some of it has been not so good. Sections need to be rearranged; some corny dialog chopped.

Writing is a Lonely Business

Writing is a lonely business. It takes discipline. You’re supposed to set a reasonable goal for yourself and then churn out X number of words per day. Perhaps I haven’t wanted this published badly enough. It’s been on my mind a lot more lately. I know I’ll regret if I get to the end of my life and don’t at least finish, edit and try to publish the book. I can see it in my mind’s eye now.

Prioritizing The Important

I can name about ten projects I have put on my plate, could be working on and never seem to be able to make more than a little progress on any one of them. Do any of you have that same problem? I’m wondering if this Goodreads library scanning project is just another one that has now gotten in the way of finishing my book. It makes me wonder what I’m trying to avoid.

Overcoming Fear of Success

Everyone has to ask themselves what they fear most about success. What if the book really does take off and a legitimate New York Publishing house wants a contract? I already know an agent who has said she would be happy to represent me based on what she has read so far. What about movie rights? Doesn’t every writer of disaster fiction want to see his book made into a movie?

Making a Book More Than Palatable

Then, of course, the book could be awful. It could be something that is not interesting to a large number of people – critical to success in book publishing. Poor grammar and weak sentence structure can be overcome with good coaching. I know one of the best who has offered his services for a very reasonable rate – $50 an hour. He has helped hundreds publish their books.

Finishing a Project Takes Work

When I pray about my book, I can see the chapters in my mind’s eye. Someone is trying to help me. I know the story. I know the scriptures on which it is based. I think my characters are at least a little bit interesting, or so I’ve been told. The dialog is good; the action scenes are fast paced. So why do I have this self-doubt? I suppose it’s because I’ve seen others write books that failed.

A Change of Direction for my Blog

For my regular readers, I hope you’ll excuse this public foray into musing about my alternatives. There is no discussion of theological doctrine here, no thoughts offered about how I think things could be better if we only did this or that, and no revelations of some inside tidbit of information derived via email from a high-ranking source inside the church office building or elsewhere.

Public Commitment to a Project

They say that making and announcing a public goal helps to get it accomplished. I’ve heard of people who lose weight this way. I know of people who get projects done when they tell their family and friends it will be completed by a certain period of time. I guess they hope that others who love them will ask them occasionally how the project is going and when it will be finished.

Thinking Out Loud Here

So I’m going to go out on a limb here and commit myself to finishing my book by December. I’ve got over a dozen chapters written. Most need additional editing or rearranging. I probably won’t use them all in the finished book. I’m thinking I want this book to be about 180 pages. Although my genre is disaster fiction, the average science-fiction book is about 105,000 words.

Plan the Work, Work the Plan

I’ve written about 27,000 words so I’m a fourth of the way through the first rough draft if I use all the stuff I’ve written so far. Of course, there’s all the editing to be done. Writing a book is a big project. How do people do it and still hold down a full-time job, take care of their family, church and social obligations? How do they keep that motivation to do the hard work of churning out another 1,500 to 2,000 words when they come home after an hour commute from the office?

Got to Have a Story to Tell

I think the answer to motivation is that you’ve got to have a story to tell and you’ve got to be passionate about it. I believe I’ve got one but I’m going to split this post in two and give you a rough outline of the story and why I think it’s exciting. According to my stats I have a couple hundred regular readers plus the one-time readers who come for my review of Visions of Glory. I invite your opinions.

Fulfilling a Long-Time Promise

That’s enough of the background story. The bottom line for me is that I’ve made a promise to a friend to write this book and I intend to fulfill it. I’m excited about the possibilities of the story and the feedback I’ve received each time I share a chapter in a writer’s group. An early chapter was published in my college literary magazine awhile back. Let’s skip to part two of this post.

Not Your Typical Disaster Fiction


“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

Journey to the South


“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.

When prophets need to know


I have a deep personal interest in the anticipated social response to the upcoming movie, 2012.  While it looks to be great entertainment from the fertile mind of Roland Emmerich, I am fascinated by the idea of how our society will react to some sort of a major catastrophic cataclysmic event like that depicted in the film.

I don’t go in for conspiracy theories that the government of the United States has a secret plan for the survival of the race.  I am certain that we have plans in place to ensure the continuity of the government in event of nuclear war or some other disaster, but the survival of the citizens of this country is a whole different matter.

A wise investment

As I get older, I take the idea of having a usable stockpile of food and water much more seriously than when I was younger.  We have dipped into our food storage several times over the past few years as the grip of a tight economy has reached into our personal finances.  But I value my food storage for a different reason.

I am convinced that the day will come, in my lifetime, that we will not be able to leave our homes for extended periods of time in order to go out and buy food.  It could be due to a flu pandemic or perhaps social unrest, but I am more inclined to think that it will be from some sort of a plague that will keep us indoors for weeks.

A prophecy of plagues

Now there’s a word that you don’t hear thrown around much these days.  Do I mean a plague like the kind that decimated Europe during the middle ages?  No.  How about a plague like the kind that caused so many deaths at the end of World War I – the 1918 flu pandemic?  No, I’m thinking of a different kind of plague.

Perhaps turning to the scriptures will bring it to a better light.  Let’s take a look at Revelations chapter eight. There are several references to plagues contained in the next few chapters but verse seven describes the beginning of the plague to which I refer now.  What things fall to the earth when the first angel sounds his trumpet?

Hail and fire and blood

I’ve written about this previously, but my interpretation of the phrase, “hail and fire mingled with blood” is this:  The hail is actually small stones or meteorites.  The fire is a sticky, burning petroleum-like fluid found in the tail of comets. It is also known as naphtha, a volatile and flammable liquid mixture of hydrocarbons.

The blood is a description of water of the earth mixed with a red dust that is some form of ferric oxide.  This red dust is water soluble, looks just like blood when it hits the water, and is highly toxic to life.  In addition, it is irritating to the skin and can cause a plague of microbes, insects and vermin to rapidly propagate in heat.

Writings of Anthony Larson

If this all sounds familiar, then you have read either the works of David Talbott, Immanuel Velikovsky or my friend and fellow blogger, Anthony Larson.  My wife and I met with Anthony last week to talk about collaborating on a book idea that has been brewing in my head over the past little while as my wife has been recovering.

I like Anthony because he’s a bit of a controversial figure in the church.  He has written and published five books on the subject of the events of the very last days.  His explanations of the scriptures pertaining to the last days are not the orthodox and standard answers you will find in the commentaries of today’s LDS scholars.

The prophecy trilogy

In fact, his writings have been denounced by scientists at our religious institutions of higher learning, such as BYU.  That doesn’t deter me.  I’m grateful for the gift of agency and the fact that the Lord allows us to choose what we want to believe about the scriptures, even if they don’t jive with conventional accepted teachings.

Is this a dangerous approach to learning?  I don’t think so.  The Lord tells us to prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.  I have been pondering what I have read in Anthony’s books for about twenty-five years since I first read his prophecy trilogy back in the 1980’s.  I have also prayed about what he has written.

Other inspired men

Now that may seem a little odd, different or downright dangerous in our LDS culture.  Why would you pray about what someone has written who is not a general authority?  Why, that’s unthinkable, preposterous even! Don’t you know that you are on the road to apostasy if you listen to someone besides an apostle?

Yes, men can be deceived and we can all point to examples throughout history where good people have been proven fools to follow after the interpretations of the scriptures by men who were not authorized to speak on behalf of the Lord.  But that brings up an interesting question that I wonder if you have ever considered.

Some prophets are experts

Where do prophets turn when they need to know something about which they are not experts?  For example, when our apostles want to know facts about something in the medical world, I’ll bet they consult with Russell M. Nelson, another of our apostles who just happens to be a medical doctor and renowned heart surgeon.

When they want to know something about the interpretation of law, there are several excellent choices among Elder Oaks, Elder Cook or Elder Christofferson.  For nuclear physics, they turn to Elder Scott.  For managing a university, we have President Eyring, Elder Oaks, Elder Holland and Elder Bednar, all great educators.

Turning to the experts

But what do they do when they want to understand astrophysics?  To whom do the Brethren turn when they need help interpreting and explaining the events that are starting to concern and even frighten more and more of the world’s population, as the end times draw to a close?  Who will help our leaders explain all these things?

Why, they turn to the professors of astronomy at BYU of course.  Or, if they’re not particularly fans of that institution – gasp! – then they turn to the smaller faculty at the University of Utah.  I’m sure there are a myriad of faithful LDS scientists who can provide the needed background to explain meteorites and other scary things.

Turning to the Lord

You may ask, “Can’t they just turn to the Lord in prayer and receive the necessary knowledge to guide the people when the catastrophes that are prophesied to happen begin to come to pass in earnest?”  Of course you know they can.  The Lord can and will “do nothing but he revealeth his secret to his servants the prophets.”

But we are taught and believe that the Lord requires us to do our homework before he confirms to our hearts and minds that what we have studied and determined on a given subject is correct.  The apostles are no different from you and me when it comes to the right to receive revelation, though they understand the process better.

Experts can be wrong

The problem with turning to the experts in Astrophysics is that the most of them do not subscribe to the views of ancient prophets on the subject of how the planets and stars behave.  Things were different back then and there is no written record of how things really were.  They prefer to use current observations for their facts.

Yes, the idea that the heavens have always been the way we see them now is very much in vogue even among our LDS scientists.  The idea that the planets in our solar system could have once been in a different configuration sometime within the last four thousand years even is unthinkable and has no scientific basis for proof.

Summary and conclusion

Yep, Tim’s gone off his rocker.  He is claiming that scientists are wrong.  He’s gone off the deep end and thrown his cap in with the crowd of crazies who believe in planet X and that 2012 is the end of the world.  No, I don’t believe that, but I do believe that Anthony Larson has made more sense of things than most scientists.

So until an apostle or prophet comes out and says that Anthony Larson is wrong in his interpretation of the scriptures, I have decided to join forces with him and have committed to write and publish a work of fiction based on his research.  Call me crazy but I’m looking forward to the ride.  Stay tuned for the exciting adventures.

Red Sky


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

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