Fiery the Angels rose, and as they rose deep thunder roll'd
Around their shores: indignant burning with the fires of Orc
- William Blake, America A prophecy.

Confessions of an Ex-Soldier, Ex-Cop and Ex-Con

The Quake

Thursday, August 21, 2019

I haven’t been able to write for a couple of days.

Tuesday, we had a pretty big quake here, about 5.2 on the scale, and power has been out. The AfricaBox worked fine, of course, it doesn’t need the grid, just elbow grease. But the city wireless has been out for the last two days and just came back on this morning.

The quake happened about two in the morning. It dumped me out of bed onto the floor, heart pounding trying to remember where I was in the pitch dark. After the shaking stopped, I went across the street to make sure John was okay. He was, but the café was pretty stirred up. We lit a couple of battery lamps and started checking for gas leaks (actually, I was still kind of disorientated, but when John started sniffing around the stoves I got the idea and got off my ass to help). No leaks.

After checking the place, we sat down with the portable radio to wait out the aftershocks, of which there were three or four big ones and a bunch of little ones.

“Wish we had some coffee,” I said. Without electricity the coffeemaker was dead, of course.

“Hah!” John said, “I knew I was right keeping that thing. Van, there’s an old percolator pot in the storeroom. Big blue enamel jobber, old fashioned camp stove type, on the top shelf, back wall. Go get it. The gas is still on, we can use the stove. I’ll find the coffee.”

Frankly I had no idea what a ‘percolator’ was, but I figured I could find it, so I took a flashlight and went looking. The storeroom was darker than the inside of a Gitmo cell, and there were cans and boxes all over the floor. I was holding the flashlight in one hand and trying to find the coffee pot on the top shelf when something moved in the dark behind me. I dammed near jumped out of my skin, and just about broke my neck when I stepped on a can of peas tying to spin around and look behind me. I ended up on my ass, under a pile of paper napkins which I managed to knock off the shelf (because, you know, there wasn’t already enough crap on the floor). I looked up and there were eyes, big yellows ones, glowing in the beam of the flashlight, head height, right behind where I had been standing.

Look, I’ve been in some pretty hairy situations, but I’ve got to be honest here, that scared the shit out of me. I was already shook up from the quake and everything else that’s been going on. Sitting on my ass in the dark, looking up at glowing yellow eyes, I though…well, I don’t know what I thought. Demons, devils in the dark, I guess – the product of a strict Catholic childhood that I thought was long forgotten. I must have yelled bloody murder.

John came running to see if I’d broken my fool neck in the dark.

“Hell, Van, you scream like a girl.”

He had a battery lantern in one hand and with the extra light I could see what the eyes belonged to.

“Murphy!” John said, obviously delighted to see a cat on the top shelf of his pantry. “I wondered where you were hiding. Come here, baby.”

By that point I was feeling more than a little bit stupid. “Murphy? Strange name for a cat.”

“She’s Irish, you can tell from the accent.” John grinned. “Did you find the pot?”


“Nevermind, I see it. Come let’s go see if I remember how this thing works.”

Coffee from a percolator tastes, well, different. Strong, bitter. Kind of like prison brew, but damn if it doesn't smell good when it’s perking. We sat, listening to the radio and petting Murphy the cat, until the sun came up, and spent the rest of the day, and all of Wednesday, picking up.

Yesterday, we opened the place up and served canned soup all day (John wanted to keep the coolers closed until the power came back on, so we only served what we could make from the storeroom supplies). And last night, after we closed, John offered me use of a spare room upstairs. He didn’t say, but I think he actually owns the building, and he lives in an apartment above the restaurant. This morning I squared up the week’s rent with the hotel across the street and moved what little I have into the back room. The view is nothing special, just a cement wall across the alley and the dumpsters, but its home for now. Rent comes out of my paycheck, but I’m moving up in the world, yes I am.

People are scared. These quakes are dammed weird, and last night with most of the city dark you could actually see the comet. It’s a freaky blue smudge up high up in the eastern sky, way above the mountains. The radio said that the Astronomers still can’t get a fix on it, and now they’re saying something about ‘super strings’ and ‘gravity lensing.’ Frankly I don’t think they know any more than I do, and I don’t know jack shit other than this can’t be good. The only guy who seems to know what he’s talking about is the street preacher, who was back today and he had a pretty big crowd outside our window. A couple of BR patrols went past and just kept going – and frankly that’s even weirder than the crazy comet and the quakes and a city that smells like smoke.

John let the guy stay out front, though I could tell the end of the world bit was irritating him. The sermon was pulling in business for us. People would stop to listen, and then smell the soup and the coffee. Between filling bowls of Minestrone and chicken noodles, I could hear the preacher talking outside (we had the front door propped open this morning, no air conditioning). If anything, the guy was even more reasonable sounding today than he was last week. He didn’t mention the polar bears today, but the disaster in India and Alaska, the comet, and the quakes were getting top billing. People were listening, really listening; you could see it in their faces.

“Bah,” John said when one of the customers asked him what he thought about it all. “I’ll believe it’s the end of the world when the angels show up, until then I’ve got other things to worry about.”

Posted by VanDerDecken at 11:15 PM

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