Great stories about good people caught in difficult situations.


Chapter Four Hundred and eighteen : Volcano

CHAPTER FOUR HUNDRED and EIGHTEEN

“You will unleash terrible human suffering on the world,” the 1940s engineer with the US Army Corps of engineers said. “This dam was created to save people from the horrors of man’s inhumanity toward man.”

“What?” Baffled, Sam and Valerie asked at the same time. Blane scowled.

“I would appreciate it if you would explain yourself, sir,” Sam said.

“I don’t need to explain myself,” the man said. “You are attempting to destroy something that has saved humanity from ever increasing suffering.”

“Sir, we don’t mean to be rude,” Valerie said, subtly manipulating the man with her words. “We simply do not know what you’re talking about.”

“Do you know your history, child?” the man asked. “You know how many people died in the thirty five years between the start of the Great War and the end of the second World War?”

Sam, Valerie, and Blane looked puzzled.

“More than a hundred and forty million human lives,” the man said. “Some tortured. Some purged by the likes of Stalin. That’s a hell of a lot of missing sons, fathers, and brothers were slaughtered in the name of ego.”

As if he’d made an irrefutable point, the man nodded to them and turned away.

“What does the Sea of Amber have to do with the rape, torture, and murder of more than a hundred and forty million people?” Blane asked.

Blane’s voice was so clear that it seemed to hit the man like a dagger in his back. He turned around and stalked back toward them.

“Has the world seen wars like that again?” the man asked. “Have you had wholesale concentration camps? Genocide?”

“Yes,” Sam said. “Laos, Vietnam had camps. North Koreans still do. And then there’s Idi Amin.”

The man shook his head.

“You have no idea what I’m talking about,” the man said. “And you know why that is? You don’t know the despair of losing entire generations of men for one reason — we built this dam. We’ve given up our lives to keep this suffering from the world. And you know what?”

The man nodded.

“We’ve been successful,” the man said. “You destroy this dam, and you may as well say hello to the next madman who’s ego demands the wholesale slaughter of a type of people — Jews, artists, people from this place or that place, women, homosexuals, …”

“How does it work?” Valerie asked.

Her beauty and voice caused a shift in the man’s attitude. He smiled at her.

“We learned from Stalin and Hitler, Heydrick, Franco and Mussolini, that these men derive almost a sexual satisfaction in the suffering of others,” the man said. “This need can only be fulfilled by inflicting ever increasing terror and despair onto unsuspecting people. By capturing this suffering, we keep these perverts from getting their rocks off by the blood and muck of war. No matter what they do, all of that suffering comes here.

“It’s brilliant really,” the man nodded at his own genius.

“Tell them the truth,” Blane ordered.

The man leaned toward them.

“Truth is: we just created the dam,” the man said. “Suffering has created the Sea of Amber since the beginning of time. We had this wild idea that we could stop the horror.”

The man shrugged.

“It’s worked so far,” the man said. “If you destroy the dam, you will allow this personality type to experience the perverse outcome of their actions. They will escalate until millions and billions of people are lost in horrific ways.”

“Now that makes sense,” Valerie nodded.

She put her hand on Sam’s arm. Her father turned to look at her.

“We’re standing on an active volcano,” Valerie said. She gave Sam a knowing nod.

“Are we?” Sam’s voice warmed with possibility.

“When did you build this?” Valerie asked.

“Started in 1952,” the man said.

“In the 1950s, they wouldn’t have had the technology to build what was needed,” Valerie said.

“I wonder where we could get a crew and a few supplies,” Sam said. “Blane? What do you think?”

“We need to get these guys on our side,” Blane said. Turning so that he stood between the man and Valerie and Sam, he added, “They are under the serpents’ spell.”

“Oh, that’s why they built this,” Valerie said with a nod. “Makes sense.”

“Should we tell him what the Sea of Amber has become?” Blane asked under his breath.

Both Sam and Valerie shook their heads. Blane nodded in agreement.

“You think there’s any truth to what he’s saying?” Sam asked.

“Probably,” Blane said. “I’d rather not find out. You?”

Sam shook his head. Turning away from Valerie and Blane, Sam took a nub of a pencil out of his pocket. He knelt down and began to write on the raft. Valerie stood over him and watched what he was doing.

“Sir,” Blane said. “Is there a crew of people who might be able to help us?”

“Destroy this dam?” The man shook his head. “Not a chance.”

“Update it,” Sam said from his crouched position. He turned his head to look at the man. “This is a fantastic structure but it’s way behind the times. No one allows pools of water, or in your case despair, to collect anymore.”

“What do they do with them?” the man asked.

“They build sewers to bring the waste to a facility where it can be destroyed,” Sam said.

Listening, the man tipped his head to the side.

“You are standing on an active volcano,” Sam said. “We can drive this despair into the volcano where it will be burned.”

“What about the smoke from the fire?” the man asked. “We don’t want the plumb to spread fire all over the world!”

“I’d bet we can work out how to avoid it,” Sam said with a nod. “Blane?”

“I doubt we’d have smoke, sir,” Blane said. “The volcano will superheat the Sea of Amber. That kind of heat will destroy it completely — no smoke left over.”

Blane looked away for a moment.

“The dust would mix with the molten iron from the volcano,” Blane said. “We probably …”

Sam put his hand on Blane’s shoulder and said, “Can you work it out?”

“I can,” Blane said with a smile. “By engineering or magic, we’ll make it so.”

“The Sea of Amber would be no more?” the man asked.

“If, as you say, the Sea of Amber naturally collects here,” Sam said. The man nodded. “We’ll build a closed sewer system that will drive the Sea of Amber into the volcano. You won’t need a dam.”

“Now that I think about it, volcanos have heat vents,” Valerie said. “We can use one to carry the pipe to the heat of the flame.”

“Where would we get supplies?” Sam asked.

“We can get anything you need,” the man said.

“And workers?” Sam asked.

“Sure,” the man said. “I’ll make a call.”

The man turned in place and walked away from them.

“He’s under the spell of the serpents,” Blane said in a low tone. “You cannot believe anything he says.”

“Where are we going to get supplies then?” Sam asked. “Workers?”

“We can’t do this ourselves, Blane,” Valerie said.

“You need to speak with the current management of this place,” Blane said with a grin.

“Current what?” Sam asked.

“Who would that be?” Valerie asked.

“Me!” Blane said with a laugh.

“What?” Sam asked.

“Never mind,” Blane said. “You figure out what you need, and I’ll make sure we get it.”

“Like always?” Sam asked.

“Yes, Sam,” Blane grinned. “Like always.”

“Good,” Sam said. “Valerie? Can you take a look …?”

Blane grinned at them and went to the edge. If the serpents could pull them back in time, he was pretty sure Hedone could move them forward through the getting of supplies and construction before anyone could stop them. His mind and heart focused on Heather and her counterpart, Hedone. His beloved wife, Heather, appeared in front of him.

“I thought you couldn’t come here,” Blane said.

“I didn’t want to leave the kids,” Heather said. “Mack wanted to go with Katy and Paddie to ride horses. Colin’s taking them. Wyn’s asleep with a dozen fairies watching over him. I figured I’d come myself.”

“We’re building a sewer to drive the Sea of Amber into the volcano,” Blane said.

“Great idea,” Heather said. “You probably need workers and supplies.”

Blane nodded. Heather slipped behind Sam and Valerie to look at what they had designed. She nodded.

“We need to do it before the serpents figure it out,” Blane said.

He gestured to the man on the ledge. Heather looked at him and nodded. She sat down on a ledge.

“We may as well sit down,” Heather said. “Stay out of the way.”

Blane nodded and sat down next to her. A bowl of buttered popcorn appeared between them. Blane took a handful and was surprised that it was hot. He looked at Heather.

“I’m famished,” she said with a shrug. She grabbed a handful of popcorn.

“Me, too,” Blane said.

What happened next was somewhere between a montage in a movie and watching a video at two times the normal speed. The first weird thing was that seven cartoon dwarves carrying pick axes marched into view. They stopped to talk to Sam and Valerie. Never one to turn down willing workers of any kind, Sam simply told them what needed. They nodded that they understood. Sam and Valerie picked up their shovels and followed the dwarves.

To Blane’s surprise, there was a volcanic heat vent less than fifty feet from them. The dwarves jumped in — “plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, plop.” Sam looked over the side for a few minutes until one by one, the dwarfs climbed out of the vent. Six dwarves surrounded the opening to help the last dwarf with the end of the PVC pipe. Sam and Valerie grabbed a piece of the pipe. Together with the dwarves, they pulled a six foot wide PVC pipe up from the vent. The lead dwarf went to look at Sam’s drawing. He nodded.

A piece at a time, the dwarves built the sewer toward the dam while Sam and Valerie constructed wooden supports. When they were within a few feet, a piece of PVC pipe connector dropped from the sky. The dwarves ran to catch this last piece. The lead dwarf waved to Sam and he ran to help. As if they were screwing in a lightbulb, they screwed the PVC pipe connector into the wooden dam.

The moment of truth was upon them. The dwarves crossed their fingers and squeezed their eyes closed. Sam moved a lever to open the pipe. Blane could have sworn he saw the pipe pulse like something out of Wiley E. Coyote and really that would be absurd.

Blane got to his feet. He held a hand out to Heather and helped her up. She passed him a couple cool bottles of champagne and picked up a growler.

“What’s in that?” Blane asked with a sniff.

His culinary snobbery was incensed by these half gallon bottles of beer.

“Yes, beer snob,” Heather said with a grin. Mimicking his voice, she added, “Growlers ruin beer.”

“It’s just that …” Blane started.

“It’s fresh root beer,” Heather said.

“Root beer?” Blane asked.

“Cartoon dwarves drink root beer,” Heather said.

“That’s what’s in those mugs in Snow White,” Blane said.

Heather nodded.

“Did you use my recipe?” Blane asked.

“Did you?” Heather asked.

“Me?”

“This is from our refrigerator,” Heather said. “Or Tanesha and Jeraine’s refrigerator, that is.”

He hugged her. Hand in hand, they walked to where the dwarves, Sam, and Valerie were celebrating. They poured glasses of champagne and mugs of fresh root beer. The spirit guides had classes of champagne or root beer depending on their preference. When everyone had a full glass, the dam’s engineer turned back toward them.

“I was …” the man started. “What are you celebrating?”

“We finished the project while you were on the phone over there,” Sam said.

“Hooray!” cheered the dwarves.

Sam held up a glass of champagne and nodded to the man. Valerie clinked his glass against hers and laughed. The bell sound of her glass combined with her laughter caused everything to freeze.

“Time to head back,” Heather said to Blane.

She leaned forward and kissed Blane’s nose.

“You did a brave thing here,” Heather said.

“It wasn’t really me,” Blane said. “It was Sam. Valerie.”

She smiled at him and kissed him again.

“The world thanks you,” Heather said.

“No, they don’t,” Blane said with a laugh.

“Well, they should,” Heather said.

She leaned forward and he put his arms around her.

In a breath, they were standing on the Castle lawn. A dog barked and Blane turned to see Sarah, Jacob’s Labrador, running up to them. Sarah jumped on his chest and he rubbed her face. There was a cheer on the platform. Blane and Heather looked up to see. The grandmother was helping Sam and Valerie shake out their limbs.

A general cheer came from the back of the house and all of the attending, but not participating, people poured out of the Castle. On the grandmother’s instruction, they gathered around the ceremony. For the next few hours, they sang, drummed, and laughed.

As the sun set on this third day of ceremony, the sand painting was completed. The song was complete. The grandmother asked Abi and Gilfand to help. Together with the grandfather, they helped Jacob to his feet.

Everyone cheered!

As when he was born, Jacob was greeted first by his father, Sam. Blane greeted him next, and then Valerie. The little family held each other for a few minutes before Katy wormed her way through their hug to hold her father’s knees. Sarah barked and Jacob dropped down to hug his dog. Jill was right there with the twins. Teething, the twins were wet from tears and slobber with their hands in their mouths.

There was one more thing to do.

“Every sand painting is unique to each healing,” the grandfather said with his arm around Ooljee. “It is time to release the energy held here. We can remove the art work. However, if you’d like to share the healing with the world, you will need to destroy it.”

“Show me how,” Jacob said.

The grandfather demonstrated moving his hand over the top of the painting. Grinning, Jacob let go of Jill and knelt down.

“Thank you,” Jacob whispered. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

He moved his hand diagonally through the sand painting. He lifted his hand at the edge of the painting and some of the sand flew into the air.

Abi screamed in pain and her hands went to her belly. The grandmother rushed to Abi’s side.

“Is it time?” the grandmother asked.

Abi nodded and bit her lip. Gilfand took her arm. Jacob pulled his hand through the other diagonal of the painting and Abi groaned. He destroyed the rest of the painting and Abi’s water broke.

“Is there a place?” the grandmother asked.

“Right this …” Jill started.

“Abi!” Fin screamed from below. “Abi!”

Jill gestured into the medical offices.

“She’s in labor,” Valerie yelled down.

Gilfand put a protective arm around Abi. They made slow progress into the medical offices.

“I can’t get up there,” Fin said. “It’s blocked to fairies.”

Gilfand raised an eyebrow and gave a sly grin before heading into the Castle.

“Go around,” Valerie yelled down.

Delphie jogged to Fin’s side. She led him through the kitchen.

“Is it always like this here?” the grandmother asked Jill in a low voice.

“Pretty much,” Jill smiled. She watch Jacob continue to destroy the sand painting. “We have a lot of people which brings a lot of problems.”

“So it is with every tribe,” the grandmother said.

Jill smiled. The grandmother went to instruct the drummers. When he’d finished, Jacob came to Jill’s side. He took Bladen from her and put his arm around her shoulder. A cloud of barbecue smoke smelling like Jeraine’s special marinade came from the grill. Mike pulled up with a couple of beer kegs in the back of his truck. The fairies came from the basement with the rest of the babies. Below Sarah barked and wagged at Blane and Heather. Arm in arm, Sam and Valerie walked down the wooden stairs. The singers and drummers slowly made their way to join the party.

“It’s been a long few days,” Jill said.

“It’s been a lifetime,” Jacob said.

Jill looked up and smiled at him.

“I’ve missed you,” he said. “More than you can imagine.”

Jill’s smiled told him that she’d missed him too.

“After all of this,” Jacob started. He looked at Jill before continuing. “Would you like to take some time off? Maybe take the kids on a road trip?”

“Sure,” Jill said. “What could possibly go wrong?”

Jacob laughed.

“Hey Jake!” Mike yelled from below. “While you’ve been lying around, the rest of us have been busting our butts. You want to help out?”

“For a change?” Jacob asked.

“For a change!” Mike added.

Laughing, Jacob nodded. He kissed Jill’s lips, gave her Bladen, and jogged down the steps. Mike lifted Jacob off the ground in a hug.

“Where you been, man?” Mike asked after he set Jacob down.

Jacob laughed. Mike pointed to the pile of wood that had just been dropped off.

“What are we working for?” Jacob asked.

“The satisfaction of helping your family, asshole,” Mike said.

“Dishes?” Jacob asked.

“Trash duty,” Mike said.

“Whoever does more takes out the trash for a week,” Jacob said.

“Two,” Mike said.

“Done,” Jacob said. “I’m going to kick your ass.”

“Give me a break,” Mike said as he raised the axe over his head.

Jacob and Mike set to work on competitive wood splitting. Grinning, Jill watched for a minute longer.

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?” the grandmother asked Jill. “I’ve been involved in these ceremonies since I was a very little girl. I never get over the release and joy once they are finished.”

“Thank you,” Jill said. “For your generosity. For your kindness.”

The grandmother leaned in to Jill.

“Actually, Ooljee said your family digs in the ground,” the grandmother said. “Would you maybe know how to dig a well?”

“Sure,” Jacob said. “My father and I have dug them a few times.”

“We don’t know if there’s water down there,” the grandmother said.

“If there’s water there, we can find it,” Jacob said.

“We don’t have running water,” the grandmother said. “We get eight gallons of water a day from a truck that comes by. We could really use a well or one of those big cisterns.”

“Consider it done,” Jill said. “I’ll talk to Jacob and we’ll get it scheduled.”

The grandmother smiled at Jill. They stood together watching the party for a while.

“There you are, Jill!” Valerie said from the door to the medical offices. “Give me those babies. They moved everything out of the storage room to build the toilets. I called Erik and he said that you knew where everything is.”

Valerie grabbed the twins from Jill. Together, they walked into the medical offices. The grandmother stood at the railing for a moment before Ooljee came to stand next to her. The child put her hand in her grandmother’s. The grandfather joined them at their side.

“Shall we?” the grandfather asked.

The grandmother looked at him and nodded. They walked down to join the party.

Denver Cereal continues next week…

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