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Part two

©01 Levite


Convenience Store, Route 46, six miles from Greensburg
       "Pat. Look at this." Susan said.
       Stacks of bottles of drinks lined one wall. The liquid in every one was tilted. Patrick took a clear two-liter of ginger ale and laid it on the floor.
       First it rolled into the shelf, he turned it the other way. It showed a clear tilt to the floor.
       Susan went to the small hardware section. There was a magnetic level to keep on your refrigerator. She put it on the windowsill.
       "Something big is happening." He said.
       "Can I help you folks?" The little old lady clerk asked them.
       "You ever have any problems with this building?"
       She looked at Susan with wide eyes. "Well, now that you mention it, yes, ever since that earthquake this morning."
       "What is it?" Patrick asked her.
       "You want to see? It's right back here."
       "Yes ma'am." They replied together.
       The lady led them behind the counter and towards the back of the store. "That's since this morning. And to tell you the truth I think its bigger now than it was an hour ago."
       Patrick followed the crack in the wall from floor to ceiling, he could see light through the corner near the roof.
       Susan was looking across the floor. She bent down and pushed at a tile, it gave way beneath her hand, there was nothing under it.
       The old lady looked at them with concern in her eyes. "Do I have to close the store?"
       "We'll let you know." Patrick said.
       "I'll get the camera." Susan went out to the van sitting at the gas pump.

Lantana Estates
       "It just fell."
       The maintenance man looked at what used to be a decorative brick wall at the entrance to a development. "You sure you didn't hit it with the tractor?" Tom jerked his thumb toward the mower.
       "I ain't even been over there. It just fell over." The man seemed sincere.
       Tom walked over to the pile of mortar. He noticed the ground under his feel seemed very soft. Kneeling he inspected where the sod had come loose.
       Under the turf was a crack in the soil several inches deep and as wide as his fist.
       "Ok. I don't think you hit it. But we'd better call the contractor and see if they can take care of this."

Interstate 74 near Middletown
       "I don't think I ever saw that before Henry."
       The heavyset trucker scratched his beard and nodded. "Neither have I brother."
       Both men looked back down the road. A car stopped and put on its flashers before it got to the obstruction a hundred yards behind the two stopped trucks.
       "I think the big road bit ya."
       Henry lit a cigarette and offered one to his friend. "But she came off clean, guess I can make Circle City with what's left."
       They looked at the set of duels lodged firmly in a giant crack between the pavement section and a small bridge. The concrete had ripped the wheels completely off the truck, snapping the axle like a toothpick.
       A State Police cruiser pulled into the median with its lights flashing.
       "For once I'm glad to see the Man." Henry waved at the cop.
       "Otherwise nobody would believe you."
       "Ya got that right."

       "We're loosing it!" The fire fighter shouted.
       The chief hated to do it, but without water, there was no choice.
       "Pull back. Pull back! We're gonna have to let this one burn itself out." Then he turned to his phone. "I've got to have two more tankers. We've lost all water pressure and the pond's dry. ... Yes I said the pond is dry. The water is gone. The dam's still there, the water is just gone, all that's left is mud."
       The house began to collapse on itself. The owner turned his head.
       He had heard the crash when the water heater had fallen over. But before he could do anything, the whole basement was on fire. He had run next door to call the fire department.
       Then right in the middle of fighting the fire, the water pressure at the hydrant simply vanished. They dispatched the tanker to refill at a farm pond nearby, but it was empty.
       The dispatcher for Decatur County relayed the information to the Sheriff.

       Don Adams looked at the growing stack of paper on his desk.
       Fires, roads caving in, bridges out.
       "You ever seen anything like this?" A deputy asked him as he laid yet another report on the desk.
       "Yeah. In Vietnam."
       "Reminds me of Kuwait."
       "Either will do." He sighed. "I've called the State Police, well, they called me, they've got reports from all over the place too. And they're closing 74 from Shelbyville east on the eastbound side. Two bridges have buckled."
       "What about westbound?"
       "I forgot to ask." He picked up his phone and pushed the fast dial number for the state police office. He talked for awhile.
       "Closed from Smith's crossing west about ten minutes ago. She said there are gaps in the pavement a yard wide in places."
       The deputy whistled. "That's bad even for 74."

       The state geologist van stopped in the parking lot of the Billings Elementary school. The first thing they did was check the reception on the wireless modem. Then they got out several boxes of instruments.
       "OK, we got signal." Patrick said.
       Susan smiled and turned on the unit she had just set on the ground. "Let's do it."
       "Got it." He said in a moment. "Quit moving, I'm getting interference.
       She looked around. "It ain't me. Not even a car on the road."
       "Then we're on top of an active fault. This is wild." He tapped the side of the monitor as if it would help.
       "Transmit." Susan said and walked gently to the vehicle.
       "Look at the gravitational field."
       "I see it." Patrick said.
       Their phone rang. Susan answered it, then put it on speaker.
       "Where are you? What's making those readings?" Saul's voice crackled a little bit.
       "It's a school parking lot. Hang on, GPS position coming through."
       The receiver computed their exact position and transmitted it with the data.
       "It stopped." Patrick said from the van.
       "From what I've got on this end, you were almost on top of that last tremor." Saul said, then he paused. "OK. Find someplace you can set up for a day or so. Get me some better magnetic fields."
       "You got it." Susan said.
       "Get me a tilt meter. And don't put it on the railroad tracks like Irv did."
       They chuckled at the now classic goof.
       "And I want you to install a plate for a lock by the satellite radar imager."
       "You want us to see if the Pizza King here delivers too?" Susan said to her boss.
       There was silence from the speaker for a second. "Not a bad idea."

Versailles State Park
       "What do you think is causing that?" A fisherman asked the park ranger.
       "All these earthquakes I guess. I'll call the office and see if they know what's happening." Even as she spoke, ripples ran across the usual placid surface of the lake.
       Now the difference in the waterline was striking, there was a foot of mud where the water had been along the southern bank.

       "I don't care what the State Police said. We're leaving." Mr. Campbell said to his wife and two kids.
       "How are you going to get the car out?" She pointed to the garage, now leaning severely, the door buckled and impossible to open.
       "Watch me." He went out and beat on the door with a hatchet from the wood pile, the fiberglass gave way. Soon he was pulling it away enough he could get in. Then he backed the station wagon through it.
       "You know how much that's going to cost to replace?" Mrs. Campbell said shaking her head.
       "It looks like we've got to replace the whole place. Come'on kids. I'll buy White Castle when we get to the city."
       The kids cheered and ran for the car.
       "How long can we stay with your sister?"
       "Week or so. Until this is over."
       Even as they walked out, the old house groaned audibly and plaster fell from the walls. "I just hope we still have a house when it's over." Mrs. Campbell said as she took an antique plate off the display shelf before it fell.
       "I'll come back tomorrow for the rest of it."
       She nodded and tried to close the back door, the effort was useless.
       As the car backed down the driveway it bucked and swayed over ridges and dips that hadn't been there before.
       The drive to Indianapolis that usually took just over an hour, took four. Finally they pulled into the hamburger stand just off of 465 and staggered in exhausted, even Mrs. Campbell who was not the biggest White Castle fan in the family was relieved to be in the clean and quaint restaurant.

       "It's all right. See, its sitting level again."
       The woman looked at her teenage son. "It don't look level."
       "Well it is. I put three blocks under the hitch. It's level." He looked down the length of the mobile home. The ground dropped noticeably from the back to the front of the unit. Another nearby trailer was now abandoned, sitting at a sickening angle to one side. The family had moved in with a couple from their church.
       "If it keeps up, we're going."
       "We gonna stay with dad?" The young man said almost hopefully.
       She was silent for a minute, then she glanced at the setting sun, "We'll see."

       "This is a mandatory evacuation. You can't stay." The volunteer fire fighter said to the drowsy man.
       He looked out at the small town. There seemed to be police cars and other emergency vehicles everywhere.
       "But it's... what time is it?"
       "Five thirty in the morning." The uniformed man said.
       "It's Sunday morning."
       "Yes sir. But things have gotten bad, they ordered everyone out."
       "Who did?"
       "I think it came from the Governor's office."
       The older man stood there for a minute. He heard the dishes rattle in the kitchen. "Well."
       "Sir. You've got until nine O'clock, then they start putting people out by force."
       "Is it that bad?"
       "Some of the roads are already closed. We're taking some people out in the country on army trucks."
       "Where you taking them?"
       The old man nodded. "Let me get my wife up, we'll come along." He turned then paused and looked back at the fireman. "They got a Bible Church in Columbus don't they?"
       "Sir, if they don't now, with everything that's going on, you can probably start one."


       A bleary eyed Dr. Riley swilled a cup of coffee and looked at the computer screen, he muttered something at the speakerphone.
       An even wearier Dr. Monroe was on the other end of the phone. "Hang on, I'm gonna three way us with Sylvia in the water office." He said.
       "OK Saul."
       In a moment the woman's voice came on, clear and fresh compared to the two men. "Good morning Dr. Riley."
       "I've gotten reports now from Anderson and even Lima in Ohio. There has definitely been a change in the water table. Even some deep wells are having problems." The woman said. "I've heard a few are even reporting the water is tainted and some are drawing up methane or CO2 instead of water."
       Dr. Riley nodded. A student handed him a fax they had just received. He read it quickly. "Sidney had a well blow out. Before it gave they said they had nothing but 'air' coming out." He said into the phone.
       "Where?" Saul asked him.
       "South of Anna."
       "Oh." Saul had heard of that one.
       "Sounds to me like the entire aquifer has undergone some major change." Sylvia said. "I've put in calls to offices and departments all over to see how wide spread it is."
       Saul nodded even though it wasn't a video call. "OK. Good."
       "I heard on the news they're evacuating part of Bartholomew County. Is that right?" She asked them.
       "More than that." Dr. Riley said.
       "Bartholomew, Shelby, and Decatur counties. Although some of it is voluntary at this point." Saul said over a yawn. "God, I need a nap."
       In Ohio the professor chuckled. "I had one, it didn't help."
       Saul had an idea. "Pete, can you meet me in Greensburg in the morning? I want to see this first hand."
       Sylvia didn't understand. "See what?"
       Saul was dumbfounded for a second.
       "They haven't said anything on the news?" Dr. Riley asked her.
       "Not that I've heard."
       "We've got a major subsidence." Saul said slowly.


US 421 Near Greensburg
       "The tilt meter is going nuts." Patrick said.
       "It's not the only thing, what's the degree off level now?"
       "A lot."
       They walked gingerly over what was left of a section of Michigan road north west of town. In places the pavement had been swallowed by yawning fissures that sometimes seemed to grow wider as they watched.
       "That's not a very scientific measurement." Susan kidded him.
       "It'll do."
       The ground audibly rumbled behind them. They heard escaping gasses from someplace.
       "Yeah, it'll do. Let's go." She said and scrambled over a section of road over a culvert that had bucked into the air in the last hour.
       "We should get up to Williamstown." Patrick said looking at his printed map as he started the van.
       "What's up there?"
       "The deputy said a crack swallowed a house trailer last night."
       "Oh my god. Was anybody in it?"
       "No, they'd left. But the people next door didn't argue when they told them it was time to go."

       "Looters Will Be Shot!!!" Deputy Anderson announced through his loud speaker.
       But the only ones in the tiny village that heard it were cats and rabbits.
       As the police car sat at a stop sign at route 3 the two-way radio told him if things got too bad to get themselves out.
       Anderson thought about that. Then as he watched a huge sycamore tree loose its battle with gravity and topple over onto a deserted house, he decided it was time to go.

       "We still got a few claiming they ain't leaving until they can't stay in their houses any more." The police chief told Mayor Fulton.
       "We got to cut the electric off. With no water, if something else catches fire from a short, we could loose the entire town." Fire Chief Richard Carson said emphatically. "And what's more, I'm worried about loosing equipment now. You've got poles and trees falling left and right."
       The mayor nodded. "OK." He sighed. "Make them leave. Cut the power. We'll move city hall into... Well. What's still in one piece?"
       "My camper."
       The mayor shrugged. "Ok Phil, your camper is city hall where you puttin' it?"
       "Hospital lot looks as good as any."
       "We'll all meet there in say half an hour. Then we start the mandatory evacuation."
       The police chief went to tow his camper to the hospital.
       The state police and sheriff began telling people they had to go, the bone tired town cops directed traffic, the only safe way out of town now was 421 east to the interstate, then on toward Cincinnati. A slow sad caravan of all manner of vehicles began.

       "Are you guys all right?" Kaitlin Ross said into her phone.
       "Yeah, we're fine, but the truck is a total loss. The National Guard tried to pull it out but couldn't. The place was fine when we parked it there last night."
       "OK, well, we'll get somebody down there to bring you back." The Channel 4 news producer sighed yet again. She had to tell the station manager that his newest satellite uplink truck had just been swallowed by the earth.

Near Milford
       "Firs' the place sinks, now tis?" Stew Johnson watched some lumber float by.
       "That's the White River backing up this way."
       "Bu' that's better'n thirty mile from he'a. Jus' to east fork."
       "Go figure."
       "You fixin' on leavin' like that feller told us ta?"
       "My wife's packing now. We'll be out before dark. How about you?"
       Stew spit some tobacco juice at the water. The incoming tide was not impressed. "Well. Pow'r's out. Well went dry 'fore that. Now half the place is gonna be und'a wa'er. Migh's well leave."
       "Where you going to go? Indianapolis?"
       "Heck no, I got'a cous'n over by the 'Hio line, near dat Brookv'l lake."
       "Go do some fishin'?"
       "Hell, I ken fish out ma back doo' now." Stew gestured toward his trailer where either the land was sinking or the water rising, or maybe both, until the skirting was being lapped by muddy water.

       "So you want I should be impressed?" Town councilman Tom Hayes said sourly.
       "No sir. I'm not here to impress anybody."
       The man from the US Geological Survey office looked at the others in the auditorium. "Like I said. My name is Bernard Jones. I'm with the USGS. I'm simply here to explain what is happening."
       "Why is it happening?" A lady asked from the crowd.
       The school was the site of an informational meeting with several officials who were going to try to answer questions. If they could.
       "We don't know. But from the information we have right now. The shift along the New Madrid, Wabash, and Fortville Fault systems, as well as a previously uncharted series of faults in this area has changed some of the sub strata dramatically. Resulting in the subsidence."
       "Can you stop it?" The lady asked hopefully.
       "When a mine subsides they inject concrete into it." Hayes said.
       "This is a little different. The area affected is over thirty kilometers long by about twenty wide."
       The crowd didn't think in kilometers.
       "Over twenty miles long by about fifteen wide." He said in American. "The worst subsidence zone right now is a band from Hope to Williamstown."
       Several of the people whistled at the information.
       "In some areas the ground level has dropped up to two meters."
       "Six feet?" A man asked loudly.
       "Yes." He spread his arms almost all the way apart. "There are fissures over a meter and a half wide reported in the area between Downeytown and Greensburg. All east west roads and the railroad are closed through that area."
       He was stating these things as matter of factually as he could. Several older ladies held their hands over their mouths, some men shook their heads.
       "We are also investigating reports from as far away and Connersville and Columbus about ground shifts. Even down to Versailles, they've noticed some tilt to the ground. Not anything like they have up this way, but it's noticeable."

Near Clarksburg
Lake area development
       "I don't think sandbags are going to do any good."
       "You want I should just abandon it and take my losses?"
       The two men looked out at the lake as it creeped up the bank toward their houses.
       "Put everything valuable upstairs, what's what we did."
       "They should drain the lake. That'd solve the problem."
       "Yeah, but I think they got to get the state's permission to do that."
       They stood silently for awhile. A noticeable shiver ran through the ground, small waves danced along the edge of the lake in the twilight.
       "They're evacuating everybody west of here. Think we're next?"
       "Could be."

       The car and truck headlights were all there was to see. The evacuation had been going steadily, only a few people were left, steadfastly refusing to move.
       Mayor Fulton knew they'd change their minds as surely as another man did.
       Kurt Smorthiesn had refused to even open his door to talk to them. The police chief had gone there personally to assure him that this was not a conspiracy to move him out of his house.
       About an hour later Mr. Smorthiesn was coming down the street with his suitcase on an old two-wheeled golf cart.
       "The whole sun porch fell into the driveway." He said as a national guardsman helped the man into the truck.
       Sunday night grew old and turned into a young Monday morning.

       "Wanna hear some maybe good news before you leave?" A colleague of Saul's asked him.
       "Sure. I'll take what I can this morning." He said as he put on his jacket.
       "We've got a computer model that says the center of the zone will depress another half meter and stabilize."
       "How sure of that are you?" Saul asked the man.
       "Eh." He wobbled his hand from side to side.
       "Keep at it." He picked up his phone and stuck it in his pocket. "I'll be right..." He looked at the map. He had made large oblong sweeping circles on his wall map in red and green marker, Greensburg sat just off dead center of the center circle. "Right here." He poked the town with his finger.

       "I can't do nothing about it Clara." Joe called up from the basement. "The house is too heavy to jack up any more."
       She was standing in the kitchen looking at the refrigerator. It leaned to one side like a drunk, and it wouldn't run, even sitting with one corner on a phone book. "We got to do something about it."
       "I don't know what to do. They say half the state is sinking. Ain't nothing nobody can do about it."
       "I still say its all them rock quarries, all that blastin' they do down by Bedford. They've upset the balance of nature."
       Joe nodded. "Something's caused it. I just know it weren't me."
       "Well, breakfast is ready. Come eat."

       "You can't get there from here sir." A Policewoman said at a roadblock where route 46 left town.
       "Is the road that bad?" Saul asked her.
       "Yes sir. Just east of here the pavement starts to break up."
       He got out of his car and showed her his ID. "How far can I go?"
       "On official business. You can go until you fall in a hole." She smiled at him.
       "Good enough." He nodded to her and the other officer manning the barricade.
       "Yes ma'am."
       "You are travelling at your own risk."
       "Always do. Thank you." He got in his car and drove on.

Continued in part 3

       [Note: All rights reserved, including rights to publication. Distributed copies to proofreaders and editors remain property of the author. No infringement of copyright is intended. All persons are fictitious, all occurrences, while possible, have not happened. Yet. No cities in Indiana were actually destroyed in the writing of this story. All geologic features actually exist or are presumed by geologists.
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