Title : And Portland Was Gone
Word Count : 650Twitter Handle : @LurchMunster
Category : Steampunk
“Miss Sally, you must come with me now!” I grabbed her hand, and pulled her along behind me.
“Mister Henry, what’s going on?” She planted her feet, and refused to take another step.
“Please, Miss Sally! There’s no time. I’ll explain on the way.” Yet, she refused to budge. “I don’t want to die, so I’m going. I’d like to take you with me.”
“The waves will be here soon. We may already be too late.” I turned and ran. She paused a moment, then followed.
I could understand her confusion. It’s not every day the ground in Portland shakes. Portland, so different and so far from San Francisco, home of the 1906 earthquake. Stories of that disaster spread far and wide. The quake had been bad, certainly, but the gas fires caused by the quake had been far worse.
My father had explained the 1906 quake to me. Told me of the big crack in the ground, he called it a fault line. “Two parts of the Earth are sliding past each other. But they’re not smooth, so they stick together. Pressure builds between the two parts, until the stuck part breaks, comes unstuck, and the two parts rapidly slide to where they should have been.”
He wanted me to know Portland was not as safe as everyone believed. “There’s a fault in the ocean. A big fault. It’s stuck. It will slip, soon. When it does, it will cause giant waves from the ocean to strike Portland. Portland will wash into the sea.”
I’d always thought he was a bit crazy, my Dad. He’d made a balloon, a big one, for all his family. He kept it in the shed behind the house. When I’d moved a couple of years ago, he’d insisted I have a balloon too. “You must keep it ready. When the ground shakes you must promise me you’ll take the balloon to a safe height.”
“Be realistic, Father. The ocean is hundreds of miles west of Portland. Surely, waves from the ocean won’t reach us.”
“I’ve studied the history in the rocks and ground, my son. I know. I’ve seen it. The waves come in ever 360 years or so. And it’s their time. They will come someday soon.”
I couldn’t argue with my Father. He was a crazy old man, thinking waves from the ocean would wipe Portland from the map. But he was my Father. So, I had a balloon of my own, stored in my shed.
That night, at Miss Sally’s home, celebrating the full moon with close friends, and neighbors, the ground shook. Glasses slipped off tables, crashed to the floor. Confusion reigned, “What was that?”
I knew. I knew instantly. The fault my Father warned me of had slipped, causing an earthquake. As Miss Sally followed me, I explained my Father’s warning. “Waves from the ocean? Here?”
“I’m afraid so.” I opened the shed, and pulled out the gondola. The balloon rested inside. I opened the valve to the compressed can of hydrogen tied to the balloon. The hydrogen quickly filled the balloon, causing it to float from the gondola. “Miss Sally, please, climb in.”
She did, as gracefully as she could, taking care to keep her skirt positioned to protect her modesty. When she was in, I climbed in also, not nearly as gracefully as she had. The hydrogen tank continued emptying into the balloon, and shortly, we lost contact with the ground.
“I’ve never been in a balloon before, though I’ve always wanted to ride in one.”
I held her hand, “Miss Sally, I’m glad you are safe.”
As our balloon cleared rose, we looked to the west, and watched as the waves my Father warned me inundated Portland. Waves two hundred feet tall. One after another. In an endless procession. Until all the earth below us became a sea.
And Portland was gone.