From space, it looked like a ball of blue and brown; blue oceans swirled with windblown whitecaps and the occasional tiny island could be found, but most were scoured clean by the Last Storm. You couldn’t see much of the surface anymore because of the cloud cover. The white polar ice caps were tiny buttons on the top and bottom of the globe.
During the year, they appeared and disappeared. If you took a vantage point from the lone satellite of this blue planet, you would notice on the night side that no light was emitted, no radio transmissions to disturb your electromagnetic slumbers. It was a quiet planet circling a nondescript yellow-white dwarf with eight other planets and assorted planet-junk. Strangely enough, if your vision was sharp enough, you would see hundreds of artificial satellites circling the planet.
You would see communication satellites beaming signals to each other, reminding each other where they were to ensure signals moving from the ground to other places on the planet were not interrupted. They never received those signals any longer, since there was no one to send them. There were many global positioning satellites, each designed to know every single street and every square inch of the planet and tell you where you were at any moment in space and time, anywhere on the globe. They hadn’t had a single query for a over than a year.
Military reconnaissance satellites watched key sections of the globe for threats to countries that no longer existed. Linked to those satellites are space-based weapons platforms using a variety of technologies to deliver death from above. These weapons sat quiescient, unaware of their lack of targets.
Two satellites were still doing their jobs. The first was a weather satellite. It still chugged along, gathering information about the only weather phenomenon that still mattered, the Last Storm. Yes, there were still record temperatures all over the world. Yes, flooding was occuring in all the places men once lived. Island nations had disappeared under the rising water levels. Polar ice caps has already disappeared. Coastal cities were all but erased. These satellites noted all of those things, but lately, the only information it tracked was called the Last Storm.
It came into existence nearly ten years ago. Weather satellites made the pivotal discovery of the Last Storm in 2096, when it was just a tropical depression in the South Pacific Ocean. With winds in excess of three hundred miles an hour, no one viewing it at the time, knew they were looking at what would eventually render the planet a lifeless wasteland.
Now, it covered half of the northern hemisphere at any time, and blocked the sun from a quarter of the planet. Swirling above the planet is what, if there were scientist left to name it, a Great White spot circling the surface of the Earth, similar to the Red Spot on Jupiter, just hundreds of miles across instead of tens of thousands. A storm of matchless ferocity and intensity. It drove sand debris into the air at almost four hundred miles an hour.
The other satellite still doing anything significant, had only one man left on board. The last known survivor of the human race. His name was Sergei Balmasov. He was no longer living in the classic sense. He sat and looked out the observation window of the new International Space Station in muted horror; his mind broken.
He once listened to the wideband radio as the world came to an end. He listened as people called for help that would never come. He listened while radio stations told people not to panic, gave assurances that the storm would turn away from Hawaii, then as they ordered evacuations of South Pacific islands, and as the storm erased those islands, and crippled those evacuations, he listened to the death tolls.
As it approached Hawaii, he listened to the military channels as they considered what to do when they realized there would not be enough resources or time to rescue everyone there.
He wept as the military turned their ships around and returned to the United States. When Hawaii stopped transmitting, he turned off his radio to silence the horror, at least for a time. He could see the Storm from space as the world turned beneath him.
When he woke the next day, and turned the telescope toward Hawaii, it was gone.
Ships that had been fortunate enough to leave Hawaii early in the warnings were not safe. The storm overtook their ships. One hundred and twenty thousand sank as their ships were capsized in the torrential storm.
The remaining population died in the storm awaiting rescue ships that could never come. Hawaii, born of fire, home to people for five thousand years, was washed away in a single night, all of her people returned to the sea. The Last Storm slowed for a time and it was thought it would expire at sea, its forces spent. And while its winds slowed, it did not stop. It simply grew larger, much larger.
Sergei had no time to grieve as the storm approached California. Hearing about Hawaii, Californians fled to the mountains as meteorologists predicted the storm breaking against the Rocky Mountains. As it came within a thousand miles of California, the rains began. It approached the coast of California, its terrible winds drove tidal swells of water which hammered the coast turning any building on the coast to splinters.
The fifty-foot swells had never been seen before and thrashed the coastline, drove water into the streets of both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Torrential rains caused people who did not believe what they had heard about Hawaii to re-evaluate their position and they ran for their lives, for all the good it would do them.
The roads to the mountains were jammed with cars and trucks. The storm was inexorable. When it reached the coast, the winds were in excess of two hundred fifty miles per hour. Nothing made by man could withstand such winds. Skyscrapers lost windows, cars were flipped and carried for miles, trees uprooted, homes swept away by winds, rain, and waves. All convential wisdom about storms was lost as this monster approached the mountains.
As the storm reached the mountains, everyone’s hopes rose, even as they ignored the carnage. The mountains would break the storm; it would run out of energy.
Instead, it did the unexpected. It turned south, but did not die.
Los Angeles was the next major metropolis to be swept away. The storm was being fed by the Pacific and kept moving south. As the edge of the mountains receded, the storm proceeded east into the Gulf of Mexico and continued to grow. Most of Mexico to the borders of Costa Rica and South America were completely inundated by water.
Refueled by the heated waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the storm’s power increased, and with its increased size, it affected the Southern mainland states and basically erased them, from Nevada to Florida. Nearly one third of the population of the United States was destroyed in the first forty hours of the Last Storm of the century. Nearly all of Mexico and Costa Rica were decimated. Tens of millions were believed dead.
As the storm pulled away from the United States, its size increased again, absorbing water from across its entire area, and energy from the very warm waters of the Atlantic. It swept across the Southern tip of Europe, but even that tiny brush destroyed most of the UK, Greece, France, Italy, and all of the Mediterranean. At this point, emergency signals crossed the globe, with everyone trying to determine where the greatest need for emergency service would appear next.
It didn’t matter. The storm would soon be everywhere.
The storm grew larger and more powerful, as it re-crossed the Pacific. Considered a national emergency by every government on the planet, humanity rallied in a effort to stop this threat. This was a sign of too little, too late. Climate scientists sat quietly in the briefing, chafing that they had been unable to convince the world governments of this final inescapable result of global warming. Being right was of little consolation.
It was considered such a threat, militaries threatened to throw nuclear weapons into the heart of the thing. Physicists tried to warn the military against this foolish act, trying to remind the military that a storm this size was already more powerful than every nuclear weapon on Earth with every second of its existence. But desperate men would try anything.
A great carrier, the Independence, last of her kind, caught in the storm and unable to escape, decided to use a nuclear device, but was destroyed before it could make the effort.
People fled wherever they thought they could go, but climate models had begun to reveal a startling truth. The storm was by now so large it could feed from any ocean, anywhere, at nearly any time, until it ran out of energy. Climatologists theorized it would become a permanent fixture on the face of the planet. Those climatologists called it The Great White Spot. It swept across the Earth over twenty-five times before stabilizing at its current size of one sixth of the globe. The remainder of the planet was covered in perpetual cloud cover that remained that way for another six years.
Sergei listened to the radio until the signals grew less and less. Communications from the ground lasted two more years, but by the year 2103, he could not detect a single radio message anywhere on the planet. He held out hope that somewhere, somehow, mankind had survived. Until the cloud cover broke enough to see the planet.
Until today. Then he wept like a child.
The mountains were gone, ground away by the five hundred mile an hour winds. The Rockies, the Appalachians, the Himalayans had been scoured from the planet. Nothing made by man had survived. The Earth was smooth and uniformly brown. He stared, looking for any landmarks. Nothing remained.
Sergei lasted his last year eating the stored food onboard the ship. The satellite alone could keep him alive for five years easily, but his mind was shattered by what he saw. In order to cope, he used climatological models from weather satellites under his control to determine that the Great White Spot would last for another twenty years in the best case scenarios. In the worst, it might never stop.
Sergei Balmasov, on the tenth anniversary of the Last Storm, and the last human being left alive anywhere, opened the bottle of vodka he had carried aboard all those years ago, and drank a toast. He finished the bottle in about an hour. He set all of his notes into the computer and set a radio broadcast into space, repeating what he had learned about humanity during their last days on Earth. He stepped into an airlock without a suit, closed the door behind him. He held his breath while he cycled the lock and jumped out into space. With his dying breath, he chose to look upon the Earth.
His message, to anyone who might one day come across our once-blue planet, was a tombstone marker. “Here lies the final resting place of the Human Race. We saw the future, but could not embrace it, until it embraced us. May God have mercy on our souls.”
The Great White Spot © Thaddeus Howze 2012, All Rights Reserved