Ash

CHAPTER TWO

Summary: When a huge earthquake hits out west, the world learns that Yellowstone National Park’s supervolcano is set to erupt within days. Soon the world is put in a state of chaos as the ash sweeps the globe. Without sunlight and with the air too polluted to breathe, can anyone survive? Can also be found here on ff.net.

When Sue Ellen got home, she found her mother locked away in the attic with her painting supplies. There was a stained glass window there that she said gave her new perspective on the world as the things on the other side of the glass took on different colors—green, red, blue, and gold. Sue Ellen liked to go up and look out it too, but she knew not to intrude on her mother’s personal space, especially not during these troubling times.

She didn’t tell anyone, but her father was out west at the moment attending a conference in Seattle, Washington. He’d felt the megaquake, as the news now called it, that hit in California as the shockwaves moved up the west coast. He’d even felt some of the aftershocks too, but everyone told him he was safe. He’d said that in his morning phone call, made at three a.m. his time—“I’m okay.”

But as Sue Ellen walked the empty lower floor and thought about the situation at hand, she knew they weren’t okay, especially him. He was too close to Yellowstone National Park. He’d even been able to see it from the plane as he flew into Seattle’s nation airport, another landmark a radio tour had pointed out to him through an onboard channel. He’d taken the flight before, as this was an annual conference, but this time felt magical.

Now Sue Ellen knew why. She wanted him to take the next flight out, but he wasn’t given much of a choice. The scientists who oversaw the supervolcano had proven their point, and evacuations were taking place throughout the danger zone, anywhere within a two-hundred-fifty-mile radius. He was within that area, but he had to wait for an official plane to take him and the other ambassadors back east to safety. She’d heard the headline at school and saw the message on her father’s social media pages when she got out of class—he had to wait to get out, and Sue Ellen knew that waiting was a problem.

After her geology lesson, which was supposed to be about plate tectonics instead of supervolcanoes, all she could picture were the satellite images that would come from the event, tracking the ash cloud across the planet as it suffocated life out of everyone. If you weren’t blown up in the initial event, you’d slowly suffocate to death or face famine, just as the dinosaurs once did.

“I didn’t know you were home from school,” Mrs. Armstrong called, snapping Sue Ellen out of her thoughts. Almost instinctively, she ran to her mom and hugged her tightly. Mrs. Armstrong laughed, “I’d ask what this is about, but I think I know,” she said, kissing her daughter’s forehead to get her attention, “Listen to me, Sue Ellen, and listen very, very closely. Your father will be okay. He just sent me a text that he’s on a private jet with the others headed to Washington D.C. He’ll then take the train like always, and I’ll pick him up later tonight as you get ready for bed.”

Sue Ellen hugged her again, this time because of the news, but she knew she wouldn’t sleep until she knew her father was safe. She’d fake it, maybe, but that meant she’d be home alone. She was reaching that age, and ever since she’d turned eleven, her parents would leave her at home for the more boring events. Now for the most exciting one, she was supposed to stay because of the time. She didn’t care how late it was, but she knew to stay put and not to argue.


It was almost midnight when she heard the lock click. Sue Ellen sat up in bed, where she’d been laying in the dark for almost three hours. She couldn’t read or do homework or sleep, so she just waited, and as she rushed downstairs to greet her parents, she knew why.

“You should’ve seen it!” her father exclaimed, taking Sue Ellen in his arms. “It exploded just as we got out of its way. It was like a scene from a movie, the plume of ash and fire spewing into the air—“

“It’s all over the news, complete with images, but he tells it best. He really does,” Mrs. Armstrong grinned.

Sue Ellen couldn’t believe it. She’d kept radios and televisions off just in case the supervolcano went off and blew her father away before her eyes. Somehow she must’ve known it would happen that night, but she was too thankful to see him again to care whether or not she predicted it. She hugged him, then the small family moved into the kitchen for some hot chocolate. They turned on a radio, listening to the reports. Evacuations didn’t come soon enough, so hundreds, if not thousands, of people were presumed dead. But her father was alive, so Sue Ellen was fine with this loss.

But they all knew it wasn’t the supervolcano itself that would cause most of the issues. It was the “what’s to come,” the aftermath of it all, and scientists were already tracking the ash cloud. By morning, the plume would reach Elwood City, plunging it into a state of half-darkness, half-light. It was a terrifying effect, one mostly reserved for horror movies. But it was their new life, and they’d have to find a way to cope.

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