Ash

CHAPTER THREE

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.
Anyone who didn’t know what was happening thought kids were dressing for blizzards in the middle of October. Instead they were covering themselves in jackets and scarves, hats and pullovers, to keep the ash from coating their clothes. Tall boots were worn by everyone to protect their pants as best as they could during their walks to school.

But everything ended up coated in ash. Houses were coated as doors opened and air vents pushed the dust inside. Car interiors were coated as people turned on their vent systems. Schools became inundated from a combination of these things, plus the pedestrian students, entering the building covered in the grey ickyness. That’s what everyone called it, but the tone was playful. For now this was nothing, just a new adventure for everyone.

As the Lakewood crew made their way through their morning classes, they wanted to get to geology so they could actually talk about the event without being scolded. Math teachers, English teachers, and history teachers could care less about the event during their lessons, and the extracurricular teachers saw it as a hindrance (students were trapped in the gym, unable to play their instruments, and unable to make art because of the ash. And gym activity was limited due to the dust floating through the air, making heavy breathing impossible for any student who already struggled to breathe). In science class, they could really discuss the issue, and their teacher encouraged it.

At the beginning of geology, students were given an index card. They were charged to write down one question, one statement, or even a few words for the class to discuss. They were supposed to be relevant to the event, and as he thumbed through the completed cards, he felt the class had adequately stuck to his design. He fanned out the cards and held them out to Jenna, who picked one out and handed it to him without looking.

“Alright, first discussion of the day. Ah, a health question with morbid consequences,” the teacher smiled, directing the question to the class: Are people with asthma all going to die? The teacher looked around the room, “Who are our asthma sufferers? Buster, George, and Alex. Alright, the three of you are the most at risk to have respiratory problems because of the ash. You’re already prone to problems. But what are some of the ways we can prevent respiratory illnesses among everyone?”

“Masks, scarves, anything that keeps the particles from getting into your lungs,” Francine responded. Everyone else nodded in agreement.

The teacher nodded, “In this particular situation, that is your best solution. Air purifiers used to protect you, but now the ash will inundate the filters, and the supply of those filters will decrease. In fact, they are now limited to hospitals. So, you have to use something else. Masks, scarves, even wet rags at all times, no matter where you are. In fact, all three of you better have them in class tomorrow or we’ll going to have problems,” he said, pointing a finger at them playfully, though his tone confirmed he meant it.

“But what about the long term?” Buster asked. “That’s why I wrote that question. I wanted to know if we’d all die in the end.”

“Death isn’t a guarantee in an event like this,” the teacher replied, leaning against Buster’s table and speaking in a low, friendly tone. “While many have died already, they passed because of the explosion. There were people in the Midwest crushed by the debris or caught up in storms created by the ash clouds. These are typical, but we’re in Elwood City on the east coast. We don’t have that problem. Air quality is an issue, so you need to wear masks at all times, even at night, to protect yourself. Change them often. I’d have no more than five with you during a school day, and you should change them out every two to three hours.”

“And that will make breathing easier for all of us?” Muffy questioned. The teacher nodded, fanning out the cards in front of Maria as if to say “Let’s move on now.”

After reading the card to himself, the teacher announced it to the class: How quickly will famine set in? He opened the question to the crowd, and Brain immediately chipped in:

“This is more of a question of economics than science,” he began, adding, “While some crops and food supplies will be ruined during this initial event, the lasting ability of those crops will rely on a supply-and-demand system.”

“I agree with you, but let’s make it about science. What can you all tell me then?” he asked, looking at everyone but Brain in an attempt to get more answers.

Binky spoke up, “Scientists could come up with solutions that allow us to grow food in different environments. They’ve already done that with, what’s it called?…hydroponics?”

“Yes, what a sciency answer,” the teacher smiled, “You are very much correct. Hydroponics allows people to grow food with limited resources, and many believe this is the solution to growing food and producing oxygen that will allow us to go further when we begin exploring space. In situations like these, we will definitely put hydroponics to the test. Buster, does the community garden use hydroponics?”

“That’s what that’s called?” Buster asked with a confused tone.

Muffy scoffed, “He probably doesn’t know.”

“No, I do know,” Buster argued. “Once the city built the greenhouse so we could have fresh fruits and vegetables year-round, they decided a hydroponics system could help us if we were ever to have a drought like in California. That’s how we do most of our growing now. I just didn’t know what it was called. One of the neighbors just called it Tubular, and I went with it.”

“It is very tubular,” the teacher agreed as the bell rang, “We’ll continue tomorrow!” he called as the class fled the room.

Some students were put at ease by discussing supervolcano-related issues in class, but others weren’t. Some were growing antsy, namely those who knew what could happen. Brain, Sue Ellen, and Muffy were just three of those students, and as they went about their day, their minds swarmed with negative thoughts about what was to come.

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