Cell phones all over the county simultaneously shrilled that morning. Residents quickly scanned the emergency alert, and then raced to gather their family members, and prepare. Meanwhile, in the national forest, there was no cell phone access. The small family camping on the peaceful, meandering river had just put out their breakfast campfire and the children were laughing excitedly as they donned their hiking gear… 

(Stories need only touch on this topic in some way to qualify.)


Mags idly dried the last of the breakfast dishes. Thoughts, like bubbles silently bumping into each other, floated in her mind. “How beautiful it is here,” the bubbles showed their little cabin with handmade charm, children’s laughter, Tabor’s happy eyes. Another bubble produced forest, wild flowers, and fields. “Not a neighbor for miles. So peaceful.” Mags stared at the hummingbird feeder where two ruckus Rufous buzzed each in challenge to the sweet nectar.

The children had gone flower picking in the field. Mags could see their little heads bob up and down in the tall grasses as they bent to collect their treasures. Smells wafted through the window as the sun put together her sun-scorched recipe for the day; a pinch of sage, a pinch of Elderberry, bake for 10 hours and enjoy.

Tall pines stood guardian around the perimeter, mysterious in their dark interiors. The resident mamma moose was down by the pond with her baby, sloshing in her wake, chopping the green water’s edge richness. A blue heron perched upon the footbridge, watching intently to see if the moose stirred up any trout. Overhead, a hawk drifted on the wind seemingly with no purpose but it, too, assessed the meal situation. Chipmunks and red squirrels scuttered along the jack fence looking very busy going where? It was September. The family would have to pack up soon, and leave summer behind. Mags heard the sigh of the Aspen leaves and the dry rattle of the shriveling meadow.

Suddenly, a Sandhill Crane’s head rose above the grasses announcing his presence in a primeval screech. “Ahh, life is good,” Mags awoke, shelved the dish, opened wide the windows to welcome in life, and continued about her daily chores.

Tabor also was in dreamland as he loved the 1 ½ hour drive to town under the ever-changing Montana skies. The clouds were in top performance today and he basically had the road to himself with the summer crowd gone. The golden glow of the valley in autumn was exhilarating. Mountains on either side silently watched from their loges the spectacle of the live show below. Tabor had but a bit part – a walk-on – as is the case with all human beings.

In town, Tabor would get the week’s groceries, gas up the jeep, make a few business calls, and then he’d check the stock markets to reassure his accounts were where they should be. He wanted to get the civilization part over as soon as he could, and return to his piece of heaven, up the dirt mountain road, back to his nest.

Tabor punched on the radio to catch a few tunes, maybe a baseball score. The commentator said with stern voice, “…what would happen in this case is that miles around the super-volcano the earth would be coated with ashes three feet deep. There would be lava perhaps 20 miles out, perhaps a destructive earthquake, and, of course, uncontrolled forest fires devastating Montana and beyond. Roads would be impassable…” Tabor punched the radio off. “Yeah, yeah,” he muttered, “I’ve read all about Yellowstone blowing. Why do they scare people like that? The last eruption was 640,000 years ago! Cheez!” Tabor’s piece of heaven was only 15 miles from Yellowstone’s borders. “They ought to be warning people about a global depression for God’s sake!”

The store was fairly empty. Just a few locals greeting each other with squeaky-wheeled carts: “Hey, Phil, how’s your mom?” “Those boys of yours, Emma, they sure are shootin’ up. Bet you’re in here twice a day.” Har, Har. “Hey, Tabor, how’s the love nest?” Tabor smiled and filled his cart.

At check out the girl surveyed his selections, “You sure look like you’re gonna have some mighty fine fixins. Wanna a guest?” she winked.

The wink turned into a wide-eyed stare. Oranges rolled off the counter, contents of the store flew off shelves. The floor shifted and bucked the humans like young calves on a sheet of ice. Then the cell phones chimed in symphonic cacophony.

“It’s happenin’,” the check-out whispered with her cell phone to her ear.

Tabor gripped the counter, and skidded through the mess on the floor, vaulting himself out the door. There was only one thought exploding in his head, “I’m 1 ½ hours away!” He started the car, and rode the raging bull.

Mags was outside hanging the laundry when she felt a slight turn in serenity. Things got too quiet and then the wind stiffened. The children’s heads popped up at the same time in response to a silent call. Mamma and baby moose jumped the fence and were on their way, rabbits scurried, birds peppered the sky with their screams, and a coyote ran full tilt at the farthest end of the pasture.

The first earth shiver knocked Mags off her feet. “Mommy!” she heard the wind shriek. To the east, she saw sky, once azure, turn steel gray. The real world began to fade.

The show was over, or had it just begun? The bubbles silently popped, one by one.