Chapter 1: Status
The city is named Hyde’s Park. It’s a stupid name and what makes it even stupider is the fact that there is a park in the middle of this podunk town called Hyde’s Park. It confuses everybody. The worst thing about the park is that it’s the most interesting place in all of Hyde’s Park. The population has never actually been over ten thousand and it was currently reaching a record low: about five-thousand. The decline made a lot of sense. After the completion of the highway, people now had an easy exit route to Providence.
As for the Westin family, they weren’t going anywhere. The Westin have lived in Hyde’s Park every since it was established back in 1861. Although far from glamorous, the town initially sprung up so spectators could get a better view of the battles in the American Civil War. The fighting never reached Rhode Island and the developers had just lost a lot of money on the town. Desperate, the developers established it a town and families began to move in by the droves. The Westins were among them.
The Westins have lived in the same house since, with a generational improvement to match the times. As technology grew, so did the improvements implemented by the house patriarch, or in the case of 2008, the matriarch. Adrea Westin ruled the house herself after the divorce of her husband Brian. She had tow children, but only one still lived at home. Her eldest son Chuck attended college in Providence, but 17-year-old Miles Westin was still enjoying the carefree life of suburban living.
Miles was was always thought of as being smart, but his own intelligence was dwarfed by his older brother. Chuck graduated high school at 16 at 20-years-old, he is already working on his doctorate in physics. Miles was still stuck in high school. He only had to drudge through one more year at Hyde’s Park High School until he could finally leave such a boring place. Still, he’d rather be a school than at home with his ever-complaining mother.
Tuesday morning was no different than any other. “You seem distressed mom. As much as I would love to just hang out with you here and soak up the anger you have at life in general, I have to get to school. You know,m for the education. I hear that it’s important.”
“Fine!” Andrea yelled “Leave me here all alone in my pain.”
“Glad we’re on the same page.” Miles wasn’t about to stick around for the anger-filled response. His ride to school was waiting outside. Miles knew how to drive, but couldn’t get a license becuase his mother wouldn’t take him to the DMV in Providence, so he was forced to get a ride with his best friend Allison Dreary. Allison was a year younger than Miles and the two have known each other for about three years. They dated for about a week, but it was immediately obvious it wasn’t working out. Allison and Miles hardly even remember.
“Come on!” Allison demanded. “Contrary to popular belief, I do not have all day. Get your slow ass in this car or we’re going to be late!”
“I’ve never seen you this pumped up for school Am I to assume that you actually care about your education now or is there some hot guy you just need to spy on before school starts.”
“You know, I can’t believe you would just assume such a terrible thing about me, Miles. It’s true, but that doesn’t mean you should think it.”
“Just drive,” Miles replied, trying hard to contain his laughter.
Meanwhile, Miles older brother had been working all night at the science center where he interned as a meteorologist. They told him he would be doing an important job, but he hadn’t been doing anything in the past week that was interesting. Mapping past and possible future occurrences in the weather patterns was not an enlightening job.
It was almost 7:00 A.M. Gladly, Chuck stretched his arm off and grabbed his coat off of the coat rack. Chuck took one last look before reaching to turn the computer off. He stopped. “Dennis!” his yelled at his coworker. “Come here for a second.”
The fat man begrudgingly stood up and walked over to Chuck’s computer. “This better be good.”
“It is,” Chuck assured. “I’m not a weather guy, but I don’t think this is normal. Take a look at these temperatures out here in the Atlantic. It dropped about seven degrees.”
“Look at the one about five miles south it. The temperature went up about five degrees. It just isn’t rational for temperatures to fluctuate like that in such a close perimeter.”
“You’re the genius,” Dennis correctly pointed out. “You figure out what going on.”
Miles and Allison arrived at Hyde’s Park High School just in time for the bell to ring. “Ugh! Now I have to wait until lunch to get a glimpse of the sexy man. I blame you, Miles.”
“Me?” he complained. “I'm not the one who insisted on grabbing a quick bite at McDonald’s and then got in an argument with the girl at the speaker box.”
“Never mind that. Let’s the just get to class before we’re late.”
Allison and Miles arrived at room B11, Mr. James’s English class. “Damn,” Mr. James said as Allison and Miles slid into their seats before the final bell rung. “You guys weren’t here yet and I was so looking forward to punishing someone for something arbitrary today. Ah! Disappointing. I guess I’ll have to teach. So, who read up to page 82 in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest last night?”
“You didn’t assign that,” one student pointed out.
“That’s right, I didn’t!” Mr. James said with a vindictive smile on his face. “And becuase you corrected me in front of a group of people who I should be imposing toward, you just earned yourself a trip to the principal’s office. Bye-Bye!”
“He seems happy today,” Allison observed. Allison looked over to see why Miles didn’t respond. He was too busy staring at Ashley Brock Jr. Miles had been pining for Ashley for almost three months now, but Ashley has consistently found a reason to avoid a date with Miles. Yesterday is was that she had to wash her hair. The good excuses run out quickly, but Miles seemed oblivious to that fact.
“Miles!” Allison whispered. He didn’t hear her. “Miles!” He still didn’t hear her. Allison rolled her eyes and ripped a sheet of paper out of her note book and shot it at Miles’s eye. Perfect hit, but Miles still didn’t seem to notice. Allison sighed and gave up.
“Figure it out yet?” Dennis asked Chuck. Almost two hours into the research, Chuck still couldn’t figure out anything to explain the abnormalities on the computer screen and worse yet, he wasn’t getting paid overtime.
“I’ve thought over everything. It’s not an underwater volcano. It’s not an earthquake. I’ve have literally run every test that is physically possible. Nothing on this Earth is causing these abnormalities.”
“What did you expect?” Dennis asked. “The temperature changes aren’t normal therefore, the reason that they are changing aren’t normal. This is elementary school logic, Chuck!”
“A natural occurrence that isn’t occurring naturally,” Chuck whispered to himself. “Put on a put of coffee, Dennis! I have an infinite amount of test to run now!”
“We don't have a coffee pot.”
“We don’t? That’s terrible. We should really have one.”
“I know. I completely agree with you. I’ll bring it up with the head honcho tomorrow probably.”
Back at Hyde’s Park High School, lunchtime came upon the students and Allison’s first instinct was to find her sexy man. “I have to ask,” Miles began. “Who is this guy?”
“I son;t know,” Allison pointed out. “I only know what he looks like. Well, only partially. I only caught the left side of the back of his head, but was a really cute left side of the back of his head. I musty find him.”
“Just sit down and eat your spamwich,” Miles said, annoyed.
Miles took a bite out of the spamwich. He looked up to see a dark-haired kid sitting at the table across from him. Miles knew who he was. Everyone knew who he was. Gary Derceto was the valedictorian and a grade-A jerk. He considered himself better than everyone else, which he was.
“Enjoying your spamwich?”
“What do you want, Gary?”
“I need five bucks. I don’t exactly like eating to food they serve here.”
“Too bad,” Miles retorted. “You eat it like the rest of us.”
“You refuse?” Gary asked, pretending to be shocked at his reply. “Okay. That’s okay. I’ll remember this. Trust me, when you least expect it, you’ll get your comeuppance.”
“Good luck with that!”
Allison came back down to Earth and sat down to eat her spamwich. “Geez, you'd think that kid could be at least a little bit more humble. The smartest kid in the school should be in some computer lab playing World of Warcraft all day.”
“Any luck finding that really cute back of his head?”
“Not yet,” Allison said with a gleam of hope, “but I can assure you, I will find him before the day ends, even if it kills me.”
“I’ll probably wind up being the one who pulls the trigger, too.”
Dennis was already half-asleep, but Chuck Westin was determined to find the reason for the temperature abnormalities. “ I’m almost there. I can feel it!”
“You been saying that for almost two hours now!” Dennis complained. “You’ve checked if it was an alien invasion of any kind, Satan coming to reclaim his land, and the Loch Ness Monster having a party 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. I’m telling you, let’s just pawn it off on some other hopeless intern and get the Hell out of here. I still haven’t eaten breakfast yet and I am a very fat man and you don’t want to keep a fat man away from his meal.”
Chuck didn’t want to admit it, but Dennis was right. Despite hours of trial and error, Chuck hadn’t gotten any closer to the answer since he discovered the problem that morning. “Wait a minute,” Chuck said as he looked at the computer screen again. The temperatures. They’re back to normal. How long have they been like that?”
“Since like 9:00,” Dennis replied calmly. “You didn’t notice?”
“I didn’t,” Chuck said with a smile on his face. “You go ahead. I’ll catch up with later. This completely changes my theories. The temperature shift must have happened because of a change in a periodical natural event and I know exactly which one it is.” Chuck began to type with a fervor that hadn’t been displayed before. He knew he was right this time.
“Got it,” Chuck said. “The Earth’s magnetic field is shifting at much faster rate than last time.”
“The magnetic field shift about 380,000 years ago. We’re way overdue for another one. This shift will literally flip the world upside down. The characteristics of the Northern Hemisphere will belong to the Southern Hemisphere and vice versa, but in the middle of the shift, natural occurrences won’t be behaving naturally.”
“Can you wrap this science lesson up, please?”
“If my calculations are correct, which they always are, physical properties as defined to the Earth will be null and void for the next year, give or take a few weeks. At the end of this year long period, the actual shift will take place, cause an unheard of array of natural disasters. Floods, hurricanes, volcanoes, earthquakes, typhoons, you name it.”
“Are you talking about the end of life as we know it?
“Paraguay might survive. Big maybe, though.”
The school day ends, but Allison was unsuccessful in her search for her sexy body.”Everyone has already left,” Miles told her. “Chances are you sexy man has already left, too. Tell you what, let’s go to my house and I’ll let you look through the yearbook. Maybe you’ll get lucky and find your mystery man.”
Genius!” Allison yelled. “What are we waiting for? Allison drove back to Mile’s house, exceeding the speed limit whenever she could. The two teens passed Andrea, who was napping on the couch. Up the stairs and through the door, Allison lunged for the yearbook and began to frantically search through all the pictures. “No. No. No. Oh God no. I really hope not.”
“Search quietly, please,” Miles begged. Miles sat down on his bed as his cell phone rang. “Turn on the television,” Chuck’s voice on the other end said. “It’s really important.”
“I don’t get a hello or something?”
“No time. Turn on the T.V. Put the news on.”
Miles walked downstairs and grabbed the remote and pressed the power button. Allison followed with the yearbook in hand. On the television was the director of the science center. The video was live as Miles could see Chuck on his cell phone in th far back of the field where the interview was taking place.
“I have horrible news to dispense to the people of the World. My scientists have discovered that the Earth’s magnetic field is shifting, causing irregularities in the inner working of the Earth. In approximately one year, the actual shift will occur, creating natural disasters of catastrophic proportions that will end life as we know it.”
Chuck walked over to the director and whispered something in his ear. “I’ve been informed that Paraguay might survive, but that’s a big maybe.”
“Can you answer some questions?” one of the reporters asked.
“Questions are welcomed,” the director said, but that seems like something you should ask the direct of the science center and as of right now, I am resigning my position and giving it to Bobby over here.”
“My name is Dennis.”
“Of course it is,” he replied. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some parachuting lessons to begin.” The former director took his badge off and tossed it at Dennis before walking to the limo that awaited him.
Dennis walked over to the podium and asked, “Does anyone know if Denny’s is still serving breakfast?”
“No,” one of the reporters replied smugly. “It’s like 2:00. Denny’s stops serving breakfast at like 10:30.”
“No!” Allison yelled in terror.
“Apocalypse getting to you already?” Miles asked.
“No,” Allison replied. “My hot guy is just some butch chick with short hair! My life is ruined!”