What the fuck? How the hell is it sunny and freaking hot in my bedroom?
Chay kept his eyes closed against the red glow leaking through his eyelids. Living in Alaska, especially mid January, meant no sunlight. The sun had set in November and they wouldn’t see the first glimmers of dawn until the middle of February.
The window in his bedroom faced south, and he’d gone to sleep a couple of hours before noon. He was going to the observatory to set a scan of the northern sky, and fighting with the computer, setting the exact sectors would take him until well into the early morning hours. Last night’s computer crash and reload of the complex targeting program for the telescope had taken all of his patience.
It shouldn’t be this warm. I can’t sleep, and why the hell is my phone pinging and beeping? Everyone knows I sleep during the day.
He opened his eyes shading them against the glaring light streaming through the triple paned glass. The few streaks of high cirrus clouds were lit in glorious orange with pale yellows closer to the white ball of the sun, dead center in his window. Totally alert, he dumped the down comforter on the floor and sought his slippers with his toes.
When his bare feet found warmth instead of burning cold, he stood, forgetting about his fur lined moccasins. Walking over to study the sunrise spread across the horizon, he tried to understand how he’d moved to the tropics. Water was running through his yard like it was mid May and the sun was in the wrong quadrant of the sky. Not to mention, how the hell was it early morning when he’d gone to sleep at noon?
How the hell am I facing east? Where the hell am I? Am I even on Earth anymore?
He spotted his redwood deck furniture, already more than half exposed. The table had more than two feet of snow on it when he’d gone to sleep. Now rivulets of water drained toward the back of his property running through channels carved in ice as the accumulated snow of half a dozen blizzards disappeared.
His phone pinged again, and he went to look. There were notices for email, and more than three dozen texts from family and colleagues.
Turn on the news
Have you heard?
This is a disaster
We’re on the equator now.
How come you didn’t wake up? We set the telescope without you.
He opened his door, turned right, and went into his office. Booting up his computer, he found the CNN news stream.
The headline story, in bold print, half a screen high, read:
The world has turned ninety degrees.
Holy fuck, I need to get my meat into the freezer.
He turned back into the bedroom, grabbing clothes from the night before, leaving the thermal underwear draped over the easy chair in the corner. He’d left his entire cache of elk, moose, and bear meat buried in the snowbank against the north side of his house. It was going to thaw and every scavenger in the forest would be there to take advantage of a free meal if he didn’t get into cold storage. He needed the protein safe.
Propping the door open with a stone he found already exposed by the side of his brick pathway, he began the mindless task of moving supplies. Thank God his freezer was empty and clean. He always cleared it after the first winter storm.
At least the frozen packages of meat wrapped in brown butcher’s paper were still solid and no harm was done. Only the very top layer was semi-thawed, and he’d throw it into a stew pot as soon as he finished moving the rest of it.
As he began cutting up the steak, he’d earmarked for first sun celebrations, he tossed it with spiced flour and dumped the chunks into a frying pan. The bear fat sizzled and he lifted the lid off the huge slow cooker sitting on the counter. Stew was the easiest way to make sure precious supplies wouldn’t be wasted.
What had happened to his alarm? He had it set to automatically go off on weekdays. Had he hit it and turned it off? Wouldn’t be surprising, he’d been damn tired. Too many all nighters trying to get the computers to do what he wanted with the radio telescope.
Mindlessly he continued until he nearly cut his thumb when the doorbell rang. He wasn’t expecting anyone, his home was well out into the back country. It took him an hour to get into work and longer to get into Anchorage. He checked his freezer on the way to the front door. It was on, and everything inside was solid. At least one small piece of his world was under control.
Opening the door, he prepared to tell who ever was out there to get lost, but the child looking up at him smiled.
“We moved in down the road, but mom’s worried.” The little girl said. “Can you help us?”
“Arimina! Honestly, you can’t just go ringing the bell when you have no idea who’s in there. I’m sorry, but we’ve got a problem. I’m flooding up the road there. The creek is up by at least 20 feet. I live where it goes into the little canyon.”
“Holy God. I forgot about the creek. My meat cache was thawing, and I had to move it first. Let me go take a look how far up it’s got. Come on in. Is that your Jeep?”
He led them through into his kitchen.
“I was just getting ready to throw the meat into the crock pot.”
“Leave me to it, I see you’ve got the veggies prepped. Do you have beef broth? And yes, that’s my Wrangler. Thank God, or I wouldn’t have got through the mud.”
The mother was a curvy solid woman. Her eyes almost the same shade of brown as her daughter’s.
He pulled his rubber boots on as he talked. “I have about a five minute walk to the top of the cliffs. The canyon is about fifty or sixty feet deep, and the same across at the edge of my property. I’ll be right back.” He jerked the back air lock open and stepped through to head into the back.
“Use whatever you find in the fridge for the stew. Anything goes.” Chay said as he hustled out and began to run toward a gap in the spruce forest.
Puffing hard, he arrived at the edge of Twig creek and peered over the edge. The roiling muddy torrent wasn’t ten feet from the top and he jogged along toward the edge of his property line wondering what was making it back up. Runoff usually went easily, no more than a twenty foot rise in the water levels and only for a couple of weeks.
Racing toward the right turn in the canyon, he heard the roar of a waterfall. Not good. Sometimes debris and ice piled up there, but it hadn’t happened in the last five years, not since he’d blasted an undercut in the opposite side of the narrow passage.
“Fuck me!” He yelled as he saw what the problem was. Broken sheets of thick ice had piled up filling the gap almost to the top, right where the bend was, and the canyon walls lowered.
Ticking off the calls he needed to make to warn his down stream neighbors, he hoped his brother had already noticed the stream was down to a trickle. Water was oozing between the cracks in the ice wall. He loped up the overgrown path back to his house, long legs weaving through the brush and mud. Stopping at a puddle which formed at the base of a terrace he rinsed of his boots before he went in through the side door.
“Well?” the woman standing at his stove was browning the last of the meat he’d cubed.
“Ice dam. It’s almost blocked the entire canyon where it makes a ninety degree bend at the edge of my property.” Chay said.
“How are you going to bust that up? It’s going to flood me out in about another day or so, it’s already halfway across the back yard. I’m lucky I’m up a steep slope but still,” she sounded worried.
“Did you rent the old Markham place?” Chayton was trying to picture what she was talking about. He knew they’d done a bit of work over the summer, but then decided to move to the lower 48 to be closer to their daughter and grandchildren. He hadn’t been by to see what improvements they’d made.
“Yeah, it’s a bit big for the two of us, but it’s cheap. I’m up here for a year or maybe longer to study the wildlife migration patterns.”
“Zoologist?” Chay asked and saw her nod. “Did you snag one of the grants the University of Alaska was offering?”
“I did. I wanted a change of pace. I’m from New Mexico.”
“Are you teaching too?”
“Nosy, aren’t you? I don’t even know who I’m talking to.”
“Dr. Chayton Stargazer, astrophysicist and professor. I’m on sabbatical this semester. I’ve got a major project going out at the observatory.” He grinned, hoping she’d take it the right way.
“Dr. Alicia Stroman, zoologist and no, I’m not teaching this semester. Strictly research on polar bear movement and the shrinking ice. It’s going to be a whole different problem now though.”
“And your little girl? Is she in school?”
“I’m in grade one. I can read already and I know my times tables, so I’m bored.” Arimina piped up from the chair by the kitchen island. She’d picked up the book he’d been reading before bed.
“Um, I don’t think this is a good book for you, Arimina.” He snagged to from her hands and reached up to the shelf behind him to stow it away from her.
“But Mom, I can read it, and it was a great story about a shark.” The girl’s lower lip trembled into a pout.
“Jaws isn’t great unless you let her read gore and guts already?” Chayton wasn’t going to make anymore assumptions.
“She smart, and way ahead of the curve as far as what she understands.” Alicia said wryly. “Give it back to her. She knows sharks can hurt people.”
“Here you go,” Chay handed the worn paperback back to the little girl and she settled back down to read.
“On a more important note, do you have a way to blow the ice dam up?” Alicia asked.
“Give me a few minutes. I think I can get my father down here with some dynamite. He’s got a few sticks left over from some terraforming he did up at our homestead. I’ll let them know in Anchorage, and we’ll set it up for tomorrow.”
“If he can get them here, everything’s flooding.” Alicia dumped the last of the meat into the slow cooker.