Chapter 28 – Eruption
I stood at the top of the riverside mountains. Just like the lizards that also ascended to the summit, I had to see it for myself. The coming flames would no doubt hurt, but we had to witness it, and it was the duty of the lizards with me on the mountain to tell the others what would occur this day, for surely it would also become a scalesong to tell all coming generations.
The harmonic tremors felt at the forest during the evacuation didn’t reach this far, but through my connection to the earth, and those lizards that remained behind, I could still feel the gentle buzz continue in the ground. And all at once, the buzzing noise ceased. The entirety of the earth grew still, and for just a moment, it was as if time itself had stopped. Even the wind ceased to blow, creating a truly and eerily silent world. It was the calm before the storm. The lizards who had been setting up camp on the cold mountaintop also picked up on the foreboding silence and turned their attention to the mountain in the distance.
Then it came. It started as a deep rumble that could even be felt this far away. A single, thin plume of smoke escaped from the top of the far away mountain. Its message was clear, the eruption was to begin. And from that plume, the cone of the mountain quickly erupted into flame and smoke. The smoke towered higher and higher, unsatisfied until it could reach the top of the sky. The plume grew and multiplied, like the dark and scary brother of a puffy white cloud. It ate the sky, hiding it from view. Flashes of fire could be seen inside the dark clouds, reminding us that where there is smoke, there is most definitely fire.
And then the sound came. It was so far away we had seen the explosion before we heard it. A great roar descended upon the riverside mountain, flowing into the forest behind it, filling every crevice with its explosive bellow. The lizards had only heard of the great roar of calamitous earthquake in their scalesongs, but this would resound forever in their hearts, a noise that could be felt through the entire body.
The scouts atop the mountain sought comfort in each others presence. I too sought comfort with them as the sound of eruption continued, explosion after explosion. The lizards that stayed behind huddled together, praying for the best, but expecting the worst. The life blood of the earth had yearned to be free, and nothing could hope to stop it. Even in their fear, the lizards atop the mountain kept vigil, their feelings reflecting my own; we must see this to the end.
The great cloud mushroomed into the sky, spreading out in all directions, raining ash and balls of hellfire on the earth below, punishing it for trying to keep the magma contained. A laughable notion; nothing could contain the fires of earth.
And the moment I hoped would not come to be finally came to pass. The smoke, heavy with rock, fire, and gas descended down the mountain like a great, black avalanche. Its speed was incredible, nothing on this earth could hope to outrun it. It ran down the mountain, eager to reach the base and spread itself over the land. The rumble of its passing was not unlike the sound of an earthquake. A pang rang through my heart as it reached the forest. Its force was great and terrible, and awe inspiring for its destructiveness. I could feel the trees in the distance cave to the force denser than a hurricane. Even if the trees were not uprooted by its passing, the heat inside the insidious dark cloud burnt them to cinders. It was the pyroclastic flow.
The slow-moving and all consuming lava could not hold a candle to the destructive force of the flow. One might be hit by lava that had exploded out of the caldera, but rarely did it move fast enough that you could not get out of the way in time. It was a slow killer by comparison. It would slowly take over the base of the mountain and extend out into the forest, that much was true, but the pyroclastic flow could reach farther, move faster, and kill more than lava could ever hope to achieve.
The lizards in the homeland forest made peace with themselves and those around them, now knowing the ferocity of the volcano was not one they would live through. To their family heart, they wished for the continued happiness of those that lived through this disaster. And in an instant, their lives were snuffed out as the pyroclastic flow invaded their homes, setting everything aflame, and passed through without pause, nor a care for what it had destroyed.
A secondary explosion occurred on the far side of the volcano, likely one of the other vents capitulating to the pressure deep inside the mountain. It added to the smoke and the flame rising out of the primary caldera. The fires of the mountain would not be quelled any time soon. It lasted deep into the night, the light of the lava more visible in the darkness. No stars appeared that night, not with the smoke taking over the entirety of the sky as darkness had fallen over the land. Only the red sunset, well below the clouds, bid a final farewell to world.
The mountaintop lizards eventually returned to the forest of refuge, seeing that the eruption would continue on for some time. They would go back and relay what they had seen to those waiting below. With heavy hearts, they descended from the cold and blazing summit. I stayed on, watching the event for days as the volcano threw ever more ash and smoke into the air, as its fires laid waste to the forest, and as the pyroclastic flows ate everything within their long and terrible reach.