matter at all to those in its way, including countless fishermen, naval officers and enlisted men, and otherswhose misfortune it is to be anywhere within hundreds of miles of the strike on either land or sea.
2:00 a.m. EDT, eastern Maine:A little south of Flagstaff Lake, at the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain, north of Rangely and theeasternmost of the Richardson Lakes, Bill Preis and Pete Martin, two graduate students in paleontologyattending the University of Southern Maine at Portland, sat, winded, on a rock shelf, hoisting brewskis.Two days ago, they had made a bar-bet with another student that they could climb to the mountain’ssummit in under a day and consume a six-pack each before coming down. They both regretted it now. Itwas cold up here, and they were winded and beginning to get stiff and sore – but honor and a flat of kegswere at stake! So one of them got to his feet and, using his brand-new Minolta loaded with film good for any light-level except outdoor pitch-dark, took photographs to prove that they actually made Sugarloaf’ssummit.Suddenly, to the southeast, something traced a blindingly bright arc of light through the sky, clear down to the ocean. Even with several cans of beer in them apiece, they both had enough sense to turn their faces flush against the side of the mountain, covering their dazzled eyes, before they got a good deal worsethan merely dazzled by the light coming from that something. They managed to cling onto their precarious perch through the quakes that followed – they had already sunk pitons into the rock so that they couldrappel back down once they’d completed the ascent, and now those pitons, and the ropes around their waists tied to them, saved them from a long, hard fall off the mountain. Now the waters came, the titanic children of Poseidon, roaring up over the land, the shockwave fromthe impact lensed by the Bay of Fundy to the northeast and Nova Scotia to the east back toward Maine,over the coastal plain, up into the Longfellow Mountains, clear to the ridge-tops and peaks, includingSugarloaf’s summit. Once again the two men were saved by the pitons; though the gigantic wave actually passed clear over them, drenching them with seawater and draping them with odd bits of seaweed and lessidentifiable flotsam, coming close to drowning them, the deep-set pitons and the nylons ropes held likechampions, and, a few minutes later, bruised and battered, gagging and coughing up seawater and cursingfor all they were worth, the two men were once more able to breathe freely and pull themselves into morecomfortable positions.“We’re gonna freeze our asses off up here, Petey-Boy,” Preis told Martin as they got settled on therock shelf once more.“Fuck that, we still got our backpacks on. Let’s dig out the rest o’ them brewskis and hoist a few, justto celebrate,” Martin told his friend, laughing a little in sheer relief at their escape. “That’ll keep us warm!”“What about the jackets and shit we put in our packs, just in case, before we started climbing thismother?”“Fuck ’em. They’re just as wet as we are. Prob’ly more. The beer’s wet, too – but that’s the way it’s
to be, ain’t it? Gonna wet m’ whistle, I am,” Martin said. He sounded drunk, but in fact he wasstone cold sober, thanks to the experience he’d just been through, shock and dawning terror confusing histhought-processes and slurring his speech.Each man helped the other to get the beer out of his pack. As they sat there on the rock shelf, side byside, secured to the mountain by ropes and pitons, they stared morosely out toward the southeast,wondering if there would be more quakes, more waves. To the east and south there nothing more thanstark blackness as far as the eye could see, relieved only by the molten silver footprints of moon and starson the midnight waters below. For long moments, no sounds but their own and the hiss and slap of water against rock broke the silence. Then Preis said to Martin, “You feel funny, the way I do?”“Funny? What sort of funny?”“I, I dunno, just . . . funny. You know.”“No, I
know,” said Martin. He reached out a hand, placed it on his friend’s forehead. “That’sfunny – how were you feeling while we were climbing up here?”“Nothing in particular, I mean, I felt fine. Except for the way you feel when you’ve been climbing afucking mountain nearly a mile high. But I didn’t feel sick, if that’s what you mean. Why?”“You’re burning up.”“I –
?”“Your forehead’s hot as a bastard! You’re running a fever, m’ man. Hotter’n hell.”“Let me see,” Preis said, reaching up to touch his forehead. “It doesn’t feel hot to me.”