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Authors: Trevor Hoyle

Earth Cult

BOOK: Earth Cult
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Trevor Hoyle

First published in Great Britain in 1979 by Panther Books

This ebook edition published in 2014 by
Quercus Editions Ltd
55 Baker Street
7th Floor, South Block

Copyright © 1979 by Trevor Hoyle

The moral right of Trevor Hoyle to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978 1 84866 922 2

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places and events are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

You can find this and many other great books at:

Author's Apologia

It is the science fiction writer's privilege (and pleasure) to tamper with the geography of this planet, though in this instance I feel an apology is due to those kind people who live along the Roaring Fork Valley in Colorado, USA. Not only have I moved several towns in the vicinity, like chess pieces, to suit my narrative, but I've also cast some of the citizens of Gypsum as characters – all of whom, needless to say, are fictitious (the characters, not the citizens).

In my defence I can only plead that finding a mountain called the Mount of the Holy Cross exactly where I wanted it to be was far too good an opportunity to miss. So if the people of Gypsum must blame somebody or something, please blame the mountain. It's big enough to look after itself.




Part Three: THE FLOOD

Part One

The travel-streaked red Oldsmobile Toronado turned on to Interstate 70 north of Grand Junction and headed east along the rift known as Roaring Fork Valley: it was then that Frank Kersh got his first glimpse of the mountain. It rose up directly in front of him, a vast cruel wall of granite hewn by wind, water and ice, towering over the slender winding ribbon of road, dominating the valley and casting its long ragged shadow across the descending banks of green and golden aspens.

This part of Colorado was new to him, although two years before he had visited the Martin Marietta Space Center near Denver on an assignment for
Science Now
. The subject had been the joint USA-USSR space shuttle which NASA was keen to develop, but since then precious little had been heard of it and, Frank suspected, even less achieved. It was one more example of scientific co-operation foiled by political tomfoolery. Frank Kersh didn't care for politicians, having seen them slash research budgets for no good reason save that of appeasing an indifferent and ill-informed electorate.

Steering carefully with one hand he checked his map and found what he was looking for: the Mount of the Holy Cross, a 14,000-foot high peak overlooking the Eagle River and the small townships dotting its banks – De Beque, Rifle, Silt, New Castle, Dotsero, Eagle – and the place he was heading for, Gypsum, the nearest town to the Rocky Mountian Astrophysical Neutrino Research Station. Known in scientific circles as ‘Deep Hole', the Project had taken over an old disused gold mine and installed equipment in what was reputedly the deepest mining shaft in the United States.
The strange thing, as Frank now reflected, was that a two-year 5 million-dollar research programme had produced hardly anything in the way of new scientific data; a couple of routine progress reports from the Project leader, Professor Edmund Friedmann, had appeared in the scientific press but these had been concerned with method and application rather than factual information which added significantly to high energy solar particle research.

In fairness it had to be said that results weren't rated by the speed with which they were obtained – it wasn't a case of the faster the better – yet even so something more positive might have been reasonably expected from a team of experienced scientists and research workers using the world's most advanced neutrino detection equipment. Hence the reason for the current assignment which Perry Tolchard, Frank's editor, had as an afterthought added to the list. ‘It might make a short filler for the “Feedback” page. Don't spend more than a day there, Frank, it isn't worth it.'

‘Should I check out the Denver Space Center while I'm in the vicinity?'

‘If you have time. Give them a call and find out if anything's happening that NASA have recently declassified.'

So he had planned his schedule accordingly: arriving in Gypsum during the late afternoon, the following day to be spent out at the Deep Hole Project, and then moving on to the Martin Marietta Space Center. There was no real hurry to get back to Chicago, and after the long drive from the West Coast he felt he deserved a period of relative relaxation.

To his right the Eagle River drifted calmly between low sandy banks, occasionally speeding up and turning to white rough water as it negotiated a sharp bend or a rocky outcrop. The highest state in the nation, Colorado was a land which straddled the Rockies, the result of half a billion years of cataclysmic forces which had repeatedly ripped the bedrock apart and flung up massive mountain ranges, which were then eroded by violent storms and flooded by encroaching seas. Volcanic activity caused more disruption, the
seething lava bringing up precious minerals from the Earth's core until 80 million years ago the vast ragged-toothed panorama of soaring peaks and deep sharp ravines cooled and crystallized, trapping veins of gold, silver, zinc, lead, molybdenum and uranium. A hundred years ago the area had been a prospectors' paradise, the lure of gold bringing men from every corner of the country with the promise of striking it rich. Some of the townships had carried the legend into the twentieth century, their names a testament to those early pioneering days of exploration and discovery: Leadville, Basalt, Troublesome, Carbondale, Radium, and the more enigmatically named Climax, Paradox and Breckenridge.

It was still wild terrain, an area of dense forests and lost trails leading to forgotten workings and bleak inhospitable heights which spent many of their days shrouded in swirling mist. And even now in early September, Frank could see that some of the taller peaks were capped with a fine powdering of snow.

Nearer now, the Mount of the Holy Cross seemed to lean right over him. He thought: It's so intimidating it could almost be alive. The people living round here must always be conscious of its looming presence, a severe granite face watching all that they do, reading their minds, ruling their lives.

The sign ahead said
, the last town before Gypsum. They were all the same, these places out here in the back of beyond. A main street with stores, a couple of bars, a post office, a small wooden-fronted hotel with a porch. He wondered idly what the people found to do when the winter snows blocked the passes and cut them off from the rest of civilization. They had TV and perhaps a Saturday night dance, but for Frank, a city boy born and bred, he couldn't imagine how they lasted through the long winter months. And the scientists on the Deep Hole Project were even more isolated, living in their small self-contained community with not much to occupy their minds beyond the highly specialized field of solar neutrino research.

The last lingering rays of the sun sent slanting shadows
across the road in front of him. It was a smooth undulating black snake following the line of the river to his right, and further beyond the gradual slopes of the aspens rising on the foothills to the deceptively gentle shoulders of the mountain itself. For the life of him he couldn't dismiss the mountain from his thoughts: it seemed to be blocking out the sky, a monstrous presence dominating everything.

He had read somewhere – a legend of an ancient superstitious people – that mountains embodied the spirits of dead ancestors. It had meant very little to him when he had read it, but now the awful reality of such a belief made itself felt. You only had to approach a mountain to feel the pressence of something real and vital and alive … in this case a force that seemed almost malignant in the brooding silence of its gaunt peaks.

Frank Kersh shivered and gripped the wheel tighter. This was silly. He wasn't at all superstitious; he was a science writer with a degree in biochemistry, a rational mind and a routine assignment to fulfil. Tonight he would sleep in the shadow of the mountain and tomorrow he would visit the Project; the day after he would be on his way.

A single shaft of sunlight illuminated the sign at the roadside and the dust-covered Oldsmobile Toronado rolled into the town of Gypsum.


The Cascade Hotel was a three-storey redbrick building on the main square, directly opposite the Courthouse. At this hour the town was quite busy as the storekeepers locked up for the night and the clerks from the offices and banks made their way home along the neat sidewalks. Frank was struck by the primness of the town; he had expected it to have a
raw, almost rugged quality, a nostalgic throwback to the old mining days, but instead the place had acquired an air of faded gentility as if pretending that its rough romantic past had never existed. It reminded him of a person with a closed mind.

He took his leather grip from the rear seat of the car and entered the hotel. He had plans for a shower, a couple of stiff drinks, dinner, and an early night. He really was weary. It wasn't just the long drive, he told himself. The truth was he was out of shape: at thirty-three he was paying the penalty for the sedentary life-style of a writer, swapping an office chair for the driving seat and using elevators in-between. And the pity of it was that not so long ago – eighteen months, two years – he had been pretty active, out most week-ends with the Cicero Explorers, camping up at Green Bay in northern Wisconsin with a full programme of trekking, pot-holing and dry-suit aqualung diving off Beaver Island. But about that time he had taken on the job of associate editor with
Science Now
which meant more commitment, longer hours, and week-ends taken up with planning conferences and last-minute rewrites for the next edition. Perry had warned him about the workload and said in the same breath (which was full of pipesmoke) that he mustn't let recreation get in the way of his career. The journal was the fastest-growing science monthly in North America and with an increasing circulation overseas; in other words, Frank thought wryly, stick with us, baby, and we'll make you a star.

There was a real live cowboy in the lobby, with stetson and spurs, who glanced up as Frank went past the overstuffed armchairs and the brass cuspidor towards the desk. They were either saving power or had forgotten to turn the lights on and the place was in semi-darkness, the gathering twilight making areas of shadow and filling the interior with a soft brown dusk.

The cowboy was stretched out on a couch by the window, his hat tipped forward, and although his eyes couldn't be seen Frank knew he was being observed each step of the way.

He rang the bell and waited.

A small pale man with a wrinkled forehead emerged from the back and placed two small thin hands flat on the counter. His face carried no discernible expression and Frank was reminded of a timid nocturnal creature disturbed from its resting-place. He thought: If this is their idea of a warm welcome I'd hate to be around when they're positively indifferent.

The Clerk's voice was as drab and unwelcoming as his manner.

‘What can I do for you?'

‘This is an hotel?' Frank said.

The clerk nodded.

‘And you have vacancies?'

The clerk nodded again.

BOOK: Earth Cult
11.57Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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