Deleted Scene from MOJAVE LEE
Geologist Jared McCray looked around the room full of frightened, angry, and disoriented ArcPoint residents. Potential residents at this point. He’d come up with an explanation of sorts about what may have caused the earth crack, but there were too many unknowns to guarantee it was correct. That would be impossible, but that’s what was expected of him. His pulse increased when Lee Franklin stood.
“Could everyone please settle down!” yelled Lee. “Everyone, please, we have a lot to discuss.”
Slowly people ended their conversations and gave Lee their attention. “It’s obvious our world just got turned upside down by the earth crack that cut us off from Los Angeles. Most of our families are on the other side of that thing. We need to act quickly to determine what that means to our future.” Lee paced as he talked, hands on his hips.
“I’d like to start by turning the floor over to Jared McCray. He just returned from Sacramento, where he’s been discussing the situation with seismologists, geologists—anyone and everyone who may know something about this earth crack. Jared?”
Jared took over the makeshift podium in front of more than two hundred people. He had the most geological knowledge of anyone in the Community, so he’d volunteered for this mission. In college he’d studied dirt and rocks, strike-slip faults and the lithosphere. Skipping speech class was a mistake.
He adjusted his wire-rimmed glasses as he stared down at his notes. He looked up at the crowd, then quickly back at his notes. He took a deep breath and looked up. “As Mr. Franklin pointed out, I’ve been discussing the situation with the professionals, and I sort of have good news.” A rumble went up through the crowd. Lee had to squelch it so Jared could continue. “First, I’ll tell you what they believe is going on.” He opened to the first page of a flip chart that Mike had brought over to him.
“In this chart, we show a cutaway of the earth’s crust under the western United States. What they believe is happening is that there is an upwelling of pressure coming from the asthenosphere that is beginning to deform the earth’s crust.” He flipped to the next chart, showing a colored map of the United States. “On this map, we see most of North America in brown. This is a big mass of the earth’s crust that is stationary. They call it the North American Craton. What we are concerned with is this purple area they call the Deformed Craton. It stretches from Idaho to Arizona, and from the middle of New Mexico on the East to Southern California on the west.”
He let them ponder that information for a moment. “The ground opened up to the west of us is right about here.” He took a black felt pen and drew a line along the western edge of the purple area.
Lee and Jared listened as a murmur went through the crowd. They waited patiently, as one person after another put the pieces together. Lee quieted them down so Jared could continue.
“What the scientists believe has happened,” Jared said, “is the crust finally cracked from the pressure in the asthenosphere just like a rising cake does. The crust is brittle, and it just had to break somewhere. The good news is, they don’t expect earth cracks on our side of that canyon—not of that magnitude, anyway. They believe this is a pretty solid shelf we’re sitting on. But, in all honesty, I think they’re making an educated guess.”
“What about all the earthquakes?” yelled someone from the back.
“They think that’s a good thing, and I agree with them. For decades we’ve been afraid the San Andreas would suddenly snap. The upwelling of the ground along the fault was evidence of the pressure being exerted on this area.” He moved his hand over Southern California on the map. “Small earthquakes tell us the ground is adjusting to the pressure, rather than building up for a big blow. California is not sliding into the ocean, like some folks are saying. Bad news for us is, this area will not become valuable beachfront property.” Quite a few people laughed, but not comfortably.
Jared sat down as Lee stepped up to the podium. “Thanks Jared. I’m sure some people will have questions for you, but we’ll do that later. Right now, I’d like to share with everyone the predicament we’re in. First, let’s look at the extent of the rift.”
He flipped to the next chart showing the area around the Mojave Desert.
“This thing is huge. Unbeknownst to us, it hit near Fort Irwin a week before it broke open the I-15. They’ve found cracking near Twenty-Nine Palms, the Marine Corps area, and west of Cady Mountains. We just heard today that I-40 has been closed as well. Is that right, Jared?”
Jared stood. “That’s right. I had to go down Highway 127 through Death Valley to get here. You can’t get from Sacramento to Reno either. A landslide has blocked I-80 and dammed the Truckee River west of Reno.”
“So that’s three interstate freeways that are closed?”
“I’m afraid so, Lee. To make matters worse, the quakes have broken up I-15 so badly north of here, they want to abandon everything south of Baker. That means if we want to get to southern California, we have to go down Crucero Road, and you know what that’s like.”
“But that only gets you to the I-40 at Ludlow, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah, and like I said, it’s closed. So, you’d have to take Route 66 past the Amboy salt flats to Twenty-Nine Palms. That part of the trip isn’t bad. And except for the sandy spots, Crucero isn’t bad for an off-road, uhh, road.”
As people began to realize the implications, the room broke into an uproar.
“We’ve got more to cover,” Lee yelled, getting them to settle down. “The next person I want to come up is Herb Jenkins. He recently drove his prized Land Rover along the railroad tracks to see if they were damaged.”
As Herb was approaching the podium, Lee asked, “Were you able to drive all the way to the border?”
“Of course. It’s a Land Rover.”
“Okay, I get that. But not everyone has a rugged four-wheel drive. How about the tracks? Are they still in one piece?”
“They look untouched,” said Herb. “If you ask me, I’d recommend following the tracks all the way to Kelbaker, then down to Ludlow. Might be easier.”
“Did you come back on the I-15, like we talked about?”
“Yup, all the way from the border. Most of south-bound is blocked with a landslide at the Mountain Pass area. Highway has cracks in a few spots, but nothing that’ll stop ya. Except this side of Baker. There’s a major break on the north-bound. No problem coming this way, but heading to Baker you’ll have to drive on the wrong side of the highway from Rasor R
oad to Zzyzx Road.”
“Don’t imagine there’s much traffic to dodge,” said Lee.
Herb shook his head. “Nothing.” He looked at the crowd, then back at Lee. “I stopped in Baker to get some gas. Man, that place is a ghost town. Half the gas stations are boarded up.”
“That didn’t take long.”
“The station I stopped at said they were emptying their tanks, then they’d close. All they had left was premium, which was fine for me. I mean, can you imagine? Ninety percent of your business gone in one day?”
“Don’t you think the pandemic closed some of them?”
“Oh, the restaurants, sure. But not the gas stations. Now, who’s going to drive out to Baker from Vegas, get gas, then drive back? Locals may go out to eat, but they won’t need much gas. Speaking of that, if you’re planning what we talked about, these folks better fill up their tanks before they shut down Baker completely.”
“Hadn’t thought of that. Thanks Herb.”
As Herb went back to his seat, Jared could see Lee fumbling with some papers at the podium. Then he pointed at Jared and motioned for him. When he got to the podium, Lee whispered, “Are you sure we’re safe here?”
“That’s the consensus,” said Jared. “The scientists are all convinced we’ve seen the worst of it, especially here on the deformed craton. But no one knows for sure.”
“Okay, thanks. You can sit down.”
As Jared walked toward his seat, there was a lot of noise coming from the crowd that was gathered there. “Could I have your attention?” yelled Lee. The room quieted down. “Let me first state that what I’m about to say is my personal opinion. Regardless of the dangers—which I hope are minimal—Victoria and I plan to stay here. This is where we believe God wants us, and by faith we’ll remain. We’re not recommending that for anyone else. However, if anyone plans to join us, we do have recommendations.”
Lee was silent for a moment, as he rustled with the papers again. “First, it seems the government will abandon us here. There’ll be no police, no fire department, no ambulances—we’ll be on our own. Every bit of assistance we need is on the other side of the great divide. Second, as I suspected, we won’t be able to count on Baker for our provisions. At least not until the I-15 is restored to operation. Third, the damage to the freeway is massive. It could be years before the I-40 is usable again. It may be decades for the I-15. For my entire life, the government has promised to spend money on infrastructure. They always seem to talk us into more taxes for it, then spend it on something else. Now we have less people paying taxes and more taking government handouts. Long story short, we’re on our own. Each one of you will need to make your own decision whether to trust God to take care of you here, or elsewhere. But if you want to stay here, I have a few other recommendations.”
Lee took a big swig of water, then looked around the room. “This is going to be a different world for us, people. Think about how the pandemic locked us away. Then multiply that isolation by a hundred. If our family and friends aren’t with us here, we may not see them for years. We won’t have access to banks for money. We won’t be able to shop online, because no one will deliver our purchases. If we don’t grow it, or make it, we won’t have it.”
Lee looked back at his notes. The silence made Jared uncomfortable. He wondered if something he said made Lee hesitant. Then a voice on his left yelled, “Spit it out, Lee.” It was Norm Ashford.
Lee looked at Norm, then scanned the others in the room. “I want you all to leave.” A collective gasp went through the crowd. Lee held up his hand. “Do I have your attention?” Then he laughed. “I mean what I said, but not like you think. I want you to go back to your families, your friends, your homes, whatever. Take note of how important they are to you, whether you can abandon them without regret. Seek God sincerely about whether life in this desert is what He wants for you. Don’t treat this move like a weekend campout. Treat it like an exodus, as if you’re leaving your former life behind. And make sure to take an accounting of what that former life is like.”
“Many of us have already done that,” said Mike Pirelli. “We want the change.”
“Then my final recommendation is to make a clean break. If there’s anything that can tie you to life outside of what we’re doing here, find a way to deal with it. Ask God to help you. Ask others. I’m not going to give you any ideas on how to do that. You just need to understand that it’s important you do it. There’s no going back to Egypt.