Epicenter
Bruno Henriquez
(Translation: Daniel W. Koon)
Axxón 101, June 1999
http://axxon.com.ar/c-101.htm
(c) 1999


        Last month, as a result of The Book Festival, we had the opportunity to have Bruno among us. In his country he is working on various projects related to science fiction and physics (his profession). He is a man endowed with a tireless spirit, who takes on large undertakings and battles wind and storm to bring them to fruition. This piece of fiction has a traditional feel and reminds me of some stories of Frederic Brown.
       
        The pavement cracked and the weakest buildings crumbled. The surface wave propagated, and in its wake utility poles and trees fell and dams burst, their waters rolling downhill, carrying along everything they encountered. The wave arrived at the beach and shook the surface of the water, producing a gigantic wave which overturned ships and flooded nearby coasts.
        The body wave reached the core of the planet, reflecting into various substrata and interior anomalies of the Earth, returning reflected and refracted to the crust and, together with the surface wave, caught the attention of seismographs around the globe.
        The news swept around the world almost as quickly as the catastrophe. Aid was organized, with some countries sending volunteers and others collecting money and goods for the victims, who, nonetheless, never saw a penny, while certain Swiss bank accounts increased in an unexpected fashion.
        The scientists, for their part, analyzed the seismographs and found the epicenter. They sent teams of specialists, who flew over the site with planes and satellites, and photographs were compared with those from before the catastrophe.
        Astonishment spread across the planet in a single wave, just like the quake. At the epicenter, as precisely calculated by the world’s most accurate computers, sign of an impact was found. But not the impact of an earthquake emerging from the interior of the Earth, nor a meteorite’s crater, nor the destruction caused by an atomic bomb; but the print caused by a single, enormous foot.
        The resulting speculations caused as much damage as the earthquake itself, as the absurdity of the situation destroyed the prestige of those who dared to offer any hypotheses, and the mockery of those who proposed counterhypotheses bred rivalries that could not heal, even should some plausible explanation for the mystery arise.
        Mystics saw the print as a sign from the heavens, skeptics as a chance event, Republicans as a provocation from Moscow, leftists as an imperialist aggression, UFO watchers as an extraterrestrial, reporters as a reason to fill columns of newsprint, opportunists as a means of advancement, shirkers as an excuse for their lateness, adulterers as a pretext for their absence, bureaucrats as an excuse for rejecting applications and for creating new forms to fill out.
        Logical, practical people proposed reinforcing the ground in that place, since if there was only that one footprint on the entire planet, then it would seem that some gigantic person had supported himself on our world in order to jump to another place and might very well return to do it again in the same spot. Others, more logically, argued that if such a thing had never occurred before, then there was no reason to assume that it would repeat itself, and even if it did, there was no reason to assume that it would repeat itself in the same location.
        They searched eye-witness reports, atmospheric and ionospheric records, satellite photos, Army reports; but nobody knew anything and nobody had seen the alleged foot descend from the sky. There was not even a record of the kind of wind that such an impact would produce and, in spite of the calculations, the luminous trail it would have ignited in the air appeared not to have inspired even a single stargazer to make a wish. Only the print and the destruction of the earthquake existed and would continue to exist.
        Detectives modeled the event, calculating that the print came from a boot and that its author was a person (person?!) 650 feet tall, with a mass of a million tons, who had fallen from a height of 30 miles. The proportions were rather sketchy and not very proportional.
        A conference was planned for all the specialists and for all those concerned about the case of the bootprint. They met for a week to deliberate, with unlimited access to all the computers and databases on the planet.
        On the seventh day, just as they were about to read the final report with the results of the research, there was an intense tremor with an epicenter precisely in the area of the conference, killing everyone, squashed by something unknown which disappeared and left a gigantic print, in a direction opposite to the earlier one and made by what must have been a boot, two sizes larger than the earlier one. Oh, and from the other foot.
       
        (C) 1999 Bruno Henriquez
       
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