Each day, in his thirst for fuel, man extracts ninety million barrels of crude oil from deep inside the earth. Extracting ninety million barrels of oil leaves five hundred million cubic feet of empty space. Over the span of just a single year, that adds up to about two hundred billion cubic feet of hollow. We have been pumping oil from beneath the surface of this planet for well over a hundred years. We also draw out eighty four trillion cubic feet of natural gas each year. Man’s been using natural gas since the early 1800s.
Land subsidence, a direct result of this withdrawal, has become a major concern for the oil and gas industry. So also is the marked increase in earthquakes caused by the pressure changes within the earth’s mantle. Both of these things have long been ignored, and often denied, by energy companies. Both however, are being forcibly brought to their attention by nations hosting the now sinking cities and greatly increased seismic activity. Million dollar satellites constantly search out and map depressions in the Earth’s surface caused by the removal of both oil and natural gas. Many of these depressions have been mapped simply because the ground has already fallen in, making them extremely easy to locate
Many however, have not yet collapsed.
Some may never collapse.
And some ...are just waiting.
Day One; 8:37 PM
Northern Iraq, just after sunset
“Ahsan, when will the Americans go home?”
“Najee, for a nine year old boy, you ask the most difficult of questions.”
The boy sat quietly, his forehead lined in concentration, picking up sand from between the scattered tuffs of grass and slowly letting it sift through his hand, forming a little pyramid on the ground in front of him. Light from the small campfire played across his face as he studied his budding creation.
“Do you wish them to go home?”
“No,” replied Najee.
“What is it then?”
“Jabril says that things are better now. He says that if the Americans had come earlier, my parents might still be alive. He says many people are unhappy that they are here. The Americans won’t leave just because some people are unhappy, will they, Ahsan?”
“No, Najee. I’m sure the Americans are aware that some will always be unhappy, and I believe that they will remain until they have accomplished their aim, despite the unhappiness of some. Dogs bark, Najee. But the Caravan moves on. You are young, Najee, at perhaps a very opportune time. Many good things may come of a new government.”
Ahsan stopped his preparation of their evening meal and glanced at his young companion. A surprised Najee was intently watching his little pyramid disappear back into the ground at the fire’s edge.
“Look, Ahsan! It’s going away!” he exclaimed.
As abruptly as it started, the sand suddenly stopped moving.
“Where did it go?” asked Najee, as he poked his finger at the ground, trying to get it started again.
“I wouldn’t be doing that if I were you,” advised Ahsan, going back to preparing their evening meal.
Najee jerked his hands back, close to his chest, and looked up at Ahsan. “Why not?”
“That could be the opening to the realm of AmenTet,” warned Ahsan.
“AmenTet is The Greeter of the Dead. If she sees your finger, she might grab it and pull you into the Underworld.”
“No she won’t,” smiled Najee. “She’s not real.”
“Ahh, you say that now! But there was a time, not so long ago, when people did much more than just believe in her! There was a time when statues and carvings depicting her image could be found all across this land. For hundreds of years the people of the desert worshiped her. And maybe they were right. Maybe she really is there. And maybe she’s just waiting for some little boy to poke his finger deep enough into the ground so she can grab it.”
Najee was laughing now. He liked Ahsan. He especially liked staying out with him on warm summer nights, tending the sheep. Besides, if he was back at the house with Jabril, there were always so many chores to do. But out here, on evenings like this, Ahsan would tell him about the ancient times, and what people did all those years ago.
“Here, forget about where the sand went and get some of this into you,” said Ahsan, handing him a plate. “Can’t have you going back looking like a barley stalk.”
Day Two, 6:03 AM
30 miles north of Kirkuk.The Village of Kardah Sur
“Where is the water, Janna? I seem to recall sending you to get water.”
“There isn’t any, Father!”
“I can see that, child. What I want to know is why? It is a very simple thing to do. You put the bucket down the well, and when it is full, you pull it up, and bring it to the house. So now, would you please go get some water?”
“But I can’t, Father. I was just coming to tell you. I went to get it, but the well is empty.”
“Child, that well has been there for thousands of years. Why would it be empty now?”
“I don’t know, Father! It just is!”
“As if I didn’t have enough problems already. Come girl, I will walk with you to the well and we shall see about this.”
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