Her first vision had been of a car crash at the end of her street, when she was five, but it may have been coincidence–just a child’s dream. The next, the passing of a neighbour’s pet, a year later, cast doubt on scepticism, and when at eight she foretold the death of a school master her parents placed her in the care of a psychiatrist. Beth Trudeau was special, and her whole life through she had lamented the loss of the innocence that comes from ignorance.
Now she stood on the rolling bridge of the MV Lycurgus, watching the long, steep pitch of the Southern Ocean, and even here, at the end of all roads, she could doubt. In doubting was at least some sanity, for she had never asked to be a prophet, much less of doom.
Doctors told her she was a healthy, talented girl, that she should not let impressions bother her–much less attempt to warn others when they came. The world did not want to be told a catastrophe was forthcoming, and should it place credence her visions, could not prophecies become self-fulfilling due to the actions of those who believed?
All this was true; Beth had seen in a thousand tiny ways how the mere belief of others helped minor events come about; the problem was, her visions–her real life’s work–were on a far grander scale.
She sighed, ran fingers through dark, shoulder-length hair that framed a careworn face, and thought for the hundredth time of the dreams which had brought her people to the ends of the Earth, bound for the Ross Sea of Antarctica with expedition equipment and supplies for two years. Her people…. They had gathered around her, one by one, since she was a teenager, leaving her native Provence to travel from place to place in vain attempt to outrun her reputation, and friends had accreted around her. First Old John, father figure, devout and stalwart, her first and best protector; he had his reasons, and though they may not be hers she appreciated them. Then came Hans, her first love, whose loyalty had never wavered, and hundreds more, from all over the human spectrum and world, forming a community who respected her abilities.
So how could she fail to confide in them her greatest, her worst, her most terrible dream? She had painted it seven times, first when she was just 19. A splattering of red and gold on cartridge paper, trying to evoke a release of energy she could neither conceive of nor understand; the next time at 23, a more detailed image apparently of an explosion against a dark background, though whether an eruption or something man-made none could tell, nor could she from her dreams. With each, the sense of impending doom became greater, with each painting she had rendered the horror in ever greater detail, and her conviction that something vast and awful was approaching had been absolute.
Prophets of the apocalypse were welcome only among those who believed in doomsday, for such visions reinforced their existing agenda. Few others wanted to believe, and Beth had quickly learned to keep her impressions to herself. Her most ardent warnings would be ignored as surely as the foretellings of any other who claimed prescience, and scorn was something she could do without. Her record of accuracy spoke for itself and was of course dismissed as coincidence at best, fabrication at worst.
Thus their flight from the world. They could not reach into space but they could make their way to the farthest corners of the planet and hope.
Beth hoped for one thing only–that she was wrong.
Old John had a merchant seaman’s certification from his younger days and organized their vessel. Equipping them had taken every penny of every member of the community, and all they could raise in any other way, but here they were in the far south latitudes, with a master ice-pilot who had come to believe in her visions as much as any of them. They planned to establish a basecamp in the summer months, beach the ship to save it from the ice, then over-winter for two years. If by that time nothing had transpired, Beth would admit with the greatest relief her ultimate vision had been no more than the anxieties of an overtaxed mind.
What lunatic wanted to believe in the end of the world?
When it came, it announced itself with mere anomaly–the failure of radio bands, as if a great interference had broken upon the atmosphere. Satellite communications went down, GPS failed, and the Lycurgus sailed utterly alone on the wide, dark sea. An hour later the barometer indicated pressure waves passing over the vessel, and as evening approached a great light in the north betrayed terrestrial matter suspended high in the atmosphere. The next day a tsunami passed under the ship, a mere undulation on the surface of the ocean which nonetheless pitched up and crashed on the coast of Antarctica forty metres high.
The followers of Trudeau the Visionary established their safehold on the last continent and monitored as weeks became months. Under abnormally brilliant auroras they waited on any word from outside, learning at last from other vessels passing in the high latitudes that a comet, unseen due to its approach against the sun, had struck on the Kamchatka peninsula of eastern Russia, less than a planet-killer but more than a hundred Tunguskas.
At last Beth believed fully in herself, but acceptance was tempered with caution; struggling survivors in a hundred lands at last gave credence and wanted to know more of the young woman who had seen oncoming devastation and taken her people from harm.
She had never asked to be a leader, and only grudgingly considered it now–for a reason only those closest to her would truly appreciate.
There were no more dreams, now the apocalypse had come–and gone.