Tsunami Hits Western Mass

AMHERST, Mass. - University of Massachusetts geoscientist Jonathan Woodruff, from his office in the Morrill Science Center, recorded tsunamograph data of cataclysmic implications. His background in sedimentology enabled him to conclude that the incoming waves, although not colossal, would compound atop the landscape of Amherst like popcorn does atop a hot plate -- appearing calm at first, but soon splashing violently upwards, loosening rafters on their uprise and decimating roofs during their fall. What Woodruff hypothesized was a nightmarish miracle in which the micro-topology of incoming waves complemented the micro-topology of the Pioneer Valley perfectly. His simulations suggested a fractillian chain-reaction of tiny micro-valley-induced turbulences, which compound to form larger eddies, which spin into larger whirlpools, which resonate additively and soon explode like bombs of frigid water hundreds of feet into the sky.

Woodruff scrambled to contact The Valley Advocate, hoping to prompt an evacuation of the Pioneer Valley.

When The Advocate procrastinated, Woodruff contacted The Collegian. And when they too procrastinated, he went to the Hampshire Gazette and The Amherst Student as well. Eventually he garnered the interest of these newspapers and their respective R&D departments.

But these departments looked at weather reports and determined for themselves that the incoming storm was run-of-the-mill and would pose only a minimal flooding threat. So it was natural of them to refuse Dr. Woodruff's story.

This is why students, professors, and townspeople alike went about their days per usual on Thursday, February 9th, 2017, when a short rainstorm sprinkled mist onto their morning commutes. At 8:00am the morning bell preceded small waves peaking their heads from the horizon, moving inwards from all directions, building as they climbed the hill, becoming gargantuan and converging on the Du Bois Library.

Jonathan Woodruff sought shelter in Durfee Conservatory. Inside, shaded by bamboo trees and showered by mist, koifish swam with sturdy tranquility despite the storm’s grumbling outside — swimming with each other but never too closely. Woodruff noted their balance and sense of position relative to each other. He also observed their whiskers that represented a perfect awareness of things as well as a continuity and a meditative way of embracing thoughts but allowing them to float away and make room for new air.

Woodruff jogged through the torrents of rain. Down, past the pond. He climbed the Du Bois stairwell with a small group of individuals whom he trusted and who trusted him. Shawn Carknee and Matt Powshee kept pace with Dr. Woodruff. One could describe these two as Woodruff's left-hand and right-hand men. One could describe Jeff Stump, the overweight man lagging behind, as Woodruff's armpit.

Woodruff and Carknee discussed coastal processes intensely. Woodruff explained his Micro-topology Composition Theory (MCT), and how much of a tremendous coincidence it was that this small wave and Amherst had come together.

"In all of time, there have been billions of gloves, and trillions of hands,” Woodruff brooded, "The chances of this glove and this hand ever being created, let alone brought together somehow.... The chances, they are incredible!"

Carknee agreed, awing at the magnanimity of nature.

Matt Powshee criticized these two for the time he wasted with his head in the clouds. "You are a scientist," he said, "not a bird watcher. Stop lolly-gagging! Let's get to work."

Carknee and Woodruff had stopped to gaze out the window of the fourteenth floor. Just three floors below them, tumultuous waters raged, sending floating automobiles, trees, and the chancellor's house swirling in circles around the library. It was a spine-rattling sight!

"Look at the hill, Dr. Woodruff" Shawn said to his longtime mentor, alerting him of the cascading mudslides in the East. Brush and debris launched off the peek of upper central due to the velocity of the flash floods.

Jeff Stump interjected to suggest that it was not merely coincidence how the alignment of micro-eddies with micro-valleys so perfectly catapulted water as it did. "There must be a divine reason!" he proclaimed.

Powshee looked at Jeff Stump in disgust, as Shawn and Dr. Woodruff continued gazing out the window in the stairwell.

"Matt, take a gander at the heavens! Watch them swirl. Do they not speak to you?"

"They don't."

"Dr. Woodruff, do you feel the lord in your veins?"

Matt Powshee answered for his colleague. "I'm sure he doesn't."

But Jeff Stump required the man to answer for himself. He struggled up the final few steps, catching up to the others. And, breathing heavily, he put his hand on Dr. Woodruff's shoulder. "Look to the North," he said. "Do you not see the lord's hand at work? Do you not feel him stoking the fire your chest?"

"Shut-up Jeff," Dr. Woodruff grumbled.

But Jeff Stump persisted, whispering into the esteemed and oftentimes starry-eyed researcher's ear, "I have seen the way you look at things. I know that you feel there is something more."

Shawn Carknee jumped! "Shit! Come on fellas, we've got to go. To the top floor, now!!" He frittered his hands and took off up the steps. He turned back after a half flight of stairs. The others were confused and looking at each other.

"The dam is collapsing," Shawn said. And the fellas looked to the East. What was once Orchard Hill stood as a wall of water as tall as the Gods, moving steadily toward the library.

"You idiots. Come on!"

Matt Powshee obliged. Soonafter, Dr. Woodruff followed. Jeff Stump struggled to keep up.

They climbed the stairs, listening to the music of the echoes of their frantic but seemingly rhythm-pumped footsteps in the lead, the chorus of Jeff Stump's gospel ramblings reverberating behind, and the baseline of wreckage and collisions on the outside of the brick walls.

The lights went out. Jeff Stump began to cry. He whined, "Lord Jesus Christ, is this it? Have I done too much wrong?"

"Follow the railings," Matt Powshee commanded. "We're going to the top."

It was mid-day, but outside was pitch-black because of the deep overcast. Illumination came only from bursts of lighting and their remnants which scattered across the rumbling waters and caused power surges in buildings that looked like glow sticks stretching underwater.

Jeff Stump's piercing voice dulled into a passionate hum thanks to his being out of breath.

Shawn joked to Dr. Woodruff, "I like him better this way. It's actually kind of beautiful and metaphorical, the way his struggling lungs modulate his passion."

Shawn caught the beginnings of a smile on Woodruff's lips.

But Shawn's mentor rushed to confer with Powshee. The scientists stopped on the twenty-somethingth floor. Powshee looked with horror at the incoming wave.

"What is the status?" Dr. Woodruff asked.

"It is imminent, Jon, but we are above the wave."

"Will the library hold?"

Powshee removed a dry-erase marker from his chest pocket and began doing calculations on the window. He scribbled formulas and equations all over. He shook his head and muttered, "It cannot be... It cannot be," but it was. So, when Jeff stump arrived, talking about how they ought to climb to the roof, kneel before God, and beg for forgiveness -- Powshee ignored Jeff's words but employed the religious rodent's t-shirt to help erase the writing on the window so that he could start again. The sweat from Jeff Stump's shirt fogged the window, though. This frustrated Powshee. So he pushed Jeff Stump away and called him worthless. Then, quickly, he erased with his hands and got back to scribbling formulas.

Jeff Stump said, "Fine. Well… Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” And he climbed the stairs alone.

"You're the one most familiar with structural analysis, Powshee," Shawn Carknee said. "Will the library hold? Is this it?" Dr. Woodruff, while hesitant to ask it himself, itched for an answer to Shawn's question. "Only if its contents will, sir," Powshee said so seriously, turning to read the floor number: two-zero. "The Du Bois Library is the tallest, most potent library in the world. Quite literally, it is a pillar of the modern world, lifting science to the level of the heavens."

"What do you mean?" Shawn asked.

Dr. Woodruff looked to Powshee.

Powshee reached deeply into himself for his words... "It is a dam.." he explained of the library, "retaining tremendous wisdom despite tremendous gravity. We must release it all, my friends, and see if we can oppose this biblical flood with a flood of wisdom and science."

They stormed into floor 20 and scoured the literature. Powshee fished out his father’s PhD thesis on big water propagation. Doctor Woodruff skimmed through books like a maniac, tossing them over his shoulder upon realizing their worth or lack thereof. When what little light remained expired, Powshee and Doctor Woodruff turned at Shawn Carknee’s voice.

“Hey, check this out!” Shawn said, having lit an oil lamp on a coffee table to illuminate an old unbound manuscript that he’d retrieved from the shelves. “It was hidden behind some books on the shelf. And look at this!” Shawn had an old coin in the palm of his upturned hand. “Doctor Woodruff, take a look!”

“It’s an old British coin, Shawn. My father had one of those.”

“Put it in your pocket,” Shawn suggested with a wink.

“C’mon now, we haven’t the time.”

“Just put it in there for me, please.”


“Okay. Now take it out.”

“….Alright. Wait, where’d it go?”

Shawn laughed when Doctor Woodruff couldn’t find the coin. The Doctor apologized, and Shawn laughed more.

“What?” Doctor Woodruff asked, unsure what was funny. “I’m sorry, Shawn, I seem to have lost your coin.”

Suddenly Shawn had a deck of cards flaired in his hand. “Pick a card!” Shawn said.

“Shawn, we haven’t the time,” Doctor Woodruff complained.

“C’mon! It’ll only be a sec.”

“Fine,” Doctor Woodruff said, and he pulled a card. Shawn told him to look at it. He did. And Shawn took it back without looking at it himself. He shuffled the cards. Then he pulled a card himself, held it up, and asked, “is this your card?!”.

“As a matter of fact, it is,” Doctor Woodruff said, looking at Shawn. “I don’t know how you did that.”

“Look again,” Shawn said.

What did Doctor Woodruff see? In hand which he had been using to hold the card appeared the coin from earlier. The card was gone. Shawn didn’t have any cards anymore either. Doctor Woodruff was befuddled. That was, until Powshee’s terrifying scream prequeled a terrifying crash. Shelves tipped over. Frigid water flooded the room, creating a river of books, and extinguishing Shawn’s oil lamp.

“Quickly, to the stairwell!”

Opening the door revealed the water level which was higher inside than out. The three scientists latched onto the railing as the great Du Bois stupor sent foamy water splashing like water being carried in a five-gallon bucket.

Powshee led the charge at first. Soon Doctor Woodruff cut in front of him to enter the 21st floor, which remained dry although destroyed by the impact of the great wave. The others were perplexed by the sign on the door which read “Oriental Religion and Mythology.”

“The water is rising,” Doctor Woodruff warned. “We must work quickly. Scour for books about Namazu! Or Ōnamazu! It’s Japanese; search for the Japanese section. Look for images of giant catfish!”

Shawn and Powshee were confused but they had faith in their leader, and they felt the rumbling of incoming waves. So they held their tongues and aided Doctor Woodruff in his search.

“In my studies of sedimentology,” Doctor Woodruff explained, “I have long surmised the image portrayed by western science to be an incomplete one. But when I presented at conferences.. if I even so much as mentioned alternative schools of thought, the academics would scoff at me.”

“Whatever we are looking for,” Powshee said, nearly falling over because of the sway of the Du Bois, “We must find it quickly.”

“Powshee, my sole confidant, do you not trust me?”

“I trust you, Doctor. It is just that we must hurry.”

“Aha!” Woodruff exclaimed. “Here it is! I was looking for anything on the subject, but here it is: the very book that introduced me to the Myth of Ōnamazu. I read this time and time again as a child.”

“Let’s go, then,” Shawn Carknee said, itching to turn tail from the rising water and crumbling bricks.

“Yes, let us proceed to the top floor,” Powshee agreed. “What do you say, Doctor?”

“… Yes, I suppose it is time.”

Running up the stairwell, Doctor Woodruff explained. “Ōnamazu is a giant catfish who lived deep in the mud off the shore of Japan. He is kept at bay by God Kashima-no-kami, who uses a heavy rock to hold Ōnamazu in place. But occasionally Kashima-no-kami tires or is distracted somehow. And, free of weight on his back, Ōnamazu, with his intricate senses, feels the vibrations of the world and is enormously excited by them. In a cathartic frenzy, he thrashes powerfully, causing earthquakes, causing tsunamis.”

On the 26th floor, Shawn watched Doctor Woodruff scour “The History of Ōnamazu” on a conference table and think out loud. Powshee listened as well while also building a fire. The windows were broken so smoke was unproblematic. Likewise, the floors were soaked. So a fire was unproblematic.

Shawn looked out the window. The water had leveled into the horizon to the height of the 25th floor of the Du Bois library. Only small waves and fluctuations gave evidence of the water being alive.

“I think we’ll be alright here…” he said, “the waters are calming.”

“The magnanimity,” Doctor Woodruff muttered to himself. “Just as I thought… Oh jesus, just as I thought…”

“Share your thoughts with us,” Powshee begged.

Shawn inspected the book. “This is just a myth.”

“I’m afraid it isn’t,” Doctor Woodruff said. “And I’m afraid we have enormous trouble on our hands.”

“What sort?” Powshee asked, pronating his palms, “besides all this.”

“The Ōnamazu was the last of his kind. But his kind — it says here, were not sexual in the way that were are. They were not necessarily asexual exactly either. It says here that their reproductive mechanisms functioned similarly to pheromonal-asexuality.”

“What on earth…”

“Pheremonalsexuality is when a species doesn’t need one-on-one intercourse to produce offspring. Instead, male specimens spread their fertilizer into the air or water or ether. Female eggs are fertilized by not one but thousands of males simultaneously. Fitness wise, this allows populations to ensure safety before producing babies. Because there is a population threshold that, if not met, the female cannot produce. Males are like individual keys to locks that require hundreds or thousands of different keys to be opened. The females only reproduce if the necessary vitamins are available. So a baby is never birthed unless enough genetic diversity is present, and also, unless there are enough giant catfishes around to provide protection from predators.

Pheromonal-Asexuality is like this, but when keys are less like keys and more like flags. It is when the females are capable of producing babies asexually, but choose to wait before doing so until they have enough friends around to ensure that their baby will prosper in healthy community. Giant Catfish are pheremonal-Asexual, in a way, but… but….. ”

“What is it?”

“They aren’t pheromonal. The ‘flags’ come in the form of nuclear radiation. It was long speculated that mythic creatures like the Ōnamazu would require internal reactors to live such lengthy lives, and I myself, as a kid suspected that if they had such valuable faculties, they would make use of them for other purposes. For that is a tendency of evolution: the learning to kill more birds with the stones you already have.”

“What are you suggesting?” Powshee asked.

“Fukushima,” Doctor Woodruff said, “overwhelmed Ōnamazu’s radioacto-pheromonal-sensory systems.”

“What does that mean…?” Powshee asked.

“We’re fucked,” Shawn Carknee said.

“Can someone explain this to me in laymen’s terms?” Powshee asked.

“The radioactivity was so strong, that Ōnamazu’s reproductive system was kicked into gear again.”

“So what we’re dealing with here is…” Shawn hesitated to say.

“Yes Shawn, what we’re dealing with is a young Ōnamazu who’s ventured into the Pioneer Valley.”

“Jesus,” Powshee said. “How?”

“The giant catfish is too powerful to live in the company of his kin. Their vibrations combined and synchronized have the potential to shatter planets. So they have evolved, over billions of years and thousands of destroyed planets, to disperse upon birth to the far corners of the earth,” Doctor Woodruff explained.

Powshee and Shawn looked at each other horrified when a tremendous roar shook the mostly-submerged Du Bois Library to the point of collapse. Then a brick fell from the ceiling before their eyes, smashing through the glass coffee table between them.

More bricks waterfell down. Shawn and Powshee retreated to Doctor Woodruff’s hiding spot under two bookshelves leaned against each other. Divine rays entered the room through the hole in the ceiling. This allowed a person to see again. Doctor Woodruff scrambled through the bookshelves. Baselining this was Jeff Stump’s voice, following the divine sun rays inside through the hole in the roof. He was singing and weazing to the heavens.

/// The Earth was spinning all vacant and waste
And there was silence over the ocean
When a voice came thundering from above
The first day of light was in motion

And then the voice said may fruits be created
And seeds take root as they may
And no crimes were as yet committed
Life was breathing its second day

In his image this voice made a man
And a woman to love each other
They became the rulers of the world
And the third day was their mother

Now who will pray for Babylon
Sing a song to Babylon
On your knees before Babylon
Beat that drum because Babylon is falling

Man and woman learned how to make fire
And the kingdom's walls were extended
By the fourth day the walls were reaching so far
No one knew where they ended

Now no one heard that voice anymore
And metal cities came to ascend
On the fifth day spring turned into fall
And a rain fell over the land

But no walls can stop such a rain
That keeps falling forevermore
I was told that by the sixth day
The Earth was like an open sore ///

Powshee, Shawn Carknee, and Doctor Woodruff had been lifted by the light onto the roof of the Du Bois Library. They watched Jeff Stump sing. And they witnessed the moment when God brought back overcast and sent a lightning bolt upon Jeff Stump’s head. The electricity launched him out of his shoes, transformed him into a piano, and transformed his shoes into a bench.

God continued the song while Jeff Stump, as a piano, played an accompanying tune.

/// Now who will pray for Babylon
Sing a song to Babylon
On your knees before Babylon
Beat that drum because Babylon is falling

The Earth was spinning all vacant and a waste
And there was silence over the oceans
When a voice came thundering from above
The seventh day was in motion

Now who will pray for Babylon
Sing a song to Babylon
On your knees before Babylon
Beat that drum because Babylon is falling
Falling ///

The library’s foundations destabilized. It rocked side to side and began to sink. God commanded:

/// I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created, and with them the animals The birds and the creatures that move along the ground, for I regret that I have made them. ///

The library tilted one way. Jeff Stump, as a piano, slid off and into the tumultuous waters.

The library tilted another way, and Jeff Stump’s grand shoes, as a piano bench, slid across the library roof as it fell into pieces, jumped the hole in the roof’s center, and presented itself at Doctor Woodruff’s feet.

In the distance, a mighty Ōnamazu torpedoed towards the Du Bois Library.

“Quickly,” Doctor Woodruff said, scanning the massive picture book open in his hands. “Sit down on this bench.”

Powshee did so. Shawn was uncertain.

Powshee said, “Quickly, there is no time,” and pulled Shawn aboard the bench.

The added weight broke a hole through the weakening roof. The library continued decaying to rubble around them. The bench they were sitting on dropped a foot lower through the shivering roof. Powshee thought he would be crushed and drowned. But the bench glowed golden, lifting him and his comrades into the air. The three of them soared above the waves and into the heavens, leaving hundreds of giant catfish leaping after them. But these catfish were body-slammed back down into the waters by Kashima-no-kami, God of Thunder.

Doctor Woodruff muttered to himself, “To the skies…,” in awe of what had happened.

The next day, scientists Shawn, Powshee, and Doctor Woodruff sat on God Kashima-no-kami’s palm, drinking coffee and being taught about the world.

Doctor Woodruff called The Surreal Times upon God Kashima-no-kami’s suggestion. If only he had done so earlier, who knows how many lives could have been saved.

Professor Burgowittz,
University of Dortmund

For more articles by Professor Burgowittz, click here. To establish direct correspondence, email burgowittz@surrealtimes.net.