If we make it out of this one I am never letting Sandburg out of my sight again. At first it seemed like a wonderful opportunity for him, not quite an expedition, but the closest thing to it since he began working with me. It was only supposed to be for a couple of weeks in a small island in the Philippines, covering for another student who had suddenly gotten ill, and I could see in his eyes that he really wanted to go so, against my better judgment, I encouraged him, and now here I am. I had to call in several favors to be allowed in one of the first emergency flights, but that has only gotten me part of the way. Now I have to make my way across this hellish city, as I get ready for the second and more dangerous leg of my journey... the one I can only hope will lead me to a living grad student. I think I would know if he were dead and that keeps me going, even if my senses are killing me.
The city is covered by a dull, grey blanket that seems to shift with the slightest wind. There are no colors, even the flowers are grey. The streets are deserted, and there are no birds in the sky, though several can be seen dead on the street, just as grey as everything else around me. Everything is eerily quiet, though there is a rumbling drone that comes from the earth itself and fills me with foreboding. I know no one else can feel it, but that is no relief. I know what it means. It means that the monster is still awake. My skin is on fire, and I can hardly breath. The scent of the fumes is mild here, but I know it won't be where I'm going, so I fight the urge to dial my senses down. This is an alien situation, and I know it will be far worse where I'm heading but if I intend to find Sandburg before it's too late I won't be able to afford a long adjustment period once I get there, so this will have to do. I have been through sand storms in the desert a couple of times, but nothing can compare to this. The sand is coarse by comparison. This stuff is so fine that clothes offer little protection against it, and it fills everything. It is in my eyes, burning in my throat and my lungs with each and every breath I take and I can also taste it in my mouth. There is no escaping it. By the time I finally reach the pier, and I find the boat that will take me to my partner I am as grey as the city, but I don't mind, I just need to get to my partner. The boat that's waiting for me is a pathetic little thing and my instincts refuse to believe it can actually be sea worthy, but right now it is my only hope, so I climb on board and after a few moments we are on our way.
I can see it in the distance, even without the advantage of my sentinel senses. The column is literally miles high, a display of destructive power I cannot conceive, and it calls me like a beacon. That is where I'll find my answers, where my guide and shaman waits for me. We will leave that island together or we won't leave at all. Maybe I should be concerned about the others, I know he would be if our positions were reversed, but as the ashes keep raining down on me I can't bring myself to care.