The following is an excerpt from Book 1 of Oakwood. It contains an in-depth description of the protagonist's impressions of the explosion in Rosepetal, Kentucky. It's a great starting point for anyone doing some reading up before participating in this season's writing contest.
Like most other Thursday nights, Nathan sat with Yvette and watched TV. Unlike most other Thursday nights, something important was on.
About two hours ago, the whole thing exploded. They said one of the enrichment tiers suddenly collapsed and triggered a chain reaction. Nathan didn't know exactly what an enrichment tier was or what kind of chain reaction had been triggered but here was the proof, smoldering six stories high and pouring inky black smoke into the clouds.
The smart ones were already out doing the smart thing: panicking. The National Fuel Reserve was in flames, clear as day, for everyone to see. As literally as could be stated, the nation’s oil supply was up going in smoke. The smart ones knew what that meant for their way of life: it had just been replaced with a much harder one.
The not-so-smart ones kept watching, awed by the big explosion and the weird smoke seeping from the charred frame of oil-processing facility. They sat in bewilderment, watching inky smoke bleed into the sky, blend with the clouds and turn them black.
Nathan fell into neither category. He was one of the rare, super-smart ones: a gas station attendant who had, for the last two years, been stealing gallon after gallon, barrel after barrel of gas and hiding the goods away in a storage shed.
Yvette, who arguably fell into the equally rare, super-not-so-smart category, looked at Nathan with shining purple eyes and asked for the third time: "What's that black stuff?"
In 2004, Dr. William Isaac invented a technique for treating petroleum that revolutionized petroleum treatment. It was all quite technical but based on everyone’s limited information and unlimited excitement, the average American gathered that it was now possible to transform one gallon of gasoline into enough energy to power civilization for the next thousand years. The statistic wasn’t assumed 100% accurate but the results of Dr. Isaac’s discovery were nonetheless astonishing and every bit as world-changing.
The plan as it was conceived was to hoard a modest amount of petroleum in a centralized holding facility, then treat it with Dr. Isaac’s miraculous new process. The “quantum enriched petroleum” would then distributed to the states. Forecasts guaranteed this plan would generate enough energy to last the nation well beyond the time it took to implement a practical alternate energy source. The can would be kicked very far down the road to everyone’s great satisfaction. It meant the United States could once and for all wean itself off foreign oil and withdraw from the decades-long conflict overseas. Everyone loved this plan.
So it was that Dr. Isaac was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the National Fuel Reserve was constructed Rosepetal, Kentucky. The area that sprang up around the Fuel Reserve Construction Site was known officially as Reservoir City and unofficially as Petropolis. This was the area that was now on fire.
Yvette gripped his arm. "Nathan, what is that?" The smoke. Nathan didn't know what it was. The unreal, and otherworldly properties of the stuff hadn’t been at first apparent. After the enrichment tier collapsed and started the fire, there hadn't been so much of it. But once the fire burned down to the subterranean fuel reserve, that was a different story. '
'When the small ocean of crude oil ignited, a gigantic secondary explosion erased four square miles of land in a second and the Earth started bleeding this monstrous black liquid. Bleeding it right into the sky and everyone got a chance to wonder why it looked like that. Nope, there was no missing it then. Right after all those people in Petropolis got vaporized and the world changed forever, there was plenty of it. Everyone at home was free to wonder about the bizarre properties of the smoke as it continued its eerie ascent skyward where it turned the clouds black, one by one.
Nathan leaned closer to the set, trying to process what he was seeing. It was smoke, but not normal smoke. It was inky, greasy. Inky grease pouring slowly upwards before mixing with the clouds. Infecting them. They had been regular white clouds. Now they were inky, greasy black.
"I don't know. I've never seen anything like that.” Nathan said the words flatly, chilled and barely able to control his horror as he absorbed the sheer, unnatural strangeness of the black smoky water which flowed upward. It was disgusting and it scared the hell out of him.