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The day

     My slender airplane dove low over a small town in the central section of Europe. I had been sent to this village by a tiny airline to find a site for a much-needed airport. I found a suitable field in which to land, and a few moments later I stepped out onto the plateau.
     When I was a half-mile away from my plane, there was a strange, deep, rumble as of distant thunder. I looked around just in time to see my plane disappear into the ground. At that same time I felt the earth shudder. People stumbled, screaming, into the streets. One house vanished, and a pool of mud, boiling hot, appeared in its place. Another house shivered; the outsides seemed to peel away, and all that was left was the chimney, which rapidly fell to the force of the earthquake. The nearby mountains seemed to bow toward each other, and the tops flew into the air and buried portions of the town in immense rocks. A mountain exploded violently, and seething lava flowed sluggishly down its rock-strewn sides. The air filled with choking dust. Calm lakes that had dotted the area before were churning and boiling as cyclonic winds ripped over them. One of the lakes disappeared into an enormous crack that opened in its center. The village was a bedlam of screams, shrieks, and death. Suddenly the field yawned open, and with a horror-stricken scream I was swallowed by the earth.
     I plunged headlong into an icy subterranean river. I was paralyzed with the utter horror of the thought that I would never see the light of day again. Another tremor shook the earth; a second crevice appeared near me, and the water cascaded into this new chasm, carrying me with it. For a few seconds I fell in inky blackness; then far, far below me I could see a spot of fiery redness that grew larger as I fell. The air became hotter and hotter, and as a crimson cloud of vapor surrounded me, the heat was so intense that I lost all consciousness.