“Bituminous Abomination”: A Short Story in Tweets

No one expected Flat Top Mountain to rupture, sending a cascade of sentiment, rock, and trees into the surrounding valleys. The immense form that emerged from the ruined mountain was equally unanticipated.

I tweeted “Bituminous Abomination” in a series of tweets last spring during #SciFiFri – a hashtag promoted by @SciFiPrompt. The purpose of #SciFiFri is to encourage users to craft tweets around a certain science fiction theme each week. @SciFiPrompt retweets the vast majority of these tweets, and authors typically provide feedback and share ideas through comments.

I do not necessarily recall the theme for the Friday that I released these tweets, but I believe that this series was appropriate for that day. A few of these tweets were edited for length, but only a handful of characters were shaved in those cases. I originally wrote the tweets with Microsoft Word, emailed the completed document to myself, and published the tweets throughout the course of the day (the tweets were numbers to allow anyone interested to follow the story).

West Virginia has a long history of aggressive mining, altering the landscape throughout the state in some very interesting (and, in many cases, unfortunate) ways. “Bituminous Abomination” explores one fictional means of revenge that the Earth unleashes (or, despite the redundancy, unearths) on the Mountain State.

The eighteen tweets below tell the story of the “Bituminous Abomination” and the havoc wreaked on some of the larger communities in West Virginia. I know that West Virginia is not as glamorous a setting for the “monster–destroys–city” motif as New York City or Los Angeles. However, I suspect that authorities in Beckley and Charleston are probably somewhat less prepared for such an event.

Please let me know what you think about “Bituminous Abomination” as an example of #twitterfiction or about serial tweeting in general.

***

  1. Locals in Crumpler and McComas were the first to sense the tremors. Of course, earthquakes were not unheard of in Appalachia. No one expected Flat Top Mountain to rupture, sending a cascade of sentiment, rock, and trees into the surrounding valleys. The immense form that emerged from the ruined mountain was equally unanticipated.
  2. Reports of an enormous creature passing through rural Mercer and Raleigh Counties overnight went largely uninvestigated. Only later did authorities find the path of destruction. Daylight revealed the truth, as a hulking behemoth from the innards of the Earth stood just outside Beckley.
  3. Description of the beast varied wildly. The brutish form of the creature was a mosaic of blacks and browns – truly seams of coal streaking through an earthen body. Maples and chestnuts lined a rocky spine. A face of tangled features surrounded two burning eyes.
  4. The monstrosity ripped down Fayette Street, surprising and horrifying those just beginning a warm spring morning. The police were summoned but merely worked to remove citizens from the path of the 100-foot earthen colossus. Once reaching Main Street, the massive fiend focused only on destruction.
  5. A mighty fist of stone slammed through the penthouse of the United Bank Building, collapsing the structure in a rush of brick and mortar. A granite foot kicked through the limestone façade. Local authorities had constructed a haphazard barrier on Kanawha Street.
  6. The creature rushed toward this new opposition, as bullets feebly chipped away little more than shards and bark. Automobiles were trampled and building smashed as the force advanced. The police retreated and one officer later described the assault as a “force of nature”. Within minutes of the attack, the monster was gone from Beckley and the world knew the truth.
  7. This Force of Nature next blazed a trail through Fayette and Kanawha Counties. Helicopters buzzed overhead, harassing and tracking the creature. Many West Virginians fled the state, but others were glued to their televisions and radios. The destination of the creature was clear. The capital – Charleston– was directly in the path of the earthen monster.
  8. The National Guard was ready. Weaponry was positioned southeast of the city, where 35thand 36th Streets cross the Kanawha River. As the creature approached, tanks and rifles opened fire.  With a rocky resolve, the beast withstood shells and piercing rounds. Tanks were crushed beneath stony feet and guardsman scattered.
  9. Air support continued to harass the monster, but the advance down MacCorkle Avenue continued. Without warning, the earthy beast reached down for the coal-filled hoppers of an abandoned train. These heavy cars were whipped into the air in a great chain, catching one circling helicopter and sending the craft into the Kanawha.
  10. Cautious observers recorded the scene, uploading their images and videos online. Commenters offered explanations on the manifestation of this tyrant. Years of deforestation, strip–mining, and abuse of the environment had enraged the Earth, and the brute was her revenge on the state and mankind. A few took to calling the creature the “Bituminous Abomination” – others preferred “Appalachiator”.
  11. Only the river separated downtown Charleston from this demon of nature. The Interstate 64 Bridge over the Kanawha strained under the great weight of the monster. Pillars and supports collapsed as the creature crossed. Within moments the earthen colossus stood on Virginia Street, peering into some of the tallest buildings in the state.
  12. The rampage commenced.  The stately Kanawha Valley Building tumbled downward after a pummeling of rocky punches. The pristine glass façade of Laidley Tower shattered as the building collapsed. A headlong charge into Huntington Square produced a pile of rubble. Remaining guardsmen only momentarily halted the carnage and destruction.
  13. The sleek appearances of Chase Center and BB&T Square were forever lost as the creature ripped through both buildings. A squadron of jets arrived and launched a series of missiles at the beast. A few hit their target, sending the monster tumbling into the Union Building. A downward rush of brick and granite buried concrete support piers.
  14. The creature twisted in rage to avoid the Kanawha River, leaving an uneven series of muddy marks on Capitol Street. Returning to Virginia Street, the monstrosity rushed east toward the capitol complex. The squadron unleashed a second round of fire. These missiles ripped into the intersection of Virginia and Ruffner Avenue. A few tore through the creature, sending a thick rain of stone and bark onto the street.
  15. Another round of missiles drove the monster toward the river. The creature momentarily reformed, stomping through houses on Kanawha Boulevard. The beast became desperate, stripping stones and rocks from a diminished body to throw at the attacking jets. A final round of fire drove the creature backward. The form of the Bituminous Abomination produced a mighty splash as the monster disappeared beneath the surface of the Kanawha.
  16. The river rushed over and through the body of the brute. Sentiment was carried away. Rocks and stones were stripped off. Trees floated to the surface. The fiery eyes of the monstrosity were extinguished. Jets victoriously soared overhead. The capitol was spared.
  17. The world was shocked with the damage throughout West Virginia. Many suspected that the treatment of Earth would forever change. Our Mother had warned that our worst environmental practices must end. With considerable improvement, harmony between Earth and man could return.
  18. The night following the successful Air Force attack, an unusual sentiment began collecting on the southern banks of the Ohio River near Veterans Memorial Boulevard in Huntington. Although the streets remained silent, the Fifth Third Center collapsed suddenly just after midnight.

Author: joshuajscully

That’s my picture up there. I’m not totally sure why I look so angry. I may be thinking about how much I hated the Crypt Keeper as a child. I grew up faithfully watching reruns of The Twilight Zone and Tales from the Crypt. Unfortunately, I missed the boat in terms of writing for either of those programs. I do consider both to have been wildly influential when I think back to my earliest thoughts about becoming an author and I’m grateful my parents let me watch those shows as a kid (although there were probably some nights early in my childhood my mother wished she hadn’t let me watch those shows). If you’re familiar with either program, then you know what genres are my focus. I thoroughly enjoy science fiction, suspense, the twist ending, and some horror or supernatural elements as well. Honestly, when I was a kid the Crypt Keeper scared the hell out of me. As an adult, I’ve really learned to embrace the puns. Historical fiction is a favorite of mine as well, and the root of that is shared with my profession. I am an educator by trade, and I teach American History. I consider some of the best writing I’ve ever done to be within the realm of historical fiction and I really enjoy saturating my mind in the research end of those projects. I would make the argument that storytelling is in my blood. Even my sister mulled, very briefly (about 45 minutes), launching a career as a screenwriter! My last name is one of those Irish (and, apparently, formally Manx) ones with a wonderfully researched history -“the story-teller’s descendant”. On of the first day of school each year, I do share that “my name is Mr. Scully, and that rhymes with Kelly”, just so I do not hear the myriad of mispronunciations on the first day. Several years ago, I started a blog similar to this one to highlight my middle years as a teacher. If that aspect of my life is of any interest to you at all, you can still find that blog online. During my summers, I really have time to pursue my writing projects and this blog will highlight some of that work. My first attempts to sit down and write extensively occurred when I was 15, but only a few years ago did I make setting time aside to write a priority. I’ve also benefited wildly over the years from many willing readers among my family and friends. The direction and feedback from those individuals has been invaluable. Outside the world of the written word, I am an educator, basketball coach, lecturer, and (very, very occasionally) a landscaper. I have only ever known Western Pennsylvania as my home. Although I love a good novel, I am absolutely unable to resist the power of the short story. The latter is really what I hope to be remembered for one day.

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