A crack of thunder announced the arrival of another storm. I stuck my head under the shower, wondering why I was bothering to wash my hair. It had rained every day since Mom and I had arrived at the dig site in Chile. For some reason no one could explain, the paleontology team had set up the campsite a hundred yards uphill from the only amenities block. By the time I climbed back up the muddy path, I’d be wet through.
Another roar of thunder struck. This time it was so loud, the noise shook the ground ... and kept right on shaking it.
Suddenly, someone jerked open the door of the shower cubicle. It was Nicholas Adams, one of my mother’s students. Except for soapy lather running down his chest, he was stark naked.
"Lahar!" he shouted above the deafening noise.
His words triggered a familiar wave of terror in me, sweeping aside my embarrassment that he’d seen me naked. "No!" I cried, not willing to believe this could possibly be happening again.
Nick’s face was screwed up in a mask of sheer terror. "C’mon, Gabrielle!" he screamed, grabbing my hand and dragging me from the shower and across the slippery floor. "Half the mountain’s given way!"
Outside, lightning bolts lit the evening sky in a strange lurid green. I glanced up the valley, and I swear my heart stopped. A wall of mud had engulfed the village and was headed straight toward us.
"Oh, God, please no!" I cried as Nick pulled me outside. "Not again!" This couldn’t possibly be happening again.
I tried to run but the muddy ground sucked at my feet. Then I tripped and felt my fingers pull free from Nick’s grasp.
He could have left me there, could have raced up the hill and saved himself. But he didn’t. Instead he reached down, hauled me to my feet, and wrapped his arms around me protectively.
"I won’t let you go," he yelled into my ear. "I promise! No matter what, I won’t leave you!"
The mud slammed into us, wrenching us off the ground, and I knew this time there would be no miracle. This time I was going to die.