Strong sulfuric vapor seeps up through the cracks and burns the eyes. With no wind to blow it away, it clings to the eyelashes and aggravates the throat; scattered coughing emanates from the crowd.
“Stand back from the yellow tape!” the park ranger bellows into the bullhorn.
The throng presses against the frequently moved safety boundary that keeps them from getting too personal with liquid fire. The thrill of almost touching it, and the fumes, conspire to make them momentarily thick headed.
Just a little closer to its heat, some think.
Just a little better camera angle, think others.
Witnessing the epic results of molten rock compels them over miles of hard, black desert. A line forms behind them for hundreds of yards, twisting in and out of odd patches of old and new rock, one superimposed over another.
Trees that at one time flourished stand withered from the fumes; mementos of a time past before the ground opened up. Vines that once graced the trees like necklaces hang dead around them like rope on steer.
Death, barrenness, and stench surround the die-hard visitors; the tunnel vision antics of those there only for a social media photo-op intersperse with the scientific or faith minded on a quest. The purposeful and the fruitless walk the same trail.
Moving from one overlook, where a gaping hole gives a wide view of fast running lava, down a path into a valley, the throng then passes through a tunnel formed when ancient magma poured over and around a massive fallen tree. Inside the tunnel, life springs. Thick moss coats the jagged edges. Spiders weave and dance. Damp air cools their skin.
On the far side, where the tunnel opens up, the sound of waves crashing meets the ear and the taste of salt hits the tongue. But it’s the sight of the billowing steam cloud that causes a stunned halt. Towering above them, rolling like sky waves, the cloud generates a collective sigh of awe.
Once again brought to the edge of sanity, they press against the flimsy barrier and there before them lay the end point of the blistering river. Lava pours into the sea like perfectly timed fudge dropped into cold water; solid material forms; land.
Life from death; the crowd, divided by guiding purpose, unite in witnessing the birth of new earth.
Their faces glow; Creation trumps the trivial.
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