Wednesday Writing: Random Writing Prompt

The other day I was bored, and with nothing else to do, I went in search of some writing prompts.  I even managed to find a few that stuck with me. Those prompts are:

“Why would the package not be wanted? The holidays are coming. A package arrives at the door. The package is refused.”

“At 10:30pm, August 12th, the meteor shower began. My three best friends and I ran up to Harper’s Peak to hang out on the ledge to watch them drop from the sky. We took turns naming them as they fell..”

“Have you ever been just about to drift off to sleep, only to be roused because of…something?”

Looks like a collection of ominous beginnings.  I can work with that.  I ended up choosing the meteor prompt, partly because it’s taking place on my birthday, and partly because I can think of about five different ways I can go with it.    I’ll do one of these prompts every now and then, when I’m needing a break from my novel, or just for the hell of it.  I won’t just post the first draft of whatever I come up with.  That would just be ideas all over the place.  These prompts will be polished up a bit, made to look nice and presentable for you.  It’s the least I can do.

So, without further ado, I present the currently titled “Meteor”.  Hope you enjoy.  Oh, two things before you begin.  One, it’s a bit long.  Two, listen to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata while you read it.  I think the story takes on an epic, spooky vibe when you bring some Beethoven into the mix.

 Chosen Prompt:

“At 10:30pm, August 12th, the meteor shower began. My three best friends and I ran up to Harper’s Peak to hang out on the ledge to watch them drop from the sky. We took turns naming them as they fell..”

Paul’s Story:

At 10:30pm, August 12th, the meteor shower began. My two best friends and I hiked up to Copper Creek Ridge, to watch from the rocky bluff that stretched out from the side of the mountain. The ridge was only about 200 feet above my backyard, but Lefty had just watched “Platoon”, even though his mother told him not to, so he made us push through the thick branches and tangles of briars and thorny vines.  He told us to watch out for “Charlie”, and he would jump out from behind trees and shoot his invisible gun at, well, whatever Charlie happened to be. He did that for a good ten minutes before the branches became too thick, and he finally shut up about Charlie.  By the time we reached the ridge, the meteors had already started falling, and all three of us- Lefty, his cousin Jesse, and me- we were all cut up and panting from Lefty’s plan. Even Lefty said that it had been a stupid idea. None of that mattered once we looked up and saw them, though. We had heard of meteor showers.  Mrs. Baker, our biology teacher last year, had shown our class a PowerPoint all about them.

I know people always say some things need to be seen in person. That pictures just aren’t enough for a few special events in a person’s life.  That meteor shower was one of those events.  The sky was clear, except for a pink-purple strip of cloud on the far side of the valley, lit up by the streets of Copper Creek on the valley floor.  As the meteors fell, they would streak down behind that cloud, leaving slashes of golden orange against the inky velvet sky before disappearing into the blackness that hid the far hills and mountains. The three of us didn’t say a word while we watched. I don’t think we could’ve even if we had wanted to. That sky was like a painting, brought to life before our eyes. We just stood there, staring up at the sky with open mouths and clammy hands. We would be high school juniors in just three weeks, and staring up at a meteor shower wasn’t the coolest thing that we could have been doing, but I think it was the only thing any of us felt like we should have doing.

It went on and on, that shower.  Hours, maybe.  I lost track of time, and never once thought to look at my watch. I didn’t want to look away from the sky. One after another, they fell, like fireworks in reverse, faint lines of light that would glow and pulse against the sky like dying embers in a campfire. I remember thinking that if there had been more wind, it would have ignited those lines into flames across the heavens.

Eventually, those thin lines began to grow thicker, gradual at first, but enough to actually see that they were wider, and glowed a little brighter.  Watching those lines, I remembered another part of Mrs. Baker’s lesson.   She had told us that the meteors were just rocks from all over space, crashing into the atmosphere and bursting into flames because of friction and energy and whatnot. So, it made sense that some lines were bigger than others.  Bigger spaces rocks would have bigger flames. It sounded right to myself.  I didn’t actually ask the question out loud.   I didn’t want to be the first one to talk. Plus, the meteors had started to make noise at that point, and I didn’t want to drown them out by talking.

The sound was nothing special. It was a whooshing, like when you swing a stick through air, but more high-pitched. Like a whistle, but…thicker almost. It’s another one of those experiences that you really need to be there to understand.  When the noises started, the meteors were still falling behind that strip of cloud across the valley. It was about 2 miles from one side to the other, so the sounds we were hearing were probably quieter to us than what they would have been to, say, another group of kids, on another ridge across the valley, staring up at those meteors. But, even though we were so far away, I could still hear them as clear as day.

Mrs. Baker had told us that most meteors don’t actually make it to the ground. They just burn up and disintegrate while they’re falling. Only the biggest rocks would be able to reach the ground, and even then, they would end up small, about the size of a brick, she had said. So, we didn’t give much thought to one of them hitting us, or even landing anywhere near us, even though we could hear them whooshing through the sky. Watching them was so peaceful, it felt as if I didn’t have time to think of anything bad– like being hit by one of those rocks, or what mama was going to say about my new school shoes being all muddy, or the cuts across my arms and my face. I had always loved being outside. Going camping, and fishing, and playing baseball and football, and just hiking through the woods that were always around.  I guess you could say that I was a nature lover. But that night, watching those rocks arrive at Earth in such a fashion, well, there’s nothing in nature that comes close to being as beautiful as those meteors were. 

Eventually, though, I started to realize the first bad part of the night. It wasn’t anything big.  It was my neck.  It had started to hurt, and I knew we must’ve been standing there for a while. Throughout that whole time, the lines had kept getting thicker, a little wider every now and then. And the whooshing was getting louder, too. It had changed into a deeper whoosh, like a baseball flying through the air. I remember exactly what the sound was like because just then, the biggest rock that I had seen so far fell behind that cloud. Actually, it looked like it tore through the back part of the cloud, because the purple outline shot out around a thick, golden strip that actually looked like it hit the ground. I could’ve sworn it did, because I saw a little explosion on the far side of the valley, right below the cloud.  It looked like a little orange flower blooming in the middle of dark, black dirt. It looked so real, but, I wasn’t sure if my eyes were starting to play tricks on me.  You know, from staring up at the sky for so long.  The colors of that explosion were so bright and vibrant, unlike anything I’d ever seen.  It was almost a new shade of orange, brought to the planet by that meteor.  I forgot about that color until just now, because at that moment, the first big whoosh came. I could almost feel it, like it rippled across the sky, pushing the wind back.  It was like when you’re riding in the car with the windows down, and you pass a sign or a mailbox. Real deep and rough sounding, not like the quiet whistles and creaks that the other whooshes had made. I knew that rock had to have been big. At least bigger than the rest.  That whoosh finally snapped me out of the trance that watching the meteors had placed over us.  I remember turning my head towards Jesse, to ask him if he had seen the explosion.

My neck hurt as I turned my head, like when you first wake up after sleeping in a hotel bed. For some reason, I still remember exactly what the pain felt like. I remember how my skin felt– tight and stretching as I moved.  How my muscles resisted their first new use in hours. And, I remember being the first one to finally talk. I just had to be the first one. I felt it. I needed to be sure that I had actually seen a meteor hit the ground, all the way across the valley.  I don’t know why I felt that way.  It seemed right.  It’s difficult to explain.  It was difficult then too, because my mouth was dry, and my tongue was sticking to my lips.  I remember that I had to mouth the words for a couple of seconds before sound actually came out.

“Hey Jesse,” I had said, “Did you see–”  I didn’t get a chance to finish, because just then, the sky lit up. As bright as a clear noon day, except there was no blue to be seen. I snapped my head back around to look at the sky again. My mouth was still open, the rest of my question just sitting on the tip of my tongue, waiting to be asked. I never asked it though. Above us, a massive line of gold and fiery red split across the sky. It looked like it reached across the entire valley. Everything turned orange–us, the trees, the ground, the Copper Creek creek that bubbled off to the right of us.  It was like someone had turned on a light bulb that was almost burnt out, like the glow of a toaster oven. That may not seem that bright, but it was enough to hurt. I remember my eyes watering and my eyelids shivering, trying to pull down and shut out that light. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t turn away, or blink, or squint, or anything. I became so frustrated at not being able to close my eyes that I didn’t even realize there hadn’t been a whoosh. Not for a couple of minutes, at least. In fact, what finally reminded me was how quiet everything was. No birds or crickets chirped. No wind blew through the trees. I couldn’t even hear myself breathing. It was there that this was different. That light… it was nothing like the others that we had watched.  It felt bad. Almost like I knew it shouldn’t have been happening. I didn’t have much time to think about it, though. Just then, the big whoosh finally showed up.

First, the light started to fade a bit, turning into a blue-white that was actually beautiful. It felt great compared to that painful orange. But then, a wave of air smacked into me. It felt like a fist, hitting me square in the stomach. A roar burst through the trees around us just as the wave hit.  It sounded like a train had just fallen out of the sky. The next moment, I was flying through the air, tossed by that roaring fist like a pillow. I landed on the small, rocky-grass dunes that hugged the cliff where it met the ridge. They were about twenty feet behind where I had just been standing,  and whatever that wave was, it was strong enough to pick me up and throw me like I didn’t weigh a thing.

I must’ve hit my head when I landed, because everything around me was out of focus. It didn’t help that the roar was still roaring. I felt confused, wondering where I was, what I was doing, what time it was. Looking back on it, I probably had a concussion from smacking my head against the ground, but there really hasn’t been any time to think about it until now. Especially not then, while everything was happening. Anyway, through the blur, I saw what looked like Lefty and Jesse about ten feet to my right. They were both out of focus, but I knew it was Lefty because of that orange Broncos hat he always wore.  I saw the hat come closer, bobbing above a blur of blond. Suddenly, I felt hands on the front of my shirt, and Lefty’s face finally came into view, right in front of my eyes. He was screaming and looking up at the sky. Just pointing and looking and screaming at me.

He was yelling, “Look, Danny! Look! ” He had to lean in right beside my ear and just scream so that I could hear him over the roaring. I remember looking up over his shoulder, going numb at what I saw while he just kept screaming.

“Get up!” He started trying to pull me to my feet. “Get up, hurry! We gotta get out of here!” He was yelling and pulling me up, and his eyes were as wide as I had ever seen. I wasn’t any help. I just kept staring up at the sky. I guess I must’ve eventually gotten to my feet, because here I am, but I don’t remember how. All I remember from that moment was the sky. Right where that giant streak of color had just been, there was a shape. A massive, dark shape that shimmered and sparked with these deep, purple flashes of light. Like lightning that arced across the entire shape. I had no idea what it was. I thought that it might have been another meteor, but it was huge. And Mrs. Baker had said that rocks as big as houses could leave massive craters. Whatever that shape was, it was at least as big as an entire city block, and it was falling down out of that light, almost following the glow that reached down to the ground.  What’s more, it was moving slower than any meteor should have been moving, so slow that it looked like it was just hanging in the air, half in and half out of the sky above us. 

It was at that point that I must’ve gained my senses back, because I realized I was running alongside Lefty and Jesse.  They were screaming. I didn’t hear exactly what they were saying, or if there were just screaming because screaming seemed like the only thing that made sense.  Whatever it was, I could see their eyes in the little bit of blue-white light that hadn’t been blocked out by the shape. They were wide.  Wide and white with fear. I imagine mine were the same. What else were we supposed to feel? Mrs. Baker had said that giant meteors were called planet killers, and now one looked to be falling right on top of us.

All of a sudden, while we were running, the roaring started to quiet down. Lefty was still screaming, yelling for us to hurry up. To run faster. His voice was high-pitched and cracking, like it had two summers ago, when we had made fun of him for it. We weren’t making fun of him that night. I’m sure anyone would sound like that in the same situation.

We had made it past the dunes and had just turned onto the main service road that led down from the ridge when it sounded like the sky exploded behind us.  There was another roaring, but it was so deep, like I could hear it with my body, not just my ears.  It vibrated through me, knocking the breath out of me.  Then, just like the first time, a wave of wind crashed into us and picked us off of our feet.  We were thrown off the ridge. I remember seeing the service road beneath me, the pine trees rushing by about thirty feet below before I closed my eyes. I was spinning and tumbling through the air, squeezing my eyelids together as tight as I could. I didn’t want to see anymore.  It was too much.  I just wanted everything to be over.  The light was too bright though.  Even through my eyelids, I saw the blue-white change into a burning red again, just as the hottest wind I’ve ever felt surged in, surrounding me, choking me, burning inside my nostrils, my ears, my lips.  I thought I could feel my skin start to burn.  At the same time, a ringing started in my ears, calling out from under that crashing roar that seemed to be right on top of us.  It was Hell.  Plain and simple.  

I remember smashing down through the tops of pine trees. Pine smell filled my nose, and my arms smacked against branches.  It hurt more than anything, and I started crying, calling out for my mom. Telling her I was sorry for all the bad things I had ever done. I thought for sure I was going to be skewered by a branch.  Run through like a wild hog. But, somehow, those branches slowed me down enough, until I just slid through the boughs and finally stopped when my shoulder jammed against a tree trunk.  The only thing I could think of doing was to wrap my arms and legs around that trunk, and hold on as tight as I could. It was horrible.  I felt it rocking and swaying under me as the wind swirled and battered against it. Branches and bark started to break and shatter all around me, peppering my face and arms just as a rough, crunching moan rumbled up through the tree.  The only way I can describe it was that the ground was screaming.  That noise made me open my eyes.  I saw chunks of tree and rocks and pine needles and dirt flying past me. I started to scream again then, joining in with the ground below me, and the air around me. I couldn’t hear it over the roaring, but I felt it. I screamed so hard my throat hurt, a hot pain like it was on fire. Everything hurt. It hurt to breathe, hurt to blink, hurt to move. My chest and my arms hurt from clinging to that tree.  Tiny spots of pain hurt all over, where I figured pine needles and bits of tree had stabbed into me. Even my mind hurt.  It felt, well…wrong. What I had just witnessed, whatever that shape was, no one should have ever seen that.  It was like my brain had no way to comprehend everything that had just happened, and so the only thing it could do was scream with me.

I must’ve passed out at some point, because the last thing I remember was that low, deep rumbling suddenly ending with a brutally loud crack–like a thunder-clap that had been shot out of a cannon, directly at my head.  It was loud enough to hurt.  The pain shot through my entire body. I could taste blood, and I felt blood running out of my nose, but I couldn’t concentrate on that.  Above me, in the sky, there were cracks of light.  That horrible red light was just pouring out of those cracks, like yoke running out of cracks in an egg. After that, nothing. Nothing until the next morning, when I finally opened my eyes again.  

Just like in the movies, my first thought was that I had just had the most realistic dream of my life.  That thought lasted about three seconds, before I realized that I was outside. And that there was pain over every inch of my body. And that I could taste blood in my mouth, and that I was about twenty feet off the ground, hugging a tree. Actually, I was lucky.  The tree that I had landed on was one of the only trees still standing.  But most of the needles had blown away, and there were only a few intact branches that I could see.  All around me, it looked like a tree graveyard.  Like a bunch of wooden skeletons just standing still in the middle of a dead forest.  But, that wasn’t the worst part.  I was up high enough that I could see over the remaining trees.  And, it must’ve been around dawn, because I could see the sun peeking up behind me, over my shoulders.  There was a thin, foggy mist that hung all over though.  It wasn’t thick enough that I couldn’t see through it, but it was, well, spooky.  Like ghosts, visiting that graveyard.

Anyway, not even that fog was worst part.  Not even close.  The worst was beyond the fog, in the shadow that stretched over the valley from the distant peaks of the Rockies.  It was the ridge.  The same one I had been standing on the night before.  Well, there had been a ridge.  But, that morning, there was barely anything left of it.  

The entire side of the mountain had collapsed. The ridge was gone, destroyed all the way back to the dunes. The Copper Creek itself poured over that new edge as a waterfall that disappeared over its brand new cliff. Shattered tees and car sized boulders were everywhere, flung across the mountainside like bits of trash.  Nothing looked the same.  Well, nothing was the same.  The entire ridge was different.  Broken and rearranged into something completely new.  I didn’t even know where I was.  I had been in the forest just below the ridge.  But, what if the ridge had slid down the mountain?  Or maybe these weren’t the trees I thought they were?   I was so scared.  I wanted to just close my eyes and go back to sleep so that I could wake up in my own bed.  I knew I already was awake, but I just couldn’t convince myself.  I didn’t want to convince myself.  Who would want to wake up to what I was looking at.  

Slowly, somehow, I managed to gain some control over my thoughts.  I knew I had to get out of there.  And to do that, I had climb down that tree.  I just kept thinking that Lefty and Jesse were out there somewhere. I didn’t allow myself to think that they were dead.  If I was still alive, they had to be as well. That’s what I kept telling myself, anyway.  That first movement, as I stretched my legs out to search for a branch to step on, was agony.  I had to reach down and push on my knee just to make it move.  Climbing down seemed to last for hours.  I had to move slowly, stopping to catch my breath every couple of minutes.  My muscles felt like they were on fire, and each branch creaked and shifted like it was about to snap under me.  I tried not to think about falling.  Instead, I focused on the meteor, or whatever it was.  If it was a meteor, it looked big enough to be one of those planet killers.  But, I was alive, and the planet didn’t seem dead.  The Copper Creek Ridge was pretty much destroyed, but not what I’d call dead.  So, I remember thinking, if that wasn’t a planet killer, what the hell was that shape I saw?   I wondered if it was a satellite, or maybe the space station had fallen out of its orbit. I had so many questions. I still have questions, and no way to answer anything. But, I had finally reached the bottom of the tree, and was so happy that I had made it, I just collapsed and sat down on a pile of pine needles and broken branches.  

I took a few minutes just to look myself over. My arms and legs were torn up and bloody, and pine needles were sticking out all over.  Dried blood had turned crusty over my lips, beneath my nose, and in my hair around my ears.  But, nothing felt broken, and I felt like I had gained some strength by just being on the ground again.  So, after another break, I pulled myself up, looked around, and started calling out for the other two.

It was dead silent all around me. There was no wind. No birds chirping. Even my voice sounded muffled. I wondered if I had gone partially deaf, or blown an ear drum or something.  Maybe that’s why there was blood around my ears.  But, after walking around a little longer, I finally heard something.

“Danny!” Someone was calling out. It had sounded distant, but suddenly, through a wisp of that fog, I saw Lefty stumble over a fallen tree and wave his arms at me. He looked as bad as I did, except a big, red stain bloomed across the left side of his shirt.  He didn’t seem any more injured than I was though.  It felt good to find him, in the middle of all that. I couldn’t think of much to say though. I was probably in shock, because I only managed to say,

“You lost your hat, Lefty.” It was a stupid thing to say, I know, but I wasn’t thinking straight. I realized that as soon as the words left my mouth, and, as soon as I saw Lefty’s face up close. He was crying. His eyes were wide and full of sadness.

“He’s dead, Danny.”  He had said to me. “Jesse’s dead. I saw him one minute, and then…he was gone.” He had pointed behind me, back toward the new cliff that the Copper Creek poured over. Jesse had been my friend since kindergarten, but he was Lefty’s cousin, and they were as close as brothers. I could only tell him I was sorry, and pat his shoulder. I didn’t know what else to do. We just stood there, quiet.  Lefty sniffing and crying softly while I patted his shoulder. Eventually, he rubbed his eyes, and stepped back a bit. He looked at me and said,

“Danny, what the hell is going on?”  I told him I was going to ask him the same thing.  He told me he remembered landing between some trees, and seeing Jesse land about twenty feet away, by the creek.  He said how there was that rumbling, and how he was running to Jesse, when the ground in front of him leapt up, like it had just exploded. He said he was knocked back, and that he had to roll left and right to avoid big rocks that had been thrown up when the ground burst.  He stopped talking then, and just stared at me.  I stayed quiet.  After a minute, he blinked and started talking again.  He said that while he was trying to get back onto his feet, the ground just fell. There was a massive scraping sound, and the ground shook once more, before the entire ridge just disappeared, sending up a cloud of dirt and dust. He said he couldn’t believe what he saw, and that he just ran away.  I told him I would have run away too. And that Jesse might still have been alive, since he didn’t actually see him fall.

“He’s dead, Danny.  It’s a 200 foot drop.  Besides, I already looked.  It’s nothing but shattered trees and rocks right below the ridge.”  He stopped talking again, just looking ahead blankly, as if his mind had emptied.  I stared at him.

“What, Lefty?”  I kept asking him.

“When I went to check I…I saw something.  ” He finally said. I remember looking at him, not really sure what he was talking about.  I asked him what he meant, and he shook his head.

“You have to see it.” He told me. I thought he was still talking about the ridge, and I told him I had already seen the creek, but he shook his head again and told me to follow him. We climbed over trees and rocks, and over these giant cracks in the ground. Fissures I think they’re called.  I asked him if it had been an earthquake, but Lefty just kept walking.
Eventually, we walked out of what was left of the trees. I could see the edge of the cliff in front of us, and Lefty stopped to let me walk up ahead. My heart was racing, and I remember sweat pouring down my entire body, getting into the cuts and scrapes. I made myself keep walking, forcing myself to approach the edge. With only ten feet left, I had to fall down onto my hands and knees just to keep going.  I was so scared I was shaking.  I didn’t know what I was about to see. A crater, or a satellite, or something else. I had no idea.  I still don’t know for sure.  But, what I saw, when I finally stuck my head out over the edge…I don’t think there will ever be enough words to describe it…

First, the entire valley looked just like Copper Creek Ridge.  The peaks of the mountains on the other side of the valley were gone, crushed or knocked away, leaving jagged, crumbling spires of rocks. It looked like a row of broken teeth. Below the peaks, new water falls poured out everywhere, falling down over vertical rock faces that used to be hills and ridges and treelines. Forests had been uprooted, demolished, and buried under tons of mountain near the base of the valley, and the rivers and creeks from above pulled more dirt and rocks and trees down with each second. The normally clear waters were a dark brown, stained with dirt and debris, and the new waterfalls were causing mudslides that turned what was left of the valley foothills into small mountains of mud and chewed up wood.

On the floor of the valley, huge cracks stretched out across the ground, wide and jagged, like the earth had been torn apart.  Strewn across those cracks was what remained of the town of Copper Creek.  Roads and power lines had buckled and broken.  Some were still snapping with distant twangs and cracks.  Houses and buildings were reduced to splintered boards and broken glass.  Fountains of water and fire shot up into the air where water mains and gas pipes had been torn open.  Where the water fell over the jets of fire, clouds of mist rose into the air with a hiss that I could hear all the way up on the mountainside.   But, even though all of that sounds horrible, it was nothing compared to what reached up from the center of the valley. Dull black and jagged, like one of those quartz rocks, was the shape from the night before. It looked like it was halfway buried into the ground, and it still reached up into the air above the valley, sticking out at an angle and pointing away from me.  It looked to be as big around as the town of Copper Creek itself, plus most of the outlying neighborhoods.  Those massive cracks stretched out from where it had embedded itself into the Earth.  It was no rock I had ever seen. It didn’t shine. It didn’t reflect anything, not even sunlight.  A black haze seemed to glow around it, blocking the light from actually touching the object.  Waves of purple light danced over its edges, and as I sat there and stared at it, I could’ve sworn that a deep, throbbing hum was rolling out of it, from somewhere deep inside. 

Lefty had walked up next to me while I was staring.  From the corner of my eye, I saw him kneel down and look out with me.

“Lefty,” I had said, “It’s a meteor.”  He shook his head though.

“No Danny,” he told me. “Look closer.” He pointed down. I followed his hand. He was pointing toward the bottom of the rock, down on the floor of the valley. I didn’t know what I was supposed to be looking at. All I saw was the giant, black crystal rock and the remains of the town under it. I was asking him what I should have been seeing, when I finally saw it. Movement. People were alive down there. I had never felt so happy.  If they were alive, and we were alive,  then Jesse could still be alive.  I remember standing, ignoring all the pain in my body and screaming.

“Hey!” I shouted.  “Hey, we’re over here!” I waved my arms back and forth. I was so excited that it wasn’t the end of the world, I didn’t realize Lefty had been telling me to shut up until he punched the back of my leg and pulled me down by my shirt. He put his hand over my mouth and stared at me. I tried to push him off, but he was too strong, and didn’t pull his hand away until I stopped trying to push him off. 

“Shut the hell up, Danny! They’ll hear you!” His voice had become a whisper. I wondered what he was talking about. Of course they’d hear us. That was the point. I stared up at him like he was crazy, but he shook his head and said three words that I couldn’t believe.

“They’re not us.”

When someone says “they’re not us,” there are plenty of meanings you might think of. People from out-of-state, or maybe from another country. Maybe even people from the government, or a secret army. That’s not what Lefty meant. He pulled his hand away and helped me back onto my feet.

“Look!” he whispered again. His voice had sounded urgent, scared almost.  I looked down at the crystal again, focusing on the movement I had seen earlier. Slowly, the shapes became clearer, until I finally saw them. They were huge. Tall and solid, larger than anyone I had ever seen. They leapt instead of walking, clearing cars and demolished houses in a single jump. They were the same dull black as the crystal, and seemed to shimmer with the same purple energy, surrounded by the same hazy blackness.

“Lefty, who are they?” I had asked. He shook his head and said,

“Just watch.”  So, I did.  There were hundreds of them, maybe thousands. There seemed to be more each time I blinked. They just leapt and swarmed over the remains of Copper Creek, like a black tide. Suddenly, a noise called out, like a rumbling scream. It sounded dark and cold, and I recoiled as I heard it. At that sound, all of the figures leapt towards one who stood by himself on top of the now destroyed post office.  The group formed a circle around the single shape, stomping and rumbling as purple lightning crackled around them. Then, the center figure held out two smaller shapes.  But, it held each of them with two arms.  Whatever it was, it had four arms.   That’s when I saw exactly what it was holding–people.  The people were kicking and struggling against his arms, and the other figures started moving closer, tightening the circle that they were standing in.  Beside me,  I heard Lefty breathe in sharply, and before I could turn to look at him, the center figure held one of the people above its head, and tore it in half. A cloud of blood sprayed out over its massive body, and it dropped the halves like they were trash.  At the same time, it threw the second person into the ring of the other figures. In seconds, the rest of the beings had jumped on top of the person, and were tossing chunks and pieces of the body into the air above them. I couldn’t believe it.  I still can’t believe it.  I felt like I was going to throw up, and I must’ve started crying, because after Lefty pulled me away, my cheeks were wet.

“What the hell was that?!” That’s all I could say. Over and over again. Nothing made sense. Lefty only shook his head. And that’s when it hit me, like a fist to the side of my face. It wasn’t a meteor. It wasn’t a rock at all.
“Lefty, it’s a ship!” That’s what he had meant when he said “they’re not us”. He nodded, and was silent for a while before he finally said,

“Yeah Danny, I think you’re right.”  That was the last we talked for a while. We didn’t know what to do. We walked back into the woods, going deeper and deeper into the tree corpses, until it became too dark to see anything, and we were too exhausted to take another step. We found a large tree that had fallen over a small gully, and hid under it for the night. The next morning, we woke up, started walking again, found a small stream that didn’t look too dirty, drank some, and kept walking. On and on we walked, tripping over roots and rock slides. The impact of the crystal ship had reached miles past the ridge. At least it seemed that way. Truthfully, we had no idea where we were. It didn’t seem to matter. Anywhere was better than that ridge. But, somehow, at dusk of that third night, we climbed out of another ravine, and found ourselves on a road. A paved road, not another forest trail or gravel path. I asked Lefty what road it could’ve been. There were only two that led in and out of the valley near where we had been, and they were freeways. This was just a paved, single lane through the forest. He didn’t know either, so we followed it. We figured it would lead us away from the valley, and we wouldn’t have to climb over trees anymore.

Not too much time had passed before we heard something. A low buzzing.  Almost like a thumping. The forest had thinned out into a field, with a few trees here and there, so we had nowhere to hide.  We started running back to the tree line, thinking another ship was about to land, but before we could make it, a bright light fell fight over us, and the noise became a “whup, whup, whup, whup”. I should’ve know what it was, but after what we had been through, any new noise scared the hell out of us, and running seemed like the only smart thing to do. It wasn’t until we heard your voice over the loudspeaker that we realized you weren’t whatever they are.  And, well, here we are.  One of your sergeants told me I slept for a day and a half, so that would make it almost five nights since the ship fell.”  I pause, looking up at the thick-necked general in front of me.

“General…what is it? What is happening?” He leans in, blocking out the light from the bare bulb behind him.  He bites the stubby cigar between his lips, blinks once, and smiles.

“It’s war, son. The War. And, ” he chuckles, “it’s not lookin’ too good.”




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