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The new moon hid in the sky. An object swallowed by the midnight ocean and diamond sparkles littered across its vast waves. Darkness never embraced me as it had this evening. I stared lazily from my hut’s window, nothing more than a candle lit in my room, no artificial lights outside to dull the seeing as I, too, hid from the world in this primitive paradise.
A tremor beneath my feet. A hum in the air.
I sat straight up, looking across the horizon. Maybe a volcano? I saw nothing but treetops. The nearest active one had so little left in its magma chamber, most scientists hinged on changing its status. Its cone rose to a flat peak. No burps or smoke of any kind. Just a quiet mountain on a sleepy island.
Tremor and a hum, again.
Spooked birds chirped, squawked and called to each other. Flocks ascended from the treetops, inky bands of wing spans flapping. They knew something I didn’t. Their instincts sent them on flight. My heart quickened. So did my curiosity. I turned about, grabbed my candle and slipped into my sandals. After tightening my sarong, I stepped out for a better view.
Another inquisitive tourist loped over to join me.
“Name’s Doyle. And yours?” His accent hung in the air, Scottish, strong and proud.
“I’m Riley. Nice to meet you.” My American accent paled compared to his.
Exchanging greetings hadn’t prompted us outside the comfort of shelter and proper mosquito nets. A stronger roll of the ground forced my hands out to my sides, balancing myself and my candle. Doyle gripped my waist to help. When the tremor passed, he let go. I hadn’t long to linger on the moment when a line of red cut through the stars above. Bleeding clouds, billowing and fiery, broke through the line. Our darkened world turned blinding bright in seconds as the rolling clouds mushroomed, blossoming, fanning out across the sky like a pyroclastic flow.
The ground rolled and rumbled underfoot. I turned three hundred and sixty degrees to see the source. The volcanoe slept soundly, ignorant some other disaster aimed to steal its thunder.
And thunder it did!
Whatever set the sky on fire moaned in agony, like metal shifting, bending, breaking. Warm air blasted us, nearly knocking me to my feet. Again, Doyle saved the day.
He kept one hand on my shoulder and pointed with the other as he whispered, “Sweet Mary, mother of – would you look at that?” I followed his finger, straining against the reds and oranges erupting across the sky. The front of something silver peeked through. As more of the object cleared the sky-fire-flow, the sounds made sense.
Not like the shuttles blasted from our NASA centers. Several of those tiny things could dock on the piece breaking through. And more followed.
I splayed my fingers across my chest, breaths coming in fits and starts. All the work I’d done at NASA, all the times spent at observatories staring at the sky, charting the stars, chasing parsecs to discover something new, all that time netted me a pink slip, thanking me for my years of service. Luckily, I’d wisely saved, lived the frugal lifestyle and took this chance to escape from civilization. I ran from everything I knew, everyone I knew. In the middle of nowhere, my dream came true. There were others. They’d made it here. But now, they’d fallen.
Amid the groans and moans of metal warping and shifting, several wires snapped. A few hung from the ship’s belly, caught in the firestorm, dangling like blazing tentacles.
Like a child, the full ship finally broke free of the atmosphere’s angry reaction to the forced entry. But unlike that same child, the ship had nothing and no one to keep it from falling. It was too far away to see if there were windows to view the beings within, but they worked hard against the pending doom, kicking the engines to repeated failed starts, firing thrusters with little more than puffs of smoke as a result.
It roared overhead with another failed start, front part of its massive, circular form pointed toward the ground. A fiery trail of embers lay in its wake. It disappeared beyond the canopy, roosting any remaining birds from their slumber. Their calls filled the sky in a painful harmony to the dying engines.
The boom of the crash thrust the ground up and down so fast both Doyle and I lost our footing. We landed, a tangle of khakis, sarong and puffed out candle. Its light hadn’t been needed. The blazing explosion of ship and earth colliding replaced the dulling fire in the sky.
My excitement of first contact dwindled with a pained realization. Their unfortunate fall from the sky dropped them on land. People were sure to be dead. We humans aren’t the most forgiving. But maybe, just maybe if one of the beings survived…
Doyle rushed back to his hut, a manic shine in his eyes. No goodbye. Moments later his Jeep skittered away, headlights bouncing in the direction of the crash. Racing to the scene entered my mind, forced out by the memory of a pink slip, a reminder it was no longer my job, joy or problem.
I picked up my candle, re-entered my hut. Lit and set back in its place, the candle’s flame shimmied with the wind as I pulled out my journal. On the first page, I placed the date. A tear splashed on my hand as I wrote:
Some peers may not have been kind. Some downright ugly. Demeaned my work and doubted the one truth I held dear: We are not alone. Their words turned into my frustration when my fifteen years of service warranted a two-week notice at best. But here, on this sleepy island, I’ve been vindicated. They are the fallen, crashing into our world. But they have come, proving, once and for all, that we are NOT alone.
*** added note, I'll reveal the source picture tomorrow so please do come back :-)***