Thursday, March 28, 2013

Friday Flash: Shooting Stars

Shooting Stars
by Eric J. Krause

Timothy and Abby lay on the soft grass of Towerbell Hill, ready for the start of nature's firework show. Tonight was the night of the Quinn-Baines Meteor Shower, a once in a lifetime event. There were other meteor showers that could be tracked, but this one took the scientific community by surprise. Once it was determined that the rocks would burn up in the atmosphere, the event captured the population's imagination. Everyone wanted to view the spectacle. All around the half of the world where it was night, even in major metropolitans, the shower would be visible. And for the other half of the world, or if there were clouds in the area? The Internet, of course, had viewing options.

As luck would have it, Timothy and Abby both had the evening off, him from his job at Milton's Burgers 'N Ice Cream, and her from school. She technically had class until ten, but her professor knew he'd get no sort of attention out of his students, if they even bothered to show, so he canceled. They agreed that he wanted to watch the show, too. And it certainly was a spectacular night for it. Not a cloud in the sky, and their town, not large, but large enough to pollute the sky with its multitude of man-made lights, made way for the special night by turning off as many non-essential lights as possible. That brought out more stars than either could remember seeing since their senior class trip to the mountains three years ago.

"What time is it?" Abby asked, and Timothy held out his phone for her to see. A quarter after nine. The sun had set, and the stars were in full bloom. According to the media, the show would begin right about now. It would be a few trickles here and there, and then by 9:30, the meteor shower would begin in earnest.

Timothy pointed up. "Did you see it? A short one, but that was the first."

"Yeah, cool. Did you make a wish?"

He kissed her neck, murmured that he had, and squeezed her breast. She giggled and knocked his hand away in case anyone could see. Not that everyone wasn't focused skyward, but a girl couldn't be too prudent.

As the minutes ticked away, dozens upon dozens of shooting stars flashed across the dark night sky, some at the same time, previewing the awesome show to come. The ooh's and ahh's came from all over the hill, and Abby couldn't help but smile. The crowd reaction reminded her of a Fourth of July Fireworks Extravaganza. And, truth be told, this would likely blow any man-made show away.

More and more shooting stars streaked across the night sky, but then Timothy's arms stiffened around her. "What?" she whispered back to him.

"One of them changed directions," he said. "And I don't mean like a light bend. It turned a hard right."

"Maybe two collided. Or it hit something else."

"Another one did it," he said, fear in his voice. Why would that upset him? She noticed others around the hill shared his worried tone, though she couldn't hear their conversations.

She stared up, determined to see one change directions with her own eyes. She didn't have to wait long, nor did she have to concentrate hard. A half-dozen of the shooting stars turned, as if on cue, a hard 90 degrees to their right. The crowd on the hill now raised a ruckus.

"It's on the news," someone shouted. "They aren't just falling rocks."

"What does that mean?" someone else yelled. "What are they?"

Before the first man could answer, the shooting stars stopped and hovered in the sky. All hell broke loose.