EVENT: ARRIVAL (FRAGMENT)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The arrival on the earth of a force from outside the known universe. (Fragment)

Submitted: October 01, 2012

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Submitted: October 01, 2012

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Rounding the bend, Stephen arrived at the bottom of Fell’s Lane. From here the hill rose steeply for a third of a mile before levelling out, the road running under a tunnel of foliage created by the surrounding woods. Above, Stephen was aware of the darkening sky portending rain,  and normally he tended to dismount and walk. This time however, some competitive urge compelled him to try and cycle up the hill as far as he could, so he shifted into low gear and tried manfully to pedal up the road. After about thirty yards, his legs bursting with effort, he resigned himself to the futility of this exercise, got off and started to walk. Somewhere in the distance he heard a low sound, which he associated with far-off traffic. The sound repeated itself and he realised it was approaching thunder. Great.

As he often did, he had been cycling through the villages and stopped for a couple of pints in the Collier’s Inn, and hoped to make it back home before dinner, only the weather forecast had got it wrong as usual. No-one had forecast rain and thunder. He had taken his sketchbook and sat innocuously drawing as Neil hadn’t been in today. A couple had watched him drawing, passing the time and he’d sold them a quick sketch for a pint, which  meant a cheap afternoon. The thunder growled again. Stephen stepped up the pace a bit, hoping to beat the rain. At the back of his mind was the memory of the recent storms and the chaos they’d caused, with the plane crashes and the talk of terrorism, the transport disruption and widespread panic. In his mind a thunderstorm was rapidly becoming associated with trouble, especially as during the last two all the local computers had gone down. Psychologically, he set himself the task of walking past the next four lines in the centre of the road, then the next four, in order to keep himself from thinking about how far he had to climb, especially as the road was built on the biggest hill between here and the Italian Alps. Looking up, he realised with relief that he was approaching the crest of the hill and coming out of the woods. He stopped under a lowering sky and looked out over the valley spread before him. It was a wide vista with thunderheads marching like anvils in the distance, bringing the threatened storm. Stephen could see the occasional flash of lightning connecting the anvils to the ground. He mounted the cycle again and set off along the flat section of the road, only to find after a few yards that his rear wheel was running on the rim. He had a flat. Shit, just my fucking rotten luck.

Cursing, he stopped, dismounted again and took off his rucksack. Searching within it he found his puncture kit and spanners. Of course it would be the back wheel. It always was, the one where you have to take the chain off and fuck about getting your hands covered in  oil. And by the time he got it fixed the storm would be here. Stephen took off his jacket, feeling the cool air around him, turned his bike upside-down and began to screw off the locking nuts of the wheel. Again, the thunder rumbled, closer now. The wheel off, he opened the kit, took out the tyre levers and began to lever off the tyre. He had a vision of himself getting wet cycling home and began to consider  waiting out the storm in the Collier’s, a quick run back down the hill. The first spots of rain began to spatter on his shoulders. The tyre off, he examined the inner tube, inwardly berating himself for not having a spare, spitting on the tube to try and find the puncture. The rain began to increase and he began to get more impatient, imagining himself turning green like the guy on the television series when his car crashes in a storm. Definitely better get to the pub again, this was going to be a bad one. There were three storms marshalling over the valley and he was going to get absolutely soaked, and for the first time he realised that he was in a vulnerable spot, exposed at the top of a hill with lightning on its way. He began to contemplate waiting under a tree, even though it was generally considered unwise, perhaps further down the lane. After four gobs of spittle he managed to find the puncture, most probably caused by a thorn. He made  a mental note to check the interior of the tyre, and marked the puncture with a stub of yellow crayon in the kit.

A bright lightning bolt, and the thunder crashed like a wave over him. A second and a third, and he began to get nervous, as the storms were coming his way. They were beginning to wheel around a central spot in the valley. Another pillar of lightning connected the wheeling anvils with the ground, Stephen couldn’t be sure, but he thought it was about eight  miles away. The lightning began to get  more intense, the bolts coming one after the next in a fusillade, and the rain began to hiss down in a heavy curtain, steadily drenching him as, cursing with frustration, he began to roughen the tyre and search for the tube of rubber solution. There was  no getting out of this, he was stuck with it. The thunder now crashed and crashed around him, almost merging into a roar like the sound of a mighty sea. Unable to resist, he looked out across the valley. My God! he thought.

The wheeling anvils were slowly rotating around that area in the centre of the valley eight or ten  miles away, and beginning to merge into a phenomenally powerful electric storm. Lashed by the rain, Stephen began to abandon his repair and decided to haul his bike under a tree. As he prepared to do this he saw the lightning bolts suddenly intensify, with what looked like hundreds of pillars of fire forming a forest of blue-white light, converging on that central area. The thunder now became a roaring, screaming wall of sound of incredible magnitude, the air all around ionised and the entire scene like a vision of the apocalypse unfolding before his eyes. He stood up and yelled into the storm in a fury of fear and elation.

He was never able to adequately describe what he saw next. In the centre of the forest of lightning a ball of blue-white fire expanded in seconds until it seemed miles across, filling his field of vision. The lightning bolts were flung out from it across the coruscating sky, and the roar of the lightning became a low, subsonic rumble, a sensation felt  rather than heard. Convinced he was looking at an atomic explosion, Stephen stood there in a kind of blissful state as the sounds finally faded into a silence filled only by a kind of pressure on his ears and a feeling of unimaginable forces having been unleashed. In his mind the thought rang with bell-like clarity: They finally did it, the fucking sons of bitches blew up the world, and he felt no fear, only a kind of exhilaration. The ball of fire remained where it was, the lightning still coruscating around it, and there was silence. Mesmerised, Stephen realised he hadn’t died unless he had been transfigured in some way, and the ball of white fire remained, a dazzling disc like the sun come to Earth, suspended above the valley a few miles away. How big it was, he couldn’t tell, it looked miles in diameter. The lightning began to lessen, until it had reduced itself to a few random bolts flung out from the disc, or simply acting around it like attending dancers.

 


© Copyright 2020 MARCUS DARWIN. All rights reserved.

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