In all of his years, there was one day that Lee liked to look back on more than any other besides his marriage and the birth of his three children. Thinking about it always gave him a broad smile. “What is it, dear?” Dana asked. “You look very happy right now.” Lee looked over at her as they both swung back and forth on the glider in the back of their house. Her wrinkled skin was aged with moles, protruding veins, and liver spots. The gray hair on her head was wrapped in a neat bun. And the hazel eyes behind her glasses shone with a blinding curiosity, an expression he had seen on her face so many times before. There were things that Lee learned about his wife through her many subtle facial expressions over the years that only seemed to make him love her more. She slowly placed a hand onto his equally aged one.
“I was just thinking about the time…” Lee started.
A little boy in a baseball cap came running up onto the porch holding a football. “Grandpa,” he said, full of energy. “Can you throw me a long ball?”
“Okay, Johnny,” Lee said. “But you’re going to have to go really long. My legs may not work like they used to but my arm sure does.”
“Okay, here I go!” said Johnny, running across the yard at full speed. Lee slowly stood up and felt his legs popping and creaking. God, it sucked, being old. Holding the football, Lee launched it as far as he could. Johnny was already a good distance away but had to back up further to keep up with the ball flying through the air.
Lee stared in wonder at the spinning brown pig skin with its shiny laces, soaring through the sky, getting smaller and smaller. Johnny reached out and made a very tough catch with his arms fully extended while stopping just short of the fence.
Lee and Dana chanted their praises for the boy’s spectacular catch.
“Now what were you about to tell me before?” Dana asked.
“I don’t remember,” Lee said.
“You had that big grin on your face.”
“Oh, yeah. I remember. It was that time when we were in our late twenties and…”
“Say no more, say no more. I think I know exactly what you’re thinking of,” Dana said, pulling out an object from her pocket.
It was a beautiful thing, Lee thought. But she was even more beautiful, even in her old age.
A much younger Lee stared up at the sky and saw the thing getting bigger and bigger with each passing second. It started out as a single brown dot like a pixel on a monitor. It was still no bigger than a pin prick, barely visible at all to the naked eye, but Lee could see it. It was growing. He feared that the end was near. There was no hiding from fate. It would be a collision like no other. The meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs was like a pebble compared to whatever this thing was. He hoped that wasn’t true, but couldn’t help but fear the worst in that moment. He had to tell someone about it.
Lee turned from the yard and sprinted into the house. His wife was sitting at the kitchen table, her fingers dancing furiously across a lap top keyboard. “Honey,” Lee said. Her eyes were still glued to the screen, refusing to look away even as she reached for her coffee cup and downing the last of its contents. “Dana.” Lee was bouncing up and down on his heels, barely able to contain himself.
“What is it, Lee?” Dana said without looking at him. “I’m very busy.”
“I need you to come outside with me right away. There’s something important that I have to show you.”
Dana sighed and took off her reading glasses. She turned toward Lee and gave him an exasperated look. Her full, charming lips pressed firmly together never meant that she was happy at that moment. “There’s never a dull moment with you. Is there, Lee?”
“You say that as if it’s a bad thing,” Lee said.
“But sometimes it can be exhausting.”
“Is this one of those times?”
“Yes. You know I have a lot of work to do. I have to get this report done.”
“You shouldn’t drink so much coffee.”
“I need to.”
“Look, just come outside with me. This is really important.”
“Lee, this is the type of behavior I would expect to see out of a child… if we ever have one.”
“I’m going to ignore the first part where you compared me to a child and address the second part… you know I want to have children with you. We’ve discussed it many times.”
“I know, Lee.”
“Just come outside with me.”
Once outside, Lee pointed up at the sky. He immediately realized that the thing in the sky had grown significantly in only the minute or two that he had been away. It was closer. Maybe the size of pea now. “My God, look at it.”
“What? What am I looking at?”
“Right there, Dana! Don’t you see it?”
Lee looked over at her and saw she was squinting. Her eyes were beautiful. He remembered that the first time he saw those two hazel wonders she had also been squinting. It was something she always did when she had trouble seeing something. They had happened to be in adjacent aisles in a library when he pulled out a book and saw her inspecting the tiny print of a Lord of the Rings novel on the other side. God, how they both loved fiction. He knew she was the one at that very moment, before he even walked around to her side.
“Lee,” she said. “What am I looking at? That’s just a plane.”
“It’s not a plane, Dana!” Lee exclaimed. “There would be streak marks next to it if it were a plane. No, this thing is coming toward us!”
“So what is it then?”
“It could be a meteor.”
“I don’t know what you want me to say.”
“Dana, it’s getting bigger. I think we might be in danger. That’s what I’m trying to get you to understand.”
“We’re not in danger. If that were really a meteor up there that was going to kill us, don’t you think it would be all over the news? There are satellites and all kinds of technology to detect things from space.”
“Wow, look at you. You know your stuff. You should work for NASA.”
“So what do you think it is?” Lee continued.
“I am not doing this with you right now,” Dana said. “I’m going back inside to meet a very important deadline.”
Lee looked down and sighed. What was he going to do? Who else could he tell? The neighbors? Fat chance. Even if he could convince someone that there was a meteor or something else racing down to earth, what could be done about it? Nothing. Not even NASA could do anything at this point considering the rate at which that thing was falling. It would take weeks for them to come up with a plan of action to pull off a Hollywood-Armageddon type miracle, and that was time they didn’t have.
He looked back up and saw that the thing grew from a pea to a dime. It was still too small to make out any kind of detail or structure. It was just an ever-increasing brown dot. How big was this thing? Was it in fact a meteor the size of Texas or was it no bigger than his house?
Lee bolted into the garage and rummaged through some boxes filled with all kinds of old stuff: books, baseball cards, coasters, candles, silverware. Ah ha! There was the telescope leaning against the corner wall farthest from the big garage door. He grabbed it and took it into the house while wiping off some dust and cobwebs. As he passed through the kitchen to go up the stairs Dana said, “please don’t work yourself up too much, Lee. I worry about you!”
But there was no time for Lee to respond. All his concentration was on seeing the object in the sky and figuring out what it was. He mounted the telescope right in front of his and Dana’s bedroom window. He knew he would have to avoid looking directly at the sun, so he positioned the lens at an angle, away from the twelve o’ clock rays. The object was a good distance from the the sun anyway. Lee made his final adjustments on the telescope by turning knobs and adjusting levers. It had been years since he had used this damn expensive thing, but he still knew how to use it.
To the naked eye, Lee could see the object was more like a quarter now. For the first time, he could see that it had distinct silver dots sparkling on it. He looked into the telescope and moved it ever so slightly until it was pointing toward the object. He could see it way more distinctly now. Silver lines ran across the brown circle. The lines weren’t constant, though. Maybe it was the way the sun was hitting them, a trick of the light. But as the object got closer, Lee realized that those lines seemed to pulsate in and out on their own, as if there were some kind of electrical current running through it.
Now he could see the heat from the object radiating fiercely as it shredded its way through the layers of the atmosphere. What the hell was that thing? It was as if it had a personal vendetta to accommodate. It seemed to move with a purpose, rather than just some random object falling from the sky.
Lee gulped. He folded up the telescope and ran back downstairs. “When you go to the store, can you get me some more coffee?” Dana asked, still working at the kitchen table.
“That thing is going to land.”
“What are you… oh. You’re talking about that thing in the sky you showed me?”
“I don’t know how intense the impact is going to be. But I do know it’s not a meteor. In any event, brace yourself. When it lands, it could shake the ground and feel like a quick, but very intense earthquake.”
“Lee, I don’t understand.”
“Just stay here and I’ll be back,” Lee said. He then walked over to her, picked her up off the seat and kissed her passionately. It felt like the right thing to do in that moment. “If anything happens, I love you.”
“Oh, Lee,” Dana said, putting a hand on his cheek. “I love you.”
He could smell the cherry-rose scented shampoo she always used from her perfect wavy brown hair. It only smelled perfect when it came from her instead of directly from the bottle. “I’ll be back,” Lee said, and left, but not before one final squeeze of her hand as he walked away.
Lee looked up and saw a now soccer ball sized space object plummeting toward the earth. It grew and grew like an over-inflated balloon, round and shining brilliantly. It looked as though it was coming straight for him, and he instinctively took a few steps back toward his house.
Oh, my God, this is it.
The object zoomed across the sky at an angle toward the east like a raging comet. But instead of a shooting star against a dark night sky, it was like a shooting black hole across the light of day. Lee closed his eyes and clutched a support beam that extended from his front porch. Five seconds passed, ten seconds passed, and still nothing. Lee opened his eyes. The thing in the sky was gone. It had to have landed. Thank God it wasn’t the end of the world… right?
He peered around and saw no other neighbors. From what Lee could see as he scanned the houses, nobody else seemed to be around to witness what had just happened. At least, not on this street. Lee started walking toward the end of the block. It had to have landed somewhere nearby. Maybe the next block over? Lee started jogging. Something inside told him he had to hurry. He didn’t want anyone else to get to it before he did. This would be his grand discovery.
He looked around the corner onto the next block. Everywhere he looked, the shiny black pavement was intact. Maybe it had crashed into someone’s house. When Lee looked at all the houses, he just saw normal shingled rooftops, unbroken windows, and entire exteriors with no gaping holes. Lee figured the thing must have caved in the ground a good ten feet where ever it had landed. But no sound and no vibration on impact? It didn’t make any sense. But perhaps there was smoke, dust, and debris wafting through the air from where it landed. Lee scanned the horizon and saw nothing out of the ordinary.
Lee decided it wasn’t worth it to waste time by going jogging down an entire street, so he kept moving from the end of one block to the next and did the same thing by quickly scanning the next street and the next and the next. Wow, this would have been a lot more efficient if he had taken his car. Oh well, he was too far away from his house now. Dana was Lee’s better half, he knew full well. One aspect of that better half was directing him toward common sense. She was the one who was always thinking ahead and Lee admired her for that.
The park at the end of the neighborhood came into view. Lee looked across the wide open field with the play ground and the baseball diamond. A few people were scattered around: a middle aged woman walking her dog, two kids tossing a football back and forth, and a young couple jogging side by side together. Lee felt something more here. It was like intuition, but the feeling seemed to demand he follow it. He found himself walking toward the outer edge of the park where some trees and bushes were clustered together.
As Lee got closer to this forest-like area, he saw a pulsating glow emitting from within the trees and bushes. He could not yet see the source of it. Lee circled his way around trees and walked through dense bushes. The branches from within cracked with each step, and he could smell the sweet scent of evergreen. Lee moved over the branches of one final bush and saw it.
The object from the sky stood right before his very eyes.
But it wasn’t standing. It wasn’t even touching the ground. It was hovering a good three feet above the ground. It was a brilliant brown like a brand new, high quality football. The silver stripes on it ran across it in squiggly rows, pulsating just like they were in the sky. The whole thing looked like a giant, round, mysterious box. It was about twenty feet across and three feet high, like a chocolate pancake.
Lee was both amazed and skeptical. What would happen if he tried to touch it? Would he die? What if his hand shriveled to dust because it was made of some kind of toxic material not from earth? But this was his discovery. Lee came all this way and had been watching this thing from the very beginning. He had to take a chance.
He took a deep breath and then jumped into the air straight onto the thing. He hit it with a clunk. It felt like cold sheet of reinforced metal. As the silver lines on the object passed onto where his palms were pressed, he could feel a very warm sensation. That feeling not only ran through his hands, but his entire body and soul. It was like a warm hug from another planet.
There was a tiny door on the center of the brown circle that Lee noticed. It took Lee a moment to get up off his stomach and regain his focus. He crawled to the center. When he inspected further, he noticed a knob on the door. It was just waiting to be opened, Lee thought.
Lee opened the mini door and his eyes widened.
Dana’s wrinkled, liver spotted hand held a brilliant gem that shone with all colors of the rainbow. It was about the size of a fist and shaped like a heart.
“You know you shouldn’t have that out in the open,” Lee said. “I don’t want it to get stolen.”
“I know,” Dana said. “But sometimes I like to get it out and think about the time you found it so long ago. I remember the first time you showed it to me. I about fell over.”
“I wanted you to have it to show you that our love extends beyond the stars.”
“That was so corny, Lee, but also sweet. I love you.”
They both leaned in close to each other and shared a quick peck on the lips while Johnny tossed around the football in the distance.