“Hmm, what’s this” I wonder out loud as if anyone is around to hear me. It seems like an odd-looking trinket of some kind, made of a soft metal maybe? It’s pretty badly charred and sort of… melted. ‘Could be an artificial tooth or something’, I think as I raise it to my mouth and furl the corner of my lip as if to test its fit. ‘Eh I don’t know, looks kind of weird’, I decide as I think twice about actually putting it in my mouth. At this point I’m just collecting anything that could possibly be of some use and metals always have worth, especially now…
It was early morning and I was sitting outside sipping a hot beverage as I often do. I have issues sleeping and it’s not unusual for me to still be awake at dawn. I’d been feeling unsettled the last week or so and I was finding it even harder to sleep than usual. I was contemplating the multitude of logical reasons that could be making me feel this way when I saw it. Just above the trees far off in the distance, an enormous, brilliant ball of light blazing through the sky with a tail of smoke and flames so long I couldn’t see the end. “What The F…”, I said as I watched for a few seconds in disbelief. The early morning sky lit up like it was midday. One thing was clear, something was about to impact the planet with insane ferocity.
I’m still not really sure what happened, but I have a theory. Authorities had been tracking a fairly large asteroid that was set to pass nearby the planet. It was about the size of a small town and it could do some major damage if it did impact the surface. They’d been tracking it for months, just as a precaution. The asteroid’s trajectory didn’t show much chance of it being a real threat so concern was fairly low. Then a few days ago, something happened… abruptly, inconceivably the rock did change course. Within a matter of what was probably only a few seconds, the asteroid was suddenly hurling directly towards us. It must have been extremely sudden because our Near Orbit Detection System is very sophisticated, or at least it was. It should have not only detected a threat but predicted any possible alterations in trajectory, but there was nothing. No reports, no sirens, no warnings of any kind… nothing.
As luck would have it, I have always been of the doomsday kind, if you will. When I saw the fireball, I immediately began packing some things so I could head into my little underground bunker, which I actually just finished building not long ago. I have tons of supplies down there, including some basic medications, a short-wave radio, a generator and some other odds and ends that I know I can use to enhance my communication efforts once things start to settle… if things start to settle. I managed to make it into the bunker and latch the inside door just as the initial impact took place.
The ground shook so violently, that I lost my grip, fell off the entrance ladder and hit the floor hard. I was sore and a little bruised but surprisingly uninjured after just falling a distance more than twice my height. I stood up, collected my thoughts for a moment and then started powering up my equipment to see if there were any attempts at communication going on. Everything was dead silent, not a sound came through. Even the short-wave radio was a bust. I tried not to get too discouraged, after all, it seemed like it had been forever since I saw the asteroid barreling through the sky but in reality, it had only been a short while.
Just then, the ground shook again, not as aggressively as it had the first time but enough to give me cause for concern. This time it felt close, a little too close. I sat perfectly still and listened intently. I could feel occasional, slight vibrations that I assume were from debris that was continuing to fall but other than that, there was just silence. Eventually the vibrations stopped, or at least they dwindled so much that I didn’t notice them anymore.
I decided it was best to try to sleep for a bit while the “dust settled”. As I lay there, staring blankly in the dark, my mind started racing. What if I wasn’t prepared for whatever was out there? What if the asteroid was massive and literally everything that wasn’t underground was destroyed across the entire planet? I admit I began to panic a bit. What if somehow, I was literally the only person who survived? That thought was too much too process. I was never going to sleep thinking like that. I needed to sleep; I was already deprived before all this insanity happened. I broke down and got into my stash that was supposed to be for medical use only. Who I was kidding, I enjoyed smoking the herb way too much so it was never going to be strictly medicinal anyway. I did need to stay sharp and focused, but I was safe for now so I figured, “what the hell, it’s the end of the world”. After quite a few puffs off my pipe, I slowly began to relax and drifted off into a deep sleep.
I woke feeling refreshed, revived, and for a moment, I almost forgot what had happened. I had slept a long time, nearly half a day to be exact. I’m not sure why, but I was aggravated with myself about that. I hadn’t slept like that in a very long time and I didn’t even know if it was safe to leave the bunker, so what was the rush? Regardless, I was disappointed in myself so I immediately got to work testing and building some items I thought I would need.
I spent several days in the bunker, building, testing… preparing. Finally, I decided it was time to stop hiding, after all I didn’t even know exactly what it was I was preparing for. I estimated that it had been about three maybe four days since the asteroid had hit. With no sunlight cycle for reference, the days had started to blur together in the confines of the bunker so I couldn’t say exactly how long it had been. I prepared myself to head outside, putting on a full contamination suit as well as a gas mask and grabbed my pack of gear. I went through the inner door and latched it behind me. I took a deep breathe, then I unlatched the outer door and opened it, slowly.
It was dark, and the sky was filled with falling ash. The forests around my house were smoldering and there was a very distinct path just off in the distance where something else had come crashing through what was left of the trees. There was undoubtedly widespread devastation and I couldn’t see the sun at all. I didn’t hear any wildlife either, only the crackling and popping of dozens of dwindling fires. My equipment didn’t detect any kind of radiation so at least there was that I suppose. I walked around for a few minutes and tried to make the best assessment of the situation that I could. It seemed “safe”, relatively speaking, so I decided to go back into the bunker, regroup and remerge in roughly half a day to see if perhaps I had gotten the time of day wrong. Maybe I got mixed up and it was actually closer to night than I thought.
So here I am half a day later. It’s still dark and I still can’t find the sun, which is concerning to say the least. I’m not going to find any answers just standing here. I might as well do some exploring to see what’s out there, besides, I really want to go see what else obliterated the forest so badly. I double check my gear and set out to investigate the area, searching the ground as I walk.
“Hmm, what’s this” I wonder out loud as if anyone is around to hear me…
I’ve been walking for quite a while now so I think I’ll sit down and rest for a bit. I can't stop thinking about that trinket. Inspecting it directly in front of my light, I can see that it opens, or at least it used to before it melted. I carefully pry it open and small pieces of charred paper come falling out. Otherwise it's empty, but it does appear to have had some kind of small loop on one side near the top. “Oh, I think this might be some kind of jewelry” I say as I stare at it intently.
CRAAASH! I jump to my feet and spin around to look behind me. ‘I probably should not go see what that was’, I think as I start walking in that very direction. I can see some faint smoke up ahead and it looks like some of the trees that are still standing might be smoldering. As I get a bit closer, I can see that many trees are pushed almost completely over, only being supported by the less severely burnt trees around them. Climbing up and over the mangled mass of debris I see a huge pile of metal with electrical wires and conduit of some sort hanging out all over it. ‘It looks like… I think it’s a ship!’ Like the type of ship that we use to explore our moon but, definitely not something of ours. It has writing on it that I can’t understand and it appears strange to say the least.
“Uuuuuugggghhhh”, I can hear a faint moaning sound coming from the wreckage. I rush to where the noise is coming from and throw some debris to the side. Lying there is… some sort of creature. It has arms and legs; roughly the same body proportions as me but… it’s definitely not from this planet.
“What are you”, I ask, not actually expecting it to understand me.
After a moment it looks at me, adjusts a device on its arm and says, “Human”.
“Human?”, I reiterate, “I don’t know this word?”
Speaking my language, it answers, “alien to you, from Earth”.
What?! An alien?! My mind is reeling! Did this thing cause all of this destruction?
“Did you do this”, I ask as I motion to the devastation?
“Not intentionally”, it says. “Our ship malfunctioned…lost control ... collided with an asteroid.”
So that's it then. In a split second, in one catastrophic moment the fates of everyone on this world as well as everyone on that ship were altered forever.
The human is clearly starting to fade so I quickly pull the trinket out of my bag and ask,
“what is this?”
It looks at it with great nostalgia and says, “my locket”.
“Locket”, I question? “What’s it for”?
The human curves its hands into an odd shape and holds it over its chest.
“My heart”, it whispers as it slowly drifts away…