Author’s note, I am writing to learn writing. I had missed one of the basic rules of modern literary marketing and ended this story without the tease of a sequel. I have corrected this oversight.
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The peace of the beach settles my soul. Tonight the weather is fair, the wind gentle, the sky clear, and the sound of waves peaceful. It is off-season for the beach community, with few visitors and a small local population. Life is good. I watch the constellations and soak in the environment. I am delighted by a shooting star streaking across the sky, then several shooting stars, then dozens, hundreds, shooting stars from horizon to horizon, the largest shooting star display I have ever witnessed! My emotional state goes from awe to frightened; I cannot comprehend what I am seeing.
Some of the shooting stars hit the Gulf waters, some land on the barrier island. I see one that lands close by in the dunes, while others land further inland. After about an hour the celestial display lessens and then tapers off. My mind demands some understanding, so I grab a flashlight and move to find the shooting star that landed closest to my location. Using a reasonably organized search pattern I locate a small indentation in the sand with a faintly glowing polyhedral object at the bottom, I can feel heat a foot away from the object. Running back to the beach house I mentally compile the needed equipment to pick it up, examine and then contain the object, an oven glove, some tongs, and a metal pot. As I collect my tools my excitement grows, with tools in hand I hurry back to the strange object. It is gone.
There are no other foot prints around the area and there is no other person near. I start a spiral search centered on the depression, about forty feet from the depression I find this other worldly object, it is slowly moving over the sand. It is slowly rotating in the sand, when it stops rotating it floats up a few inches and forward a couple of feet, then gently settles back to the sand and starts the slow rotation once more. It appears to select a slightly different direction and lifts into the air to move a short distance, repeating this cycle over and over. I decide to follow it rather than collect it.
As dawn approaches my little mystery has moved 175 feet, I have started to record any data I can observe, It is tracing a sallow circle bending northward. Then the predawn light allows me to see more polyhedral objects, all identical and all moving towards each other. I had picked up the object with my tongs and examined as closely as possible, it is smooth, as near I can ascertain, perfectly smooth, it is light as a feather and soft to the touch. When it started to move I could not hold it back, I had placed it in my pot and attempted to stop it, it could drag me across the sand. Not even my full body weight could slow it.
Dozens of people had gather, some following the objects as I had, others attracted by the grouping of people. Some engaged in excited chatter and others like me, stood in quite amazement, a husband wife team was providing a running commentary of events reported from their cell phone. The objects were being called Crystals, no one had been harmed and millions have landed across the entire planet.
As the first of the crystals neared each other we all moved back, some in fear ran, but all moved back. The two crystals touched with a faint click and dropped to the ground, soon more crystals joined to create a growing structure. The individual Crystals join with no apparent seam, the structure can be easily moved or knocked over, and then it rights itself and moves back.
Several in the gathering crowd have arms, pistols, rifles, carbines and shotguns. One of the armed men has become agitated, none can explain what is happening and he is creating paranoid visions in his mind. It is hard to follow his logic, essentially he claims we are being invaded and we need to defend ourselves. He shoots one of the Crystals. The Crystal blows apart in what appears to be a splash of water. A single high caliper bullet completely destroyed one Crystal.
Within moments the armed people are blasting away at the structure, leaving behind nothing but wet sand. I decide this an appropriate time to be somewhere else.
Within half an hour I am in the SUV heading north, the radio stations are reporting Crystals landing everywhere. My wife has her cell phone online and is relating worldwide reports from social media. A tsunami of information containing no meaning, no understanding, I am scared, she is terrified. The President is activating the military, the Governor is activating the National Guard, and the Mayor is telling citizens to stay home. The freeway is confused with panicked drivers, we snake pass several car wrecks while military aircraft cross the sky. We are stopped at police check points, showing my identification and explaining that we are trying to get home, they allow us to pass.
What is normally a two hour drive becomes 14 hours, the gas tank is near empty, and we stop at a gas station a few miles short of home then wait in line to refill. I am confused and frightened, my dogs have picked up on my emotional state and they growl at anyone that nears our SUV.
Arriving at home we note a Crystal structure about a half mile away, it is as tall as a water tower. Our neighbors, many heavily armed, have collected and are conducting a highly confused, unorganized debating society. The argument becomes louder, perturbed and even more rattled. One gentleman fires his pistol into the air, demanding attention and quite. He declares this an invasion; our first responsibility is to protect our families.
We heard a helicopter, turning I see four AH-1 Cobras on an attack approach. Grapping my wife, we run, she is faster than me and I try to keep up. We run toward the Army helicopter, fear overrides the growing pain in my side, I watch the helicopter and when it fires missiles I pull my wife into the ground and try to hide in a ditch. The violence of military force I had hoped to never see again erupts at the Crystal structure; after the concussive blast wave has passed I stand and look back. Mangled bodies, trees burning, there is no Crystal structure. We hurry to help the survivors.
Hours later we are back in our house, planning and assembling our survival kit. The cable TV has gone 24/7 with this story, talking heads, politicians and scientist, all can be summed with three words. We know nothing. Social media is alive with the most insane explanations. The craziest of the crazies are organizing. Martial law has been instituted, Habeas Corpus suspended, Posse Comitatus has been repealed, the government is scared, the civilians are scared, even the military is scared.
Anyone with a weapon is locked and loaded, in my community that is everyone, in Texas even Barbie dolls come with a cute little AR-15, in a matching pink. I’ve cleaned and readied my old snub nosed 38, I’ve borrowed a 30/30 from my brother-in-law, between us we inventoried our ammunition and tried to purchase more, the Survivalist Emporium had sold out.
Twenty four hours since the shooting star shower and I now live in a completely different society.
Exhaustion forced sleep on me, my wife has not closed her eyes for a second, she was fatigued and scared silly. Constant, random gunfire sounds across the landscape. Sirens are constant. Electrical service was out for several hours. Reports are that gasoline is unavailable, food emptied from the grocery stores, police and military patrols are maintaining the barest of civil order. One of my dogs is hiding in the closet under a pile of dirty clothes.
After hours of online research I have found little to clarify this astounding event. The American government has responded with military force, the Europeans have responded with attempted scientific study, the Chinese government has responded with an autocratic lock down, the Arabic monarchies have collapsed. One clear societal pattern is that the larger the percentage of an armed populace, the faster the destruction of the society. Fear combines with undisciplined armed men to create total anarchy.
The science is flustered. The Crystals cannot exist. We do not even have theories to extrapolate the action and working of the Crystals, the crystals create structures of unknown purpose using an impossible power source. The location and spacing of individual structures is precise, creating a geodesic network covering all land masses. This seems to continue into the oceans and seas. The world’s scientific community has concentrated on the problem, the advanced nations are funding the scientist without limit, empirical data is collected and posted online for anyone to examine. No reported harm has come to any person or animal, little damage has been done to buildings or infrastructure. If this is an invasion, we are doing all the work.
The American society is collapsing. Me and the wife formulate a basic plan, collect the family and head for Mexico.
I’ve never been a morning person, I prefer moonrise to sunrise, and most of the sunrises I’ve seen were on my way to bed. Military organizations have a different approach, attack at dawn and use all day for fighting. Naturally when the attack came, I was fast asleep.
After the crystals starting falling, America had become a battle field. Crystals fell from the sky and then started to move toward each other. They would create structures, strange structures with no known purpose. The individual crystals evaded any understanding, when opened they would turn into water. Close scientific examination confirmed that it was water, based on isotopic analysis it was earth water.
Building a society is hard and slow, destroying a society is easy and fast.
The American government knew the crystals for a threat, what threat no one knew; the military was dispatched to destroy all crystal structures. The crystals fell, built a structure, the military blew up the structure, more crystals fell and everything repeated. Entire cities had been leveled. Virtually all the causalities were civilian, a few soldiers had died in training or friendly fire but the civilians got a beating.
Civil disorder was rampant, the economy had collapsed, infrastructure decimated. The civilian gun-nuts had turned mercenary, roaming in gangs killing and stealing. Whenever the military cornered one of these self proclaimed paramilitary freedom fighters they were annihilated. It was best to keep moving, no defense would stand for long, stay low and keep moving.
We had gathered family and friends, everyone over thirteen was armed but bullets were at a premium, we avoided all conflicts. We had moved out of Houston, heading south, planning to make Mexico in a few weeks. The interstate highway was a killing field, so we traveled overland. The farms had been abandoned, most had been burned down. A single family had no chance against the roving gangs. Living off the land we scavenged, traveled light and keep moving.
Two nights ago we had found a farm with a vast number of crystals, more moving in from every direction. They appeared to be building a satellite array atop a geodesic dome. We moved back about two miles, an air strike was inevitable, we watched all night and at dawn the air strike arrived, even at two miles the concussive shock wave was powerful. Some of the crystals fell near us. I gathered a few crystals for examination. An infantry scouting team would come to collect the crystals, I dropped the crystals and we moved out. We planned on making twenty miles.
Last night I had sentry duty, I loved the night, the sky was full of shooting stars as more crystals entered the atmosphere, at three in the morning Steven relieved me and I went to bed. At sunrise the attack started. Overnight an enormous crystal structure had self assembled about 5 miles northwest and it was hit with a combined air and ground assault. Heavy weapons fire is a good motivational tool, I didn’t need sleep, I needed to be gone.
The government was slowly reestablishing civil society. Most of the paramilitary groups had been disarmed or killed, the establishment of order had started in the big urban population areas, what used to be cities, and then the military captured large agricultural areas to provide food. The interstate highways were cleared of wreckage and patrolled by armored Hummers with mounted 50 cals.
We had liberated five SUVs and packed everyone onboard, now we followed the Army Hummers in close order. This allowed for relative safety in our flight for Mexico. At night we debated our wisdom. Continue south or turn back for Houston?
The American government had ceased its war on Crystals, joining the Europeans in scientific research. A Russian scientist had conducted an extremely clever experiment that proved the Crystals converted neutrinos into energy and an Indian scientist showed that the Crystals modified the local gravity field. All this showed that our understanding of physics was deeply flawed.
The safest place for the family was behind Army lines and we decided to enter San Antonio. We descended on one family member, a native to San Antonio, thirty two family and friends clustered into one house. This was the best we had experienced over two weeks, finally a dry warm place to sleep. The very best was coffee. I had been fighting coffee withdrawal and losing.
Coming together and reviewing the remaining resources I felt the best I had since the night of the first shooting stars.
The news was bad. That is an understatement, the news was terrifying.
The government had tried to suppress the news, as always, the secret came out, a secret know by hundreds of astronomers.
A meteor was inbound for earth, 30 miles in diameter and moving at 60,000 miles per hour. The dinosaurs were killed by a meteor only 10 miles in diameter, now this one was at least three times larger, nothing bigger that an amoeba would survive. The meteor would impact in two days, Friday, September the thirteenth, when the tip hit the Atlantic Ocean the tail would still be in space.
Somehow the Crystals no longer mattered.
I set dazed, watching news programs confirming the worst reports. The news anchors lacked animation, reporting in a stupor all the suicides and work stoppage. No one reported for work, police station stood empty, soldiers walked away from their duties, fire trucks without drivers.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 13th
Thousands had gathered on the ocean beach at Miami, the impending tidal wave would be 2 miles high, moving at 800 miles per hour, before it arrives an atmospheric blast wave would have passed, destroying anything more that 6 inches tall, most would die so fast they would never know they had died. I watched a live video feed of this silent crowd. I tried to identify with them, make it fast is the only thought I could manage.
I had moved through every emotion possible, hope was the one emotion unavailable to any, now I stood in the backyard watching the sky, the meteor was visible over the southeastern sky, it appeared to move slowly, a false illusion due to the size and distance involved, the meteor was moving 30 times faster than a bullet.
The end was near, every person present knew the precise moment of predicted collision. With two minutes left we started to hug each other, some confessed pass secrets, some cried and some prayed. One of the teenagers had started a countdown clock. I had him turn it off.
As I watched the meteor seemed to rise, then it moved overhead in a blindly flash, disappearing off to the northwest.
The meteorite had turned aside. Later investigation showed the crystals had warped space and time to direct the death of mankind into the sun. Then all the crystals had melted. Not one crystal continued anywhere on earth.
10 YEARS LATER
After ten years we still know very little, we do not know who or what created the Crystals, or even how they worked. The data collected had resulted in an outburst of scientific and technical advances. Careful review of all observations showed the Crystals had originated at Saturn, a deep space robot had found an enigmatic construct orbiting Titan.
The second amendment of the American constitution had been repealed. Armed fools were no longer allowed to walk America. Government had embraced its monopoly on violence.
Religious leaders claimed the Crystals as an Act of God, new religious orders were created, and some societies experienced religious revival and fever, while other societies had committed to scientific research. America had split and political battles raged.
But that is another story.