Big Bang TheorybyMarciaR©
A thin, tearing sound like the ripping of a thousand sheets of paper grew with lightning speed to a violent roar that brought Gerry Abrams to her feet.
"What the hell is that!" she exclaimed, running for the cabin door. She flung it open just in time to see the white-hot sword of fire cleave the night sky. It came down from right to left on an almost vertical trajectory, smashing into the ground. The noise was ear-splitting and she shook with the impact.
"Oh, my God!" she exclaimed. "Was that a meteor?"
Then all was dark and silent again.
Grabbing a flashlight from the mantle over the fireplace, Gerry excitedly ran out into the yard, turned around again and ran back into the cabin. Grabbing her leather coat and the keys out of her purse, she scolded: "Christ, Gerry! Lock yourself out!"
This time shutting the door behind her and making sure it was locked, Gerry hustled across the yard and down a narrow path. She directed the flashlight ahead, sweeping it all directions. There were bear in these woods, she knew, and bobcats too. . .she didn't want a run in, but she did want her story.
A print reporter for the New York Daily News, Gerry was in her fifth year in the trade. She hated the work almost as much as she hated her ex-husband, Tom, but this was the kind of story she craved.
"Crack Reporter Sole Witness to Giant Meteor's Fall!"
Only a crack reporter she was not and neither was the meteor a giant. If it were, she'd probably be dead.
Emerging from a stand of trees, and stopping for a moment to catch her breath, Gerry scanned the dimly star-lit valley below for smoke or fire. She saw a few wisps rising from the pine trees to her right, and headed resolutely off in that direction.
"Let there be something left," she muttered, tripping over a root. "I need a three-column picture."
Away from the path and into the pesky undergrowth, briars tore at Gerry's pants legs and scratched at her hands; boughs whipped and stung her face. "Ow!" she yelled, more than once. Once she dropped the flashlight and had to go after it on her hands and knees--momentarily it went out.
"Great! Lost in the woods!"
Here in the northern Adirondacks after fifty two weeks of constant reporting in order to wash the stink of slayings, scandals and corruption out of her mind (in her ex-husband's cabin), the last time she got "lost" in the woods, Gerry had squat down on poison ivy, going pee. The itch had driven her crazy, finally forcing her into town to see the doctor. What an ordeal that had been!
Before long she heard a crackle of flames and caught the smell of burning. She emerged a few minutes later into a hundred-foot round circle, crushed flat by the impact.
Wow, she reflected uneasily, it was bigger than I thought.
Brush, grass and leaves, set afire by the impact, burned fiercely around the edge of the crater, which was ten feet wide. Smoke caught her eyes and made Gerry blink. She coughed lightly. She hated smoke. He ex-husband smoked. Then she saw the rock.
Only it was not a rock at all.
Half-buried in the soft earth thrown out by the impact, the object was a glowing polyhedron. Its surface was covered in a multitude of tiny faceted flats, perfectly geometrical in shape. A polyhedron that had fallen from outer space.
Gerry Abrams stared. And she was scared. Backing slowly away, she saw a new headline blasting out:
"Reported Killed by Polyhedron From Outer Space! Earth Invaded!"
Gerry took another step back, then a tentative step in the direction of the object. She gulped and her throat made a loud click. Her throat was parched.
"What the hell is that?" she muttered.
Cautiously, she took a step closer, mindful of the heat. The ground around the object gave off tenuous streamers of steam and smoldered in places like a cigarette tip. The object glowed white hot, but it wasn't hot at all, Gerry discovered. The glow was illumination, not radiant heat.
"What the hell is this thing?" she demanded.
It was a satellite, of course. Russian, American, who knew? Maybe even Chinese. But the truth was--and Gerry very well knew it--that nothing coming through our atmosphere arrived unscathed--if it arrived at all. This thing was fully intact.
Coming to a sudden decision, Gerry backed away. It was too big--too big for her. Way too big for any one person. Yet she fully deserved to have her byline on this piece, and as long as her name appeared first, that was just fine. She needed an expert, and knew just where to find one.
Turning around, Gerry struggled back through the woods to the path then followed it up the slope. Once inside the cabin, she climbed the ladder to the loft and pulled her flight bag out from under the bed. She thumbed on her cell phone, waited for the familiar Verizon logo to appear then hoped for a signal. She saw one bar.
Taking a chance he'd be on his couch in his office at the observatory, dialing 411, Gerry gave the following information: "New York, New York. Dr. Ferdinand Peters. Manhattan University Observatory."
Waiting for the attendant to pick up, she picked anxiously at her teeth. She needed to pee. She squirmed having to hold it in. When the operator thanked her for waiting, she wrote the number down on the back of her hand and then dialed it.
"Hello?" The astronomer's voice was sleepy and irritated, but at least it was him and no one else.
"Hi," she said. "This is Gerry Abrams."
Before he could speak, Gerry went on:
"You remember me, right? The reporter who spilled vodka martini all over your clothes?"
Even as Gerry held her breath in a fearful limbo, Dr. Peter's said: "What do you want, Gerry? It's pretty late."
"Did you like the article on your solar flares?" she asked. "It was published last month." Again, she fingered her teeth. Her own color had flared and tears began to well. Why did I call him?
"I remember it contained no less than thirty-three errors," Dr. Peters answered, somewhat acidly.
Gerry groaned. "No."
"I wanted to review it first."
"I know," Gerry sighed. "I should have sent it down."
There was a moment's silence, during which Dr. Peters sighed. "I'm sorry," he said. "I should have called you."
You certainly should have. Aloud, Gerry said: "I found something, Pete."
Gerry slowly explained. She tried not to sound too crazy. She tried not to sound insane.
After digesting her words, Dr. Peter's said: "I'm coming up. By plane, if I can get a flight." Peter's hated to fly "You wait there and we'll go out and look at this thing together. Does anyone else know?"
"If they do, I didn't tell them."
"Well, it had to be seen. Most likely there's hunter's out scouring for it now."
What Peters meant by "hunters" were the professional meteorite collectors. They chased down any significant fall for selling to the highest bidder. The hunters were hated by professional and amateur astronomers alike.
"We have to beat them there," Peters said.
In the early morning light, Gerry stood beside the small but immaculately kept runway at Lake George Lodge. Used mostly by local inhabitants, twice a year the lodge drew an influx of profession sportsmen, coinciding with the start of fishing season and the bass tournaments they spawned. Gerry had never fished, but she liked bass well enough. She waited for the plane.
Jesus, Gerry, she thought. You broke up his marriage.
So what, the unrepentant side of her said. If he didn't want to jump, he didn't have to.
But jump he had, and Gerry and Peter's spent three incredible months fucking madly, often at her cabin in the woods, sometimes even bothering to talk.
His wife has the kids. she thought.
You're why his wife has the kids.
Putting the argument aside, Gerry paced anxiously up and down the strip. The last time was back in June, when the first tournament had hit. They had spent three days in bed. Three days memorizing each other's skin. Three days luxuriating in the cool mountain air as precious seconds ticked by and the wife grew wise. She had not seen him since.
Gerry heard the drone of a plane.
Coming in from the east and circling gracefully over the lake, the yellow and red float plane came in low over the water. Throttling back at just the last moment, the pilot let the pontoons gently touch, then set the plane in the water. He sidled up to the dock. The instant the ignition was cut, Peters threw open the door and jumped out. His face was gray with strain and unshaven beard and his eyes were bloodshot. Eying Gerry walking toward the dock, he perfunctorily waved.
"Hi," Gerry called, keeping enthusiasm out of her voice. He looks just awful, she thought.
How do you look?
At twenty-four years of age, Gerry stood five-feet-seven inches tall and weighed an unhealthy one-hundred and two pounds. None of her clothes fit anymore, and Gerry was too stubborn to buy anything new. Her bra size had shrunk a full cup and a half, leaving her to flop around in her bra's. Lately she had resorted to safety pinning them closed. She no longer looked at her chest in the mirror.
I look just fine, she replied.
Stepping up on the dock, Gerry waited for Peters to retrieve his bag, then make final arrangements with the pilot. She kissed him chastely on the cheek, hands in her pockets.
"Hi, Pete," she said.
They stood together uneasily for awhile, afraid to say a word. Then Gerry stepped off the dock and lead the way to her car.
"You're sure the thing is a polyhedron?" Peters asked. "Not just a meteorite with some resemblance to that shape?"
"Wait till you see it ," Gerry said. "My car will take us almost there."
Her car was 2003 Toyota Land Cruiser and it did go anywhere, almost.
"Let me throw this in the back, okay?" Peters said, going to the hatch. "Its equipment I thought we'd need."
His equipment consisted of various-sized pry-bars, a fifty-piece, all-purpose Craftsman tool set, a pair of Army surplus collapsible shovels, and a miniature oxy-acetylene torch.
After stowing his bag in the back, Peters jumped in and they bumped and rattled their way over the uncertain mountain roads. They rode in silence, finally reaching a turnout near the site. It was the Appalachian Trail.
Retrieving his pack and settling the pack on his shoulders, Peters said: "We hiked this path before."
Gerry said, "Uh-huh. It leads back up the mountain, almost to my place." She pointed up the slope. "It's about halfway up, and over to the left."
They left the path at a spot marked by Gerry with a red hair-bob tied to a branch--she ignored his half-smirky grin--and fought their way through the brambles. The going was much easier in the daylight, it not any less painful. When they emerged in the clearing where the "meteorite" lay, Peters let out a soft whistle.
"A satellite," he said.
Gerry said, "That's what I thought, at first."
Peters slowly nodded. "How could it survive the impact. . ."
Moving slowly toward the object with his best scientific-undertaking expression, Peters walked with Gerry around the hole. Keeping his eyes fixed on the object, he said: "I should have called you, Gerry. I really should."
Gerry was unsure what to say. She wanted to cuss him out. She wanted to kick his ass. She almost called him a fucking cock.
"I called you," she said.
"Yes. You certainly did." Leaning over the object to hide his look of guilt, Peters held out his hand.
"I'm not going to touch it," he said. He held his palm six inches from the surface. "It's not hot. But it glows."
"Should have seen it last night."
Getting out the pair of collapsible shovels, Peters opened them both and handed one to Gerry.
Peters grinned. "This is a two man job."
Gerry looked down at her body. The leather coat camouflaged her lack of assets up top, but there was no disguising her jeans. They hung on her in the best Hip-hop fashion. "I guess I'm your man," she said.
Going to work on one side, while Peters worked on the other, Gerry soon uncovered something of interest.
"There's a marking on the side," she said. Then looking closer: "A diagram of some kind."
Peter's came around to look. "You know," he said, going down on his knees, "if this thing is some kind of metal, it's like nothing I've ever seen."
Gerry thought the "tiles" looked ceramic.
"No," Peter's mused, looking closely at the newly discovered outline. "Ceramic doesn't glow."
"Neither does metal," she said.
Examining the pattern graven into the object's side, Peters grunted in surprise.
"What?" Gerry asked.
Peter's expression was bewildered. "I don't know," he said, though Gerry thought he did.
Getting very close to the diagram, Gerry looked it over again. This time she saw that the swarms of tightly clustered dots forming patterns, most of them spiral, in the shape of galaxies. Then she saw the strangely formed line of icons, looking like hieroglyphics.
"What the hell are those?" she asked, pointing.
"Writing of some kind," Peters observed. "An inscription?"
Gerry envisioned the photograph now, a pretty blonde posed in the foreground for added enticement. "Crack Reporter and Scientist Crack Alien Code!"
The only thing getting cracked around here, she thought, was her head.
Peters could not hide his excitement. "These symbols are not any language from Earth, Gerr. At least not the language of anyone capable of this." He touched the object for the first time. Gerry saw him minutely wince. "The diagram is definitely some kind of star chart, only laid out in super-cluster size." He paused. His eyes were big and round. "Super-cluster sized," he repeated.
Gerry, unsure what all that meant, said, "Yeah?"
"Yeah. The central one, I think, may symbolize the Milky Way." He pointed out a spiral-armed cluster. "This," he said, "is definitely Andromeda, over here."
"How do you know?" Gerry said, thinking the two clusters looked just alike.
"Because it's in the right place and set in the right configuration."
Gerry thought that sounded absurd, then remembered the pictures she had seen of the Andromeda cluster, and thought maybe he was right. Seen half-turned away, and from the top, Andromeda would look just what she saw on the "tiles."
"But they're too close together," Peters mused, distractedly, for which Gerry took his word. "This would have been their positions," he shrugged, "maybe twelve billion years ago."
Gerry hid her smile. Right, she thought. Eight billion years.
"Come on, let's see what's inside."
"Do you think that's wise?" Gerry asked. Anything capable of withstanding a meteoric landing was best not to mess with. At least not here. "Pete--"
"Come on," he said, going around to the other side. "Let's play around."
Let's play around in the cabin, she thought. Then she said it aloud.
Peters looked up. His eyes said it all.
"Why the fuck didn't you call?" Gerry demanded. She sat down on the ground, then began to cry. Gathering her knees up to her chest, she began to cry in earnest. "I waited until I thought," she got out between sobs, "that maybe he went back to his wife. Maybe he needed her and the two kids more than he needed me. Maybe he had to think about his tenure and the respect of his colleagues and maybe this stupid little shit just didn't deserve him at all. And then you know what!" she shouted. "Then I found out the wife and the kids were not in the house on Long Island, but in some condo upstate! And that Mister I'm-sorry-but-I-can't-make-it-up-this-weekend famous astronomer was not sick and despondent but seeing another woman! A Professional woman! Someone with stature! Someone who wouldn't ride her ass up and down on his dick and then suck him off afterwards! Someone who wouldn't let him chase her up and down the Appalachian Trail in the nude with a spanking across his knee if she's caught! And I bet she sure as hell wouldn't--"
"Gerry!" he snapped. "Stop!"
And that's when Gerry let it all fall out and collapsed on her side in the dirt.
"Are you better now?"
It was some time later and Gerry lay with her head in his lap. She still sobbed with an occasional hiccup and a hitching of breath, and her chest really hurt, but the worst was done.
"I do not think you're a harlot," he said.
Gerry moved her head in a "yes you do" manner. She wanted to suck her thumb. She wanted to suck his dick.
Peters stroked her hair.
"I'm sorry," she said, finally. "I really lost my cool."
"No, you didn't," he said, continuing to stroke her hair.
"It was unfair."
"It was the truth," he said, his voice tight and bitter.
Gerry looked up. "Are you and her still. . .?"
Peters shook his head.
Gerry returned her head to his lap. "Good," she said, making them both sigh.
Peters stroked her hair, tucked loose strands behind her ear. He had done that a lot at the cabin.
"So," she said, "are you seeing--"
Gerry said nothing. She looked deep into the woods. A doe and a pair of speckled fawns stared back. That brought on a smile. Gerry raised up. "You are an asshole!" she said, and then Peters kissed her.
Some thirty minutes later, the "meteorite" wholly forgotten, Gerry lay enclosed in Peter's arms. She was semi-covered by her coat, but her rear end was bare and so were her legs. She suffered a light but continual shiver.
The doe and her fawns had gone.
"I'm so cold!" she chattered.
Both of them laughed.
"I have to get dressed."
"Stay here a while."
"You're not the one bare-assed for anyone to see!" she whimpered.
"Stop whining. I hate it when you whine."
Gerry scrunched herself more tightly into her coat. She worked her legs in between his. Peters was completely clothed and Gerry completely nude, but the truth was, she would not trade her place or this moment for any in the world.
"I'm so glad you came," she whispered.
"So am I."
"I'm glad you fucked me," she said, bringing another laugh.
"Gerry," he said, holding both the back of her neck and the swell of her rear end. "You've got to gain some weight."
Gerry whined, indecipherable.
"Stop that," he said.
For a time they lay quiet and content, Gerry shivering happily. Peters was happy to let her. He always was the dominant half.
Finally, Gerry rose up and gathered up her clothes. Sitting between his legs, she put on her brassiere, ashamed of her shrunken breasts.
"Jesus, Gerr," Peters clucked. "You're skin and bones."
Gerry mumbled, "Shut up."
As he always did, Peters fastened her bra. "You might as well not wear one," he said.
Stretching out her legs and then drawing them up, Gerry slid into her panties. She wiggled them onto her rear. She had not shaven in a month and she felt extremely self-conscious. She would shave tonight, even if Peters left.
Putting on her flannel shirt and buttoning it up, then getting up with a hand from Peters, Gerry climbed into her jeans and zipped them closed. Peters watched with undisguised concern.
"Shut up!" she warned, slipping on her coat and then buttoning it up. "I don't want to hear it."
Finally donning her boots, Gerry turned to face the object.
"Back to this," she said.
Two hours later, Gerry and Dr. Peters sat exhausted, humbled and defeated. The object had no doors. Their efforts to get into the mysterious polyhedron had utterly failed.
"Whatever it is," Peters groused, "they designed it well." He wiped his brow. Despite the cold mountain air, he'd broken a sweat.
"Who do you think made it?" Gerry asked, scraping her nails. Four of them had broken, three on the left hand. She'd have to clip them tonight.