For us, life changed the day we saw the sky on fire. Or, more precisely, we saw fire falling off the sky. I remember waking up by the noise outside, as I always left my window open when I slept, because of the heat at nights. My parents and the neighbors were talking very loud for so early in the morning and my brother, who slept in bed next to mine, was not there but standing by the door, hearing everything. Then, not even having the chance of asking what was going on, I heard mom walking towards our room. Brother ran to bed and pretended he was asleep but he did a really awful job at it.
She told us in a hushed voice, for some reason, to get out of bed and put on some slippers. She rushed us and we went with her. When we went out of the house, dad was already there looking up. We all looked up too and we saw it: a big ball of fire was crossing the sky. It didn’t look like something that nature would do but, then again, I had never really seen a real meteorite so maybe that was it. I then remembered the many shows I had seen about the extinction of the dinosaurs and thought that maybe it was our turn and that’s why we were all outside.
I thought it was a little bit weird to go out and then look at the thing that was going to destroy us, our homes and our planet, but when we started moving towards the beach, I found it even stranger. Dad held mom’s hand and she held mine and I held my brother’s. I honestly thought our time on Earth had come so I had no problem walking with everyone side by side and in a strange harmony, crossing the few blocks that separated us from the ocean. When we got there, a crowd had already settled down, many families and old people and kids and lonely folks. They were all looking up.
The ball of fire was getting considerably larger and it came with a weird sound, like the one a string gust of wind would do but much more annoying. It wasn’t the nicest thing to hear just before dying but I guessed I couldn’t really complain. I was on the beach, which I loved, I had my parents and… Shit, they had left Captain back in the house! I told mom but she wouldn’t pay attention, not pulling her eyes away from the fireball. I wanted my dog with me if I was going to die so I released myself from my family’s grip and ran to the house.
As old as he was, he was sleeping, not minding a bit about the fireball or the scandal people had created for hours. I grabbed him by the collar and, at first; he was not very willing to come. But after some petting and food, he came peacefully. As we walked to the beach, I felt suddenly very hot and realized it was the fireball, cruising the sky exactly above me. Captain barked at it and then it happened all so fast, as if someone (maybe God) had pushed the “fast forward” button. When I got to the beach, the ball of fire had already fell.
But it did not destroy us. Actually, my last thought before it fell was that it wasn’t a ball at all. As close as it was, it didn’t have a real shape, not one that I could pinpoint. People on the beach had pulled back as some waves came in but didn’t do much damage. There, on the horizon, fire could still be seen but it was dying. I imagined a monster, burning and dying in the middle of the ocean. It really looked like one, due to the shape of the object. I realized that’s what it was because nature would not do something like that, which such and odd shape.
Captain barked and growled. That snapped my family out, my dad telling us that it was better to go back home, as nothing more would happen tonight. He was wrong but we went anyway. I slept with Captain in my bed and he didn’t mind. He was a strange dog, preferring sometimes to be away from humans, especially young kids. But that night, somehow, he didn’t mind the attention and care and I was showing him. I even kissed his forehead before going to sleep and he didn’t even budge.
The next morning, I was woken up again by the sound of my parents’ voices. I asked myself if they weren’t able to shut up, as I really wanted to keep on sleeping. I felt tired and my body ached, as I needed to sleep some more. Again, my mother came to our room to get us to have some breakfast. After all it was a school day. It was too early so I ate my cereal not even realizing I was spilling milk all over the place. I showered afterwards and got my uniform ready. Walking with brother on my side, I was still sleepy but we managed to find the way to school.
Yet, we noticed something was wrong. Policemen, or at least they looked like policemen, were everywhere. They were in the corner of the street checking lampposts, or asking people questions in front of their houses or running somewhere. Our small town did not have a police department. We depended on the next town for that. So who were those men and women? They were dressed in black and had a small logo on their shoulder but I couldn’t see what it was.
In school, teachers seemed as distracted and sleepy as the rest of us. They all tried to do what they had to do but it was almost impossible. Kids were not listening and teachers were obviously not interested in speaking about mathematics or chemistry or history. Some yawned several times and others just looked at the window as if they were hoping for it to get shattered into a thousand pieces. It was the first time I saw kids actually sleeping on their desks and the teacher not saying anything to them. I would have liked to do that but when I decided to one of the men came in the school and said the classes were suspended.
At home, mom explained those men were from the government and that they needed everyone’s help to salvage whatever it was that had fallen from the sky. They needed experienced swimmers and divers in order to help them, as only people from the area would know about the depth and characteristics of the water close to town. Dad had offered to help them, as he was a fisherman, and that’s why he wasn’t there to greet us from school. Normally he would come back early from fishing but he wasn’t there then. We joined mom in order to look the work he was doing from afar but got bored soon because there were no hills from which we could actually see something.
The rest of that week was all the same. Dad started to get paid for his help but he had to leave early in the morning and would return late in the afternoon. He was always so tired he would eat half-asleep and then just fall into bed like a rock. Mom seemed worried for him but as my brother and I were deemed to young to ask anything, we simply didn’t. But we were worried too. Dad had always been such a joker and he loved to play around after dinner but during that weak he was practically a zombie.
The third day after the “fireball” had fallen from the sky, a rumor ran across town. Apparently, some said that the thing that had fallen in the ocean was actually a spaceship and that the government was using us to get to them, them of course being the aliens. I found this a little stupid of them because if we helped them many people would know, so how would they cover up that? Killing everyone? No, too many questions would come up. I would make drawings in class of the aliens and the ship. I would also imagine talking to one of them and him telling me were he came from and how sorry he was to have crashed on Earth.
My brother had nightmares about it, obviously he had been told awful stories about aliens by his friends. After all, most books about them it the library was about how evil they were and how they loved to destroy humanity ever single time they were able to. In some old movie magazine, they were even very similar to insects and I guess that was the image my brother had in his mind because he went insane when, walking to school, we saw a butterfly.
The men in black left town after exactly seven days. They had taken out all they could from the ship and dad explained they could come back to take the ship, part by part as it was huge. As he seemed a little bit more rested we asked him about the aliens and their technology. But he only laughed and told us that he saw no aliens. Then his expression turned grim and said no more.
Mother would explain that night that the object in the ocean was a space station, made by men, and that it had failed somehow and just fell off the sky. People had died on it and the men from the government had come for their bodies, to give them to their families. I couldn’t sleep that night. Somehow, I couldn’t stop thinking about those astronauts and how we saw them die.