Interruption (part 2)

By H TOMLIN | Published: June 3, 2010

“Hey Anna, looks like we were the first ones here.” He had turned just as she approached.

A sea of uniforms, he stood in contrast wearing faded blue jeans and a red plaid button down. He had been looking at something everyone else seemed to be avoiding as they scurried around the site, collecting samples, searching for any injured persons. She wondered at their collective resistance to focusing on whatever it was that her partner’s body was facing. There was clearly a natural disaster of some sort. What else could have drawn this much attention? But this behavior, it was unique, even the most gruesome scene would not cause this level of instinctual aversian.

Her eyes focused on the ground as she neared her partner, searching for debris, some sign of shifting in the earth.

“You should really take a look at this.” He said.

She looked up to his face. He was uniquely handsome, and the casual attire made her heart stutter. A smile came unwillingly to her face.

But then something else hit her harder. She gasped for breath.

Over his shoulder the teams of paramedics, officers, and firemen seemed to part harmoniously to give her a direct line of vision.

She saw it, the black orb nestled into the earth as though it had melted into place, as though the ground was a liquid pool for it to bob on the surface of in perfect symmetry.

The black of the sphere was too deep, disturbingly deep, she felt lost looking at it.

“It did not fall straight down into that spot. This thing projected itself from a landing site out in the ocean. Look, it left a trail all the way from the beach to here.”

He had her by the hand and led her around the sphere, gently moving people out of his way, until she had a clear view of the trail it had made.

It was enormous. The half moon shape of the bottom of the orb carved into the earth in a perfectly straight line from where it rested all the way to the horizon, out toward the sea.

What made her heart sick was the fact that no plant or pebble was out of place. It was as if the orb had dissolved the ground, everything in its path, devouring it.

Another thing about the scene made her uncomfortable, that surpassed the disappearance of millions of tons of material matter. What disturbed her in a way she could not have anticipated was the sound.

The orb was completely still. Silent. Nothing.

Her bones and muscles were demanding that she allow them to run away from the unearthly silence.

Everything has sound. Hearts beat, atoms shake, organisms too small for a human eye to see creep along the insides of all that lives, making their vibrations, their “sound”. Digestion, breath, motion, the wind against a strand of hair… it all has sound. This thing, whatever it was, had nothing.

It did not belong.

And this thing, while her ears could not detect the absolute nature of it, she was sure, with every fiber in her being, was impossibly without sound.

“What do you think?” Her partner had three days of bristle on his face. He hadn’t had time to change or shower. His cabin was only a few miles away, so he arrived sooner than she had, even though he was still on vacation. The last one he would take before they would leave together, begin their arranged marriage on another planet. They had already grown very close. She noticed that he still held her hand, so used to the touch. The physical contact between them.

She too was wearing the yoga pants and fitted sweatshirt from her morning jog. Neither of them had been prepared for this call. There had been no warning, no time.

The government hadn't expected this kind of contact.

Of course there had been expectation when the first ships were launched to other worlds, a form of hope to find sentient life "out there". The fantastic anticipation to run into other beings out in space. But it was the childhood dreams. Like those expressed in Sci-Fi sit-coms. Cartoon characters and comic book heroes. There were never any real "encounters".

She and John had been called up because they were two of the few scientists still on Earth, and even that was by a slim margin of time. They were scheduled to depart in four more months. Their jobs would be to study alien plant and animal life on the world they’d be stationed to. Exploration and survival on the colonies were a higher priority for science than anything left on earth.

Until now.

But this, this thing in front of her, it was not like anything they had seen on any of the dozens of planets humans had already settled on.

She stood frozen, staring into the depth. This orb was beyond any expectation or imagining. So foreign. So unidentifiable. This sphere was inaccessible, too strange for the human mind to comprehend, to approach.

Now she could understand completely why the others were avoiding it. Any animal on earth would have the same response. Any creature would bide its time in an unconscious wish that the orb would disappear, vanish as suddenly as it had appeared. This thing was an unwelcome guest inside reality.

“I think we need to figure out what it is. And try to interact with it somehow. John, has anyone tried to enter it?”

She knew it was silly to ask. She could see in the behavior of every person around her that there were instincts at work that overrode the mind. Instincts that discouraged typical protocol. No person would voluntarily touch this thing.

“No. We’ve been surveying the area, trying to determine if it left any sort of residue or wreckage. Something that would produce a sample to study.”

“I don't think we're going to find any samples. Look at how it’s nestled into place. The ground around it did not stop it, I know this is impossible, but look, the ground appears to have disintegrated in its path”

They both moved closer. Not even a small pile of dust accumulated on the side opposite where it came from. No sign of physical resistance. It made her sick to think that whatever this thing was, the earth just disappeared at its will. physical laws played no role here.

“And look, here, its tracks, see how there are no ripples, it’s as if the ground were eaten up by the orb.”

There was no displacement, just missing space where the orb had moved through the ground.

At that moment the sphere moved.

It rolled, or seemed to roll, it was impossible to tell whether it rotated, about ten feet back along the trail it had created.

Everyone became still, holding their breath.

Anna wondered if it was terror. Is that what she felt right now? Was she afraid she would die? No, she was afraid of something worse than death.

She and John were very close to it. Without taking a single step she could have reached out an arm and touched the sphere. Instead they both circled the sphere to the side that had just been revealed. Inside the pit, between the orb and where it had once rested, in the gap, lay a woman.

She did not move.

Possibly unconscious, Anna thought. She was lying flat against the curved indention the sphere had made. She had nothing on and from this distance they could see that she was blue, green, and yellow all over her body. Bruised. What had this thing done to her?

No one moved.

Anna looked to John, then stepped forward.

She figured that the sphere could kill them all at any moment no matter what she did, she had no idea what it was capable of or why it was here. But, if there was something she could do to help a person, the woman lying helpless and obviously injured, she would do it. She was going to get that woman and bring her up out of there.

John, sensing her intentions, went back to his truck and grabbed a rope. He called two paramedics over and had them hold one side of it. Anna took the other and wrapped it around her waist.

She did not allow herself to think. Just let the adrenaline take her as she stepped forward to the edge and turned to lower a foot in. She thought it would be some basic rock climbing, that she would try to find foot and hand holds.

She had not expected the smoothness. Like a rock polished by salt water and sand.

Immediately, on contact with her foot, her whole body lost balance, her chin smacked against the edge. Her body went limp. Feeling only the searing pain from her face, she slid down the curved wall.

Stopping only when her foot struck the woman in the rib. The woman did not move at the impact. Anna would have felt worse about it, but there was nothing that could have been done, and from the bruises it was obvious that the woman had been through much worse inside the sphere.

Anna tried to stay focused, tried to stand, but the surface was too smooth. No friction existed to help her. She felt overwhelmed by the helplessness of her situation. Finally she decided to give in and stop trying to stand or crawl.

The woman was close enough that Anna was able to tie the rope around her. She remained limp, did not move as Anna’s hands made a secure knot. Anna tugged on the rope and it quickly pulled taught.

Then Anna waited. Not attempting to get up. Already having learned her lesson. In the few moments of silence, with no options other than to lie and wait, a thought occurred to her.

This must be the end of the world. Soon they would all die.

And the strangest part of this realization for her was the sense of relief. Such powerful and comforting relief swept over her at the thought that, in dying, she would escape this black empty sphere forever.

Then the rope slapped down near her on the bottom of the pit and she was able to reach it, tug, and be drug out. They had to help her at the top, unable to get any friction under her feet against the slope.

They pulled her to the natural ground, the surface she could understand.

Laying face down for a moment she breathed in the earth. In those short moments she had forgotten the smell of grass and dirt. It hadn’t smelt like anything in the pit. It had been drained of all that it was.

Her stomach turned at the memory of it.

__________________________________________________________

It was dark.

The moisture in the air made her spine shiver. Uncontrollable convulsions in the cold.

She looked up at the sphere. It made her insane, furious, this damn sphere that never revealed itself. Remained this impossible mystery. It should not exist in the world.

Why was it here, this soundless, motioneless, void?

Her hand reached out. It was an unnatural moment. Everything inside of her screamed, rejected the act, but still, she progressed. Forced herself to make the movement of touching the sphere.

On contact it enveloped her skin, her muscle, bone, hand,

and then she was gone.

She had heard of people who died for minutes, then came back. How they spoke of a tunnel and light and a voice calling. She assumed it more a scam to get money than anything else, than anything real.

But now she knew death.

Maybe no other creature had ever truly experienced it. Maybe all life was reincarnated, living one life and then another, always recycled into something that was.

In that instant she experienced true death. True ending.

So little of her consciousness could take it in, if there was such a thing possible in this death. All was gone. A darkness more than lack of light. Loss of senses beyond sleep. Nothing moved, nothing existed, just the death.

Then she was alive again, standing in a cave. A dark cave. Her sight made no adjustment, but she knew she was standing on dirt and rock. She could smell the damp air. Could hear the softest movement in the distance, perhaps a drip of water, continuing its work in forming the cavern. She had never been inside a cave before, but her imagination was able to place her, identify her surroundings and determine where she was.

But why?

Something was coming towards her, she could not hear it. Not even the air moved in its wake. She only knew its approach because the fear, the animal instinct inside her. She was a fawn in a field, not seeing the hunter but knowing that death was near. Frozen in it. Anticipation of the end.

She had already entered death before, this could be no different, why was she so afraid?

Then there was contact. It touched her on the collar bone, just beneath her chin, her neck. There was nothing to feel, that part of her no longer existed, without pain her body was taken from her, more than numb, it was gone. The sensation, no, the lack of sensation, crept out and took her entire self in a moment, then she was gone.

The lights came back up the moment she disappeared. Her second death. She wondered how many she could endure.

But this was a force greater than her that killed and resurrected her over and over and she knew she was subject to it. Hopelessness flooded over her, how long could she stay sane?

She opened her eyes to see the metallic panels, flashing lights, constant buzz of electric coils, it was a ship. There was no one else there, just her, obviously a dream. No interplanetary vessel would have an unmanned command room. She knew the procedures, the regulations. She had been trained on a ship similar to this. She was scheduled to depart on one in just a matter of days.

The likelihood of dying twice only to find herself on a ship seemed impossible. Her mind was swimming with the difficulties of this scenario.

Then she saw it, a brightness reflecting off of a panel in front of her. It was too bright, there was nothing inside a ship that could create that kind of light. She turned towards it then quickly turned again, instinctively, not wanting to make herself blind.

This was all too impossible.

The light was humming.

At first she hadn’t noticed because of the other sounds. After the silence of the cave, the sounds of a ship seemed blaring, disorienting. But now she could identify a distinct hum coming from the corner where the light existed.

Then the light spoke. At first it sounded like another language, but Anna understood the meaning. Something inside her understood. And after all the impossibilities of the past moments, she did not question her interpretation.

The light was telling her to run.

______________________________________________________

Anna awoke in the bottom of the pit. The pit had widened, the sphere must have rolled back again to reveal her, just as it had with the first woman.

She breathed a sigh of relief when she could hear John’s voice above.

“We’re coming down for you, hang on!”

“I can manage, just throw me a rope.”

_____________________________________________________

Anna awoke to an arm moving, positioning itself around her, another body moving closer. There was a weight on the top of her chest, not from him, from the hurt inside of her. She turned to bury her face in a pillow, in case the tears came.

He would think she was trying to go back to sleep.

It had been a familiar dream. She walked along a dirt path through a forrest or an orchard. Sometimes it was fields of grain or delicate green vegetable plants. Some sort of farm. She never got a good look, just the feel of it. Remote, rural, and growth, production.

Something deep inside of her had longed for a life like this.

She had visited this place, in her dreams, many times. He was never here, but his family was. Sometimes she would meet his sister or mother along the path. The first time she came to this place eager to find him and crushed when she didn't. Now she walked casually, knowing he wouldn't be here. His family, in the dream, would always be excited to see her. But it was always the same, they hadn't seen him either and had no way of telling Anna where he was.

But this evening she was only in this place for a short time. Alone.

Now as her mind and body awoke, she felt so many things. Anger at waking up, but more than that was this pressure that begged to be expressed through convulsive crying. Wailing for the loss. Grief. Horrible, painful grief.

This night she had seen him. It had been years since she had had a dream like this one. So real. She had walked beside him again. He touched her face, held it in his hand. Hands she remembered so well, the shape, the touch. She looked into his face. Time had erased all the conscious details of what he looked like. But her dream had journeyed into a place in her mind where she remembered with vivid detail. She believed, for a moment as she awoke, that she was there. Living another life.

A different life.

One where he loved her and was with her and where she had no other concerns or worries.

She wanted to go back to sleep. Return.

But it was impossible.

And now, with John's arm against her, she knew that she would need to respond. Interact with this reality that stomped into her consciousness, shattering her warm imaginary world.

So much of her wanted to scream, wanted to reject, wanted to die. But she assured herself that she could get through it. It was just a passion of the moment. Be patient, she told herself. It will pass.

So much of her living had come to an internal will and patience to just "get through" the time in front of her.

But with him, the man in her dreams, she had always wanted time to stay. For it to slow down and never pass. Never change. For him to stay. But all she discovered was that she had no power over time and space with him. He would always leave. Always become a memory, and then, when the memories faded, become a dream. Like this one.

And just as she had quietly assured herself, the moments moved by so quickly now that she soon forgot her dream. The feelings it held passed into memory.

___________________________________________________

“What happened?” John asked the question she had been waiting for.

He would have to file a report. Anna, for the first time, realized what the consequences could be for having entered the sphere. How badly this could go for her. What was she thinking to take a risk like that? There was no justifiable reason for her to have been there, to have approached the orb. She could loose her status, maybe even be dismissed from her duties.

John would be matched with someone else. She would stay on earth. She would never join a colony.

Part of her wanted this. Wanted it to all be over.

But there had been too much put into it. And with him, with John, she knew what she had. Knew he would never leave her. Knew how to live with him and live well. Have peace and stability in her days.

Her heart began to race, her instincts wanting to run. But this was not a fear that could be run away from. She had to face it.



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