It’s Friday now. He has done nothing but stare into this rock thing for the past three days. I don’t blame him because we are grounded, he and I, and all of his ‘toys’ were confiscated so he really doesn’t have that much else to keep him occupied. Still, at times I wonder if he is being hypnotized by it; his searching emerald eyes examining every single inch, but when I snap my fingers, he just gets upset with me for distracting him. And contrary to my expectations, he doesn’t start acting like a monkey. Darn it.
My twin brother Corin has got a pretty fantastic mind. He is only sixteen and he has already done things I wouldn’t expect from college graduates. But even he, with all of his sciencey knowledge, is having trouble figuring out this foreign object that he has in his hands. It is completely inanimate, and though I can’t quite place what I am sensing, there is something very peculiar about it. I guess the circumstances in which we obtained it were peculiar enough, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.
It was on Tuesday night. Corin was working on some experiment, as usual, my parents were relaxing in the lounge, and I was with Forest having a blast in the backyard. I really enjoy her company; sometimes I think that German Shepard is smarter than some of my friends. Anyways, our backyard was lit with fireflies, so her and I were just chasing them around, having fun and enjoying the night. I stopped for a moment to respond to a text when Forest started barking at me. “It’s okay girl, I’m not going with him to the prom,” I said with a hint of a laugh. But when she continued barking, I knew it had to be something else. I looked up to the sky and that’s when I saw it: the brightest meteor shower ever.
“Cor! Cor! Come and see! Outside!” I barged into his room and threw him of his focus, and as a he turned to me to see what it was, he poured too much of this colorless liquid into a test tube. After an effervescent reaction, froth started forming.
“Maddie!!!! Awwww, not again!” he exclaimed. I do have a knack for disturbing or destroying his projects. But in my defense, accidents have a knack for finding me.
“You’ll clean it up later. You have to see this first.” I grabbed his hand and tugged him out to his balcony. The shower was almost over, but it was still enough for him to appreciate it, and it was so magnificent, I think deep down, he’s glad I interrupted him. Even if I caused a catastrophe of minor proportions in the process.
While my brother and I had all our attention stolen by the light show outside, the spill I caused continued to get worse. The froth that had poured out on the table was devastatingly acidic and thought Corin is smart, he made a big mistake by setting up shop on a wooden table. The organic surface was easily reduced to black carbon, and the other chemicals that were on it soon fell through the hole that was formed. It was only when we heard glass breaking that we realized the mess I had made. The solvents that the acid mixed with on the floor only acted as catalysts, making it worse than it was before. I wanted to get a mop and quickly clean it up, but since ‘I didn’t have the right protection attire,’ I was told not to even go close. He rushed and got his gas mask and gloves and started preparing a strong alkaline to react with the acid and turn it to water, but it was too late. Just when the alkaline was ready, I was staring at our parents in the lounge through the small hole that had formed in the floor.
I have seldom seen Corin madder at me than he was that day. He always gets in trouble without my help, but this time, it wasn’t his fault at all. Nevertheless, our parents didn’t want to hear a word. They packed up all his ‘toys’ (they don’t recognize him as a scientist: my mom still calls his activities ‘playing’) and grounded us both. No phones, TV, computers-nothing. For three whole months. Our rooms do share a balcony, so later that evening, we were both out on it, with him not talking to me; staring into the sky.
“It was still a pretty wicked meteor shower, am I right?” I said, in an attempt to get things between us back to normal, but he wasn’t budging. “Bad call experimenting with acids on a wooden table, though,” I mumbled, after another extended period of silence; “Even I know that.” He still wasn’t saying anything. “Come on, lighten up, man. Mistakes happen.”
“Yeah, but not to me; I never make mistakes.” That was true. I started feeling kinda guilty for getting him into trouble, so I told myself I would make it up to him when I got the chance. That chance would come just a little too soon, but I decided to take it.
After about twenty minutes of silence, what I guessed were the last trickles of the meteor shower brightened the sky, but this time, the lights seemed much closer. I saw one of them fall into the trees about a mile away, and then a second one only a couple of yards beyond our fence.
“Dude, did you see that?!” I shouted. “Space rocks; just a stone throw away!”
“Too bad we can’t do anything about it,” he said glumly. He gave an uninspired sigh as he placed his hands on his chin; his elbows welded to the rail.
“The hell we can’t!” I started climbing over the rail. He stood like a statue staring at me with wide eyes. “Aren’t you coming?” I asked, without showing any signs of backing down.
“No, no! You’ve got me in enough trouble for a day. And I won’t cover for you either, you better get back in here, Maddie! Need I remind you that were grounded?!” I understood his concerns, but it was too late. It’s hard for me to chicken out when I have decided on something.
“How can we be grounded while we’re on the second floor? Think about that while I’m gone,” I said. I knew I sounded stupid, but I was in a do something stupid mood. I started lowering myself off the edge of the balcony until my feet were not too far away from the ground. The drop was a baby one compared some of the others I’ve done.
“Maddie? Maddie! MADISON!” He was trying to be as loud as he could in a hushed tone. It was after eleven so the parents were probably sleeping, and that’s why I wasn’t worried. Forest soon joined me in the backyard and we made a beeline towards the back fence, scaled it (it’s only about my height. Forest still needed some help getting over though), and disappeared into the wood beyond our boundaries. Without the moon shining that night, it was pretty dark, but I could remember where I saw the meteor falling, so it wasn’t too hard to find. It had burnt up a whole lot when it was entering our atmosphere, so it wasn’t that much larger than my fist. It was still uncomfortably warm though, so I took off my sweatshirt, used it to wrap up my find and tied it around my shoulder. I braved through the stringent but forgiving autumn air back to the house, and went back up to my room, climbing up one of the rainwater downpipes. Being a featherweight does come in handy every now and then.
He may have been angry with me only a few moments before, but seeing Corin’s face light up like a kid in an arcade room when he laid his eyes on the space rock seemed to be worth all my troubles. He hasn’t spoken about the hole in the floor since.
Maybe it has been slow the last couple of days, but it has been quite stimulating hanging out with Corin on the balcony, listening to his crazy theories about the rock. What fuelled the crazy theories in the first place? Well for one, I’m calling it a rock, but that’s only because of its texture. Its shape is more of a rhombic prism than an undefined solid. That’s what’s has got Corin in a trance of deep thought.
“There is one way of finding out more about it,” I suggest, after eventually getting tired of looking at a puzzled carbon-copy of myself, only with shorter, carrot brown hair. “We can go and check out where the other meteor landed.”
“Which part of ‘grounded’ continually eludes your comprehension?” He replies with animated hand gestures.
“The part where……we’re not allowed to leave our rooms……” I say with shuttered eyes and a tone that borders caustic.
“Which is essentially the whole idea!!” He exclaims.
“Come on, have I ever let you down?” I ask. He looks at me expressionless, without saying a word. “Okay, okay, have I ever not come through in the end?” This time he can’t give any sarcastic reply. I always come through in the end.
“I just don’t want any more trouble, dude,” he says.
“And you won’t get any, trust me. Look, how about this; you go get the baseball, and I’ll get my bat and hit a homerun into the woods. Forest will go chasing after it and we’ll have to go after her. We can’t possibly get in trouble for simply trying making sure our dog is okay, right?”
“Exactly,” I smile.“Let me go get the bat.”
Forest was already jumping when I enticed her by waving the ball in front of her. So it doesn’t take any time at all for her to dash towards the fence after I swing. She speeds through the open gate and into the woods.
“Come on! We’re losing her!” I shout, as we start pursuing our hound out of our yard and then through the trees. Corin was a little uneasy about bending the rules at first, but now that we’ve started the chase, he seems to have forgotten all about getting in trouble.
“Does she have to run so fast?” He pants. As you’d expect, he isn’t as athletic as I am, so he’s barely keeping up.
“Just a little further,” I say, and we soon find Forest wagging her tail with the ball in her mouth. I replace it with a doggie biscuit as I put a leash around her neck. “Now, down to business.”
Finding the other meteor site is a little more challenging than finding the first one was a few days ago. We run around in a lot of circles, and the whole time, I’m looking back at Corin struggling to keep up. It’s reminiscent of the gym class session when my hapless brother had to serve a volleyball ball, and the poor thing couldn’t even clear a quarter of the court. We may be alike in many ways-hell, I even have one of his kidneys (complication when I was younger; we couldn’t wait on the waiting list system and in our family, his was the only blood type that matched with mine), but gym class is like his kryptonite. So after about twenty minutes, I decide that we need a break.
“Just give me a minute, I got this,” he says.
“It’s okay kiddo, take all the time you need. The parents are only gonna be home after sunset, so we’re still in the green,” I reply. I can see that he’s feeling bad for slowing us down, even when I’m the one who should be feeling guilty for dragging him out here. I do my best to make him feel needed and important. “Corin, don’t you still have that micro-drone that you were working on once?”
“Right! Why didn’t I think of it sooner?” He goes into this small backpack he always keeps on his person, pulls out a gadget that’s practically the size of a bottle of roll-on, and stands it on the ground. He then opens an application on his phone that he uses to control it, and once everything is ready, it shoots into the sky like a rocket. Rather than hovering like a humming bird, it skips through the air like a swift (he designed it to look like a swift too; I’m really wondering who he uses it to spy on now), and that way it covers a lot more ground a lot faster. But more importantly, from the glow about his face, I can tell he feels indispensable again. And that’s what I wanted.
After about fifteen minutes of surveying the area, our airborne friend locates the second meteor site. We start running toward it, eagerly anticipating what questions it will answer, or at least what light it will shed on our mystery. But the imagery that we got from the swift when it located the meteor landing doesn’t in any way prepare us for what we find when we actually get there.
The first thing that tells us that some freaky stuff is about to happen is an imperceptible magenta like glow I notice through the cracks in the first rock I found when we are approaching the site. I can also feel it getting warm in my hands; a sensation that I am quite familiar with now. But this time, it’s the least of my concerns. When I saw the first meteor on Tuesday night, I could tell that it was significantly bigger than any of the others. When we get to the site, however, all we find are two other objects that are similar to the one I have; one of them slightly longer than the other. But apart from the crater that speaks of an undeniably huge impact, there is nothing else there.
“Maybe someone beat us here and carried it off,” Corin says. I inspect the area around the crater.
“I doubt that. Whatever made the crater couldn’t have been carried away in someone’s pocket; it would have to be hauled away, but I see no tire tracks,” I say.
“You’re right,” he replies. He walks into the crater and starts inspecting it, and that’s when I make the next eerie observation.
“Dude, don’t freak out, but you kind of don’t have a shadow.”