01: There Wasn’t a Cloud in the Sky

Love and Family During the Great Death

01: There Wasn’t a Cloud in the Sky

 

An excerpt from the “History of the New World”, a chronicle of the events that drastically shook the whole of human existence, and that defines the central event that caused it:

The Great Death: A term used to describe the great pandemic that destroyed human civilization in year 1NY (“New Year”, which denotes events occurring after this event).

The actual date of this event is unknown. Although time has been recorded ever since based on that date, most people started recording time from when they recovered, not from the occurrence itself, not many people wanting to remember that event. The pandemic also took a while to unfold, even though it was said to have swept over the world in record time.

Despite the widespread loss of electricity there were clocks that continued working, but the survivors refused to keep track using the old timescale. Most went so far as to stop recording their birthdays, listing the date of their birth as day 1, when their lives started over. Since everyone recorded day 1 from the day they recovered from the illness, whenever two survivors met, whoever had been conscious the longest claimed the right to record keeping, although it was suspected many individuals lied about the date to inflate their status.

We know many of the events that led up to the Great Death, but no one has been able to pinpoint how close to the other recorded events the Great Death was.


“And then she said, ‘I don’t have any clue what you’re talking about,’” Alice said with the enthusiasm only a young teenager can conjure, over a drama only a teenager could take so seriously. David Scott, her father, nodded patiently, even though he had no clue who she was talking about. But he was encouraged she was so enthused, whatever it was about. He was taking her to his house for the weekend. He was taking her home.

David had worked in a big corporation for years, punching numbers and doing analysis. He’d graduated near the top of his class, and planned to accomplish great things. He’d certainly made a lot of money, but he’d hated what he was asked to do. He realized, after having worked hard at his career, that the only ones benefitting from his work were the large corporations that used his efforts to shortchange the average American.

He’d managed to develop and patent a new mathematical process which helped those selfsame corporations do away with literally thousands of jobs, making them a boatload of money. But David earned enough from it to retire early. That wasn’t the problem. The problem, and the reason he only had access to his daughter every other weekend, was that he stopped making money.

Instead he dedicated himself to building a “monstrosity out in nowhere”, as his ex-wife called his home. David undertook building a home that was as far from the modern world as he could stand. He built it in the side of a mountain in a small remote town in West Virginia. His ex, Linda Evers, since she’d resumed her maiden name, thought that was too much and that he was simply trying to “hide from the world”. She’d resented being removed from society, being taken from the city and forced to do without. She saw it as him losing his drive. She said he no longer had the motivation to get ahead, and she couldn’t live with someone with no ambition in life anymore. He’d tried arguing with her, but it hadn’t helped. They’d divorced shortly thereafter. David hadn’t fought it, figuring if she was that unhappy then she deserved her freedom, but he missed his daughter, Alice.

That was why he treasured every other weekend so much. When he’d been forced to discuss child custody arrangements, Linda had argued that he’d chosen to live too far away from everything that a young child would need, and the judge, whom Linda had insisted on involving, had agreed with her. So instead of having equal time, he only got 20 weekends a year. Linda got the major holidays as well.

But Alice loved the little time she spent with her father. He wasn’t concerned with ‘mundane events’ like dance class, soccer lessons and the many activities her mother scheduled her for every day. Whenever she visited her father she got to actually play in the woods like a wild woman. She could climb trees, scale the mountain behind the house, and skinny dip in the nearby pond. While she wasn’t quite a tomboy, she was when she visited her father, and she enjoyed the ability to relax the demeanor that her mother insisted she continually maintain.

She’d been helping her father build his house all these years, so she now felt it was partially hers as well. After all, she worked hard building it, just as he had. She knew every inch of it, and felt possessive of it. She could point out the stair railings she’d installed, the tile she’d help lay, the plumbing lines she assisted with. She’d learned a lot. She’d learned all the types of things her mother would never dare involve herself with.

Linda was, in a word, obsessed with her role in life. At least as far as Alice was concerned. “If you want to get ahead, you have to play the roles you want to assume,” she’d tell her daughter. Thus Alice was never able to dress in jeans and let her hair down. She always had to wear dresses, and she had to have her hair maintained all the time. She could only associate with the kids of other upwardly mobile professionals. Most of the activities she was scheduled for were designed to allow her to meet “important people”, which she already recognized meant rich people who could give her a “boost up” in life. Thus she enjoyed the occasional chances to escape them with her father.

But now her father was asking about school, and as well as she did in school, she felt it was yet another duty she had to do for her mother. She had to maintain her grade point average, she had to take part in science fair projects, she had to do volunteer work for several ‘service organizations’. It was too much for her, so when he asked her about school, she simply talked about her day-to-day interactions with the other kids. She knew he hated it, and she knew he never really listened, but he was always very patient and would never interrupt for fear of alienating her.

“So then Betty says she doesn’t really like him,” she explained, not even sure if she had the right people in her story. She wasn’t quite this caught up in the lives of everyone at her school. Well, she was. After all, her mother insisted she knew everyone who was ‘important’. She just never enjoyed the whole ‘social networking thing’ very much. But if it kept her father from focusing on whether she was improving her GPA or not, she’d rather talk nonsense as long as she could.

Alice really loved her father, just as she loved her mother, but her dad was much easier to take, and he didn’t qualify his love based on how well she did in a wide variety of tasks. Sure, dad liked to work with her around the house, but if she got bored and wandered off to stare at the clouds he wouldn’t reprimand her. He’d insist that she do a good job, that whenever she did a task she do the best she could at it, even if it wasn’t a great job, but when she was ready to quit he’d let her, knowing she’d worked hard while they were at it. She always felt she deserved the breaks when she eventually took them.

“But everyone knows that isn’t true,” she continued with her story, “because she talks about him all the time. Just this past Tuesday, she was going on and on about what he looked like while he was working…” she stopped speaking mid-sentence as her attention was diverted by something she saw out the window.

“Uh… Dad… what’s that?” she asked, pointing up at the sky to the left through the windshield ahead.

David looked up, taking his eyes off the road where he’d been concentrating. As long as he’d worked in the city he’d driven the long daily commute through the heavy traffic, and while he was still good in heavy traffic, it still made him nervous. There was too much that could go wrong since there was so little that he could control. At home he controlled everything, aside from random acts of nature. Here, there were dozens of possible risks, none of which he had any control over.

It took a second, since he didn’t see anything at first, but then….

“There it is again,” Alice cried.

“Damn,” David said, forgetting his promise to his ex-wife not to swear in front of their daughter, “That’s a meteor. At least I think it is. It may be a meteorite. No, wait, actually it’s a meteoroid when it’s out in space, a meteor while in the atmosphere, like that one, and a meteorite when it hits the ground, if it survives that long,” he explained, going overboard in his explanation of something Alice was more interested in observing herself. “But I don’t think I’ve ever seen a daylight meteor shower before. You should pay attention since these don’t occur very often.”

“Man, that is so neat,” Alice exclaimed. “Did you know this was scheduled for today?”

“No, I didn’t,” he admitted. “Believe it or not, nature doesn’t always remember to schedule everything with me like she does with your mother. Sometimes she likes to have some fun of her own by surprising us.”

“There are more of them. They seem to be increasing. I thought those only happened at night?”

“Well, technically they can happen anytime, since they’re just objects in space that enter the Earth’s atmosphere. The only reason we associate them with nighttime is because they’re hard to see in full daylight, whereas at night they’re easier to see,” he said, launching into his ‘education mode’, as he called it. He tried to make education fun for Alice by bringing up odd facts and little scientific or history minutia to entertain her. He knew she resented the strict education that his ex forced on her, and he wanted her to have her own fascination with life, science and the world at large.

“So why are they so bright?” Alice asked.

“I guess it’s because these are bigger than the ones you typically see at night,” he told her. “I didn’t see anything in the paper about a meteor shower,” he continued. “Normally they report events like this so us ‘country folk’ can go out at night and stare at the sky.”

Alice giggled, since they were both aware of what her mother thought of his decision to live out in the country. Alice figured he was one very intelligent member of the ‘country folk’, as he held a couple of degrees and seemed to know something about just about everything.

“Look, they’re coming down faster now,” she observed, pointing at the sky as the trails of the meteors began to fill the sky.

“Here, let me turn on the radio and see if anyone is reporting on this. Maybe they’ll tell us what it is,” David replied. He liked teaching Alice to research things and to keep herself informed. He didn’t harangue her about it, but he wanted her to know how to learn things on her own so she could develop her own interests.

He turned the radio on and jumped from station to station, but no one seemed to be talking about it at the moment. “Guess we’ll have to wait for the news to come on. I’ll turn on NPR. They’re more likely to report it than anyone else since they like to remind everyone how smart they are,” he teased, since he was so educated as well. What he didn’t need to mention was that he didn’t have any of the premier channels found on satellite radio, believing the free AM/FM was fine for his parents and it was fine for him.

Needless to say, NPR didn’t have anything about it either. “Guess we’ll wait for their news on the hour,” he said, giving up on the radio.

When he looked up again, he saw it was indeed getting much heavier. The sky was alive with motion and the red of high altitude fires. David began to get nervous and started thinking this might become more serious than just a brief science lesson. Shifting his gaze from the road to the sky, he observed that the meteors seemed to be moving towards him. Not that the trails were heading towards him, as they seemed to go in all directions, but they seemed to be getting more numerous the farther they drove.

“I think you’d better get into the back seat, Alice.”

“Why? This is fun. I’ve never seen something like this,” she argued.

“Just humor me and do it.”

“But you always say not to climb around in the car while it’s moving,” she said as she did it anyway. She was young and thin, so scrambling over the center console and through the narrow gap between the seats was no problem for her.

“We’ll make an exception in this case,” he told her. “It’s probably nothing, but I don’t want to take any chances.”

Alice heeded her father’s advice. He didn’t normally carry on about perceived dangers. That was her mother’s specialty. Linda would stress about random men on the street, about vans that drove through the neighborhood when she was younger, or about germs on door handles. However if her father casually mentioned she should watch out for something, there was usually a very good reason to be cautious, as she’d learned many times while working around the house. He never tried to scare you into doing something, instead he always understated everything.

But he was right. The streaks in the sky were getting much more common, until soon the sky lit up like a Christmas tree display. The sky literally rippled flame, only faded because of the sunshine washing it out. Not only that, but David observed occasional nearby streaks. He glanced back and saw Alice still staring up at the sky out her side window.

“OK, you’d better move away from the window. Listen carefully, I want you to climb down in the footrest area between your seat and the front seat,” he explained.

“Really? Why?”

Just then the answer was made clear, as there was a brief flare and a loud bang as a small meteor slammed into the ground a ways from them. The ground shook as the shockwaves rolled across the ground.

“Wow, it’s getting closer than just a pretty display,” Alice observed. “Are you afraid we’ll be hit?”

“No, I don’t think we’ll be hit. The chances of us being hit from something falling from the sky are pretty remote, but what I’m afraid of are ricochets. When a meteor hits the ground it’s likely to throw remnants into the air. Meteors can be travelling at thousands of miles an hour. The atmosphere actually slows them down, but even small rocks can do a lot of damage traveling at those speeds. The rocks, dirt and fragments they throw off when they hit can travel at hundreds of miles an hour. Again, the pieces are likely to be small, but those pieces can be moving at a high rate of speed, so they’d actually be more dangerous than the original meteor.”

“Really?” Alice asked as she struggled to do as her father asked her. “Why would that be?”

“It’s trajectory, honey. A meteor is coming more or less straight down, whereas anything it throws up would be more likely to travel out to the sides.” Just as he said this, they both heard a loud crack as the back window broke. They both glanced back and saw a small hole in the glass. That was when Alice decided it was probably a good idea to keep her head down as her father had originally suggested.

“I’m going to drive hard now,” he explained patiently, stepping heavily on the gas as he did so. “I want to cover as much distance as we can before we’re forced to stop. We’ll likely have to pull over before long, but if we get hit I don’t want to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere.”

“You’re scaring me now, Daddy. I’m gonna call Mom,” Alice replied. He knew she was scared when she referred to him as ‘Daddy’, like she had as a young girl.

“I think that’s an excellent idea, honey,” David told her.

Normally David hated his daughter’s cell phone. Her mother complained she was addicted to it, and he was aware of how much she used it. While she didn’t use it much while she spent weekends with him, she’d always talk on it on the way back to the city, calling her mother, her friends and schoolmates. It always drove David crazy listening to her prattle on while he watched their little remaining time drain away.

“Hello, Mom? Yeah, it’s me, Alice. Mom, Dad and I are caught in the middle of a meteor storm and…” Here she paused for a bit as she listened to what her mother was saying.

“No, really, there are meteors all over the place. The sky is filled with them.”

“Really, I’m not teasing. They’re… Mom? Are you there, Mom?” Alice asked as she lost contact with her mother.

“I lost her. Damn phone,” she said as she fell into repeating David’s oft used phrase accidentally. She tried dialing the line again.

David was concentrating on the road now, not having the luxury of listening to his daughter’s conversation. The other cars on the road were either driving slowly as the occupants glanced out the windows at the show unfolding around them, or they were stopped, either by the side of the road or in the middle of the road, so David found himself weaving in and out of traffic as he tried to get as far as he could before he finally had to stop.

“I’m not getting anything,” she said after a few minutes. “The phone says there are no bars out here. I’ve never had that happen before. Usually I get good reception until we get closer to the house.”

“That’s because the satellite the phone uses is probably down,” David told her without glancing back. “If it’s this bad here, it’s even worse in outer space. Most of what we see are the larger pieces, since the smaller rocks are burned up in the upper atmosphere. That’s why the sky is so red. However, all those small rocks must be all over beyond our atmosphere.”

“Wait, why would that damage the phone? I thought they used towers?”

“They do, but because of the volume of traffic, and the distances involved, the majority of calls and data are relayed via satellite. So when the satellite does down, most nonlocal calls will be affected,” he explained.

“Oh. Well then, what about the Russian Astronauts? If the satellites were damaged, then what about them?” Alice asked. As part of her school she’d been involved in following the latest joint mission between Japan and Russia as they’d just sent a short mission to the International Space Station a few days before.

“The Russians call them Cosmonauts,” her father replied, falling back into his teacher mode.

“Fine, what the hell is happening to the Cosmonauts?” Alice replied a bit testily.

“Chances are they’re fine,” David said, not at all sure even as he said it.

“How can they survive when the sky is on fire?” she asked, not at all unreasonably.

“Remember, space is a big place, sweetie. They could very well be on the other side of the planet right now. Meteor showers don’t usually last very long, so chances are it’ll be clear when they swing around again. Plus it might only be hitting us at this particular latitude.”

“But if they’re not…” she said, not wanting to finish the thought.

David sighed. “If they’re in the middle of the storm, then they’re history,” he answered shortly. He really didn’t know of any better way of telling her they wouldn’t survive such an encounter. She was silent after that.

The traffic was a bit easier now, as most of the cars were either ignoring the light show, or were pulled all the way over. Still, David was paying close attention to everything around him besides the sky.

“I still can’t reach her,” Alice told him. “Apparently the phone is out. Mom’s going to be worried that the phone call ended like that.”

“Undoubtedly,” David answered, knowing how his ex always liked to panic over things that usually had very simple explanations.

Just then he saw a little dust-up as something struck a little distance away, but he also noticed when something almost too small to see streaked across the front of his SUV. He knew it was only getting more dangerous to be driving, and it wasn’t looking like a brief storm either. This was looking like it was going to last for some time.

“Alice, listen carefully. OK?”

She stuck her head between the seats to listen, but David didn’t correct her. He figured she was safe enough where she was.

“If anything happens to me, don’t get up. Don’t try to help me. Chances are I’ll be beyond help if I’m hit by something. Instead, just stay down there where you are and don’t get up or go outside. Understand?”

“Daddy, you’re making me really scared,” she replied.

“Well, Daddy is pretty scared himself,” he told her.

There were strikes hitting the ground around him more and more frequently now. Although he hadn’t been in the military, he’d read enough and spoken to enough friends who had to know that when you’re in a firefight, that you stay down and run like hell until you find some shelter. They might not be in a war zone, but with projectiles flying by at hundreds of miles an hour it was just as dangerous. What’s more, the cheap plastic they used to make cars out of nowadays wouldn’t be likely to provide much protection.

Unfortunately, there weren’t many places you can hide from meteors. But that wasn’t what was worrying him, it was all the little rocks and particles thrown up by the crashing meteors that did. A building might not protect against a direct hit by a meteor, but a concrete or possibly even a heavily-built wood structure might provide protection. However this section of highway didn’t have a lot of exits along it.

The radio was still playing, but so far there was no mention of any problems being broadcast, and David wasn’t about to start searching for any news on the subject. Apparently the storm was localized, which was good news as they might be able to drive out of it.

The ground shook unexpectedly, so David knew there was a nearby strike of some size, but it clearly wasn’t a huge strike. Chances were, unless it was a long ways off, it was only something the size of a basketball traveling at a high rate of speed.

As they came around a corner they saw a good-sized crater before them with a car stopped in front of it. David knew they couldn’t drive over it, at least not at the speed they were currently driving, and he knew that meant they’d have to finally stop.

“Alice, listen carefully.”

“Yes, Dad?” she asked nervously.

“I’ve got to stop,” he replied as he was applying the brakes. “When I do, I want you to get out quickly and run as fast as you can to the right. There’s an open field over there. Keep running until you’re away from the elevated road. Find the lowest spot you can find in a level field and lay down flat. Don’t look up or look back for me. It looks like the woman ahead of us might be in trouble. If I call, don’t look up. Just call out and I’ll find you. OK?”

“Yeah, Daddy,” she said, even more scared than she’d been before. But she trusted her father. Whenever they’d gotten into trouble before he always knew what to do, and he always kept his head in an emergency, unlike her mother. So she knew enough to listen to everything he told her. If he said she’d be OK, she likely would be as long as she did exactly what he said.

As David rapidly pulled to a stop beside the stopped car ahead of him overlooking the large crater field, he could see a woman in the car beside them. The car looked intact, but it didn’t seem to be moving. Luckily the woman was intelligent enough to stay inside her car, but she wasn’t bright enough to stay down.

‘Damn,’ he thought to himself, ‘now I’ve got to risk myself trying to rescue someone not bright enough to save themselves.’ He didn’t really mind helping someone, but he really didn’t want to risk leaving Alice alone if something happened to him. Especially if it was to rescue someone who’d only put themselves back in danger again right afterwards.

“All right, honey, run for it. NOW!” David shouted as he also threw his door open and jumped out of the car in the opposite direction than his daughter did.

Alice took off. She took his advice, keeping her head down and her back crouched and she didn’t glance back, simply focusing on the open field lying off the side of the road.

Despite its having been maintained and cut frequently, the going was rough as the ground was uneven. However Alice played several sports, and she knew how to run and, more importantly, how to run fast. She also played beach volleyball during the summer, so she also knew how to run on uneven ground without injuring herself.

She reached the side of the embankment where the road dropped off abruptly and she kept running, though she had to slow down. She felt something blow past her, only feeling the wind from whatever had just barely missed her, but it reminded her just how serious this was. This wasn’t simply a stroll in a park. This was the closest she’d ever come to a life or death situation.

She couldn’t hear her father, nor did she hear any other running feet, but her own labored breathing could easily have masked any others. Her father had said to head for the field beyond, which is what she did, ignoring the stream before her. She leaped over the dividing stream at the bottom of the roadway embankment, only she didn’t make it all the way over and she had to scramble up the far side, getting wet in the process. But she remembered her father’s words, and considered what might happen if she dawdled, so she continued on as fast as she could.

Once she gained the open field, she ran until all hint of a slope was gone, then she glanced about for the lowest spot she could find. Her breath was getting difficult and her side was hurting. Despite being in shape, and knowing how to run long distances, this had been an all-out dash, and she was getting tired so she knew she’d have to stop soon. She couldn’t afford to stop simply to catch her breath, exposing herself in the process.

Seeing a nice low depression she angled over and threw herself into it. As soon as she hit she pressed herself flat against the ground and just sucked air for several moments. It was only once she partially regained her breathing that she remembered her father. She started to look up, but remembered his admonition not to. But she did shift around until she was facing the road again. She couldn’t see much, but she could see the cars sitting near the road’s embankment. She didn’t see any motion, and the thought occurred to her that if anything had happened to her father, she likely wouldn’t know it until this was all over and she went to find him. That idea didn’t make her feel any more secure.

Feeling frustrated, and with nothing else she could do, she rolled over and stared up at the sky, still lit up by the colorful smoky trails of falling meteors. She thought it odd. She hadn’t noticed before, but now the sky was clear. Well, aside from all the fireworks. It had been overcast the entire afternoon, but there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky to obstruct what was happening in the upper atmosphere. She didn’t know if it was an effect of the meteor shower, but it was now a clear and beautiful day. The kind of day her mother had always said you could see forever.

David moved away from his car as quickly as he could. He wanted to be away from a source of hard metal, glass and fiberglass pieces that an unexpected impact might produce. He ran around the front of the car and headed to the car the other driver was still sitting in. She saw him coming, and actually started to roll the window down as if David was paying her a social call at the street corner. However, when he reached her he yanked the door open.

“You can’t stay here,” he told the woman, a slightly older blonde. “The car, the road and the surrounding wires and trees all make an excellent source of ricocheting missiles. If you stay here you’re likely to be badly hurt.”

She looked up at him for a moment, but seemed to come to a quick decision to trust him. She reached up to grab her keys when David stopped her.

“What’s wrong with the car?” he asked her.

“It just stopped. I think it got hit with something when the road ahead of me blew up,” she explained.

“Probably cast off debris. You’re lucky it only hit the engine,” David said as he observed the various holes poked in the body of her car, each tiny, but each clearly evidence of small fragments tearing straight through the car body. “OK, leave the car on, but turn the radio up loud,” he told her, noticing the radio was tuned to a news station. “We need to be able to hear it from out in the field.”

She didn’t argue, simply doing what he said, but she asked, “The field? Wouldn’t it be safer inside the car?”

“No, too many sources of projectiles. Even hiding under the car wouldn’t prevent you from being torn up by small dirt fragments.”

She got out, helped by his yanking her out of the car, and he grabbed her hand and pulled her behind him as he headed off the road in the direction he’d sent Alice. She tried to keep up, and noticed how he ran hunched over, so she imitated him. She was about to protest how he was treating her, when something flew by her head with enough force to whip her hair across her face. With that as inspiration, she actually started to catch up to David, making it easier for her to follow him.

He pulled her along to the edge of the road. When she stumbled heading down the embankment, David stopped, scooped her up in his arms, tossed her over his shoulders, and took off carrying her in a fireman’s carry. He knew it would slow them both down, but he couldn’t trust she’d be able to keep up on her own. He had no idea what kind of shoes she had on, or whether she could handle running on the uneven ground, so he simply assumed it would be safer for them both for him to carry her. David didn’t like depending on chance when he could just as easily take control, ensuring that things worked out correctly the first time.

As she bounced as he ran down the embankment, David called out for his daughter, looking around anxiously for her. He knew he couldn’t stand and wait for her to respond, so if he couldn’t find her quickly he’d have to abandon her. Once he picked a safe place to lie low he didn’t plan on moving, since that would increase their chances of injury. It would be better if they were together, especially since he was sure this would be a traumatic event for everyone involved, but David wasn’t willing to risk getting someone killed just to hold their hands.

Alice answered immediately, however she did as he’d insisted and didn’t sit up to signal where she was. Thus he was faced with trying to locate her, even as he was trying to jump over the small drainage ditch while carrying the other driver on his shoulders. Of course he wasn’t very successful, stumbling into the small pool of water at the bottom and scrambling up the far side, getting both of them wet. However, it was a warm day, so that wouldn’t be a big problem, but it make the trip more difficult, and what’s more it took more time, making the trip up the other side even more difficult for David.

Despite how tempting it was to simply stop and hole up in the ditch here, David knew it would be a mistake. Since the ditch was formed when the ground surrounding the roadway was dug up and used to elevate the roadway, it was a low spot, but it was too near the road, and any meteors hitting either the road or any nearby cars would shower them with debris.

As he crested the small ditch, he looked around for his daughter again, calling out once more. She answered him immediately, and he zeroed in on the sound. He still wasn’t sure where she was, but he was at least closing in on her.

There were still more small explosions as small meteors slammed into the earth around them, but David couldn’t afford to pay any attention to them. If he were to stop to consider what he couldn’t control, he’d be too afraid to move. So instead he ran on, only paying enough attention to where he was running to avoid tripping over anything in his path. The woman over his shoulders, though, had nothing to do but watch what was happening around her. What’s more, she was now aware why David had them crouching, and she realized she was forcing David to run at his full height, which made her that much more vulnerable to anything flying through the air, since she was still near the level of the road.

David was panting now. He worked out frequently doing work on his property, but he wasn’t used to what he was doing now. While he often carried heavy loads, he didn’t often do it at a full run, nor while running over uneven ground. He was ignoring the threats of strikes from above. If a meteor were to strike, there wasn’t a damn thing he could do about it, as he’d likely be dead before he even realized there was a threat.

He was about to drop to the ground where he was when he finally saw Alice. She was waving an arm. He would have yelled at her to stop, but he was having too much trouble getting enough breath as it was, and he wasn’t about to stop to get his wind back. Instead he changed direction and ran to her, trying to put on a last desperate burst of speed. As he came up on his daughter’s supine form he simply fell forward, too weary to lift the woman off of his shoulders. He braced himself as he fell so he wouldn’t injure his companion, but he knew she’d be landing hard and he also knew she wouldn’t appreciate it, but there wasn’t much else he could do. He was exhausted!

And the landing was as hard as he’d imagined. The woman felt him falling and imagined the worst, thinking that he’d been struck. She’d assumed he’d warn her, at the very least, when they reached their destination, so when she didn’t receive one she feared the most obvious outcome. So she wasn’t caught completely by surprise. But she landed with a hard thump, and she knew she’d feel it in her ass for some time, but right now she was concerned with surviving the encounter, so she wasn’t overly concerned with a bruised ass.

When she saw her father fall face first into the grass with the strange woman lying across his shoulders, Alice quickly crawled towards them. She was still mindful of his warning, so she didn’t get up and kept both her head and body low to the ground. When she reached them, the woman was moaning quietly and her father was gasping, unable to regain his breath. Alice scrambled up and shoved the stranger off her father so he could breathe, and started to check him to see if he’d been injured.

“He may have been hit,” the woman said, forgetting her own bruises over her fear for her benefactor. “He went down pretty fast.”

“My father doesn’t fool around,” Alice told her. “Chances are he was simply taking the path of least resistance. I don’t suppose he was overly concerned with social niceties at the time. But I’m checking him nevertheless.”

David tried to respond, but was still having too much trouble trying to get his breath back. Alice shoved him, rolling him over onto his back, which actually helped. As he lay there, trying to signal her with his hands, she quickly ran her hands over his body, looking for any sign of an injury. She’d seen how he’d responded to workplace injuries in the past, so she had a good idea of what to look for. She’d been injured often enough working with him or playing on their isolated land, often falling from a tree or two.

When she didn’t find anything she shifted over so she could see his face. He was glancing at her, still gasping for breath, but he had a calm relaxed expression. He didn’t look panicky, so she assumed he wasn’t hurt. She had noticed several cuts to his clothing, and if they’d been made by ricocheting debris like she suspected, she assumed he’d also have some minor cuts as a result. But she assumed they weren’t too severe, otherwise she’d have found blood.

“How… how’s…” David struggled to ask.

Alice looked at the stranger her father had rescued, and she recognized the look.

“The name is Ellen Parker,” the woman answered. “Thanks for rescuing me. There’s no telling what might have happened if I’d stayed there. I’d thought the car was the safest place to stay, but it was being riddled with holes while I was there.”

“Dad says it’s the ricocheting rocks that are the biggest problem,” Alice explained. “He says the danger from the meteors really isn’t that bad, although if we were to be hit by one, chances are we’d never know it anyway.”

“Well, that’s a load off of my mind,” Ellen sighed in teasing exasperation. “How does your father look?”

“He seems to be fine, although I’m sure he overexerted himself in trying to rescue you,” Alice responded. “His name is David. I’m Alice, by the way. We were traveling to my father’s house in the foothills of West Virginia.”

“I was heading to my sister’s cottage for the weekend,” Ellen told her as they both watched David slowly get his breathing under control. He was still breathing hard, but it didn’t sound quite so drastic anymore. Ellen felt terrible that she’d forced the one person who’d thought to help her into putting himself in such peril. She wished she could do something for him, but she had no idea of what to do.

Seeing her father was partially recovered, Alice decided she needed to press him concerning what to do.

“What now, Dad? Do we just lay here and wait?”

David struggled to speak for a moment before responding. “Just lay… low. Nothing we can… do till… the storm… passes,” he got out.

Ellen was thinking they were safe way out here in the middle of a field, but she was disabused of that idea when something flew over their heads, causing her to glance up and see the continuing fall of additional meteors.

“Can you make any phone calls?” Ellen asked.

“No, my cell phone died in the middle of the storm,” she said, following her father’s lead in describing the severe activity around them as if it were a weather phenomenon. “Dad said it was likely the communication satellites in outer space were hit and destroyed.”

“Yeah, mine went out as well. When that one meteor hit in front of me and my car stopped, man, did it make a loud racket. I tried calling for help but I couldn’t get a signal. Your father must be right about the danger of thrown debris, because after the meteor hit there was this horrific crash that sounded like a huge cat scratching its nails down a large blackboard. I knew the car was totaled as soon as I heard that sound.”

Both Ellen and Alice were talking in an almost normal everyday manner, ignoring David as he recovered beside them. But there really wasn’t much else they could do. It looked like they were going to be here for some time, and you can only be hysterical for so long.

In the background they could hear Ellen’s radio playing in the distance. It was soft, but if they stopped they could make out what it was saying. So far they were playing music and prerecorded news programs. They wondered why no one had reported on this yet. You’d think with as much of the sky being filled with meteor trails that someone would have noticed it by now.

“Did you have anything you needed out of your car?” David asked Ellen, even though he had no intention of getting it for her. He was only asking as a way of joining in the conversation, thinking talking about mundane things would give them more of a sense of normalcy in such a strange environment.

“Nothing that I’d risk our lives trying to save. I’m just glad we managed to get out of there in one piece.”

“Dad, I noticed several cuts in your jacket and pants, were you injured?” his daughter asked.

“Gee, I didn’t think so. If I was, I wasn’t aware of it. But then, I was pretty focused on getting away from there. After all, you know how single-minded I can be at times.”

“Yeah, do I?” Alice answered before noticing that Ellen was watching them. She and her father finally took in this woman they’d just met. She was blond with fairly light skin and freckles. She was cute, but she wasn’t drop dead gorgeous, so she seemed more approachable. Now that they were past the crisis, each was interested in learning what the others were like, and since they couldn’t do much else while lying flat against the grass hoping not to be hit by a flying rock, they settled into talking about themselves.

“I only visit my father every other weekend,” Alice told Ellen, “but when I stay with him, he lets me work on the house he’s built in the side of a mountain. When we finish, he also lets me play in the woods. You know, the typical guy things like scaling the side of the mountain or climbing trees, or even occasionally skinny dipping.”

“Hey, as far as your mother and any new people who might disapprove are concerned, I never take you skinny dipping,” David corrected her.

“Yeah, but you never stop me. You know I like that pond, and you were the one who first put the idea in my head when you told me those stories of you and Mom.”

Ellen didn’t think of the comment about their having built a house against a mountain, figuring it was just a small structure, but she could understand Alice’s fascination with it.

“Hey, climbing trees and exploring the woods is something that girls do. I used to love doing those things myself, but now that I’m working I never get a chance to get away any more. Every now and then I’ll hike short segments of the Appalachian Trail, but that’s been about all I’ve been able to manage lately.”

“You’re a hiker?” David asked, trying to encourage the girls to talk about pedestrian things.

“Yeah. Years ago I hiked a fair portion of the Trail. I started in Georgia but I only got as far as Virginia. I always meant to go back, but then I got busy trying to build a career. It’s hard to hike much when you have a day job.”

“Dad took me along a short segment near where he lives,” Alice said, adding her own two cents worth. “It was nice, but the woods around his house are so nice it’s sort of like travelling from one garden paradise to visit another one. I mean, I loved it, but I’m perfectly happy at his place.”

“Hmm, I may have to visit this fabulous house in the woods you keep describing. I could use some place to get away to.”

“Oh, you’d love it,” Alice assured her. “Dad built this great house. It’s set partway into the mountain, so you walk into this little building then walk up some stairs and then there’s this big glass wall overlooking the valley. It’s got a phenomenal view.”

“And you built this place yourself?” Ellen asked David, revising her opinion of his resources.

“Yeah,” Alice answered for her father. “He designed it, he built the road leading to it, he cleared the land, and he blasted the side of the mountain and excavated the stone. He’s amazing.”

“So it was just the two of you?” Ellen asked, trying to find a subtle way of asking an obvious question. “No wife or girlfriend to help you?”

“Oh, no,” Alice answered with a grin. “Mom hates it there. She calls it his ‘monstrosity in the middle of nowhere’. She won’t set foot there. She won’t even come up to get me when I stay there. Once I got hurt and Dad had to clear up a small rock slide, and she refused to come for me, telling Dad to call me a cab. As if cabs would ever drive up there,” she finished dismissively.

“So I take it Alice’s mother isn’t in your life anymore?” she asked David, trying not to be too obvious about it.

Even though she hardly knew either of these two, David was handsome and he certainly sounded like he was a capable and hard worker, two things she admired. Plus having just been rescued by a handsome tall stranger, she had a bit of a crush at the moment. She wanted to believe in magic at the moment, and he seemed like an ideal handsome Prince, even if his previous wife didn’t think so.

“No, she stormed out over my ‘obsession’ years ago,” David told her, speaking up for himself finally. It wasn’t that he was particularly shy, but Alice was quite talkative even in normal times, and now she seemed pretty hyper. But more than that, David was out of practice talking to attractive women. He hadn’t dated since Linda had left him, instead submerging himself in his hobbies and in raising his daughter.

Alice, on the other hand, was conscious of how Ellen was trying to subtly flirt with her father, and she was also well aware of how uncomfortable he was with striking up a conversation with a new woman.

After her parents had split up, Alice had, like most kids, wished they’d get back together. But it soon became apparent that it was never going to happen. Linda had taken up with one man after another, looking for something she never quite managed to find. But she always told Alice everything she had found lacking in her father. Alice had repeatedly asked her not to talk badly about him to her, but Linda was hard to dissuade. Alice had given up on the idea of getting her parents back together, but she had instead switched her machinations into trying to get her father to date. If her mother could date anyone and everyone, then certainly her father deserved someone to keep him company for all the time he spent alone. Besides, she reasoned, it was dangerous living alone. If something happened to him, he could die up there by himself, and no one would ever know until he didn’t show up two weeks later to pick her up.

No, Alice had no problems in encouraging her father to flirt with Ellen. She was attractive, she had a nice smile, and her eyes danced with a mischievous twinkle, and she seemed to share several interests with him as well. Her problem was with her father. He’d never even tried to date after his marriage had fallen apart.

Alice had encouraged him to date. She’d continually talk up anyone they met, even going so far as to invite attractive strangers they met to dinner while she was visiting, but David had never gone for it. He was sociable, she had to concede that he knew how to deal with people, but he was uncomfortable with it. He preferred his solitude, and Alice was afraid he was getting too comfortable with living on his own. If he didn’t find someone soon, he might never be willing to disturb his life by letting someone else into it.

Just then the distant sound of the radio caught their attention, and David quieted them so they could listen to it.

“This just in, there seems to be a massive meteor shower sweeping across the country. It supposedly started West of here,” the announcer told them, signaling he must have been centered in Washington, “and it’s been sweeping steadily westward. It’s been inflicting serious damage, and it has limited cell phone and landline phone services. So far we don’t have much information about it, but all airline flights for the entire country have been grounded. No reports if this is affecting any countries other than the U.S., but it doesn’t seem to be a localized phenomenon.”

“Well, at least someone has noticed us,” David observed.

“Yeah, but if it’s sweeping westward, and it’s affecting a large area, that means no one is likely to come looking for us,” Ellen commented.

“No, I think we’re on our own,” David agreed. “And we don’t dare move until it stops. This can’t last for that long. It’s already been going on for a long time. It’s got to stop before too long. Once it does, it’ll take another several hours before anyone makes it this way looking for anyone.”

“I can’t stay out here by myself until someone comes to help me,” Ellen replied, starting to sound panicky for the first time. Alice didn’t say anything, glancing at her father, trying to propel him to do the right thing for a change.

“Don’t worry. Assuming my car still works when this is over, I’ll either give you a lift home or I’ll at least take you to see my ‘monstrosity’. Either way, you won’t be stuck here.”

“Oh, thank you, David,” she enthused, as she leaned over and gave him a quick kiss thank you. However the kiss continued beyond that, and they found themselves still kissing even after several long moments had passed. Ellen opened her eyes, which she’d closed momentarily when David had first met her lips, and she observed Alice watching them. Alice was trying to studiously avoid staring at them, but she had a big shit eating grin on her face, so Ellen felt safe with what had happened so far. ‘Just don’t say anything to your mother,’ she thought. ‘Chances are she won’t react well to your father making out with a strange woman if she’s as much of a bitch as she sounds like’.

However David wasn’t quite so cavalier with what had happened. When he noticed Alice watching them he blushed heavily and started to make apologies. But Ellen saw what he was going through, and started asking him if it would be any problem with her staying with them, and whether they had enough supplies for her. However the entire time she was asking them this, she was holding David’s hand, the one that was hidden from Alice. David seemed to be fine with that, though.

“So what do you do?” David asked, trying to keep the discussion moving, since he wanted to avoid the uncomfortable situation, but also because he saw it as the best therapy for each of them at the moment.

“Oh, I work as a writer. I do business writing, mostly for small businesses where I write their ad copy and review their website content, making it more accessible,” Ellen explained. “How about you, what do you do?”

Alice held her breath and bit her lip at this point. This seemed to her father’s weak point. He was comfortable with what he did, but he knew Linda had left him over his not working at a 9 to 5 job, and if he expressed discomfort over it, or if Ellen was anything like Alice’s mother, then the slowly evolving relationship might falter.

“Oh, I don’t work. I retired with a fairly hefty retirement fund and some income from some patents. However, I’ve spent much of that building my little retreat. I won’t need to work anytime soon, but I don’t live high on the hog, either,” David answered.

Ellen considered that. “I guess that explains why your ex-wife didn’t like you spending all your money on your little house project. Actually that casts you both in a better light. She simply had a different world view than you did, and when you went after your dream you both found you could no longer live together. Thus, the way I see it, neither of you was really to blame for the breakup.”

“Why thank you,” David replied. “I was a little afraid you’d take her position. If that was the case, we’d have had a very difficult time spending the rest of the meteor shower sharing this little hollow.”

“So she really left you because you didn’t have a job?” Ellen asked.

“Yeah,” Alice replied. “It was a mess. She said that Dad had no ambition. That’s concerning a man who hand-built a huge house in the country that’s almost totally self-supporting.”

“She was a bit obsessed. She liked what my career bought her. Not so much the toys, although that was a part of it, but she also liked the social scene. And since I dropped out to spend time on my own she felt like I’d abandoned her just as she was starting to get ahead socially.”

“I can see that. It’s sad, but it’s also perfectly understandable,” Ellen said. “It’s just a matter of your interests growing apart. But the really sad part is that she tried to poison Alice against you. That, I don’t think is justifiable.”

“What about you? Do you think you might be able to stand going out with someone who has no ambition?” David asked, basically fishing for compliments, or at least an opening.

“Well, I’m not going to commit myself after only a few moments lying together in a field,” Ellen teased him. “Maybe after we fall asleep together in a little while, but I’m willing to see how things develop over time.”

“That’s all I can ask,” David said, meaning it sincerely.

They continued to talk for quite a while, slowly getting to know one another. They’d occasionally stop and listen to the news, but it didn’t provide much new information. The news media seemed to be slow in getting and processing the story, which was understandable if the communications were down and air travel was grounded. Alice grew bored and took out her cell phone, listening to tunes. She tried playing some games, but had to stop to preserve the battery, thinking she may need it later if they got somewhere she could use it.

As they were lying there, Alice suddenly leaned up and pointed to the road. “Look,” she said loudly, “there’s someone down there.”

David and Ellen both turned and looked, and indeed, there was a car that had traveled near. It was still a distance off, not near their cars, but they could still see it clearly, even though they hadn’t noticed it before. However, it seemed to have stopped much like Ellen’s car had. They couldn’t see why it had from this distance, but they could see the movement of the passengers inside, and they could tell they were somewhat frantic.

The door of the SUV opened, and the man got out of the driver’s seat with some difficulty. What appeared to be his wife/girlfriend/companion got out of the other side and hurriedly ran around to him. The man knelt down and held his side, and even from this distance the three lying there in the field could see the dark patch that indicated blood. Apparently they hadn’t stopped because of a mechanical problem, but because the man had been injured, most likely from the frequently flying shrapnel.

The wife/girlfriend helped him to his feet, and they appeared to talk, seemingly trying to decide what to do. However, they were doing it like they were home in their own safe little house. They didn’t seem to have learned how dangerous it was to be standing outside in a heavy meteor shower like this.

“David, we have to warn them,” Ellen said, turning and putting her hand on his. “They don’t know how much danger they are in standing out in the open like that.”

“Yeah, Daddy, they’re in a lot of trouble. We need to go down and bring them up here.”

David gritted his teeth. He felt like a heel, but he had to be strong. Not only for himself, he wasn’t afraid to risk his own safety for someone else, but he needed to watch out over the two girls as well.

“They’re too far away,” David quietly advised them. “If we stood up and waved and shouted, we’d put ourselves in danger as well, and they’d never hear us. They’re across the field and on the far side of the highway, not to mention they’re a ways down the road, plus your radio is still blaring. They couldn’t hear any warning, and they’d only see us if they wandered over to our side of the highway and looked right at us.”

“But couldn’t we—” Alice started to argue.

“NO,” he told her in a steely tone that hid his own anguish over his decision, “you’re not about to try running to warn them. It’s much too dangerous, and it’s too far a distance to expose your—” he was saying, when his short rant was interrupted. They’d remained watching the couple as they’d discussed contacting them, but suddenly the man had keeled over and crumpled, leaving a bloodstained girlfriend standing there looking bewildered. David guessed the man had taken a second piece of shrapnel to his head, which caused it to blow apart. Not a difficult thing to do considering the force of some of the things they’d seen flying. It’s easy to imagine a small rock traveling at the speed of a gunshot connecting with someone’s skull. It’d be like a race car traveling extremely fast meeting a solid stationary telephone pole, something David and Alice had watched on the internet once. The car, a specially designed vehicle with a jet engine racing through the salt flats at a phenomenal speed, was largely undamaged, but the force of the car’s speed caused the telephone pole to literally disintegrate, blown into a thousand small pieces. Of course, it was probably a specially designed vehicle, as a typical car wouldn’t likely respond like that, but the concept of the damage a fast-moving item can do still stood.

Both Ellen and Alice grasped David’s arm and held on tight as they each watched the scene continue to unfold before them. The woman looked around, and then dropped to her knees. She seemed to not know what to do and tried to lift him up, ending up simply cradling his head against her chest. They assumed she was crying because she remained like that, still exposed on the open road, for quite a while.

Finally she seemed to awaken from her shocked state. David could only guess she’d had a near encounter with yet another piece of shrapnel. She got to her feet, leaving the dead form of her companion lying there, and stood and looked back and forth, apparently trying to decide what to do. She started to the car, but then hesitated. It seemed obvious to the watchers that her car had been damaged when her husband/boyfriend had been injured. She glanced at David and Ellen’s cars, but seemed to decide against trying to reach them, then striding off in the other direction, walking away from the trio watching from the field she’d never even glanced at.

They each watched her walking away, expecting to see her crumple at any moment, but she continued to march, fully erect the entire way, until she disappeared from sight. Something made easier by the fact she’d been so far away to begin with. She’d hesitated a moment when her knee seemed to give out from under her, but she kept walking in quiet determination. However, she hadn’t seemed to have learned anything, as she continued walking along the open road, standing upright the entire way.

The three watchers simply looked at each other after she disappeared, as each tried to figure out what they thought of the encounter.

“Shit, I knew it was dangerous out there, but now I’m definitely going to keep my head down,” Alice said. “I think I’ll have less problems peeing on myself after watching that.”

David resisted the impulse to chastise his daughter for her language. Watching someone die in front of you is fairly traumatic event, and a little adult language seemed strangely called for.

“Still, they travelled all this way without injury,” Ellen commented, not sure what her point was. Despite her objection, she didn’t think she’d risk standing up any time either. Seeing that man dying in front of them was certainly dramatic. She pulled David closer to her as she felt herself shiver momentarily in fear. David was strong and he seemed to always know what to do, surely he’d protect her.

Alice felt similarly. She pressed up against her father, seeking some comfort and solace. She could see that her father and Ellen seemed to be drawing closer as a result of having experienced this, which she wanted to encourage, but she needed just a little of his time before she could leave them on their own. Thus the three lay there holding each other, both girls gravitating to David, seeking comfort from him, while he was primarily worried for them, realizing the chance of their being rescued was fairly remote at the moment.

None of them talked about it much beyond that. The image remained with each of them, but they needed time to process what they’d seen. They were each aware that the same thing was happening across the country, and the only reason they’d only seen the single death was that they were so isolated. If they’d been closer to the city they’d have likely seen many deaths, each just as gruesome.

After a while of comforting each other they finally felt ready to continue on. They shifted around, all without standing up, so now Ellen was lying in David’s arms while Alice lay facing them, mostly on her back. Her father and Ellen had been getting along famously, and the fact they were now cuddling each other bode well for their potential future relationship. They were still talking when yet another newscast from the radio caught their attention. The announcers had been acknowledging the storm, but they hadn’t had much definitive information about it until now.

“This just in, the meteor storm has now reached the Midwest where it’s been setting off a series of wildfires. The dry timber this time of year is highly susceptible to the overheated meteors which have been showering down amongst them. There are reports of widespread physical damage, and there are also reports that several governors have declared states of emergency, but since the normal communication networks are down we’ve been unable to verify any of them. The various police agencies have been warning people to remain safe and to be patient, since their officers are afraid to venture out in the current conditions to offer assistance. Meanwhile, the reports are the storm is continuing west at a rapid rate, and should be on the West Coast in only a short time. We’re advising everyone to remain indoors, under the cover of a basement or braced against an interior doorframe.

“The scientific community, at least those we’ve been able to communicate with, have been unable to provide any answers concerning this event. There were no apparent warnings, and the only notice anyone had was after they were already crashing to the ground causing extensive damage. Some have suggested it was simply ‘floating space junk’, but no one seems to know where it might have come from, or why it would appear now. Unfortunately, most scientific observatories are now closed up tight in an effort to protect their sensitive equipment from damage, so further information is unlikely.”

“Whew, there’s no end to the bad news,” Ellen observed.

“I’m just upset there’s no indication of how long this will go on,” David said. “I figured it would only last for a little while, but we’ve already been lying here for several hours. But I’ll tell you what; as soon as it clears I think we should make a break for it. If nothing else, as the day progresses the Earth should turn away from the meteors, so we should get a break eventually. But since we don’t know where this is coming from, there’s no telling how long that will take.”

“Well, as comfortable as I am at the moment, we’re going to have to figure out what to do about a bathroom, because I’m going to need to pee soon,” Alice informed them.

“Well, you may be able to sit up to do it, I’m not sure I’d recommend it,” David replied. “While you may be safe, you could also easily die from doing it. If you have to poop,” he said, trying to use a ‘safe’ word for ‘taking a dump’, “then there’s no avoiding it, but if you just need to pee, then I’d suggest you crawl over to the side and pee as best you can without standing up.”

“Maybe if we try doing it upside down?” Ellen suggested. “Try kneeling on your hands and feet. That way you won’t have to stand up very high.”

“I’ll try, but it doesn’t sound easy. I think I’m going to give it a try, if I don’t make it back, please don’t put what I was doing on my headstone,” Alice teased.

The other two watched as Alice crawled off, not out of any prurient interests, but simply because they wanted to observe what would work and what wouldn’t so they’d have an easier time of it when they tried it themselves.

Alice took Ellen’s suggestion, though out of modesty she turned around so she was facing them. David and Ellen could see her sigh gratefully when she was successful, but they also saw her duck when something flew by her. There was still a lot of meteor activity, even this far away from anything, and the closer collisions threw up a lot of dangerous projectiles.

“Maybe we should just try lying on our stomachs and peeing on the ground, simply wiping ourselves when we’re done?” Ellen suggested.

“Except we don’t have a large amount of wet wipes, nor any way to throw them away,” David countered.

Alice crawled back, a bit embarrassed, but she decided the best way to deal with the situation was to brave it out, acting as if this was simply an everyday activity, which in a way it was.

“Well, it can be done,” she told them, “but I thought I was going to buy it for a moment there. I’m not sure I’d suggest it. Maybe we should simply try crossing our legs more?”

“Personally, I think it would be safer, especially for some of us, to simply lie on our backs and to piss into the sky,” David teased. “That way we could make a personal statement of our feelings about the dangers we’re being subjected to.”

“Oh, yuck,” Alice replied. “You may be able to get away with that, but I’m not looking forward to peeing on myself, especially if we can’t reach a shower afterwards.”

They each commiserated about the undesirable options, but it was more to distract themselves than anything else. As always, they’d do what they had to do. There was no getting around that. The problem was that there simply wasn’t anything else to occupy them.

It started getting dark, and as it did the light show above and around them became even more spectacular. The radio in the car died a while ago, when the car battery had finally given out. It had been running without being recharged for a long time.

As it grew dusky, David and Ellen began to feel freer to express their interest in each other, especially since it was heightened by the boredom of lying unoccupied for so long. They’d been quietly interacting all evening, holding hands, flirting, teasing each other. They felt comfortable together, despite the weirdness of their circumstances. Now that it was dark, they were ready to kick things up a notch. David managed to press his erection against Ellen’s ass, and proceeded to rub himself against her suggestively. She responded positively by reciprocating, encouraging him to continue even as they both reacted as if nothing was happening. Ellen even covered David’s hand attacking her breast by holding her own hands in front of her.

They weren’t really fooling Alice, though, but she wasn’t overly concerned. She was so excited to see her father finally getting interested in someone new after having been on his own for so long, she wanted to encourage it as much as she could. So she simply chose to ignore anything they might get up to. Hopefully they’d feel encouraged by her lack of response to try even more, thereby linking them together that much more.

However, both Ellen and David wanted more, not being satisfied with simply teasing each other, both being so close to being intimate, but being frustrated by a few millimeters of clothing. Their desires were made easier by the fact that Ellen had selected to wear a skirt and blouse to visit her sister. That dress was soon lifted in the rear, providing David free access from behind while still remaining seemingly demure from the front.

David tried to subtly strip his jeans and underwear off, but it’s hard being subtle when you have to shimmy your hips to get out of your pants. But he soon had them down far enough. He didn’t want to remove them all the way, even if it inhibited his movements. After all, he’d rather it took longer to reach a resolution than to be caught with his pants down if he suddenly found himself with a meteorite fragment in his ass.

Since it was getting darker yet, David moved his hands up under Ellen’s blouse, even though she had to shift a bit to give him enough room to accomplish it, but she was rewarded when she felt his warm hand caressing her breast. She managed to unfasten her bra while Alice was distracted. It wasn’t terribly comfortable, but they had enough access that they could continue with their intimate encounter.

David moved Ellen’s panties aside and played with her damp pussy for a while, until he thought she might be ready. But having been lying in his arms and feeling he had rescued her from a dangerous situation in a frightening environment, had heightened her arousal, so there wasn’t much of a problem with her not being in the mood. As Alice was making a point about something, the details of which neither Ellen nor David were paying a lot of attention to, David pressed against Ellen, sinking his cock into her waiting pussy.

Ellen had to bite her lip to keep from moaning at the contact, as she felt her flesh stretch and wrap around her new lover’s organ. She’d have liked to have seen it, or more specifically to have caressed it, but she really needed to keep her hands in front of her to maintain appearances. David began to slowly thrust into her, managing to grind his pelvis against her at the end of each thrust. Ellen loved the sensations, just as she suspected she may have been beginning to fall in love with this gentle man and his intelligent daughter. She knew she was infatuated, but she hoped it wasn’t blinding her at the moment. She didn’t think so, but she knew the circumstances were conspiring against her better judgment, so she tried to keep that in consideration.

Being involved in a life threatening situation had gotten people into trouble for years. Feeling you’re about to die has long triggered the desire to overcome one’s own impending demise by expressing one’s life by engaging in sex. Whether the love was ‘real’ or not was something that only time would reveal. She hoped it was, but she had no way of guaranteeing that it was, and she wasn’t about to wait until then to express the love she felt at the moment.

Alice was hardly ignorant as she observed Ellen and her father begin to shift back and forth. They were being subtle, but some things are just hard to hide, especially since Alice had been hoping for just this occurrence. More than anything else, the expressions on their faces gave them away. Ellen’s face got dreamy, with her eyes closing and a flush rising in her cheeks, while her father looked determined, a little like he was trying to take a dump. But then, Alice had no idea what she’d look like in similar circumstances, so she wasn’t about to throw stones. What she did know was that she’d been waiting a long time for this to happen, and she wasn’t about to laugh at it or embarrass them in any way. She wanted her father to have this, and she’d encourage it as much as she could. So she started to talk more to cover the small sounds they were making. That was especially useful, since neither one seemed capable of maintaining a dialogue at the moment.

David was getting more involved the further they went. In order to get the traction they both desired, he’d worked his other hand under her skirt until it was grasping Ellen’s hip, helping to pull her back to meet each of his thrusts, although she really didn’t need much help, since she was moving with him quite well as it was. David’s other hand was grasping Ellen’s right breast, and the warm feel of her hard nipple against the palm of his hand providing a nice contrast to the soft skin underneath, provided further encouragement. He augmented his other actions by leaning forward and nibbling on Ellen’s ear. He knew that was more visible, but he figured that much physical interaction would be OK, as long as they could continue to keep their other actions secret.

Ellen was also feeling the need to get more involved with their lovemaking as well. She felt it was important, not only because she desired the physical contact, but because she was hoping to make a real connection with the attractive David. He seemed to be a wonderful guy, and she thought being closer to him during their first lovemaking would help to strengthen their feelings for each other. She knew from what Alice had told her that David hadn’t been with anyone recently, and he clearly didn’t sleep around. That made her feel better, and also made the idea of getting and keeping his interest in her that much more vital to her.

She assumed it was dark enough now, especially since Alice was laying on her back, staring up into the meteor filled sky, for her to play with her other breast, the one that David was unable to reach with his right hand pinned under her. Her other hand stole down to her crotch, where she began to diddle herself through her dress. She was still wearing her panties, but that little obstacle didn’t do much to dampen her enthusiasm. She was afraid they might be getting a bit too vocal, but she hoped it wouldn’t be noticed. She was also aware she was now quite damp, and she prayed the scent of sex wouldn’t alert Alice to what was going on. Hopefully her dress being closed in the front would limit it, and even more hopefully Alice’s inexperience might mean she wouldn’t be familiar with the scents associated with sex. The fact that Alice would likely be familiar with her own scents didn’t quite enter her consciousness at the moment.

David, likewise, was thinking about more than just sex at the moment. He was amazed that after all this time he’d finally met someone he could relate to. After having spent years trying to get along with a variety of inane corporate stooges he wasn’t about to put up with fools, as he liked to refer to it. That was why he tended to be so impatient with people, often making pointed statements designed to upset them, just to measure their responses. This often caused them to become offended, and the encounter would end before it could progress any farther. But that was usually David’s intent. If someone couldn’t think for themselves, or couldn’t defend their thinking, then he really wasn’t very interested in getting to know them. As a result he’d been alone for the past several years. He knew his ex-wife had no such standards, and he’d seen how flighty and pernicious she’d become as a result.

Ellen, however, seemed to be perfectly capable of handling her own. Not only did they share many similarities and she got along with Alice—always a major point with David—but when she defended Linda she actually scored quite a few points with him. Not because she had defended his ex-wife, per se, but because she’d stated her own opinion, even though she had to have assumed he’d react badly to it. That showed strength of character and an independent streak, as well as a ‘devil may care’ attitude that meant a lot to David.

As a result he’d responded well to her, actually engaging in some inane flirting with her, which he’d surprisingly found quite pleasant. He missed the days when he could openly flirt with someone, and she’d responded in kind. When she offered both the suggestion they date and accepted his offer to take her home after this was over, he’d felt ecstatic. He knew the dangers of conflict inspired relationships, that they typically burned hot and fast, quickly consuming themselves before the participants really established a meaningful relationship, but he was hoping for the best. And so far, he was quite encouraged with how things had developed.

The fact they were even now engaged in sex, in an open field, in full view of the open street and his own daughter, who luckily didn’t seem to be aware of what they were doing, surprised him just as much. David was a planner, and had never really been known as that spontaneous. He specialized in planning, in spending months or years on a project and carefully working towards a goal. That was one of his problems with Linda. She’d always wanted him to continually sweep her off her feet, but he had never been very good with the sweet romantic notions department. It was hard for him to think spontaneously, and anything he did had felt planned. So to find himself in a situation like this, doing something he hadn’t even done in his high school and college years, really surprised him.

He thought there was a good chance this might be ‘the one’, or at least his ‘next one’. Time would tell, of course, but he hoped he and Ellen might have a future together. But at the very least they’d have a very intense several weeks together, he hoped, and after such a long period without anyone besides his daughter in his life, that would be a relief.

Despite the lust they felt for each other, and as excited as they felt to be defying death by becoming intimate with someone else, they managed to keep their lovemaking quiet. David’s motions sped up, but he countered it by shortening his thrusts, minimizing their motions somewhat. They both doubted that their actions were being completely hidden from Alice. She’d rolled over and wasn’t watching them, but still. But they were far enough along now they found it hard to control their motions too much. Alice was lying with her headphones on, so they assumed she was listening to some music, but neither of them could tell whether it was actually turned on or not. She was shifting around a lot, which made her father fairly suspicious, but he assured himself she was simply rocking to whatever she was listening to.

Since Alice was no longer watching them, David grabbed Ellen’s breasts, after he’d exposed them both to the air, and he proceeded to thrust more quickly into her, feeling himself getting closer. Ellen had already managed to cum before, but she felt herself closing in on a second one, too. As David began his shorter thrusts, she felt herself building up as well. Then David slammed home, pressing himself hard against her, and she could feel him pumping his semen into her, and it sent her off, just a few seconds after him. She twisted around, kissing him for the first time during their encounter, and they held each other as they both came down from one of the most intense orgasms of their lives.

Alice smiled to herself in the silence that followed her father’s first lovemaking since months before her mother left. He’d already moved to the house site by then. While it had been hard trying to control herself while listening to them, she’d manage to restrain herself, more because of the paralyzing thought her father would realize she’d been listening to him and stop, than fear of being discovered. When this was all over she owed herself a major jilling session, but she thought she’d think of Franklin Thomas, one of the cuter guys from school, rather than her father when she did it. She thought the world of her father, but the idea of masturbating to the idea of him making love was just a bit too much for her.

After the two lovers were done, all three fell into a comfortable silence and unwound the many worries of the day. Meteors continued to fall at an alarming rate in a pyrotechnic display of unimaginable beauty, but they each quickly fell asleep. Each awoke occasionally, surprised to find themselves lying in a field before remembering all that had occurred that day, and each looking around enough to see that the storm was continuing just as strongly as it had hours and hours before. They’d fall asleep after they accepted those simple facts, realizing there was nothing else they could do about it.

David awoke again sometime later and glanced around once more. He felt confused, something wasn’t right. Then it occurred to him. The frequency of the meteors falling from the sky had diminished. The storm was finally ending. Glancing at his watch, he saw they’d been in it for almost ten hours, so surely it was only the fact the Earth had finally turned away from the meteor onslaught. That meant they’d be OK. Surely the meteors would end before they were exposed to it again.

“You OK, David?” Ellen asked, as she cuddled closer to him. When they’d fallen asleep she was still being spooned by him, but somehow they managed to gravitate to each other during the night, so now Ellen lay against him on one side, while Alice lay against the other. Ellen didn’t know how they’d arranged that when they were reduced to crawling, but somehow they had.

“Yeah, I think the storm is finally passing,” David responded.

Ellen leaned up and looked around, trying to measure the difference in the streaks falling from the sky. She was heartened, realizing they might soon be able to get out of here, but she felt disappointed since it would end the close time she’d been sharing with David and his daughter. But then she remembered he’d offered to take her to his house, which was probably better, as it meant they’d have more time to get to know each other. She just hoped he wouldn’t insist on taking her to her sister’s. She was worried about Gloria, but she was more interested in David than she was in her sister at the moment.

“Well, it’s about time. How long before we should try leaving?” she asked.

“We’re leaving?” Alice asked sleepily, as she rolled over and glanced up at them.

“The storm is ending,” David explained, “but it hasn’t ended quite yet. I’m guessing it’ll take close to another hour before we’ll be safe. We’ll wait until everything stops, then we’ll check the cars.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Alice said, finally waking up as she considered what was involved. “Our car has been sitting out during all of this. There’s probably a good chance it was damaged.”

“What will we do if we can’t leave?” Ellen asked, sounding worried.

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves,” David cautioned. “We’ll figure out what to do if and when that problem arises. But for now we’ll just concentrate on getting to the car. If it’s broken, we’ll probably have to walk, but there’s likely to be other cars stopped along the road as well. We can either find one that works, or hopefully I can find a replacement part and get one of them to work.”

“Would that involve any dead bodies in the other cars?” Alice asked nervously.

David rolled his eyes, imaging the reaction if they encountered such a scene, hoping she didn’t see it. “As I said, we’ll cross that bridge if and when we see it. I’ll check each of the cars before we try anything, though.”

“Thanks, Dad. You always look out for me,” Alice said, as she gave her father a hug in appreciation for everything he did for her. She didn’t know what she’d do without him. As much as her mother had her doing, she usually couldn’t be bothered to do anything herself. She had her dates, she had her scheduled events, her shows. Her mother wasn’t often there for her, but her father always was. The only problem was she only got to see him every other week, which was hardly enough.

They lay there and watched the sky gradually grow quieter. They also checked out the roadway. It was lit by the light from the sky, but they’d have to memorize the directions because it would be much darker when they finally ventured out. David glanced up, there was a quarter moon so it wouldn’t be completely dark, but it would still be difficult walking across an open field in the middle of the night.

The three tried to figure out what they’d be able to accomplish when they could get away, assuming they could. They figured at worst they’d have to hike to the nearest exit where they could find some form of shelter, which would be better than lying out in an open field. If they could get home it would practically be nirvana, but they each prepared themselves to be disappointed.

The lightshow diminished slowly, so slowly it was hardly noticeable, but they’d look up and comment that it had quieted substantially. When it slowed to only a dozen or so meteors at a time, David figured it was probably safe to try, figuring the light still cast by the few remaining meteors would allow them to find their way.

He led the others, walking in single file, holding Ellen’s hand while she held Alice’s. The going was slow, but they made steady progress. When they reached the road, the meteors had slowed even more. They couldn’t help but stumble across the drainage ditch, and they each scrambled up the embankment, but they were so glad to be able to stand again they didn’t mind.

When they got to David’s car, a mid-sized SUV, they all stood around it as David got into the driver’s seat. Alice and Ellen ran their hands over the exterior, noting how many small punctures there were along its body. Neither was very confident that it would start. David took a deep breath and turned the key, hoping for the best.

The car started up immediately, as if they’d just come out in the morning, ready to take a new trip in a new car. David was amazed it had managed to survive intact, but it just showed how random the damage done was. In one instance, a man was struck several times; in the other, his wife had wandered off unhurt, though still crushed by her loss. There was no accounting for who or what was struck and what wasn’t.

The two girls cheered and started to get in, but Ellen remembered her other things, so she went back to her car and scavenged whatever she could from inside. While she was distracted David got out and checked the car over, noticing an almost flat tire. He quickly changed it, with Alice’s assistance. Ellen returned before he was finished with a few things, including her purse, and after David finished with the tire she climbed into the front seat, which Alice had left for her. Alice scooted forward so she could talk to the two adults as David eased the car forward, slowly entering the crater field before them.

His 4-wheel drive came in handy, as the crater was rugged, but he got across to the far side and he sped up a bit, but still traveling considerably slower than he had the previous day. The road was pockmarked with craters of various sizes, along with a variety of abandoned cars, but it looked like they’d be able to make it home. They were glad, but they weren’t sure just how much things might have changed over the past day.

 

             

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