The impact was a rumble that shook Alex easily from his usual deep sleep. The grotesque and also beautiful plastic figurines on his numerous shelves and bookcases trembled, as though in fear.
One or two of his cellophane wrapped comics fell to the floor in disarray. He clamored quickly from his sweaty sheets that had managed to wrap themselves around his legs.
In one quick motion he had swept the displaced comics from the cold wood floor and quickly stuffed them back in place.
He then headed for the window opening it wide as a cool rush of night air flooded his stuffy room.
The night heeded no sound at all, not even the crickets chirped their nightly serenade outside his window.
The night was disturbingly deathly silent. Even the stars seemed to have hidden their faces as though frightened to look down at what had caused the massive rumble down on the earth.
The cold white moon though shone hard down on the ground. It almost looked close to dawn the way that its light shone brightly over the quiet night.
Alex looked back over at his electronic alarm clock by his bedside. The red lights glowed 1:30.
He looked down over his scrawny body. He was bare except for a tight pair of underpants. He quickly grabbed his jeans and the golf shirt he had worn the day before that were littered on the floor.
As well in his progression he grabbed a flashlight and his bat which rested against the wall near his door covered in a thick layer of dust.
His dad had bought it for him a few years back in the hopes that Alex would pick up on the sport. The thick dust gave away the fact that Alex had not.
Alex was about to exit his room quietly when he suddenly realized. My glasses he thought. In an instant they were safely on his face and he was out the door and tip toeing down the hall.
He knew his parents wouldn’t have heard the noise they slept like the dead, deeper than he ever could.
As he opened his front door it creaked a little and Alex cringed. He’d kept forgetting to oil that hinge. He froze completely for a moment listening, just in case one of his parents had been up already and picked up on the noise.
The dark hall to the bedrooms was silent. Alex took this as enough and slipped out the door quickly into the cold quiet of the night.
The crickets had decided to strike up the serenade once more and were noisily making up for lost time. Alex quickly got his bearings. Even though the moon was bright everything always looked different at night.
He soon realized which way he needed to go. The only place something could have made a noise that loud and gone unnoticed was in the woods just a few meters off from the side of his house.
Alex made for the woods in a b-line and nearly cried out bloody murder when he stepped on a sharp rock. He had forgotten to put his shoes on in his rush and now he was paying for it.
He thought for a minute if he should go back and get a pair but at this point he realized that if the door made anymore creaks he’d wake his parents and he’d never be able to investigate. He’d troop on and hope for the best for his poor bare feet.
Alex soon forgot about his recent injury as his inquisitive mind began to take over. He had no idea where he was going, instinct drove him forward.
The woods had become deathly silent again, the crickets now forgotten by the trees dark massive statures. Alex trekked on but soon found himself far from home and still no where near whatever had caused the mysterious quake.
He stood still for a moment again trying to catch his bearings, this time relying purely on his guess as to which direction the quake had started from.
Alex’s mind began to fill with different thoughts of aliens and meteors flying to earth. Alien creatures crawling out ready to eat brains or worse the flesh from his body.
The hoot of an owl jolted him out of his thoughts nearly making him jump in fright.
Alex may have been a lot of things but bravery was not on his list. When other kids were out adventuring through the woods or going on rafting trips during the summer, Alex was much more comfortable sitting in his room at him compiling lists of comics he owned as well as trading and selling on E-bay.
Now he was definitely out of his element out here in the woods in the middle of the night with nothing but a dusty old bat and bare feet. He realized that he was more scared than he had ever felt before.
Even those cloudy thunder struck nights hidden under his blankets with a flashlight during a power outage cuddling close to a horror comic like vampires of the lost tombs or the lake monster of lake mead. Alex had never been this close to scared.
He decided it was time to go home and as fast as possible so he could cuddle back up in his warm and secure bed before one of those flesh eating aliens crawled out of its meteor shaped space ship and got him.
He turned around and walked forward. It took him five minutes to realize he was now lost. It was as though the trees had shuffled into different positions while he wasn’t looking.
Desperately he chose another direction and quickly went that way.
No good again.
Every way he went was to no avail. He didn’t recognize any part of where he was going. These woods that had seemed so friendly and bright during the day, that he gazed out upon and dreamed about adventures involving sexy heroines and exciting super villains now seemed dark and foreboding. The friendliness had melted to give way to shifting shadows and strange noises.
He sat down under a big oak tree against its trunk and closed his eyes. He began shifting back and forth trying to ignore everything around him as the trees and the shadows and the noises all seemed to close in. Causing a barrier to any way he went now.
Suddenly a bright light shone hard against him. Alex opened his eyes in fear, it was the aliens they had found him. He shivered as the bright light came closer bobbing every so slightly as it moved closer and closer.
Alex closed his eyes once more waiting for the end to come.
What how did the aliens know his name? And why did they sound so familiar. Had the somehow taken the form of someone he knew.
Alex opened his eyes slowly.
The bright light had given way to a figure now standing over him, tall and shadowy.
Alex squinted up not sure what to make of it.
Then a hand came down through the light and in front of him.
“Alex what are you doing out here at this time of night?” the all-to-familiar voice asked.
Alex grabbed the hand quickly realizing how silly he was being instantly. As he guessed it was his best friend in the world Jack behind that harsh light.
“Jack thank god, I think I’m lost,” Alex breathed, exasperated.
Jack shot him a weird look through the dimness aided by the flashlight, which was now pointed at the ground.
“Alex your about five minutes away from my house,” Jack pointed to the left, “its just past those few bunches of trees.”
Alex looked and indeed he could now see the porch light of Jack’s distant house beyond the grouping of trees just to his right.
He looked at the circle of light on the ground now feeling very stupid and feeling his cheeks heat up.
“Alex what are you doing out here, I saw you walking around here from my window and came to see what you were doing,” Jack questioned.
Alex looked up at him suddenly excited, realizing once again his main reason for being out in these cold woods at night.
“Jack did you feel that quake? It happened about a half hour ago, tell me you felt it,” Alex asked hopefully.
Jack shot him another look as though unsure of him.
“Alex were you sleep walking or something? I don’t remember any kind of quake, I just woke up and you were wondering in the woods outside my window,” Jack claimed.
Alex looked dismally at his friend.
“So you didn’t hear it or feel it,” he said sadly.
“No Alex like I said I just woke up like I do sometimes in the night,” then he added almost in a mocking tone, “quake free.”
Alex was still hopeful.
“Well I heard it and I think it was somewhere close. Now that I have you with your flashlight we’re sure to find out what it was,” he said, excitedly.
“No I think I’ll just head home if it’s all the same to you,” Jack murmured.
He turned and began to walk the other way slowly trudging.
“Wait Jack, come on your my best friend,” Alex pleaded, “who better to share the discovery of a lifetime with.”
Jack turned around looking unsure.
“What do you think is going to happen, that we’re going to find some meteor or something like that?”
“Well what if we do Jack, we’d be famous, we could make lots of money off of it,” Alex was desperate.
Jack thought about this for a moment. His eyes almost lit up at the sound of money. Then he looked suspiciously back at Alex.
“Alright Alex, I’ll give you ten minutes, but if we don’t find anything in that time, I’m heading back home,” he agreed.
Alex jumped excited than grabbed his friends arm and began tugging on it.
“Come on quickly Jack I have a feeling it’s this way, I almost know it,” he said.
Jack followed his friend reluctantly holding the flashlight out front of the both of them to make sure they didn’t walk into anything.
Five minutes passed and although they didn’t find anything yet Jack couldn’t help but start to feel pulled towards a certain direction. It was as though his mind was answering to a call that he could not hear on a conscious level. He tried to fight it a little but the pull was too strong and eventually he gave in.
Alex only realized this when Jack had deviated from the path that Alex was trekking, and his flashlight began to bounce in a new direction.
“Jack where are you going?” Alex asked.
Jack didn’t answer but continued to let the feeling pull him towards whatever source was calling him.
Alex followed without further questioning although he could not feel what Jack was.
Within minutes they stumbled upon a smoking crater about ten feet in diameter in the middle of the woods.
A large maple tree lay across the hole and from a look at the lower part of it, looked as though it had been knocked down forcefully. The trunk near the bottom was literally torn from the roots and the bark was jagged where it had been ripped from its lower extremity.
“What in the world could have done this?” Alex asked aloud, though not expecting an answer from the now silent Jack.
Jack of course did not answer but just stared at the smoking crater. He moved forward slowly shuffling his feet and began to examine the hole more closely.
In the center of the crater lay a very meek looking rock, perfectly round but only about two and a half feet in diameter. It did not look as though it could have created the hole that housed it.
As Jack leaned further in to examine the ground at his feet suddenly crumbled, and gave way to his weight. He spun around to grab for a branch or anything but his hands closed down on air.
Alex gasped as he watched his friend fall, he was completely frozen unable to move his body.
Jack turned to him and a mock expression of Alex covered his face, then almost what looked like anger to Alex. Though he could hardly be sure as seconds later Jack disappeared into the hole.
Jack watched as the trees spun around suddenly and then there was a loud crack and then there was darkness once more.