The Thaw

A Sci-Fi short story by Larry H

The Thaw

by Larry H

More Stories by Larry H

 

Jim took the coffee cup from the stewardess with a nod of thanks and turned back to his instruments. The blue sky seemed to stretch to infinity as he searched the heavens for anything unusual. Again, the thought ran through his mind, “Piloting an airliner consists of long hours of boredom punctuated by random moments of sheer terror.” Fortunately, since he’d left the military, his career had consisted of the former. That wasn’t a bad thing as far as he was concerned, and he enjoyed the scenery and the perks the job provided.

Something caught his eye, glinting beyond the windscreen, and he looked again. A golden rain seemed to be falling from an empty sky.

Harry, do you see that?” His copilot looked up from his clipboard and raised an eyebrow, then blinked several times before answering.

What the… What is that? My god, it’s everywhere!”

The cockpit filled with the tiny golden motes for only a moment, then the phenomenon vanished. Jim leaned forward and looked out the windscreen. The golden blanket settled through the cloud base and disappeared.

Well, it didn’t seem to hurt us. What do you suppose it was?” Harry asked.

Meteor dust? I don’t know. I’ve never heard of anything like that before. Maybe we should report it.” Jim said, reaching for the radio toggle.

Atlanta Tower, this is Delta four sixteen heavy. We just saw… some sort of golden shower coming down from the sky.”

Four sixteen heavy, we copy. We’ve got some serious radio traffic right now, whatever you saw is being reported everywhere. Stand by.”

Jim looked out the windscreen, noting that the motes were now far below his airliner, and his mind flashed back home to Carol. He wished he could tell her about them, sure that with her interest in astronomy, she would love to watch as they came to ground, assuming they continued that far. He reached out to her in his mind, and impossibly, found himself standing before her in their home, hundreds of miles from his airliner. His outstretched fingers brushed her cheek.

Officer Murray downshifted his motorcycle and prepared to stop at the signal. The citizens always seemed courteous and careful as long as he was in uniform, although he had seen another face to this same traffic while off duty. The light changed as he reached Hollywood and Manchester, and he twisted the throttle slightly to accelerate with the flow of traffic. Something, perhaps a shadow, made him look up. Chaos erupted around him as vehicles everywhere started swerving, skidding, and colliding as a strange layer of golden motes settled from the sky, landing on buildings, trees, and vehicles, then vanishing from sight. The motorcycle cop barely missed being run over by a delivery van, and his sense of wonder suddenly became wrath for the few moments before the van piled into an empty bus stop. Shocked, Murray gunned his cycle and pulled up to the accident. He jumped off of his bike and ran to the driver’s side door, but found the van unoccupied.

Then he noticed that the seat belt still engaged.

He reached for his shoulder mike to report the accident, and finally noticed that Dispatch had gone nuts about the same time the strange stuff had begun floating down onto everyone. He tried several times to get through, but it appeared there was just too much radio traffic.

It might have been his desire to communicate with Dispatch, or perhaps it was an effect of that golden cloud. Regardless, he decided that he had to be hallucinating when he heard his favorite Dispatcher, Cindy, complaining that she couldn’t handle all of this traffic at once.

Murray knew it couldn’t have been real. Cindy sounded as if she were inside his head, or perhaps beside him, and not just a crackly voice coming from his belt-mounted receiver. Besides, she would never make such an admission over the air. He looked at the carnage resulting from the multi- vehicle collision that had effectively closed the street, and the many injured people in his sight, and wished he could tell her to send three ambulances to the 23000 block of Manchester blvd. Then, over the radio, he heard Cindy’s voice confirming, “Five Mary Seven, confirming three ambulances to 23000 block of Manchester, cross street, Hollywood.”

Richard woke up sitting in his easy chair as the cable news droned on about some new terrorist camp that had been flushed out. He wasn’t sure what woke him. He got up, scratched under his jockey shorts, closed his robe, and wandered to the refrigerator to find a fresh beer.

Damn camel jockeys!” he muttered to himself. He grabbed a cold can, popped the top and caught the resulting foam on his chin as he took a swig. “I’d like to catch that Osama Bin Lardass and…” He returned to the den with the thought unfinished. A map of Iraq was displayed on the TV screen.

No, no! He’s not even there! He’s up, over to the left.” The camera panned up and to the left.

Yeah. There you go. Up in Syria. What’s that city up there? Dakia? Yeah. Damn, I wish they could zoom in… I can just see him in that mud brick building. Bunch o’ gun totin’ fairies! What’s he got there? Some kinda map?” He continued prattling at the TV, only vaguely aware that anything unusual was happening. He was snapped back to reality when the news was interrupted by a Special Report. Richard scratched at his two-day-old beard as reports came from all over of accidents, disappearances, then sudden reappearances of seemingly normal people, and thousands of people hallucinating across the nation.

Damn commies must’a put somethin’ in the water. Wish I could disappear and pop over there! I’d grab that damn Osama an’…” He visualized himself throttling the terrorist, and a moment later, he found himself standing in a darkened, windowless building. It looked like nighttime.

Huh? What the fu…” Suddenly, a half-dozen semiautomatic rifles, and an equal number of white-robed guards surrounded Richard. A black-bearded man in a somewhat more elaborate robe spat out a few words in a gibberish that Richard assumed was Arabic, and Richard heard and felt the multiple lightning discharges from the weapons. In another moment, he felt nothing more.

I’m sorry, Mr. President, but none of it makes any sense! We’re being flooded with reports, but they all read like science fiction!” Dave Brennan waved the offending faxes in the air, exasperated with their contents.

We’re getting reports from around the world, now. Everyone on the planet seems to be affected! Hell, sir, even I ‘talked’ with my cousin Jeremy a few minutes ago, and we haven’t seen each other in years!”

Dave, it’s all right. Just settle down and focus. Contact the CDC. Maybe they have a clue as to what’s going on. And check with the DoD. Cliff’s a smart boy, maybe he can tell us what’s up.”

The President patted Dave on the shoulder and left him to his tasks. But the problem he saw was much bigger than he’d let on to his panicked intern. It really was the end of the world. Or at least, the end of the world as they all knew it. People were openly using abilities only guessed at until this morning. Teleportation, telepathy, psycho kinesis… who knew what other latent abilities were being unleashed on an unsuspecting public without warning or recourse? Security was going to be a meaningless term in a matter of hours, maybe minutes. He suspected that politics, and for that matter, government, were going to be just as meaningless. Anarchy!

He remembered reading that the human brain uses only… what? Ten percent of its potential? He remembered seeing a sparkling golden shroud as it passed from the ceiling of the Oval Office through the room and into the floor mere minutes ago. Could that have been what those NASA scientists had tried to warn him about a few months back? Somehow, some weird space spore came and unlocked that frozen potential in all our brains?

Not that it mattered. We have no way to stop it. So the world is ending, and life goes on.

Looking at his To Do list for the day, The President realized that every appointment on it had been made meaningless. He walked to his desk and hit the intercom.

Staff meeting in ten minutes! Wait. People can teleport now. I want my entire Cabinet here NOW!”

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