What was it that came to visit Earth? What did it bring?
|Word count 1392
A Kimberly Moon shone its cold light, illuminating the tall Ghost Gums growing alongside the isolated desert road.
Alone in the darkness, with the warm desert air blowing through the open window, Carlos sang along to a song on the radio as he drove along the unsealed surface. He was feeling great. The barmaid, luscious Lucy, from the pub in town, had at last surrendered to his good looks and charm. She’d been more than generous with her favours after closing time and recalling that hour spent in the back of the truck with her, caused Carlos to re-adjust his pants.
The clock on the dashboard glowed a ghostly green reminding him he had an early start in the morning. He had to get back to the cattle station before his boss found out he’d taken one of the trucks to town without permission.
An announcement on the car radio interrupted the music. “Scientists at the International Space Centre continue to monitor the UFO which has been approaching Earth for the last few weeks. At first, it was thought it was a regular asteroid but Its continually changing shape and size has the experts baffled. Its inconsistent trajectory still makes it impossible to predict with any accuracy where it will impact, other than to say, somewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. We will continue to inform you of any further updates. Until then we return you to regular programming.”
Carlos was sick of hearing about the so-called, morphing, space object. Everyone was talking about it. He thought the whole thing was a hoax. “Yeah, yeah, I know. The end of the world is nigh.”
He returned to singing along to the music and speeding along the dusty track, at the same time keeping a sharp eye out for Kamikaze Kangaroos. He couldn’t afford a collision, his job was already on the line. Bernie, the boss, had given him fair warning.
It was then he saw out of the black sky a piercing bright light hovering overhead. He twisted his body to peer out of the windscreen to try to make out what it might be. A high pitched, unearthly sound caused him to let go of the steering wheel and cover his head with his hands. The truck veered to the side of the road, grazing a massive boab tree. The vehicle came to a sudden halt. The screeching sound continued, his eardrums throbbed to the point of bursting. The glare of the intense bright light blinded him. Then there was complete and utter silence. Carlos remained stunned in the cab. He closed his eyes and listened, concerned his eardrums were shot.
The sudden darkness, after the blinding light, came as a relief. He saw faint shadows flickering through his closed eyelids and thought the intense glare had imprinted on his retinas. Something urged him to open his eyes. He put his head out of the window and looked up. He couldn’t be sure if it was a figment of his imagination or if he was going mad, but he saw thousands of large ghostly bubbles slowly descend from the starry, desert sky, the light from the moon shimmered on them as they floated closer to the ground. Carlos stepped out of the vehicle and was soon enveloped in a silky white canopy.
When he awoke, a pink tinge kissed the sky, heralding the dawn. The laughing of the kookaburras shattered the peace. The weather forecast was for another blistering hot day, but Carlos, in the truck’s cab, shivered from the chilly desert night. He was stark naked. Searching around desperate to find his clothes he spotted them outside on the ground.
“What the hell’s going on here?” he yelled out, but only the sound of the dawn chorus answered.
The confused youth leapt from the cab onto the red gravel and pulled his pants on before anyone came across him standing naked in the middle of the Gibb River Road. Then, casting his eyes around for some familiar landmark, decided he was about halfway between town and the cattle station. It dawned on him as he attempted to fill in the blanks, the last thing he remembered was leaving the pub. In confusion, he stood in the middle of the road, looking both ways, as if he could persuade the red dirt to reveal a clue.
“Bloody hell,” he muttered and climbed back into the truck. He tried several times to start the engine. There was only a mocking silence in return. In despair he lay down on the seat, closed his eyes and waited.
Several hours later Carlos heard a vehicle approaching. He’d dreamed of lying on a hard, cold, metallic surface, of being unable to move and excruciating pain.
“Thank God, you’re here, Jimmy,” he greeted the driver, “the bloody truck won’t start.”
“Boss, sent me to find you. He’s not happy you pissed off without permission.” The skinny aboriginal spoke in his usual monotone. Jimmy was a skilled tracker and stared at the road for a few moments. He made no sound but it was as if there was a story written in the red gravel that only he could read. He directed his gaze at Carlos, and said, “What went down here then, Bro?”
Carlos returned his stare and shook his head. “Dunno mate, to be honest, I can’t remember.”
They then turned their attention to the truck. “Open the hood, mate,” Jimmy went around to the front whilst Carlos hopped back in the cab.
“Try startin’ her,” he shouted from under the hood. Carlos turned the key, the engine roared into life. He shook his head in frustration, and Jimmy simply gave a quizzical look. Neither mentioned it again.
The two vehicles made their way back to the station where Carlos received a severe reprimand from the station manager.
“Don’t simply take things that aren’t yours and ask next time you need to go into town,” Bernie screamed. “You could have at least picked up supplies while you were there, made yourself useful for a change. You’re on thin ice, mate. I suppose you were too bloody drunk to get back here and slept it off on the road. It’s all bullshit about the truck not working.”
Carlos opened his mouth to speak, but Bernie hadn’t finished. “We’ve got to get those cattle mustered today, so you’d better be able to stay upright. Clean yourself up and get some food into you. We’ll be setting off in half an hour.” The boss stormed off.
Carlos grabbed his shoes and the rest of his clothes from the truck.
In the room he shared with Jimmy, he attempted to get dressed, but his arms shook with fatigue. Closing his eyes, he tried desperately once more to recall events but all he could remember was the pain in his ears and that awful sound. His head ached. He felt sick.
“I need to lie down,” he groaned, before flinging himself onto his bed.
An hour later, Carlos staggered outside for some fresh air. The whole of his body, inside and out writhed. Then he coughed and spat out something small and black, followed by thousands more. To his abject horror he realised tiny spider-like creatures were emerging from each of his orifices, scurrying away in all directions.
In the camp kitchen, above the sounds of the Italian Chef singing one of his favourite arias, there came the voice of an announcer on the radio.
”The sudden disappearance of what Scientists had thought to have been an asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth, is a complete mystery. It was last monitored over the Kimberly coast of Western Australia before vanishing.”
When the mustering team arrived home that night, they found the body of Carlos, naked and cold, sprawled on the red dirt, eyes and mouth stretched open with terror.
The following weeks saw the deaths of all who worked at the El Questro Cattle Station in the Kimberly, from a mystery virus. Within the same year a global pandemic swept around the world. The origin of the virus is still undetermined, despite the best combined efforts of the world’s scientists. There were the usual conspiracy theories, blaming a deliberately released virus from Russia or China. Some theorists even speculated it came from outer space.