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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2188683
What is that? You decide!

The Cube

WC 1,760

I was sitting on our back porch the afternoon it happened. Not the thunderstorm, those happen quite often here in Ohio. It was what happened during the storm. What came down looked so much like the big hail we sometimes get with a good spring storm. Our lawn behind the house was full of large white balls, but they seemed to differ from the ice balls that are hail. Perfectly round plus they didn't melt when the sun came back out. That was when I sat up and took notice.

"Hey Joan!" I yelled to my wife. "You gotta come see this. Goofiest crap ever out here!"
I had gotten the snow shovel from the shed. The white globes didn't want to slide off the shovel like regular hail, they just stuck. I had to shake them off. They fell down into a large clump onto the grass.

Joan appeared, her glasses on her nose as usual. "I heard the storm. What's up?"

"Lookie here. Weird, huh?" I pushed the white objects around with the shovel, poked at them a bit.

"That's not hail. What is it?" She dropped down off the porch and started to touch them.

"Hey! NO! Don't touch them! Who knows what these are! Could be some poison government testing stuff with radiation or something from a jet or an alien!"

"Oh John, relax. I'm sure this is nothing. See? Nothing." Joan was touching the balls. They quivered then changed color to a weird red to green to blue. Weird. She ran back up to the porch. "But maybe you're right. What do we do?" Her glasses weren't on her nose anymore. They were in the midst of the balls. In fact, the balls were eating her glasses.

"Uh, Joan, go and wash your hands off, quick." I kept an eye on these weird objects or beings or whatever they were. I sure didn't want them eating their way up the porch. A quick glance and I saw the look of horror as it came over my wife's face. She wiped her hands on her jeans then rushed inside.

The balls ate Joan's glasses, and then ate the snow shovel and then the metal shed in the back yard. They moved down the yard to the back fence. Suddenly the fence was gone and they were into the cornfield. A swath of corn was suddenly gone as if a herd of crazy wild cows was on the loose. The balls had now coalesced into a giant cube, tall as a house, made of quivering, color-changing balls.

Joan came back to the porch, her hands dripping wet. 'Where are my glasses?"

I pointed to the field. "You'll need a new pair. The 'cube' ate them." I still was in disbelief. But in a moment, disbelief turned into action. "We have to call the Millers. They are in the path of whatever that is. Get the phone while I keep an eye on it."

Joan dashed into the house and returned with the cell phone. She was dialing, a terrified look on her face. I slowly walked down the porch steps. The grass where the balls had been looked like a blow torch had worked it. The grass was gone. In fact, there was a bare patch where that giant 'cube' had moved from our yard to the cornfield and beyond. Reminded me of the tornado we had a few years back, scoured bare earth. I walked to where the fence had been. Looked like someone had taken a chain saw to it, but with a cleaner cut. Spooky.

"No answer!" Joan yelled.

"Get in the car! We'll go check on them. Maybe they're hurt. Bring the phone."

We got in the car and raced the two miles down to the Millers' place. You could see where the 'cube' had been. It had consumed their barn, their garage, and even their house. Not a structure remained. But their car was still in the driveway and their dog sat beside it. We parked behind their car and waited a few moments. No sign of any 'cube', so we got out to check. The dog just sat, didn't even bark or acknowledge us. It just stared straight ahead. No one was in the car. This was getting more mysterious by the moment.

"I think we should call 911," said Joan. "We should warn everyone."

"And what do we tell them? A giant 'ice cube' monster is on the loose?" I was really freaked out by all this.

"You'd feel really bad if anyone else got hurt and we didn't tell someone." Joan handed me the phone.

Now I not only felt freaked out, I also felt guilty. Great. "Fine! OK. I'll call Rusty at the Sheriff's office and feel the fool and tell him about the giant ' ice cube' on the loose."

Half an hour later, after much discussion with the dispatcher, they promised to send a car out to see the damage. I could hear laughter in the background as she repeated what I said. "You're telling me a giant cube of something looking like ice formed after that thunderstorm, it changed colors and then ate your wife's glasses, ate your snow shovel, ate your shed, ate your fence, ate a cornfield, and then ate all the buildings at the Millers' place plus ate Jack and Wendy Miller and left their dog comatose?"

"Yeah, that is pretty much what happened. But you had to be there to see it. It actually did change colors when Joan touched it. You know, when all that first started." Well, when I said that I could hear all the whooping and hollering really get going. Yep, we were the talk of the town by now for sure.

The patrol car came and Billy Martin took our statement. He couldn't quite believe what'd happened. Soon Sheriff Rusty Jones came out. He also couldn't believe it. Then a few hours later along came someone from the Highway Patrol. Then they all went away, leaving Joan and me at the Millers' place alone.

"What's going to happen now?" she asked.

We were sitting in the car, the Millers' dog now in the back seat. It was still pretty shaken up. "Darned if I know. I guess go back to our house. We've done all we can here."

On the news that night, we heard about a big pileup on the Ohio Turnpike. Large sections of the highway had just disappeared, along with a few toll booths and some service areas. No one seemed to have any ideas as to what caused the problems. "But crews on are on the scene as we speak," said the talking heads.

On went the Cube. It now was an official 'curse' with an official 'title'. Through Indiana, then to Illinois to Iowa. Following the Interstate highways put into place by Eisenhower, the Cube found easygoing as it chewed up asphalt along the way. It consumed entire cities and condos, farms and factories. It was quite the "cacophony of chaos" as one reporter put it. Entire news crews followed the Cube.

The National Guard had been called up. The brave men and women who guarded our nation's borders were trying to figure out how best to contain this "threat to humanity".

"Come see the latest, Joan." We watched the news that night with Maggie, the Millers' dog.

"Where is it now?"

"They say it will hit Iowa tomorrow."

"Mercy sakes, what a deal! And to think we're the ones who saw this first." Joan frowned and glanced at me.

"Yeah, we were lucky." We both put a hand on the dog. But I wasn't so sure. We were tired of all the TV reporters and newspaper people coming by. It was getting darn irritating. Quite a circus! Why didn't they concentrate on stopping this thing? Hasn't anyone ever read any science fiction books before, or watched any sci-fi movies? This Cube thing needed to be defeated!

The Cube entered Iowa the next day. It was dry there with drought-like conditions. As the Cube moved, it created its own static electricity. Fires started all along the path of the Cube. The only liquid the Guard could find for putting out the fires was some high fructose corn syrup sitting in some railroad cars. Well, who could've guessed that the sticky syrup would be the thing to corral the Cube! Once the soldiers started spraying the Cube with the syrup, it was found they could direct it any way they chose. So an outlying cornfield was chosen. As the Cube started into the parched field, it began to fall apart. Balls fell to the ground in huge mounds and multi-colored fireworks exploded into the sky. The mounds then melted into the ground. Soon nothing remained but a brown circle the size of a stadium. The National Guard personnel cheered. News crews reported the event to the world.

"Huh," said the General of the National Guard as he observed from a safe distance. He put down the binoculars. "That is quite the deal. Wonder what stopped it."

"Sir, yes sir! Just glad we were able to stop it, sir," answered the Lieutenant General.

"Well then, give me a report! Find out what this thing was and how we stopped it! People will want to know."

"Yes, sir!"

A report came out six months later, as everyone knows those government reports do take time to create. The official government report said the Cube was a weather anomaly caused by a bomb cyclone that had formed in the ionosphere. I wasn't buying that story; it smelled like four-day old fish. Personally, all along I was convinced the Cube was a cluster of alien life forms. No one could convince ME otherwise. Let the rest of the population believe what they like.

The report stated that the anomaly was stopped only by the heroic efforts of the National Guard. But there had been plenty of speculation from the common man as to the reason for the Cube's demise: drought, the high fructose corn syrup, an act of God, sunshine, the fireworks, and lack of fuel.

Back in Ohio, Joan and I had our own theory. We believe it died by eating the government's new secret weapon: genetically modified corn. One thing is for certain. Sitting on the porch during a thunderstorm is now a different pursuit. It's not as much fun as before. And we are a bit wary now when the forecast calls for hail.

Journey Through Genres

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