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|“But first tonight on your Channel 8 News at 8, it’s the discovery that has rocked the world and baffled scientists everywhere – another solar system. The network of 15 new planets has raised puzzling new questions. Are we alone? And if not, are we safe?”
“This is fuckin’ crazy.”
Gary Glover flipped off the TV. “Travis, are you done with your English?”
There was a slight pause. Travis looked up, then looked back at his homework.
Gary looked at his son. At thirteen, the boy had started filling out, but was now more pudgy than anything else. His dark brown hair was a lifeless mop, and his freshly braces-less teeth were his best asset. And, as a single parent of an only child, Gary was determined that his one shot at upstanding offspring would pay off. As a result, Travis was often isolated from his friends as his father watched him complete all of his homework. Gary meant well, but sometimes, Travis got pushed too hard. He was pushed into overeating, and because of it, he was overweight and developing acne. He was shy. He had a slight stutter.
“Dad, can I go to Kory’s?”
“No, Trav. Finish that homework, and once you’re done, I want you to learn about this new solar system and go to bed. Okay?”
Travis sighed. “Okay.”
And that’s what he did. As soon as the English was done, the TV went back on and Travis watched CNN for an hour. The whole solar system thing was bizarre, yes, but the only scary part was that there were hundreds of space rocks hurtling toward Earth, according to NASA. Analysts were saying that they all would burn up in Earth’s atmosphere, but still – what if one of them didn’t?
It was too weird to keep watching. Travis flipped off the TV and crawled to bed.
He could hear his Dad watching TV in the other room. It was a one story house; he could hear everything that went on.
Kory’s bedroom was just across the yard from his, their windows were parallel. When the light flashed into his room, he thought his friend was trying to get his attention.
Travis moved the curtain aside. Kory’s light was off, completely. He waited a second to see if he would flick the flashlight again.
But when the flash came back around, it wasn’t from Kory’s window. It was a whizzing bullet, almost, but bright and yellow. And when it stopped, it stopped in his yard, about five yards from his window.
Travis listened carefully. The TV was still on. Maybe…
Before he could even think about what he was doing, he had cracked and rolled open the window, and wriggled through.
His bare toes crackled against the dead grass. He could see the light in the family room, and his Dad’s shadow through the bay window. He crept over to where the faint light still was emanating, and checked it out.
It was a rock, and it looked to be completely smooth. He could almost see his reflection in it. There were two or three others in the yard, and they all looked to be the exact same size and shape.
He leaned forward. There was a bizarre smell in the air, a strange combination of sweat and sulfur. Being impetuous once again, he leaned forward and touched the rock.
The yard went dark, and he realized that the light in the bay window was off. His Dad was done with the TV.
He scurried across the yard and leapt back into his room, knocking over a lamp in the process.
“Trav? You okay in there?”
“Y-y-y-yeah. I’m g-good. I was…I w-w-was opening the window and knocked over the l-l-lamp.”
“Okay. Good night, son.”
Travis reached to crank the door shut and heard a clack against the window handle. It took him a second to realize that it was the rock, pressed between his palm and the handle.
There must have been some kind of sap on the ground, and it was sticking the rock to his hand, he thought.
But when he looked closer, he realized that the rock was smaller than it had been. And as he looked even closer, he saw that it had, literally, become part of his hand.
He scraped his palm against the desk, frantically trying to force the rock off. All it did was slightly singe the desk.
The rock was getting hot, and he could smell his flesh starting to sizzle. “Ahhhhh!” He slammed his face into a pillow and screamed. He didn’t want his Dad to know how stupid he’d been. The rock seemed to be liquefying. It’s metallic surface bubbled and shimmered, until it looked like silver liquid mercury. The intense heat caused it to melt quickly, and soon it was being sucked into Travis’ palm like water swirling down a drain.
His fingers curled into a fist as he absorbed the stone. “MMMMM.” His lips were twisted into a silent grimace as his burning hand cooled.
His hand was still shaking, but he looked and saw the silver under his skin. When he touched it, he felt unusually hard skin. It was getting gradually softer to the touch, and he saw the metal – or whatever it was – spreading, like a sunburst, across his palm.
And as Travis crawled into bed, completely creeped out, he started thinking about Kory, and if he’d seen anything. And what about his Dad? What if the silver didn’t go away and his Dad saw it?
Before Travis could think further, he was asleep.
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