THE TIME STAR
"HEY! WHAT’S THAT THING?"
At the sound of her cousin's sharp tone, Waneeta Meadows jerked up from adjusting her helmet in the headlight of her ancient Skidoo. "Where?"
Kevin Meadows pointed eastward. The Ontario night was as clear as any she'd ever seen, and in the openness of the winter-bare trees, it wasn't hard to spot what Kevin saw skimming low in the deep and dark horizon. Like a brilliant star, it twinkled, but, with reddish-orange flares radiating away, it was also growing. Fast.
As fast as the seconds that raced by.
With a curse word, Kevin leapt onto the seat of his Skidoo and revved the engine. "It’s heading this way! Let's get out of here!" With one more rev on the accelerator, he disappeared down the snowmobile trail.
"Kevin!" Waneeta called as the sounds melted into the night. Good grief. That kid! Kevin may be 18, but he acted 12. To hell with him. She wasn't going to speed to catch up with him, Waneeta shoved on her helmet as her eyes lifted. Oh, wow! The eastern sky was totally aglow and whatever-
Then, in the next blink of an eye, it barreled past, so close she could feel its heat. A tremendous roar like a chimney fire chased the brilliant thing. She squinted, automatically snapping her head to one side to deflect the glare.
A shower of sparks chased after the explosion. She felt the fireworks rain down on her. Several hit her neck. Hundreds pricked and burned her new Skidoo suit, some jabbing through like needles. Immediately, Waneeta ducked, too late, she knew, but the reaction couldn't be stopped. She dived over the dark vinyl seat and into the soft, late winter snow.
The fireball found its mark. The earth around her shook, growling as though a freight train rumbled along this provincial trail.
She crouched, afraid to breath, not sure if she had died by whatever it was that raced past.
The roar choked abruptly, leaving only the quiet spits as sparks met their ends in the damp snow somewhere deeper in the forest.
Waneeta craned her neck to peek over her Skidoo's handlebars, through the headlight's dim beam. Her gaze found a thin line of glowing smoke fingering into the still, starry night. She stood there, then, with cautious steps, she peered into the hole.
Understanding dawned on her. It had to have been a meteorite! Through the trees in front of her, its sputters and sizzles like bacon on a hot griddle. The Skidoo headlight glowed through the steam rising from the foot wide, wet crater.
As it cooled, she craned her neck upward. Beyond her position, a huge cloud of white sparks was quickly dissipating in the wintry sky. Focusing back on the ground in front, Waneeta pushed back some wayward branches until she had a clear view of the steaming hole. Then, wetting her lips, she pulled her thick gloves on more snugly and reached down for the rock.
Not the whole meteorite, after all. Instead she found only a fragment, broken away in the last seconds of its life, not having enough energy to indent anything more than this snowy crater. Warm, but not hot, it weighed heavily in her hand, the size of a golf ball.
The headlight behind her dimmed and died. The engine coughed and it too, died. Queasiness then washed over Waneeta. Her stomach rolled, and she shut her eyes to stop the sensation from overwhelming her. She reached for her Skidoo's handlebars with her free hand, hoping that grounding herself would ease the nausea. But it was too powerful, and her right hand released the rock. Her grip on the Skidoo gave way also to watery weakness, the blackening sense of fainting.
Then, as quickly as the nausea rolled over her, it passed. Abruptly, the Skidoo engine backfired and restarted. She jumped. The headlight suddenly glowed brighter.
She released her wobbly grip on the Skidoo and leaned over the handlebars. There, she twisted the key to shut the engine off, but left the headlight on. Around her, the woods were suddenly colder, quieter.
So very quiet. Surely the rest of this meteorite would sizzle for a while? Maybe it wasn't that big. In the deep snow of early spring, it may have cooled off quickly. Or perhaps it broke apart, leaving only tiny chunks like the one she'd just dropped? Waneeta looked down.
It wasn't there. The snow was clean. Nothing lay deep within it.
She quickly scanned the area around her. All was pristine. Ahead where her cousin had just roared away was untouched snow around thick trees. No one, save herself, had stood there since the last snowfall. Waneeta's breath swirled in the dimming beam of the headlight. The forest around her had closed in. No snowmobile trail lay ahead as it should have done.
The air chilled further. She shivered, uneasiness dancing through her bones. The new, one-piece snowsuit had become too flimsy for the cold night and wet where the snow had melted on her.
She blinked, hoping that the action would restore the trail that she knew should have been in front of her. But no. The same untouched snow. Waneeta trudged through the deep snow to where the trail should be, but a thick stand of pine and spruce blocked her way, a silent testimony to her error. She turned and looked in the direction from which she and Kevin had come.
There were no snowmobile tracks. Even her Skidoo stood on virgin snow, no track marks behind it.
What? How was this possible? Eeriness tickled her spine with cold thin fingers. Where was she? The only activity was a wobbly line of snowshoe tracks crossing in the distance. That small trail was wide enough for her Skidoo, so surely she wasn't too far off the beaten track? Perhaps the meteorite had knocked her back, caused her to black out and in that time, she'd moved her Skidoo without realizing it.
But no Skidoo tracks? What the hell was happening here?
"Kevin!" she blurted out, but her sudden call merely filtered through the forest, dissipating quickly in the cold air. She tried again, this time with the hint of panic she was definitely feeling. "Kevin!"
Nothing. Only total, creepy silence.
Waneeta climbed back onto the machine and restarted the engine. She maneuvered the Skidoo down the snowshoe trail, a trail far narrower than it should be, hoping to meet up with Kevin's tracks shortly, all the while fighting the urge to speed away from the uneasiness lurking around her. No, she wouldn't be like her immature cousin, taking off at the drop of a hat. No, she'd be-
Suddenly, a black mass loomed before her. She swerved sharply to avoid it. A scraping thud hit her skis and the whole machine heaved on its side. Her own momentum carried her over the handlebars and into the mass.
"Aah!" A sharp pain tore through her right side when she landed on a broken branch. She arched in agony.
Rolling away, she turned to see what she'd hit. The huge black bowl was just a freshly uprooted tree. And she'd collided with it.
She groaned, looking disgustedly at her Skidoo. From where she sat, Waneeta could the left ski twisted and bent. And now, as the machine used up all the fuel in its carburetor, the engine sputtered and died.
Gingerly, she struggled back to it, her side tight with pain. She wasn't strong enough to right the heavy machine, especially now with her side injured.
Still no answer, even to her now panicked tone. Oh, this was pointless. She'd hear him coming and as much as her cousin was a wimp, deep down, he wouldn't abandon her. He'd come back as soon as he realized she wasn't behind him. She would just have to wait. Waneeta pulled the key free from the ignition and eased down again with a wince.
The minutes ticked by. No Kevin. Waneeta's normally sunny manner was sorely tested by her younger cousin.
"Come on," she growled impatiently, pulling up her sleeve to check the time. Her watch was dark. When she pressed the top button, the light did not glow. The crystal must have cracked during her fall. Waneeta tapped it impatiently, but to no avail. She pulled out her cell phone, and found it also damaged by her fall, its screen now a mess of colours and black smudges. Great. She couldn't afford the deductable for a new one.
Well, it was too cold to sit and wait. Pushing herself to standing, she grimaced. She may as well start walking. The trail couldn't be far and if she stayed calm and rational, she'd find it soon enough.
Figuring Stafford Village was southwest of where she was, Waneeta noted the moon's rising and kept to the left at each fork she met as she followed the snowshoe trail. Surely whoever made these tracks came from there?
After half an hour, she stopped her painful trudging and gingerly touched her side. All movement was fast becoming excruciating. Waneeta willed herself to breathe more slowly, to breathe in through her nostrils to calm her and ease the pain.
Breathe slowly, calmly.
Smoke. She smelled wood smoke. She sniffed again. A house must be nearby. Whoever it was here really lived out in the boonies, but hey, it was a house, nonetheless. Waneeta straightened. The pain shot out in all directions, making her jerk.
Come on, girl, you can do it. Just a few more steps. Plowing through the deep snow, stumbling when her feet slipped from the snowshoe tracks, Waneeta reached the house and fell against the rough logs along the building's side. Her sharp intake of painful breath drew in strong wood smoke. Yes, she'd found the source of the wood heat, all right.
Her breathing hard, she bumped down the logs and into the drifted snow. Kevin better be here-
To her right, a door creaked open. A large shape eclipsed the bright interior. Waneeta was sure she heard a swear word as the man, too big to be Kevin, advanced on her.
Then all went black.Buy The Time Star Here