The meteor fell from the sky and landed in the yard of the couple. It charred the grass and flattened the grill and sent the soccer ball whining until it was flaccid. It pulsed, a white and orange marbled planet, stoic, propelling waves of heat through the neighborhood, wilting the tulips next door, melting the tires of a Toyota RAV4. The woman came out of the house, drawn to the murmurous sphere, its undulating marble lava moving in its core. She walked across the warm soot, embers stinging her face, the waves becoming hotter and hotter. The man came out of the house.
We have to leave. He pulled at her synthetic shirt, which had begun to melt to her skin. The whole neighborhood has to evacuate.
I want to stay. She did not look at him. I think I am in love.
With the meteor? He squinted his eyes at the white-hot light, pulling at her arms. Are you crazy?
Don’t you feel the enveloping warmth of its heart? She struggled to free herself from his grasp. Don’t you understand the radiance of its mind?
It’s going to kill you. He hooked her by the arms and began to drag her away. You’ll thank me later.
The fire department came. Fire trucks from several municipalities joined in, and the firemen knocked down fences and sawed down trees until they could surround the burning rock with their hoses. They sprayed the water, and steam filled the air, burning the neighborhood squirrels and raccoons. The powerful streams of water bounced off the meteor and pelted the aluminum siding of the houses, stripped paint off the cars.
Several times, particularly in the thick steam, the woman escaped the man and secretly made her way back to the meteor. The entire neighborhood waited in the gymnasium of the nearby high school except for the emergency response units and the man and the woman, who, without protective clothing, were badly burned. The woman was blind in one eye, and began to lose sight in the other, but with her arms in front of her, she felt her way again and again to the now-cooling mass.
Several hours later the meteor was the temperature of bath water. The neighborhood was ruined. The man urged the woman to go to the hospital.
I’ll wear my scars as proof of my love. She stood on the warped frame of their patio door. The attached deck had long since burned away, and she looked strange, up there in space.
Weeks later, the community association met again in the gymnasium. They decided to move the meteor to a vacant field outside the neighborhood, behind a billboard that advertised DNA testing. Everyone voted in favor except for the woman, who wanted the meteor to remain in their yard.
My love for the meteor will never die, she insisted.
The man forgave the woman. After all, the meteor landed in their yard, without provocation. In its own way, he supposed, it could be considered beautiful and pure. The chances of another meteor falling in their yard were incredibly remote. As she lay in bed recuperating from her injuries, he knew she would come to her senses, see the damage the meteor had caused.
Things got better. The man brought the woman chicken soup and diet 7-Up. They watched movies on Netflix in bed. Eventually the woman got well enough that she could sit on the couch, and they watched Netflix there. Sometimes they even held hands. It rained in the spring and the earth absorbed those tears. The dirt expanded and filled the depression of the meteor. Grass grew over it. The neighborhood slowly recovered. Squirrels ran along the newly constructed fences. Other things returned.
When the woman became well enough to leave the house, the man asked her where she wanted to go.
To the meteor, she answered. And she left.
The man brought chicken soup and diet 7-Up to the field behind the billboard, but the woman refused them. She sat and leaned against the hard gray orb, trying to wrap her arms around it. At night, the man brought blankets to keep her warm, and a parka when it began to snow. Still, the woman grew thin. Her hair got matted. She looked homeless. The man could not understand why the woman he loved did not love him, was killing herself for a meteor.
He filed for divorce. The woman did not return, and he stopped visiting her. He heard that maybe she had taken ill, or died, but he kept himself from checking. He stayed in the house. After an extensive interview process, a new woman came to live with him. She seemed to have no interest in meteors or any other types of heavenly bodies. They watched Netflix on the couch. Things returned to normal.
One night a few years later, another meteor fell from the sky and landed in the yard of the couple. It charred the grass and flattened the grill and sent the soccer ball whining until it was flaccid. It pulsed, a white and orange marbled planet, stoic, propelling waves of heat through the neighborhood, wilting the tulips next door, melting the tires of a Toyota Prius. The man came out of the house, drawn to the murmurous sphere, its undulating marble lava moving in its core. He walked across the warm soot, embers stinging his face, the waves becoming hotter and hotter. The new woman came out of the house.
We have to leave. She pulled at his synthetic shirt, which had begun to melt. The whole neighborhood has to evacuate.
I want to stay. He did not look at her.
Originally published in The Rupture
Jen Michalski is the author of the novels The Summer She Was Under Water and The Tide King (both Black Lawrence Press), a couplet of novellas, Could You Be With Her Now (Dzanc Books), and two collections of fiction (From Here and Close Encounters). Her work has appeared in more than 100 publications, including Poets & Writers, The Washington Post, and Psychology Today. She is the editor in chief of the literary weekly jmww and now lives in California.
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