(In 1908, the last major Earth impact from an asteroid or comet occurred in the unpopulated expanse of eastern Siberia. 830 square miles of boreal forests were leveled. In this latest fictionalized history series, we travel back to 1908 to experience the "Tunguska Event." Prior series: X-ray Martyrs and Westinghoused.)
June 30, 1908
Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia
Smoke from the cooking fire billowed from the top of the choum. The acrid, white clouds filtered through the pines and disappeared into a deep water sky.
The Evenki tribesman emerged in the morning sunlight.
He cracked branches with leathery, bronze hands. Behind him, meat simmered in a blackened pot. The moist heat brushed away the chill clinging to the shadows.
In the near distance, his reindeer herd bleated.
His splintering hands paused, and he turned an ear to the southeast.
The deep voice of thunder carried from the far mountains.
Lake Baikal, Russia
The woman plunged her hands into the ice blade waters.
She churned the stained cloth and ground it against rocks. As she stood and wrung, the vast waters of the lake stretched to the horizon. The last mirror of ice had broken. Vast depths brooded in slow indigo waves.
She turned towards home with her bucket of fresh water.
But stopped at the sound of birds. Flocks upon flocks beating their wings above the trees.
She looked up, expecting to see them black in a migrating river.
Dropped the bucket and sloshed water onto her legs.
High overhead, a second sun trailed a column of light and clouds.
Like the trunk of a great tree, it stretched towards the northwest.
The thunder rumbled a second time.
That brought the sound of birds.
The man backed against the choum.
The sky was clear. It was an evil omen to hear thunder birds away from a storm.
Another sharp rumble.
The bird wings beat faster.
A boom reverberated in the Earth.
Over the trees, the sky filled with light.
And the entire world ignited.
Pine needles smoked. The reindeer moss covering the forest burned.
The man pulled at his searing clothes to save his skin.
The wind swooped down. Breaking. Smashing.
The roar swept up the man and his choum.
Its talons tossed him into the living grasp of the trees.
On to Part 2.