(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.)
550 Miles Away
The young man sat on the weathered chair and unlaced his boots. Mud prints layered one over another near the door. The early summer ground was soggy and miserable.
In his dry work shoes, he walked through to the great room. Outside the windows, wires strung on crooked poles far down a cut in the forest.
He checked the instruments.
Magnetometer. Seismograph. Ambient temperature.
He opened the logbook and yawned.
He shut it again and leaned back in the squeaky chair.
At least the mice were active at night. Tiny eyes flashing in lamplight. Nothing moved now. His breaths sounded loud and distracting in the quiet.
It made him feel weak to start so early, but he went to the back of the obsolete equipment cabinet and pulled out a bottle of vodka. Back in the squeaky chair, he drank and pulled an envelope from his pocket. The paper was stained with a corner worn through.
Inside, the letter was eleven months old. That's how long it took. The cities in the west were so very far away.
His eyes jumped on words like stepping stones over deep water.
Bedridden and wasting.
Asking for him.
Was she long dead by now? Was she buried with her grave already grown over?
He reached for the bottle and a bigger drink, but drew his fingers back. The Vodka rattled on the tabletop.
Metal tinkled in the cabinets.
His stomach quivered from a vibration traveling up his legs from the floor.
He wheeled over to the seismograph.
The needle stabbed high peaks on the paper.
A significant earthquake.
He watched the ink squiggle, then slowly diminish to a quiet line.
Nearby, the magnetometer line dove.
He paged open the logbook and began to write.
On to Part 3.
Back to Part 1.