The Doomsday Rock

The Doomsday Rock

A tale set in the year 2020

 

By Elton Camp

 

 

            All knew that it could happen, but few expected it to be so soon.  “If only we had been better prepared,” President Ballings said ruefully as he flew in Air Force One over the devastation.  Millions of live had been lost and property damage was beyond estimation.  He would be the last to live in the White House since it and the surrounding city no longer existed.  The famous Manhattan skyline was only empty space. 

 

            Perhaps it was the series of movies that led to complacency.  A menace to our planet from an approaching asteroid invariably brought a rescue from dedicated scientists and daring astronauts.  Ultimate success of the plan to divert or destroy a massive body intersecting our orbit was never in doubt. 

 

            The bombardment of our Moon by rocks from the depth of space is plain to see for anyone with binoculars.  Its lack of both atmosphere and erosion from weather provides no protection from the impacts, nor does it slowly wipe away the evidence.  Just the opposite is true of the Earth. 

 

            “Our planet has been struck by asteroids many times more than has the Moon,” explained astronomer, Dr. Claude Rains.  “The craters are hard to see due to erosion.  Also, in many cases, the object evaporates just above the ground and makes no crater.”

 

            Reports of rocks falling from the sky have been made occasionally throughout human history.  Friction with the atmosphere, however, destroys most of them, with the only notification being the fleeting streaks of light called “shooting stars.”  Strikes by objects large enough to reach the surface occur with regularity, although only about 150 of them still have enough evidence to visually detect their existence.  Countless others cannot be detected due to have fallen on the three-fourths of the planet that is water. 

 

            Barringer meteorite crater in Arizona is the best preserved, although the asteroid fragmented on contact with the surface.  When first discovered by Europeans, the uninhabited plain around it was littered with thirty tons of chunks of iron. It was a silent warning of the fury of nature.   

 

            Meteors weighing less than a pound hit the earth thousands of times a year, but mankind’s most recent encounter with a large object was the Tunguska explosion in 1908.  The visitor exploded in the air and devastated a huge area in the uninhabited forests of Siberia.  The sound of its explosion was heard hundreds of miles away. 

 

            Ann Hodges of Sylacauga, Alabama in 1954 related a terrifying experience.  “I was lying on my couch in the living room when this awful sound came and something crashed through the ceiling, bounced off my radio, and hit me on the hip.”  This is the only documented case of a meteor having struck a person.  She had as proof both bruises and the rock itself.  At the same time, a smaller meteor crashed through the woman’s garage and damaged her car.  Other reports of meteors hitting humans are either lack proof or are outright frauds. 

 

            Rains further commented, “Until recent times, science had no way to know of the approach of a meteor until it manifested itself in the atmosphere.  With advances in technology, we have been able to map and track hundreds of near earth objects.”

 

            In a cosmic sense, multiple near misses had been recorded.  In 1989 a thousand foot long asteroid passed through the exact spot where the Earth had been only six hours before.  Had a collision occurred, it would have been the largest explosion in recorded history, with unknown consequences. 

 

            In 2004, a ninety-foot long meteor made the nearest miss science had recorded.  It came within one-tenth of the distance to the moon.  Astronomers claim that approaches that close take place about every two years. 

 

            Observer, John Bostow, remarked, “It is a sobering thought that only two weeks later a new record was set by a twenty-foot object that came as close as 4,000 miles, a mere one-sixtieth of the distance to the moon.”  It was detected only a few hours in advance. 

 

            In an international effort, plans to divert asteroids on a collision path with Earth had been formulated, ranging from atomic explosions to solar sails.  “Only a little push is need to send it far away,” Botow explained.  “But that assumes that we know months or years in advance.” 

 

            The Doomsday Rock of 2020 was of a type known as a “dark asteroid.”  Its surface was as black as tar and reflected only five percent of the light striking it.  To see it was impossible.  It possibly would have been detected sooner by infrared space telescopes as had hundreds of similar objects.  Unfortunately, its orbit was sharply tilted from the plane in which most asteroids and comets lie.  Nobody knew it was coming because they were looking elsewhere. 

 

            A grim-faced President Billings announced, “My fellow Americans, it is with deep regret that I announce the upcoming collision of a mountain-sized asteroid with the Earth.  Scientists assure me that it will occur in the late afternoon three days from now.  The Atlantic Ocean, twenty miles off the Massachusetts coast, being the most probable impact point. I am now ordering evacuation of the eastern states in anticipation of a tsunami of unprecedented scale.  In an orderly and calm manner move at least two hundred miles inland.”

 

            Chaos that degenerated into panic resulted from the announcement.  Roads leading west became hopelessly congested so that traffic moved at a crawl.  Rear-end collisions created chain-reactions.  Desperate motorists took to the shoulder at break-neck speed.  Lines snaked for miles from gasoline stations as people angrily competed for the remaining supply of fuel. 

 

            Airports, trains, and buses left filled to capacity, but failed to reappear for additional trips.  Pilots, conductors, and drivers who found themselves safe refused to return.  Hundreds of thousands fled on foot, carrying what few possessions they could manage. 

 

            Some refused to evacuate out of disbelief, fear, apathy or even pointless greed.  Looting of stores and home began immediately and went unchallenged.  Law enforcement personnel had used their vehicles with sirens to flee the coming catastrophe along with their families. 

 

            From deep within Cheyenne Mountain, the President, his cabinet, and Congress

urged cooperation and calm.  The Speaker of the House intoned, “Now is the time to put away selfish concerns.  Take courage.  Work together as the great people that we are.  Show integrity and bravery as you help your fellow man.” 

 

            The asteroid arrived at the time predicted, but a few miles closer to the coast.  The high-speed impact caused the asteroid to vaporize, deformed the floor of the ocean, ejected hundreds of cubic miles of water vapor and molten rock.  The debris rained over the Earth for several hours.  Of more immediate concern was the shock wave that demolished thousands of cities, destroying all structures along with animals, and people who had remained.  The tremendous heat incinerated the ruined buildings as well as crops, forests and bodies.  A tsunami, beyond anything in human history, rose to heights of 400 feet to rush far inland, flooding everything in its path.  Wave followed wave. The waters slowly drained again into the sea.  At last, only silence prevailed.

 

            Almost undiminished by the distance, the waves spread across the Atlantic to wreak havoc upon Europe.  Mankind had suffered a blow beyond comprehension. 

Dust and smoke from the collision rose high into the atmosphere, blocking the warming rays of the sun.  The planet began to slowly freeze. 

 

            Meanwhile, in the rocky belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, a collision between two titanic objects sends one of them careening toward the center of the Solar System.  Its ultimate destination some thousands of years later?  Planet Earth. 


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Synopsis
It brought a catastrophe beyond comprehension.
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