It was both the best and worst day of Jereimahs life. The good news was hed just made the find of a lifetime. There would be no more endless days spent backing his back to pan a few nuggets now and then out of Topher river. No more endless meals of dried beans and stale bread. The Lord had finally given him his due. A shooting star that had blazed its way through the clouds, brighter than the noon day sun. Sure it had blown the tarnation out of his old shack and made one hell of a hole to boot, but he didnt care because the orb from the heavens looked like it weighed over thirty pounds and glimmered like gold. Jereimah knew in his heart that it was the purest gold hed ever seen.
The bad news was that was now laying in the dirt, bleeding to death. After three long, hard hours of carrying water from the river to cool the thing down, hed noticed that old Lucas was riding up the mountain to his prospect. He knew Lucas mustve seen the thing as it fell too and was coming to see what it was. No matter how much money he owed the old bastard, he wasnt about to let Lucas take what was his. Jereimahs rifle had been in his shack when the Lord had blessed him though. He had no idea where it was now, though he imagined the spot of melted metal on the craters right edge was most likely it. Wasnt gonna do him no good in a shape like that. So hed crouched down in the crater and prayed that Lucas would just go on by. Jereimah had never been known for his quick thinking.
Lucas rode up to the edge and called out to him. Shit, Jereimah thought and pulled his hunting knife. It was all he had but he wasnt about to give up the Lords gift without a fight. He yelled at the top of lungs and ran up the slope towards Lucas. The old man stared at him in disbelief until it sunk in that Jereimah meant business. He drew his .36 revolver and popped Jereimah twice in the chest. Jereimah toppled and rolled down into the crater to where he lay now, watching the old man make his way unsteadily down towards the orb. The moment he had seen it, all thoughts of Jereimah had fled his mind. The bastard was practically drooling over the gold.
Then the unthinkable happened. The gold shattered, hatching like an egg. At first, Jereimah thought the Lord had destoryed the beauty of the orb to prevent it from falling into hands that it wasnt meant for until the first of them got close enough for him to see. Tiny metal demons, moving in swarm like fire ants across the dirt towards him. Each had eight legs and a single glowing dot where their eyes should be.
Lucass attention snapped back to Jereimah as the man howled and crawled towards the edge of the pit, slapping at his own body with his hands. Lucas didnt know what to make of it and he sure wasnt about to take chances with no crazy man. He raised his .36 and shot Jereimah straight between the eyes. Jereimahs body thrashed a second longer then lay still. Lucas shrugged and picked up a piece of the broken orb, biting into to it with his teeth. A wide grin stretched on his face. He crammed the piece into his pocket and leaned over to fish up more.
Lucas Martin of Sol Three, a voice boomed from behind him. He whirled around to see Jereimah back on his feet, his eyes glowing a deep green. His shirt was stained red and a trickle of blood oozed from the hole in his forehead, but there he stood plain as day.
Jesus! Lucas wailed. He emptied his colts last round into Jereimahs stomach but the man didnt even flinch. He began to walk towards Lucas with his hands out-stretched. Lucas Martin of Sol Three, the thing croaked again in a hollow voice devoid of emotion.
Lucas didnt waste any more time. He ran as fast as could for his horse and hopped in the saddle, kicking it with all his might. The beast grunted and took off galloping away from the crater.
The thing that had been Jereimah watched him flee then turned its face towards the heavens. From its mouth erupted a chattering series of high pitched clicks. Contact had failed. The dominant species of Sol Three was too primitive at this stage of its development, it informed the ship in orbit around the Earth. It cautioned against another attempt at contact for at least several more decades. It finished its communion with the others aboard the ship with last sad clicking noise that echoed in the host bodys throat.
Jereimahs body erupted into blue flames and fell to the dust to burn away in nothingness beside the remnants of the golden orb.
Copyright © 2002 by Eric S. Brown