The stone fell to earth some distance west of the city, in the grassy valley of a stream running between two hills, and it remained undiscovered for several days. Once news had filtered up to the university, an expedition was dispatched to investigate the strange occurrences in the area. A large area had been blasted and churned up by the impact, and the remnants of the watercourse trickled uncertainly through the crater. The pack animals shied away and would go no further. The scholars shivered and set up a camp.
Inside the barren area, grasses, which normally sprang up wherever earth and water mixed, did not grow. Nor did rotting meat produce maggots. Iron set in the ground, on the other hand, turned brown and seemed to be being eaten away at. The water that flowed out downstream was tasteless and gave no nourishment.
“We brought illumination for our experiments, of course,” said the professor, placing a lantern on the lectern, with its elemental flame dancing inside the sealed glass tube, specially shaped to direct the light. “But inside the perimeter, they immediately went out.” A gasp went up from the audience as the professor produced a second tube, one which had held an identical flame just days before. Now there was only the faintest scattering of some kind of dust.
Inside the area, heavy objects fell at the same speed as light ones, and distant thunderstorms were not heard until after they were seen. Several people developed angry red burns on their exposed skin after working through the day. Those taking measurements at night fared no better, as the stars flashed and wavered, while the planets strayed from their assigned courses, spinning in wheels within wheels.
Screams echoed from the hut that confined a worker who had gotten too close to the rock. Convinced he had fallen through reality to another world, he raved about houses, so many houses, and lamps that glowed without fire, lining the roads black as night.
“What’s more,” continued the professor, “once we were able to set up the more precision instruments, we found deviations in every measurement. From the tendency of heavy elements to fall and light elements to rise, to the reactions between materials of different types. In the affected area, elemental water can be split using lightning, and then somehow transmuted into fire. We even took measurements that would imply the world is spinning.”
As the days turned into weeks, all the researchers developed strange ailments, and the rations they had carried did not seem to nourish them. The team decided to cut their losses and evacuate, packing up all their tools that had not degraded into uselessness, and their carefully notated data. They recommended that the area be sealed off, unfit for human habitation.
The professor stopped mid-sentence. The audience filling the lecture hall were staring at the extinguished lantern still standing on the lectern. A sunbeam from the high windows had hit it straight on, and continued on to paint the wall behind the professor, split into seven colors.