Author: Robert White

“I always thought the Kremlin or the White House would start it, you know, trip over that whatchamacallit, the nuclear football,” Erik said.

“I don’t think it’s actually a football,” Alan said. “It’s a suitcase with a bunch of buttons.”

“Cops jumped ship like everybody else,” Erik said. “Half the town’s looting and murdering the other half. You hear any sirens?”
“Mostly geezers left,” Alan said. “Scared shitless of leaving their houses. Before my mom took off, we bolted doors and jammed furniture against windows. Too many crazies walking around since they saw that meteor.”


“Whatever, dude. Thing’s gonna pulverize the country. Tsunamis hundreds feet high. The Great Lakes will rain down boiling water on our asses. You think it matters what we call it?”

“We can still run.”
“Run where? The roads are littered with abandoned cars. Every highway jammed with people trying to flee. You can’t run or walk far enough to be safe.”

The only station reporting described shootouts at the airport; rogue pilots were stealing anything with wings.

Neither Erik nor his best friend conceptualized a world without TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook. A world without internet, television, or radio. No cable, no Wi-Fi, nothing to transmit the sound of a human voice or an image from point A to point B. A world of silence punctuated by outbursts, sobbing in the night from houses where the residents paced like prison inmates. Terror over the coming catastrophe paralyzed countries as far from impact as New Zealand. People mobbed churches and mosques begging God to stretch out a hand to stop this Mount Everest-sized rock of nickel and iron let loose from beyond the Kuiper Belt before it slammed into this small planet in its insignificant solar system of the Orion-Cygnus Arm, a minor spiral arm of our home galaxy.

NASA calculated the size, density, speed, and impact angle of 45 degrees. Once this sausage-shaped hunk of left-over debris burst through the keyhole at 10,000 miles per hour into Earth’s dense atmosphere, it was game over just as it had been sixty-five million years ago for the dinosaurs when a smaller asteroid plummeted through the keyhole to impact off the Yucatán Peninsula.

Unseen by NASA’s skywatchers for near-Earth objects, Green Bank Observatory in West Virginia saw it first. Ohio State confirmed it and plotted orbit, trajectory, calculated the lat and long coordinates, and time of impact—south of Belle Island in the Detroit River. The odds were like hitting a bullet with a bullet. Radio astronomers in Dr. Amy Mainzer’s Center for Near-Earth Objects Studies named it “Asteroid Gremory” after a Japanese manga cartoon. Gremory was the sexualized demon who symbolized greed and lust and who ate the heart of Akuma-kun, the boy prodigy who appeared only once every 10,000 years.

Gremory could not be deflected by crashing a satellite into it as its DART program had been designed for. Months or years, not days or hours, were required to effect increments of directional change in the orbit. Blowing it up with intercontinental missiles armed with nuclear warheads, a juvenile Hollywood notion, was not even a last resort because fragmenting the asteroid created force multipliers as massive chunks fell to Earth. The average person wasn’t capable of comprehending fifty billion billion Joules of energy unleashed in a nanosecond.

Big enough to be seen without a telescope, the massive rock would arc over the smallest of the Great Lakes, change colors as it passed through the visible spectra of light to resemble a two-dimensional, purple rock.

Erik turned to Alan. “Going home to get my goodbyes in.”