Having a Ball

This is the dream I had on the night of 10/14. No, I don’t know what it means.

There were eight of us that first day. We’d wanted to form a softball team, but we couldn’t get anyone else, so used to just hang out and play Frisbee and then go for a drink. That day it’d been hot and nobody really felt like standing on the asphalt and sweating. We were on our way to our cars when Gary called us back in and said “You’ve got to see this!”

“This” was a little steel marble.

“Okay, we’ve seen it. Can we go get a drink?” Phil said, clearly pissed at being dragged back inside for something that didn’t involve naked women or beer.

“No, check it out,” Gary said, and picked it up. He let go, and the thing bounced, once, twice, gaining momentum as it bounced.

“Whoa!” Bert said, as we all had the same realization.

It wasn’t just bouncing and gaining momentum. Each time it bounced, instead of describing an arc from one bounce to the next, it would loop, zigzag, double back on its path and bounce again in an unexpected place. Gary was starting to look a little freaked out, because it was also going faster.

“How do you catch it?” Jill asked, dodging as it went flying past her shoulder.

Gary had gone white. The proud, smug smile that had been on his face a second ago was gone, replaced with a bloodless grimace.

“I don’t know. It was…smaller when I caught it the first time.”

“What do you mean, smaller?” Phil asked.

“Like the size of a beebee.”

The thing was zipping around the office now, knocking things off desks, denting the wallboard. Pam and Jill ran into the break room to get away from it, and, after it hit her in the shoulder, Evie locked herself in the ladies’ room. The boys all stayed around trying to catch the thing, but it wasn’t like they could just put their hands out and catch it. It was the size of an egg and going so fast that it had broken the window of one of the offices.

Jill and Pam came back with a large metal bowl that still had the remains of jello salad in it. You know, the kind that looks like vomit. Pam took the plastic lid off the bowl, and Jill leapt around trying to catch it. She finally cornered it and it bounced into the bowl, and Pam shoved the lid on. She handed it to Gary, and he took the bowl in one hand and held the lid on with the other.

We looked around the office at the devastation. In five minutes, it had broken a window, put at least a hundred dents in the walls, knocked out one light fixture, and left not a single desk untouched. Before we could even talk about how we were going to explain it, Gary started to look panicked. He had one hand over the top of the bowl, but the ball inside was distorting the lid, stretching the plastic up toward Gary’s hand. The plastic was cracking, turning white even as Gary was trying to push the ball back down into the bowl.

Evie came out of the ladies’ room, looking around to make sure it was safe.

“Did you catch it?”

“Sort of,” Phil said.

***

I don’t know why we didn’t think of it before. Well, I mean, I know why, but, you know. We found a digital recorder, and Phil and Jill and Bert decided to make a funny car commercial. They had raggedy-looking steering wheels around their necks, and they did a silly little dance and talked about how we should all “Come on down to Bert’s Car Locker where you can still find a car that runs! Get ’em now before they’re all gone! HeeHEE!”

They did a stupid dance, and Pam and I laughed.

I looked out the window, but we were clear. Now that most of the buildings had been pummeled flat, it was easy to see it coming. There was nothing to hide the sight of a steel sphere the size of a van rocketing toward one. At first, we tried to avoid doing things to get its attention, thinking that if we wore the wrong colors or moved in the wrong way or exuded the wrong odors, it would be attracted to us and crush us flat. Some of us made effigies of it and made sacrifices and obeisance to it.

There was no way to stop it, save being encased in a similar sphere of your own. We tried making one, but it’s harder than it looks. Especially with plywood. Weapons didn’t affect it. Anything that didn’t hit it dead-on was deflected by its round surface. Anything that did hit it head-on made no impression whatever. Nuclear blasts had been aimed at it, and, other than making one side of it glow white hot for a while, no change was apparent to either its form or its movement. But I think the blasts made it hate us more.

Some people decided that it wasn’t sentient. There was no appeasing it, no angering it, nothing that they could to do alter its course. They developed a fatalistic mindset, going out just like they always did, living their lives as usual. Their ranks were thinning. Some relocated to caves and underground bunkers. They fared better, but we didn’t know much about them. Evie had decamped for New Mexico after Gary was killed when a movie theater they were sheltering in was crushed to rubble. I hope she got there. New Mexico must be a beautiful place, with horses and long, long rows of sausages, as far as the eye can see. And brown cars. I like brown cars the best.

***

We’re not sure now much longer we have. But that’s been true for as long as there’ve been people, hasn’t it? ┬áIt’s still technically in our orbit, but it’s going fast enough that it could escape our orbital plane and establish its own. And yet, people still say that it’s not sentient. I’ve heard it thinking. I can hear its heartbeat. I can feel that it knows me. It’s wreaking havoc with the tides when it comes close, which is to say every month or two, despite the altars and offerings of the last of our frozen foods and hair. Its orbital period can’t be calculated, because it’s flight is as erratic as a bat’s. Nothing about it can be calculated, except its size, which has been increasing steadily. It’s now slightly smaller than the planet Mercury, but bigger than our moon. That’ll change by early next year, and in four years, it’ll be bigger than Mars.

I’ve chosen to call it Sama’el, and to make my offerings, and to accept my fate. In this life, can any of us do more than that?