This post is a throwback to a short story I wrote in June of 2013 which has never before been published. Here it is now for your reading pleasure. You’ll probably recognize the folk tale that inspired this one right away. Enjoy.
Tracey Gracey ran barefoot through the soft grass, her hair flowing in waves behind her. She leapt over a fallen tree branch, imagining her classmates–whose actual voices she could hear off in the distance–oohing and aahing at her performance. She played alone in a wooded hideaway near Epsilon Eridani Elementary’s playground. She didn’t have any friends among her classmates, and, as such, her imagination ran wild.
All at once she was an honorable space traveler, exploring unknown alien planets for signs of life with her laser gun strapped tight to her hip. In the next moment she was a brave knight from the Old Earth tales, her ray gun now a shiny iron sword used to fight the fiery red dragon and ensure the safety of the cowering villagers. At last she was a butterfly, floating on the wind, searching for a place to rest. Tired from all the adventure, she landed under a sprawling oak tree and drifted off to sleep.
Her dreams allowed her little rest. Amid images of flashing masks and talking cats she felt a hard thud on her forehead, waking her from her sleep.
Still lying on the grass, her eyes batting the sleep away, she felt lazily around for the culprit. Her right hand grasped an acorn which she tossed in the air and caught just before it hit her again. Up and down, up and down, she tossed the acorn until she heard a rustling in the leaves above her and felt another loud thud on her head.
“Ow!” She sat up and rubbed the growing lump on her skull. “Twice in one day?”
She felt around in the grass for the second acorn when she found a rough chunk of cement. Examining it closer, she noticed it was only rough on one side, the other side was smooth with a slight curve and it had been painted baby blue with just a hint of airy white puffs, almost like clouds.
“Wait a second,” she said. Having spent so much time alone she had developed the habit of thinking aloud, even when no one was there to listen. “That’s not baby blue, that’s sky blue. And those aren’t almost like clouds, they are clouds.”
She jumped to her feet and ran out from under the canopy of the tree to look up at the sky.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “It couldn’t be.”
She looked back at the rock then back at the sky, back at the rock, at the sky, the rock, sky.
“The sky is falling.”
She shoved the rock in her pocket and darted out of the trees toward the voices on the playground.
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!” she called as she ran. The children on the playground stopped their game and gathered around her.
“What now, Tracey Gracey?” asked a round girl in the front of the group.
“Can’t you just leave us alone, you freak,” added another of the children, sending the rest of the group into a fit of laughter.
Tracey balled her fists. “The sky is falling.”
The round girl sneered. “Hah. Yeah right. The sky can’t fall. Everyone knows that.”
“It can.” Tracey fumbled in her pocket for the rock. “Look.”
All the children laughed.
“That’s an acorn,” one of the boys squealed.
“No, that’s not what I—“
The round girl interrupted Tracey before she could finish. She turned her back to Tracey and waved her hands like a conductor.
Everyone knows she’s spacey.
If something stinks
There goes spacey Tracey.
After a few rounds of singing, the children grew bored and returned to their game of tag. Tracey stomped off toward the school, kicking the grass as she walked. As she turned around the corner of the building, she tripped over a boy who was crouching to pick something up off the ground.
“Shmeesh,” Tracey huffed, getting up and dusting herself off. “Watch where you’re standing, kid.”
“I—I’m sorry,” the boy stammered, adjusting his glasses.
“No, I’m sorry.” Tracey shook her head. “It’s not your fault. It’s those other jerks.”
“Yeah,” the boy said, looking away. “I know what you mean.”
“I’m Tracey Gracey, by the way.” She extended her hand to shake his. The boy examined her hand like it was an alien object before deciding it was okay to touch.
“Yeah, I sit in front of you in class,” he said.
“Oh.” Tracey blushed. “I thought I recognized you from somewhere.”
“It’s alright,” the boy said. “You don’t have to lie. No one notices me. I’m Dwayne Wayne.”
“Well, Dwayne Wayne, do you want to see something cool?” Tracey said, trying to make up for her mistake.
“Sure, I guess.”
She pulled the rock from her pocket and handed it to Dwayne who turned it over and over, examining it closely as he readjusted his glasses.
“No way,” he finally said. “You’re not going to believe this, but look what I just found.” He handed her a similarly smoothed and painted piece of cement that was slightly smaller in size than hers. “What do you think they are?”
Tracey kicked a piece of gravel on the sidewalk at her feet. “I’d tell you, but you would just make fun of me like the others.”
“I won’t.” He shook his head. “I promise. Cross my heart and hope to die.”
“Well.” She paused, trying to decide if she should tell him what she really thought and figuring there was nothing left to lose. “The sky is falling.”
Dwayne snorted, trying to hold back his laughter.
“See? I knew you wouldn’t believe me.”
“I didn’t mean it. It’s just–The sky? Falling? Is that even possible?”
“Well, look at them.” She handed the rock back so he could examine both. “You see that? Exact same color as the sky. And those wisps of white, those are the clouds. What else could it be?”
“You know, I guess you could be right. Or, it could be some rock that someone painted and lost.”
“Yeah, right.” Tracey scoffed. “They just lost it on my forehead. I was laying under a tree with no one around. How could they?”
“Maybe someone threw it—“ As he spoke, a third rock fell from the sky and landed with a thump between them. Tracey picked it up and held it for him to see.
“Hah! Now what?”
“I—I don’t—I guess—“
“But, what are we supposed to do?”
The bell announced that recess was over. Tracey and Dwayne were the first inside because they were the only students not on the playground, but they lingered in the halls.
“So,” Dwayne asked, “what’s the plan?”
Students streamed in around them.
“I don’t know,” Tracey said. “We have to tell someone.”
“Tell someone what, Miss Gracey?” Mr. Lister, their teacher, said, coming inside from recess.
“The sky is falling,” Tracey blurted out without thinking.
“The sky is falling? Ha.” Mr. Lister laughed. “You do have quite the imagination, don’t you? But I assure you. The sky is not falling. Now, off to class with the both of you. Chop chop.”
“Yes, sir.” Dwayne started towards their classroom.
“But, it’s true, sir,” Tracey went on. “I have proof. Look.” She handed him the largest of the three rocks. Mr. Lister rolled it over in his hand, barely glancing at it before answering.
“What you have here is a painted piece of cement. Nothing more. Now. Off to class please. Don’t make me say it aga–”
“But it fell from the sky.”
“Now, Miss Gracey.”
“But…fine.” She slouched her shoulders and stomped off to the classroom.
After hours of watching the clock while Mr. Lister droned on, the day finally ended. Tracey hurriedly packed her things and was the first student out of the school doors. As she turned down the sidewalk towards her house, she heard Dwayne jogging up behind her.
“Tracey. Tracey, wait!” he called through gasping breaths.
Tracey slowed her pace slightly. “I’m off to find someone who’ll believe me,” she said.
“That’s what I came to talk to you about. Just wait.” He caught up to her and bent over, breathing heavily, in her path. “I’ve been thinking about it, and I think I believe you now. There’s nowhere else that third rock could have come from.”
“Good.” She walked on around him.
“So what are we going to do about it?” he asked, hurrying to keep up.
“I’m going to go show these rocks to my mom. She’ll know what to do.”
“But isn’t she at work?”
“I’ll find a way to get there. I’m showing her and that’s that.”
Dwayne noticed a dog playing in the shade of a crepe myrtle tree and ran up ahead to play with it. “Hey there, puppy wuppy,” he said in a high pitched voice, patting the dog. “What are you doing? What have you got there?” He took something from the dog’s mouth and turned it over in his hand. “Tracey, come look at this.”
“Another piece of the puzzle.” He handed the rock to her. It looked the same as the pieces of sky they had already found.
“This is serious,” she said, pocketing the rock and darting out into the street in front of a passing Colony Police cruiser. The car screeched to a halt and the officer jumped out.
“Excuse me, little girl, do you know how dangerous that was?”
“It’s important,” Tracey said, squinting to read the woman’s badge, “Col. Pol. Joel. The sky is falling.”
“Psh, just stay out of the road, please.” The officer laughed as Dwayne jogged up, out of breath.
“But, look.” Tracey shoved the pile of debris they had found into the officer’s face. “They all fell from the sky. Something’s going on.”
“I’m telling you, kid,” the officer said, ignoring the pieces of sky in Tracey’s hands. “There’s no way that the sky can fall. We are perfectly safe. Please, move along so I can get on with my duty.”
“Isn’t it your duty to protect us?”
“That it is. So if you don’t listen to me and stay out of the road we might have to take a trip down to the station. For your protection, of course.”
“No way,” Dwayne said. “Please don’t.”
“You can’t do that,” Tracey said. “We’re just kids.”
“Well, are you going to move along or are you going to continue to impede an officer on duty?”
“I’m not impeding,” Tracey complained. “I’m trying to help you. Something’s going on—“
“Alright then. You leave me no choice. Get in the car.” The officer opened the back door to the cruiser and shepherded the two children inside. “What division does your guardian work in?”
“Meteorolol—meteorolial—meteor—she works in weather.” No matter how often she practiced, Tracey still couldn’t pronounce “Meteorological Engineering”.
The officer started the cruiser and pointed toward a giant towering structure in the distance. Tracey was excited. She had never seen her mother’s workplace before. She had barely ever traveled beyond the grocery store down the street from her house, which she eyed as they passed. She and Dwayne stared out of their respective windows, gawking at how familiar the scenery was. Each new street looked exactly like the last. She could have lived on any one of them.
After some time of repeating scenery, the houses and streets blurred into a single mass. Tracey barely noticed when the car slowed to a halt and Col Pol Joel got out, leaving the windows cracked.
“What seems to be the problem, Brother Smothers?”
Brother Smothers, the colony chaplain, stood in front of his car which was parked on the side of the road, waving his arms to hurry Officer Joel’s approach.
“Well, a band of hooligans, I’m sure. There I was, driving along, minding my own business, when Lord help me some little heathens threw a rock straight through my windshield. Take a look and see for yourself.” He pointed at his car before crossing himself.
The officer glanced at the windshield. “Yup. Do you have the object?”
“Yes, sir. The object. The item. The perpetrator. The thing. You know, the rock that broke your window.”
“Oh. Yes, yes. Lord, here it is.” He fumbled through his pocket and handed something to Officer Joel.
“What was that?” Tracey asked under her breath, nudging Dwayne with her elbow.
“I don’t know. I couldn’t see.”
“Yes, well, did you see who did it?” the officer asked.
“Nope, that’s the thing. It seemed as if the stone simply fell from the heavens.”
“Alright, Brother. I’ll keep my eyes open and let you know what I find.” She put the object in her pocket and got back in the cruiser.
Tracey scooted closer to the grating between the front and back seats. “What was that?” she asked.
The officer started the car and drove away with a wave to Brother Smothers. “Nothing.”
Tracey put her nose up to the cold metal. “What did he give you?”
“A rock, if you must know. Some hooligans–much like the two of you–broke Brother Smothers’s window with it.”
Tracey poked her fingers through the little holes in the grating. “What did it look like? Can I see it?”
“Nope. Can’t do that. It’s evidence.”
“Exactly! Gah.” Tracey slouched back in her seat.
“You want to know what I think,” she whispered to Dwayne who nodded, re-readjusting his glasses. “No one threw that rock. I bet it was a piece of the sky that broke Brother Smothers’ windshield. Not hooligans.”
“I don’t know,” Dwayne whispered back. “Why would Brother Smothers lie?”
“He said himself that he didn’t see who threw it. It fell from the heavens. Just like when I got hit the first time. I’m telling you, this is the real thing.”
“I still don’t know.”
The two looked out their windows. The rows of cookie-cutter houses had long since given way to a lush green forest, their destination still towering above it all.
“Are we there yet?” Dwayne asked, smiling at Tracey.
“We wouldn’t be driving if we were,” Col Pol Joel replied.
“Are we there, now?” Dwayne asked, giggling with Tracey. The officer ignored them.
“You know my mom’s going to believe me, don’t you?” Tracey said, more of a statement than a question.
“That doesn’t matter,” officer Joel replied.
“It doesn’t matter? The sky is falling! How could that not matter?”
“What does matter is that you were playing in the middle of the street, and that you were impeding an officer on duty.”
“It can’t matter that much,” Tracey said. “Not if you have the time to bring us way out here. Is that your super important Col Pol duty for today?”
“You children are truants.”
“Truants?” Dwayne groaned. “My mom’s gonna kill me.”
“We can’t be truant,” Tracey said. “School’s already out for the day.” As she finished her sentence, they pulled up to a gate blocking the entrance to the now unimaginably tall structure towering above them–Tracey couldn’t even see the top of it, it just went on forever and ever. A magnet on the cruiser caused the gate to open and they parked directly in front of the tower’s entrance. The officer went inside alone, leaving the children in the car.
“I don’t like this,” Dwayne said. “What did you get me into?”
“Me?” Tracey scoffed. “I didn’t ask you to follow me.”
“Well, I didn’t think you would run out in front of a Col Pol car and get us arrested.”
“It doesn’t matter, anyway. Once my mom gets here, she’ll take one look at my evidence and set that idiot straight.” She laughed at the thought of it.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Trust me, she’s a super smart scientist. She knows everything about the sky. She can even control the weather. She’ll know what’s going on for sure.”
“I hope so. She doesn’t look too happy right now,” Dwayne said, pointing out the window behind Tracey.
She turned to see her mother, Stacey, walking out with the officer. Her mom had the same look on her face as the time Tracey got suspended for punching the kid who came up with “Spacey Tracey”. Of course, it didn’t stop anyone from singing that stupid song.
“Tracey, what’s going on?” Her mom said as soon as she was in spitting distance. “This officer tells me you were playing in the street. She said she almost—wait a second. What am I saying?” She turned to the officer. “Are you seriously telling me that you not only pulled me from my work, but you put my child and her friend in the backseat of your squad car and drove all the way out here because she was playing in the street?”
The officer blushed. Tracey nudged Dwayne. “I told you.” Her mom noticed and turned back toward the car.
“And as for you little miss, you’re not off the hook, either. Why were you two playing in the street?”
“I wasn’t in the street,” Dwayne objected.
“We weren’t playing, Mom. I was trying to get her attention. Look.” She handed the rocks they had collected to her mom. “They all came from the sky. One of them hit me right on the head.” She rubbed her knot as she said it.
Stacey turned the rocks over in her hand, examining them closely. “It can’t be,” she said. “No way. No how. Tracey Gracey, you gift. You just might have saved us.” She hugged her daughter tight, driving the rocks uncomfortably into Tracey’s shoulder blades.
“What? What is it?” Tracey asked, squirming away.
“We need to get inside. Now.”
“What? What is it?” Col Pol Joel repeated.
“The SKY is falling,” Stacey said.
“What?” Col Pol Joel frowned. “No way.”
“I told you!” Tracey boasted.
“But how?” Dwayne asked.
“I don’t know exactly. That’s why we need to get inside. Let’s go.”
“That’s impossible,” Col Pol Joel said. “This dome is indestructible. We’re completely safe. A little wear and tear is natural. The repair bots will keep everything in tip-top shape. They always have and they always will.”
“Look,” Stacey said. “Some damage can happen too quickly for the automatic repair bots to keep up with. If we don’t take care of those damages fast, and somehow even a small hole forms in that dome, then the air is going to be sucked out of here in no time and there will be nothing we can do about it. Once the human body is exposed to a vacuum like that, you only have fifteen, twenty seconds tops before your saliva boils and you pass out.
“Now, we’ve already seen weather aberrations in the lab, and with these pieces of cement falling from the sky I’d say that we have enough evidence to take action. I’m bringing Tracey inside where she’ll be safe. You can come with us, but not until you alert the rest of the colony about the possible dangers, starting with your superiors.”
“Yes, ma’am. I’m on it, ma’am.” Col Pol Joel saluted and marched back to her cruiser.
“Tracey, come on. Bring your friend with you.” Her mom said, walking toward the tower and calling someone on her cell phone.
“Let’s go,” Tracey said, waving for Dwayne to follow her as she started towards her mom.
“I don’t know,” Dwayne said, looking back at officer Joel. “Maybe I should try to find my parents.”
“But you heard what my mom said. It’s dangerous out here. The sky is falling.”
“But, how can the sky fall? The repair bots have always taken care of it before.”
“Did you hear her?”
“Yeah, but…she could be wrong. This stuff happens all the time. You heard Col Pol Joel.”
“She’s not wrong. I’m not wrong. Look, I’m going inside. You should come, too. You don’t even have a way to get home.”
“I could ask Officer Joel.” Dwayne tapped his feet, looking back and forth between Tracey and the cruiser.
“Well I’m going now,” Tracey said. “Don’t take too long.” She ran toward her mom who was holding the tower door open and waving her hands at Tracey to get inside.
“What’s your friend doing?” her mom asked, still holding the door.
“He hasn’t decided yet,” Tracey said, shaking her head. “I don’t think he believes you.”
“Well, I don’t know how much time we have,” her mom said. “I need to get upstairs to run some tests. This could be urgent. I have no idea.”
In the distance, Tracey saw a large chunk of rubble fall from the sky.
“Mom!” she yelled. “Did you see that? Dwayne! Hurry!”
The trees around the tower bent under the weight of heavy winds. The clouds were sucked out of the sky. Dwayne turned from the cruiser and tried to run for the door but his pace slowed instantly. Tracey tried to slip outside and save him but her mom wouldn’t let her through the door.
“Tracey, no. We can’t.” Her mom pulled her back inside. The glass door closed with a pneumatic hiss.
Tracey banged on the window. “No! No! Dwayne, please!”
Dwayne fell over on the ground, holding his throat and convulsing. Tracey fell to the floor, red-eyed and crying.