Prompt: Write A Story About Shooting Stars
Knock knock knock
A hand rapped against the door of my home office.
“Yes?” I answered with a hint of frustration.
“I need your help. My math was off. It's tonight. Tonight is the night!” My father-in-law's muffled voice came through the closed door.
I tried to think of some kind of excuse, but eventually conceded and opened the door. He looked at me with a note of desperation. I knew it was another one of his space theories.
“What math? What's tonight?” I asked.
He almost winced as he said, “It's the night I get to see Maureen.”
It made me sad for him.
“Jim,” I said, pausing as I chose my words carefully.
“I know. I know. You think I'm nuts, but this is the last time. If this doesn't work…” he tried to excuse his nonsense.
“Jim. She's dead!” I half-yelled as my temper got the best of me.
It hadn't been easy on my family taking him in after his wife died. He was always babbling about the stars. His hobby turned to obsession and he began seeing things in the sky that he took to be messages from Maureen. It was a constant reminder to my wife of her mother's death and eventually became a point of contention in our marriage. I do love the guy, but maybe he'd be better off in a home. Even so, I knew that my words were out of line.
I raised my eyes to meet his and spotted a tear running down each cheek. His lip quivered and he responded with a single word.
“...y-yeah. Okay. What do you need?”
Jim swallowed down some of his sadness and said, “I just need to go somewhere. It's only a fifteen minute drive, but we're running out of time.”
I nodded and we both walked toward the front door. While I grabbed the car keys, he disappeared into his room. A moment later he returned to the foyer with his hand on something small in his jacket pocket. I didn't ask questions.
We hopped in the car and he told me where to turn. I stayed quiet knowing I had already hurt the man enough for one night.
He always found stars to be fascinating. Even the first time my wife brought me to meet them, I remember the tour Jim gave of his stargazing room. He had several large telescopes all in position to look at different stars, plantes, and solar systems. A quote hung above one window that said something like, “Even in the darkest of nights, the stars shine brighter”. He loved stars so much that he and Maureen bought and named their own star for their 50th anniversary, a year to the day before her passing. I think that may be what fueled some of his obsession afterwards, but who knows.
We arrived at a large corn field. Before he got out Jim squeezed my shoulder and looked me in the eyes as he said, “Thank you.” in his most sincere tone. Jim opened the door and walked with his head toward the sky, tripping over the remains of harvested corn stalks in the evening's twilight. I got out of the car and leaned against the hood as he walked several hundred feet into the field.
“Here she is!”, he shouted back to me.
At first I thought he was just delusional as always, but I looked up and saw the largest shooting star I've ever seen. As I watched, it grew in size.
“Hey Jim. What is that?” I called out, but his response was only a hearty laugh.
The star was growing still and I could now tell that it was coming straight at us. Straight at Jim.
“Jim! Get out of there!” I shouted as I began charging toward him.
The star continued to grow, and I wasn't running fast enough.
The sky lit up with a blinding white. An impact shook the ground and showered me with debris. A few moments later, the light dimmed, my eyes adjusted, and there was no Jim. There was only a 20-foot wide crater where he stood.
I walked up to the crater, fearful of what I might find, but there was nothing there aside from a twinkle in the charred earth that caught my eye. I reached down and found Maureen's wedding ring, and read the words etched on the inside of the band.
When the night is at its darkest, the stars shine their brightest.