The meteorite lit up the sky above Nick’s camp. It burned bright as it fell and turned the night into day. The stars and moon disappeared, and, for a brief moment, the landscape looked inverted, like the negative of a photograph.
The bright flash woke Nick from a restless sleep. He saw it streak overhead and heard it land over the pine ridge at the north end of the lake with an earth-shaking boom.
The ridge was two hours away through heavy bush. He’d been there a few times through the years. It would be a rough hike in the dark, but if he went tomorrow, he could reach it by the afternoon.
He never slept the rest of the night and waited until it was bright enough to travel. He packed his belongings and set out.
He walked in silence. In these quiet moments, the old memories crept in. Not of the life he’d once lived, but of the harm he’d caused. He wished he could go back and ask for forgiveness, but he knew some scars could never heal.
These woods were like memories—tangled, thick, and hard to travel. They were also dangerous, but unlike his past, they held no spite or anger about who he was or his actions. Out here, he was nothing and would return to nothing when he died. He took comfort in these facts.
He walked all morning until he reached the ridge. He climbed the steep slope but found no smoke or fire. The lodgepole pines stood tall. It was as if the meteorite had never fallen.
He continued into the trees.
The way was smooth, and the forest was alive. Small creatures scampered in the undergrowth, and birds twittered in the trees. The woods descended until they opened to a small lake. In the few times he had visited this part of the forest, he’d never seen it.
The water was crystal clear, and Nick could see the bottom. He stripped out of his clothes and waded in. The water was freezing and woke him up after his long walk. He swam out until he could no longer see the lake bottom. He dove down, but the water was too cold to stay submerged. He surfaced and swam back to the lake’s edge.
He dressed and climbed back to the ridge. He looked back over the trees. Wherever the meteorite had fallen, he wasn’t going to find it today.
He headed out, and when he arrived back at camp, he was surprised. He couldn’t remember anything from his walk.
The sun was setting, and he lit a fire. The night was cool, and he brewed some blueberries and cascade russula to stay warm. As he drank, he sat by the coals and stared at the stars. There was no moon, and he could see them stretch across the sky.
By the time he finished his drink, he was tired. He unrolled his blankets and climbed under them.
He stared at the stars and thought of the meteorite. He wondered how many fell from the sky each night and how many were found. He bet lots were never found.
He yawned, closed his eyes, and fell asleep—deep and dreamless.