June 30th, 1908
Northern Karelinski Village
The man was out gathering mushrooms when the sky was split open by a burning, blue column of fire. It blinded him at first, bright as it was. He turned away, blue specks floating behind his eyelids as he regained his vision.
When the man was able to see again, he evaluated this unnatural sky-body, as he would any other new item or occurrence that he came across. It looked for all the world like a flaming blue cylinder, stretching vertically up, across the horizon, and as bright as the sun. He wondered what it was, and where it had come from. He looked as much as he could, his eyes drinking in the details of the phenomenon like a thirsty horse at a river – but he couldn’t look at it for too long before his eyes began to water and burn. It was too bright.
The man figured that the village would be worked up, the women screaming and pointing to the sky – yelling that the end of the world had come – and the children bawling their eyes out in that confused but sympathetic way that young children have. He decided to head home. The mushrooms could wait for another day less interesting than this one.
The man made it back to the trail that would lead him to his village when the artillery began. At least that it was he thought it was. Booms as loud as the long guns that he had seen in Moscow as a boy rang out over the trees, sending birds in crazy circles – much as he imagined the people in his village must be moving right now. He quickened his pace.
The blue cylinder was gone now, replaced by a column of smoke, rising up from the trees over the horizon behind him. The artillery continued. Presently, the ground began to shake. He could feel the path beneath him quiver and shudder, as if the earth itself trembled at the epic display that it had just been witness to. The man began to run as the booming and trembling continued. And just like that, it was over.
When the man reached home, his wife was finally calming down. Tracks, tracing the memories of her tears down the dusty creases of her face, apparent before him. He held her close.
The village had survived with little damage. A few windows had been blown out by the vibrations, and Ivanetch – in his usual drunken stupor – had knocked himself part-ways sober trying to get out of bed too fast when the booming started. Other than that, all was well, and they would have stories to tell for the next few days. The man knew that this was all for the good – tragedy, no matter how trivially it impacted, always worked to draw the village together.