The final transmission from Station Alpha came from General Watkins himself, who had gone to inspect the new device just two days before. Right up until the moment of the explosion, there had been hope that the device, a single man’s dream realized through unprecedented international cooperation, was the solution everyone had been hoping for.
There was no picture in the final transmission. Cloaked in static, Watkins’ voice was thick, moaning even. “The Earth’s heart is heavy.” He sighed. “So much heavier than we could even have imagined…” Then the whole facility evaporated.
Marcella Watkins, the General’s wife and special envoy to the United Nations, knew the voice well. It was the one he used when he wanted her to move closer, toward his side of the bed. It was the voice he used for quiet, reflective thoughts he could only express near sleep.
“Something is coming,” Marcella Watkins told her twin sister while the two drank whiskey on her back porch.
Aurelia nodded, watching the branches of the fruit trees rustle in the hot breeze. She didn’t want to say anything that would add to her sister’s burden, but since the explosion there had been a haze in the air that she didn’t like at all, an unnatural chemical sweetness, like bubblegum air freshener in a smoky truck.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” Aurelia asked for the seventeenth time. “Can I make you some dinner?”
Marcella shook her head, loose bits of her silver chignon swaying side to side. She was still wearing her office clothes—a sleeveless white blouse and green wool slacks that must have been far too warm in this unexpected weather. The matching blazer was somewhere in the house.
Even in this state and at their age, Aurelia couldn’t help admiring her sister’s figure—heavy breasts, narrow waist, round hips. She was the shorter of the two, but certainly the better looking. No wonder her life had gone so well—until now at least.
“All those petty skirmishes,” Marcella said, her voice just above a whisper. “All those years of worrying, and in the end, it’s some damned mad scientist scheme.”
Aurelia looked at the lines on her own hands as if they would tell her what to say. “Life will go on,” she murmured, gathering a smile for her sister. “You’ll see.”
Marcella gazed at her twin, admiring how life had spared her the wrinkles that dug valleys in her own skin. She took Aurelia’s hand in both her own and shook her head lightly. “I don’t think it will,” she said.
Aurelia nodded and the two sat on her porch, hand in hand, sipping their whiskeys and breathing the lavender air until the sun went away.