On the sixth of April, 1987, a short distance from Akron, Ohio, a young mother named Lydia put a pot of water on to boil, preparing dinner for three.
The television set in the other room conveyed the evening news broadcast, its volume turned up close to maximum so she could hear from the kitchen. Shaking her head, she listened to the anchor report that Gorbachev had apparently delayed his scheduled visit to Czechoslovakia because of a “slight cold”—something which threw the anchor into a monologue of speculation on the Soviet leader’s intentions.
Losing herself in her work, Lydia snapped back to reality when her eyes drifted to the clock. It was already half past six, nearly time for her husband Sam to return from the lab.
Pulling a thin curtain aside, she looked out the kitchen window into a wide open backyard, scanning the area from tree to tree. Her eyes soon fell on her three-year-old, Samuel, tottering across the lawn alone, giggling to himself in a way that could only make her beam. She then looked for her six-year-old, Logan. She could already tell what game they were playing, and so she checked his favorite hiding spots, looking for hints of his long, curly hair poking up from the bushes or from behind a tree trunk.
Soon, she found him at the far end of the yard. But he didn’t appear to be hiding. Instead, he was staring intently past the tree line, up at the pink and orange sky.
In a high voice, Samuel called for his older brother, making his way across the spacious yard, checking every nook and cranny along the way. In ecstatic play, he didn’t notice Logan standing straight ahead.
His eyes wide, Logan stared perplexedly at the horizon. He had come this far to hide from his little brother, but something had stopped him. He had only taken a cursory look at the clouds, but he was now mesmerized. A terrible thought crept across his mind in the form of a vision.
Looking out to the west, under the setting sun, for a moment he thought he saw a black hole, like the ones his father told him about. He thought of the big planet-devouring blob from space his father was researching, the thing that made him shutter. Only this one wasn’t entirely black, nor was it a sphere. It was a dome, unbelievably huge, pulsating with red and purple lightning bolts, surrounded by wisps of crystal. And it came into existence all at once, like an explosion.
Fixed to the spot, Logan thought he heard an ear-drum shattering crack and the sound of the trees being blasted by the wind—and him along with it. And Samuel, and his mother. And their house. And then the wind flowed back the way it had come. The invisible wave then left him amid toppled trees, bloodied and muddied, staring up at the imposing side of that great big dome. He thought he could hear his mother screaming his name, and Samuel crying, then his father shouting.
He shuddered where he stood, thinking of the end of the world.
A tug at his shirt pulled him from his high fantasy, returning him to reality. The trees were upright, the horizon clear, the sun setting uneclipsed—only a daydream.
Looking down, he found Samuel pulling on him, laughing, chanting that he had found him at last.
Smirking, a little embarrassed that he had let himself be caught so easily, Logan said, “Yeah, but I bet you can’t find me again.” Samuel then began to complain that it was Logan’s turn to find him now, but his protests were cut short by the call of their mother from the porch. It was time to come in and wash up for dinner.
Working through her boys’ groans, Lydia soon won the exchange, walking back inside only when she was sure Logan and Samuel were running back to the house.
When they reached the porch, Samuel darted inside, but Logan stopped at the door. Looking back, he double-checked the horizon. Still clear. He knew it was only a fantasy, but it had been so vivid, leaving him a little on edge. So he stared at the horizon for some time, until his mother told him to come inside.
Finding no such terrible thing on the horizon, he went inside.
Only a daydream, he reassured himself; yeah, just a dream.