Prologue

[Tunguska Region, Siberia – May 20th, 1927]

 

 “Over here c…c…comrades. Southern Swamp is just over r…r…ridge,” said Aleksei, in a remote Siberian dialect, barely recognizable as Russian. Professor Kulik often had trouble understanding their fifteen-year old guide, and now, with the boy’s teeth chattering in the blistering cold, the Soviet scientist wasn’t sure he heard him correctly.

“Wait for us, Aleksei. We are coming,” shouted Kulik to the nearly frozen youth. “We are finally there, yes?”

Unable to proceed any further by canoe, the small expedition had traveled on foot for days, hacking their way through difficult entanglements of fallen trees and branches.

Kulik sat down and brushed the snow and debris off his beard. He hadn’t bathed for days and was miserable and exhausted. His research assistant, Anya, sat down next to him and put her pack down, glad for the rest.

 “Professor, look at trees.” Anya motioned towards the ridge where hundreds of rotting, fallen trees angled towards them on the ground, obviously the result of a huge explosion further up. Neither scientist expected to see such incredible devastation from what was supposed to be a meteorite impact.

The villagers’ stories described an enormous fireball falling from the sky nearly twenty years ago. The impact caused a bright flash and a shockwave that flattened huts and knocked people unconscious. When they awoke, they found shattered trees blazing around them, their ears still ringing from the great noise of the explosion. The ground shook violently and fierce thunderstorms raged over the apocalyptic scene for days. Until now, none of the locals dared visit the cursed impact site, believing it to be a visit from their vengeful god, Ogdy.

At the top of the ridge, Aleksei suddenly dropped to his knees. He was stammering again. From what Kulik could understand, he was pleading for mercy.

Proshchat…Ogdy…Proshchat!” whimpered the frightened boy.

“What is it Aleksei?” asked Kulik coming up the ridge. “There is nothing to fear from swamp…”

Kulik’s words caught in his throat. Stretched out before him lay a surreal landscape, amazingly unchanged over the past nineteen years. Instead of finding a crater, Kulik saw charred trees stripped of their branches, standing upright like telephone poles. The soft earth heaved outward from the center in giant waves, forming concentric rippling patterns. Dotting the scene were peculiar shallow holes from ten to fifty feet in diameter, filled with murky water.

Something shimmered like glass at the bottom of the misshapened valley. He turned to Anya and pointed. “Do you see a flash? There, near center?”

Da, Professor. Could it still be meteorite after so many years?”

“No, it cannot be. Perhaps meteorite exploded in sky. Look, there is no crater. Yet something is there.”

Aleksei was still on his knees with his eyes downcast, sobbing.

“Aleksei, please get up. It is surprising, but not to fear. Nothing is supernatural about meteorite impact.” Kulik helped the boy to his feet.

The boy regained some of his composure. “Dis…dis sort of thing, you see mu…much Professor?”

“No, not at all. This exceeds wildest of expectations. Our discovery will shock world. This is largest meteorite impact in recent time.”

Kulik patted the boy on the back and sent him to help Anya set up the photographic equipment as he took notes and made sketches.

“Look down there, it still flashes like mirror,” said Anya, holding up a pair of binoculars.

Kulik took the binoculars and looked for himself. “Astounding, we must go down.”

They spent the better part of the morning making their way down the ridge into the frozen marsh. By noon they finally reached the center of the bog and spread out to search the pocket of twisted landscape.

It was Anya who found it first. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. She excitedly called out to the others.

Kulik and Aleksei ran to her. They saw what she had found, a fist sized rock, shiny as glass and black as ebony. It was unremarkable except for one thing—it was floating about two feet above the ground.