Day 1 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge and the word is:
Tun·gus·ka (toon goosˈka) n. any of three rivers (the Upper, Stony, and lower Tunguska rivers) in central Siberia, flowing westward to the Yenisei River.
A Second Sun*
The forest was a forest and the river was a river. That is until the day the forest flattened. I was sleeping in the hut with my brother. Somebody shoved me and I awoke. My brother had been shoved too. But no one else was there. We heard the whistling and felt a strong wind. Brother said, “Can you hear all those birds flying overhead?” And I heard the sound he meant: the echo of thousands of wings flapping against the air. We stepped out of the hut but the sound was not birds.
I saw the sky split in halves, high and wide over the forest. The entire northern side of the forest covered with fire. The forest flattened, as far as I could see, trees red with ember leaves. The split in the sky grew larger. Suddenly, I became so hot I could not bear it, as if my shirt was on fire. I wanted to tear off my shirt and throw it down, but then the sky shut closed, a strong thump sounded, and I was thrown.
After that, such noise came. As if rocks were falling or cannons were firing. A thunder like I’d never heard.
The earth shook.
I was shoved again and fell into the fire. We got scared. We cried out, for our father, our mother, our sisters, our brothers. But they didn’t seem to hear. The earth below us began to move and rock, wind hit our hut and knocked it down.
My body was pushed down by sticks, but my head was clear. Then I saw a wonder: the sky became bright—how can I say it?—as if there were a second sun. My eyes burned from the way it blazed. Brother said, “Look up” and pointed with his hand. We watched the treetops get snapped off. Another flash, another thunder. We were knocked off our feet, struck against fallen trees.
In the air where the flashes had been, a blue cylinder, a billow of smoke. We thought sure it was the end of us. Then, suddenly the sky began to clear. There had been five of them. The thumps. No, six. Now I remember well there was also one more, but it was small, and somewhere far away, where the Sun goes to sleep.
* Words and images from this piece taken from multiple eyewitness accounts of the a powerful explosion called the Tunguska Event, which took place in 1908 near the Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia. While the cause is debated, the most popular explanation is that the explosion was caused by an air burst of a small asteroid or comet five to ten kilometers above the Earth’s surface.