The Comfort Zone

Entry by: Alex Fleet

11th November 2016
Far Away From My Comfort Zone

Tonight is the night.

So I am out in the cold, in the wilderness. Miles from civilisation, miles from bright lights.

In fact, as far away from the bright lights as I can get.

Tonight I am looking upwards, deep into the dark void of infinity. My fingertips are silhouetted black as they try to touch the stars.

Tonight, however the sky will come down to touch us. Its own fingertips will show briefly in the darkness, flashes of light zipping across the heavens, light touches of the magician in the sky.

It is the best night for seeing the Leonid Meteorite Shower as we plough through this field of debris, it’s chunks of rock burning up as they hit our atmosphere.

I have with me an airbed and an old sleeping bag. I’ve found an outcrop of rock and scrambled up on the top most lump, the size of my bedroom floor. Earlier though it rained, so I’ve slid off my damp clothes and put them in a pile so I can be dry, if slightly cool, in my sleeping bag.

From here, I can look out across the black countryside, flat against the horizon. Above the horizon is the sky, clouds gone, uninterrupted, all around, all above me, massive. I lie on my back, looking up, marvelling. I have heard descriptions but this is way beyond anything I’ve read. Just how many stars are up there? In the clear and frigid air they are all fighting for space. Behind the stars are other stars, fainter and further away, beyond them even more: the whole sky is a mass of tiny white lights, so clear I feel I can touch them, feel them.

Across this mass of lights the meteorites streak on their suicidal paths. A few per minute, then more. Quite a show.

I ponder that I am looking at the meteorites which have hit the atmosphere above me and arced across the sky far above on a trajectory that takes them far over the distant horizon. I wonder what happens to those which hit lower down, on a course directly towards me. I guess I’ll see them as a short streak, foreshortened, rather than a long course flying across the sky. I turn towards where I guess the meteorites are coming from.

As if on cue, there is a whistle in the air and I hear a distant thunderclap, on the edge of hearing. The there is another. I look around me and quickly the air is filled with short whistles, mini-claps, and impact thuds. There is sizzling nearby. Something hits the rock next to me hard and I hear it shatter, pieces flying in all directions. Suddenly there is the smell of burning. My sleeping bad is alight. What’s happening?

I sit up, not registering the cold chill on my bare shoulders. I can see the bright glow of my smouldering sleeping bag. The fingers of the sky are going to touch me.

I look up just as a patter of impacts surrounds me. Each of them is like a red hot bullet, heated by the incredible friction of solid air against solid rock travelling at well over the speed of sound.

This is not a healthy place to be. I jump out my sleeping bag, bare feet slithering on the shoulder of the rock pinnacle then running as I hit the ground, blindly running for cover. What cover? There are no trees. But trees would burn. No buildings. I need a rock for cover. I skid and turn back towards the rocks. I feel as if I’m being shot, tiny impacts of scorching sand against my skin. I can smell burnt flesh.

I’m running, running. I trip over a rock, my toe stubbed, gasping for breath, swearing at the sky.

I don’t have time to think of my warm, snug bed where I should be at this time of night. I’m far from my comfort zone.