The Blue Versus the Grays
©2011 D. Paul Angel
"Follow me men," Lieutenant Sutter shouted above the tumultuous roar of the battle. "To the left flank! Left! Before any of those Damned Rebs do!" A cannon ball whistled through the air and landed just past him, punctuating his words with a wet, "THUMMP." The staccato crack of rifles flowed and ebbed as volleys were exchanged a couple hundred yards apart from each other. Sutter and his men rode behind the entrenched lines, heading to shore up Major Daniel's Brigade. They had ended up lined opposite most of the South's artillery, and it had exacted a heavy toll.
They were just passing between the line and General McClellan's tent when a fireball, trailing oily, black smoke streaked from the sky. It landed just in front of the left flank, digging a huge swath of a crater into the churned soil before bouncing over the stunned ranks. The spray of dirt kicked up fell on them like a heavy cloud, crushing some, but just dirtying the rest
Everyone close by, Union and Confederate alike, stopped at the sudden crash. "Meteorite, you reckon?" Sutter, a science professor before the war, asked no one in particular. A man next to him answered slowly, "Better that than some Traitor tomfoolery. Another furlong and my entire left'd be gone. Take your men, Lieutenant, and find out what the hell it is."
Sutter turned and realized he was speaking with General McClellan himself, "Yessir!" Sutter shouted to McClellan's retreating back. "Into the crater!" Sutter heard the General exhorting, "Take it as cover!"
"Let's move!" Sutter shouted to his own men, "Might be a dirty Reb trick! And somebody grab the Doc's reins. We might need him."
"God help us if we do," one of the men said as he grabbed the reins. Even in the midst of the battle the Doc was slumped in his saddle, near passed out.
Sutter led his men away from the battlefield into the sparse forest. It was easy to follow the path the object wrecked through the woods, and they soon spotted a thin tendril of smoke coming from the deeper woods a mile or so away.
Sutter and his men dismounted, approaching it from all sides. Whatever it was, it wasn't a meteorite. He'd seen drawings of those before, and even seen a piece of one in a museum. This was a shiny, smooth metal sphere a couple yards across. As he walked around it he saw a hole in the side of it, but the inside was completely black. "I reckon it's got to be something them damn Rebs built, but I have no idea how," Sutter said into the heavy quietus that had descended around his men.
"LT!" the shout came from behind him, and Sutter ran to where one of his privates was standing; shaking, and pointing at two unbelievable creatures. They looked like gray children, with huge, hydrocephalic heads and giant, coal-black almond eyes. These looked at the men, but without any hint of emotion.
One was obviously hurt badly, and blood like green ichor was dripping steadily to the ground as the other held it in its arms.
"Doc!" Sutter shouted, "Get yer drunken arse over here." Doctor Martinson, originally of William and Mary, but more recently of Whiskey & Gin, was unceremoniously dumped from his horse to wake him. Duly roused, he shuffled over before stopping and trying to focus on the two creatures. The shock of their visage seemed to have a sobering effect on him as his swaying ceased.
As more and more of men began clustering around and talking amongst themselves, Sutter began to worry as to what they might talk themselves into. He knew it wasn't long before words like, "Cursed," "Devils," and "Evil," would start flowing all too freely, spreading panic amongst his men. "Well, Doc," asked Sutter impatiently, "you gonna help it or what?"
"These," the Doc began solemnly, drawing himself up tall, "are not of this Earth." He took his pistol from his belt and aimed. Before he could pull the trigger though, it seemed as though a wave or pulse passed through the air focused on the Doctor. It made the background behind it hazy as it passed with a purplish tinge more felt than seen. The doctor collapsed instantly. The gun fell harmlessly next to him, and drool slowly started leaking from his open mouth. He was still alive, but his intelligence was simply gone.
Sutter felt a cold, lonely panic wash over him. He knew it had spread to all of his men, and before he could stop them they were all firing at the two creatures. "Hold your fire!" Sutter shouted over the din, trying to restore order and save his men, "HOLD YOUR FIRE!"
He looked back to the two creatures and was shocked to see a curve of flattened mini-balls and shot hanging in the air around them like a curtain. "Get out of here, men! All of you! Tell the General it's a meteorite, but to stay away."
Stunned, half-asked questions followed as all the lead fell to the ground. "But... How.. I mean... can you..."
"Be sure?" Sutter finished for them. "They may be gray, but they ain't Confederates. Now git."
Sutter bent down and took his own meager dressings out. As the hoof steps of his men receded, he did what he could to stop the bleeding. The healthy one chirruped at him like a cross between a finch and whippoorwill nodding skywards. As Sutter looked up a light brighter than the Sun appeared. As he shielded his eyes, he felt himself paralyzed in that position. Out the corner of his eyes he saw the two beings get slowly enveloped by the light. It disappeared with a snap and they were simply gone, along with the sphere.
As his limbs slowly started unlocking, the only thing that reminded Sutter of his own sanity was a neat ring of flattened lead and a gibbering Doctor.