The Sphere came screaming out of the sky, belly down and trailing fire in its wake. Its scream was like a tormented banshee, splitting the sky; the sphere did not want to fall, but fall it did.
It hit the ground during the night, exploding with a great crescent wreath of fire; flame garlanded, it smouldered in the crater it had made for itself, a snugly warm bed in the soft peaty loam.
The year was 357 AD. The few who saw the sphere fall thought it an ill omen. They didn’t seek out where it had landed, that would only bring bad luck. So the sphere was left alone. Slowly, it cooled, fading from white, to yellow, then through orange and red, before finally settling into a scorched and brassy iridescence. Its weight dragged it down into the belly of the earth, soil falling in around it, swallowing it, burying it and concealing it. And there the sphere remained, sleeping in an earthy womb, silent, cold and undisturbed.
And there the sphere dwelt and slept, only a hand’s breadth below the skin of the world, all alone in the dark. Alone it sat, days became weeks and those weeks begat months, months rolled into years and years became dusty centuries. On and on it waited for over one and a half thousand years of the world in which it was entombed within.
This seemingly endless slumber was disturbed one dry October morning in the late 1990s. A farmer called Craig was merrily ploughing his fields, whistling jauntily in the snug cab of his big blue tractor. His pleasant afternoon’s work was interrupted by a torturous squeal of metal on metal, one of the leading edges of the plough blade had caught the sleeping sphere and had been bent and buckled; misshapen and twisted by the meeting.
It took Farmer Craig nearly four hours to dig away enough of the soil to uncover enough of the sphere to get any idea of what his plough had ruined itself upon. It took another day before he could find a crane to winch it out of the ground. The once brassy surface had paled over the centuries, leaving nothing more than a patina of verdigris caked with the dirt of ages. The sphere rose again, albeit briefly. Slowly drawn from its earthy tomb it hung motionless at the end of the crane then swung steadily sideways and was dumped unceremoniously onto the back of a pick-up truck. Farmer Craig had sold the sphere to a scrap yard for a pittance; he was glad to be rid of it and went back to ploughing. He never saw the sphere again, but he always remembered it.
The sphere was rolled off the back of the pick-up truck, landing between the carcass of a ruined bed frame and the empty husk of an old fridge. And there, among the forgotten things and castaways the sphere slept once again. An uneasy and fitful doze, for it slept with the dead in a great charnel house of metal and rust, covered over with the corpses, bones, skeletons, husks and shells of battered and broken things. For nearly ten years the sphere lay forgotten. Only laziness saved it from the dead which it lay with.
A sculptor named Jenny had been commissioned to make a monument for a inter-city park, something which conveyed a message of “proud industrialism” and “urban renewal.” It was due in a month, she’d completely forgotten about it, uninterested and uninspired. Thus she resorted to the emergency fall back which she used when time was short: “pop to the scarp yard, weld some junk together, call it art.” It had worked plenty of times in the past and she hoped it would work again.
Jenny rummaged and searched and hunted through the great metallic graveyard. Looking for bits, bobs, odd and ends, thingamajigs and wosnames. As she was perusing an old car bumper, with her keen eyes she spied the corroded hulk that was the sphere. It was big, it was large, it was solid, it would polish up nicely, it would do. Jenny bought the sphere from the grizzled scrap merchant for a song and took it back to her cramped little workshop.
It was here that the sphere first encountered something approaching love. Under the ministrations of Jenny’s worn and calloused hands it was scoured clean, it was buffed and polished, waxed and shined until its once marred surface became like unto the finest of mirrors; when the light caught it, it blazed like a new sun. It felt content and slept well in the warm and cosy confines of the workshop in which it had found itself.
It was also here that the sphere first encountered pain and cruelty, made all the worse by the fact that it came from the hands which hand so loved it but scant days before. Jenny seared its brilliant and brassy hide with a lancing point of blue fire as she welded a mighty pole to its belly; the thing which would become the instrument of its imprisonment; its shackles; that which rooted it once more to the earth beneath.
One month after its rescue from the morgue of machines, the sphere found itself in a new home. In an out of the way corner of a city park, at the centre of some jauntily arranged flagstone and cemented into the ground it sat surrounded by people and bustle, yet utterly alone. Until the day Lucy arrived.
Everyday Lucy would come and sit before the sphere on one of the benches and eat her dainty little cheese sandwiches. As she munched she would stare at her distorted reflection on the sphere’s skin, watching it warp and dance as she moved her head. The sphere relished the attention, it took Lucy’s gazing to be love. It nourished it and warmed its core. Then one day, after months of sitting motionless before Lucy, it decided to hatch.