((First page of the short story I want to write about a crazy apocalyptic phenomenon in Queens.))
It was a big black balloon. Well not exactly a balloon--but it was sort of--if you had a certain sense of humor. Well, it was there. No one agrees on how exactly it got there. We all knew that it was, even if some refused it a name beyond "it." If they knew exactly how it had started, it might have been different. It might have been solvable.
On certain details we can agree. On a Monday night we woke up when we heard a sound on our roof. It wasn't loud. It was unexpected/unprecedented/un.... The squeak of a balloon dog being forced against its will into a crown. The sound of latex surface coming to terms with itself when forced suddenly against something not itself. A boy stirred awake with longings for his just-lost virginity.
Only it wasn't night. We went upstairs armed with bats. We knew it was not the robber we'd find there. But this is what we knew to do when we suspected an intrusion. We checked all over, tiptoeing around the attic like we were the ones breaking in. Not reassured that all was clear until we turned our respective last corners, the footprint of our houses seemed immeasurable in that last footstep. When we entered our basements to see if maybe it was something internal? Something within that we had overlooked earlier? We stopped and took notice. The familiar creaking of floorboards had a dull flatness. In fact it was so quiet we could hardly hear ourselves. It was only when we checked the time--8:08--that we knew something was wrong. It was supposed to be a sunny June morning.
Was it the landfill next to the town that local enviro-nuts always lobbied to shut down? Was it the tire factory in the next town over? Was it the act of a vengeful god? If so what was the crime we had committed?
That it was punishment was certain. We knew it was punishment for something because there was no reprieve. We had all heard that the worst part of being imprisoned in the Third World was never knowing your crime. We now knew it ourselves, but we were Americans. And we lived in Queens.