They came when all the world was sleeping. Busy as we were with the disasters and crises of the day. Then one morning they were there, bright strokes of red against the blue sky.
The preachers on the radio that morning made short work of it. This must be a sign. All the carnage and disaster in the world and now this. Bright red rings encircling the earth. Rings of blood they were called. It could only mean one thing. The rapture was at hand. The beast. The anti christ. A familiar cast of characters pulled together into messages screamed into microphones and sent out through air and copper. Blasted into cars on choked roads their radios tuned in, into senior homes and dentist offices played on large flat screen television sets screwed into drywall. I wish we’d all been ready played over and over on their radio stations. The preachers spoke about god as if they’d just gotten off the phone with him. He’s their close buddy feeding them the inside scoop.
But the preachers were not the only ones theorizing; everyone was. Scientists hypothesized. They urged people not to jump to any conclusions. As if that were even a remote possibility in times like these. There would be more data soon.
And indeed they made short work of it. Compounds were brought together, fuel and oxygen mixed. In the heat of the Florida sun, humanity made its own streak across the sky. A rocket with a single purpose, to bring a sample of the red rings back to earth. Everyone who could break away in that moment did so, they huddles around computer monitors in office buildings, gathered around phone screens and they watched. They watched as a mechanical arm reached out, as humanity reached out to touch the unknown. That white cradle of humanity’s making shielding a vial of red liquid from the rage of atmospheric reentry.
In a large concrete building people in lab coats and respirators were the first to know. The rings were composed of human blood. But this answer held a thousand questions in it. Who’s blood was it? Where had it come from? A human can have a job, be labeled a professional, have expectations of objectivity thrust upon them, but such walls of ideology and expectation are not impenetrable. This had to mean something.
The preachers that night were ecstatic. They had been right all along. Their friend on the phone had given them information days ago that the scientists were just now learning. Blood rings encircling earth. Sunday congregations held a nervous energy. Waves of heat rose rose from parked cars in church parking lots. The usual lines were recited in sermon, but the meaning was entirely different beneath the bloodstained sky.
But there are other entities than god on the phone tonight. A child drowned today as their neighborhood flooded, a woman was shot by the police, and I think I know who’s blood is in those rings.