Chapter Seventeen: The Incident at Lime Kiln Bay.
Billy Austin loved walking. Hill walking, bush walking; he didn’t care. As long as he had a pair of hiking boots on his feet and a pole in his hand, he was happy.
He had been a walker all his life but since he’d retired he had really started to stretch his legs. At sixty-six he did the Inca Trail in Peru with dozens of travelers half his age, and was no sooner back than he flew out again and spent months walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain. By the time he turned seventy, he’d spent so much time out of Ireland you could say he’d pretty much walked all of Europe and a lot of the rest of the world besides. But for all the wonderful places he’d seen, his favorite walk was right on his doorstep, and whenever he was at home in Wicklow he got up early and did the cliff walk from the Black Castle to Wicklow Head.
Apart from the sheer clear-headed, loose-limbed feeling of freedom, it was the hypnotic effect of walking that drew him. With a good pair of boots and a trusty walking pole you could forget about the terrain and let your thoughts take flight. Indeed, he was so familiar with the rocks and tussocks of Wicklow Head that he could likely have walked it with his eyes closed.
Not that he ever closed his eyes while walking; there was too much too see. And that was another draw: No matter how often you did the same walk, you always saw something new.
But nothing could have prepared him for what he saw at Lime Kiln Bay early one morning in June.
It was shortly after 6 a.m. and Billy was approaching the canyon that leads to the beach at Lime Kiln Bay. He stopped, as he always did, thigh-deep in a patch of grass and ferns, deciding whether to go straight through the canyon or make the short hike up onto the headland and drop back down to the beach further up.
But today, for the first time in countless rambles, his mind was made up for him.
He saw it before he heard it; a vast bubble of light streaking downwards from the heavens towards the ocean. It passed straight over him; how high he had no idea, but certainly a lot lower than the jets that normally occupied that space. Training his binoculars on the bubble he could make out a huge disc-shaped craft and beside it, a box-shaped metallic structure with flat golden arms.
Then he heard it; a shrieking, whistling cacophony of air being torn aside, cut through with an eerie electrical resonance that made his scalp crawl. He tracked the objects through his glasses until the bubble disappeared behind the ridge.
There was a moment of silence then the displaced air closed behind the bubble. A sonic boom thundered down the canyon nearly knocking Billy off his feet. Ears ringing, he sprinted through the canyon towards the beach, his rucksack bouncing on his back. He arrived at the beach and the eponymous crumbling lime kiln just in time to see the bubble disappear into the sea in a cloud of spray and hissing vapor.
“Holy God!” he said. “What the hell was that?”
It occurred to him he should call the crash in to someone and was fumbling with his cellphone when a rumbling, rushing noise made him look up.
“Oh Jesus!” he shouted and took to his heels again. He had just made it up the cliff path towards the lighthouses when a rolling tidal wave hit the beach and surged up into the canyon. The seething soup carried driftwood, stones and the bodies of seals inland, flooding the canyon to the top. It had almost receded when a second wave struck and it started all over again.
Billy’s hands were trembling so much he barely managed to dial the emergency services.
“Which service do you require?”
He paused. “Er… Coastguard, I suppose – and whoever investigates flying saucer crashes.”
As the operator lectured him about the demerits of hoax calls to the emergency services, the second wave receded leaving the boxy object with the golden arms wedged in the top of the canyon.
“Oh, and you might want to call NASA; I think the sons of bitches are stealing our satellites.”