Chapter 2: The Discovery
Friday, July 20, 2007
Eleven days had passed since the tragic events of that fateful Monday. Mrs. Cedarbrook had perished in the fire. The autopsy concluded she had died from the large explosion and was dead before the ensuing fire. Cedric Cedarbrook could take some comfort in that fact. She had died quickly, unaware of what had happened. She was likely still sleeping when death took her. He had buried what remained of poor Maggie in the Hampstead Cemetery only the day before.
His wife’s funeral was delayed for two reasons. First, the autopsy was required and, due to the damaged remains of the corpse, took longer than usual to perform. Also, the events which unfolded before Mr. Cedarbrook’s eyes on the day the sky fell caused him to suffer a mild heart attack. Fortunately, paramedics arrived as he fainted, stabilized and transported him to the nearby hospital. He was released a week later and began making the final arrangements for his wife.
His strength finally reached a point he felt he could return to what remained of his home. For now, he was staying with one of his sons and grandsons in a nearby hotel. The officials had searched the severely damaged home and concluded a gas explosion was the cause of the fire. The home was so badly destroyed that it was virtually impossible to tell what triggered the gas leak. While in the hospital, Cedarbrook ranted and raved about the object he saw fall from the sky onto his home. But, the officials found nothing in the debris to support his claims.
Yet, the elderly gentleman knew what his eyes had seen, and his ears had heard. He was not senile, at least not yet. The officials said the remaining structure was safe enough for him to examine, therefore, he was going to look around and try to salvage what he could.
The Cedarbrook’s youngest two sons, only daughter, and their children had left London following the funeral service. The eldest son, James, who resided in Chicago, and James’ two sons were able to remain with his father for an additional week. Though they still lived at home, both of James’ sons were now adults being twenty-one and eighteen. The eldest, William, was in college, and his brother, Jonathan, would begin in the fall.
And so, the four Cedarbrook men made the drive from their hotel to Elm Walk in Hampstead on that morning. With them, they carried some empty boxes obtained from a local grocer and a metal detector they had rented from a local hardware store.
As their rental vehicle pulled onto Elm Walk, the destruction came into view. They stopped the car on the opposite side of the street from the residence, exited the vehicle, and stood staring at what was, once, a beautiful home.
The two-story structure was now a flattened, one-level pile of rubble. Some of the brick remained standing, but much of it was scattered across the lawn. The garage had also collapsed and smashed the older couple’s two cars. Each of them was black, charred by the flames.
C. B. uttered a deep sigh. Tears began to roll down his cheek. His mind recalled from his memory the moment he saw the object falling and striking his home. His thoughts and the surrounding silence were broken by the youngest grandson.
“Wow, grandfather, there’s not much left.”
“True enough, John,” the old man replied, attempting to regain his composure. “Guess we won’t need those boxes.”
“I’m glad you weren’t in there as well, grandfather,” said William. The words “as well” rang in the ears of Mr. Cedarbrook, reminding him of his deceased wife.
Silence fell once more on the small group of salvagers. James walked around the car and laid his hands on the shoulders of his father. Cedric Cedarbrook began to weep bitterly.
“You say something fell and struck the house, dad?” he asked the patriarch. The older man nodded. “From which direction did it come?”
Cedarbrook raised his hand and extended his right index finger to the west.
“From the west, James. I saw it fall for maybe ten seconds before it hit. I knew it hit nearby, but I thought it was the neighbor’s home.”
“Any idea what it was?”
Once more he shook his head.
“No. It appeared fairly small, maybe circular. And it seemed to be quite shiny, the sun reflecting off one side.” The man paused for a few seconds. “I guess that impact triggered the house fire.”
“Perhaps,” his son replied. “The authorities found nothing unusual in the debris, dad. Maybe it was destroyed when it hit the home. They did say the explosion was from the inside out, spraying material into the street. A gas explosion is the most likely cause.”
“Of course, there was a gas explosion,” Cedarbrook responded angrily. He was tired of hearing the authorities’ explanation. “They think there was some electrical spark triggering the explosion causing the fire. Well, they are wrong! Some unidentified object crashed through the roof of our home. That’s what triggered the explosion that destroyed the residence.”
James knew it was no use arguing with his grieving father concerning the falling object. Secretly, he had considerable doubt to his father’s account of the events. Yet, he could not recall his father ever fabricating stories, and the old man did not alter his account of the events of that day despite what the authorities claimed.
“Well, should we get started?” asked William.
“Yes, let’s do this,” his grandfather replied.
Jonathan grabbed a box while his brother retrieved the metal detector from the trunk of the car. The four walked slowly across the street, and, for the first time in almost two weeks, Cedric Cedarbrook passed through his gate, now a dark black, smoky color.
“Now, we need to be careful around here. The police said it is safe, but there is a lot of free-standing debris.” James was always a very cautious man, much more cautious than his father or his own sons. He knew they would be returning home in a matter of days and wanted nothing to do with another hospital visit.
“Perhaps we should form two search parties,” William added, hoping to speed up the search.
“No, I think your father’s warning is a good one,” his grandfather responded. “Better we stay as a group I think.” Looking to the left, the eyes of the old man surveyed the fallen garage. “Let’s start in there”, he said, pointing towards the structure.
The survey of the garage was brief. Its roof had collapsed onto the Cedarbrook vehicles, flattening their tops. Everything was black and the air wafted with the smell of smoke. The grandsons removed some of the debris from the automobiles so they could better examine their interior. It was a fruitless effort for nothing in either car, even in the glove compartments, had survived the fire.
Deciding the garage offered no surviving treasures, the four men headed to the front of the house and its main entrance. Stepping through what remained of the door, they entered the hallway. Wood, brick, shingles, artwork, and other material were everywhere. The view was monochromatic: all black. Tears began to well once more in Mr. Cedarbrook’s eyes.
William powered on the metal detector and scanned the floors as the trailing member of the group. The pings on the machine were infrequent and soft, likely finding nails and other such useless metals. The hallway provided nothing for the salvage box carried by his brother.
Turning to the right brought the small band into the kitchen. The detector sounded more frequently here, locating various kitchen utensils. But every discovered item was blackened and not worth saving. James glanced at his father’s face from one side and saw a tear running across his cheek.
The far end of the kitchen opened into what was once an extremely large living room. Having no basement, this was the largest room in the home. Mr. and Mrs. Cedarbrook spent many evenings in their chairs in this room watching television. Those chairs were partially visible under the material from the second story and the roof.
The elderly man attempted to move some shingles from his wife’s chair and then realized there was no reason to do so. The chairs, too, were badly damaged. Their previous gray color had been turned to deep black and their comfortable appearance was now one of soot, gashes, and rubbish.
The group froze still for several seconds surveying the room. Most of the walls had burned, some completely through revealing the sunshine outside. Bedroom furniture or what remained of it could also be seen now sitting in the living room. In some spots, the debris was stacked at least five feet high. Water from recent rains collected into pools on the floor and furniture.
“I’m afraid, father, there’s not anything in here we can retrieve,” James sadly uttered to his father. The tears were now streaming down the old man’s face.
The group slowly walked through the living room towards the study, carefully stepping between large piles of trash. Unexpectedly, the metal detector began to ping more frequently and more loudly. William stopped and moved the device slightly to his left towards one of the larger piles of rubbish. Now the detector began to sound very loudly with repeated pings.
The others in the party stopped when they heard the detector. Quickly, they examined the pile under which something hidden by the debris must be triggering the device. James and Jonathan instinctively began to remove material from this unwanted collection. Piece by piece, the pile began to shrink. Finally, the last two boards covering that portion of the floor were removed.
The carpet previously on the floor of the family room had been consumed by the flames leaving the underlying concrete. There, in the concrete, was a hole, roughly three feet in diameter, oval, with cracks emanating from it across the floor. Glancing into the hole, nothing was visible but darkness.
“I have a flashlight in trunk of the rental, Jonathan. Here are the keys,” James said, flipping the keys to his youngest son. “Run and fetch it.”
The boy darted across the floor and out of the skeleton of a home.
“Turn that thing off, will you son?” he said to his eldest.
William complied with his father’s request as the three men peered into the hole.
Anticipating his son’s next question, Mr. Cedarbrook looked at him, speaking in a clear a precise tone.
“The house has no basement. Whatever it was, it has buried itself in the earth beneath the concrete floor.”
Jonathan returned with the flashlight and handed it to his father. James flipped it on and directed its beam into the darkness of the hole.
The beam reflected off some object about three-feet under the concrete. Whatever it was, it must have slammed into the earth very hard and at an angle to be buried in that location. Furthermore, the reflection was quite bright, preventing a careful evaluation from their present distance.
“Why, it appears to be metallic, silver in color,” commented James, opening his eyes further to better visualize the object.
“Must be round or elliptical in shape,” Jonathan noted.
At that precise moment, all four family members had the same thought. It was William who voiced it.
“How do we get it out of there?”
The men stood erect, staring at one another. Then, James gave utterance to the second thought on each of their minds.
“Do you think we should?” He spoke haltingly, betraying his fears and concerns about the nature of the buried object.
“I wonder how heavy it is?” inquired Jonathan, posing the possibility none of them could ever lift whatever it was. “To make a hole that deep, it must be fairly heavy.”
“Or traveling at a high velocity,” interrupted Mr. Cedarbrook, reminding the others of his account of the falling object.
Suddenly, James turned and move quickly to one of the piles of burned rubbish. He picked up a board, slammed it onto the floor, breaking it. The Cedarbrook son repeated this scene until he found a thin, flat board that did not break upon impact. The family watched his antics with great interest, having no idea what he was doing. Once James was satisfied with the five-foot flat board he was holding, he returned to the hole.
“What do you think you can do with that, son?” elderly Cedarbrook asked. “Beat it to death,” he continued, grinning broadly.
“I want to see how wedged into that hole that thing is,” he answered. “It appears to me there’s a little room between the top of the ground above the device. Maybe I can wedge this flat board between the ground above the object, press down onto it, and pull back on the board. The pressure of the board might cause the object to move slightly in our direction. Maybe we can get it out of there.”
“Not if its heavy, dad,” chimed William.
“True, Will. But, this may help us know if it’s possible. The only other thing we can do is contact someone to break up the floor and get the device.”
Curiosity having gotten the best of them, not wanting to wait all day for someone else, and having no better ideas, William took the flashlight as his father knelt at the edge of the small crater. The other two men watched intently as James lowered the board into the darkness, keeping it against the top of the carved-out recess.
The board scraped the concrete of the floor then encountered the dirt beneath it. As it moved, it knocked loose some of the ground from the ceiling. Soon, the board was above the object. Pebbles of earth fell onto the metallic object making a hollow sound upon impact.
“Ok, now I’ll press the board down onto the object and pull the board back out of the hole. Perhaps it will move for us.”
“Wait, James,” shouted his father. “We have no idea what that thing is. It could be some explosive device and might go off when you touch it!”
James paused, realizing his father might be correct. Then, in an unusually calm tone, he said, “I believe if it were an explosive, father, it would have exploded upon contact with the concrete floor.”
“You’re right, son,” the older man replied, nodding his head in agreement.
James pushed the board down until he felt contact with the object. The beam from the flashlight clearly revealed the strange device was now wedged between the earth below and James’ board above. The middle-aged Cedarbrook pulled back on the board very slowly.
“It moved, dad!” shouted Jonathan.
And it had moved. The distance was mere inches, but it had moved. James repeated the procedure and pulled again. The object moved backwards out of the crater it had created.
“Why, it can’t be very heavy,” observed James. “I feel very little resistance.”
He repeated his steps several times until the mysterious sphere was at the base of the concrete floor.
“I can reach it, dad,” shouted William. While James kept pressure on the device with the board, Will knelt to the floor, reached his hands into the hole, grabbed the metallic intruder, and pulled it upwards, out of its crater.
The Cedarbrook stared at what they extracted from the small crater in the floor. It wasn’t spherical but more elliptical in shape with no outward markings. The strange item had a length of three feet with a width roughly half that size. The height at its highest point was about six inches. No seams were apparent and no openings of any kind. Its silver metallic coating glistened in the sun.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” James remarked, pulling the device across the floor.
“I have,” Cedric answered, grinning broadly. “Hmmm. There’s no marks whatsoever. No damage from the fire or water.”
“No charring or melting at all!”
“Reminds me of a giant ball bearing,” said Jonathan. “A ball bearing that has been somewhat smashed.”
“And a hollow one,” added William as he pushed on the capsule. “It can’t weigh much than ten pounds.”
“Who made it?” asked James, giving voice to the question in his father’s mind. “Where did it come from?”
“And why did it crash on my house?”
Such questions were beyond an answer from any of these men. The impossibility of such answers was the explanation for Cedric Cedarbrook’s next remark.
“We must inform the authorities, boys.”
This is the account of the discovery of what became known as the Cedarbrook Capsule. The device was turned over to British government officials and, after lengthy questioning, the Cedarbrook family returned to a state of normalcy. James and his sons returned to America and Cedric moved to a modest apartment in London. He became a minor celebrity for the remainder of his life.
Over the ensuing six months, British authorities thoroughly examined the strange object with little result. Apart from its dimensions, color, and weight, nothing else was known. The capsule resisted all attempts at analyzing its metallic structure. Fire, water, acid, and even laser could not extract one small sample of the material.
Political inquiries were made of the major powers. None claimed to be its owner (or launcher!). Russia vehemently denied every charge of their involvement. Some claims were made they had attempted a preliminary strike against Britain! They, in turn, claimed the Americans were behind the whole thing. But, the United States, likewise, denied any claims to it, even though it had descended through the atmosphere from the west to east.
Accepting Cedarbrook’s account of the capsule falling from the sky as being a possibility, the British decided to give the strange craft to the American Space Federation (ASF) in San Diego, the world’s premier space agency, for examination. Carefully packaged, the Cedarbrook Capsule safely arrived at the organization’s headquarters in March of 2008. American scientists put the object through a battery of tests with the same results experienced by the British: nothing.