The Lyrid Event


© Ted Strutz

A small group of amateur astronomers had gathered at Ted’s farm outside Garden Valley to photograph the Lyrid meteor shower that year. It was late and just about everyone had gone back to Boise, taking their cameras and telescopes with them. Only Ted’s trusty old Nixon was on its tripod still aimed at the heavens.

Ted had a dark room in the shed out back but he’d never get to develop the film. Everyone had photographed something unusual from the farm’s unique vantage point that night and they all died within a week.

Ted was next.

I wrote this for the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields photo writing challenge. The idea is to use the image above as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 100 words long. Mine is 96 words.

The camera pointing up reminded me of when I took Astronomy classes at UNLV during the early to mid 1970s. Sometimes we’d go out to the desert at night to look at different stellar phenomena through telescopes and to photograph some of them.

The Lyrid meteor shower is typically observed every April and this year will be best seen in the early morning hours of April 22.

To read other stories based on the prompt, go to


78 thoughts on “The Lyrid Event

  1. I wasn’t familiar with all the various periodic meteor showers, which include the Quadrantids in January, the Lyrids in April, the Eta Aquarids in May, the (more familiar) Perseids in August, the Draconids and the Orionids in October, the Leonids in November (also more familiar), and the Geminids in December, each of which is named for a constellation from which it appears to originate at the time. Thanks for choosing one that made me look it up. The story reminded me of the film “Night of the Comet”.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s a mystery and one that was the direct cause of Ted’s death along with everyone who had observed the skies the night of the Lyrid meteor shower.


  2. Love a bit of mystery and suspense, leaving it up to the reader’s imagination to add their own contribution to the plot.
    I thought yours linked up well with Neil’s. Seems like his character did the right thing nipping into the bushes instead of capturing the event.
    xx Rowena


      • Y’know, James, for such a short story it’s amazing how much speculation it has generated about why the astronomers died. If I may attempt to list the possibilities:
        1. They were exposed to some sort of radiation from the meteors or from the region of space above them.
        2. They were exposed to some sort of poisonous particulate precipitate from the meteors or from the region of space above them (perhaps coincidental and not actually related to the meteors themselves).
        3. They were executed by extraterrestrials who observed them photographing something not intended to be detected by humans.
        4. They were executed by sinister agents of a governmental or private organization who observed them photographing something not intended to be detected by civilians or revealed to the public (also possibly merely coincidental with the timing of the meteors and not connected with them otherwise).
        5. Triffids? Who suggested bringing them into the story? They weren’t connected with meteors or even with extraterrestrials in the scifi stories that defined them. And even if some precipitate from the meteors were biologically active, germinated and grew very fast, there would have to exist some sort of “marker” on the astronomers to make them its specific targets. More likely would be a biological contaminant or virus to which they could have been exposed, which is a sub-possibility of number 2 above.

        Thus, it seems, has arisen curiosity about what might appear on the photographic film. The speculation about it being unhealthy to learn that answer would have to be based on number 4 above, though there is a minimal possibility of number 3 if the extraterrestrials had agents on the planet following the astronomers in the manner of number 4.

        But the speculation about going blind from observing a meteor shower is more than merely exaggerated. The light flux is far too low, even if a very large meteor is burning its way right toward one. Of course, there was no hint in your story of anyone being blinded, even by possibility number 1 above; and viewing an image on photographic film certainly could not do so, because photographs are passive objects that merely reflect ambient light, or filter a nominally bright light source in viewing the negative.

        I suppose that’s the problem with an extremely short story. It leaves so many loose ends about which to speculate for how the story might have developed further.


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