“The Asteroid Attack” is a short story by Julia Hershon, age 11. The story is written in the close third person. The protagonist, Evangeline, lives with her parents on a farm in France that she will one day own. Their crops keep dying. They live near mountains, but Evangeline has never been to the mountains, and finds them frightening. One day, Evangenline goes to school where there is a new girl named Clara. We learn that Clara’s parents are scientists and they have come here to study and replicate some nearby ancient cave paintings.
All of a sudden, giant asteroids start falling from the sky. All of the children panic completely, except for Clara and Evangeline, who keep their cool. They try to help one especially upset student named Pierre to safety. The three of them run away from the asteroids until they are blasted into the air. They land and regain consciousness on a mountain. They then go to try to find Evangeline’s parents and make sure they are okay. On the journey, Evangeline falls into a sinkhole on the mountain. Her friends can’t save her, and she thinks she is going to die. But then, her parents rescue her. Evangeline gets over her fear of mountains.
How does this writer choose words thoughtfully?
This story is extremely suspenseful—after all, it tells the story of an asteroid attack—but it’s also resplendent with detail. The author uses adjectives, metaphors, and similes to make every single description in the story unique. The result is a piece that delights in language, image, and sound. One way that the writer makes details come to life is by comparing geographical features to humans or animals.
Light glimmered on the vast plains of France and on the sparkly stones that lay around like lazy cats. The stones rose angrily above the ground, glistening in the sun’s radiant light. Endless fields danced in the glorious, full light emanating from the brilliant ball of fire above the crystal blue sky that stretched as far as the eye could see. Blurry rivers sang around gleaming, round stones, creating elegant rippling sounds that filtered through the immense plain.
Through personifying the geographical features with human or animal traits like “lazy,” or “angrily,” and using verbs like “lay around,” “danced” and “sang,” the writer helps the reader understand that the scenery in this story is just as alive as the characters. This description foreshadows what comes later, when the world is split apart by giant asteroids and the very landscape seems to come to life.
The writing is full of satisfying assonance, consonance, and alliteration:
There were tangly roots that seemed to appear from nowhere and pesky pebbles strewn all over the place. Evangeline remembered to be terrified of the towering mountain, but Clara was enjoying every step that she took.
As a reader, I can’t help but enjoy every step I take through these sounds. The passage starts with the ts in “there were tangly roots” to the p sounds in “pesky” “pebbles” and “place.” Then, we move back to t sounds—“terrified” and “towering” and even later on in “mountain.” Finally, we land on some assonance—“enjoying,” “every,” and “she.”
- What are some other places in the story where the world comes to life? How does the writer use words in these moments to help transform things like rocks and mountains into sentient beings?
- What were some similes in the story that you found particularly memorable? What made them stick out to you?
The Asteroid Attack
Light glimmered on the vast plains of France and on the sparkly stones that lay around like lazy cats. The stones rose angrily above the ground, glistening in the sun’s radiant light. Endless fields danced in the glorious, full light emanating from the brilliant ball of fire above the crystal blue sky that stretched as far as the eye could see. Blurry rivers sang around gleaming, round stones, creating elegant rippling sounds that filtered through the immense plain. Grasses tingled in the clear morning air; the wind flowed like rain through the long expanse to field after field after field. In the far blue distance, mountains arose like clouds soaring across an endless sky. Sheer white snow sparkled, sending thousands of points of diamond light across the plentiful land. Erect stones and points jutted from the mountains; the steep hills looked ominous even from such a long distance. Splotches of brilliant green sparkled in the crooks of mountains far away—dew glinting and opulent green hills soaring through the landscape. A few scraggly caves jutted through the fertile soil; the dark, dreary, dim center hidden from view by craggy and rugged cave walls that whispered in the wind. The landscape blended together into one big mush of land; the colors blurred, but the regions themselves were very different. Thus, a single farmer could get lost in unknown territory; the spaces were so vastly different, whether plain, river, mountain, or valley.
As dawn seeped across the sky like milk pouring into a bowl, a young girl carefully climbed out of her microscopic bed. She tried, ever so carefully, to prevent the dusty wood floors from creaking. Her name was Evangeline; her hair was as pure as dark chocolate and her eyes as green as the plentiful valleys that surrounded her home on her parents’ farm. Her hair swept across her shoulders like waves rolling onto the beach in the far distance, every single strand falling into place as if her hair moved not as many single strands, but as one whole. Her skin was the color of the grainy sand that spilled around the cliffs and the fields, a dark tan color. Her skin was as soft as a feather and warm and silky to the touch. Her eyes gleamed emerald fire as the sun shone brilliant, warming rays down through the dusty windows onto her face. She was elegant, although her body was rugged and powerful after many long, hard days of tending to the farm in the warm summertime.
Evangeline crept across the old wood floor like a quiet mouse. Dust spilled in the air as she placed her feet carefully down; it billowed around her like a storm. She slipped across the tiny house and onto a chair in the cold, damp kitchen. There were no windows in the creepy room, no warm light that spilled and danced through the glass.
She walked over to the dusty wooden cabinet that contained her breakfast for the whole week. Inside, there were vegetables and fruits of any color and size imaginable. A rainbow of color filled the whole room like a mist; the fresh produce gave light to the suffocating darkness of the room.
She grabbed six strawberries, two oranges, and one carrot for her measly breakfast.
Oh, she thought, I wish I could have pancakes like all of the other kids at school.
She danced back into the spiraling light, dismissing the thoughts from her head.
I should be grateful for all I have.
The door creaked and seemed to twist as it was opened by her sand-colored hand. Evangeline knew that the door would not hold for much longer as she quietly clicked it shut. She flew out through the meadow, running at a tremendous speed. She had always been excellent at running; if running were a class at school, she would have already aced it.
The grass under her pounding feet swished; it tingled and glimmered with dew. The dew that once resided on the grass was flung into the air; rainbows spread across the grass as the sun shone its blinding, gleaming light through the tiny pearls of water.
Evangeline looked back at her parents’ farm—one day to be her farm. The crops placed in neats rows were shriveled in the sun; the green sprouts were not visible from the spot where Evangeline stood.
A feeling of dread crept into her stomach on tiny paws, seeping, pouring into every bone in her body.
How can we survive any longer if our crops keep dying? Evangeline wondered fearfully. There was not enough money in her family to keep their farm and their house; they would have to move far away into the distance that seemed untouchable.
The ominous mountains rose threateningly like mouths full of sharp teeth waiting to bite her at any second. Evangeline did not want to move away from her home, or all of the landmarks so familiar and friendly. Except for the mountains. The mountains always posed such a threat to Evangeline; whenever she looked at them, their terrifying looming over the land and the way they seemed to whisper ominous things had always made her feel as if there was no hope, that the world would soon come to an end. To cross them, as many did, would be the ultimate horror.
The other people in Evangeline’s school seemed to love the mountains. The rock formations seemed so fragile but fierce. Interesting minerals poking out of rough stones to peek at the glorious world around them. Sloping hills that wound up the sides gently crafted by a mysterious water source long ago. Minute, trickling streams that wound through the mountains like pieces of thread. Exotic mountain plants growing through cracks in the rocks.
To Evangeline, they were dangerous, deadly, full of monstrous cliffs at every corner and sharp stones that could draw blood from her smooth skin. She had never been to a mountain, though. She had only seen them in books. Books with soft leather covers and ridged, yellow pages that contained intricate drawings of mountains all over the world. The pictures made them look spectacular, but the immense amount of detail provided her with all of the fears of cliffs and rocks.
Evangeline wanted to forget mountains and rush upon the grass like a roadrunner. The unmaintained, winding, white-stained road drew a streak across the vast plain; its color came from being bleached from the sun. Evangeline followed it through the grassy plain to her school near Lascaux.
Lascaux is a place that hosts a beautiful cave full of wondrous paintings created by people thousands of years ago. The amazing place could not be visited by tourists, though, because people and cameras could damage the colorant the paintings were made of. As a result, scientists were working on creating a replica so people could see its glories.
Evangeline rounded the last bend on the road to an old brick school. Light danced through the warm windows and spread through the classroom like a tsunami of warm glitter.
Evangeline carefully placed her foot down on the slowly rotting wood worn by hundreds of children pounding it with their feet. The room felt radiant and warm with the gleaming light. The aged, dusty wood that lined the room was illuminated to a bright amber; the whole complex looked like a vivid autumn forest.
The seats and desks were lined up in perfect order; the books were stacked on the shelves, strangely unlike how they were usually splayed all over the place. Everything seemed neat and organized as if someone extremely important was about to come through the doorway this very moment.
How strange, Evangeline thought.
In fact, it was not strange at all.
A minute after Evangeline plopped down on the wooden chair that rested near her creaky, wooden desk, an unfamiliar person stepped through the doorway and into the classroom.
Her hair was as black as coal and her skin as dark as chocolate. Her eyes gleamed from brown to amber in the glorious light emanating from the sun; they were filled with knowledge beyond comprehension and a deep understanding of the world. She appeared to be wise and brave; every motion she made seemed to be planned out so carefully that she seemed like a machine. Her hair swept back in a breeze-like motion, its shining blackness lighting on fire in the golden light. Her skin was soft but tough, ready to withstand anything. This girl seemed to be a wonderful person, but it was yet to be found out if that was true.
She started to walk over to Evangeline with exact steps, the floorboards creaking under her precise footsteps. She neatly walked over to the old desk next to Evangeline and slid into it in a formal fashion.
“Hello, I am Clara.” She spoke kindly, her eyes radiating brightly in the warm morning sun.
“I’m Evangeline,” Evangeline responded timidly.
“It is quite lovely to meet you, Evangeline.”
“Okay, class. Calm down. I would like to remind you that we have a new student here, and I would like it if you stopped acting like pigs,” the teacher announced in a hoarse voice.
The students giggled at the pig comment but were silenced by a warning glare from the teacher.
“Anyway,” the teacher continued, “we have a new student in the class. Her name is Clara. She just moved here from America with her parents, who are scientists. As you all know, we reside near the wonderful cave paintings of Lascaux. People cannot visit the caves, though, and so scientists are working on creating a replica for people to see. We learned about this already, so you are all quite familiar with this. Anyway, Clara’s parents are two of the scientists who are working hard to try to replicate it.”
“That is amazing!” some child exclaimed.
“Can I come to your house?” another asked.
All of the children gathered around Clara like a swarm of bees, buzzing about while asking ridiculous questions.
“Now, children, settle down,” the teacher declared kindly, but with an undertone of ferocity. The children heard this and immediately slid into their crooked seats.
“Okay, then. Today we’re learning about—” the teacher was cut off in the middle of his sentence.
“Ahhhh!” someone screamed.
More and more people screamed, staring wide-eyed at the crumbling glass window. The room quickly turned from calm as a lake to chaotic before a volcano that was about to erupt. Books flew everywhere, their pages tearing and crumpled as everyone scrambled to escape the room. Wails and a thundering banging sound could be heard from outside the door. The main door to the exit of the school was soon crushed by hundreds of feet hurtling out of the building at once.
“What’s happening?!” Evangeline screeched.
“Asteroids are pouring down on us like rain.” Clara spoke as if nothing was wrong; she spoke as calmly as if this were a normal school day. They both knew in their hearts, though, that this day was unlike any other.
“Asteroids? I don’t see any asteroids!” Evangeline tried to yell above the thunder of people screaming and crying.
“They’re going to kill us all!” one child wailed, tears pouring out of his eyes and dripping onto the ground.
Clara ran up to him through the mob of children and teachers.
“They won’t kill us if we run as far away as possible.” She spoke softly. “Now, let’s run through the doorway and escape this madness.” She pointed toward the doorway that was almost invisible through the hoard of people.
“Evangeline, come on,” Clara lifted her gaze toward Evangeline. “We have to get this young child to safety.”
“You’re right,” Evangeline spoke surely. “People need help, and we seem to be the only ones who are willing to give it to them.”
Evangeline grasped the hand of the boy, and they ran through the crowd, dodging people and jumping over upturned chairs and spilled school supplies. They flew out the door and collapsed onto the worn grass below.
Evangeline gazed up at the sky to see what the children were so terrified of. What she saw struck her like lightning.
Huge lumps of rock hurtled through the air sending streaks of fire through the sky. The asteroids looked like giant balls of terror—the surfaces dull and unreflective, the muted dark gray color made it look as if there were chunks of onyx flying through a diamond sky. The craters looked like black holes. Gleaming streaks of red and orange, flowing, dangling from the asteroids, trailed them like cars on a road. Scarlet flame poured into the air, overtaking the sun’s brightness and catapulting the world into a deep redness.
Evangeline was frozen in fear. No matter how hard she tried to flee, her limbs would not budge; they locked in place like a door closing tight shut.
Clara came flinging up to them from the crowd.
“We must leave this place,” she declared urgently. Evangeline stood still on the rough grass, her eyes glazed with terror.
“We must leave!” Clara repeated, even more urgently. “We must get this child to safety.”
Clara was right. The poor child was crying and wailing, saying that he was going to die. Even though it was such a dire situation, Evangeline could still not bring herself to move.
Clara had no choice but to yank her hand and the child’s hand. Clara raced across the grassland, the other children stumbling behind her like a pack of sick dogs. The wind stung Clara like bees, and the asteroids closed in on them, almost as if they were pouncing on them like prey.
Evangeline could hardly feel the soil pounding underneath her; she could only feel the terror that coursed through her veins and the fear of the others as it bounced through the air like waves. The mountains were rising in the distance, but Evangeline hardly noticed them or the fear that she received from them.
A looming asteroid spilled across the sky and appeared to fill the whole horizon. They did not have much time to escape the fate that loomed ever closer; they ran faster and sped across the endless field toward the mountains, the grass swishing around their legs.
Alas, even though they had tried as hard as they could to escape the fate of being torn to shreds, an enormous crashing noise could be heard. The noise seemed to fill the planet, the air, the earth, the water. It was as loud as thunder, as airplanes landing on smooth tarmac, as trees falling and waterfalls gurgling off of a cliff. The sound was as loud as all of these combined. An asteroid had landed.
More thunderous noises filled the air as more asteroids fell like rain on the soft earth.
“Run!!!!” Evangeline screeched. They tensed their muscles to run faster, harder, farther. Their strength was withering, and they could only run for a few minutes longer. Their muscles burned and their chests heaved as they gasped for air while asteroids flooded around them.
“We . . . must . . . keep . . . running!” Clara gasped.
Suddenly, a sound louder than anything the group had heard before sounded. They were flung into the air, curving in a high arc the wind winding through their hair and clothes, the breath taken from them as they hung in the air.
The group was first catapulted to the ground and then hurtled through the air. They landed with a thud so sharp that none could breathe. Pain coursed through Evangeline’s body for an instant, and then the world faded to black.
Evangeline lifted her head to a blinding, brilliant light that dazzled her eyes. Birds chirped as they flew about, landing on the rough stones of the mountains and perching on mountain bushes.
Wait—mountains?! Evangeline thought fearfully. How did I get here?
Evangeline shifted on the ground to reposition herself so that she could see further. Clara and the young boy were lying a few feet away; their bodies were motionless.
Fear struck Evangeline like lightning. What if they are dead?
Evangeline rose to her feet and ran on her still-aching muscles to Clara and the boy. She saw the rise and fall of their chests and knew that they were alive, but she did not know if they were well.
As a result, she shook them violently to see if they were healthy.
Clara peeked open her eyes.
“Wah?” she stammered.
“We’re fine now. All of that asteroid business is over. We’re in the mountains, and I’m not entirely sure how we got here. Do you have any idea?” Evangeline asked.
Clara moaned as she slowly sat up.
“Are you okay?” Evangeline demanded, worried.
“Yes, I’m fine. You say we are in the mountains?” Clara glanced around. “I think we ended up here by being blown into the air by an asteroid. Remember?”
“Oh, right. Hey, is the little boy okay?” Evangeline asked.
The boy responded by sitting up on the coarse grass and blinking wildly at them.
“Do you remember anything?” Clara asked the boy.
“Yes,” the boy squeaked. “I remember being chased by an asteroid and being catapulted all the way over here.”
“Hah, he remembers more than you do,” Clara joked.
Evangeline was not excited nor joyful about the joking. She and Clara were not full-fledged friends yet, and she could save the joking for when they were.
“Anyway,” Clara said, “we should figure out how to get back to our homes. Also, little boy, could you please tell us your name? My name is Clara, and hers is Evangeline.” Clara pointed at Evangeline when she said this.
“Well, my name is Pierre,” the boy answered. “I want to go back to my family.”
“Family!” Evangeline gasped. “My family’s farm would have been hit by the asteroids!” A fear like sharp needles poked into Evangeline, stirring her every organ and bone.
What if they died? she thought, the panic rising in her chest like a hot soup.
“Yes, I guess we should try to find them,” Clara reasoned.
“We must find our families!” Evangeline almost yelled. “My parents could be dead! We have to find them, or at least I have to.”
“I’ll help,” Clara declared. “My house is very far from here and would not have been hit by the asteroids. What about you?” She motioned to Pierre.
“I live far away too—out of the range of the asteroids.”
“Very well. Then finding Evangeline’s family is of utmost importance,” Clara decided.
“You would really do that for me?” Evangeline asked, in awe.
“Of course.” It was Pierre who answered. “You saved my life.”
Evangeline smiled thankfully, but worry still stabbed her like thorns. She did not know if her family was alive.
“Where shall we look for my family?” Evangeline asked.
“I thought that we should start up there.” Clara pointed up the mountain where smoke was billowing out like waves. “It looks like someone is camping up there.”
“Good idea,” Evangeline replied. Even though it was a good idea to look up the mountain, Evangeline still felt worry about her parents clinging to her like a pelt. She was so worried she even forgot to be terrified of the mountain they were about to climb.
The group walked up to the mountain and started their first steps toward a new journey. Pebbles shifted and crunched on the ground as they walked, and sharp stones jutted out from every direction. It was just as the book that Evangeline had read had described, but worse. There were tangly roots that seemed to appear from nowhere and pesky pebbles strewn all over the place. Evangeline remembered to be terrified of the towering mountain, but Clara was enjoying every step that she took.
The sun shone down like fingers onto the small, twisted trees, their branches arching overhead to form a passageway; the stones were so round and shiny; sharp rocks jutted out from the cliff walls and created marvelous shadows; the little mountain wildlife was green and majestic; the roots and vines filled the whole space with a natural vibe.
As the group was reaching the peak of the mountain, the ground became steeper and harsher. The lush plants disappeared and were replaced by a bleak landscape. The ground became unsteady too. It felt as if it were shaking beneath them.
Suddenly, an immense hole opened in the ground, and a yelp split the air as Evangeline plummeted into it. She grabbed hold of the edge just as she was about to plunge into the endless depths below.
“Did I mention that I hate mountains!” she screamed as she dangled precariously over the rim of the hole.
Her heart pounded with fear; her breath came in gasps as she struggled to hold on; her life dangled on the brink. Sweat poured down her face, and she could feel her hands becoming slimy and wet. She was starting to lose grip.
Her new friends grunted and pulled with all of their might, trying to lift the poor, doomed Evangeline out of the hole. Evangeline felt all hope give way. She was going to die. She let herself drop.
Abruptly, two adults streaked across the bleak mountain and rushed to Evangeline’s side. They thrust their hands into the hole and bent down to catch Evangeline. Evangeline landed in their arms, and they heaved her out of the hole with many grunts of effort. She fell onto the hard soil and gasped in relief.
“I’m alive!” she exclaimed. Her heart opened, and she could breathe again. She had not realized that she had been holding her breath. She felt such gratitude to these strangers that she felt almost bursting with excitement. The two people were not strangers, though.
“My parents?!” Evangeline cried out in joy and embraced them in a warm hug, “I’m so happy that I found you!”
“Oh, we missed you!” Evangeline’s mother cried.
“How did you ever find us?” Evangeline’s father asked, compassionately.
“Well, it’s a long story, but it’s all thanks to my newfound friends,” Evangeline smiled brightly and gazed at her wonderful friends.
The group, including Evangeline’s parents after they had extinguished the fire, joyfully walked down the mountain together. Birds sang in the trees, and flowers blossomed in the watery grass. Rocks and pebbles clacked as they stepped over them. Evangeline had forgotten her fear of mountains. They were not terrifying, except ones that contained horrible sinkholes in them. Evangeline now believed the mountains to be a beautiful place, full of sunlight, exquisite wildlife, and delight.