The Summer Solstice that heralds the dark


As twilight deepened into the year’s shortest night, June 21, 2027, the sleepy coastal village of Ravenscar stirred with anticipation. Local celebrity historian Dr. Eleanor Fitch had managed to convince the town council to revive an ancient ritual at the nearby Woddenstone stone circle. “For tourism,” she’d said and promised them that Chronos Files, the popular TV show she hosted on historical mysteries would take an active interest.

No one expected what followed.

At precisely 9:47 PM, as the ancient ritual came to an end and the final rays of sunlight kissed the weathered megaliths, a brilliant, cold light replaced it in the gathering gloom. The light came from behind the dozens of onlookers focussed on the spectacle of the Solstice Sun. So transfixed were they by the moment of sunset that pierced the notch formed by two gargantuan megaliths, it was a feeling of unfettered dread that first alerted one of their number to what was happening behind. As he turned and saw the light, his entire nature of being – his ontological framework of how things were meant to be – performed a handbrake 180 degree turn and crashed the paradigm. He was the first to know without a glimmer of doubt what the Universe, indeed, truly was.

A massive, silver craft appeared, hovering silently over the North Sea. For seven minutes, it pulsed with otherworldly light before vanishing in a flash that momentarily turned dusk to day.

Dozens then witnessed it. The cameras capturing the ritual spectacle for the Chronos Files captured an entirely different spectacle and smartphones captured high-definition video. Within hours, the footage went viral, and Ravenscar found itself at the epicentre of a global sensation.

The next day, in the heart of London, Prime Minister Elizabeth Hargreaves scowled at the tablet before her in 10 Downing Street, replaying the Ravenscar videos for the dozenth time. “Mass hallucination,” she declared to her anxious cabinet. “Swamp gas. Anything but… this.”

James Blackwood, the steely-eyed head of MI5, cleared his throat. “With respect, Prime Minister, we have corroborating radar data from RAF Fylingdales. This was no hallucination.”

Hargreaves’ eyes narrowed. “Well of course it isn’t a hallucination, I’m just working through a narrative. A typical hard-working family need help to buy a simple, non-cosmic explanation. Nobody wants an off-screen Hollywood alien invasion. But, Director, you don’t seem surprised.”

Blackwood met her gaze evenly. “Because I’m not, Prime Minister.. There are files you need to see.”

That afternoon, in a wood-panelled room that reeked of old money and even older secrets at The Diogenes Club, Blackwood nursed a whiskey across from CIA Deputy Director Sarah Hawthorne.

“It’s happening, James,” Hawthorne said, her voice low. “Disclosure is inevitable. The question is whether we control the narrative or scramble to react.”

Blackwood nodded grimly. “Agreed. But convincing the PM won’t be easy.”

Two days later, back at 10 Downing Street, the confrontation came to a head. “Absolutely not,” Hargreaves thundered, slamming her palm on the polished oak desk. “We cannot tell the public that we’ve been… what? Hiding evidence of extraterrestrial life for decades?’

“With respect, Prime Minister,” Blackwood pressed, “we may not have a choice. The Americans are prepared to move forward, with or without us. And there are… other considerations.”

Outside, at the gated entrance to Downing Street on Whitehall, a growing crowd of protesters gathered and, their chants rang through Westminster, “Tell us the truth!”

The atmosphere seemed loaded, taut like a funeral drum, as the convoy of eight black Range Rovers drove from the gates that evening. In the cars, the Prime Minister, Blackwood from MI5, the Secretary of States for Defence, the Home Office and Health along with senior military figures and a select number of aides and advisers.

They drove past protestors with placards aloft, jeering as the convoy passed up Whitehall and through Admiralty Arch. Down the Mall, on the edge of St James’s Park the Prime Minister noticed a proliferation of the doomed and astrally-minded and if their sandwich boards and magic marker-scrawled cardboard signs were to be believed, both the end was nigh and our Space Brothers had arrived. The convoy’s destination was the Palace but the entire Kingdom was transforming into a fairytale realm.

They convened at a long table in a rather drab meeting room deep underground at Buckingham Palace for the most consequential meeting ever taken at the Palace. If the room seemed inauspicious, the repercussions were not. King Charles III’s pen hovered over the document. “Are you absolutely certain this is necessary?” he asked, eyes flicking between the Prime Minister and the MI5 Director.

“Your Majesty,” Blackwood said, “the amendment to the Official Secrets Act will allow for controlled disclosure. Without it, we risk chaos.”

The King signed. Hargreaves’ jaw clenched.

In The Guardian newsroom, Investigative Editor Jessica Chen announced with gleaming eyes, “We’ve got it. Whistleblower from the Ministry of Defence. Decades of covered-up alien contact.”

Editor-in-Chief Marcus Holloway studied the documents. “Run it,” he said. “Front page. And do some teaser for the dot-com. This is the biggest story in the world.”

It is likely, thought the Prime Minister, that whoever came up with the name of Cabinet Office Briefing Room A (COBRA) had read far too much James Bond as a young man. And a man it certainly was, the name was far too macho for there to be any other reason for it. There was, for example, no ‘Briefing Room B’ and it seemed as if this room had been dominated by men for its entire existence. Right now, the morning after their meeting with the King, the tension was palpable as Hargreaves addressed many of the same faces. Military brass, intelligence chiefs, and senior ministers hung on her every word.

“The situation has… escalated,” she began, voice tight. “ You’ve all seen the news this morning and it’s clear that we can no longer contain this. Director Blackwood, your recommendation?”

Blackwood stood. “Full disclosure, Prime Minister. Controlled, but comprehensive. We bring in NASA, ESA, our other allies. United front.”

A murmur rippled through the room. General Lancaster, Chief of Defence Staff, spoke up. “The military implications—”

“Are secondary to preventing global panic,” Blackwood cut in. “We must act now. We are being guided by our allies in this, but it’s our show, it happened here and if we don’t make a declaration that squares with what people have seen, others – not necessarily our allies – will step in.”

The next evening, at BBC Television Centre, Prime Minister Hargreaves stared into the camera, her usual confidence replaced by a grave solemnity. “My fellow Britons,” she began, “today, we stand at a crossroads of history. The events in Ravenscar were not isolated, nor were they a hoax. For decades, governments around the world have grappled with a profound truth: We are not alone.”

“I can assure you, the British people, and all the people from around the world who are watching this now, that there is a global initiative underway. We do not know what they are, what they want or how long it will be before we find out, but I hope that we can unite as the human race to face whatever challenges may ensue.”

As she spoke, 275 miles north in Ravenscar, the ancient stone circle began to pulse once again with an eerie light. Unnoticed by the skeleton crew of journalists camped in the village, the clouds that lay over the village silently began to change, consolidate into angular shapes. Above the centre of the circle, a silver disc descended silently from the sky to land.

The Solstice Revelation had only just begun.

I entered another story for the Summer Solstice challenge here:

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