The streetlight stood ten feet tall, along a cobblestone path in a small, green park called Maltrova. The sun had just slipped under the horizon, taking the day with it.
Its base was bell-shaped, but had ornamental lion’s feet at the cardinal directions. The claws of each foot were extended and poised to sink into the earth.
The oxidized bronze of the streetlight was weather-worn and had trails about it from where the frequent rain ran down to the grass to form small puddles. But there were no puddles this evening. There hadn’t been rain for some weeks.
The base domed to a small bump which then gave way to the main stalk. This stem had a sinusoidal quality to the surface, which spoke to the waves crashing in the distance, just over and down the cliff face that terminated the park’s lawn.
Perched at the top of the post was a four-pane lampshade containing a giant bulb. And the bulb had just flashed on. The bulb was of an older style; it cast a warm and familiar glow, but was quite inefficient. It lasted at most a few months before its filament burnt out. The open air bottom of the shade was quite useful for frequent replacements.
Heat from the coiled coil quickly warmed the air in contact with the glass shell, and that air in turn rose to the top of the shade. There it would cool, and be displaced by newly warmed air just leaving the bulb. Convection ruled in this tiny system.
The open bottom of lampshade also gave access to insects seeking light and warmth, but had another benefit of not keeping any of the carcasses that would otherwise quickly accumulate and decrease the visual aesthetic of the streetlight. That aesthetic was the sole reason to maintain this demanding fixture in the first place.
The faint hum of its operation radiated toward the trees, but their leaves absorbed it, and it went no further. A breeze stirred and the swaying leaves speckled the ground with shadow and light.
A few airborne particulate clanked off the streetlight’s glass panes and metal stem to fall silently into the grass. Several more of these grains came down, sounding like metallic rain upon the pathway.
A flash of light in the sky suddenly outshone the lamp, whose shadow swept an arc across the lawn. The lamp’s dominance on illumination returned, and the breeze failed.
A few seconds later, a high pressure air wave met the panes in the lamp shade. The glass trembled, became a spiderweb, and then fractured into a million shards. For a fraction of a second, the ground had a terrific kaleidoscope of lightwork. But the bulb then shattered as well.
The park fell into darkness as small rocks tumbled down. Light did briefly return by way of larger, superheated stones which clattered about and dented the base of the streetlight. Sizzling boulders then collided with the lawn, throwing dirt and mulch and grass clippings into the air. They rebounded and traveled on haphazardly.
The remainder of the meteor then impacted the streetlight, and, with a screech, the metal frame gave way. The now-meteorite plowed through hedges as the lamp post lay contorted on the ground – no longer sinusoidal.
Sirens sounded in the distance as the night deepened.
The inspiration for this story struck last night while I attended my first Streetlight Manifesto concert at the Ogden Theater in Denver, Colorado.