The title of the thread was simply “Destiny Falls,” and I almost missed it.

By the time I saw it, the headline had slid down the first page of the Goblin Globe forum, a very active assembly of conspiracy geeks talking about weird shit we’ve seen on Google Earth.

The Destiny Falls “discussion” had been started an hour earlier by someone named Pizarro, and it had zero replies, zero views.

I don’t know why I clicked on the link — maybe it was pity for such a lame thread, or maybe it was curiosity about why everyone seemed to be avoiding it.

Whatever, my reward for taking a chance was a single line of instruction: “Google Earth this thread title.”

It was Pizarro’s first and only post on the forum.

What the hell, I thought. I had already invested a few clicks, so I might as well see it through. I opened up Google Earth, typed “Destiny Falls,” and hissed at the results: Destiny of Peace, a hospice center in Iowa; Divine Destiny, a church in Delaware; and a jewelry shop in Idaho called Destiny Diamonds.

The joke was on me.

I closed Earth and clicked through another couple threads on Goblin Globe, then went to bed.

As is my norm, though, I didn’t stay asleep long.

By 3 am, I was propped up in bed with my laptop, navigating through eastern Europe on Google Earth. Maybe it would be the night I found Noah’s Ark or a hidden temple.

As I moved from Batman to Siirt in Turkey, my mouse froze, and the map window zoomed out — on its own — to show the entire planet. Earth rotated left to right, bringing the western hemisphere into focus, and the window zoomed in on South America. Cusco filled my screen, and the frame shifted a few miles to the east, to a patch of green surrounded by desert. It looked like some sort of park.

Google labeled the vegetation: Destiny Falls.

I had started to feel sleepy again, but that name shocked me wide awake. I thought it must have been some sort of bug. After all, what kind of name is “Destiny Falls” for an area in a country where they speak Spanish. And the coincidence with Pizarro’s feeble thread from earlier was just a little too convenient.

Maybe Google had cached my search somehow and then plopped the name down in the wrong place. Even Google is not infallible, after all. Or maybe Pizarro’s thread was an elaborate virus or worm.

Just when I had soothed my nerves with these theories, the text faded away. In its place, a face shimmered onto the screen.

This wasn’t a solid face, and I wasn’t even sure it was there at first. It faded and intensified depending on how I held my head, and its lines were transparent, each swoosh or dimple only visible from a certain angle. It was like a sliver of ice floating in a glass of water — you think it’s there, but you’re never really certain.

As far as whose face it was, I couldn’t say. Sometimes, it appeared vaguely Native American, but sometimes it looked like Haggerty’s smiley face on acid — big grin stretched to impossible proportions and misshapen eyes like a couple of blown pupils.

After a few seconds, the face disappeared, too. Then I heard a loud pop from inside my laptop case, and the screen went black.

“Damn it,” I said to my empty bedroom. I couldn’t afford to buy a new computer, and I don’t have a clue how to fix one.

With no Internet to prick at my brain, I grabbed the Stephen King book I “borrowed” from the library last year and lay back on my pillows. It was some story about a demon dog who appeared at weddings to deliver roses of death to unsuspecting brides. Creepy shit, but I was zonked after just a few pages.

It was daylight when I woke up, and I panicked, thinking I was late for work. Then I realized it was Saturday. Some raucous Friday night I’d had!

My fried computer was next to me in the bed, and I popped it open on a whim. To my surprise, the screen lit up, and I could hear the disk whirring to life. Sweet!

I flipped from ESPN to Reddit to Cracked and was about ready to get up for some grub when I remembered the hubbub about the upcoming election. Politics are always good for a few laughs, so I headed over to Google News.

The top story had nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats or avuncular independents, and it dominated the front page: Hundreds Killed by Giant Volcanic Sinkhole in Peru

Stunned, I clicked the headline and read the hideous account of mothers and children being burned alive when the ground in Parque Arqueológico Tipón opened up and swallowed them whole.

I had barely finished reading when my browser crashed and Google Earth popped up. The globe spun and hewed, and the window zoomed in on Peru again, sliding to the park I’d seen before. The face glimmered for just a split second, and then the lush green burst into flames.

I shrieked and backed away from the laptop, slamming into my headboard.

The earth spun again, colors flashing like Christmas lights.

The window centered on the western hemisphere once more. It zoomed to North America, to Indiana, to a small stain in the road about halfway between Indianapolis and Terre Haute.

Greencastle filled the screen with its Victorian roofs and towering walnuts.

An icy face glimmered over the town square.

The lettering melted away, and then swam back into focus.

“Destiny Falls,” it said.

The computer popped and went black.

That was this morning. Tonight — now — my laptop is working again.

Nothing bad happened today that I can tell. But then, today is not over.


(This story originally published in response to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge.)

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