The first saucer appeared in the sky over New York just after midnight on a Tuesday, the tenth of August. The invasion happened while Dave and I pounded shots of Jagermeister and smoked a baggie of Jamaican Blue. Thousands of the disks hovered above every major metropolitan area by the time the sun cracked the horizon.
The television displayed similar images from around the globe. The only difference was the shape of the skyline. The squared-off steeples of skyscrapers pointed skyward like so many punctuation marks.
Spaceships sprinkled the length and width of the country, a crazy hodgepodge of connect-the-dots. Dave speculated about the design the scene made from space. Sick laughter bubbled up my throat to leave a rancid layer of saliva slicked across my tongue.
My phone vibrated. Another message demanding I come home. Urgency scratched inside my chest but my eyes fixated on the soft blue and green lights rotating the circumference of the craft, much more beautiful than they’d appeared on television. The web of interlacing beams flowed like the acid tracers I’d experienced at the Metalheads concert we’d crashed in June.
I stumbled down the last of the front steps, bumped into Dave as he stared up at the saucer blanketing the entire Los Angeles basin. The shiny exterior glowed white as neon in the sunlight, a perfect sphere back dropped against blue. I thought the UFO looked like a silver dinner plate of spinning perfection, reminiscent of bad “B” movie posters, the kind lining the windows of the tourist shops on Hollywood Boulevard.
Suddenly I was running, darting between the trashcans neatly lined up at the curb, slipping beneath the hedgerows of old Mr. Carneggio’s house and across the immaculate alley to my backyard. I pushed through the ornate curls of the wrought iron gate, tripped over a teak chaise lounge, and almost landed in the pool.
The silence unnerved me.
Surprised to find the half-smoked joint still pinched tight by thumb and forefinger, I raised the blunt to my lips and drew hard but only stale bitter air slurred down the paper tube. The cherry was burned to cold ash. I stashed the stub carefully between my driver’s license and the plastic card that indicated my organs were available for harvesting.
I’d always figured organ donation was a good guy kind of thing to do, just in case I crashed into one of the giant elms that lined the neighborhood. Did being vaporized by aliens leave anything behind?
I darted in the rear door, catching the screen before it slapped back on the frame. Dad’s deep voice rumbled in an intense undertone further inside the house. I high-stepped into the hall and caught a glimpse of him standing beside the granite counter in the kitchen, his immaculate black suit slick and neat, not a wrinkle in sight. The regulation pair of dark sunglasses dangled from one hand and the other held his cell to his ear.
He saw me, an expression of relief softening his hard features for a fraction of a second. He abruptly ended the conversation, snapped the phone shut with a practiced gesture and palmed the device into his suit pocket.
“You barely made it home in time.”
His voice had the familiar hard edge laced with an unfamiliar emotion. That hesitation hollowed my lungs. I took a step into the kitchen and opened my mouth to ask what-the-fuck just as the doorbell rang.
The sound echoed. A foreboding rooted my feet to the tiled floor. A strange expression crossed Dad’s face and I went cold inside.
His gaze caught me. The sort of straight-shooting stare that arrows past eyelids to pierce your soul in a search for connection. My throat closed up. Panic pushed adrenalin into my bloodstream. Heart muscle slammed against bone and cartilage, the hiccupping rhythm aggravated by an excess of alcohol and too little sleep.
“Dad?” I tried to stutter out a question but he grabbed one shoulder and pushed me aside, shoving something into my hand.
“Sacrifices are made every day, Paul. This is a part of the job.”
I stood with mouth gaping, a cartoon goldfish gasping for air.
He walked forward with shoulders squared, shoes gleaming and hair perfect, his movements precise. Before he yanked open the heavy mahogany panel, his hand came up and he slipped the sunglasses into place.
A shadowed profile backlit by white light.
A man in black.
The shot wasn’t the blast of a shotgun or the zing of a bullet. The attack was a sizzling burst of heat that blew my father’s body across the room. He landed in a sprawl.
Light poured in to frame the humanoid shape in the doorway. The figure wore a silver spacesuit like the astronauts in those dumbass science fiction movies from the fifties. My fingers flexed, a sound leaked out from my lips, and still I couldn’t move. The bulging misshapen head turned to peer at me.
I registered the movement of my arm in a detached way, the pulsing red device gripped in my hand seemed unconnected to the rest of me until a stream of energy poured from the tip. Sight and sound connected. The spaceman caught the discharge in the torso. I smelled burnt flesh. The silver suit burst apart into shreds of colorful gristle.
My knees wobbled.
Dad lay crumpled against the foyer wall, one leg at a wrong angle, blood splashed wetly on the taupe paint. He grinned at me, his mouth lopsided, twisted from the pain, smoke drifting up in tendrils from the scorched wound in his chest.
He gasped, caught a breath and spoke. “This is messy business, son.”
I wrinkled my nose, “it stinks too.”
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