In the Morn, They ’a Come
by Mike Oxman
part 1 of 2
We saw if for the first time the night before from the top of a hill: a giant disk-shaped beam of light against a black sky, hovering over the downtown core. But we’d spent the night drinking, and to tell you the truth we were a little bit drugged as well, so we didn’t think much of it. Still, we had a good laugh.
“Imagine that, aliens over our fair city.” I giggled and dug my elbow into MacIntosh’s side.
“Yeah. Might as well’uv disembarked in the seventh circle of hell. Plan nine from outer space is in effect,” he said in a monotonous, digital tone, then screwed up his face and went all bug-eyed. “We’ve come for you Mickey!” He stuck his arms out like an undead legionnaire, rocking from side to side. “And now,” he paused, “You die!” He pounced, but missed his mark, felled not by my own intervention but by the hazy din of alcoholism.
“Lay off, you big dolt!” I cried in mock outrage, swatting his flattened body once or twice, for good measure.
“Yeah, um, okay,” he got back up, brushed himself off, and took his seat back.
“But seriously,” I said, “Could you imagine they did come? Think about it. Everyone’s trying to get the hell outta here, and they come halfway ’cross the universe just to pay a visit.”
It was true, our town stank. Drunks, thugs and strongarms were the only ones left. It was a busy little place, that couldn’t be argued, but it seemed to me that instead of bringing prosperity, all the last boom had brought was carloads of criminals and trash from all over the country. I mean, I just couldn’t imagine them coming here. New York, Paris, London, maybe even Mumbai or Tokyo, but Redsell? Come on, we don’t even get tourists in this bog.
“They come down, and we’ll defend this burg with our lives,” roared MacIntosh, a real joker who’d watched too many horror movies. “Automatic assault rifles, armored cars, the goddamn A-bomb, boy — we’ll blow ’em back to the — woah!”
I looked up expecting to see the ship splitting open, or tractor beams decimating City Hall, but instead watched MacIntosh take a terrific spill. What with all the excitement, he hadn’t noticed a thick root jutting out from the soil, a lurking foe that had just defeated its rival in battle.
“My head,” he moaned, “And I think I twisted my ankle.”
I stumbled to his side, and cradled his head in my arms. “Come on Jim,” I said, echoing the galactic explorers of yore, “Don’t die on me. We’re gonna get you outta here.”
Forgetting about those lights in the sky, I put my arm around him, and I helped him home. It had been a long night, and I put myself to sleep quietly with one last shot of rye.
I woke up the next morning with a full-on throb in my brain. Last night’s adventures had been blurry, so I fixed myself a toast, poured myself a cup of coffee, and flipped on the tube.
“We now have confirmed reports of an unidentified flying object, spotted last night over downtown Redsell. Contact has yet to be made, but the ‘flying saucer’ is not moving. Government and military personnel are on hand, and...”
There on the screen was that great ship that last night I thought was only a figment of my blighted imagination. I dropped my food, and scurried to the phone.
“MacIntosh?” I grunted.
“Oh... hey buddy,” he mumbled, still half asleep.
“You hear what’s going on?” I asked frantically.
“No, what? You get busted or something?”
“Just turn on the damned TV, you fool,” I ordered.
“Okay, but this better be good. I was just having this dream. Heather Locklear, Hilary Duff...”
I cut him off — this was no time for inanities. “And make it snappy!” I slammed down the receiver and sprang into action. I tossed down the rest of my coffee, burning my throat in the process, but I hardly noticed. I picked up the same clothes I was wearing the night before, dank rags ruffled and coated in mud, and found a couple mismatched socks that didn’t smell too bad. The phone rang again.
“Hello,” I barked.
“Dude — th-th-the thing... from last night!” MacIntosh stammered anxiously.
“I know! They’ve decided to come after all.”
“So what’re we gonna do?” he inquired.
I thought for a moment. “Hold tight, but get ready. I’m coming to get you. We’re gonna check this out.”
I hung up again, and searched my pockets for my keyring. I found dirty tissues, forgotten phone numbers on rumpled scraps of paper, a few loose coins, but no keys. Damn, I thought, and ran to the couch, ripping off the cushions. Dried popcorn kernels, old pizza crusts, and little specks of oil, grease, and tomato sauce coated the sofa’s underbelly, but there, beneath it all, were the keys to my ‘78 VW Rabbit, a rusted old bird, but sturdy enough.
I flew out the door, and into my car, but I had a little problem with the lock, and had to override the security system with a bent coat-hanger. After a few false starts, I got her going, and raced towards MacIntosh’s, but when I arrived a few minutes later, he was nowhere to be seen. I sprinted up the walkway, and started pounding on the door, which creaked open a moment later.
“Oh hi. It’s you,” said my friend, still in a housecoat and undershorts, looking like he hadn’t moved since I first called.
I looked him over and, exasperatedly, I howled.
“Who did you expect, ET? You were supposed to be ready, MacIntosh. We’re wasting precious minutes here.”
But he just peered out over my shoulder, and scratched his crotch. “Looks like a nice day. You want a coffee? You gotta try this new-”
“Damn you, MacIntosh, there’s no time!” I rushed into his room and rummaged through a reeking pile of filthy clothes. Doesn’t he know how to do the laundry, I wondered, and then, realizing that my own accoutrement was of equally poor taste, decided that personality and a sense of humor were more important than fashion.
I dusted off a pair of trousers, and darted out of the room, but my accomplice was back in the kitchen, slurping up a bowl of warm cereal, scouring a week-old newspaper. “Hey, here’s a really good article here about next week’s convention-”
I hauled him out of his seat, and shoved the clothes into his arms.
“But I wasn’t done yet,” he whined, “It says-”
“You put these on in the car,” I ordered, and led him outside. As we took off, I looked over my best friend, and shook my head. Damn you, MacIntosh!
We sped downtown but had to stop early. There was already a huge crowd amassed in the city center, and parking spaces were scarce. Besides, my car had sprung a gasket, and I risked overheating the engine if I pushed her any harder.
We joined the bustling throng, and looked up to the shimmering disk in the sky. It must’ve been the size of a football field at least, and up maybe half a mile. Sun beamed off the sides, and I could see what appeared to be a sort of command center, a bridge, enclosed in murky, opaque glass. The rest of the ship was built from a strange material, flat grey and rather coarse, but with no joint marks or other hints as to how it was assembled.
Though unquestionably the feat of a superior race, a product of supersonic engineering and advanced quantum mechanics, the vessel was in fact quite ugly. Of course you can’t go racing around space in a pimped-out ride, and the ship probably had enough firepower to decimate the entire planet ten times over, so I decided to keep my aesthetic judgments to myself.
I was gazing up at the craft when I hit a wall, a big, hulking beast of a man that nearly keeled me over.
“Hey, watch it buddy, or the next time you will go down,” the giant roared as I regained my balance and tried to regain my composure.
“Sorry about that... Duke?” Indeed, the giant was a friend, and all his hostility evaporated when he too recognized me, your most worthy hero.
“Mickey! I didn’t realize it was you. Wouldn’t’ve tried tae scare ye, if I’d ‘o known.” His drawl was as thick as whatever bog he done crawled outta, but it was full of charm if he liked you. He was kind of like a circus lion, or a trained ape, dangerous, but for the most part tame. Me and Duke went way back, so, though we shouldn’t have gotten along, we did.
“What’re you doing down here then, Duke?” I asked.
He tapped the large canvas bag in his arms. “Munitions,” he grunted.
I cocked my head, and looked him in the eye. “Huh,” I said, “For what?”
He pointed at the thing in the sky. “For that, man, for them,” he answered, and spit a thick gob of chewing tobacco onto the street. “Hey, ye gots a cigarette? I’m on the patch now, thanks tae the ol’ lady, but it ain’t workin’. And,” he added, pointing to the slimy black wad in his lower lip, “I hate this freakin’ chaw.”
“Sure thing,” I said and hooked him up, “But listen. What makes you think you need guns?”
He shrugged. “Ye always do, man. They say they come in peace, and then, when ye turn your back and yer least ‘spectin’ it, BAM,” he tried to clap his hands together to make his point, but couldn’t quite do it with the bag in the way. He fumbled around, but quickly regained control of his cache. “And, I’ll tell ye a secret,” he leaned in close, “It ain’t only guns I’ll be a-packin’, boy. Grenades, land mines, trip wires. I’m headin’ to the hills, man, where they’ll never find me. I got enough supplies fir a month.”
“Well...” I didn’t really know what to say. “I guess you should be on your way then. I’m gonna take my chances here, see it all go down. Good luck, though.”
“I don’t need luck, man, I’m armed. You’ll see. In a day or two ye’ll be sorry, but not me.”
“Yeah. Right. We’ll see you around then.”
He tossed his gear in the back of a beat up old Ford, hopped behind the wheel, screeched away from the curb, and was gone. That was Duke though, a real survivalist, always craving some action. I remember when the millennium hit, and everyone was scared of a big crash. Duke, meanwhile, was out in the bush, eating mescaline with an Indian shaman, gearing up for the end-time.
A real nut, I thought, who’d crack some day, and if I’m proved wrong about that, I’ll pay for the next round. But amidst the chaos and confusion, Duke was soon forgotten, and I rounded up MacIntosh. We were on a mission, and there was no way of knowing what would transpire.
Copyright © 2006 by Mike Oxman