In the Morn, They ’a Come
by Mike Oxman
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
We got closer to the City Hall, but there was already a massive crowd. Mothers held their children tight, fear outweighed only by curiosity. Men skipping work, but still dressed in business suits, huddled together, sharing not only investment tips, but their own theories and ideas about our visitors.
“I got a B-line on those new diamond mines up north,” said one, “And it could be a real boon. Imagine an inter-planetary drilling operation, where we could use their technologies to extract our resources. The profits would be huge!”
“Hogwash,” said another, “Resource speculation is obsolete. The real money’s in high tech.”
Politicians mingled with both dignitaries and civilians, but they were really there to carouse with our visitors from the great beyond, first contact generally regarded as a good PR opportunity.
Our new Prime Minister, a right-wing populist with a huge local following, was surrounded by photographers, who snapped away as he flipped burgers and cooked steaks behind a mammoth barbecue, the giant saucer hovering in the background. The quickest way to a man’s heart is via the stomach, I guess, although the scene made me sick. Police and secret service agents guarded him closely, but there was also a strong military presence, and many areas were cordoned off from the general public.
The crowd was apprehensive, and people muttered nervously to whoever would listen, but the atmosphere was generally festive, and by that I mean this was one killer party. Scruffy teenagers on the run from school and parents, formed small circles and passed around cheap cigarettes and paper-thin joints.
Old bums still working off last night’s drunk, slumped on sidewalk corners, drinking malt liquor from brown paper bags. But the biggest crew was the Arsim, who had come out in style. These boys worked on the rigs all day, all night, for months at a time, pumping black gold up from the Earth’s underbelly. On off days, which came maybe once or twice a month, they withdrew a cool grand or more, intending to spend all of it in one fell swoop, a hedonistic orgy of debauchery and abuse.
You’d go to the pub and see them buying a dozen drinks at a time, enough for the whole crew, slipping hundred dollar bills between the waitresses’ breasts, slapping a young girl’s ass as she quickly scurried by, then cutting up thick lines of coke or methamphetamine in the toilet. I didn’t like ‘em, not one bit.
I’d seen my own little town grow into their big little town, and the law of the streets was to drink and fight. But there was nothing to do, no escaping it, and I wasn’t going to let these thugs ruin my time, this being after all potentially the greatest day of the twenty-first century.
Loud music blasted from truck stereos, tough guys and their scantily clad women hung off the back ends, cracking beers and taking long pulls of JD. I ushered MacIntosh in close, and pointed to the presumed landing pad, directly beneath the ship.
“That’s where we’re headed, my son,” I yelled in his ear, struggling against the noise to be heard. He gave the thumbs up, and we pushed through the dense crowd.
Incapacitated drunks stumbled past, young punks on LSD gazed at us with dilated pupils reminiscent of that great saucer overhead, and rednecks suffering from amphetamine psychosis thrashed each other to the ground. All around it was the smell of hard liquor, the wail of guitar rock, and the sight of the human race in devolution, reverting back to a slithering mass of bottom-feeders. But damned if I was gonna let anything or anyone get in my way!
MacIntosh tugged on my sleeve. “Hey isn’t that Sarah?” he cried.
“Where?” I called back, and he pointed to a strange woman, dazed and confused, lurching through the crowd like a zombie. Her eyes were vacant and distant, her skin a pale blue, her arms outstretched as she tumbled through the crowd.
“What the hell happened to her?” I asked.
“I dunno — she never called back.”
We fought our way to the front and stared up. The glorious ship was still, giving off no heat, just hovering there, a mysterious sphinx in the sky, beautiful, but ominous.
“So whaddaya think’s gonna happen?” MacIntosh asked excitedly.
I thought for a moment. “I guess there’s three possibilities. They either hurt us, help us, or leave us alone. I don’t think they’d come all this way, cause this whole ruckus, and build up our expectations just to leave us alone. As for the other two possibilities, I dunno. With this crowd, anything could happen.”
Suddenly a strange thing occurred. As I finished explaining my thoughts, a great hush fell over the multitude. The car stereos died down, and soon even the drunks and drug-fiends ceased their cries. I looked at the ship, and saw it move. A bright light, like a super-heated flame, shone from the bottom of the vessel, as serpentine landing gear slowly extended like thin, metallic arachnoids from the sides.
Slowly the ship eased down to the prepared landing pad, and all knew the moment had arrived. The hulking vessel came to rest, and long seconds passed before a hitherto unseen portal hissed open, and right onto the red carpet. How about that, I thought, definitely showing up in style.
Police guards called for calm, but the crowd was too bewildered to act, or even to speak. As smoke cleared from the opening, the silhouette of a figure emerged in the doorway, and Morris Surkan, our mayor, approached with Premier Lord and PM Hawkins, still wearing an apron stained with hamburger grease, the proud leader of Earth’s initial inter-galactic diplomacy corps.
The trio crept closer with great trepidation as the creature emerged. The crowd uttered a collective gasp as the being came into sight, a short knobby thing, antennae poking up from its bald skull, one of its right arms, tentacles, claws, or whatever it was, raised in the universal gesture of peace and good will. It wore flowing garbs that shimmered in the low afternoon sun, and despite its massive, disproportioned cranium, and its multiple limbs, and its bizarre insectoid movements, a twitching, backwards crab-walk, it was remarkably humanoid.
The alien scuffled down the gangplank and approached Earth’s early official envoy. They huddled in close, and appeared to reach some kind of consensus, for each of the three men grasped a tentacle in his hand, and turned to the crowd and the cameras with huge grins: gesturing court jesters.
As the photographers moved in closer, each trying to capture a very lucrative moment, the crowd began to whisper, quiet words that soon grew into a roar. All around people chanted and cheered, the party edging closer to the ridiculous climax I knew was coming.
A car radio burst to life with the first chords to “You Shook Me All Night Long,” or some other absurd cock-tingling, hardrock track, and the creature startled and jumped, pulling away from the Earthmen. I wish I could have captured the look on Hawkins face, I thought, as the thing jumped, the man’s ugly puss snarling up, wondering how many points this would cost him in the public opinion polls. The Prime Minister turned to the chief of police and really lashed out at him, demanding that the officers take control and quiet the crowd.
But it was too late. Young men were fighting their way through the mob, using brave fists and empty bottles to thrash their opponents. They wanted in on the action, and rushed the landing pad. The riot cops did the best they could, deflecting half-naked bodies with their shields, but their numbers were too few, and soon the line was broken.
Armed military men now stepped in to guard our visitor and his ship, but the mass of degenerates was too strong, their blood rife with pure, drug-fuelled adrenachrome. Fists and beating sticks flailed high overhead, people all around screamed and shouted. A bloody, trampled body lay to my side. I looked at the pandemonium breaking out all around me, and just shook my head. I hate this city, and I hate my generation, I thought, and glanced at MacIntosh, knowing that he was thinking the same thing.
I cupped my hands to my mouth and cried. “Don’t worry. Don’t be scared. We’re not all like this,” but I knew any effort was in vain. Of all the cities in all the world, they had to make first contact in this one-horse, two-bit hick town. Unless they were seeking answers to anthropological queries about Cro-Mag humanoid evolutionary regression, they’d come to the wrong place.
A can of beer sailed through the air like a grenade assault, and burst at the creature’s feet. A voice followed it. “Hey little guy, suck on that! It’s time to party!”
That seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s — or rather the creature’s — back. The thing, growing more jittery by the minute, watched the can explode, and without hesitation, scrambled back into the ship. Before anyone had any idea what was going on, the ship began to glow a pale orange, and lifted up and away. It blasted off a moment later, gone from sight like a flash in the pan. Casual observers must have wondered, did it all really happen? And how did it go so wrong?
Police regained order, and secured the perimeter, but already the crowd was dissipating as everyone went home, their heads slung low, a sense of lost opportunity, maybe even a little bit of shame. I wasn’t very surprised, and I doubted the visitors really were either. In an ancient universe, on an evolutionary scale, man is removed from the animal realm by only a few genetic mutations, a couple generations; house-broken, but not highly civilized.
“So... what did you think of that?” asked MacIntosh after we’d removed ourselves from the chaos and despair of that town hall tragicomedy.
“Well,” I began pensively, “I'm afraid we won't get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Copyright © 2006 by Mike Oxman