A dazed, short, fat man with a buzz cut stood in the street, waving a handgun. He turned and fired a shot into the empty doorway of an apartment complex. The gunman then crossed the street and disappeared into the doorway.
A white 1956 Oldsmobile rolled along California Street, using the last of its gas. The cars it passed in the street were all empty. A tour bus and an ersatz cable car, empty as well, stood near the entrance of the Mark Hopkins Hotel. The front tires of the Oldsmobile just made it onto the red brick forecourt of the hotel as the car died.
Two people got out. The driver, Dr. Rodriguez from Buenos Aires, had originally come to California to attend a convention on life extension and present his paper on the results of a study of 17 spider monkeys treated with a synthesis of longevity drugs. The passenger, Rita, a striking Korean beauty and a professional escort and masseuse, had been with the doctor at his hotel at the time of The Invasion. They were among the few thousand who had escaped from Los Angeles. At a hundred miles per hour, they had raced past blackened ruins; the horrible images still remained in their unsettled minds.
In San Francisco, they had seen only one other person: a snarling woman dressed and made up as a clown. Rita had gestured wildly and yelled to her, but the angry clown had run off and disappeared behind a mound of burning debris.
With furrowed brows, Dr. Rodriguez watched Rita walk through the revolving glass door into the lobby of the Mark. Upstairs, they found an open suite and Rita collapsed onto the bed. The doctor looked at the back of her bare thighs and for a moment wanted to caress her. His mind was still racing. He looked at the phone on the night stand; he knew it was dead. He sat on a beige velvet couch and tried the TV remote. Dead, of course. Unable to sleep, Rita moaned, got up, and looked through the closets, where she found pieces of a woman’s wardrobe. In the bathroom, she had a sponge bath, using the water she found in a pitcher. She tried on an elegant silver evening gown. Expressionless, she looked at herself in the full-length mirror. She lit a cigarette. She wondered if she was losing her mind.
Night fell, and an all-encompassing blackness blotted out the city. Dr. Rodriguez and Rita sat by the window, looking out at the sky. They watched a dirigible passing above the Transamerica Building like an enormous, slow, gray bullet. A detachment of soldiers parachuted down to the streets. Lights were attached to their helmets. Their eyes were partially hidden behind tinted wraparounds. Rita felt as if she was watching a deranged, speeded-up film as the soldiers began their methodical search.
In a back yard behind a modest house was a small, black terrier named TJ. The dog was looking wildly at a deep crater. A minute earlier, he had witnessed something emerge from it that had stilled his usually persistent bark. The head had resembled the skull of some extinct denizen of the deep. A pulsing green membrane had run down from its thick neck, circling its dully-gleaming torso. The thing had emitted an ear-splitting screech that had had drowned out TJ’s growl, then it had burst into the sky. The dog ran yelping back into the house. The occupants, his owners, had vanished two days prior. The dog whimpered, lay back down, and continued to wait.
The next morning, TJ, following his instinct, ran off down the empty streets. He stopped at an old house where the garage door was open. The dog smelled food cooking somewhere nearby. Cautiously, he looked in. There stood a little girl who squealed with delight at seeing him, but he ran off in fright. TJ was seeking someone more like his previous masters. He stayed hidden while the girl called out, "Here, doggy. Here, doggy."
A while later, the little girl and two other diminutive people came out of the garage and shut the door behind them. Like the little girl, they, too, were deeply tanned, wore blonde wigs and had white lips. All three wore small backpacks and each carried a little rifle. With anxious brown eyes, TJ watched them walk down the snow-covered street and disappear around a corner.
TJ made his way around to the back of the house and sniffed at the air. He saw two old men sitting on a porch swing, wearing party hats, embracing. The men saw the dog, disengaged, and began inviting him, coaxing him, to approach. TJ wagged his tail and gradually went up onto the porch. One man went inside and came back with a dish of unfamiliar food and a bowl of water. TJ lapped greedily at the water with his small red tongue. As the dog drank, he became aware of an enormous shadow approaching. A loud humming sound came from above and one of the men snatched him up protectively and they all rushed inside.
Freak weather conditions came next. A relentless hot wind from some infernal place was followed by a dusting of pale, yellow snow. The sky was filled with static and, to some of the remaining survivors, the dark clouds began to form faces.
Click Here for Part 5 of SKY PIRATES,
by John Shirley