Sam awoke with an uneasy feeling. He'd been out of sorts lately, kind of under the weather. Things seemed amiss; something was out of place.
Sam's stomach rumbled, so he shambled upstairs and made a double-decker turkey sandwich. He then went downstairs and turned on the TV. A news anchorman was reading off a sheet.
"These strange abductions have continued throughout the week, and—"
Sam turned the channel. "Eh. More news." Another newscaster's grim face stared out at Sam.
"...Seems able to explain their mysterious disappearances. Hundreds have reported strange, unexplained marks in the soil, and—"
Again, Sam turned the channel, disgusted. Another newscast.
"—Unbelievable events seem to be the result of extraterrestrial influence. That can be the only explanation, says Dr. Ima Na Lien, Korean-born physicist and professor at the Univ—"
"I hate news!" said Sam as he turned off the TV. He had finished his sandwich, anyway. Still hungry, Sam went back to the fridge and consumed an entire carton of yogurt while the door was open. "Eh." Still hungry. Sam closed the door. Bored and unsated, he went outside to play with Wolfgang, a mentally underprivileged dog that had very serious sociological problems. Drooling, for instance. Consequently, playing with said dog proved entertaining for approximately one nanosecond. "Feh." Boredom.
Back inside, Sam slapped in a Beatles tape, switched it on and sat down to read some IBM DOS manuals. After a few hours, the phone rang.
"Hello," Sam answered apathetically.
"Hey Sam! How's it going?" It was Glen.
"Not too bad. What's up?"
"Nada. Want to work on the display?" Glen asked.
"Sure. I'll be over when I get there."
"Okay, see you then. Bye."
"Bye." Sam hung up, turned off the lights, went upstairs, and found his bike. He locked up and headed for Glen's.
On the way, Sam noted the odd lack of cars on the road. There was no traffic at all. Unusual, he thought, for a Saturday afternoon. All the way to Glen's, he noticed a complete absence of traffic. A few junked-out cars laid gutted by the side of the road as if in some genre post-holocaust movie. Finally, Sam rolled into Glen's driveway. He could hear music blaring from the window, the Clash, he thought. He locked his bike up and went upstairs. The door was open.
Walking into the room, Sam saw a huge skeletal sculpture made of chicken-wire in one corner of the front room. Glen was adding the head to the thing, which stood over ten feet tall, including the addition. Glen was using a stepladder. Sam could see that underneath the chicken-wire was a massive network of gears, wires and complicated electronics.
"Wow," said Sam, closing the door. "That's great."
"Pretty cool, huh?" Glen said, stepping off the ladder so Sam could see. Stage blood drooled out of the mouth, from between inch-long ivory white fangs. The creature had eyes made of slime-colored gel that were lit from behind. All in all, it was an evil-looking thing.
"I'd hate for that to come to life," Sam mused.
"No shit," Glen responded. "And come to life it does. Check it out." With that, he picked up what looked like a large homemade VCR remote, and pushed a few buttons. Wires dangling from the remote swayed with the movement.
Suddenly, the beast began walking forward, remarkably quickly and with surprising fluidity. It looked like an AT-AT from Star Wars, or some kind of Ray Harryhausen animation. King Kong scaled down to a Halloween prop.
Sam was amazed. "That is unbelievable." he commented. Glen smiled, pushing other buttons and moving levers. The robotic creature responded by gnashing its teeth, moving its clawed, fully articulated hands and making kung-fu motions with its arms. The halogens in its eyes blinked on and off. Sam just shook his head, helplessly awestruck. "That really is wild,” he said.
Glen turned it off, cleaned up, and, changing the subject, said, "So Sam, have you been watching the news lately?"
"Uh... not really, no."
"You haven't heard about these weird happenings that are sweeping the nation?"
"No, Glen, tell me about it!" Sam said sarcastically.
Glen smirked. "Just watch." He turned on the TV and started applying papier-mâché to the skeletal frame he had been working on.
Sam sat down, forced to watch more of the same bullshit he'd turned off at home. A bunch of media hound journalists making another big deal out of some cockamamie story or other. There was a guy holding a microphone shouting frantically while a bunch of idiots in military uniforms holding guns and other weapons went running around behind him like chickens with their heads cut off. The camera was moving around erratically as if the cameraman were running or something. What was that? Some kind of a flying saucer? Whoa. What the fuck, was this the War Of The Worlds TV show that bombed? Or "V", or something? But Glen had said this was news. Probably some military coup or more of that Soviet bullshit. But what could that huge ship-like object be? Gotta be a prop. Some kind of a joke. Yeah, joke. Ha. Funny. Shit, man what was coming out of that thing? Ha, ha, good one. Jesus. This is unreal, Sam thought.
The military men on TV took up defensive positions and a couple of them fell down screaming, their blood coating the lens of one live camera. The angle switched to another camera, one that was moving even more erratically than the first. In this shot, Sam could see the cameraman running along with a small group of soldiers, toward an archway behind a military vehicle. There were some men already hunkered down behind it, one with a two-way radio, and it looked like he was trying to reach somebody on it and wasn't having much luck, because he kept hitting it and putting it up to his ear. The camera, along with the group, came around the jeep, and on the other side you could see a man on a stretcher, writhing around in pain from his obviously near-mortal wounds. He was coated in his own blood, which emanated from long, deep cuts all over his body. He was reaching for the camera, mouthing words Sam couldn't hear, for the sound on the camera was off, or not getting through to the network.
Suddenly the picture changed. Geraldo Rivera stood in front of the Capital Building in D. C. with about forty or fifty National Guardsmen, as if he had just taken it over. That'd be great, Sam thought. We are now a communist dictatorship, and Geraldo Rivera is in control, thank you very much. Sam could imagine living in such a country all too easily. Geraldo's face peered down from huge posters and video screens all over the nation, and a quiet, soothing voice said, you will watch the Geraldo Rivera show every day at five, six, and ten. Scary.
But that was not the case. The sound was now on, and Geraldo was walking calmly backward into the guardsmen, saying that the Capital Building was definitely a safe haven for now. Safe from what? Sam wondered. Sam realized that Geraldo was surrounded by the soldiers; they were protecting him. Either that or they were going to turn on him any second and gang up on him for misrepresenting the military on his show about National Reserve Trainees and the Cokefreak Transvestite Generals who love them. But for now, at least, it looked like he was safe from them, and they were moving as a group into the Capital Building. Geraldo continued.
"Yes, it seems that for the moment we are safe. But who knows when the aliens will strike next, or if they will strike at all? For comment on this, we will soon be interviewing Phillipe Lintel, an expert on extraterrestrials who claims the government knew about this all along and could have prevented this horrible catastrophe. But first, let's go back to Dan in the studio and recap the events that, yesterday and today, may have signaled the beginning of the end of the world. Dan?"
Sam couldn't believe his ears. As he watched, the CBS newseye logo appeared on the screen like some surveillance monitor and faded to the image of Dan Rather. Sam looked at Glen and assumed an incredulous expression.
"So the world is ending." Sam said, bewildered.
"Yeah, pretty cool, huh? Glen didn't seem too concerned. He continued applying the dripping wet strips of papier-mâché to the beast, which was becoming quickly covered with the stuff.
"So what exactly is going on?" Sam asked, scratching his head and squinting.
"Well, watch, and you'll find out." Glen responded, pointing to the TV with one finger. He noticed some flour-and-water about to drip off of it, and put it in his mouth, licking it off. "Mmm," he said, looking at Sam with big eyes. "Tasty."
Sam laughed and turned back to the tube. There were newsgraphics on the screen showing the last two days' events, from the destruction of a small town that apparently was called Grover's Mill to the very recent takeover of Washington. In between those events, it seemed tens of thousands of Americans had been killed by aliens who for some reason had come to earth and started slaying them indiscriminately without any consideration at all for their human or even civil rights. Most politically incorrect.
As Dan Rather's voiceover explained, the most recent events in Washington led experts to believe that there was little hope in an organized American or even human revolt against the extraterrestrials, for all and every weapon we had at our command had been used to no avail.
The graphics faded into a live shot, and Dan Rather said in a hurried voice, "Now for an important live report, back to the Capital Building with Geraldo." Indeed, Geraldo was there, holding the mike up to the mouth of a short nerdly gentleman inside the Capital Building which seemed to be in remarkably good condition even though it was charred and blackened from what looked to be large weapons fire. Sam could see that the walls were on the verge of crumbling, due to giant holes that were almost certainly caused by artillery. In the background behind the encircling ring of National Guard troops, military vehicles stood at the ready, their own guns and armaments manned by helmeted soldiers. With one hand on his earphone, Geraldo spoke into his shirt mic.
"Before we get a report on the cover-up, Dan, we have a team with a lead out in the field which may prove informative."
Rather's voice came on from the studio. "Can you set this up for us, Geraldo?"
"Sure, Dan. About twelve minutes ago, at three-forty, uh, Eastern Standard Time, a group of elite forces attacked and breached an alien attack ship and were inside for about three of those twelve minutes before they were forced to withdraw. All of the members of that team were, uh, killed except one, who claims the aliens vaporized them with weapons unknown on earth. This one soldier, who is even now on the verge of dying from incredibly strange wounds, demands air time in spite of his condition and insists his report is crucial to the survival of mankind."
Rather's voice came once again from the TV as Geraldo and the nerdly gentleman waited on camera and fidgeted slightly inside the macho-looking group of Guardsmen. "This is live, then?"
Rivera nodded. "Yes, Dan, and I must caution viewers, this is absolutely unedited tape and possibly not suitable for young children or the weak-hearted." He shook his head and smiled. "Although, I can say, this is hardly the time to be worried about violating FCC conduct code."
"Or ratings." Rather added.
Geraldo nodded. "Or ratings."
The video feed switched back to the camera near the military vehicle and the archway, and the Soldier on the stretcher seemed to be moving quite a bit less than he had been. An IV tube was taped into his arm, and a group of harried-looking paramedics were attending to his wounds, although he was obviously about to die. It looked to Sam as if he was dead already, and he couldn't understand why he was still moving. The guy must have incredible willpower, training, or drugs to still be alive. It occurred to Sam that this was the most graphic television he had ever seen on any network, cable, broadcast or otherwise.
An off-screen arm held a mike near the dying man's mouth, while the camera slowly zoomed in on his face. He looked to be a burly young man of about twenty-five or so, handsome in his clean-shaven if blood-strewn face. He had dark hair and features, and wore an olive-green cap and camos. His shirt was open to the waist, and various lifesaving devices were hooked up to his body. A pillow under his head made it possible for him to view the camera, and for viewers to see his face completely.
He started to speak, but a little blood came out of his mouth and was quickly wiped away by a nearby medical technician. The arm holding the mike moved a little, and Sam could hear the muffled sounds of the mike moving around coming from the TV. In the background, a voice over a radio was saying, "Clear the area. Clear the area." Finally, in a hoarse but clear voice, the soldier spoke.
“They didn’t notice us at first. They just sat there completely still, looking at each other as if they were communicating non-verbally." The soldier was remarkably lucid for his condition, Sam thought. "Then, when the team commander began looking around, directing us to cover the aliens and take everything that wasn't bolted down, they started talking in high-pitched buzzing voices, and I felt like they were talking to us, not to each other because I got the impression that we were not welcome in their craft and that we were to leave immediately. The aliens stood up, uh, there were three of them," the soldier paused momentarily, turning his head slightly to spit blood, and continued as a medic brushed his lips with a wet cloth, "and they looked us directly in the eyes. God, their eyes, their eyes..." The soldier began sobbing and shaking his head back and forth. "What I saw in that ship—we all saw it—instantly numbed my mind when I recognized its purpose. It was horrible. I can't—” The soldier closed his eyes and grimaced as if the very thought of what he saw was killing him. He took a deep breath, with some effort, and moved on from the topic. "They picked up these little devices, and pointed them at us, commanding us with their minds to leave at once. My team commander gave the order to fire, which we did. Five of us with automatic assault weapons weren't enough to even faze them. The aliens just stood there, rounds bouncing off them like Superman, and pointed those little rayguns at us. After our weapons had reached overheating, we stopped firing and followed our orders to reload. We'd only gotten the old rounds ejected when they opened up on us. I was in back, reloading, which is why I survived, I guess. The three in front were instantly vaporized, like fuckin' water on fire." The soldier choked spasmodically for a moment, coughed up some more blood, and asked for water. He was given a drink and cleaned up some more by medics on the scene, and then he continued. His voice sounded worse, and he periodically sputtered and choked on the blood that was running down his throat.
"The guy in front of me and I began backing out, but he was so devastated by their weapons that he just collapsed and died. Whuff—" the soldier inhaled hard and choked again, tensing up into a ball before the medical staff around him pushed him flat back onto the stretcher. He started shaking, and swallowed.
"I backed out and ran for my life; my whole body was numb. I turned to look back, and I saw the aliens standing at the doorway to their craft holding their hands up like they were waving. Chrrk—” He coughed and tried hard to breathe; he was dying. The medics moved in between his body and the camera to administer aid. He motioned them away, apparently, for they moved out of the way again, and he looked directly into the camera with red bloodshot eyes. He got up on one elbow, tears streaking his face. Sam felt sorry for him, empathetic. It was easy to imagine himself as this Joe Average soldier, except of course, that he was Special Forces or whatever. It could be anybody. The soldier spoke again, perhaps for the last time.
"Mr. President, if you're watching," he said, coughing up blood, "if you're watching (wheeze), listen please, sir. (wheeze wheeze) The aliens have a device in their power that (wheeze) we are powerless to stop. (wheeze) In their craft, I saw these little (wheeze) black pyramids on their control panel, and (wheeze wheeze) I knew when I was in contact with their minds that (wheeeze whzzaok) they were going to... (hack) ...they told me... (wheeze hack)... They are going to use them to destroy all of us. (hurrk wheeze cough)...We have... oh God" The soldier was coughing up blood now almost continually, "...ruined our planet, which is their property. It belongs (gurrk) to th-hh-hem. They are killing us wh-hi-th those pyramids. Our only hope is to neutralize their pyramids with...(gackk wheeze kk-kk-cough) our minds. They operate on a frequency of thought. I picked all of this up from mental contact, that's why (ghurkk wheeze) they tried to kill us, they thought I'd never make it...MR. PRESIDENT," he said, sitting up all the way and looking directly into the camera, "TELL ALL AMERICANS TO KILL THEM WITH THEIR MINDS!! THINK THEM DEAD!!" The soldier was becoming frantic; ripping what was left of his body to shreds in his fever. He was shaking his head back and forth as if waking from a bad dream, spraying blood all over the medics and the crew. "FOCUS ON THEIR PYRAMIDS WITH YOUR MINDS AND MAKE THEM EXPLODE!! IT'S THE ONLY WAY!! DEAD, DEAD, DEAD!! THOUGHTKILL THEM!!" The soldier kept on screaming but his voice was gone and instead there was only a stream of gore coming out of his mouth. His head was coming gradually unglued and before the medical team could calm him down and prevent him from tearing himself apart with his paroxysms, he was dead. The bloody grounds and astonished personnel were a testament to the soldier's statement, that the world was indeed at an end if it could not be prevented.
The offscreen arm withdrew the mic, and a medic threw a sheet over the stretcher and the soldier's dead body. The white sheet became instantly soaked with blood, and the stretcher was picked up and carried offscreen.The picture switched to Geraldo and the nerdly gentleman, who, along with the National Guardsmen, stood watching what was now a picture of themselves on their offscreen video monitor in complete and utter shock. No one moved, spoke or even breathed. All around in the background, noises of various troop movements around the building were audible, and in one corner of the screen, Sam could see through an artillery hole in the wall that a fighter plane was flying by. Quiet sounds of war were the only noise for a moment in the Capital Building, until the voice of Dan Rather from the studio broke the silence.
"Uh, Geraldo, that certainly was a chilling report, live from the field."
The screen split into two sections, one of Dan and one of the Capital Building scene, Geraldo holding the mic at his waist, arms dangling. He was staring off into space like he couldn't move or speak, which seemed to indeed be the case for him as well as the troops surrounding him. The nerdly gentleman fidgeted, and straightened his tie.
"Geraldo," Dan Rather prodded, "What is your situation? Can you hear me?"
No reaction from Geraldo.
The nerdly gentleman picked up Geraldo's mike, and looked into the camera. Grabbing the earphone out of Rivera's ear, he spoke into the mike.
"Dan? Uh, Mr. Rather, are you there?" He stuck the earphone in, and adjusted it.
Rather nodded on the left-hand side of the screen, surprised at the development. He rolled with it. "Uh, yes, we are receiving you. Is Geraldo Rivera all right? Can you tell us what's going on there?"
With a dramatic raise of his eyebrow, the nerd said, "Yes, Dan, but first, I'd like to tell you about the cover-up of this thing that could be said to be the worst in the hist—"
Geraldo Rivera came out of his trance, looking at the nerdly gentleman, and hit him with his open hand, knocking him down off camera. "Shut up, asshole," he said, and walked toward the camera, offscreen. The feed went dead, and the screen widened back to a full-sized Dan Rather, who segued out of it well and went on about the implications and so on. Sam's attention strayed as the newscast went on into recap mode.
"Wow." Sam remarked, looking at Glen, Who was atop the stepladder holding a strip of dripping papier-mâché.
Glen shrugged. "Yep. Wow." He continued laying strips of papier-mâché on the nearly-covered beast. "It's a pretty strange deal, isn't it?"
Sam got up, incredulous of Glen's apparent ambivalence to the situation. It almost made Sam angry.
"Why Don’t you give a fuck about all this? And why do you keep working on that thing? As if there's going to be a Halloween this year!" Sam was in his face, practically shouting.
Glen stepped down to floor level, and faced Sam. "Yo, Sam, dude, chill out. It's not like it's the end of th— uh, forget it. Look, It's just like the War In The Gulf, the Russia coup, all that shit. It's stuff on TV, which I think is interesting, but life goes on, right? It doesn't affect me. I have lived for twenty-three years, and every one of those years there's been a Halloween, so why should I expect this one to be any different? I mean, for all we know this might be a tactic by the President to get re-elected. He probably invented the whole thing, so it would make him look good when he solves the problem. What's a few million dead, anyway, right? Too damn many people on this planet, anyway. I'm going to assume that things will go on as normal, because if they don’t, it won't matter what I do. Meanwhile, all these idiots are running around panicking—they're going to look mighty stupid if this is all just a joke. Don’t you remember back when Orson Welles did that War of the Worlds radio program, and people went off killing themselves because they believed the world was really ending and aliens were invading? Hell, man, Halloween is only a few days away; this is probably some kind of 50th anniversary deal or something. Besides, I'm covered in any case. I sent in my thirty bucks to the Church of the SubGenius two paychecks ago." Glen picked up his bowl of flour-water and climbed back up the stepladder to put the finishing touches on the beast.
Sam knew that Glen had lost his mind.
"I'm gonna call Brian," Sam said, moving purposefully toward the telephone.
"Don’t bother," said Glen, "The phones are so tied up, you can't get through. After I called you, I tried to order a pizza for ten minutes and got some military recording telling me to hang up and not try again." Glen held his nose and said in a nasal operator's voice, "Lines are busy at this time."
Sam felt trapped. He stared at the TV and tried to think of what to do, where to go. Glen had always seemed fairly mentally stable; now he happily worked on holiday arts and crafts while the world was on fire. Jesus.
Sam picked up the remote and turned to CNN. More reports of the alien massacre. At one point before a commercial, the words WAR OF THE WORLDS zoomed up to the screen in brilliant post-production letters and sat there fluctuating and gleaming with little metallic glints and streaks as if light were panning over them. Sam couldn't stand it.
"Aauugh!" he screamed, turning it off. He sat down Indian-style, and cradled his head in his hands.
"Hey," Glen called down from the stepladder, "Whad'ya turn that off for? CNN has the best coverage of any network, man!" He relaxed. "Oh, well, I guess it's cool. Probably won't have anything new for awhile, anyway." Glen got down again and set his bowl on the floor. "Look, Sam," he said, "I'm getting kinda tired of this. Wanna play some D&D?"
Sam was just about to hit Glen when a very loud noise like rushing air came from outside. As wind from the open window blew through Sam's hair, he already knew what was causing it, and his feeling of terror increased tenfold. The aliens had landed in town, and they were right outside Glen's house.
Glen busted ass over to the window to get a better look. "Wow! Look at that!" Against his better judgement, Sam went over to the window to see that an alien craft had indeed landed in Glen's driveway, crushing two cars doing so. The craft was identical to the one Sam had seen on television just minutes ago. A slit appeared in the metal of the ship, and a hole grew from it which became a rectangular entrance, or in this case, an exit.
"Cool," exclaimed Glen, proving in Sam's mind beyond the shadow of a reasonable doubt that Glen was in fact certifiable. As Sam watched, two Communion-style aliens came to the opening holding rayguns, and their very appearance—short, thin greyish-pink-skinned beings with big, bald heads and large, almond-shaped liquid-black eyes—was disturbing enough to send Sam right 'round the twist. Reality then bent for Sam, and he enjoyed the pleasant feeling of his mind snapping. The creatures looked around and seemed to be generally enjoying the day.
Glen perked up and slapped his forehead. "Shit! The paint's not even on it yet!" Sam watched dumbfounded as Glen ran over and dragged the beast into the center of the room by the newspaper it was standing on. "C'mon, Sam, give me a hand with this!" he said, grabbing a can of black spray paint and throwing it to Sam. Sam caught it reactively.
Glen got another can, pulled the cap off of it, and began spray-painting the still-wet papier-mâché as if the world depended on it. Sam looked out the window, and saw the aliens had descended down a ramp onto the driveway, and were currently heading into the house slowly, enjoying the walk. One of them gestured with the hand holding the raygun to the house, and the other nodded. Sam's mind wasn't quite far-gone enough to prevent him to feel renewed fear at the sight of them.
"C'MON, MAN!" Glen screamed at Sam. Sam moved away from the window, toward the beast, unsure why. For lack of anything better to do, and because he felt anything else would be just as hopeless in defense of the alien beings, he helped spray-paint the robotic beast black. Glen nodded, going up and down in long strokes with the paint can. "That's it, that's it," he said, grinning.
Sam was disturbed by Glen's plainly crazy manner, but was at this point crazy enough himself that he simply followed suit, unable to get a grip what was going on. They had finished about thirty per cent of the painting when they heard the downstairs door open and close.
"Shit!" Glen said, redoubling his effort. Sam was somehow struck with the gravity of the situation, and quickened his pace too, though for the life of him he didn't know why. Might as well get the thing Same before I get vaporized, Sam thought.
In the next ninety seconds, Glen and Sam painted the rest of the beast, a feat that probably deserved a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Scant seconds after they were finished, Sam heard the front door open and close, and from Glen's room the two could hear the aliens walking down the hall.
Sam collapsed in a pile, unable to cope. Glen hit the lights, dropped the spray can and picked up the remote, turning it on. The beast, now complete, powered up and came to life, eyes blinking and blood flowing. Ten feet of living Halloween machine was prepared for battle in Glen's room, and not a second too soon.
The aliens came into view in the doorway to the bedroom. They were holding the little rayguns in their hands, looking like something out of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Glen moved around behind the beast, and the aliens followed him with their huge liquid eyes. Sam burst into tears.
The aliens began making terrifying buzzing sounds, sounds that Sam figured no human ears were ever meant to hear. The sounds were painful to listen to; painful and frightening. Glen didn't seem to hear them; he was completely absorbed in controlling the beast, which he now sent after the aliens with much clawing and gnashing of teeth. The aliens looked surprised.
Before they could react, the beast tore into them, knocking them over and stepping on them with bony clawed feet. Glen controlled it to immediately grab one in each remote-controlled prehensile foot and fall onto its back, where it proceeded to rake them with its feet while holding them with its hands like a huge skeletal cat. The extraterrestrials dropped their rayguns and fought to get away, to little effect. Sam was still slumped in a paralyzed pile on the floor.
Glen turned to Sam with eyes wide. "GET OUT!! IT'S ME THEY WANT!! MAKE A BREAK FOR IT! RUN!" Sam could somehow sense that he was right. Sam shook the fear from his head and bolted for the door. Just as he crossed over the threshold, he again heard the buzzing sound that made his teeth hurt, and turned his head to see they had broken free of the beast. Sam took off down the stairs four at a time and was out the front door in only a few seconds.
As he ran, Sam could hear the sounds of battle from the open window; the unmistakable crunch of the beast's jaws closing on grey flesh, and the horrible gurgling of what had to be Glen's blood frying along with the rest of his vaporizing body. Sam shed a quick tear for his friend, but realized that he had really lost it back there and probably deserved to die anyway. So, running away from the house and down the driveway to his bike, Sam ignored the open spacecraft that he might possibly have learned to operate before the aliens returned. As it was, Sam took the low-tech option: he unlocked his bike and made for high ground. Something inside Sam told him that the grey-skinned demons from beyond had made short work of Glen and were now after him. He felt pursued like the fox in a hunt.
Pedaling furiously away, Sam's mind raced even faster than he did. Where to go? Who is safe? He thought. Sam had never before felt alone in the world, trapped among millions. Heading north, Sam rode his bike faster and harder than he ever had before, sweating with the effort of escape. Knowing that there were no cars on the road, he paused for no traffic control of any kind, feeling none of the spite or glee that he might usually when breaking the law. His mind was focused on one single imperative: sanctuary.
Coasting throughout a normally busy intersection against the light, Sam saw from the clouds of dense black smoke that something downtown was on fire. No, check that; downtown itself was on fire. Sam rode towards the smoke—where there's smoke there's fire, and at least there were bound to be some other people there among whom he could hide. It took him about three minutes at a slightly reduced pace to get to city hall. From there, what he saw gladdened his heart and lifted a great weight from his shoulders.
There, down the block, a group of people, or rather, an angry mob had an alien craft turned over and burned to a cinder. The heat from the burning extraterrestrial substance the ship was made from had caught most of the nearby buildings on fire, and the smoke coming from the ship was the most noxious Sam had ever smelled. But that was not the interesting thing; the crowd had cornered four aliens in the street and was in the process of torturing them. Sam thought they looked like children, cornered and pathetic.
As he rode toward the scene, Sam noticed that a large monitor had been set up in the street to which loudspeakers had been connected. The image of a middle-aged man was gesticulating wildly onscreen, and his voice from the loudspeakers was inciting the crowd in a manner Sam could liken only to an evangelist. Robert Tilton Vs. the Aliens, he thought.
Sam reached the crowd and threw his bike down on the pavement. After only a few moments, he grasped the purpose of the monitor and the loudspeakers; it appeared to be some organized government media barrage to coordinate citizens against the aliens. The man on the screen was instructing people how to connect their minds together to psychically destroy the invading beings. The crowd was now moving together; the man on the screen was shouting for them to join hands, forming a chain of human thought. Sam complied although he couldn't help feeling like he was part of some intergalactic Harmonic Convergence. He felt a group hug coming on and he didn't like it.
Sam took the hand of a man next to him and that of a girl to his left. The girl smiled at Sam, a sort of gee-we're-all-caught-up-in-this-oh-well smile. Sam gripped her hand in understanding and looked to the screen. There was a pause as the crowd waited for further instruction.
Suddenly, the cornered aliens raised their thin eerie-looking arms, and like magicians, released an energy field that dispersed throughout the crowd surrounding them. Sam saw the inner circle of people shudder and get thrown back just before he felt the shockwave hit him. Through the hand of the man he received an electromagnetic charge like liquid fire and passed it to the girl. Sam's body felt like it was melting; his synaptic circuits overloaded and shut down and every hair on his body singed slightly. The wave passed through the crowd and then just as quickly was gone, breaking the connection. Helpless, the people in the crowd could only stand uselessly and look; they were stunned and in a state of psychic shock. Sam's overloaded senses perceived the aliens pushing their way through the deadened crowd. They were escaping.
As if to make matters worse, a familiar rushing of air noise down the street signaled the appearance of another alien craft, and Sam was sure even through his dulled brain that it was the same one whose occupants had killed Glen, and almost gotten him, too. As the crowd recovered, the aliens broke free and walked casually toward the oncoming craft. The ship shuddered slightly, and then came to a stop hovering directly over them. A flash of green light brighter than the day streaked out from the ship and struck the escaped aliens, and they vanished. Sam, along with the other bewildered members of the crowd, felt a sense of loss that they had successfully escaped.
The alien craft began to reorient itself, rotating slightly and slowly rising above the charred remains of the buildings of downtown. Below, the crowd on the street was silent, watching the ship and trying to shake off the dullness of the concussion that had hit them. The crackling of fire came from all around, and not even the spacecraft itself made a sound as it lifted up through the city sky. Sam began looking for his bike.
Someone was screaming. Sam looked, saw that a kid about fifteen was pointing to the monitor, some heavy metal dickhead. Making a ruckus. What was he saying? Sam looked at the monitor. The sound was off, someone else was trying to reconnect the leads; they must've come out during the energy surge. The televangelist-guy was gesticulating and moving his eyebrows a lot and suddenly his voice came on real loud, screaming about the Psychic Kill. He had a crystal on, Sam noticed, but he figured it was probably just for New Age appeal. The man was saying that the combined willpower of the group focused on the little black pyramids on the aliens' control panel would destroy their ships.
The crowd was getting charged from the man's rhetoric; they began nodding and grouping together again, taking hands and looking upward to the ship that was climbing steadily up and away. Sam concentrated on the objective as the evangelistic national leader ranted furiously with much facial bravado, commanding groups all over to destroy. Gradually, as the crowd gathered energy and strength, Sam felt his will and power give in to the collective consciousness. He felt himself swimming in an electric pool of voices, a symphony of destructive hate that was a weapon as old as mankind, a weapon that had always been there for man to use—he had only to access it.
The evangelist's vocal cues had come to a climax with the group's power buildup, and with his command of "Release!"—the crowd all at once un-tensed their hands, forcing their collective mental energy through a channel the size of a pin at the nearly-gone spaceship far above. The spectacle was impressive. The ship glowed briefly with a yellow fire, and then exploded quietly into slivers of white-hot metallic debris, which rained down harmlessly over the crowd and the rest of the city. The crowd began to disperse, some members indeed feeling the need for hugging and other emotional displays which turned Sam's already growling stomach.
Sam found his bike and rode off towards home, feeling drained....
...And woke up. A dream...it had all been a dream, he thought, reaching for the glass of water on the nightstand and shaking his head. Shit, what a deal. The darkness of Sam's room was barely pierced by the line of daylight that came from around the curtained window, illuminating the various books and magazines strewn about the floor. Running his hands through his hair, Sam took a drink and set the glass down. The sleep was long in leaving his brain; Sam yawned and just sat in bed for a moment, thinking on his strange nightmare. Today is Halloween, he remembered. Big day.
Grabbing the blanket from his bed, Sam got up and wrapped it around him like a huge towel. He walked to the fridge, opened it, and got a nearly-empty bottle of cola out, uncapped it and finished it off, throwing the remains into the trash. While the door was open, Sam found some crackers and cheese that would go no great distance in sating his hunger, but hey, it was food. He also procured a fresh bottle of caffeinated beverage with which to awaken his mind, which he found was still focused on his dream.
Sam walked back to the bed and sat down to eat, drink, and cogitate. No way, he thought, that whole premise is just bullshit. After all, it was impossible to destroy anything with your mind, whether you linked it together with a bunch of yahoos or not—even if such were possible. Sam munched, and shook his head. Psychic stuff just doesn't work like that. Why would I have such a stupid New-Age dream? It didn't make sense. Aliens couldn't be stopped by mind power, no fuckin' way. If they existed at all, and Sam wasn't all too sure about that anyway. Nope, if aliens came down, God, guns and guts would be the only three to set us free.
Having finished his small repast, Sam lay back down on the bed, and closed his eyes. Even though he had just awakened, he had an uneasy feeling; he'd been feeling out of sorts lately. Kind of under the weather. He gradually fell into a relaxed state of being, resting comfortably.
A sound. Sort of a pop, a crack like a twig snapping. From the closet area. Sam raised his head, looked over to see what was up. Nothing, probably. Old houses make noises. Sam was just freaked out after having had such a weird nightmare, that's all. He laid his head back down and closed his eyes.
Buzzing noises, now.
Sam quickly wondered what the chances were that he was insane or dreaming again. He was scared. SCARED. His fears were confirmed when he opened his eyes to see that aliens were in his room, four of them. Real ones. They didn't look exactly like the ones from Communion, they were slightly taller, had rounder eyes, but they were definitely not men from the realty bureau. Sam sat up fast and reached under the bed to grab the nunchaku he'd stored there for just such a special occasion. The extraterrestrials advanced, buzzing loudly and scaring Sam the rest of the way out of his mind. They were coming for him.
Sam's first swing as they came within range had no effect. It landed home, but the alien it hit didn't seem bothered by it at all. They just kept coming, with a cold, clinical attitude that Sam felt was not friendly at all. His second swing was more out of desperation than a serious attack, as he put no real power in it and broke into a sobbing fit, trying to back away into the corner. They reached out for him. Sam screwed up his courage, and willed all his mental energy into a micro-thin beam of kinetic energy charged to the max with all the fear and emotional anguish he was feeling. Just as the lead alien grabbed him, Sam let loose with every ounce of psychic force he could muster, sapping the rest of his mind with the effort.
It didn't work.
Click Below to read
THE PERFECT PUMPKIN
THE PERFECT PUMPKIN