Them and Us

John died the moment the aliens arrived. Not physically – that was to happen in five-to-six seconds – but mentally at least. He’d been watching and scheming for a way out since that day.

The bitter air battered him as he fell. He hoped Jane would find the letter detailing his cowardice’s victory, how he wanted to end things on his terms, not theirs.

Them.

Infiltrating the human race like a symptomless disease. Silent, hidden. But not from John.

His last thoughts were of Jane, and the world he was leaving her in. Then the earth screamed up and everything went bl–

* * * *

“The aliens have arrived,” Jane said softly.

Clint Hooper, a stocky detective of twenty long years, narrowed his eyes.

Jane noted his confusion. It matched hers. “The aliens have arrived, that’s what it says.”

She handed him the letter and waited as he read it. There was plenty more after that, mainly of a personal nature. But the moment her fiancée’s body hit the earth, things had spiralled out of control and out of her hands.

Hooper looked up. “History of mental illness?”

Her cold cheeks flushed under the gentle warmth of a solitary tear. “I… I… I don’t know.”

The Removal Man

I’m not ashamed of my job. I’m good at it, and people are willing to pay. It’s a public service, nothing more.

This one’s an abuser. A fiend. He beat his wife until she no longer looked like his wife. She survived, though, and paid me in one large installment.

“What happened?” I ask her. That’s how I map out my route.

Shove, slap, punch, kick, kick, slap, punch, punch, punch, punch…

When I’m done, I’m actually tired. Old stumpy here isn’t; he passed out half-way through. Lucky.

The wife leaves happy, then my Cleaner clocks in.

Next up? The rapist.

Am I Dead Yet?

I’m in a wheat field. A bloody wheat field? What the hell. How on earth did I get here? Not sure. It’s kinda nice though. The sun’s pretty strong, but not too strong, and there’s a gentle wind tickling my skin. This I actually rather pleasant. Still, isn’t it a bit strange I don’t remember how I ended up here? I think I know the answer, but, to be honest, I don’t feel like answering it right now.

There seems to be the softest hint of a woodland to the East and the outline of a house, or it may be a barn, to the South. Otherwise, I’m entirely surrounded by crops, with dusty soil under foot. I reach inside my chino pockets and find a pair of sunglasses. That was handy. I slip them on and the beautifully blue sky turns a shade of brown. Less attractive, sure, but gentler on the eyes. Hey, I’m wearing chinos.

The sun slowly warms by neck as I wander South; goosebumps creep across my skin. Damn, I haven’t felt anything near this good in years. Sun. Neck. I check and I’m wearing a vest. Now, while I don’t remember how I got here, I have a strong feeling I’m not usually much of a vest wearer. My pale arms are evidence of that. I suppose it’s possible I was drugged, dressed in a vest, and left in the middle of a wheat field for some nefarious purpose, but as I meander toward the house, or perhaps it’s a barn, not only do I find it highly unlikely, I’m not even sure I care.

As I near the house, or barn, I still can’t rightly tell, the smell of smoke fills my nostrils. It reminds me of the fires my father would in an old oil drum outside our house when I was a kid. I can recall my childhood, it seems. We owned a little property out in the country with a generous area of land surrounding it. My old man would raise this rusty old drum up onto a couple of pieces of rotted wood and burn anything and everything he could find. When the wind turned, it would blow the smoke back toward the house, enraging my mother and stinking up the clothes on the washing line. There are no washing lines here, however, or mothers or fathers, not any more. I follow my nose.

The area surrounding the barn, not a house apparently, becomes heavy with smoke as I draw closer. Now, perhaps it’s because I’m a little discombobulated, or perhaps it’s because I’m drugged, or perhaps it’s because I feeling pretty confident in my new vest, but rather than turning around and out of the thick smoke, I head in to it, towards the barn. I want to see what’s inside. I reach inside the back pocket of my chinos and find a handkerchief. That really is handy.

I cover my mouth and stride forward. Big, confident strides. After a few more powerful steps, I feel my chest begin to tighten. After another, I cough. I take one more, cough. Again, cough. I begin to feel light-headed. I cough again. And again. I need to get out of here. I turn around but see nothing but smoke. I look up to the sky, to the sun, but it’s not there. Nothing but an ugly grey, shrouded in brown. I pull off the sunglasses and drop them to the floor. My hand’s shaking. I feel a tightness rise in my chest again and I splutter another cough. Where’s the barn gone? Or was it a house? Damn my head hurts. Everything around me begins to turn from greyish brown to black, and I feel myself losing balance. If I’m not careful, I’ll–

THUD

What was that?

THUD

There it is again.

THUD THUD

Where am I? I smell smoke, but see nothing but black. I try to focus. Oh, my eyes are closed. I force them open and see a speedometer. The plastic casing surrounding it is covered in dust. I drag my head up and fall back into the driver’s seat. I’m in a car. I rub my forehead and feel the rounded indentation the car’s steering wheel has left. How long was I out? I rub my eyes but let myself keep them shut for a second. Think, James, think. There was a field, it was sunny, you had a vest on. A vest? None of that was real.

I flash open my eyes and sideways-glance out of the window to my right.

THUD THUD SCRATCH

There’s a man there. Only, he doesn’t quite look like a man. Most of his hair has fallen out, and his skin appears… melty. To say he looks malnourished would be to do him a kindness. And his eyes. Dead, soulless, fixed. Fixed on the food currently on display on the other side of the glass. On me. He’s got some friends with him. They’re groping the car too.

THUD SCRATCH THUD

I hadn’t realised it, but I had just been experiencing those precious few moments when you first wake up and the world hasn’t quite had the chance to beat you down yet. They’re precious because they don’t last. After, you wish they could have gone on and on, but you don’t realise just how precious they are until they’re over. And they’re over now.

I remember. I’ve been in this car for six days and nights. Or so I guess. I judge days and nights by how many times I sleep, but I have no idea how long I sleep for any more. I feel weak. My food ran out three days ago, water yesterday. I’m going to have to move soon, or I’ll die sat in this fucking car with those things groping the metal around me. The sick fucks. I’ll have to move soon, I will move soon. I’m so hungry. Maybe I’ll get lucky and the gropers won’t chase me and I’ll find some food and a safe place to rest in peace for a while. Maybe I’ll get that lucky, like winning the old lotto. I’ll have to move soon. Will I be that lucky? I think I know the answer, but, to be honest, I don’t feel like answering it right now.

The Game

Hi all. Four drabbles, all interconnected for your reading pleasure. Enjoy, etc!

The Game

Earlier today I spoke with Professor Edmund Runcorn regarding what has already been coined the ‘Pine Woods Incident’. He had this to say:

“At 08:14am this morning a large meteorite struck the north-west town of Netherdale, impacting the town’s surrounding mountainous region in an area known locally as Pine Woods. Local police report that two currently unidentified bodies have been recovered. No such meteor was being tracked and as such we have launched our own full investigation. This surprised us just as much as it did two unfortunate souls. Our thoughts and prayers are with their families at this time.”

* * * *

The wind’s a little stronger than I’d care for. It’s been surprising me all day, dragging this chase out much longer than I’d anticipated. Or charged for.

But it’ll be over soon.

The little bastard is cornered. I know it, and I know he knows it. That would explain why he’s stopped running.

My scope reveals a myriad of greens and browns. It’s autumn here. While bare, the trees are plentiful, offering him a life-lengthening level of protection. Still, I’ve got him now. The first limb to reveal itself will see him quickly ended.

No more messing around. No more surprises.

* * * *

I know he’s watching me. I can sense it. He’s out there and I’m stuck here, alone, unarmed, helpless. I’m in trouble.

I force my back tighter against the tree. An errant branch provides my wearied head the briefest of rest-bites. I close my eyes tight, try to steady my breath.

One, two, three…

It’s not working. I rest my trembling, bloodied hand upon my chest. Up, down. Up…

Four, five, six…

My muscles prime themselves for flight, but I remain grounded. A sound. Something new, different. Soft like a whistle, yet as penetrating as a blade. Not him.

Something else.

* * * *

I’ve been silently directing for days. Invisible, distant.

So occupied were they with each other, the real danger registered not even a frivolous wonder. A change in the wind here, a fallen oak there; their unpredictable game was being played on my orchestrated stage.

But they didn’t notice. No one ever does.

I fancy letting loose my more imaginative side today. It must remain rooted in their “science”, of course – I don’t want to give the game up entirely – but I intend to bend the rules more than a little. I’ll accept the punishment later.

Time to end this.