Aerials Part 3
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Parking lot sun gaze,
search blue sky for aliens–
light blinded instead.
“What are we staring at?” I asked the only person guaranteed to give me a sane answer.
Eyes that time had washed with tears so often that the brown had faded to tan, dropped from the sky to my face and narrowed at the question. “Didn’t you see the news?”
“No cable,” I rubbed the toe of my boot on a rock in the vain hope of scratching the itch tickling my foot.
“What about the internet? It’d imagine it’s all over there too.”
“I didn’t check. Wanted to go out…” My voice petered out. Go out and do what? That cup of tea I’d made was cooling despite the thermal lined pocket holding the travel mug. I still had those Vanilla Protein Ohs in a baggie in my pocket. None of them had made it to mouth yet. I had no job to run off to, not that had I worked days, but still… no gym membership to go beat myself up at, so where the hell had I intended to go?
Ro muttered something about “professionals,” shook her head and took pity on me. She opened her jacket and took out a portable radio. Cranking the handle to juice it up, the neon-yellow radio from her safety kit began to crackle and then talk.
“…in the sky. Reports are flooding in from all over about…this just in, the UFO is now being claimed by two groups…” Ro tweaked the dial and the signal stopped bouncing between stations.
“Aerials in the sky…” crooned System of a Down’s lead singer, jolting me out of my stupor. My mind supplied the next lines to the song as Ro fiddled with her radio seeking a news channel:
“When you lose small mind,
you free your mind….”
Ro’s fiddling must have drained the radio’s power because it cut out mid-word during a commercial for shoe polish. My neighbors started oohing and ahhing, their eyes canted skywards, their fingers stabbing at the sun.
Staring at the sun,
seeking miracles in light,
squinting as they search.
A shadow passed in front of the sun and I ran. Seizing the door, I flung it open and dashed down the six steps to my flat, fumbling my keys out as I moved. Ro dogged me. Her much older legs taking those stairs with speed and care so she reached my door just as my shaking hand turned the key. Ignoring my ‘socks only’ rule, I crossed my apartment to the terrace–patio really–removed the block of wood from the track and slid the glass doors apart.
Inside a weatherproof box, I rummaged around for my sun filter. I’d never gotten around to buying a high end one but I had one of the cheaper mylar ones and it would have to do. I fit it over the end of my scope and rushed back inside. I landed on the swag rug by my laptop and connected the usb–that precious umbilical cord that now united laptop and telescope. Navigating to the star icon on my desktop, I cued up the program that slaved the telescope’s viewport to my laptop screen.
Ro shifted a half-finished afghan over and sank into my couch. “What do your elf eyes see?”
She smiled at the Lord of the Rings reference and so did I. We had watched the movies together, us two single ladies, and devoured a small mountain of microwave popcorn between us. Since I worked nights so I could stargaze without the sun’s interference, I was home all day and so was Ro. We bonded over misdelivered mail and the shenanigans of our co-op’s board members.
(The sun has a pesky habit of blinding folks who look at it for too long and its gravity well bends starlight. All very annoying when you’re trying to regard faint stars millions of light years away, hence I worked the graveyard shift).
Ro was good people and always on the hunt for some way of sharpening her already sharp wit and I had become her favorite whetstone.
“I don’t know yet. Give me a minute to…oh…”
“What?” Ro perched on the hard couch’s edge trying to see my laptop screen. I turned it to face her. Her eyes widened at what she saw.
A cross-shape stood out against the sun.
“The filter blocks most of the sun’s light. So what you’re seeing is a silhouette of the…” I just couldn’t say it. The acronym had too many sci-fi connotations…
“UFO,” Ro said, nodding.
UFO flies by–
wind ruffles unsolved X-Files–
creates crop circles.
I shook my head to clear it of such fancy. The X-Files didn’t hold the answers this time.
“It’s the wrong shape to be a commercial airliner and…”
The image shook as the wind buffeted my telescope. Since I’d broken house rule number 445, “thou shalt not permanently attach anything to the terrace”, my telescope stood fast in the wind. Its bolts held its base secure. All the hate mail generated by those four bolts that made my installation permanent were worth it. The bill for the $50 fine I had incurred over this lay unpaid on the table gathering interest and dust with more unread mail.
My telescope survived the wind unscathed but the filter did not. The wind ripped it away as if objecting to its very existence. I darted out through the sliding doors I had left open to pursue it but stopped when the filter floated over the next building and landed on its roof where it nestled like an iron filing into the roof tiles. Unless superman felt like retrieving it for me, it was gone. I added ‘buy new solar filter’ to my shopping list and sat down by my laptop to see what I could do.
Stare into the sun–
radiation bakes your eye–
destroys your retina.
Close viewing of the sun with an electronic mediator–my laptop–should mitigate any risk but it was taxing the render engine. A few keystrokes dumped me into a submenu where I could play around with contrast. A tried a few combinations to take the picture down a few notches from eye blinding whiteout so we could actually see something.
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