Falling Fire (Aerials)
Part 8 of Aerials
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Neighbors-turned-snipers on the roof of my garden apartment complex and UFOs floating about didn’t add enough weird to my day, not according to the universe. Either that or someone up there really didn’t like me.
Shouts of “Fire!” and the even more informative, “the roof’s on fire!” Punctuated the sudden cease fire. Ro and I exchanged glances. We listened but no bullets pinged off metal hulls and no shattered window glass tinkled. What the hell was going on out there?
“You don’t think…” I couldn’t finish the question. This was real life not a best selling thriller.
“That we’re in danger?”
“Yeah, I mean which is worse:
Burn until crispy?
Lose parts to aliens’ probes?
Bleed from bullet holes?
which death’s your preference?
Staying alive’s not a choice.”
“You think it’ll come to that? We are on the ground floor.”
Ro rolled her eyes ceiling-wards and we scrutinized the plaster. No way to tell how thick the builders had made the floor above my apartment or the one above that.
“The roof leaks though. That’s why they were redoing it before the–” I paused, I just couldn’t say UFOs in the same sentence as our building’s roof. Up until this morning I’d never laid eyes on one.
I sniffed and smoke filled my nose. Did fire flow like water? If so, we were in serious trouble. Bullets, aliens or fire–the lizard part of my brain turned the door knob and wrenched open the bathroom door before my conscious mind caught up to it. No hail of bullets sped past but chunks of flaming debris fell past by sliding glass door. One of the fireballs hit my telescope and immolated it on contact.
I screamed. That telescope had been through a lot with me. It had kept me company on long lonely nights filling my sights with distant stars and dreams of what life might be like nearer to it. I blinked and there were my father’s hands supporting a large box. He’d bought that telescope for me after my sister had died so I could do some stargazing on my own time instead of working my ass off to get grant money and a slot on the large arrays. Now a fire was fast-rendering it to ash. Just like that pink slip had ashed my career.
“Let’s go! Come on,” Ro manhandled my stunned body out of the way. She was quite strong for a retiree.
I pointed to my black and chrome baby. Then I hauled ass across my apartment seizing the blanket I hadn’t finishes crocheting for my aunt. Ro followed; she seized my arm and dragged me door-wards.
“Nothing you can do. It died it a good death.”
The fire spread to my glass-topped table and the three rickety chairs lined up behind it, chewing through canvas and melting metal as it went. Ro flung the door open and we piled into the foyer. She had my laptop under her arm, which she handed me. I dropped the afghan in favor of my other favorite electronic toy.
Ro bounded into her apartment, which stood next to mine. In all the commotion, she had forgotten to lock her door. Not that any thieves hung around this place. Too many military and law enforcement types lived here and in the other developments surrounding mine. Besides we had that neighborhood watch thing and it was in full effect thanks to the antics of some low-flying aliens.
Closing her door, Ro nodded to the stairs; she had her purse and a palm-sized picture frame in hand. I didn’t need to look. Joe’s smiling face was captured there; it was all she had left of her late husband.
We hustled up the six steps to the building’s tiny foyer and spilled out into the parking lot where our neighbors milled around arguing over the fire, fire lanes and where they should stand while they waited for the fire engine to pull up.
We dodged such conversational gems as “firefighters versus aliens–who do you’ll win?” posed by one of our middle aged neighbors, a fireplug of a guy with a wind-chapped face. His question sounded like the plot for a B-movie.
I followed the old lady with the plan and ended up at Ro’s car. A quick sky check gave no sight of any UFOs between the winter-bare branches leaning out over the driveway.
Wind-driven flames jump
from my building consuming
its brick neighbor’s roof.
Fire licked across our building to the electrical line and then jumped from there to the building adjacent to ours with help from the wind. Shouts erupted and people pushed out of that building into the long black ribbon of the single lane driveway further clogging things up.
“Why? The UFO’s gone. So is the danger.”
Fire trucks screamed down route 9A. They had a whole 3 miles to cover between their base and our development. No doubt Phil from Homeland Security hustled them through the phone shoved tight against his ear.
Ro pointed to our flack jacket wearing neighborhood G-man in explanation.
“What about Phil?” I hugged my laptop against my chest glad all the excitement had kept me too busy to take off my coat or snow pants. It hummed away still working on the last request I’d given it. Whatever that was.
“We’ve seen too much. He’s calling his buddies in for the cover up. They’ll arrest us all and haul us off to some hotel in the midwest and we’ll never leave it. I know; it happened to Reacher in Lee Child’s book and a fine man like that don’t make that kind of thing up.”
I blinked at Ro unable to find words to refute that. I’d read the same book but it hadn’t left me with an unreasoning fear of conspiracies. But that was before–before UFOs showed up in my sky. Before the universe tossed flaming debris at my home. Before fear turned my gun-enthusiast neighbors into snipers on roofs.What should I do?
during–confusion and fear
after–stand or run?
crisis wipes away the past
leaves all in time uncertain.
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Find out next Friday.
Coming to eReaders in 2019.