Alien Sundae? – (Aerials)
Part 10 of Aerials
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My roommate in college used to dip her fries into her ice cream. She also used to douse everything in a flood of hot sauce. I raised a fry and with a shrug, plunged it into the hot chocolate covered whipped cream sans hot sauce. I wasn’t a masochist yet despite recent events.
I just couldn’t catch a break. I’d been unemployed for less then 24 hours. I’d been canned because I didn’t see a star go nova. Some college professor had. Big deal. A series of unfortunate events had spiraled out of control since then landing me in a diner watching aliens hover about while they had a good long think about landing. I checked the screen but no, the craft held station above the roof of the UN building.
Maybe it had stalled. Maybe their landing gear had malfunctioned. Did alien space crafts have landing gears? Maybe they liked the view. Maybe they had no intention of landing at all. They were probably rolling on the floor laughing at the response to their fakeout.
I popped the fry into my mouth. Sweet, creamy chocolate met salty potato and I fell in love at first bite. My old roommate had been on to something all those years ago. Who knew?
An electronic shriek startled me; I gripped the tall glass my sundae had come in and felt the glass vibrate. White noise pumped out of the four tvs above the bar. A camera man zoomed in on the roof of the UN building as a wave of dissonance exploded from the space craft. Sound waves buffeted the security force, knocking them flat. A few unlucky officers back flipped off the roof. I cringed at the sight. Their screams drowned in the aural chaos issuing from the space ship.
Voices–snatches of prerecorded conversations overlapped the white noise, breaking through it like foam on the sea. My addiction for audio books kicked in. My brain, which had long ago compensated for my poor eyesight, started parsing the voices. As an audio learner, I had the advantage here. No code breaking necessary–in your ear, you foolish experts.
Aliens had almost landed and they had not chosen to discourse in mathematical equations. No X+Y=invasion. They’d choosen the medium we humans were most accustomed to hearing–snippets from audio books, movies, songs and tv programs.
“You are not alone. Something is out there. [Static] Intergalactic. Fade to black. Ride the Lightning. [Static] All that glitters is not gold. Into the black… Audible presents Crossover by…Stay on target. Men in black are coming… chase the rainbow…”
over countdowns & sundaes,
blast cut-up voices.
Ro looked at me from across the table. She unclamped a hand from her ear and grabbed for her ice cream sundae tapping its way towards the edge and a nasty spill. Her old eyes were saucer wide and ringed with lines. Her lips shaped words but I shook my head in incomprehension. Lip reading wasn’t a skill I possessed. Until the noise level reduced, lipreading was the only method of communication available. That and gesturing which Ro tried next but charades had never been my strong suit. So I just stared at her unable to parse her gesticulating hands.
She shoved her sundae at me and I caught it with my free hand an instant before she slid out of the the booth. Patrons’ eyes had glued themselves to the tv screens and dragged their bodies into a tight huddle around the bar as if closer proximity to the device might break the deadlock. Wading into the crush, Ro pushed her way to the counter and the word mute flashed up on the screen as the noise cut out. She elbowed her way back to our booth and slid in.
“That’s better. A woman needs to be able to hear herself think.”
“Thanks,” I pushed Ro’s sundae across the scarred table and resumed my interrupted indulgence.
“Any idea what that nonsense meant?”
I shook my head.
“You still got your laptop right?”
I laid my spoon down and twisted so I could grab it off the seat next to me. “No charger though, so don’t run the battery down.”
Actually Ro had grabbed my laptop when the alien space craft had strafed our building making our gun happy neighbors get real friendly with their triggers. The charger’s absence was her fault. I didn’t mention that since Ro had dragged me clear of the snipers whose bullet hail to the aliens might have kicked off the invasion.
My laptop flipped open displaying that webpage with its countdown. Green numbers continued to tick down underneath that disturbing sonnet. 1s and 0s still tiled across and down the page forming an ugly frame. We watched as it ticked over to 9999.00 minutes.
Ro glanced at the tv screen over the heads of the other patrons, her look speculative. “You don’t think they intend to wait 9999 minutes until they land?”
I dragged a fry through chocolate ice cream and savored it. “9998.3 minutes now. But no, that doesn’t make sense.”
Ro considered that with a slow nod. “What if in 9998 minutes the cavalry arrives?”
I dropped my fry and stared at her. The counter ticked over to 9997 in my peripheral vision.
Outside a Poughkeepsie-bound Metro-North train clattered over the tracks interrupting my view of the Hudson River. It spirited people ignorant of countdowns and alien landings towards their destination. Did the folks on board know about the impending landing?
Maybe, cell service north of Tarrytown was patchy but there were pockets of good reception. That bit of normalcy grounded me; I used to take that train to work back when I had a job. Back when I thought aliens and ufos were as mythological as unicorns. Back when both were an impossibility. I dropped my head into my hands. Could the day get any worse?
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Find out next Friday.
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