They’re already here. And they visit in the quietest hours of the night…
That night you couldn’t get to sleep, disturbed by childhood memories of an enormous grey owl with big, black eyes, stood next to your open window while your curtains billowed in the night breeze.
The next evening, perhaps exhausted from tossing and turning the night before, you felt immensely tired as your head hit the pillow, and you fell into deep sleep immediately. When you awoke, you were frozen and sore and something sharp was poking your bare arm. You realised with a shock you were outside and on the ground, laying on a bed of pine needles and stones in the national forest near home. You’d awoken just as a curtain of light on the horizon began consuming the darkness. As you arose and turned to orientate yourself, you noted there was no sound except that of your bare feet treading on the spiky pine needles. Later, when you’d had some time to consider the experience, you found that very strange – that there should be no insects, no birds, not even a breeze. But as you decided which way was home, you felt a drop of rain on your foot, but when you looked down saw it was red. It was blood, and your nose was bleeding.
The week after, it was hot, a dry heat. Above a barren field half a mile away a buzzard soundlessly swept down on some unsuspecting rodent. There was no breeze, and though you’d been waving away flies that morning, now there were none. It was quiet. Lying on your hammock, you almost dropped off in the peace but then, unsummoned, there came a hazy memory of a motorbike. Here. Last week? Days ago, no! – yesterday? It had veered languidly and somehow soundlessly on the road edging your garden, and was ridden by a very thin man with jaundiced-looking skin. You had noticed how oddly his oversized sunglasses sat on his head but you didn’t give it further thought at the time, because for a the briefest moment he had removed his glasses and looked right at you. Your first thought was, “why look at me?”, but you were immediately taken aback by his apparent lack of pupils. Recalling it now, this filled you with dread. Then in a split second the glasses were back on. You couldn’t figure out why they sat so oddly on his face. Now, you realised, he literally had no nose. Something else nagged at your memory but you refused to capitulate. The road looked suddenly ominous, so you swung out of the hammock to go inside.
It’s pitch black. The bedroom curtains are threadbare so it must be a moonless night. Yet something woke me. It’s cold, despite the day’s heat, maybe that is it. But I become aware of a faint smell – volcanic, or sulphuric perhaps. I don’t know why it’s vaguely familiar. The chill is setting in though, and I reach to pull the covers around me, only to find that I cannot move my arm at all – it feels like I have slept on it, that I should just allow my veins some moments to return the blood. But it’s not that, because I find I cannot move my other arm, or anything. I’m now wide awake, yet completely paralysed. My heart sinks in recognition of something, and this alarms me further – that some unconscious part of me was expecting this lapse. Suddenly like an unsolicited whisper in my ear I sense that something else is in the room with me.
The edge of the covers, rested down at my waist, now seem much too far away. All I want to do now is escape this snare, my bed, this room, sprint out and close and lock the door behind me, but my body isn’t participating. My nerve endings are firing impotently while this foreboding grows in me. I’m now absolutely sure that there is some-thing in the room. Some-one. And my every thought is straining to regain control of my dulled body, or pick up the tiniest of vibrations through my eardrums, or squeeze a droplet of light into my severely dilated pupils. I cannot move a single muscle, turn my head or do anything but involuntarily breath while an inscrutable darkness bears down on me, and I am wishing for sleep, more than anything I want to sleep and I wish this would end.
The backs of my eyelids glow pink, and I feel warm. Reluctantly my vision creases open – gladly onto familiar surroundings. From my pillow through one eye I can see the window, ajar as usual, and there’s a light breeze rippling the frayed curtains.
Some birds are chirping outside. Inexplicably, the gentle clink of the washing line in the garden trips my heart momentarily, but the unease soon passes with the lit promise of day. It’s Saturday, and I have nowhere to be. I have no idea when I finally passed out last night, but it could not have been soon enough. The bedsheets are matted to my sweaty skin, but I am unafraid and fully able to rise and take a much needed shower.
With the water running down my body I find I am brooding. Though I try to forget it, a part of my mind is attempting to make sense of the last few days and it can’t. I push it further back to solve another day – not today. I go about my tasks through the morning but after a couple of hours I’m increasingly distracted and erratic. Come afternoon, I am about to fry an omelette when the breeze sets off the windchime and I blank for a moment then scream in agony as I find I have placed my hand on the heated electric hob instead of the frying pan.
While I desperately run cold water over my acutely throbbing palm and rummage for some aloe or bandages there comes to mind the image of a very thin, severe looking judge in a grey suit, who is completely unconcerned -amused, even- by my suffering. Why?
Part 3 – Third Person O
Planet 333 species 111 race 333111/sub 111111 Northern continent minimal contaminant air sustenance Standard non gravid specimen Method 333333 logic psycho disease organ analysis initiated Summary follows
No moonlight base light nearest dwelling >333111333 Dimensional approach rupture success
Dampening field vehicle house electronics temporary disable test success Handlers dispatch Entry access success Specimen observations adjustments follows
Wave control induce Detection brain unconscious
Exception excess pore secretion Handler temperature adjustment success Handler proximity filter adjustment Exception specimen conscious Field protection success specimen immobilise
Specimen visual unaware sound unaware Exception elevated brain activity pulse blood organ rate Handler dampen success Operation removal standard external blood loss minimal internal loss minimal Specimen conscious Initiate logic argument sacrifice establish new specimen pass-fail-fail Amplify dampener specimen preserve Standard reinsertion Supplement implant association imagery
Mandatory isolation psych barrier initiated
Conclusion 1 No significant outlier standard response standard physical Clone pass Master fail
Conclusion 2 Further analysis post sequence 111333 follow assess internal repair follow chip activation imagery implant response success discharge
Part 4 – Into town
Very soon after burning my hand I leave the house to go into town. It’s Sunday and I don’t expect much to be open let alone the surgery, but I really need to be around people and it doesn’t matter what for, or whom. Just normal people. There’s a phone but no broadband at home; apparently it’s not usually connected up for tenants. The landlady cited “rampant itinerancy!” – circular argument if you ask me. Mobile signal is non-existent. It didn’t matter that much to me when I signed though, I wanted a change.
As I shut the gate I pause briefly to survey the house. Dilapidated and warped in places, it reveals very little except its porch to the surrounding scrappy, unkempt garden. Strewn around this are stringy bushes here and there, gripping to earth that is starting to crack in this year’s oddly hot and dry summer. Two trees sturdy enough to support the hammock lean a little towards each other, over near the bend in the track. I get in the pickup and traverse the dusty stretch, one more glance back and my expanded view now captures the solitary block of habitation amid swathes of wheat and scattered evergreens.
Minutes later I’m pulling up to the main T junction, the truck’s scratched hood facing a field. I look left and right, spot a motorbike approaching at speed, a trail of dust rising behind it, and feel myself tighten my grip on the wheel. I glance into my rear mirror as if sensing some malevolent presence in the seat behind me. There is no-one, and I turn back to the main road expecting to see the bike shooting off to my left. It’s not there, nor is it to the right, or behind. In fact there is no dust. And my engine, I now realise, is not running. I turn the ignition switch and nothing happens, just a click. I half-filled the tank on Friday evening so it can’t be empty, but in the face of logic I check the gauge anyway. It is still half-full. Great. Electrics problem – something I cannot in a month of Sundays fix myself. I put her into neutral and with the help of absolutely no passers-by I eventually manage to shove off to the side of the road. The mobile signal is even worse here than at home. So now I realise I am probably over two miles from the house and a working phone, and surprisingly having just had lunch, I am really parched. My hand is throbbing.
I wait a few minutes longer in the hopes of any vehicles passing by with the added bonus of some jumper cables, but of course none do because I am smack bang in the middle of a backwater route out of a backwater town. With no rising dust in any direction, something niggles at the back of my mind and I sigh despondently, lock up the truck and start walking.
This story is thematically linked to the new EP, Space Invaders http://tinyurl.com/y7p7ak2s