Part One – An Unkind Awakening
For the first time in weeks Alex had achieved the underwhelming goal of being in bed before midnight. Sleep wouldn’t necessarily come anytime soon, but Alex wallowed in a rare well of psychic peace. Next door’s screaming harpies had flown away for a few days of relaxing shrieking at each other on a beach- the normal pitch of their rows and the slamming doors disturbed half the street. With luck they would both drown on holiday, or be eaten by some Brit-loving leviathan. The yapping dog on the other side had finally shut up; Alex assumed its master had finally come home and fed the poor thing, hopefully with himself. The grisly reassurance of these thoughts filled Alex with happy sunbeams and he stretched out in a few moments of contentment. To his great surprise, Alex slumped heavily after he turned the light off and without even knowing it (because that’s how it works), he was soon asleep.
Competing dreams tugged Alex back and forth like a rutting pushmi-pullu. He endured a bleakly-decorated office where two ladies of dubious acquaintance made him watch news clips of himself walking down a road, which led into a charity shop where he found a wallets he’d had stolen or lost over the years before glancing at a television and finding himself back in the office again. The circularity ground into him, as did the suspicion that he’d never lost any wallets and they were simply being stolen from him by the two women. Paranoia welled up in the dream and all the characters turned to look at him, and so did he, looking inward and seeing the stolen wallet for the metaphor it truly was. Alex felt he was on the verge of total comprehension when he was horribly, blinkingly awoken by the violent illumination of his bedroom. The dream broke off with a bleeding stump; his purpose vanished leaving only anxiety and frustration.
At first Alex suspected the harpies’ anti-socially sensitive security light of stabbing him in the eyes. Its real talent was in alerting everyone to the prowling intrusion of cats and magpies, and had notably failed to blind the darkly-clad man who made off with their X-Box. Alex had been amused. But even the fur and feathers detector wasn’t this bright – it was like a baby sun was burning through his day-repelling curtains. The duvet Alex hid beneath did nothing to reduce the glare. Oddly, neither did grumbling about his inconsiderate neighbours.
Then the sound of shearing metal violated Alex’ sleep-softened ears and forced him out of bed. “For fuck’s sake,” he muttered, kicking his feet into the wrong foot slippers and stamping downstairs, “fucking kids.” Alex wrongly assumed it was the “fucking kids” from round the corner attempting to break into his garage again. There had been nothing of value in there the first time; it was unlikely he would have filled it with gold and Blu-Ray players to enhance their nocturnal sport. The continued screeching perfected the sensory horror of being awake and the shearing tore deep into whatever it is that makes us shudder.
Alex successfully navigated the stairs, kicked off the slippers and sought them out again with his toes and he fumbled for the kitchen light switch. That was just reflex: the light was flooding through every window and hole in the back of the house. He snatched up the decorative ice axe from its nestling spot between other people’s umbrellas behind the fridge and strode boldly towards the back door, a string of mocking taunts dancing on his tongue.
Naturally Alex had left the keys in the backdoor, and had failed to lock it. The swift banging of key and grinding of lock gave him a moment to check that his pajamas were suitably unrevealing. He had no desire to be arrested for indecent exposure – the prospect of being arrested for smacking one of the little sods was fine and might even justify being woken up. The recently conscious mind being what it is, Alex had not yet evaluated the likelihood of burglars using floodlights for their surreptitious thievery. Despite the undoubted convenience of well-lit swag, the shroud of night would be somewhat ruined. So when he opened the back door and stepped into the yard his expectations were proven hollow and the witty barbs crawled back up his tongue and jabbed into his throat.
The source of the light was obvious now, as was the cause of the awful tearing sound. Far from being robbed, the garage had been crushed, ensuring that its worthless contents were securely sealed in a huge aluminium pie tin. It now served as a mat for the gleaming, insectile craft that steamed in its place. It glittered and shone like a cost-no-object Christmas tree that was intended to be launched at Uranus. Fins and vents and ostentatious art-nouveau swirling reflected the blazing lights mounted in elegant carriage lamps. It was like all the awesome spaceships from Flash Gordon (Buster Crabbe) to Firefly mashed together Alex decided. He stood gaping at it for a few moments, ice axe dangling from his fist. This was bad.
Is Alex doomed? Is it just his Mum? Will his bits pop out of his pajamas?
Find out next week in Part Two of: A Cyborg Calls
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