The Icarus Project
by "Splatter" Joe Solmo
Steve grew up in the small town of Northville in Upstate New York. Not upstate like Poughkeepsie, but really upstate, north of Albany. There was only about a thousand people that called the town home, and most of them knew each other. Steve’s family moved there from the city some years back and didn’t have any local relatives, but he found some friends at school.
He spent most of high school hanging out with the few people he felt some connection with. Mostly drinking in the woods around town just having fun. About the time high school was ending Steve lost the urge to drink and fool around. He wanted desperately to leave the town and see the world. His mind grew bored quickly without some kind of stimulus to keep him going.
Steve’s mother didn’t have the money to send him off to some fancy college so Steve started looking for a job. The only problem was locally the only job he could find was menial labor, and since high school ended, two months ago, he spent his days on the roofs of the town repairing or replacing them. It paid well, he didn’t have any complaints about that, but it wasn’t as intellectually stimulating as he had hoped once he got the gist of it.
Sitting on Ol’ Mrs. Frasier’s roof he wondered what he was going to do this winter. Surely he couldn’t spend it roofing. Some of the older guys on the crew said they claim unemployment, but that idea didn’t sit well with Steve. He didn’t want to sit around all winter, it would drive him stir crazy. The boss, Rick, said he shoveled roofs free of snow to make some money, maybe he could do that.
“Hey Steve, pay attention,” came a voice from the ladder as another rookie climbed up trying to hand Steve a bundle of shingles. “These things are fucking heavy.”
“I got it, Glen,” Steve said and grabbed the bundle from him.
“Thanks. You looked like you were in another world,” Glen said.
“I wish I was,” Steve said with a smile pushing his hair out of his eyes. Glen smiled and headed back down the ladder to grab another bundle. They were almost done with his old teacher’s roof, and soon they would move on to the next house.
“Where’s the next job, Rick?” Steve asked as he handed a few shingles to his boss.
“Over on Elmer Brown Road,” Rick replied wiping the well-earned sweat from his brow. “Tell Glen three more bundles should do it for today.”
“You got it boss,” Steve said and shifted down to the edge of the roof.
“Three more Glen, then you can rest,” he called down to the kid. He called him a kid because Glen was only seventeen. Rick was his uncle and he needed some spending money for the summer. It was cheap child labor, the kind you could only get away with in a small town.
“Fuck man, they are heavy,” Glen complained and sighed.
“About eighty pounds, yeah,” Steve replied.
“How about next time we switch, I will go up there and you can handle the ground duties,” Glen joked.
“I would but you’re afraid of heights,” he replied. Glen shrugged, embarrassed and grabbed another bundle.
“I’m not afraid of heights, I just down want to fall off the roof. There is a difference,” he replied as he hefted the weight onto his shoulder.
“Let’s go. I want to get home for dinner!” Rick yelled from behind Steve.
“You heard the boss,” Steve said and waited for Glen.
“Why don’t you go down there and help him clean up?” Rick said, and now it was Steve’s turn to sigh.
“Okay,” Steve said and descended the old worn wooden ladder.
About an hour later as Steve drove back to his mother’s house for dinner he thought about leaving town. Just driving as far as he could get. Every town needed a roofer. He was sure he could find work somewhere, at least until something better came along. Maybe south where there wasn’t just a season for roofing. Even as he thought it was a good idea and was convincing himself to go, he pulled into his mother’s driveway, the smell of her meatloaf wafting from the kitchen windows. He ran inside to clean up for dinner.
“Is that tar on your hands?” his mother asked as he shoveled a forkful of mashed potatoes into his mouth.
“Yeah, It was stubborn, I’ll put some gas on it after dinner,” he said.
“I don’t know how you can eat with it on your hands. It’s dirty,” she said as she cut a slice of meatloaf for herself.
“It’s not like I am eating with my hands anyway. I am using a fork,” Steve said.
“It’s still gross,” she replied and gave him a look discounting his opinion.
“It will be fine,” Steve said rolling his eyes and piercing some warm meatloaf on his fork.
“You aren’t getting any tar on my fork are you?” Steve’s mother blurted out making him drop the fork in surprise.
“For fucks sake,” Steve said and pushed his chair back.
“Don’t use that language in my house,” she replied as he went out the door to the garage.
“She’s lucky I don’t pour this gas on her and light it,” he mumbled as he washed his hands in gasoline. Steve knew he would never do it, but she frustrated the shit out of him sometimes. He wrung his hands together removing the tar from the day’s work. “I don’t want to go back in there,” he said looking at the window to the kitchen. He patted his pocket and found his car keys. With a smile he headed to his old beat up Oldsmobile and in seconds was heading down the road.
The next morning found Steve sleeping on the side of the road at a pull off next to a creek. It was barely daylight and he quickly looked at his watch. 5:30 a.m. His mother would be leaving for work soon, he would have just enough time to slip in take a shower and change before going to work himself. His stomach rumbled and the thought of grabbing some meatloaf leftovers made him happy.
As he approached his boss’s house he saw Glen loading some tools into his beat up ford. He helped get the rest of the supplies loaded so they could start the new job on Elmer Brown Road. He would follow his boss down there to the new job. It had to be a big job, the road had the nickname of millionaire’s row. Those houses, who lined the lake, were bigger than most buildings in town, except the school, he thought.
When the convoy left for the new job Glen rode with Steve. “Which house do ya think it is?” he asked Steve.
“I don’t know, guess we will find out in a minute. Either way it’s gonna be a big job,” he replied. I hope it’s the one with the stone fence running down the side of the road. I heard Taylor Swift bought it last year. Maybe we will see some titties,” Glen said smiling.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” Steve asked.
“Who knows?” Glen said and pulled a joint out of his flannel shirt’s pocket. He lit it and took a long puff before offering it to Steve.
“I’m good,” he replied and rolled his window down a little further.
“More for me,” Glen said and shrugged. He finished the join just in time to pull into the new job. It was the house with the stone fence. It must have cost a fortune to have it made. It must be a quarter of a mile long. Behind the house sat a sandy beach giving way to the gentle lapping of waves. Steve was envious of whomever lived here, although he doubted it was Taylor Swift. He breathed in the smell of nature as the land was surrounded by pine forest. Across the street there was nothing but dark woods. He would love a place like this someday, after he made his fortune, he thought.
Most of the day was pretty uneventful. The breeze coming off the lake kept Steve cool as he worked stripping off the old roof. It was going to take at least a week to do this place. He was gonna cherish the land as best as he could.
“Hey Steve, can you tell Glen to start getting the plywood out,” Rick said. “I tried yelling down to him, but I don’t even see him. If that son of a bitch is sleeping in my truck, slap him will ya?”
“Sure thing, boss,” Steve said smiling.
“Just don’t let him see you smiling when you do it,” Rick said and winked.
Steve descended the ladder and gazed around the front yard, there was no sign of Glen. He checked the vehicles and was still at a loss. He checked around back and heard a splash. Motherfucker! Steve thought as he jogged down to the beach.
“Glen get you’re fucking ass out of that water and get the plywood ready,” Steve said angrily.
“I was just taking a quick dip, it’s gotta be break time,” Glen replied. He looked up at Steve and saw how pissed he was. “Okay, just give me one sec,” he said and ducked back under the water.
Steve looked back towards the house and saw movement near the woods. It looked like a naked woman walking into the forest. It couldn’t be could it? That fucker Glen might be right, he was going to see titties, he thought.
“Did you see that,” he asked Glen as he walked out of the lake.
“See what?” he said.
“That woman in the woods,” Steve replied.
“No. No one’s home man, I checked.”
“What do you mean you checked?” Steve asked.
“I walked around the house when we got here and peeked in the windows trying to get a glimpse of Taylor Swift. But no one is home. It’s dark in there,” Glen explained.
“Fucking Taylor Swift doesn’t live here,” Steve said. “You better get that plywood unloaded before your uncle has a fit.”
“I’m going, I’m going,” Glen said and headed for the driveway. Steve took a moment and looked back at the woods where he thought he had seen the woman. I must be crazy, he thought. Why would a woman wander into the woods naked? He started walking back towards the house when movement from the woods once again caught his eye.
He turned and this time was sure he saw a flash of skin and blond hair just beyond the property’s tree line. “Hello!” he called out and took a few steps towards the woods. Nothing but silence answered him. “I knew I was crazy,” he said out loud. “See I am talking to myself,” he said and chuckled. He turned back towards the house.
Steve heard a twig snap back in the woods. He turned but again didn’t see anything. “Fuck it,” he said and walked towards the trees. He called out again as he pushed the undergrowth out of his path. If there was a naked woman out here he didn’t want to startle her, but still he got no answer.
He saw on the ground where a foot path had been trampled into the ferns and bushes. He walked cautiously down the trail. “I’m an idiot. It couldn’t be a woman walking naked. It’s probably a fucking bear and I’m gonna die,” he said out loud. Somewhere deeper in the woods he heard another snap of a twig breaking. “Hello!” he called out again.
“Help…”came a weak female voice.
“Hello?” Steve called out again not sure he heard what he thought he heard.
“Help me, please,” came the voice again. Steve jogged between trees trying to hone in on the voice and soon found a clearing in the trees. It was a perfect circle. The ground was scorched as if a fire raged her not to long ago and laying in the middle of the circle was a naked woman. She had crusted blood coating her face and abdomen. She reached out towards Steve seemingly unaware of her nakedness.
He reached out with his hand to help her to her feet. Her hand felt cold and clammy, almost plastic to him. All of a sudden she shrieked in pain and Steve felt dizzy. HE started to get tunnel vision and he wondered why the woman was screaming at his touch. His knees weakened and he dropped to the ground next to the woman who had recoiled from his touch. The world sank into darkness.
Bright lights. Surgical lamps? Am I tied down?
Darkness, no sound, no sight, just surrounded by warmth and a rhythmic beating.
Those lights again. Searing pain in lower back! Is that a hissing sound?
Once again the darkness.
Oh God, are those screams mine? Blank faces stare at me from behind those lights.
Darkness, sweet darkness and oblivion.
“He’s over here,” came a familiar voice from the distance. Steve couldn’t move. His body ached all over. He had to fight to even open his eyes.
A crash through the woods brought Glen and Rick into the clearing. “Steve!” Rick said and grabbed his arm, dragging him to his feet. A jolt of pain shot down that arm and Steve almost fell back to the earth.
“Is she ok?” he asked and looked around the clearing, but there was no one else there.
“Is who ok?” Glen asked.
“The naked woman, she was right here, I found her when I came into the woods,” he said.
“I don’t know what your smoking man, but share with me. The only one naked is you,” Glen replied and gave Steve his flannel shirt. “Cover up man, no one wants to see your dangles.”
“Are you okay?” Rick asked. “You mom is worried sick. I should take you home.”
“My mom? Why would you call her,” Steve said putting on the flannel shirt. It fit pretty well.
“Because you have been missing since yesterday, Steve. Moms notice that kind of thing,” he said.
Steve took a weakened step back. “Yesterday?” he said with a confused look. He was just here with the woman a few minutes ago.
Pain! Darkness! Blank faces on the men watching!
Steve shook his head. What the fuck was that? Where were his clothes anyway?
“Are you sure you are ok? Don’t sue me,” Rick said.
“Yeah I am fine boss. Everything is just a little sore, even my throat,” Steve replied trying to clear his throat.
“I got the cure for that,” Glen said. “Top pocket.” Steve padded the pocket on the flannel and felt three small bulges roughly in the shapes of joints.
“I’m good, really,” he replied.
“You should get checked out anyway,” Rick said.
“Sure I will go see the doctor with all the insurance you don’t provide for your workers,” Steve chided.
“Hey, keeping costs down gets us more jobs, which means more money in your pocket to pay for doctors. I did the math it all works out. If you don’t get sick,” his boss said with a smile. “Come on.”
Rick put Steve’s arm over his shoulder and started to walk him back towards the house. With a last glance back at the weird clearing Steve left the woods.
When he got home his mother fawned over him like a newborn, but he knew it was all for show. Once his boss left she would be indifferent to how he felt again. To say she was sympathetic was an overstatement. Steve couldn’t wait until she left for work the next morning.
“Take the rest of the week off,” his boss said as he climbed into his ford.
“Replace anything you smoke, asshole!” Glen yelled out with a smile as they backed out onto the county road.
“What did he mean about that?” Steve’s mother asked.
“Nothing mom, he was being a dick,” he replied trying to clear his throat. Maybe he was coming down with a cold. “Do we have any cough syrup?” he asked.
“Behind the mirror in the bathroom,” she replied and walked into her bedroom, closing the door. Steve let out a sigh and entered the bathroom. He faced himself in the mirror. Dirt covered his face. He definitely needed a shower.
What was that? He thought and turned his head to the side. It looked like a two inch scratch on his neck. He didn’t remember that from before.
Searing pain! Convulsions! Why can’t I move?
He dropped to his knees on the tile floor. What the hell was that? What the hell happened to me out there? He pushed himself back to his feet and opened the cabinet behind the mirror. No cough syrup, great.
After a shower and change of clothes he felt a lot better. His muscles were still sore, but it was fading. His throat felt worse than his body now. He decided to take a ride to the pharmacy. Luckily Glen had driven his car back from the job site.
A ride into town was just what he needed to clear his head. He hated living with his mother. She was always wrapped up in her own problems she didn’t have time for him. It was always like that. Even when he was little. It was soon after his father left that she stopped reading to him at night. She told him he was man of the house now, and men don’t get stories read to them.
Pulling into the pharmacy he saw an old high school friend he hadn’t seen in a long time. “What’s going on Felipe?” he asked as he stepped out of his car.
“Hey man. Haven’t seen you around since school. Are you going to that party at Pete’s tonight?” Felipe asked.
“I didn’t know there was a party. I have been outta the loop for a while,” Steve replied.
“Yah come on out. Everyone would love to see ya,” Felipe said and lit a cigarette. Felipe hadn’t changed much since high school. He still had that perpetual mustache than hasn’t come in the whole way yet. Still wore the same ratty sweatshirt he had on last time he saw him. Maybe it would do him some good to be around some friends for a bit. It’s not like he had to get up early for work the next day.
When Steve got back home he downed half the bottle of cough syrup and laid on the couch. His mom had left, whether it was to work or somewhere else he had no idea. She didn’t leave him a note, and he could care less. He flipped through the channels until he fell asleep.
When he awoke it near five. He got up and scavenged in the fridge for something to eat. His throat still ached but not as bad. He wasn’t sure if that was from the cough syrup or natural causes. He decided after he ate to take another dose before heading to the party. He would just have to watch his alcohol consumption.
Steve’s mother still wasn’t around, which was odd for her. Usually she was home around this time to make dinner. He just counted his blessing and jumped in the shower to freshen up for the party. He hadn’t seen Pete since graduation. Pete was the one who first gave him a drink. Stealing his father’s beer when he was passed out on the couch. The guy was so drunk he couldn’t remember how many he had unless he counted empties, so Pete and Steve used to pour the beer into a thermos and head out into the woods behind Pete’s house to drink.
Pain! Whose screams are those? Are those mine? Why don’t their faces have features?
Steve shook the images from his mind. He must have hit his head when he fell in the woods next to the woman. The woman, how come she wasn’t there when they found him? Was he really there a whole day? The calendar agreed with his boss but it didn’t seem possible.
“Help me,” the woman’s words haunted him. Did something happen to her because he passed out? She could still be out there, suffering, he thought. What if she crawled away from his friends, scared for her life?
Steve decided since he had a few hours before the party he would head over and check out the clearing for himself. He took a dose of cough syrup and headed out the door. He lived ten minutes from the place on the lake, it wouldn’t take long.
When he pulled up along the side of the road he saw that his boss had quit for the day and went home. There were no vehicles in the driveway of the lakeside home. He hopped the fence back where he parked and entered the woods.
It didn’t take him long to find the clearing. He felt a tugging towards it. When he arrived there the woman was nowhere to be found. The scorched circle was back, not like when they had found him. To call it odd was an understatement, he thought as he searched the tree line for any sign of the woman.
“They are coming…it’s too late,” she said pushing Steve away weakly. “Save yourself.”
What the hell was that? He didn’t remember that. It was as if he was watching it from the outside. Himself kneeling next to the naked woman, trying to help her up. There was a loud whir above, like the sound of a dozen helicopters directly above the trees, but he couldn’t look up. It was like a movie, he could only see what the camera was pointed at.
He knelt down and ran his fingers through years of dried pine needles looking for a clue. After a few seconds his hand came away wet and he raised it to his nose. It was a viscous clear fluid that had no smell. It could be anything, he thought. I’m no forest ranger. He cleared the needles carefully from the substance, finding more as he did. The wet fluid spelled out a word. RUN.
His heart started to beat out of his chest and he rose to his feet and ran back to his car. Before he realized it he was doing seventy down the back road. “What the hell was that?” he said out loud as his car came to a stop at an intersection. “Maybe I should go see a doctor. I am having hallucinations.”
He looked down at the clock on his dashboard. Six-thirty, the party was at seven. He could be a few minutes early, he thought as he put the car back in gear, but it stalled out. All the lights in the car went out as well. “What the fuck is going on?” he said and suddenly felt dizzy.
The dizziness passed and Steve tried to start his car. The engine roared to life without hesitation and he threw it in gear. He glanced down at the clock, six thirty-eight. How the hell did I lose eight damn minutes? he thought to himself as he pulled out onto White Birch Road. His throat hurt worse now, maybe it was an allergic reaction to something in woods?
When Steve arrived at the party Pete and Felipe were sitting outside on the porch. They flipped him off and laughed as he pulled in the driveway.
“He does exist, I thought he went to live with Bigfoot,” Pete said punching Steve in the arm as he stepped onto the porch.
“How ya doing, Pete?” Steve asked.
“You know me, keep your mom up at night” Pete said with a smile. “You want a beer?”
“Sure,” Steve responded and barely had time to react as Pete chucked a beer at him at damn near terminal velocity. “What would you have done if you knocked me out?” Steve asked.
“Had a good laugh and drawn dicks on your face. What kind of question is that?” Pete replied and Felipe spit out his beer with laughter.
“Nice,” Steve said and plopped down in an Adirondack chair next to his high school buddies. “Maybe this is just what I need,” he said and popped the top on his can. He drank half the beer in one pull before turning back to his friends who were watching him. “What?”
“Just good to have you around, man,” Felipe said and they all put their cans together in a toast and drank.
An hour later there were close to thirty people all drinking and dancing in Pete’s front yard. He lived on a back road so he could get away with those kind of parties. Steve couldn’t believe the faces of the people he saw. People he hadn’t even thought about in months. It was weird how he had forgotten those he had spent twelve years with in just a few months.
“Hey Steve, is that you?” came a female voice from behind him. He turned around and saw Becky Wheeler.
“Hey Becky. How are ya?” he asked as he brushed his hair from his eyes.
“Good, what’s this I hear you were missing?” she asked, seemingly concerned. Pete and Felipe got closer and waited for his response as well. He wasn’t aware that anyone else knew he had been missing.
“I was just camping. My mom blew it out of proportion,” Steve said.
“Glen told us. He said you disappeared while working,” Pete said.
“Well Glen is so goddamn high all the time who knows what is going on in his head,” Steve explained and took a drink from his beer. “How can I go missing in this town anyway, it’s so small.”
“That’s what she said,” Becky, Pete, and Felipe all said at the same time then laughed.
Maybe this was just what I needed, Steve thought, feeling happy for the first time in weeks. Sometimes friends can do wonders for a mood. He had forgotten that. “Throw me another beer can ya Pete? You need work on your aim,” Steve said with a smile.
Steve was pretty tipsy by the time the sun set over the Adirondack foothills. Gone were the thoughts of his mother or of the weird things in the woods. Crickets sang their song to the night along with a chorus of frogs from the pond across the street. Steve remembered fishing it with Pete when they were younger. He never caught anything out of it but dead branches and leaves. So many worms drowned for his pleasure.
“Hey Pete! Let’s go fishing,” He called out.
“Come on man, it’s late and I don’t think anything lives in that pond. We never caught shit,” Pete said back to his childhood friend.
“But we never tried it at night,” Steve said and went into Pete’s garage. The poles were right in the same place as they were when Pete’s mother still owned the house. He grabbed one and an old tackle box that sat on the ground next to them.
“Come on man, I’ll take you out in the boat tomorrow on the lake,” Pete said.
“Fuck it, I’m going,” Steve said and walked across the street veering this way and that on the trip over there. He heard Pete and Felipe laughing from the party, but their voices faded as he approached the calm surface of the pond. He plopped down hard on the ground with a giggle, spilling a little of his fresh beer on the grass. With a wobbly hand he cast out into the night. He couldn’t see anything but heard the small splash of the lure hitting the water.
He sat there for a minute before realizing he had to reel in this lure to get anything to bit, but when he tried it was stuck. He pulled hard and watched as the line went taught and the pole bent towards the surface. “Fucking great, I’m stuck,” he said and tugged again, harder. The line still wouldn’t budge. Since his eyes were adjusting to the dim light he could make out where the ripples were coming from. It looked like it cast right across the pond and his line was snagged near the far shore.
He reluctantly raised up and grabbing his beer started to make his way across the shore of the pond into the darkness. He disturbed many a frog as he made his way around the edge, carefully as he could be not to step into the pond. Even in the daylight he wouldn’t want that. The bottom of the pond was coated with a green slime he wanted no part of.
Reeling the rod as he went he was sure now where he was stuck. About ten years ago a strong thunderstorm had brought a tree down into the pond and he was sure he was stuck on it. There probably was no way to get his lure free from that tree, he thought with a sigh. He turned and looked back at the party so far away. Pete probably would probably say he told him so about fishing tonight if he went back for help.
When he got as close as he could to the snag he set his beer down on a rock. It was about three feet from the shore. He set the pole down and slid his hands out as far as he could on the line. If he broke the line he would just tell Pete he would buy him a new lure, no big deal. He tugged a little on the line and it seems to give, even though it was dragging a heavy weight. He got down on his hands and knees to get a better angle on the snag.
He pulled with everything he had, but that line wouldn’t break. But whatever he was caught on was getting closer to shore. With a jerk he yanked and sat back and something breached the surface. In the dark, with the lights from the party across the street blinding him he couldn’t make out what it was, so he crouched down and put his hand up over his eyes.
“Help me…” came her voice from her mouth, but she didn’t speak. Water poured out of her mouth. Steve screamed and dropped the line, the woman sank back under the still surface of the pond. He breathed hard as his hearth thumped in his ears. “What the fuck,” he said and looked up at the road. Sounds of the distant party could still be heard. There was no way they heard him.
Even though every fiber of his being told him no, he pulled on the line one more time. This time a branch from the fallen tree surfaced. There was no woman. “What the fuck is wrong with me?” he thought as he rubbed his neck where he was scratched earlier.
A rustling in the brush between himself and the road got his heart pumping as his eyes scanned the darkness for movement. In a state of panic, Steve almost bolted, but then heard Pete’s voice as he swore. “Can’t see a fucking thing in the dark. Where the fuck are you Steve?” he called out.
“Over here man,” Steve replied with a sigh of relief.
“I thought I heard you yelling, and couldn’t see you from the road so I came down to check on you. Make sure you didn’t get pulled in from the lunker you caught,” Pete joked.
“Ha, funny. My line got stuck and I was over here trying to get it out. I was yelling about that,” Steve said pointing down to the water’s surface.
“What the fuck is that?” Pete asked, wide-eyed.
Steve looked down at the water’s surface and saw the woman again, her death glazed eyes staring at him.
“That’s a fucking body man, a fucking body,” Pete said and tried to turn and run, dropping his beer as he tripped on the underbrush. “Fuck,” he yelled and ran back through the woods towards the road.
“Help me…” the woman spoke. Inside her mouth was a faint glow. Steve started to run to chase his friend out of the woods, but after two steps he realized there was a figure in the darkness blocking his path.
“Pete?” he called out. He covered the side of his face with his hand blocking out the light from the party across the street so that he could see better in the darkness. The figure took a step towards Steve.
“You’re not Pete, who are you?” he asked in the darkness.
“Stop right there, human,” hissed a strange voice. The stranger stepped into light spilling from the party. He looked human, with long blonde hair and a blonde beard, but his eyes were all black. He wore a type of trench coat and held a small device with a few flickering lights on it.
“Who the fuck are you?” Steve asked taking a step back away from the stranger. He glanced down at the dead woman in the water.
“Run,” she said as water poured out of her mouth. A chill ran down Steve’s spine as he turned to flee, adrenaline running high. He heard the stranger give chase behind him. He crashed randomly through the woods, getting smacked with branches repeatedly even though he held his hands out in front of him.
“Stop human, I won’t harm you,” the stranger called out from behind him. Steve’s mind raced with the image of the stranger only a few feet behind him. A second later his hands felt no other branches as he ran into a small field. He dropped his arms to his sides and to his surprise lifted off the ground. He let out a little yell as he realized he was fifteen feet above the ground. The stranger was standing in the field behind and below him.
“What the fuck?” he said then horror took over as he started to descend back towards the clearing. The stranger kept pace with him and was waiting below. “Here goes nothing,” he said and flapped his arms down again, and to his surprise he lifted higher into the air. He looked down at the stranger on the ground. “Ha ha fuck you, buddy,” he said with a smile just in time to crash into a pine tree.
Sitting thirty feet off the ground he crashed into a branch that could support his weight. He tried to catch the breath that was knocked out of him upon impact. His throat was sore and he started to cough.
“You don’t understand, human. The more you use it, the more it gains control,” the stranger called out from the base of the tree.
“Who you calling human asshole? Humans don’t fly, but superheroes do,” Steve mocked from above. He heard a grunt from below and realized the man was trying to climb the tree. “Fuck this, I am out,” he said and leapt from the tree flapping his arms, he grazed the tall green grass as his upward momentum kicked in. He flapped a few more times until he was clearing the trees near the pond. He could hear the stranger chasing after him on the ground, but he was safe up here, he thought.
A gunshot rang out behind him as something buzzed past his head. “Holy shit! That crazy motherfucker has a gun,” he said and pushed his arms down towards the ground to gain height. It was a dark night he should be out of his sight soon. He put his head down instinctively and he started to accelerate laterally. Soon he couldn’t hear the stranger yelling after him anymore.
He followed the roadway back towards his mom’s house. Flying just above the tree line the whole way. His mind was trying to make sense of everything that had happened over the last day or so and it took him almost the whole trip to his mother’s for him to actually think, Holy shit I am flying. He circled above her house a few times, finally calming down enough to enjoy the sensations. He coughed as he wondered why he could do this.
It must be a dream, he thought as he dive bombed his mom’s chimney, pulling up just before collision. He thought about pinching himself, but he didn’t want to wake up, just in case. This was too cool. He decided to fly down to the lake and go between the bridge and the water. Thread the needle he heard it was called in some movie.
He couldn’t fly very fast, it was hard to judge from above the ground, but luckily his mom didn’t live very far from the water. He flew, just above the surface of the lake, enjoying the cool, light breeze washing over his body. The bridge loomed in sight and he tried to pick up speed. The streetlights from the bridge made the water look yellow as he approached.
He looked up just as he was going to pass under the bridge and saw a figure standing there watching him. Panic erupted in him as he wondered if it was the stranger, but as he emerged from the other side of the bridge he knew it was. The stranger landed on his back with a thud and they both hit the water.
The cold blackness washed over Steve shocking him. The impact of the stranger had sent pain shooting up his back and he couldn’t move. Submerged in the water he couldn’t tell which way was up, the night sky didn’t give him a clue. He lay still in the silent water, holding his breath for a few seconds when he felt something grip his ankle.
He kicked with all his might, knowing that the stranger was there, and he swam in the opposite direction, as fast as he could since the sensation of being grabbed erased the shock and he could move again.
His lungs burned as bad as his throat as he struggled to get away. His body had used up all the oxygen he had and he started to feel dizzy. With a final kick he broke the surface of the lake and gasped for breath. Only a second passed and he felt something grab for his leg as he treaded water a hundred feet from the bridge.
More instinct than anything else he pushed down on the water with his hands and rose almost to the knees out of the water. The stranger broke the surface next to him as he fell back towards the water.
“Stop resisting human, it is for your own good,” said the black eyes stranger. His features looking odd in the white moonlight.
“Fuck yourself,” Steve said and pushed again, this time as his waist breached the surface he pushed down again, this time clearing the water. “I will find you,” the strange called out from the surface as Steve rose up and onto the bridge thirty feet above. He caught his breath and wrung out his clothes the best he could as he shivered from the wetness enveloping him.
“I gotta get some dry clothes,” he said and started to push his way up into the night sky towards home. He coughed and saw a glow coming from out of his mouth onto the hand he had covered it with. He thought of the woman in the lake, and the glow she had. Was that to be my fate too? He thought then laughed and the overly melodramatic sounding phrase he chose.
The glow got brighter and he started to feel feverish. He landed on the roof of a bar as softly as he could to avoid attention. He shook his head to clear it. “What kind of cold makes you fly? He thought to himself, then realized he was no longer cold. His clothes were dry and actually warm. He felt his skin, it was really hot. Somehow his body dried his clothes for him.
His fever was giving him a massive headache, and the dizziness he thought from the lack of oxygen was still there. He sat on the roof for a few minutes with his head in his hands, listening to the raucous laughter from the building below. He slumped over on the worn asphalt shingles and passed out.
When Steve awoke he was in his own bed. Fuzzy memories from the night before flittered through his head. He felt better, other than the sore throat. He sat up on the edge of the bed and looked at his clock. It was ten. “What a fucked up dream,” he thought as he stood up and stretched. “That’s the last time I drink while taking cough syrup.”
Steve walked into the living room and turned the TV on as he made his way to the fridge in the kitchen to forage for something to eat. He thought about the crazy dream of flying. It was pretty cool, at least until that stranger showed up. So weird, he thought.
He grabbed and apple and made his way back to the living room, plopping down in an armchair and opening a soda he grabbed.
A story out of Northville today as a woman’s body was found in a pond just off Ridge Road. The woman was naked and police have yet to identify her.
Steve dropped his apple on the floor and stared at the TV.
Reports of gunfire last night led police to the area where they found the woman. No gunshot wounds were found on her. Authorities are asking anyone with information on the woman to call their tip line on the screen below. All calls are confidential.
In other news a duck caused a pile up on I-87 this morning when…
“What the fuck,” Steve said staring at the T.V. His stomach sank and he was no longer hungry. He stood up and walked to the kitchen throwing the apple away. He heard the squeal of brake dust as a car decelerated and pulled into his driveway. It was a jet black SUV with spotlights attached to doors. Its windows were all tinted black so he couldn’t see inside.
What hell is this? He thought as he weighed his options. Did Pete give his name last night at the party? Finding the woman, that was real? Does that mean it wasn’t a dream at all? He saw two men in black suits get out of the vehicle and he ran into the bathroom and looked in the mirror. He opened his mouth wide and saw a faint glow from within, but there wasn’t enough light to see what the source was.
“Did I swallow a fucking firefly?” he said as he heard the hard knock of authority on the door. His mind took a right turn and he thought how every cop knocks the same exact way, whether a state, county or local cop. They must have a knocking class in the academy, he giggled to himself.
They can’t be here to arrest me, he thought. I will just to tell them I was the one that found the lady, panicked and ran home. There is no shame in being spooked from a dead body, he reasoned. But was she dead?
He didn’t know how to help the woman, even if the stranger didn’t show up. He couldn’t even help himself, he thought as he heard the second barrage of cop knocks. With a deep breath to suck in as much atmospheric bravery as he could, he walked to the front door.
“Steven?” the first man said. He was about six feet tall with a fireman mustache adorning his upper lip. The other man stood behind him and Steve couldn’t see his face.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“My name is Agent Cook, and this is Agent Lee,” he said pointing at his partner. Steve nodded to Cook.
“What can I do for you?” he asked holding the door in his hand.
“We want to talk about last night. Might we come in?” Agent Cook asked.
“No.” Steve replied.
“Would you mind stepping out here to talk to us?” Agent Lee chimed in.
“No.” Steve said again. An awkward silence fell as they stared at each other for a few seconds.
“OK then, how do you think we should proceed, Steven?” Agent Cook asked.
“It’s Steve and you guys can proceed your way back to the car and proceed to drive your ass back where you came,” he said and coughed.
The two agents looked at each other and glanced back at the SUV. “Steve…we are not here to give you any trouble. We just want to know what happened last night. Your name was on a list of party goers at a Peter Wood’s house, and we just want to ask you if you saw anything…unusual last night.
“You mean other than the dead woman, right?” Steve asked, ready to close the door at any given moment. Both Agents once again shared a glance with each other and the SUV behind them.
“Who’s hiding in the truck?” Steve asked.
“Look Steve, is it true you found a woman’s body was found in a pond across from the party you were at last night? That is the report we have here. Unfortunately we were not the first to arrive since this is such a backwoods area, by the time we heard about it, your Sheriff blabbed to the media. I don’t know what these locals did to the crime scene. I just want a firsthand account of what happened before we take her and our reports back home,” the Agent explained.
“I was drunk, and tried to fish in a pond. My line got snagged on something so I tried to walk around the pond and unsnag it. That’s when I accidently pulled her from the water. I must have screamed because my friend, Pete, came to check on me and then he went to his house to call 911,” Steve explained.
“Why didn’t you go with him?” asked Agent Lee. “I couldn’t, there was…..I panicked,” Steve said catching himself.
“There was what?” Cook asked writing down something on his notepad.
“I was scared, it was the first dead body I have ever seen,” Steve said.
“I heard you recently were missing on a camping trip. How did that happen,” Agent Lee asked.
“You know how kids are, make plans last minute to camp and get drunk and pass out in the woods, when you wake up its hard to tell which way you came from,” Steve said with a smile.
“Ah youth, if only I could go back in time,” Agent Cook said.
“One more question, and we only ask this because we have a dead woman not from around here. Have you seen anyone strange in the last few days?” Agent Lee asked.
Steve thought about the stranger from last night. Did he murder the girl? If so does that mean he was next? He struggled inside with the choice to tell these men. Maybe they could protect him from the stranger, but if he could really fly and they found out they would probably dissect him.
“Can’t say that I have,” Steve said.
“OK then Steven I think we have everything we need. If you think of anything give us a call,” Agent Cook said and handed Steve a card. FBI. He should have known. The two agents turned and stepped off the porch. Agent Lee turned back towards him.
“By the way, that’s a nasty scratch on your neck. Did you get that camping?” he asked and glanced towards the SUV.
“Your mom,” Steve said and closed the door. He watched as the two agents climbed back into the SUV. He waited a full minute and the truck just sat there in the driveway. He got another sinking feeling as he watched them make no attempt to leave.
Steve started to feel trapped and went to the medicine cabinet to take a swig of cough syrup. He happened to look out the bathroom window and saw a black SUV pull into his neighbor’s driveway. He glanced back out towards his front door and saw the SUV was still there.
“Fuck!” he thought. He paced back and forth between the front door and the bathroom window and saw three men climb out of the SUV at his neighbor’s house. They carried assault riffled and wore bullet proof vests. He looked out the front door and saw the agents climbing back out of their truck. The back door opened and out stepped the stranger from the night before.
Steve bolted to the back door and yanked it open. Two officers were approaching from next door and he ran towards the back of his garage.
Steve didn’t question the voice or where it came from, he just pushed down with his arms at his side and lifted off the ground. It wasn’t a dream.
“We have an Icarus situation,” came an officer’s voice below into his radio.
“Take him alive, use tranqs,” shouted Agent Cook.
Steve pushed as hard as he could to gain altitude as little darts whizzed past.
A little father, and you will be out of range. They won’t shoot you this high. They want us undamaged.
“Who are you,” Steve asked. “Where the fuck are you? It sounds like you’re in my head.”
I am. You are not hearing me, it is more like reading my conscious thought. I was too weak before and I didn’t know your language. It took some time to assimilate. Fly South.
“I don’t know which way that is!” Steve yelled as he passed over some old oaks and maples.
Follow the road ahead to the right
“Thanks mental GPS,” Steve quipped and turned in the direction the voice wanted to go.
“Did you make me warm last night when I was freezing?” he asked.
Yes. You would have died of hypothermia. It would have resulted in my death as well. I tapped into your hypothalamus and closed your sweat glands. It could only be a temporary fix due to your fragile design, but it saved your life, and mine.
“And you are?” Steve asked. “Wait don’t tell me. Are you the glowy thing in my throat?”
Yes. Continue south to the circle, I can reveal all then. I am still weak.
“Weak from what?”
Experiments. Torture. Poking and prodding.
“So I am crazy right? I mean that’s what’s happening here? I lost it and in reality I am sitting in a padded room high on meds?” Steve said sailing over the trees south to the lake front.
You are most assuredly not insane. All will be revealed soon. We approach the circle.
“Are you talking about where I first saw the woman?” Steve asked.
Yes. Take me there and I can explain.
Steven landed in the clearing where he met the woman for the first time, reaching out to him for help. There was no one around and he looked around the woods. “Okay we are here Voice in my Head,” he said.
Stand in center, close your eyes.
“Sure why not, I probably don’t want to see this,” he said and shut his eyes.
I need you to relax, I need control for a moment.
“Control? Of me? No way,” Steve said.
It’s the only way.
Steve relaxed with a sigh and felt his arms moving although he didn’t move them. His voice started talking in a different language. He had the sensation of riding in an elevator.
Okay, take control before you fall.
Steve opened his eyes and was surrounded by panels upon panels of screens with bars in various colors. He turned around and found a table with bright lights above it. He had a flashback to earlier in the week.
“You did this to me! I remember the pain. You can’t have me. I won’t let it!” he yelled out looking for something sharp.
“No, fuck you, I won’t let you do that to me again!” he said grabbing what looked like a scalpel.
You don’t understand, human. I am trying to undo.
“Yeah trying to undo me, I know,” Steve said placing the scalpel in his mouth.
You will only harm yourself this way. I can separate us safely. Please!
“Why should I believe you?” Steve asked pulling the scalpel out of his mouth, it had blood on the blade. He must have cut himself.
Please I was an unwilling participant in this as well. I was too weak to fight it. Let me get us separated then I will explain. I don’t think we can stay linked for much longer.
“I will hang onto this,” Steve said holding the scalpel up in front of his own face. “Can you see through my eyes?” he asked.
Yes, but I knew what you meant anyway. Lie on the table and let me get started.
Steven laid down and shifted to a comfortable position. He clutched the surgical tool tightly in his hand.
Strap yourself in so that you don’t fall off the table.
“So I can’t run?” Steve said.
Do you want to be free of me? Then listen to me. We don’t have much time.
Steve reached over and grabbed the strap and placed it over his midsection. He nearly cut himself with the scalpel because he refused to put it down. He tightened the strap as much as he felt comfortable with. “Now what?”
Open the panel on the side of the table. You will have to put the scalpel down for it. Then press the red button near the bottom of the panel. Once done, you will hear a pump kick on. Give it about ten seconds and push the blue square button at the top twice, then the yellow circle once.
“Are we playing Simon?” Steve asked.
Who is Simon?
“Never mind. Ok so red, wait for pump blue twice then yellow?”
“Got it.” Steven responded and closed his eyes. “I hope this works!” He pressed the red button and heard the pump kick on. He counted to ten in his head then pushed the blue one twice. The lights above him kicked on and he couldn’t feel his sore throat anymore. He fumbled around on the panel looking for the yellow button as the light from above blinded him. He found it a second later and pushed it down then clenched his eyes shut tight not knowing what to expect.
His body started to convulse. All his muscles locked and he couldn’t move them voluntarily. “You son of a bitch!” he yelled out from between clenched teeth before he lost his breath and had to gasp to keep airflow going.
After ten seconds the lights shut off and the pump stopped. He tried to catch his breath. Just as he had enough to speak the lights came to life again and he clenched up. A ten second eternity passed as he convulsed in intense pain. He blacked out.
When Steve woke up he was laying on the table unstrapped. He felt his neck and felt where the scratch was. It was raw, a fresh wound. It goes to figure if that was where the creature went in, he would come out there.
“Are you there?” he asked in a raspy voice. There was no answer. He looked around the room as he sat up looking for some kind of glowing slug or something. He wasn’t even sure what the thing looked like.
“Hello,” he called out. He noticed a pitcher of water next to the table. That wasn’t there before. He picked it up and took a few sips. His throat wasn’t as sore as it had been for the last few days. “Maybe the glow slug died during surgery,” he said out loud as he glanced at his surroundings. He didn’t even see a door along the walls.
He slid off the table and walked to the panels on the wall. He couldn’t read the words or symbols on the display, but tried to figure out what they meant anyway. What kind of facility was this anyway? Some kind of secret government bullshit?
“It’s no government facility. At least not an Earth government,” came a voice behind him. Steve swung around to see a being standing in front of him. “It took longer for the metamorphosis to complete. I underestimated your recovery time,” It said. Steve looked over the Gray alien. It was straight out of an episode of the X-Files.
“You’re the voice in my head?” Steven asked taking a step closer, curious but still cautious.
“Yes I was. In my infant state I couldn’t survive on your planet alone. You are aboard my ship which resides currently on the dark side of your moon. My people have been disappearing for some time and my family was sent to investigate. There is another species here. He has taken human form. He was the one that attacked us,” it said.
“He took your people?” Steve asked.
“It appears he has made a deal with your government. One of our forms can meld with other species and through that grant certain abilities. In your species case, the ability to fly. He has enslaved my people and sold them to your government. I tried to follow my mother down to the planet’s surface when they didn’t come back, but was captured. They must have found the circle we geomarked as a landing. They captured me as my mother tried to escape back to our ship.” The alien explained.
“The woman in the woods?” Steve asked.
“Yes, my mother was forced to meld with that poor woman. My mother took control of the woman’s body to escape, but the fight inside the mind caused the woman to go insane. By the time we found her together, my mother had died and the woman was wandering around with an empty mind. It is a pity really,” the alien said.
“Do you have a name? I can’t just call you alien,” Steven said.
“We don’t have names where I come from,” the alien responded.
“Ok then, I will give you one. Let me think….I got it! Your name is Bob.
“Bob?” he asked.
“Yah all the cool guys that aren’t named Steve are named Bob.”
“I will have to take your word for it,” Bob the alien said.
“How the hell do I get home?” Steve asked.
“You can’t go home, not yet. The Breetu, the other alien is still looking for you. As well as your own government. I am returning to the surface to find my father. He has to be somewhere nearby your town. Do you know of a warehouse building somewhere nearby where they could have privacy?” Bob asked.
“There is a place just outside of town. Someone bought it a few months ago. We repaired the roof on the place,” Steve said.
“Let us return to the surface then. Come with me,” Bob said leading Steve through a doorway that wasn’t there earlier. On the other side bright fluorescent lights illuminated a short white hallway with a door on both sides and one at the other end, about thirty feet away. “In here,” Bob said pointing to a white metal door on the left. With a wave of his Gray hand, the door slid open for Bob. Steve followed the alien through the opening.
Inside there were racks of devices and what appeared to be weapons. Bob handed Steve a bracelet and told him to slip it on his wrist. “It’s a force field, of sorts,” Bob said as he glanced over the row of weapons lined up on the wall. “It is programmed to stop fast moving, possibly fatal projectiles. It won’t stop a punch though, so be careful,” he explained then turned back to the weapons. “Hmm,” he said.
“Find the biggest one and let’s blast that shithead,” Steve said.
“Although I agree with you in theory, killing the Breetu won’t stop what’s happening here. I am sure there are others involved. Getting my father back so that we can return to our people and let them know what is going on is top priority. Here, this one will do,” Bob the alien said and then handed Steve something vaguely pistol shaped. Steve turned it over in his hand looking it over.
“The button on the side is the triggering mechanism. Don’t fire unless you have a clear shot. It doesn’t hold a lot of ammo, but will kill anything you fire at. Let’s get going,” Bob said taking a longer barreled weapon for himself, along with a small stainless steel ball.
The reentered the operating room of the ship. “There is a transporter in here,” Bob explained as he wandered over to the control panels on the far wall. Steve stood about where they were when they arrived on the ship. “Is that warehouse you mentioned north of the town?” Bob asked.
“Yeah, I think so.” Steve answered.
“I am getting a faint bio signal of my species from that direction,” Bob said.
“He must be hurting then, let’s go bust him out,” Steve said.
“Stand there, by the post, I will set it to transfer in ten seconds,” Bob said standing next to Steve. “You don’t have to close your eyes this time,” he said.
“Bob, was that a joke?” Steve asked.
“Merely and observation,” the alien replied and a blinding white light enveloped them. Vertigo took hold of Steve and he felt like he was going to fall over. The light fell away and he was standing in the clearing in the woods again, night had freshly fallen over the forest. He took a moment to get his bearings and had to hurry after Bob who was walking towards the house he had worked on.
“Bob, you said this was one form your people could take, is there one possibly that would be less conspicuous? Maybe a little more human?” Steve asked.
“No, I am sorry. This is my natural form, the larva like version they implanted inside you is one of three other forms we can take, but none resemble humans or anything naturally seen on this planet.” Bob said.
“Ok man. We need a car otherwise people will see you. I think mine is still at Pete’s house<” Steve said.
“Let us check the garage,” Bob said and walked up to the side door on the garage of the house. He held the handle in his hand for a second and Steve heard a click. Then Bob opened the door.
“Did you just unlock it?” Steve asked.
“Yes,” was Bob’s only reply.
They stepped inside the garage and closed the door behind them. There was a light switch on the wall and Steve flicked it on and whistled.
“What do you know? Glen was right!” Steve said with a grin as he looked at the orange hummer barely fitting in the garage. The license plate read TYLRSWFT. He tried the handle on the hummer but it was locked. Bob put his hand on the handle the second Steve let go and within seconds they were climbing inside the vehicle.
The engine roared to life after Bob worked his alien magic on the ignition. With a couple test revs, just to make sure it was running properly, Steve pushed the accelerator down and the SUV raced down the driveway. He was sure Taylor wouldn’t miss the Hummer that much. Bob buckled his seatbelt.
The warehouse was on the other side of town but still not that far away. The Hummer ate the distance up taking up seventy percent of the backroads. Luckily the road to the lake wasn’t a high traffic area this time of year. They made it to town without an incident.
Steve careened onto Main Street at fifty mph. “I think you should slow the vehicle to a safe speed,” Bob said, gripping the door handle.
“I’m good,” Steve said with a smile.
“We don’t want the authorities to know we are coming,” Bob pointed out. Steve lost his smile and let off the gas.
“Fuck, didn’t think of that.”
“Fuck indeed, Steve,” Bob said.
Steve burst out laughing. Bob turned in his seat and tilted his head quizzically. “What do you find so amusing, human?” he asked.
“You dropping an F-bomb, it was funny,” Steve said.
“A Fluorine bomb?” Bob asked.
“What? No! What the fuck?” Steve said as he turned the Hummer onto Water Street. “We are almost there, do you want me to park in the lot?” he asked the alien.
“No, just before the building would be fine,” Bob said checking over the things he brought with him.
“Is this force field active or do I have to turn it on?” Steve asked.
“It will activate as soon as it detects a projectile,” Bob said.
“Great so it’s only on after they fire the gun.”
The Hummer pulled up along the side of the road and they climbed out taking their alien devices with them. The warehouse sat back from the road through a small stand of trees, the only exception being the driveway to the place.
“We can cut through here,” Steve said pointing to a cluster of young pine trees no taller than him. He jogged across the road, keeping his head down. When he reached the other side he waved back to Bob to follow, but Bob was casually walking across the road. Steve heard the sound of a car approaching and signaled for the alien to hurry up. Bob didn’t seem concerned about being seen though.
Steve jutted out and grabbed the Gray alien, putting himself between the car and Bob. As the car passed Steve saw the driver rubbernecking, almost striking the Hummer parked on the shoulder. “You have to be more careful, Bob. You don’t want to get captured and experimented on do you?” Steve said.
“Why would anyone want that,” Bob replied.
“Exactly, let’s go,” Steve said and pushed his way through the small pines. As he passed through he remembered the last time he pushed through trees, it was the first time he flew. Well, I guess that’s over now, he thought and found himself saddened by the idea.
Bob emerged from the needled branches, holding his weapon in front of him. The moonlight glinted off the metal barrel on the alien gun. Steve helped the Gray jump a little ravine as they crossed the grassy area leading to the back of the building.
They reached the metal building without incident and they made their way around the side to a door about halfway down the length of the building. The door was locked, but it was no match for Bob’s abilities. From this side they could see the parking lot and made note of the two cars parked there. Bob pulled the door open slowly and peered inside. It was a lit hallway lined with doors, but no guards.
“Look for cameras,” Steve suggested as he peeked over Bob’s head. None were in sight, so they entered the building cautiously. “I don’t suppose you know where your father is,” Steve said pointing to the doors lining the walls.
“No, just somewhere inside,” Bob said as he approached the first door. He reached out and turned the knob. “Unlocked.” He pulled the door open and disappeared inside.
“Wait up, Bob,” Steve said and chased after him.
Inside the room was several long tables and white walls lined with vending machines. “You found the breakroom,” Steve said.
They left the room after getting a snack and tried the door across the hall. It took several tries before they found a room that yielded any positive results, but through the window of the room they could make out a few guards watching monitors. Bob reached out to open the door, but Steve put his hand on top of the aliens arm. He was cold to the touch.
“Wait. It’s occupied,” Steve whispered and pointed through the small window at the people inside.
Bob fiddled with the stainless steel ball he had and it separated into two halves with buttons on the inside. He pushed a few and closed up the ball. He nodded to Steve, which he thought seemed like such a human gesture to do. Then Bob opened the door a crack and rolled the ball inside.
“What the hell? Hey!” came a voice from inside, and Steve cringed waiting for the hail of gunfire and he wondered if his force field would actually work.
No more sound came from the room, and when Steve opened his eyes, the door was open and Bob was standing over the two guards. They were unconscious on the floor. Steve saw their chests rise and fall with the rhythm of a deep sleep.
“Knockout gas?” Steve asked.
“Something like that,” Bob replied and jumped into the seat in front of the monitors. He spent several minutes panning cameras around.
“Look a fire exit map,” Steve said looking at the laminated piece of paper above the fire extinguisher. “Hey Bob, what if we just pull the fire alarm, they would have to evacuate wouldn’t they, then they would bring your father to us?” Steve mentioned.
“Plus all the guards in the place. I think I found him. The camera says c13,” The alien stated.
“All these rooms say A something,” Steve said looking at the map. “It must be a different floor. We gotta find the elevator.”
“There is no floor above us, it must be below,” Bob said as they exited the room. Steve brought the map with them.
At the end of the hall they found the elevator waiting for them. They climbed inside and pushed the button for C on the panel. The machine whirred to life as they began to descend into the facility. The terrible music emanated from the ceiling.
“UG, it’s Taylor Swift,” Steve said looking up at the speakers. “Fuck.”
Bob looked up as well. His black eyes unblinking. “Now is the time to say fuck?” he said as he saw his reflection in the camera’s lens.
“Perfect time,” Steve responded and reached up. He yanked the camera out of the wall. It took two tries to sever the wires, but they both knew it was a futile effort. They have been spotted by someone for sure.
When the elevator finished moving and dinged Steve took a deep breath and raised his alien pistol at the doors. They slid open not to a hallway filled with guards, but rather with one figure. The Breetu stood twenty feet back from the elevator his hands behind his back. His black eyes studied them as time stood still.
“Come on out, there is nowhere to run now. The guards are blocking all exits above,” he said waving to Steve and Bob to exit. Steve stepped out of the elevator and pushed the button on his pistol. He heard a pew and a pale red beam shot towards the Breetu.
The Slaver sidestepped the shot with ease and returned fire with a similar weapon. Steve flinched but didn’t feel any pain.
“I see you have some Gray Tech. No matter. We can settle this in a different way,” the Breetu said and dropped his pistol, replacing it with a long knife from inside his trench coat.
Bob left the elevator and handed Steve a knife of similar make. Steve hefted the blade in his hand and looked back at the Breetu. “Let’s go asshole, you shot at me in the woods,” Steve said.
“I told you I meant you now harm, but I couldn’t let you escape. I see you have separated from the Gray somehow, but you were too important to us then to let loose. Now, you know too much and we still can’t have you loose,” the Breetu said and started to close in on Steve.
“Any weaknesses I should know about, buddy?” Steve asked Bob.
“His race is very much like humans, so think about what can harm you,” Bob said.
“You will never find your father, the mission is being aborted. We are moving the whole operation to a new location. Your father is being prepped for travel now and if he proves too weak for travel, well that just means more business for me,” the slaver said with a sinister smile. He swiped at Steve, but Steve dodged the swing.
“Go find him,” Steve said. “I got this.”
“Thank you Steve,” Bob said and darted past the Breetu and down the hall. Steve feinted drawing his attention from the Gray alien.
“You won’t get out of here alive, human,” Breetu said.
“Neither will you, Trenchy,” Steve said and swiped wide to the left, catching the aliens sleeve with his knife. He panicked for the second it took to get loose from the leather.
“So be it,” the slaver said and started a flurry of strikes against Steve. He backed up to avoid the ones he couldn’t block. He was no fencer and this alien obviously had more experience than him with knife fighting. He realized he didn’t stand a chance.
As if reading Steve’s mind, the alien smiled a cruel smile and increased the assault. He drew blood from Steve’s forearm as the human mistimed his counter swing.
Steve knew he was beat when he felt the doors of the elevator on his back. He had run out of room to flee. The alien bastard was gonna kill him. He really didn’t care, he just wanted to buy Bob as much time as he could. His life would never be the same again anyway.
“You have nowhere else to run, human. You fight like an infant. This planet’s warriors are a joke. You will carry shame to the grave,” The Breetu said and raised his arm for a downward strike.
His race is very much like humans, so think about what can harm you. Bob’s words played in his head.
“Joke’s on you,” Steve said and kicked as hard as he could between the legs. The Breetu dropped the knife before falling to his knees. Steve kicked out again, this time to the slaver’s face, sending him sliding over the waxed tile floor.
He gripped the knife Bob gave him in his left hand and picked up the other alien’s knife in his right hand. “Now I got both knives,” he said as he approached the Breetu, who was still clutching between his legs.
Steve stood over the alien, careful not to give him a change to return the favor. He plunged Bob’s knife into the alien’s chest. The Breetu screamed out in pain and tried to remove the knife. Steve stepped over the alien and turned back to face him.
“I mean you no harm, come with me! Fucker,” he said mocking the alien. He raised his foot up and brought it down with all the force he could muster towards the alien’s head. Right before his boot reached the Breetu he touched something on his wrist and after a flash of bright light, was gone.
“No! Fuck!” Steve said stomping around in the hall. The alien had escaped to who knows where. The asshole was free to continue his slave business. From farther in the building, he heard the sound of gunfire. Bob. He ripped part of his shirt and tied it around his forearm where he was bleeding before jogging down the hall to help his alien friend.
Steve burst through the door at the end of the hallway ready for anything. He held his pistol in his hand with his finger over the trigger button. Inside the room stood Bob, surrounded by the unconscious bodies of several guards.
“Are you ok?” Steve called out to his friend. He saw a small wound on the Gray’s shoulder, and a clear liquid was oozing out slowly.
“Yes. Did you kill him?” Bob asked.
“No, he escaped just as I was about too,” Steve replied.
Along the back wall of the room was large dog cages, about thirty inches tall. They were two high and seven cages per row. Only 2 of the cages were occupied though. IV hoses flowed into the slumped Gray aliens who seemed to be out of it.
“Is one of those your father?” Steve asked.
“Yes, but I do not know the other,” Bob said as he approached the machines hooked to the members of his race. Steve walked up next to his buddy.
“What are they pumping them full of?” he asked as he approached the machines. He read the small black letters on the IV bag. Etizolam. “Etizolam, I don’t even know what that is,” Steve said.
“It has sedative properties, if we can get them away from it, they should recover,” Bob said as he opened the lock on his father’s cage. Steve lifted the Gray out of the cage and onto a gurney that they found in the room. After freeing the second alien from his cage, Bob removed the IV’s that fed them.
“What are we going to do about the guards waiting for us?” Steve asked.
“We will bypass them. I know it is not species wide, but the atrocities your race have performed on mine can’t be ignored. As a species we have made a peace pact and only attack if we are attacked first. I had planned to retrieve my family and leave this planet forever, but I see the experiments won’t stop here if we allow this place to exist. Come closer, Steve,” Bob said and pushed the gurney towards the human.
“What are you going to do?” Steve asked as a blinding white light surrounded them. When he could see again he was aboard in the operating room on the ship again. He helped place Bob’s father on the table they had used earlier.
Bob walked over to the control panel and started to push buttons on the screen. “It’s time this ended. I cannot allow this to go on. I am sorry Steve,” Bob said.
“Bob…what are you doing?” Steve asked.
“I am going to blow it all up,” Bob said.
“What! I live there,” Steve yelled.
“Not the planet, the facility. All the records and men responsible. They still think we are in the cage room. They are converging on it now,” Bob said.
“Oh yah, blow them up, fuck em,” Steve said.
“Fuck em indeed,” Bob said and tried to make a smile, but his small slit of an alien mouth just couldn’t form the right shape.
“Don’t do that, it’s creepy,” Steve said. One of the screens became a monitor as Steve watched a beam shoot from the ship down to the surface incinerating the warehouse instantly. A fire ball rose into the night sky lighting up the town.
“Someone is going to see that and ask questions,” Steve said.
“There will be nothing left,” Bob said. “Now help me with my father.”
Together they placed his father in the right positions on the table. Once done with that Steve went and stood by the other Gray on the gurney. He watched as Bob fussed around his father, and adjusted dials on the side of the table.
Bob touched the same buttons that they had used earlier, only in a different sequence. The father Gray convulsed once, before relaxing again. Steve watched as the aliens’ chest rose and fell with even breathing. Bob looked up at the human.
“He will be ok. The effects of the drug should wear off momentarily. I removed ninety percent of it from his system. Help me move him so that we can revive the other one,” Bob said.
Steve obliged his new friend and gently shuffled the Grays around the operating room. When Bob was done with that one he looked visibly relieved. He walked over to the gurney and looked down on his father.
It took about ten minutes for his father to awaken on the gurney. Bob helped him to his feet. “Human, you are not welcome here.” Bob’s father said.
“He has helped me, father. He is not like the others. He was as we were, unwilling participants. He helped me rescue you, and the other one,” Bob said.
The patriarch turned towards the other alien as it awoke. He helped it to its feet.
“Is that someone you know?” Steve asked.
“I am from a different outpost, but I have been in captivity for nearly three years. I know where the Breetu has fled. Let us go there and end this atrocity,” the Gray said.
“Let me say goodbye to my friend,” Bob said.
“I can’t go with you?” Steve asked.
“I am sorry, but no. I don’t think you would survive the trip,” Bob said. “Goodbye Steve, fuck you.”
Steve smiled. “Fuck you too, Bob.”
“Bob?” Bob’s father asked.
“It’s my earth name,” Bob explained.
“Thank you for your help,” Bob’s father asked and nodded at Steve.
“Anytime,” he replied and stepped into the spot he stood at earlier to transport down to the surface.
“One more thing, Steve,” Bob said. “I have something for you,” Bob approached and held out his hand to Steve. In it was another wrist device.
“A force field?” Steve asked.
“Not quite. I won’t ruin the surprise,” Bob said and stepped back. A flash of brilliant light engulfed Steve and the next he knew he was standing in the circle in the woods where it all began. He turned the device over in his hand a few times to get a clue as to what it did, but there was no markings or writing on it.
He placed it on his wrist and a small screen lit up as he felt a jab from inside the bracelet. “Ow, fuck,” he said and saw a trickle of blood run down his hand. The display showed his body’s vital signs and he started to get a sore throat again. He smiled and ran through the woods towards the house they stole the Hummer from. When he broke free from the woods he pushed down with his arms and raised up to roof level with the lake house. “WHOOHOOO!” he yelled and raced over the surface of the water, as the sun crested the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.
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