It came out of the sky, must have come from space, cracked the air and penetrated the ground in Sheep’s Meadow. There was no massive explosion even though I was certain it was moving faster than any jet possibly could. For 15 minutes, I stood looking up the street in front of my building, not moving, not blinking, starting to sweat, holding coffee for me and my wife. It moved so fast that I thought maybe it wasn’t real, that I caught a glimpse of a shadow or it was one of those floaters in my eye. But then the ground rippled, the buildings next to me jumped an inch and landed with a crash. Some started toppling, others just settled, creaking, slightly askew.
Then I heard a grumble. A grinding, undulating, pulse, barely audible, yet excruciating in its volume. I remembered the phrase “brown note” and worried that I would succumb to uncontrolled shitting, but, thankfully, I kept it together. I looked up at my building. It was beginning to sag.
“Babe!” I was already running back into the building as I screamed for my wife. We rarely ever called each other by our names, opting instead for Babe or Baby, and sometimes Honey. So much so, that it felt weird to refer to her by name when I introduced her to colleagues or friends. As I crossed the threshold of our building’s sagging front door, my wife was already running toward me, our 5-year-old daughter in tow. My wife’s hair was caked in blood on one side, but she seemed unbowed by whatever gave her the gash. She had the stern look of protector-in-chief, ready to lift the building off of her daughter should it come to that. Raylin hadn’t processed what was happening yet, if any of us had at all. She still had her stuffed puppy, NiNi, under her arm. Its neck worn from constant snuggling over 3 1/2 years.
I scooped her up, and without words, the three of us were in the middle of the street looking down 6th avenue. We could hear the creaking and crashing of buildings in the distance. Our own building looked precarious, the facade was sagging toward the street and windows on the second floor were breaking as they caved into the interior.
“The park.” My wife’s mind was always sharpest under duress. Where I would freeze in matters of extreme pressure, she gained clarity from the extremes of life and death. She was never accused of hesitating. The park was three avenues away. It felt like the undulation was coming from the park, but there was nowhere else where we’d be safe from falling buildings and debris, so we started walking quickly, a New York pace, which to the uninitiated would look like jogging. The waves of energy gained momentum and my daughter started whining in pain. As the waves closed together, so did our pace quicken. Until the ground leapt with one electrifying jolt. We were tumbling in the air as soon as the wave passed through us. The breath knocked out of me, I was laying on my back staring into the clear blue. An apartment building’s brick facade crumbling above me. My wife leaned over me with Raylin.
“We’ve gotta move.” She whispered sternly, worriedly, looking at the building above.
Then we were actually running, my wife ahead of me as my daughter finally started crying the anguish of uncontrolled fear. Her little fingers dug into my wife’s back with such force that Kathryn’s shirt was tearing beneath her little fingertips. I don’t think Kat noticed. When we finally made it to the park, it was amid thousands of other Manhattanites. Some hobbled with sprained ankles, some with protruding bones. The waves were gathering speed again when a bright spark of light lanced down from the atmosphere, burning oxygen in its path. The waves stopped and the southern end of the park exploded in an actinic blue flash.
Moments later, hundreds of ships, space ships, descended through the atmosphere on trails of fire, breaking sound barriers and whatever windows and ear drums were left in the metro area. They didn’t turn to burn off speed as they descended. They just plummeted until they were a few hundred feet off the ground before firing retro thrusters. They left no burn marks as they landed. They just landed, one 50 feet from where we were standing mouth agape. In that instant, I knew we weren’t alone in the universe and that we were ill equipped to survive.
The tail of the ship unfolded like an origami iris, forming a curvilinear ramp onto which stepped an attractive humanoid female. Lavender skin, light blue hair, yellow eyes. Even while I was retreating into my lizard brain, the situation felt off. Like the alien in front us looked too close to what I thought an alien should look like. Like the artist who created it was limited to humanoid forms because the actors they painted and sculpted were also human. Then she spoke.
“You’re in danger. Your planet is under attack and it will not survive. You will not survive.”
I knew there was an “unless” coming. I heard Arnold in my head, “Come with me if you want to live.”
“We have temporarily slowed the attack, but more attacks are coming and it will shake your cities to the ground, ultimately shaking each of you apart with waves of gravity. If you stay, you cannot escape. Thousands of our ships are landing across the earth. We won’t be able to save all of you, but we will try to get as many of you as we can. We are here to rescue you. Quickly, get aboard if you want to live.”
My wife and I looked at each other, then at the ship. It was sleek reptilian purple with a hammerhead shaped front. It looked like a violent predator, as if it would turn you to mush if you looked at it for too long. I couldn’t see any weapons, but, then again, I didn’t know what weapons on an alien flying shark looked like. It was a big ship and could probably fit 500 people, if we didn’t mind sitting on one another. My daughter just said, “wow.” And we all looked up. Everywhere you looked, there was a shark flying through the air or descending to building tops, parks, rivers.
“Rick, I don’t want to get on that thing. Is it possible to destroy a whole planet in seconds? Why would they want to?”
“Mommy, Daddy…where are they from?”
The people around us were similarly frozen, unsure, inquisitive. Go back to our crumbling buildings, or get on a space bound shark with an attractive space faring flight attendant. I would wager that no one within sight had been off of Earth before, and didn’t like the idea of giving it a try at this moment. The woman, if you can call her that, standing on the ramp became agitated and started yelling back into the cavernous ship. The top of the ship unfolded along its spine. A small dome appeared and the air over it snapped into blue translucence.
“Quickly now” the alien shouted. “The enemy is beginning its second attack run.”
Over 82nd street, a descending Shark tumbled as the front half slid off of the back and burst into blue flames before it crashed into the Egyptian exhibit at the Met. The sky above the ship was momentarily ignited with a white stab of light that I could only assume was a laser. I’d find out later that it was a super heated plasma beam that only hard shields could disrupt, provided you had the foresight to point your hard shields in the right direction. The ship in front of us had correctly deployed their shields. As the plasma stabbed toward them, it met the shield and the little dome glowed bright red as steam pushed out from the sides. A few people started running toward the ship, but my family and I stayed where we were.
Another black form appeared in the sky moving at an incredible pace. I could only see it because it was coming right toward the park again, and then I saw hundreds of them, all falling toward the city. One pierced right through a landing shark. The ship didn’t explode and no debris was sent into the air. The ship was only sagging slightly on the left side. The kinetic energy alone should have destroyed us all.
People were now running toward the ship as the groaning in the earth began again. They weren’t full out sprinting, they were still afraid, but resigned to the only direction that seemed life affirming instead of death incarnate. Next to me, I heard a slight tear in the air and a woman, who I hadn’t met and was wearing her bathrobe, caught my eye for a second. And then she was gone. Not dead, that I could tell, just gone, a small divot also missing from the ground. And then people running ahead of me were disappearing, one at a time, ten at a time. Only those under the protective umbrella of the ship weren’t disappearing. My wife, daughter, and I made it onto the ramp and I was struck by the musky, boggy smell of the ship. Based on the alien’s appearance, it should have smelled like lavender and mint, but it smelled like swamp water and gym socks. My daughter was wailing “NiNi!” and pointing down the ramp. In the run, she dropped the poor dog. I didn’t think. I had a father’s Pavlovian response and ran out into the field. Gravity waves pulsing in my stomach.
The alien was yelling something at me and waving at me to return to the ship. I turned after picking up the dog and smelled copper, as if I held a penny up to my nose. I made eye contact with my wife who’s eyes were wide with fear and red with grief. She was yelling toward me and motioning for me to come back to her. And then I was gone.
Rick 34.15: The Rock Shakes by Christopher Hazlett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://robotissmiling.com/?p=53.