I was sitting on a bench in the park on the hill, the park named after that chick, what's her name, and watching the sun do its daily swan-dive into the chilly Pacific when I first saw them.
Oh, they were wearing disguises, of course, and they were pretty damn convincing little outfits at that. But it's easy when you're small. You paste a bit of fur on your wicked articulated tail and suddenly you're cute, rather than deadly. I saw right through them, though. I took one look and I knew the price of real estate was going up in my neighborhood, and it wasn't going to be paid in dollars.
I had another sip of Thunderbird, the bottle carefully concealed in a paper bag so all could pretend to be none the wiser, while I considered what to do. There were others in the park, strolling contentedly, oblivious to the danger all around them. They avoided me on my bench, however, and that was fine with me. Let them run and play frisbee. If they knew, the panic would only make things worse.
That's the same thing we decided in Roswell, back in '48, and we were right that time, too.
That was a long time ago, though, and since then we haven't done much to get ready for the next uninvited guests. Now I was watching them scamper and beg for peanuts while they executed their plan to rid the world of humanity. There they were, right in front of everyone, moving with singular and malevolent purpose, and none but me the wiser.
I'll tell you what tipped me off. It was a stray dog, a bit down on his luck, limping, fur matted and maybe falling out, but even a dog like that will have a little sport when there's a furry creature to chase. The dog went limping past my bench and I didn't really register it was there -- I was having some trouble with the cap on my bottle at that moment -- but what I saw next is burned into my brain. That dog saw the invaders and with tail high took an enthusiastic step towards one of the aliens.
But only one step. It was his unnatural stillness that caught my attention. I looked, and the dog was stock-still, ears forward, an eager expression on his mutt-face, but he did not go any closer to his quarry. The false rodent stood its ground, one tiny paw outstretched in the direction of the dog.
Next to the furry invader was what at first glance appeared to be a fast-food bag with crumpled-up burger wrappers sticking out, but as I watched two more of the invaders went to work tinkering with the rubbish. They were assembling a weapon, I realized. A bomb that would cleanse the world of humanity and leave it open and ready for commercial development. The rodents were exterminators, and we were the vermin.
I've been around a while, and I have to tell you there have been times when having the whole human race, myself included, cleanly removed from the surface of the planet has seemed like a pretty good idea. But to have the human race wiped out just to be replaced by these SOB's, that made no sense to me at all. It was up to me to carry the fight.
After watching the dog I knew they would be able to thwart any sort of direct attack I made as well. They would be ready for that. No, I would have to be subtle. I had another swig of fortified wine and considered my alternatives.
The invaders wouldn't want to tip their hand until they were ready to detonate their bomb, which meant that for the most part they were bound to resembling harmless park parasites for the casual observer. Even as I watched they would scamper to and fro seemingly randomly whenever one of the nearby picnickers looked their direction. Those little bastards are clever, I'll hand them that.
But they kept going back to the bag. They were carrying away objects that appeared to be french fries, but were far too firm and crispy considering how long they had been in a bag lying in the sun. You have to be alert to see things like that. This was a distributed weapon of some sort, and they were rushing about with the lethal fragments right under our noses.
But I was on to them, and they didn't know it. I saw them first. I had some more to drink.
The enemy would leave nothing to chance. The ones deploying the device would be trained to recognize any threat, and they would have a way to counteract it. My only hope -- humanity's only hope -- was for me to appear harmless enough that I could get close enough to the device to destroy it. I had to approach in such a way that if they did stop me other people would notice. Hell, even in California they'd do something if some little critter vaporized someone.
My bottle was empty so there was no use doing any more planning. I levered myself up off the bench and started a crab-wise walk toward the device and the little knot of evil buggers around it. I made some extra noise to make sure that other people in the park were watching and to give the enemy the impression that I was drunk. Far from it; I hadn't been more sober since the day I cleaned the ectoplasmic goo off Chuck Yeager's X-1. Sound barrier, my sweet ass.
I passed to the side while they watched me carefully, then I suddenly pitched over, right onto their device. I didn't even notice that I had cut my elbow open pretty good as I flopped and rolled, but I came up with the bag. I scrambled to my knees and turned to see them there, maybe ten or a dozen of them, in a little bunch, watching me with their beady black eyes. They wouldn't incinerate me, though, not as long as I was holding their precious bomb.
One of them stepped forward and spoke into my mind, punching his voice right through the tinfoil. Do I know you?
"We've met before," I said out loud. I can't think into people's minds.
So we have. So we have. Our projections showed the likelihood of you being alive at 0.03, given your lifestyle.
"Guess I'm just lucky"
Perhaps you were, up until today. If you return that bag, I promise as one warrior to another that you will enjoy a swift and painless death.
I curled the bag shut. "I don't think I would enjoy that at all."
It is far better than the alternative.
"I tell you what. Why don't you go to hell and if it's better than the alternative you can let me know." It's not every day you come up with a comeback like that in time.
The furry little guy heaved a sigh of great sorrow. I am sorry, then, that it has come to this. You leave us no choice.
"Of course you have a choice. Get back in your spaceship and leave us be."
Their spokesman shook his tiny head slowly, sadly. That would be nice, but we have no planet to return to.
I rolled my eyes. "I'd love to have a nickel for every time I've heard that one. I'd be up to almost half a buck now."
He or it waved a french fry at me. Perhaps we are not yet ready to cleanse your entire planet, but we have in place the equipment to rid this half of this rock of your miserable presence. Prepare to Die! The others raised their tiny fists in accord, with a squeaking little cheer.
He was bluffing. If they had the remote detonators in place, they would have popped them already and it would all be over. We were still waltzing, and when the music stopped I was going to have a chair.
The spokesman put a little finger to his ear and cocked his head, listening to something only he could hear. He nodded and turned to me. I've been authorized to offer you passage off this planet while it is cleared, and the area currently occupied by this city upon your return.
"No dice, there, Rocky. The planet's not mine to give."
If it is not yours to give, neither is it yours to defend. Return the bag. Select among the finest breeding companions your race has to offer and we will preserve them as well.
I thought about that, but in the end I wasn't tempted. The last guy you want to be is the last guy on Earth. That's no time to discover that those things women had said to you were literally true. No, sir.
"I'll just be going," I said, backing away. They moved to follow, some of them swinging around to cut me off. "Get 'em!" I shouted at the dog, and that broke him from his trance. He had the bleeding carcass of one of them dangling in his jaws before they reduced the dog to ash. I didn't stand around to watch; I turned and ran.
A forest critter can't match a human when it comes to running, especially over any distance at all. I left them behind and kept running. They would have their space ship coming down on my ass soon enough, so I had to get rid of the bag. That was when my moment of brilliance struck.
Half an hour later they caught up with me as I stood next to a bonfire on the beach, an unwelcome party crasher. I was glad they found me before the kids around the fire forced me to leave; I wanted them to see what I had done. The invaders blasted me with some sort of paralysis ray; my knees just went out from under me and I collapsed to the sand. I could see and hear, but my muscles had simply stopped working.
"Oh, great, now he's passed out," a pretty blonde said. "Now we'll have to smell him all night."
"Someone at least move him away from the bonfire. He's making me, like, nauseous." said another girl.
One of the guys standing by the fire prodded me with his foot. "I think he's still awake. HEY BUDDY! BEAT IT, YOU OLD BUM!"
"I can't believe he's actually wearing a tinfoil hat."
"He might be dangerous. You never know when he'll start hearing voices."
"We should have called the cops when he dumped all that trash on the fire."
The guy who had kicked me upended his beer and poured it all over my face. "Here's a shower. Now BEAT IT!" He threw the can at my face.
"Omygod, what's with all the squirrels?" Blondie asked.
The invaders were everywhere, crawling all over me, checking under my old coat, in my pockets, anywhere I might have hidden a component to a tiny doomsday device. Others braved the fire, trying to rescue the trash I had thrown in.
They wouldn't find what they were looking for. Overhead the seagulls wheeled, their cries of thanks carrying on the breeze as they carried the weapon out to sea. The enemy hadn't done their homework, they didn't realize that seagulls ordinarily don't fly at night. It didn't matter now, though. The "gulls" would get the word out, and their network would already be rounding up the rest of the bombs.
It was the gulls who had tipped us off back in '48.
Article © Jerry Seeger. All rights reserved.
Published on 2006-02-06