My name is Patrick. Hello. No last name that I can tell you. No address that can be given out. No city, state, school.. none of that. I wish more than anything that I could tell you, but I can't as long as I value my life. What I'm doing now is the only alternative to being dead, or worse. What's worse that death, you say?
They are. They can make you wish for death, wish it would come and save you from the torture. They're a species of aliens invading the earth. Now, before you say I'm crazy, read my story. It will all be explained soon.
It was the last weekend of summer vacation, and two of my best friends, Tom and Nick, and I were going to enjoy it at all costs. Well, at the cost of a whole lot of junk food and a dozen rented videos. We were having a party over at my house that night, and now that the day was fading into the evening, I needed to gather up the participants. I was walking to Tom's house first.
Tom and I have been best friends since the age of five when he moved in four houses down. Judging from our personalities, you'd never guess we were friends. Tom is an eternal joker, and I'm a more serious kind of guy. It seems Tom's mission in life is to annoy everyone in the world out of their minds. He's rather good at it, too. There's nearly nothing he isn't capable of turning into a joke of some kind.
I walked into Tom's yard and looked up at his house. Typical suburban situation, nice identical rows of homes with two floors, a garage, and even complete with a white picket fence. Well, dull white with specks of brown, from Tom's sometimes insane interest in pyrotechnics, especially when combined with soda. Don't ask me. He says not only will they surprise you, but also they leave you with a nice sticky residue after they go off. Oh, joy.
I looked further up to his window, where I could see the back of his head, doubtlessly playing his recently purchased PS2. I scowled, thinking about how I wouldn't get my Gamecube for a couple weeks, yet. I took a breath and hollered up at Tom to get his behind outside before he messed the whole thing up, duly adding that he seemed to mess everything possible up. Tom noticed, and opened his window, and in a whiny voice complained that, "Messing stuff up is my job!"
I shook my head. "Tom, just get down here. We have to go get Nick, too." His reply came in the form of a pillowcase full of junk that he would somehow need flying out the window and toward my head. Catching it deftly in the temple, I fell over just as Tom left the front door, laughing. "Good catch, Pat. Very good catch." I snorted, getting up, and quickly threw his bag back at him, getting him off guard, and sending his stuff flying across the yard.
I grinned. "Good catch yourself." Tom sighed, and gathered up his stuff, and joined me on the sidewalk leading away from his house. "Right. Now do we really have to invite Nick?" I groaned, having heard this enough in the last few days. "Tom, we already invited him. And besides, what do you have against him?" Tom considered in a faux thoughtful look, "Hmm.. it couldn't be because he's rather stuffy and boring.. no, no.. couldn't be that.." I shoved him playfully. "Yeah, just because he doesn't like blowing stuff and/or small animals up means he's boring." "Heyyy..." Tom defended, "I told you, I didn't know his cat was in that box. And besides, it was a good one, seeing him lick the stuff out of his fur for the next few days."
I shook my head at Tom, as we got close to Nick's house. Nick was a year younger than Tom and I, but we'd all been in the same loose circle of friends for years. Tom wasn't anyway near as close to him as he was to me, and picked on his a bit, but in the end we were all friends. Nick was a quiet, shy type of guy, but also the kind of guy who would support a friend through anything. And although Tom didn't admit it, he had a playful side, and had been known to set up practical jokes with a mutual friend of ours named Bruce. But after Bruce moved away last March, Nick had been a bit more quiet than usual, as he was rather good friends with Bruce.
I made Tom go up to the door and get Nick, just to see the fake pained look on his face, and rested on Nick's fence. The late August air was still thick and humid, but not as hot, considering it was nearly 8 PM. I'd wanted to start the sleepover sooner, but both Tom and Nick's families had kept them home for dinner, and besides, they were lazy. I stretched a bit in the waning sunlight. As Nick walked up, with a small backpack with stuff in it, he smiled, and gazed up with me for a second. "Hey! A shooting star!" he pointed, as the speck of light flashed by. It seemed like a good omen for the whole thing.
I had a small feeling that something wasn't right, but shook it off. Soon we'd be having over at my house and joking and having fun. What could go wrong? Life was good.
The three of us walked along, chatting as we went. The conversation topic drifted a bit. "It just doesn't feel like it should already be time for school, you know?" Nick provided. Tom mock-booed him, and melodramatically said to me, "He said the s-word! We should wash his mouth out with soap!" I couldn't help but chuckle, and Nick rolled his eyes.
Next we came up to an argument on gaming. On that subject, well.. I had a Gamecube, Tom had a Playstation 2, and Nick had an X-Box, so we never really agreed on anything on that subject. We argued on which was best, never getting any closer to settling it, but we didn't really care, the reasons we came up with for why ours was best bordered on absurd most of the time.
After a short walk, we arrived at my house, which was just slightly smaller than Tom's and just slightly bigger than Nick's. The lawn was in a state of limbo between being well-trimmed and abandoned, but never really reaching either extreme. The only other difference noticeable was my yard's lack of a fence, and therefore any watching stains caused by Tom.
No, those were reserved for a large spot on the side of the house where it looked like someone had gotten a little crazy with the paint. Speaking of paint, Tom's house was white with black shutters and roof, while mine was some sort of beige with a rust-colored roof, and no shutters. That and the mailbox had our last name sloppily painted on it with abandon, which I though was a good idea at the age of five.
The house was symmetrical from the front and back, as there were large porches on both sides, with sloping roof above them, featuring a large window jutting out above each one. My room was on the back one. We stepped onto the porch and before I could stop him Tom reached out and rang the doorbell. I let out a grunt and have Tom a withering look. Ringing the doorbell at my house every time he arrived was a quirk he had. And Tom was full of quirks.
I opened the door, and yelled out, "I'm back, and guess who's here with me!" My mom peeked out from the den and welcomed them both heartily in all of two seconds, all to vanish again. She was a columnist for a rather well-read magazine, but somehow she always got stuck doing taxes for her department. My dad never lived with us, as my mom was with him for a short time, but he wasn't really a deadbeat. He didn't visit, but he paid child support and that was enough for me.
"Hey, Vickie, did you go to the store and, uh..." Tom asked, shifting position to where he had a view into the room. "Huh? Oh, yeah. Bags are on the dining table. Go pig out," she added, dismissively, caught in the act of crunching a number. Nick added a polite hello, and we meandered into the dining room, snagged a couple paper bags, and with the grabbing of an armload of Coke from the fridge, headed upstairs.
My room, like the lawn, was caught in an eternal battle between whether it should fall to one extreme or another. Unlike the lawn, one was winning perpetually, and it certainly wasn't cleanliness. Tom had claimed that my room was the messiest in the world, but that was before he'd seen Nick's, and that silenced him pretty quickly. Well, for me it did. Nick wasn't quite as lucky.
I had an air conditioner filling one of the windows to the side of my room, the one other was half hidden behind my computer's desk, and the third one, most prominent from outside was straddled by my bed. On the wall opposite the bed was the TV, and various associated appliances. Mostly forgotten in summer was my desk, which was under the air conditioner, and covered with mostly dusty piles remaining from the last school year, with a small area preserved by summer school as current.
Besides these features, my room showcased piles of, boxes of, and a general scattering of miscellanea. Notebooks, clothing, wrappers, even a bunch of floppy disks on the floor in the general area of the computer, where they fell a week earlier. Still, in all this chaos, there was some order. On a small shelf was my CD player, and my neatly sorted CDs. The piles on the desk were mostly deliberate and rather tidy.
I flopped down onto my favorite swivel chair that was currently at the computer and pushed off of its desk, sending me into the center of the room, perfectly positioned for a good seat in front of the TV, and for that matter, my Gamecube. "Grab a seat, boys, because I am now going to proceed in kicking your sorry asses," I proclaimed smugly. Tom snorted, and Nick was about to voice dissent when my mom opened the door. "Your friend John is here. Something about science notes. Is he staying?"
Tom didn't say anything, but I saw a look on his face. He knew John, and considered him to be a complete and total geek. I sympathized with John, and tried to remain on a friendly basis with him. He didn't talk much, but was a smart guy. He'd volunteered to go to summer school, and we had had the same science class. He'd been gone a day the last week and had asked to borrow my notes.
"Oh yeahhh.. I forgot about that. I'm not sure if he'll be around, but I'll let you know?" I offered, and my mom seemed satisfied with that, and was quickly replaced with John stepping into the room. "Hey," he said, coolly. "Hi, dork!" Tom greeted with fake enthusiasm. John ignored Tom with a confidence alien to himself. I slid across the room, a little put off, but grabbed a notebook, one that was sans a layer of dust, and tossed it to him. It was sort of a test. John was normally rather clumsy.
John caught it in one hand. I blinked in surprise. Nick didn't know John well, and was waiting in the wings for him to leave. Tom didn't see anything different yet. Tom smirked, and let one loose, "Whatcha gonna do with it? Teach it to your goldfish? Other way around?" John turned to him, glared him down, and gave him the finger. Tom promptly went agape. John mirrored Tom's earlier smirk, and turned for the door.
"Hey! Uh.. want to stay for a while?" I offered. Tom gave me an incredulous look. Before he could object, John answered. "No. I've got a meeting of that club I joined, The Sharing. It's a cool place, you should join. Maybe Tom here would learn to stop being a jackass, too," he said, jerking a thumb at Tom when his name was mentioned. Tom's incredulous look was replaced with the original disbelief, and John headed out my door. John called over his shoulder, "I'll get it back to you at homeroom Monday," and with that was gone.
"Who was that, and what did they do with John?" Tom wondered aloud. "First thing first, Tom. You can close your mouth now," Nick cut in, with a chuckle as Tom complied. I nodded at them, "He was weird.. off." That really didn't do anything to settle the mood in room, but that didn't last long.
Tom reached into the bag and pulled out a tootsie roll and popped it into his mouth, without even removing the glum look from his face or the wrapper from the candy. Nick wrinkled his nose at Tom, "Eck, don't eat the wrappers, Tom." "But I didn't! See?" Tom proved his point by spitting it out, plus his tootsie roll with it. This set all three of us into a fit of laughter, complete with Tom re-enacting it, and it being renewed when he missed his hand and got brown gunk and paper on his knee.
The rest of the evening passed quickly, without anything much happening except everyone doing their respective victory dances whenever they beat the other two in one of various video games. Nick wasn't used to staying up very late, so by 12:30 he crashed. Tom didn't last as long as he thought, and awoke at 2:00.
I sat on my bed, and looked down on them, lying in makeshift beds on the floor, under the static light of the untuned TV. I clicked it off with the remote, and got took off my shirt, and got into bed, adding my shirt to a quickly growing pile beside my bed. I glanced at the clock, noting it was near 3:30, and turned off the nightstand lamp. Through my open window, I saw a small meteor dart across my narrow field of view, and closed my eyes, letting sleep come.
I ran. I ran, my lung sore. It was gaining, I had to run faster. I started to look back. No! No, no, I can't look back, no, no, I can't, I won't. I couldn't handle that. Just run. Oh, God. It's right behind me. No, no... NO!
I jumped. I looked around in a panic. I saw the soft glow of the alarm clock. I let out my held breath as I realized it had been a dream. I ran my hand through my hair and closed my eyes, and sat on my bed, breathing. Finally, I looked down at my friends to see it I'd waken them up.
Their still forms indicated otherwise. I sighed. It'd seemed so realistic. Especially the thud at the end. As I mulled over that thought, I frowned. Thud? Why would there be a thud next? I was being chased by monsters of my imagination, and those don't usually go thud. I shook my head, and quietly leaned off the bed. I grabbed my shirt and tip-toed to the door.
I slunk though the hallway, seeing by the dim light from the living room downstairs. After a quick trip to the bathroom, I headed down to the kitchen for something to drink. Before I could even get to the bottom of the stair, though, I was rudely interrupted by the floor flying up to greet me. Thud. I cursed, yelling as much as I could without waking up anyone upstairs. My cat, Onyx, ran off, having completed her next step in world domination by tripping me.
I got up, and glared in the direction she had gone. I grumbled, and had a thought. It must have been Onyx that was chasing me in my dream! So that'd what the thud was. I grinned at image, and chuckled lightly. I stepped deftly into the kitchen, avoiding any cat hurdles, and got safely to the refridgerator. I pulled out a soda, and leaned against a chair as I took a sip, gazing lazily out the window.
I froze, and immediately spit it out. I stared at the sight I had of the backyard. Right in the middle of it was a two-foot-wide smoking crater.
I shook my head, and put down the can. I looked back out the window. No, it was still there. I stood and slowly wandered to the door, eyes glued out the window the whole while. I reached for the knob and turned it. A slight breeze blew as I stepped outside, blowing most of the smoke away from the hole. Was I still dreaming? What is this? Suddenly, out of nowhere, I made a connection. This was what the noise was.
I frowned. Since when did deduction work sanely in a dream? And since when did a dream wake you out of another? But still, this couldn't be real. I mean... big, smoking crater! Right in the middle of my backyard!
I slowly resigned myself to the fact this couldn't be, or at least most likely wasn't, a dream. This realization let me pay attention to other things, such as the fact I'd been holding my breath and hadn't moved in nearly five minutes. I shakily stepped forward towards the crater to get a better look.
I'd always like astronomy. I even owned a rather nice telescope. Could it be a meteorite? I instantly got excited. This wasn't a weird, freaky situation after all! Or, when I thought about it, it was, but not in a bad way! How many people ever get a chance like this?
I sped up my step and broke into a jog before I got over to it. I had a goofy grin on my face as I peered over into the crater, and got down on my hands and knees. I looked in, and not quite a foot down, lying at the bottom, was a scorched, dirty, blue cube. I stopped, blinking. What's this?, I wondered. I tentatively reached out. I brought my hand back, uncertain. Was this strange object safe? Curiosity won out and I grabbed it.
I stood up and gave it a closer look. As I wiped off the dust and dirt encrusted onto the surface, I noticed strange symbols written on it. It didn't look like any alphabet I'd ever seen. The closest it came to was Japanese or Chinese or something like that, but more fluid, curved. I held the object in my hands, and finally noticed the dull glow it let off. Was this box radioactive? What was it? Where did it come from?
All questions ceased when I felt it. A shock, but not quite. It felt like electricity, but not as biting. Like a soft flow of energy released into my hands, up my arms, and into my body.
Electricity or not, this wasn't someting I wanted to hold onto. I threw it down, and looked at it with shock. I didn't need any more motivation to do something about this.
So I ran back into the house. I ran up the stairs, trying to get as much distance as possible between it and me. This had to be a dream. It had to. Even so, having some backup couldn't hurt.
I ran into my bedroom with abandon and looked down at Tom and Nick. I set a plan into action and started kicking them.
Tom mumbled, and tried to turn over. I kicked harder, and he started to wake up. "Whh.. what the? Pat.. oof! What th- what are you doing?!" Nick stirred, too. "Ow! Ow! What's going on? Ow! Was I snoring? Was Tom?"
"Oh, very funny, Nick! Ah! Stop it, Pat! I'm up! I'm up!" I threw Tom and Nick their jackets, and headed to the door, barely utterring a strained, "Follow me," before leaving. I heard a rustling behind me, and some footsteps. Along with them came Tom and Nick, who quietly questioned me.
"Pat, what's wrong?" Nick asked, with a worried expression. Tom didn't show it, using a faint grin mixed with some incredulity, but he was just as worried.
"You just have to see this," I supplied, not explaining anything at all. I stopped, and left them for a moment. I peeked into my mom's room. She was still sound asleep, and Onyx had come in and curled around her ankles. As I returned, so did my grilling. "Pat, are you okay?" Tom asked, now starting to lower his mask a bit. We got to the stairs, and Tom and Nick followed me down.
Tom started to sound annoyed, angry even. "Pat, why did you wake us up? What's wrong with you?" I stepped through the doorway, breathless, and out into the night. "Have you lost your mind?! What are you trying to..." Tom was cut off as he noticed what I had noticed earlier. Nick was a few steps behind. "Tom? What is... it..." he asked, stopping as he stepped into view of it.
"Patrick?" Nick asked, with a quaver in his voice, "Is it just me, or is there a big, smoking hole in your backyard?"
Not yet completed...
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