Thursday, 20 October 2016
LED Eyes (part 3)
I awoke to discover a torch in my face and a pair of eyes looking very concerned. I opened my mouth to talk but my observer shook his head, placing a finger up to his mouth. Recognising the universal symbol, I took the hint and shut up. Smiling, my observer reached out his hand and helped me up. My entire body seemed to creak and then instantly hate me for standing. I took a few deep breaths, a fog blowing from my mouth.
The observer removed the torch from pointing directly to my eyes and instead shone it around our surroundings. We appeared to be in a ten foot by ten foot by ten foot metal cube with no conceivable entrance. The metal was blunted and dull so the light didn’t blind me with its reflection. I let my eyes adjust and blink a few times and then stared at my new companion, aware of a throbbing beginning to nag at the back of my head. He was old, maybe in his late sixties or early seventies, and appeared to be wearing a pair of camouflaged cargo trousers with a blue shirt under a tweed waistcoat. He also sported a thick wealth of white facial hair that you had to ask whether he was growing for a bet and a slicked back quiff of equally white hair. The way the light caught his shirt sleeves made him look surprisingly muscular for an old timer.
He leant towards me and whispered, “It is absolutely imperative you remain calm right now. One wrong move, we could both end up dead. Do you understand?”
I looked at him frowning. The crease of my forehead seemed to worsen the pain in my head. “You do get that telling someone they could die isn’t going to calm them down?”
“Still some fight in you then.” The old man replied in a hushed whisper. Despite the quiet tone, the Received Pronunciation in his accent was evident. I felt almost guilty for replying to him with my Lancashire grumble. “I need you not to ‘freak out’, otherwise I’ll have to knock you unconscious and that might damage my torch.”
I frowned. The man looked older than my grandfather and he was threatening me? I glimpsed momentarily towards his muscular arms and decided he probably had a point. I nodded, agreeing.
“Thanks.” The old man hissed. He pointed his torch up and flicked it off and on twice. There was nothing besides the beam of light shooting four feet up to find the metal roof. Then a pair of arms burst through, sending ripples in all directions.
Now, I’ve seen some crazy things in my time. I live in Blackpool and I once went out to watch the fireworks on the piers in September. They used to hold the celebrations on a Friday night, but this coincided with a mass rush of Hens and Stags, and we’re not talking the population of a farm. I’m still traumatised to some extent.
Compared to what I was seeing now, however, a few inflatable body parts and a woman so drunk she thought she could make out with a lamp post or bathe in a gutter was far from crazy. A pair of arms had burst through solid metal as if they were breaking through the surface of a swimming pool. The hands wiggled around, fastened around the old man’s and then hauled him up. I watched as the old man’s head slid into the roof, then his shoulders, then the entirety of his waist coat and before long his camouflaged trousers and shoes.
I went through a momentary spate of disbelief. There was no longer evidence any of that had happened so my mind was willing to believe it hadn’t. Just a lack of food or drink- evidenced by the burning of my throat and the rumble of my stomach- getting to me. The question I should have been asking was where I was.
Before my mind could come up with a naively incorrect answer, the hands stuck through again. I backed away from them but they seemed to follow me, as if the owner could see me and was stalking my every move. I felt a metal wall press against my back, shifting and squashing and then allowing me to sink into it like quick sand. I leapt forward- not only did it feel strange but it was also immensely cold- only then to be caught by the hands from above. I was prepared to let out a worryingly high pitched scream but then the image of the old man’s eyes flashed back to my mind and I decided I didn’t dare.
The hands dragged me up, my hair touching the metal, sinking inside. It passed over my forehead, towards my eyes, which were tightly screwed shut. Then my head was out and I was raggedly drawing in breath. It wasn’t as dark up here; there seemed to be the vague remnants of strip lighting on the roof, but the old man still pointed his torch at me and blinded me unnecessarily.
He kept doing this until I was pulled entirely through the floor and my flailing legs were able to bump against gridded metal.
The torch clicked off and my eyes blinked a few times, getting used to my new surroundings. It was warmer up here but a sticky warmth, as if elsewhere someone was boiling a thousand kettles. Despite this, the two individuals appeared relatively cool. There was obviously the old man with the waist coat but his long armed accomplice was equally strange. I’m six foot six, which by most of humanity’s standards is bloody tall. The gentlemen in front of me made me feel like a dwarf. He was easily seven foot, wrapped in a black suit that must have been bespoke on pure merit of its size. His hands were prickly and rough, like my face the morning after a shave. The more I came to study him, however, the more I realised that the description applied to all of him. His face, not just his cheeks and his chin but his forehead and nose too, looked like they were covered in a fresh sheen of small black prickles. He fixed me with beady black eyes as he passed something to the older man. As my eyes adjusted, I realised the object was an old fashioned automatic handgun. It’s barrel was sleek and long, much thinner than the rest of the gun so it looked slightly ridiculous. I didn’t know much about guns- I’m an English student, not a ballistics investigator- but I recognised this as a Browning Challenger. If my memory of detective noire novels served, it was twenty two caliber. At least if he shot me, there’d be enough left to identify the corpse.
Maybe I spoke to soon. Once the old man had taken the handgun, the big one reached down and hauled up a machine gun. The part of me that knew I’d one day write all this down wanted to thank the two men for choosing weapons I could easily identify. This was an AK47, the Ford Transit of firearms. I kissed goodbye to the contents of my body bag and closed my eyes in order to meet my maker.
“What’s he doing?” Hissed a voice so deep it could only belong to the big one. “Has he got something wrong with his eyes?”
“I think he believes we’re going to shoot him.” The old man whispered in reply. “Young man, open your eyes. Everything is fine.”
“Just shoot me already.” I whimpered. “Don’t draw it out.”
I heard the old man sigh and then the creak of leather. “I’ve put away my gun, son. My accomplice here would do the same but he can’t. His gun is too big to fit in a holster. Now, would you mind opening your eyes and getting up?”
I reluctantly did just that, climbing to my feet and staring down at the old man and straight at the big man’s chest. The old man smiled. “Nice to see you in some better light. What’s your name?”
“Chris.” I whispered. “Chris Marten. Who are you?”
“We are the gentlemen who are going to get you out of here alive, Christopher. If we are to have any hope of achieving that, however, you will have to follow each and every one of our instructions to the letter. Do you understand?”
I nodded. When two blokes with a combined height of over thirteen foot make a demand whilst packing enough fire power to take out Syria, you find that you have to go along with it. “What do you want me to do?”
“Follow me.” The old man whispered. “And, for God’s sake, be quiet. They have brilliant hearing.”
I didn’t dare ask who they were. Something about the guns convinced me I didn’t want to know.
The corridor was long and warm. On one side, it was bare metal like the walls of the room I’d woken up in. On the other side it opened up, revealing gridded metal walkways suspended by hanging metallic chains, circulating around patches of the liquid metal. There were large terminals next to each of these metallic patches but besides the occasional gauge, none of the readings made sense to me.
The walkway we were shuffling down seemed to ring with every footsteps, despite our careful attempts to avoid this. The old man kept his gun drawn, as if he was concerned our escape would be picked up any second. Part of me wanted to be caught to see who we were running from. Part of me could recall the glowing shining light, the computerised stuttering… I shuddered, the platform shaking with me.
We got to the end of the platform, a large airlock door coming up in front of us. Whilst the big man began to study the small keypad next to it, the old one turned to me. “Christopher, do you have any idea at all what’s going on? Do you remember anything before waking up here?”
“I was in the village. It was unusually empty and, oh bloody hell, the vicar killed himself and-“
“We drove through your village on the way here. Do you know where you are?”
I shook my head.
“Condor.” The old man said. “There was a crash a couple of nights ago. All the Media crews that attended disappeared. We came to look around knowing we’re slightly more prepared then your average hack.”
“The crash. I remember. Oh bloody hell.” I whispered.
“I was with Katy. She must have been taken.”
“Demon,” the old man said, “there’s another one.”
“What do you mean there’s another one? The entire village was missing! There must have been a couple hundred people.”
“The village is dead, Christopher.” The old man replied. “You and your girlfriend are the only people who survived.”
“She’s not my girlfriend. We have separate tents.”
“I should hope so. You’re not wearing a wedding ring.” He replied. “Nonetheless, that’s hardly the part you should be querying. I just told you the village is dead.”
“Oh crap, you did, didn’t you?” The full force hitting me. “Are they all dead? Like, all of them?”
“Yes.” The old man replied. “Every last man, woman and child- slaughtered in their own homestead. Apart from you and your lady friend.”
“Door’s ready.” The big one said. The iota of my mind that wasn’t trying to comprehend the realisation that everyone in the village- the little girl, the lawn mowers, the Sun Inn patrons, the gastropub people and even the farmer with her straw hair- were dead silently contemplated the fact that the old man had called the big one ‘Demon.’ You’re out of your depth, Chris. These people have nicknames.
“She’s not in here by any account.” The old man said. “We’ll scan the other buildings when we’re out. Chris, listen here-“
“No.” I said, slightly scared that I’d found a backbone. “You listen. Who the hell are you? What the hell is going on? I was on a nice holiday with my best mate and the next thing I know, I’m trapped in a metal room where the walls are bloody liquid and two gun toting maniacs with accents that sound like they’ve just come straight out of a Neil Gaiman novel are prancing about with fancy nicknames declaring the entire bloody village has been killed! Well, listen here Croup and Vandemar, I’m bloody sick of being in the dark and taking instructions from whoever the hell you are! Why should I listen here, hmm? Why?”
The old man looked at me with eyes as deep as the oceans and twice as swashbuckling. He said with a voice as calm as it was composed, “You asked three questions. Two answers shall suffice. What the hell is going on? Personally, I believe an alien invasion is in process and I also believe that you and your lady friend have found yourselves caught in the direct centre of it. The other answer is in relation to the questions why should you listen and who the hell we are. I have a very simple answer. We, Christopher Marten, are the Fenwick Institute and we’re your only hope of survival. Unless you have a problem with this, please cease your insistent chattering and follow me. Demon, if you will.”
The big man grinned, revealing his horse smile, and then pushed open the door. A beam of light broke through the gap and blinded me. The old man and Demon wandered through and I reluctantly followed, feeling rather put in my place. As my eyes adjusted to the real light, however, any self pity I might have felt left me. What I was looking at was too odd for me to harbour any other emotion than total bemusement.
“Jesus Christ.” I said.
“Kindly, Christopher, refrain from blaspheming in my company.” The old man said. “And, if you really can’t contain yourself, at least do it quietly.”
Lawn Circles. You know the clip. Six suburban houses arrange in a ring topology around a glorified crop circle mown into a lawn by a selection of pink clad housewives pushing anachronistically varying lawnmowers. It’s the type of thing teachers show their students and then say, “Write what first comes into your head when you see this.”
For me, the first thing that came into my head when I saw it in real life, acted out in front of me on the other side of that airlocked door, was complete, unbiased terror. It was worsened by the reaction of the ‘housewives’ to my blasphemy. Their heads all turned slowly to stare straight at me. They opened their mouthes and said, in unison, “Welcome. My name is Samantha.”
Their voice was male, American and computerised. They began to stalk towards us. The old man and Demon raised their guns but the women kept coming, their mowers slicing through the grass towards us. “My name is Samantha.” The women repeated.
“Bloody hell. Bloody hell. Bloody hell.” I whispered but my blasphemies just drew them closer, burying us deeper and deeper in the glow of their shining LED eyes.