Sunday, October 7, 2012




As I lay dying, I thought to myself this is such a crock.

The alien said nothing as it stepped around my soon-to-be-corpse, its whatever-you-call-it gun still smoking from the blast that had reduced me to a carpet decoration.  Its armor gave no indication of its real shape, but it was standing on two feet, and that was enough to make things that much worse.  Now I could imagine it was Bob, or Larry, or any of those other sacks of dung, finally come to pay me back for the all the times I borrowed their car and didn’t fill up the gas or something.  That’d be a pretty pitiful way for me to go for all parties involved, but at least it wouldn’t involve aliens.

I wanted to shout up at the clanking sentinel that I had a few ideas as to where it could point that gun of its next, but I couldn’t actually get my mouth to move.  Slow paralysis.  Great.  If I hadn’t experienced something extremely similar at least a dozen times before after what Jack called “Her Lady of Tequila” and the rest of us called 180-proof I probably would’ve been panicking.  But nope.  Couldn’t say a word.  I was going to die and I couldn’t even tell the alien in my bedroom to go stuff itself.  What does that say about a man, that he can’t tell an unwanted guest in his bedroom to go stuff themselves?

I glared up at it and watched it poke around in my dresser.  You’re not going to find anything there, you three-toed Megaman wannabe, I haven’t done laundry in three weeks.  Maybe he’d investigate the hamper next and that would overload his alien senses or something.  Like War of the Worlds, only with boxers and without Ms. Pratford’s ninth-grade English class having to analyze it afterwards.   That laundry hamper.  God.  If there’s an afterlife for laundry hampers I’m buying an afterlife Greyhound bus ticket and taking an afterlife vacation there to beat the tar out of that thing.  It couldn’t have had the good grace to warn me, “no, wait, Max, the back of your closest is actually an interstellar portal and there’s an alien with a gun stepping through as I speak! Do the laundry tomorrow!”

I suppose it couldn’t actually say that, being a laundry hamper and all.  And frankly if it could talk it probably would have some other choice words for me first.  The world’s most messed-up Toy Story.  Oh God, I just got shot by an alien and my last thoughts are about if my laundry hamper could talk? Is this what happens when you can’t talk, it gets to be all you can think about?

The alien finished with my dresser and moved onto the bookshelf.  Help yourself to the H.G. Wells, you good-for-nothing E.T. knockoff! Maybe it was for the best I couldn’t talk.  The inevitable alien-human war that was going to start when that thing’s buddies showed up would probably get an extra twenty years tacked on if I was allowed to play ambassador.

I could feel my eyelids getting heavier.  Such a crock.  Getting shot by an alien while doing your laundry? There’s no preparing for that.  I’d lodge a complaint if I could talk and if, you know, I wasn’t going to die in the next five minutes.  Who do you even send that to? Is there a bureau of Laundry-Invading Aliens?

Abruptly, I felt my lungs seize.  Well, that’s it, folks.  Time’s up.  Desperately, I tried to move my mouth, say an epic dying message of hope and revenge or something like that.  Strike fear into the hearts of my enemies.  The alien looked down at me on his way out, apparently taking notice of the last bit of air seeping out of my mouth.  I never knew if he understood.

“Biiiteeee meeeee, you pieeeeeceeeee offff…”


Come Alive

There was no coming back from death. It was so final: the time when the gears ground to halt and the lights dimmed and the noised ceased. He hadn’t thought much about it until now. He had other concerns. Other places to go. But that was before he had come here and seen the desert with its dunes and its red stone cliffs and its rumors. Rumors of Toa wandering the waste. long extinct. At first he had thought it was wonderful: a new world to explore, and deep down he had felt he was meant to be here.

Sand whispered beneath his feet as he plodded on, and Old Solis beat down upon him with a vengeance. He panted in the heat, and his ears strained to hear as he tried to quell the rising panic. Not long ago he had been thrilled to walk the shifting sands. Thrilled...but not anymore. Not since he had heard it, high up and far away. The noise that they had warned him about. He had not expected it, and very suddenly he knew that the eastern desert of Spherus Magna was no place for him.

But still, it might not be too late. Any second now he might catch a glimpse of his goal, far off in the distance: white stones rising from the sand. The wall and the tall, thin trees beyond and the safety of the Oasis.
He hoped. A faint hope, but still...The sound had been so faint, so far away, after all. Perhaps he had only imagined it...He hoped.

Golden sand scattered as he paused at the crest of a dune and turned to listen once again. Nothing. Nothing. A long moment passed, and still the silence filled his ears. He breathed out. Please. Please let the silence go on.

And then he heard it again.

High and ragged, the cry shivered across the dunes, and he knew that he had truly come too far. Down, down, his heartlight flashed erratically as he tumbled down the sandy slope and into the shade. He was breathing hard by the time he reached the bottom, heavy on his hands and knees in the coolness. Sweat was in his eyes, and his Kanohi was askew. He had left his satchel somewhere behind, somewhere in the sand. That was probably a bad idea, now that he thought about it. The thing could -smell- him...

He had to keep going. Surely it wasn’t that far back to the Oasis, back to shelter and the safety of stone walls. Surely. Please. Please.

But even as he stood up and steeled himself for another desperate attempt, he knew his chances were almost gone. Five centuries he’d lived, and luck had always sided with him, but now he’d stretched it too far. Too far.

He ran with the desperation of someone who heard death breathing behind him. The wind was a low moan around his ankles as it picked up the sand in little streams and carried it away. There was the cry again, that high, shuddering sound that clawed at his ears. It couldn’t be that close. Not that close.

But it was that close. He chanced a glance back as he reached the crest of another dune. Just one glance...but it was a bad idea. His heart almost failed him then, seeing the hulking shape that was steadily closing on him. Claws and curving horns and the arch of that stinging tail. Why did it want him? Why him? He had nothing to offer a Vorox. But that didn’t seem to matter. It smelled him, and it would have him soon.

Suddenly, the dune ended before him. Eaten away by wind and weather, it almost leaned over, and beneath him there was only emptiness. He fell, and all sense of direction left him as he went tumbling, flailing in a spray of sand, and the cry of the Vorox was close now, snarling in his ears. He rolled and came up with sand in his mouth and eyes.

And then it was on him. Metal rasped in the dying light as the claws slashed, and pained bloomed in his side. He screamed, but no sound came out as he fell away down the slope, still disoriented. He could hear it breathing and growling as it followed. It was hopeless. He was dead.

Even so, the small knife was somehow in his hand, and his arm flicked out in a moment of clarity, and the feel of the blade finding its mark was sweet in that moment. But then the moment was over, and the counterblow nearly ended him. Nearly. He spun and felt a metal crunch deep inside. Suddenly the pain from the claws didn’t seem so bad anymore. It would be over soon.

But it wasn’t over then. Not yet. The dull orange sky filled his vision, and the sand was cool against the back of his head. The Vorox growled and paced somewhere to his left, but it did not strike. He couldn’t see...his vision was fading...but it sounded less vicious than before, somehow. A spluttering gasp. The sound of feet stalking away...away...It seemed so far away. Maybe his little knife had made the beast think twice. But that would not help him now. He was fading. Couldn’t see anymore. Couldn’t feel.  The wind rose with the rasp of his breathing, dusting his face with sand. Breathing, struggling, holding on. In and out. Hold on. Hold on.

But soon, inhale and exhale began to subside, yielding to a thin, sucking sound...

...and then silence.

Old Solis shone on in the far west, and the impassive expanse stretched away on either side. The beast was gone, but it had done its work. Now there was nothing but the wind and the fading daylight and the lifeless corpse, half-buried in the sand...

...and then something moved. Out on the dunes, a glimmer and flash. Tracks trailed behind the figure as it approached. Sunlight glinted on its armor, gold-tinged and bright. It stood tall above the unmoving form for a moment, staring out into the distance. So far, so far away. The wind slowed and died off.

Then the figure stooped, and a hand reached out to brush the Matoran’s rough-hewn mask. There was a flicker, a spark as golden fingers grazed rusted metal, a light that flashed up and was gone again...

And the Matoran came alive.



The Long and Winding Road

Taking his steps on the boardwalk in the middle of the night, late in the middle of the night, was when he enjoyed it the most. There were too many tourists and distractions, too many people running down out at the beach playing volleyball or surfing or whatever.

No, it was at night when it was the best.


The moon was out, well lit and not too many clouds in the sky. He took his walks every night around this time, and he caught himself up in the same old routines. The lamps were few and far in between, all glaring in their shades of deep orange. The constant pounding of the waves not too far off in the distance felt soothing.

Most of the shops around here, that were open during the day, little diners, gift shops and shacks, were closed with the shutters down.

It felt lonely, but it gave him time to reflect on things. Take in everything that’s been going on in the day, and spread them out in his mind and flip them over, chew on them. It’s been a long day with college and work and his girlfriend, who it seemed like he never got to see as much as he wished to.

And it was only going to get busier as he got older. So that was why these walks were necessary. Just to take a moment to breathe and stretch, and let everything just stop.

His jacket was left open so his body could take in that refreshingly cool breeze from the beach. The scent of the ocean overcame him, as it did every night. He bent back just a little and looked up to the clouds, seemingly moving at such a high speed amongst the stars. It took his breath away.

“Amazing…” he exhaled.

Just a few more minutes of this, to walk all his trouble away and maybe, for once, just walk away from it all for good. That would have been great, he reminded himself. If life gave you that option, to keep walking until you reached someplace new and outstanding, or perhaps just something a little different.

Taking his sight back to what was in front of him he hesitated just for a minute.

He listened.

And something wasn’t… right. He couldn’t hear something. The waves.

Confused, he wondered how far he had journeyed to… the ocean was just to his right. He turned around and glanced down the boardwalk, which-

The passage was too dark to see at this time of night, but the row of streetlamps seemed to go on forever. Had he come this way before? Was this a larger area…

No that didn’t make any sense, he’d walked this whole boardwalk before. He glanced to his right and found all the stores had the same closed sign on them. Red outlines with big black letters spelling, CLOSED. He wasn’t worried, though something in his mind told him he should have been. He glanced upward, and the clouds were frozen. The air was held still.

No pounding of the waves.

He moved to locate the nearest exit to the beach, but the wooden railing kept going on and on. He didn’t have a desire to just jump over it, so he kept walking.

But I can’t just keep walking forever… Eventually something must change, right? As nice as this is, time has to move forward and you have return to what you took a break from.

He found an exit to his right, and started to walk toward it, his feet hitting the sandy path that led to the beach. It did hit him as a surprise, but he couldn’t figure out why he wasn’t stunned or scared out of his mind.

The waves in the ocean had stopped moving. Some were about to crash onto the beach, but simply didn’t.

He glanced behind him, seeing the sand he had kicked up slightly, still in the air, in freefall.

Yeah, I don’t want to do this forever. I do want to show that I can make it. That work is tough, but endurable and school is pressuring but understandable. That I don’t get to see my girl too much, but I love her. I want to go back to that.  Otherwise I’ll miss it all if I leave.

The sounds hit him all at once as the waves started to rush forward, the air kissed his face and his breathing became noticeable again. His heart pounding, as though for a minute it hadn’t been, he looked around in wonder. Yeah he knew where he was… how did he miss that before and wasn’t…

He couldn’t remember what… he had…

Shaking the thoughts of a dream away, he resolved that next time, he’d make sure he brought someone he cared about with him, in case he got lost again.

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