#3 – Fireball!!!
It burst into fire when it smashed through the atmosphere and was now flying in dramatic speed.
Eliza watched as the fireball crisscrossed against showers of falling stars in the sky and sped on. It was headed their way.
Benjamin kept his eye on the telescope, trying to get a better look at the object. Focused in the glow, he ignored the continuous hum of the metal structure right next to him.
“What’s that noise?”, she asked.
With his gaze still focused on the fireball, Benjamin jumped in response.
“My Magnet!”, he exclaimed.
Eliza pulled him off the telescope, shaking her “friend” into action.
“Listen to me, Benjamin. Either we get Amanda and the others out of here or everyone will die. I need you to actually do something this time.”
“There is something odd about this fireball. Take a look.”, he pointed at the telescope and went back to work on the machinery.
“Turn it off!”
Eliza’s first time using a telescope was a long time ago. It was around the time the first rover arrived in Mars, and the red planet was visible to the naked eye. She placed her eye on the advanced telescope, a gift from Frank’s supporters in the state planetarium, and felt like she could almost reach out and touch it. Like shiny candy. That’s also why she slept. Letting her mind get carried away by dreams of crossing the stars was much more interesting than staring at the ceiling, feeling miserable, haunted by pain.
She got a look at the fireball. It did look unusual.
“It’s burning green.”, she said.
Benjamin was looking for the plug that connected the magnet to Victor’s power grid.
Eliza adjusted the focus on the viewfinder and finally saw the object.
“What the hell is that?”
This is a nightmare. It has to be.
It thundered through the atmosphere, lightning bounced off its surface, and the capsule would not deviate from its current trajectory, for it was following a very specific set of coordinates. She didn’t know that, of course.
Eliza opened the trapdoor with a kick and grabbed Amanda by the arm, who mumbled something in a low grumble.
She was still dazed by the dust.
“We are getting everyone out of here.”
“There is no time! We gotta-“
“Benjamin, if you survive this by running off I’ll kill you myself!”, she screamed. “Now, grab Kyle, I’ll get Isabelle and Juju.”
She laid Amanda down the trapdoor, who hit the wooden floor with a thud.
“Amanda!? You okay?”
Amanda groaned. She is fine.
There were confused noises in the floor below, and Eliza thought people were probably bothered that an unconscious person just fell off the roof. But there was no time to worry about that.
Eliza didn’t give him any time to process the information as she quickly ran to grab Isabelle, dropped her off the trapdoor and did the same for Juju.
It was a pile of unconscious people in the middle of a hallway, some weren’t even underneath them, they just walked by and added themselves to the pile. Like it was the cool thing to do.
Some artsy folk who were just smoking their cigarettos, talking Truffaut and Kronenberg pulled their fancy phones off their bags and snapped some pics, wondering if that was some sort of strange new exhibition.
Eliza dropped down quietly, and picked up her friends, shooing the others away.
“There is a meteor coming, people! Run! Get outta here!”
Someone was talking to the DJ at the same time and shouted in agreement.
“Yeah, that’s the band I was talking about! DJ Andre, play The Comet is Coming!”
More people added themselves to the pile.
“THE METEOR IS COMING!”
“No, that’s not the name of the band girl, shut up”
“There is an actual comet coming this way.”
The onlookers thought it was a powerful metaphor and started clapping the pile.
“No, stop clapping! I’m serious!”
“I just love how that pathetic looking man is placed on top of the pile of female bodies, it’s a poignant commentary on the absolute decay of patriarchal society”, said a blue haired lady wearing bunny ears, she was wearing a tight white shirt. And then she collapsed over the pile.
“Look, they need assistance. We all need to get out of here!”
Benjamin was nowhere to be seen. Son of a bitch. I’m gonna grind his face into dust.
Eliza summoned up her strength and threw Amanda’s limp body over her shoulder.
One at a time.
Amanda was surprisingly light, but the house was still packed and the hallways were too straight. She walked through the packs of conversationalists muttering curses while Amanda’s shoes would occasionally hit someone’s angry face. She was almost near the sliding door that gave way to the patio when she bumped into a man talking on the cell phone. He was wearing a leather jacket and brandishing a blue bandana. Some would say it looked ridiculous, but he would just laugh it off. “At some point, we’ll all become descriptions. Might as well guarantee that mine will be a memorable one”, thought Ford.
“Sorry about that.”, he went back to this call, “No dice so far, Honey. This is not even an off-shoot. It’s almost like a parody of something else. Not quite sure yet.”, he put his phone away.
Ford walked into one of the rooms in the house. The ground was littered with pillows and a hazy atmosphere filled the room with herbal smells and incense. A slick long-haired, unusually pale thin man looked relaxed while talking to a couple of entertained ladies.
“And as you can obviously tell by now, the progressive rock genre is simply the best in variation, tone, length and focus. It’s the most respectable of genres, allowing all cultural influences without submitting to appropriation.”, said the pale man, taking a swig off a beer can.
“Like those shitty ass pop songs from the radio?” Roberta said. She was biding her time to go make out with Rodrigo, who was in the human pile grabbing ass with Camila, but that one was being sought over by Julio and Francesca. It was a whole other thing, but she still needed to act like she knew enough about Cuban music and that included trashing anything that was contemporary.
Prog was very pleased with that trashing. He was the ultimate revisionary.
“Exactly. Centuries of culture resigned to a formula produced by colonizers for conversion into economic currency. A parasitic relation on which the company extracts raw creations from society’s collective conscience and sells it back, twisted and refined for a multiple of its original cost.”
Ford sighed. Using hypnosis to save the Progressive genre, one fan at a time. Vampires gonna vampire, I guess.
“You’ve been drinking again, Prog?”
The white shadow scoffed at him with a nasty look, and shook his wine goblet.
“Just wine. Oh, please. If I was using hypnosis you would notice. I just happen to be an excellent storyteller. You know me. My rants could go for hours. Centuries even. Imagine Pompeii, fiery walls, echoes of magma shaping a land…”
Ford looked at the two ladies, they looked mid twenties or something. One was staring at her phone, and twitch in the other’s eyelid meant she was probably tripping out the whole time.
“That’s enough bardness, come on, old man. We gotta move.”
Prog got up, lazily, using his sheathed sword as support. Blue Oyster Blade. A magical sword or some shit. It was still nerdy as hell. Unlike the rest of this crowd, Prog was an actual millenial, as in Ancient Rome millenial, but he was also a fucking weeb.
“Over five hours of traffic in that stinky car and you can’t even let me sit around for two minutes with my herbs and spices. For Heaven’s sake.”
Ford shrugged, “I got the alert from Baldan. Something is coming.”
“Quite convenient, isn’t it?”
“Dude was raised by the Order of Nostradamus, will you give it a rest?”
“He is not getting near me with that foresight shit!”
Victor was doing the rites at the fire while the rest of his cult chanted “Adriaaaaaan” and raised their hands at the meteor shower.
“On a bright night like this, the legendary gods Rocky and Apollo clashed to the resounding gasps of millions of beings, a thrilling battle that still lives in the hearts of the brave, never to be forgotten for its complete standstill, the inescapable outcome derived from sending an unstoppable force against an immovable object…”, he said, with the guttural tone of a religious leader.
“Here, in traditional fashion, we shall consume the heavenly gifts of grilled cheese and chocolate milky.”
She arrived in the patio with a gasp. Eliza’s chest was pumping, breathing in the cold mountain air between puffs of hot fog.
She ran to Victor desperately and grabbed him by the robe as he was collecting his precious grilled cheese from a tray of baked goods.
“VICTOR! You are the only one who can get these people out of here!”
“Why would I do that? And on grilled cheese and chocolate milky time, no less.”
She pointed at the sky. It was even bigger now.
Victor’s eyes reflected the green fireball.
“MY DISCIPLES! We’ve been blessed! Our prayers were answered!”
“What?”, she raised an eyebrow.
Victor raised his hands to the air.
“Eat your grilled cheese! THE CHOSEN ONE HAS ARRIVED!”
The hooded cultists took hungry bites out of their grilled cheese, looked up to the sky in awe, and bowed.
Eliza facepalmed in disbelief.
I only made it worse.
Her friends were squirming on the grass, most likely hallucinating.
Eliza lit up a cigarette and sat by their side.
Guess this is it, then. At least I’ve got one year of overtime.
See you soon, Mother.
There was only one person left to call.
“And the populace of a local beachside village in Pernambuco is frightened about appearances from Ragnacci, the viking clown that is supposedly the spirit of a lost dutch pirate from the old colonies. Ninety-nine death baloons were found tied up to grassy knolls on the beach. Pairs of lovers in the night have noticed a burly figure laughing out loud in the coastline carrying an ancient axe that gleams in the moonlight. Could it be real or just mass hysteria?”
Frank was giddy. There were a lot of unusual calls that night, and the broadcaster was in a cheerful mood. As annoying as Dr. Benitez could be, his skepticism would always bring about an interesting debate, and the interview was a resounding success.
“Mass hysteria, obviously. Or a marketing campaign. These people need to stay in their homes, for there are real dangers in that coastline, of the urban kind, if you know what I mean like…”
“I already know what you are going to say–.”
“Two men in a motorcycle.”, completed Benitez.
“And there it is. Always two men in a motorcycle.”
“There is absolutely no evidence that ghosts exist, Frank. It’s all bogus. Opportunistic families banking on superstition to sell their decrepit houses to eccentric people. It’s always some kind of con. A very specific sales tactic, no less.”
“You are changing the subject, but if you want to talk about the haunted house, what about the ectoplasm found in the Torchi family’s windows? Wouldn’t that count as hard evidence?”
“I can’t believe you fell for that, Frank. It’s just slime that one can make from the comforts of home. I can send you a recipe. Next thing you’ll tell me there are actual ghost busters in the world.”
“I’d love to keep arguing with you, Dr. Benitez, but there is another call coming up on the board. From our local town, good Petropolis!”
He clicked the button and switched the lines.
“Hello there, seeker of discovery, what’s your outlook on things?”
“Frank, this is Genilson Gomes. I’m a big fan, BUT THERE IS A GIANT SPACE BALL FLOATING OVER THE HILLS!”
“Is this a joke?”
Frank gasped. He flips open one of his monitors, linked to a retrofitted telescope he keeps above the station.
Frank does his best to zoom in the hills, but this telescope is made to watch space and not Earth. He catches a faint glimmer that envelops the inferior side of the screen.
“A Floating BALL? Describe it to me, Genilson!”
There is a chat in Frank’s livestream and it’s about time you get familiar with its main denizens.
t00l: its there, ive got it on camera, looks like a dbz capsule honestly
queen_mary: wtf is that
t00l: its gone lol
Frank takes a good look at t00l’s photo. There it is. What he’s been waiting for after almost four decades. Was it four decades or was it more? It took its toll, the years. The artifacts. The chase. There she was again.
But Eliza took the car.
He’ll need it back immediately.
“What?”, for a brief second, he forgot he was still on the air. Oh.
“What should we do?”
“Can you give me a ride?”
Just as she was unlocking her phone, a white light emanating from the capsule and the night sky became clear as day, then it became even clearer, and her surroundings had no choice but to reflect the intense light. It was completely blinding until it all went pitch black.
Finally a spotlight focused on Amanda, like in a circus show.
She was dressed differently, wearing a sleek black suit that could belong to some kind of black ops agent.
“I don’t have much time.”, she said.
“Nice outfit. Are you feeling better?”, Eliza said.
“This is a face you would find pleasing. I’m looking for Frank Wood.”
Amanda looks shocked.
“He is a Grandpa!? What year is this?”
Oh, no. She is having an episode.
“This is 2014. The President of Brazil is Dilma Rousseff.”, said Eliza, as calm as possible. She knew how to handle bad trips.
“What!? How old is her? I’ve missed it… I can’t believe it.”
Eliza thought the answers were making even less sense than the reason for the questions.
“Who? Dilma!? Hell if I know! Like, fifty?”
“Dilma is your what? Look, Amanda, I think you are still high on that meteor shit, why don’t you go lay down for a while and I try to find the light switch!”
Amanda looked distraught. Was this really Amanda?
“It’s too damn late! I need to try this again!”
Everything goes dark.
“What the…?”, Eliza groans from the grass. Waking up. Did I take any of that meteor shit as well?
Whatever was in the sky is gone
Agent Dhomini was the one driving this time. Hostia lost the bet.
Grasping the steering wheel, he checked his wristwatch.
“Hostia, we’ve just lost 9 minutes. Did you see that?”
“The white light from the capsule! I just checked my watch and it was 9:04pm, now it just turned 9:14! You know what this means!”
“UAP. There are no UAPs scheduled for landing on this region. Unsanctioned. Over our airspace?”
“Have you ever even seen a capsule one?”
“Then who knows where this one came from! They probably don’t know about us either!”
He took his radio and pressed a sequence of buttons known only to a select few in the highest ranks of government.
“This is Agent Dhomini. I want a full team ported to the following coordinates. Check your fax machine for full briefing.”
“Are you doing the fax thing again? Really?”
“Hey, I have respect for my roots! I was sending faxes while you were still announcing room temperature!”
“This is definitely going on my Field Report.”
They both emitted a strange cackling sound that was probably their idea of a laugh. Oh, the banter. The only foreplay they could have.
Dhomini hated driving. The anti-pedestrian subroutines embedded in their programming kept him from going in speed. He excelled in speed. It gave him range over an area. Speed of action = control of domain. And he was all about domain.
They’ve started off together as simple voices on experimental laboratory interfaces used in the Antarctica experiments, providing guidance and support to the scientists as they’ve investigated the remains of an ancient civilization. Their voices sprouted from custom preferences.
That data contained the only surviving report of the incident that took place in that icy graveyard.
A scavenger eventually backed up their files and the pair made their way to a brazilian tech market inside a flash drive.
Years later, their new Boss was addicted to north american TV procedurals and decided to recode them both with an added feature: an eternal will-they-won’t-they dynamic where they would be chastising and praising each other but never, ever making out. Yes, he also added humanlike limitations now. The Boss thought it would help them to blend. The Body Shop recommends it as a 100% guaranteed way of replacing humans, and they also provide the best customer service in the free market of Markovia.
They’ve also encoded ads in his brain because embedding the notion of a heart in his code wasn’t intrusive enough.
This pair of newly founded conscious assistants was stuck in brand new perfectly crafted bodies, forced to live in an endless bubble of sexual tension.
“Yes, I know, Dhomini. It is definitely the best customer service in the free market of Markovia.”, said Hostia, with a wink and a smile.
“That shithole.”, he grinned.
Even the cult of Stallone Cobra was afraid.
“What the hell was that?”, “Was that a damn UFO?” said Victor, taking his hood off, “And where is my chocolate milky? João, pause that Demolition Man DVD immediately! I’ve had enough of this shit!”
Victor turns to the painter who still had tears drying in his face from watching his oils burn.
“Henrique, your art was derivative, that’s why it had to go, sorry. Go back to the drawing board. All the rest was bullshit.”
“What are you talking about? I thought my painting was great.”
“It doesn’t matter what you thought. Art is subjective and you are at my house. Plus, I paid you for it.”
“That’s mighty privileged of you.”
“So is joining a cult based off Sylvester Stallone. I mean, really? Even after he did all the shit he pulled in Mangaratiba while filming The Expendables? Newsflash, we are all a bunch of hypocrites. Anyway, this is all footage now.”
“Footage for what?”
“How I fooled a bunch of idiots into starting a cult. My new documentary. There are cameras all over the house. My dad is already in a bidding war between VICE and Netflix. Your release form was that whole signing-in-blood-for-the-covenant thing earlier today.”
“I fucking knew it! It was a grift!”, said Lucas.
“And now we’ve got footage of an UFO. This is amazing. I’m gonna be rich.”
“You mean ‘richer’?”, asked Lucas.
The cultists took their hoods off and went back to being regular college bros. All except one of them, a strong man with a chiseled jaw, held on to his robe in silent tears. His nickname was Cobra.
“Heathen!”, he screamed.
“Fuck off, dude! This is what you punks at the National Journal don’t have the balls to do, Lucas! Watch and learn.”
“Ah, this is not real journalism and you know it.”
“Yes, it is way more important.”
“An anthropological study?”, Lucas laughed.
Ford got back to himself and there was a foot over his head. They were walking down the stairs before the light hit. When the disorientating effect hit their synapses, everyone collapsed together.
Everyone? I doubt it.
He never saw one of these up close.
Damn. He knew. Of course. But seeing it is something else. Whatever that was, it came here for something.
He scrambled himself to action and tried helping the ladies up, but they were already on their way to the couch, groaning from the tumble down the stairs. “Is everyone okay?”, he asked. “How are your heads? Check all sides.”, he knew a dude that had a concussion just like that in his old building. Went to sleep and never woke up. Yikes.
“We are fine, actually.”, the groaning stopped.
Prog stared with a serious look.
“Let me guess, whatever it was, it didn’t affect you.”
“Yes, I’ve gotten a chance to check what was happening. Seems someone talked to that goth lady over there and left.”
“Goths are still a thing?”, he asked.
Prog laughed at his face.
“Goths, a thing? Goths are the one constant in this wretched world, my stinky friend!”
Ford ignored his snark. “What about the cult?”, he asked.
“Ah, thank God. Didn’t wanna end this one. Burning those hideous paintings was hilarious.”
“You are the one who let them open that damn portal.”
“Not them. These guys here were supposed to be an off-shoot. The portal ones are long dead.”
“What about Lucus Mucus?”
“He was already dead, right? I mean, demons aren’t alive.“
“You have a very narrow definition of death.”
“Forget it. We’ve got an ongoing UAP. How about we find this goth chick?”
“Don’t say that word again.”
In announcer’s voice, Ford bellows out “Oh no! My inappropriate wording has awoken the progressive vampire! Someone, fetch me a wooden stake for I am imperiled!”
Prog slaps him in the back of the head.
Eliza found Amanda wearing her regular clothes again.
“How did you change so fast?”
“What do you mean?”
Eliza confirmed her suspicions. That wasn’t Amanda out there. It was something else. And whatever it was, wanted something with Frank.
Strange, she should call him, right? Maybe not.
“Oi, are you the goth… lady? There, is that better?”, asked a random guy in a leather jacket.
“Much better. I’ll go scout ahead.”, said a voice in the wind.
“What the–? I’m no goth. Certainly no lady.”
“Sure you are. Are you aware you’ve just had first contact?”
“White light… Time loss. Classic scenario. Did they do a number on ya?”
“Who are you?”
He takes a silver badge from his jacket pocket.
“Oh, a Guarani. Just great.”
“Our reputation precedes us.”
“The Guarani unit, also known as Slacker unit, supposedly a task force on the strange and unknown, but in actuality the department that the government sends cases to die or laugh about. A comfy cushy government job with high pay. Yes, I know. Don’t you guys chase football ghosts or something?”
“That’s a lot of exposition. There was context, alright? They weren’t ordinary football ghosts. They were also racist as hell. Old timey football is scary, man. And who are you? I’d say you are well informed, but you kind of blew it when you said we get paid in more than peanuts.”
“Am I under arrest?”, she clamped up, ready to fight.
“Should you be?”
“What the hell are you doing here anyway? This is a college party, not a fascist playground!”, she crossed her arms.
“Whoa, easy there, Amy Lee. You are probably still in shock from the UAP.”
“Are you gaslighting me?”
This was impossible. Ford was losing his patience while trying to figure out what the hell does some gas lamp have to do with anything. Maybe Prog could explain.
“Also aren’t you a little too old to be in col–”
Then crashed the gate.