Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Skip Week 2: Writer's Notes for September 2009



Forgive the stuttering, the poor editing, the odd reflection. I'm still figuring out this video blogging thing. I guess it's best I only do these every couple of months or so.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Receivers 4






_____________________________________________________
4

“What did you find?” Simon said.

“Si,” Alex said behind him.

“What?” Simon turned to Alex then back to his son. “What was it?”

The boy stiffened. “There’s a man coming to talk to you both,” Marlon said. “He’s not happy about it, either. He’s coming for the thing in the shed. Me and Paul and Jake were --- we found this metal thing ---“

“Like a torpedo?”

Marlon nodded.

“Oh, Jesus,” Simon said. “Did you open it?”

“We didn’t mean to! It just sort of popped open and there was this light! And and, and ---“ Rivers of tears were gushing down his face. “I’m sorry, Dad! We didn’t mean to! I don’t wanna die!”

Simon hugged his son tight. “You’re not going to die, Marlon. You’re gonna be okay. You’re gonna be okay.” Simon started to cry as he stroked his son’s head.

Simon looked at Alex and nodded. Alex went out.



The yard was different than Alex remembered: the hedge trees had been thinned out and he could see through to the cornfield beyond. Directly behind the house, about fifty yards off was the shed. It was actually a twenty by twenty outbuilding that Simon’s father had installed just before they all graduated. Thirty years had taken a toll and left the aluminum chimney crooked and leaning backward. Its windows were thick with dust. Peering through the filth the shed seemed impossibly big to Alex and filled to the brim with crates and boxes. The door creaked on rusted hinges when he pushed it open.

In the far corner was a ten-foot tall, canvas-covered something that had a round shape on top of it, but it was the two foot-long cylinder on a workbench to the right that drew his attention. It lay there silently, closed now and whispering to him. Pick me up, it said, open me, I will share with you.

“Goddamn,” Simon said from behind him. Alex jumped.

“Jesus, Simon! Don’t do that!”

Simon smiled and stood next to his friend. “Sorry, man. Thought you heard me come in. Those hinges are deadly.”

“No,” Alex said. “I heard that --- that thing talking to me.” He caught his breath and shook his head. “How’s Marlon?”

“He’ll be all right,” Simon said. “He doesn’t want to come back out here. The Anderson boys ran home, so I’ve got to explain all this to them later on.” Simon took a step forward and put his hands on either side of the cylinder without touching it. “Damn, it’s powerful. It wants me to pick it up.”

“I wouldn’t do that if I were you.”

Alex and Simon whirled around to see a silhouetted shape of a man in the doorway behind them. “Please step back from the capsule. It’s really for your own safety, you know.” The shape stepped into the shed and they were able to see the white-haired man smiling at them and put out his right hand. “Stephen Fawning, gentlemen. I’m an agent of the Bureau of Time Management. From your future, I’m afraid.” His proper British accent emphasized the air of authority he exuded.

“Uh, huh,” Simon said. “Why should we believe you?”

“Do I really need to answer that?” Fawning was half-smiling, very proper in his stance. “Gentlemen, we both know that the capsule does not belong to you, never has. I’ve come to reclaim it, so it doesn’t really matter when I come from, does it? That I know what’s inside and what it can do ought to prove to you that I am sincere.”

“I don’t appreciate your attitude.”

Alex put a hand on Simon’s shoulder. “Calm down, Si. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”

Simon didn’t take his eyes off the dapper functionary. “Regardless. I don’t want to give this up until I get a few questions answered. What do you say to that?”

Fawning nodded. “If you don’t mind, I’ll not let this out of my sight.” He stepped past them.

With Simon and Alex watching, Fawning put on a pair of large heavy gloves and carefully picked up the cylinder. “You can’t imagine the thousands of hours we’ve expended in searching for this little bugger.” He smiled and followed the two men back into the house.


***---***---***



Soon, the cylinder was a centerpiece on the dining room table and the three men were all sipping tea and looking at the smooth surface of ‘the capsule’.

“What’s inside it, exactly?” Simon said.

“A Time Capsule.”

“Not like one I’ve ever seen,” Alex said.

Fawning put down his teacup. “Yes, well.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s a Time Capsule in the sense that it has inside a very specific amount of Time that has been manufactured to exact specifications for a very particular client. This product was supposed to have been delivered several weeks ago (my subjective time) and went missing.”

“Time? There’s Time bottled up in there?” Simon said. “How is that possible? How can you ‘make’ Time?”

“I assure you it is indeed possible as that’s what has been in your family’s possession for the last thirty years or so, your subjective time.” Fawning sighed and leaned into the table. “I am from farther into your subjective future than you might think. Advancements have been made in a good many fields of study and fabrication, some you might even recognize.”

“Why would someone need a specific amount of Time manufactured for them? What are the effects of an operation like that?” Alex was nearly breathless, an excited boy in a darkened movie theater. “How far into the future are you from?”

Fawning told them.

“Wow,” Alex said. “So you coming here is like us going back to the day that something crawled from the ocean and said ‘Nice day, think I’ll stay awhile’?”

“Something like that, yes,” Fawning said. He laughed out loud. “Yes, quite like that. I don’t want to be rude, but I do have something of a schedule to keep. Might I ---?” He indicated the cylinder.

“I suppose so,” Simon said. The three men pushed their chairs back and stood. Fawning smoothed out his suit jacket and buttoned it. Alex looked in awe at Fawning and Simon was morose. “It’s just odd, isn’t it, Fawning? This whole situation, I mean.”

“You’ve done well with what you’ve had to deal with, my boy. No one could have asked anything more of you. My apologies for bursting into your lives like this. We wouldn’t have found the thing if your son hadn’t opened it again. Had to happen, really. Human nature to be curious.” He put on the heavy gloves and picked up the cylinder. They walked through the living room. “Is that what I think it is?”

“What?” Simon said. “The book?”

“Yes!” Fawning was visibly excited. “Russia Owens, indeed! I haven’t seen one of those since I was a boy!”

“You know about Russia Owens?”

“Storytelling is an important art form that is underappreciated,” Fawning said. “Owens was one of the best and overlooked for centuries. Truly ahead of his time.” The man from the future leaned toward them conspiratorially. “Some even think that he was perhaps a Chrononaut and escaped to your time here to evade capture for some terrible crime.”

Alex and Simon looked at each other and Alex picked up the book, put it under Fawning’s arm. “There you go.” They continued their trek to the deck outside. Fawning bowed to them and took a deep breath.

“Good to meet you, gentlemen, and thank you for the graphic novel. It’s very much appreciated.” He bowed slightly to them. “You’ll have no recollection of any events surrounding the capsule.”

“What about seeing into the future? What about my son and the boys who opened the cylinder today?” Simon said. “What happens to us?”

“That would be telling,” Fawning said. “However, I can assure you that any ill winds that may blow on you are not because of this little dickens. Everyone’s ability to see into the future will remain unaffected but you will not have an explanation for it. You will all experience déjà vu regularly and wonder about the nature of time as the rest of your world does. You should have normal lives, if a little longer than most.

“Now I must be off.”

There was no flash of light, no sound to mark the departure. Fawning was there and then he was gone. Simon closed his eyes and listened. He heard his heart slow down.

“Si? What are you thinking?”

The wind soughed through the hedge trees and the remains of one summer’s treehouse caught Simon’s eye. He and Alex had spent dozens of nights in that treehouse talking about the future. Simon smiled and looked at his friend. “I just want to remember this for as long as I can.”








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©2009 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Receivers 3






_____________________________________________________

3


The boys leaping to their feet and all talking at once immediately broke the silence following Simon’s suggestion. After a moment he put up his hands. “I don’t think he has it,” Simon said, “but he might know where it is or what’s in it.”

Four pairs of teenaged eyes were aimed like high beam lasers at him. Simon was calm.

“He works with the Army on geological projects sometimes. They might’ve consulted him or something. I can probably find out.” He cracked his knuckles. “I’ll ask after dinner.”


***---***---***


Simon’s father had kept everything over the years and that made a mess of the files in his office. Simon had been through nearly every cabinet in the room when he finally noticed the bookshelf. The graphic novel was the only one of its kind there. Very stylistically drawn, it seemed to tell a story of two people entwined in some sort of deception. Simon muttered as he flipped the pages, “Norwegian, maybe?” The author’s name was familiar, though: Russia Owens.

He stopped about halfway through and studied a two-page spread, turning to the sunlight pouring through the south windows. “Odd,” he said out loud and continued dflipping pages until the house phone rang.




Twenty minutes later, Alex stepped up onto the porch of Simon’s parents’ house. “Been a long time, old man.” They embraced and slapped each other on the back. “Good to see you.”

“You, too, Alex,” Simon said. “Come on in. I’ve got coffee on.”




Cups in hand, they sat in the living room. “Sorry about your dad, Si.”

“Thanks. He had a good long run. Ninety-three. Died in his sleep. Peaceful.”

Both men studied their coffee cups and nodded.

Alex said, “I suppose it’s enough that we acknowledge the years?”

“Yeah,” Simon said. “Yeah it is. I miss him. Mom, too.”

“What you going to do with the old place here?”

“I don’t know yet. There’s some ends to tie up.”

“Like?”

“You know what I mean,” Simon said. “The cylinder, torpedo-thing, whatever it is.”

“You’re still convinced your father had something to do with it?”

“I know he did. Hold on.” Simon put his coffee down, left the room and Alex puzzled. When he came back he was carrying the graphic novel, flipping back and forth. “I only found it just before you called. Check this.” Simon handed the open book to his friend.

“See anything?”

“It’s a comic book.” He scanned the left page. “Norwegian or Scandinavian or something.”

“Anyone look familiar?”

“Who?”

“There, in the center of the page.”

“Shit,” Alex said. “That could be Luke, couldn’t it?”

“Yeah,” Simon said. “You kept track of us. Where’s he at now?”

“He’s out of prison. He’s got a good enough job at Kresge’s and he’s making his child support payments. He’ll probably be back in prison in a couple of months. He never stays out too long.”

“Jesus,” Simon said. “I didn’t know.”

“No big deal. I run into his mother every so often at the grocery store. She looks so sad all the time, never talks about his brother or sister, only him.

“Kurt, on the other hand, manages to stay out of prison because of his family connections.”

Simon raised an eyebrow. He made a gun with his thumb and forefinger. “Family?”

“Yep,” Alex said. “You know he was betting on football, then baseball, and basketball. Well, he made too much money. He moved to Chicago and kept using the same bookies. That kind of ‘luck’ gets noticed eventually. The folks whose money he was taking brought him into the fold. He called me, oh, a couple of years ago and was scared, confessed to me. Last time we spoke he was better, but wouldn’t talk about it. That was middle of last year. Right around his birthday.”

“Wow,” Simon said. “That’s --- I don’t know what it is. Amazing. Crazy.”

“Yeah, it’s a lot of things. It’s a trap for him, same way it is for Mark.”

“Don’t you mean Luke?”

Alex shook his head. “Nope. Mark’s a recluse in New Mexico, has a nice family and works on cars for a living. Lives a quiet, normal life.”

“You’re normal, I’m normal,” Simon said. “Aren’t we?”

Alex sat back, looked at the ceiling before laughing and said to his friend: “You hit the lottery, man. You’re wealthy and getting wealthier every minute no matter how the economy’s doing, right?”

***---***---***


Simon and his father were sitting on the deck his father had built the summer before. The boys had graduated the week before and Simon was getting ready to move away to college. The songs of early June were thick in the early evening air and his father sighed.

“You need to be your own man, Si,” his father said. “Don’t be fooled by your friends or professors or the guy who shows you the one thing you never knew you needed to know. Take all those ideas and make them yours. Don’t be a follower.” He looked out towards the cornfield beyond the row of hedge trees that marked the back of the property.

“You’re probably going to hear things about your old man.”

A chorus of treefrogs, grasshoppers and robins stretched time before Simon spoke. “What would I hear about you?”

His father closed his eyes, scratched his chin. “I work with the government sometimes, son, you know that. What you need to know is that no matter what anyone says, I stick to what I believe, okay?” He shifted and looked at Simon.

“Remember that falling star that crashed over near the lake when you were in, what, eighth grade? The one you asked me about?”

Simon nodded.

“Well, it wasn’t quite what we thought it was.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t know.” Simon’s father shrugged. “That’s the hell of it.” The old man stood and leaned to put his hands on the deck’s rail. “It definitely was from earth, but it wasn’t anything anyone had seen before. That’s why they called me.”

“What was it, Dad?”

Simon’s dad clenched the wood under his hands, his shoulders squared.

“Something far ahead of anything I’ve seen, before or since. It affected people’s minds, Simon. It made them see things that weren’t there. We’re not sure if it’s a weapon or something else.”

“What could it have been?”

His father changed then, suddenly and completely. He turned and smiled at Simon and smacked the flat of his hand on the rail. “Got a little off-track there, didn’t I? I wanted to tell you that you have to be your own man, that even though you may be influenced by others, you’re still responsible for everything you do. No one can take that from you and you should never give it up. Always be responsible. Especially with women, son. You need to remember that.”

Simon’s father clapped his hands together. Simon looked up at him: the gray hair, the lines around the eyes. He’d dropped some weight in the last couple of years, too. He looked old for the first time to Simon. They’d been nearer to an answer for Simon than ever before, but now it was gone.

“Dad,” Simon said, “If we’d found that thing when it crashed, what would have happened to us?”

“I’m just glad you didn’t, Simon.”


***---***---***


“I’m wealthy enough, Alex,” Simon said. “What does that have to do with how normal I am?”

“You make choices that aren’t even considerations for the vast majority of people because you’re wealthy, Si.” He put the graphic novel down. “You probably don’t even think about them any more.”

“What’re you getting at, Alex?”

“Sorry,” Simon’s friend said. “You used your ability to hit the lottery, didn’t you?”

“Yeah. We all did something like that.”

“Would you have gotten rich if you hadn’t used your power? Would you have married Emily if she hadn’t gotten pregnant? Did you see that before it happened? What would you be doing if you hadn’t hit the lottery?”

“I don’t know, Alex. That night changed everything for all of us, not just me.”

Alex looked around and frowned. “Where’s Marlon? I thought you said he was here?”

“Out back. You want to see him?”

“Yeah, but I want to say this first: you profited from that night, the only one who managed well enough to. Luke’s crazy, Kurt’s a gangster and Mark’s a hermit.”

“You’re okay, I’m okay.”

“Okay is relative.”

“Are you saying I shouldn’t’ve done what I did?”

“Not at all. I’m saying that there are possibilities that we never explore,” Alex said, “and never think about.” He leaned forward. “Responsibilities.”

The screen door creaked open and slammed shut behind them. Marlon came slowly into the room.

“Hey, Dad?”

“There he is!” Simon put a hand on his son’s shoulder. “Marlon, you remember Alex, don’t you?”

“Sure. Hi, Alex.” The boy dropped his eyes.

“Marlon.”

“Everything okay?” Simon looked at his son. The boy was shaking noticeably. “Marlon?”

“We found something in the shed.”








Come back next Wednesday Click Here for the conclusion of The Receivers!


©2009 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




Can’t wait? You can buy the whole story for 49¢ by clicking on the button below and I’ll send you a DRM-free PDF via email.







Wednesday, September 09, 2009

The Receivers 2






_____________________________________________________

2

Simon recalled the events surrounding that night with a vivid clarity as his own son, Marlon, stood with his hands stuffed deep into the pockets of his jeans in the same doorway to the same study. “What’s up, pal?” Simon said. “Bored already?”

“Kinda,” Marlon said, kicking at the floor. “When can we go home?”

“In a while, Mar. I’ve got to clean up Gran’pa’s desk before we leave today.” Simon stood and stretched. “Couple hours, maybe.”

“What should I do?”

Simon put a hand on his twelve year-old’s shoulder. “You know that really cool-looking old shed out back?”

“The one Mom and Gran’ma never let me go in?” Marlon’s eyes lit up.

“That’s the one,” Simon said and reached into his pocket. “You can go out there and then report to me what’s in it. Here’s the key.” Marlon reached out to take it, but Simon pulled it back and looked seriously at his youngest son. “Some rules first, though: no climbing, no breaking anything. You start sneezing from all the dust you have to come back in here. Understand?”

Marlon nodded.

“All right then, don’t tell Mom or we won’t get to come out here by ourselves again.” He handed the MasterLock key to Marlon and smiled, standing straight. “I bet the Anderson brothers would like to go in, too, if you wanted to go see them first.”

“Thanks, Dad,” Marlon said and ran out of the house. Simon could hear the screen door on the back slam shut the way it always had. He turned back to the file drawer and began flipping through the hanging folders, pulling out random papers of his father’s.

***---***---***


They’d all screamed. The boys were more frightened than they’d ever been before, or since. They’d all peed themselves.

When the light had faded with their screams, the boys rode their bikes slowly home. At the crossroads where Kurt and Luke would split off from Alex, Mark and Simon they finally spoke. “What do we do now?” Kurt said.

The silence was leaden. Night in the country isn’t quiet, only different from the city. Crickets are there, tree frogs, more trees for the wind to blow through and rustle leaves and taller grass in spots all combine for a gentle soughing that roared like racecars past five pairs of ears. Simon was their leader.

“Pay attention to how you feel, how things taste, watch for anything strange happening to you, all that.”

“This isn’t some Russia Owens story, Si,” Mark said. “It’s not a comic book.”

“I didn’t say that,” Simon said. “But I don’t have any other ideas. If you guys have something I’m all for it.”

“How’re we gonna find out what that thing was?”

“Me, I want to forget the whole thing,” Alex said.

All five boys were still. Simon nodded. “All right, then,” he said. “Just pay attention, guys. Don’t tell anyone.”

Kurt and Luke nodded assent, stood on their pedals and rode away. Simon, Mark and Alex rode in the other direction together until Mark turned to ride down the little alleyway that led to his family’s house. Alex stopped when they got to Simon’s house. “It’s gonna be bad, Si,” he said. “It’s gonna go on forever and it’s gonna be bad. Something happened to us out there.”

Simon just looked at his best friend and frowned. “Maybe,” he said.

None of the boys slept well that night.

***---***---***



After a week, the boys met at their favorite quiet spot: a little-used boat ramp. They all had dark circles under their eyes, were gaunt and exhausted.

“Luke,” Simon said. “What’s going on, man? You don’t look so good.”

“Look around,” he said. “None of us do.” He watched a water skier pulled by a speedboat cross the lake. “I can see things before they happen.”

“So can I,” Mark said. “What’s the big deal?”

“Frau Bender thinks I cheated on the German test. Mrs. Sanders thinks I cheated on the Algebra test, too.” Luke was pacing the rocky shore. He picked up a small flat rock, turned it over in his hand and skipped it across the placid water.

“Can you control what you see?” Alex sounded a little excited.

“Nope,” Luke said. “I think I have to be really worried and it’s only good a few minutes ahead of time.”

“Mark, what about you? What are you seeing?” Alex was in detective mode, emulating his hero, Batman. “Anything other than just football games?”

Simon turned. “What? Football games?”

“Yeah, I knew the Cowboys were gonna win.”

“They were down twenty-one at the end of the third quarter!” Kurt said. “How’d you know they were gonna win?”

“Same way that Luke saw, it’s just there in my head.” Mark put out his arms. “What? I didn’t bet on it!”

“Guys,” Alex said. “How do you know? How are you seeing these things?”

“I don’t know,” Luke said. “It’s kind of like a dream, but I’m not asleep. It’s kind of fuzzy, then it clears up. I saw the answers to the questions I didn’t know the answers to, the ones I needed to pass.”

“But you didn’t just pass,” Alex said.

“Nope. A minus. First one ever for me in German.”

“Mark?”

“Yeah, same thing. I was looking at the newspaper and there it was.”

“This sounds familiar,” Simon said. “It’s like that story in ---“

“--- Strange Science number one-oh-two.” Alex smiled. “I knew you were going to say that so I brought the book with me.” He pulled the comic book from his back pocket and unrolled it. “The Russia Owens story. The guy who can see the future.” The boys all gathered close around Simon as he read the story again. “He goes crazy in the end,” Alex said. “Can’t figure out what’s now and what’s coming.”

“Jesus,” Kurt said. “What’s gonna happen to us?”

***---***---***

Early the next spring, Luke didn’t look back at his friends when his parents’ car backed into the street. He hadn’t really been himself since Halloween, and the other boys had been reluctant to be around him after Thanksgiving. He would say crazy things that would come true shortly after he said them, but then he’d giggle like a fiend when they happened. Simon’s dad tried to explain that Luke was going to a hospital in Topeka where he could be cared for, that he’d probably be home soon, maybe by summer. The boys gathered at Simon’s house that afternoon.

“I don’t believe it,” Alex said. “He just lost his shit in Peeler’s class. Started throwing desks and laughing like crazy. It was pretty goddamn scary.”

“I saw Toni Gruber in sixth hour and she was still crying,” Mark said. “Mr. Racy had to send her to the office. Penny Poston said it was like something out of a movie, watching Luke lose it like that.”

Simon was quiet.

“Is this going to happen to all of us?” Kurt took a step back when he got a glare from both Mark and Alex. “What? We’re all thinking it.”

“You just don’t say it out loud, numbnuts.”

“No,” Simon said. “He’s right. We need to talk about it. Luke couldn’t separate today from tomorrow. Anyone else having any problems with that? How far into the future can you see?”

“You first, Si.” Kurt’s fists were clenched.

“I knew in September what I was going to get for Christmas, but some things get confused.. I get that déjà vu feeling a lot, but never about anything really important.”

Mark stood up, looking like he was at an AA meeting. “I can see about a week ahead. Usually it has something to do with my family, but sometimes not.”

“Me,” Kurt said. “About a day, maybe two. I don’t get a lot of details, but I can see someone I’m with in a couple of days.” He kicked the floor. “I saw Luke in a car yesterday, but I didn’t know what it meant.”

“That’s the kicker, isn’t it?” Alex was starting to pace. “None of us knows what we’re seeing, only that we’re seeing it.”

Simon put a hand on Alex’s arm. “What about you? How far do you see?”

“I don’t,” Alex said. “I haven’t seen anything. I was far back from that cylinder. You all got hit with that light from inside it.”

They were silent then, but for the sparrows and robins and jays singing in the trees. The cylinder was the one thing they never really talked about. When Simon had gone back to see the crash site, it was roped off and there was an army private with a rifle guarding the place.

“Whatever happened to it? Did the Army take it away?” Alex stopped pacing then. “We need to know what was in it. We’re all gonna crazy like Luke if we don’t find out.”

“How the hell are we going to do that?” Kurt was bobbing on his haunches, rubbing his hands roughly.

“We talk to my dad.”







Come back next Wednesday Click Here for part 3 of The Receivers!


©2009 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




Can’t wait? You can buy the whole story for 49¢ by clicking on the button below and I’ll send you a DRM-free PDF via email.







Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The Receivers 1






_____________________________________________________

1

It was cool that September when Simon tried to talk to his father. The house on the corner acre-sized lot was open and the hedge trees wafted their sticky scent on light northwest fall breezes. Simon stood in the wide doorway of the study in the house his father had built. He was counting the number of oaken floorboards between he and his father.

“What’s up?” His father did not look up from his writing.

“Me and the guys were running around last week,” Simon said.

“Which guys?” Simon’s father put down his pen and turned to face the eighth grade boy. “When Alex and Luke and them were here?”

“Yeah,” Simon said. “Mark and Kurt, too.”

“Ah,” Dad said.

“We took our bikes to the lake and went swimming.” Simon stopped. He wasn’t allowed to be at the lake after dark, even with friends. He took a deep breath.

“Yeah?” Dad leaned forward.

“Yeah.”

Simon’s father looked thoughtfully at his oldest son and sat back in his chair, crossed his hands over his belly. “Anything happen?”

***---***---***


They all lived on the far side of the big new state lake at a time when there weren’t a lot of lights from the city polluting the sky. Using telescopes acquired as gifts or through summer work, they spent clear nights watching stars and planets but secretly hoping for UFOs. Thanks to Carl Sagan’s program the year before they had hours of things to talk about when there was nothing strange in the sky. That night was the clearest they’d seen in a long time, no need for telescopes. The water in the roped off swimming area was blue-green in the daylight, but at night it was black and for what seemed hundreds of miles there was only the sparkle of the moon on its calm surface.

“Did you see Toni Gruber today?” Luke was floating on an inner tube dragging a lazy hand through the water. They were all just outside the roped ‘safe’ area.

“How could you miss her?” Alex splashed water at Luke. “The way she fills out that sweater. Whoo!”

“Oh, yeah,” Luke said. “If I could get her alone for five minutes ---“

“She’d chew you up and spit you out in itty bitty little pieces, man,” Mark said. “Then she’d call me!”

“Guys,” Simon said. “Look up there.” Skidding across the sky to the south was a long white light from the far west horizon. “It’s going to pass right overhead.”

“What is it?” Alex said. “A comet?”

Luke said. “I don’t think so. Maybe a piece of SkyLab or something.”

“Is it me,” Mark said, “or is it getting lower?”

There was a high whistling sound getting louder and the light was getting brighter. Kurt, who’d been silent during this whole exchange turned and began to swim for the beach. “Let’s go,” he said. “It’s gonna land close!”

They ran up the beach, pulled on t-shirts, slipped on sneakers, draped their towels over their necks and hopped on bicycles then, dripping wet and feet squishing warmly, pedaled hard. There was an eerie bluish-white light from the object above that cast strange dancing shadows across the blacktop. They instinctively ducked their heads when it passed over and when it slammed through the tall trees they didn’t hear an impact, but felt it.

“It’s just over the hill guys,” Luke said. “Come on! It’s only a mile or so!”


***---***---***



Simon wanted to tell his father all of this as it ran through his mind, but he knew what the reaction would be: no more bikes, no more friends around. Probably something more restrictive, too, but that wasn’t clear. There were going to be hurt feelings, angry inquisitions and lots of silence if Simon spoke up. “We saw the meteor come down,” he said.

“You did?”

“Yeah,” Simon said. “We went to look for it, but Alex decided there might be something radioactive, so we came home.”

“Where were you?” Dad still had his fingers meshed together and his face hadn’t changed.

“Ridin’ around the Corps gate by the township hall. Poppin’ wheelies and jumpin’ the humps by the Coultis’ field.” Simon’s mother was a worrier and his father indulged her, though he often confided to Simon that he disagreed with some of the restrictions she placed on him. Still, Simon wasn’t certain enough to tell the truth about being at the lake, and the Coultis’ really lived in town mostly anyway. It was a fairly safe lie.

“Oh,” his father said then leaned forward. “You guys shouldn’t’ve been out so late, and certainly not up there.” Simon’s father looked towards the door into the hall. “I won’t tell Mom, though. Your secret’s safe.” He smiled.


***---***---***



It hadn’t taken them long to get around to the Steele house and the crater. “It’s small,” Mark said.

“For as much racket as it made, you’d think it’d be bigger.”

“Well, Luke, I’m not an expert,” Simon said, “but if it came crashing from outer space it should make a helluva racket no matter how big it is. That’s hundreds of miles up, at least.”

“Maybe thousands,” Alex said.

“Shouldn’t it be hot? I mean, it doesn’t feel hot around here.”

“Maybe,” Mark said. “You gonna touch it?”

“It’s probably radioactive,” Alex said. “I wouldn’t touch it if I were you, Simon.”

Simon stepped forward, a puppet on strings, nearer the cylinder in the crater. It was a torpedo about three feet long, in perfect shape, not a dent on it. “I don’t feel any heat at all, Mark,” Simon said.

“I think Alex is right, Si, you shouldn’t touch the thing. Who knows what it is? It might be Russian.”

“I don’t see any marks on it, Kurt,” Simon said getting closer, crouching down. “I’m going to touch it.”

“Don’t, Si,” Alex said. “We don’t know what it is.”

“And we’ll never find out if we leave it up to you, Alex,” Mark said. “Jeez, give a guy a break. You know he wouldn’t do it if it wasn’t safe.”

“What does that mean?” Simon stood up, still about three feet away from the edge of the crater. He balled up his fists and spread his feet slightly, narrowed his eyes in the moonlight.

“Nothing,” Mark said, waving a hand at his friend. “You don’t take chances is all. Not like Luke or me.”

“I don’t take chances,” Luke said. “Don’t listen to him, Si. If you don’t touch the thing, I will. It looks okay.”

Simon looked to Kurt for some indication. The most serious of the group, he was also probably the smartest and if he gave the okay, Simon would do it. They all wanted to know what was in the thing. Kurt nodded at Simon.

“If there was radiation,” Kurt said, “we’re all,” he paused for effect and looked at the other three boys for emphasis, “already exposed to it.” He waited for everyone to nod positively. Alex looked up and back at the trees where the cylinder came down: none of them had anything but broken branches. “Look: no flames, no charring.” He pointed to the crash path. “We saw the thing flaming, right?”

“This is how War of the Worlds started,” Alex muttered.

“I don’t know what I saw now,” Mark said. “It all happened so fast. There was a bright light, for sure.”

“Yeah,” Luke said. “There was a lot of light.”

“You’re all wusses,” Alex said. “What do we do if it --- if something happens to you? What then? Have you thought about that?”

“You’ll tell my folks I suppose. You all can tell them you tried to talk me out of it,” Simon said. “Alex, what do you think?”

“Go ahead, man.”

Simon nodded and looked each of his friends in the eye, except Kurt who wouldn’t stop staring at the ground. Shrugging, Simon knelt down on the side of the crater, his knees sinking into the soft dirt, and steadied himself. He took a deep breath and held it. “Okay,” he said breathing out and reached out to touch the smooth surface.

Simon’s body twitched and shivered. “Aaaaaaagh!” Kurt pulled Simon back. Alex and Mark grabbed the still screaming Simon’s shoulders and dragged him farther back. Luke stood between Simon and the cylinder and winced, waiting for the worst.

Simon’s scream turned into a hoarse laugh. “Suckers!” he said. “I can’t believe you fell for that!” He kept laughing as they punched him in the arm. They all swore at him.

“Okay, okay,” he said. “Here we go for real.”

It was anticlimactic when Simon held the cylinder up. “It’s not heavy. Maybe ten pounds or so.” He ran a hand over it, rolled it over and over. “Hey, here’s ---“

“Hey, here’s a seam,” Simon had meant to say, but he didn’t get to finish. The cylinder broke open and all five boys saw a bright orange light.



Come back next Wednesday Click Here for part 2 of The Receivers!


©2009 By Jason Arnett.
Some Rights Reserved under a Creative Commons Attribution-
Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States




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