I hadn’t expected that. I really hadn’t. It’s not every day that you see a head detach so easily from a body and go rolling across the floor. There was no blood. How could there be no blood? A tense, awkward silence filled the pod as I stood frozen in shock. What the hell just happened? I couldn’t help but stare in speechless awe at my hand—was it really that powerful? I wouldn’t have thought so, but the twitching, headless body crumpled on the floor in front of me said otherwise.
How did I get to this point? I asked myself, my hand trembling. My mind wandered back to the events that had led to—haha, just kidding. My thoughts didn’t go anywhere but to that rolling head. I’m trying to transition into meaningful backstory here, but I’m failing to summon a good segue. See, a hook was necessary to drag you into my story, but now I must back up and tell this tale from the beginning, else it will make no sense. (It probably won’t make much sense anyway, but I’ll leave that up to you.)
Now, in the unlikely event that this manuscript of my adventure is found, read, appreciated, and published, I have a couple stipulations. Firstly, things must be printed exactly as they are written. No changes. No alterations for “flow” or “cohesion” or whatever foolish reason publishers see fit to mangle books these days. Secondly, should it be deemed desirable to put this story into audio format (for reasons that I can’t imagine), I should prefer that it be read by someone with a commandingly rich yet mysterious voice, with a touch of the sinister. (A short list of names comes to mind…)
But I digress. You were wanting to know the sequence of events that led to the horrific opening of this tale. Well, here goes nothing.
π π π π π
My life sucked balls. It really did. Here I was, just finished with freshman year at college, and I was driving back to spend the summer at Mom’s house. This is what happens when you are a poor student with no money for a vacation or your own apartment and your deadbeat father is off on some tropical island with his whore of a girlfriend. Yes, getting stuck with Mom for an entire summer is what happens.
It didn’t matter though. I was going to enjoy myself. I wasn’t going to think about my dad enjoying the bright sun and the beautiful ocean. I wasn’t going to think about all the tanning and all the midnight swims and all the wonderful food. I wasn’t going to think about him lying in the warm sand, feeding juicy strawberries to topless supermodels—their sun-kissed skin glistening and their wet hair clinging to their curvaceous bodies, moist lips agape and eyes sparkling with mischief and anticipation. Oops, the strawberries are dripping. Allow me to lick it off…
Yeah, I wasn’t going to think about any of that.
After telling myself what I wasn’t going to be thinking about, the next step was to figure out exactly what to do with myself. You have to understand, I grew up in a small town. Like, really small. Bedford Falls and Bomont were giant metropolises compared to our little…place. We shared a school and a church with the next town over. (Of course they would get the only decent supermarket in the area. Our “supermarket” was a 7-Eleven.) We only had one bar—well, half a bar really. It was the upstairs to the laundromat. Our gas station had a single pump…
You get the idea. Our town was small. And had no one my age. I mean literally no one. Not even close. I think you had to sign a pact before moving in that you would have absolutely, positively no children while living there. My parents disobeyed, obviously; leave it to them. And now here I was driving back to that boring place.
I pulled into the driveway, turned off the car, and sat there, staring miserably at this place I used to call home. 27 Sickamore Street. Blah. The house was just as drab as I remembered it. Light gray siding, dark gray shutters, a black front door—who the hell designed this place? I thought, shaking my head. At least the neighbor’s house was all brown; clearly, he was moving up in the world. With an eye-roll to the heavens, I lumbered reluctantly out of the car and grabbed my belongings. It was an unseasonably chilly gray evening, and I shivered a bit as I headed toward the front door.
For sake of time, and to spare you the boredom I was plagued with, I’ll skim over the next few events. Basically, my mom greeted me warmly, we had dinner and chatted, I was set up in my old bedroom, Mom went downstairs to bake brownies, I was left alone to unpack, etc., etc.
After unpacking, I sat down at my old desk and stared out the window. Same window, same view as always: the empty parking lot across the street, the abandoned store it belonged to, the row of houses on the street behind it, the old rusty water tower across town in the distance. Nothing had changed.
Nothing but the person staring at it all.
College hadn’t been as fulfilling or exciting as I had hoped it would be. I had struggled in the beginning to pick a major that suited me, and I felt intimidated by my peers, who seemed to have their futures mapped out so perfectly. Some of my classes had proved interesting, but most of my time was spent going through the motions, unsure of everything except how miserable I was.
I didn’t even want to think about what would happen when college ended. Would I end up back here, back at square one, with nothing to show but a worthless degree backed by mounds of debt? Would I get stuck for another ten years in this boring town, struggling like my parents had? At least my dad had had the sense to get out, even if it was with a slut young enough to be my sister. At least he wasn’t bored with life. God, being bored must be the worst thing in the world.
My mom knocked at the door with a smile and a plate of brownies baked special just for me. She was glad I was back. I could tell she hated this boredom as much as I did, but she felt stuck. Too old to change, too tired to change, too…something, but she had grown used to it and had learned to live with it. My homecoming had to have been the highlight of her year. Looking at her, I felt sympathy, but also fear: fear that I would become the same trapped person. And an even greater fear that I would resignedly accept it.
Taking a bite of brownie, I gazed once again out the window. Dark clouds were overtaking the sky, and it had begun to sprizzle—you know, that type of light rainfall between a sprinkle and a drizzle. As I stared at the tiny drops flinging themselves against my window, I continued to ponder my current situation. There had to be a way to break this drab cycle. It had to be within my power to change things. But was it really up to me? Did I have a choice? If so, how was I supposed to do it? The questions chased each other around my mind, just like the clouds in the gray sky outside.
The rain began to descend with increasing volume and intensity, as if to mirror my inner turmoil. The heavens grumbled and spat angrily at the earth while I sat, inches away from the turbulent weather, mulling over my unsettled present and uncertain future.
A sharp rap at the window startled me out of my reverie. Rising from my chair, I leaned forward and rubbed away some of the fog that had misted over the cool glass. There was nothing there. Must be the rain hitting the pane, I figured, my thoughts rhyming unconsciously.
Puzzled, I sat back in my chair. I had just opened a book when I heard the rap again, three times in succession. This was no rain striking the window. This was a persistent knocking. As I bolted from my seat in full investigation mode, another sound met my attentive ears. It sounded like…like muffled screaming.
I leaned toward the window again and placed my ear against it. Yes, there was definitely somebody screaming on the other side. I was turning to face the glass again when, suddenly, I was confronted by a pair of bulging eyes.
I leapt back with a little shriek. These eyes were enormous. I couldn’t even see the head they were attached to as they filled the entire window, unblinking—two giant pupils surrounded by a sea of white. My room was plunged into semidarkness, the eyes blocking all light from the outside. Only the shimmering whites provided waves of flickering phosphorescent light that danced in menacing patterns across every surface in the room.
Time seemed to freeze as I willed myself to move. Stepping slowly toward the window, I could hear the muffled screaming again. I strained to make out words as I cautiously approached, but I couldn’t hear anything intelligible.
Soon I was once again face to face with those gargantuan, motionless eyeballs. A few atoms’ worth of easily breakable glass was the only thing between us. Mustering up courage, I raised my arm slowly, clenched my fist, breathed in deeply…and rapped firmly on the window.
I instantly crouched to the floor beneath the sill with a cowardly whimper, shaking with fear, half expecting those glowing eyes to crash through the glass and bear down on top of me. It was several heart-thudding seconds before I realized that the screaming had stopped. All was quiet, except for my pulse pounding in my ears. Slowly raising my head, I stole a fearful glance upward at the window.
The eyes were still there, still staring down at me, still unblinking. I panicked and pushed away from the wall, clambering backward across the floor while my eyes remained fixed in a paralytic gaze at the freakish nightmare outside. I tried yelling for Mom, but even my voice seemed too scared to leave the safety of my throat. All I could do was gape in horror and wait for whatever happened next.
And then they blinked.
Boy, did I find my voice then! Scream after scream surged from my throat as I pressed my back against the opposite wall, my legs flailing as I tried to push back even farther, my hands grasping instinctively for any projectile I could find. My fingers found a sock, which I hurled at the window, but the coward aborted its mission halfway across the room and fell limply to the carpet. The next object I thrust at the glass was an eraser; not to be outdone, it sailed over the sock and struck the window soundly with a little boink.
The eyes blinked again, only this time the blinking was accompanied by a loud whooshing sound, like the sound you hear if you jump on an air mattress with the valve open. I watched in disbelief as the eyeballs in the window started to shrink slowly. Cracks of light poured in around the outside as the shimmering round disks grew ever smaller by the second.
Finally I could see the head these bulbous spheres were attached to. Thick, scaly blue skin covered an oddly shaped head with a single tiny horn poking straight out the top. As the figure outside continued to shrink, other features of the face came into view: These included a hooked nose and thick lips, the latter of which were tinged a purplish hue. A narrow chin and elongated forehead rounded out the creature’s face. He looked rather like a blue light bulb. But those eyes—God, those eyes! They must’ve taken up a good 72% of his head.
As he shrank further, I began to see more of the strange figure’s body. Tiny hands attached to spindly arms grasped the sill to keep from falling, and as he finished shrinking with one final, weak whoosh, the creature vaulted his equally thin legs up onto the sill. He stood up and pressed his scaly blue hands against the glass, peering in at me. He took up no more space now than the average cat and consequently was far less frightening.
I stared in puzzled confusion at the odd, hairless creature. The only article of clothing he wore on his disproportionate body was a thin black belt, which only served to hold in place a miniature jet pack on his back. He was no longer screaming, but I could see his purple lips moving, as if trying to get my attention. I slowly picked myself up off the floor and stepped once again toward the window, leaning in carefully to try to ascertain what the creature was saying.
“Hey!” I heard a pinched voice cry. “Open the window, why don’t you. I’m all wet, and it’s cold as Mars out here!” His was an odd voice, slightly nasal with an unfamiliar accent. I shook my head at him. I wasn’t about to let this thing into my bedroom.
“Oh, come on, I won’t hurt you,” he chuckled back. “I only flew in too big, and my lips suctioned themselves to your living room window. I mean no harm.” He shot me what I assumed to be his best puppy-eyes attempt. It wasn’t really working, but I was curious. Besides, I was feeling rather brave at the moment, given the size shift that had occurred.
“Look, I’ll only open it a crack so I can hear you better,” I called back through the glass. “Then I want you to tell me what you’re doing here.” The creature nodded and removed his hands from the window, allowing me to lift it slowly, just an inch. “Now, who the hell are you?”
“I’m Qarl,” he said proudly, planting his legs firmly on the sill and squaring his tiny shoulders, his hands on (what I guessed were) his hips.
“No. Qarl,” he corrected me.
“That’s what I said. Carl.”
“No, I can tell you’re not pronouncing the Q.”
“How the fuck can you tell that?”
“You mean ‘fuq.’”
I slammed the window. Smartass.
He started screaming again. Great. I was worried that Mom would hear…although if she hadn’t heard my wretched screaming two minutes prior, she probably wasn’t going to hear this thing. Regardless, I didn’t want to chance it, so I flung the window open again, desperate to silence this creature and get rid of him.
“Would you shut up!” I whispered loudly at Qarl. “We have neighbors.”
“Oh, you mean the lovely brown house next door?” he asked. “Very pretty indeed. Not like this dump.” He picked critically at the chipping paint on the sill.
“Stop that!” I scolded him. “Look, if I let you in, will you be quiet, tell me what you’re doing here, and then get the hell out?”
“Yes, yes! Just please let me in. My lips are turning blue.”
After pausing one last time to give myself a chance to not regret what I was about to do, I held my breath and raised the window completely. Qarl nodded gratefully and hopped off the sill onto the bedroom floor, leaving a small puddle on the carpet in the process.
“Thank you kindly,” he said cheerfully, pacing around the room and familiarizing himself with its contents as I turned and shut the window. “Cozy dwelling you have here.” He picked up the book I had been reading and flipped through it, holding it upside down the whole while. Irritated, I snatched it from him.
“Enough of this. Who are you, where did you come from, how did you get stuck to my window, and why are you here?”
Qarl held up a finger as I spoke. “Hold on. I must write these questions down.”
Before I could stop him, he stuck his hand out and tore a page out of the book I was holding. Reaching up to his head, he plucked his little horn off and began using it as a pencil, scribbling rapidly from right to left on the margins of the page.
“Ok, first question: who am I?” he began. “Well, like I said before, I am Qarl.” He paused a moment and stared at me, as if to let the Q sink in better or something. “Where am I from? Well, that’s a tricky question. I’ve lived all over the place, but my current residence is on the planet X@X—someone like you would pronounce it as ‘Zax,’ I suppose.” Here he shook his head, likely considering me quite stupid, before returning his gaze to his reference sheet. “How did I get here? Well, I parked my teletransportube behind that rusty statue over there.” He pointed out the window at the water tower. “I then launched myself over here…but I overestimated the size of your dwelling and had set my body coordinates too large. As I went to land here, my lips suctioned themselves to your downstairs window, and I was just dangling there when I realized that I could reach your bedroom window. I grabbed the sill, pulled myself up as far as my lips would stretch, peeked in, and there you were!”
Qarl had been pacing in ever-quickening circles as he answered my list of questions, speaking faster and faster before finishing his last sentence with a triumphant wave of his “pencil.” I understood less than half of what he had just said, but that didn’t matter to me at the moment.
“So that leaves just one question, then,” I said. “And I think it’s the most important one, so if you screw around with me, I’ll just chuck you right back out the window.”
A flicker of fear crossed Qarl’s face as I leaned in closer.
“Why are you here?”