9/24/2012

Cosmic Flash - Chapter 3: Light In The Sky




Within a few minutes, the crew was outside in the parking lot of another liquor store, ready to stock up once again.  Tom was the first to unlock his seatbelt and exit the car.

"Guys, I'll get the extra booze," Tom said, getting out.  "Stay here and mingle, get to know each other, fuck if you want, I don't care.  Its not my car."

"Get the hell out," Ward said playfully, throwing an empty can at him on his way out.

"Where'd you get that can?" Zach asked as Tom closed the door behind him and walked toward the liquor store.

"I brought it from the Frat House," Ward answered.  "Why?"

"Ward, I told you about bringing outside stuff into my car," Zach said, picking up the empty can and tossing it out of his side window.  "Its unsanitary."

"See what I mean?" Ward said, leaning over to Jack, who shook his head pathetically.  A few moments passed before Ward decided to get out of the car and stretch his legs out in the empty parking lot.  As he stood alone, he stared up into the cloudy night sky which was lighting up even more frequently than before.  "Its a beautiful night to be young, ain't it?  Its 1987.  A movie star runs the country.  All I see on TV these days are a bunch of hot teenage girls and flamboyantly gay boys.  The world may not even see 1988, let alone the end of the century and yet I don't even give a damn.  I'm just glad to be alive, you know?"

"No, I wouldn't know anything about being alive, Ward," Jack said with sarcasm, smiling from inside the car.

"Oh that's right, I forgot, you're still in that shocked state since that night we rented Day of the Dead from Blockbuster and you nearly pissed yourself."

"Hey, when something like that really ends up happening, you'll be pissing yourself over it too."

Zach leaned over by the corner of the door, looking out on the opposite side of the sky from where Ward was staring.  The brushing wind was growing stronger as it blew the empty beer can across the ground and swayed the trees back and forth.  The lightning was evident even through the swirling images in his intoxicated head.  Then, staring at the cluster of thunderclouds above, his vision seemed to miraculously repair itself and he could see up into the sky as clear as day without the need for his glasses or his sobriety.  At that exact moment, he spotted a large purple light pierce through the surface of the clouds, approximately the size of a relatively low airplane.  It zipped downward quickly and disappeared just out of view behind the trees that surrounded the liquor store.  As immediately as he had seen it, Zach pulled open the door and vomited on the concrete of the parking lot.

"Oh," Ward called out in disgust when he heard the sound of Zach regurgitating beside the car.  "See this is why I wanted to drive in your car.  Hopefully you didn't get any on the seat."

"Dude!" Zach shouted through heavy coughing as he wiped his mouth clean.  He quickly stepped out of the car and walked around it to Ward's side, disregarding his sudden sickness.  "I saw something!"

"Where?"

"In the sky?"

Ward looked up quickly.  "You mean like the lightning?"

"No, like a UFO."

Ward looked confused and exchanged the same look with Jack.  He looked back at Zach and chuckled cautiously.  "Look man, think about this logically.  You're punch drunk, you hit your head pretty hard on your way into the car, and you don't have your glasses on.  What are the odds that what you saw was actually real?"

"Look, I know what I saw, Ward.  I sobered up for just a quick long enough second to see it.  If I end up forgetting everything that happens tonight, I know I'll remember that.  It was pretty clear."

"Okay, lets say you did really see a UFO.  What are you going to do about it?  We can't exactly go hunting it down, we don't even know where it went."

"But-"

"Just let it go, man.  I'm sure it was an amazing sight, whatever it was.  It's something you can tell your kids someday."

Zach hesitated but finally nodded reluctantly, something that he probably wouldn't have done so easily had he been sober for the situation.  "Alright," he muttered with little emotion.  He started to head back into the car but not before the sound of a large vehicle passing by caught his attention.  He turned in the direction of the street beside the liquor store to see a large 18-Wheeler passing by with an equally large trailer of cargo trailing behind.  Zach was about to dismiss it but then he noticed the police and squad cars accompanying it, their lights blindingly illuminating the city streets as they passed.  Even when the truck was out of sight, there were still police cars following it, along with a few firetrucks in single file as they continued down the road.  Then he saw it.  Another large 18-Wheeler, but this time there was a platform trailing behind it with a large metal box strapped down on top of it.  Written on it in large colorful bold letters were the words "WARNING!  CONTAINER MAY CONTAIN RADIOACTIVE OR BIO-HAZARDOUS MATERIAL!"

"Hell no," Zach muttered at the sight of it, which was a miracle in itself, since without his glasses he shouldn't have been able to read the message on the container at all.  Zach sprinted for the car and hopped into the driver's seat as quickly as he could.

"Whoa whoa whoa," Ward called cautiously.  "What?  What happened?"

Zach suddenly started the car and pulled back the gear.  Realizing that he was about to leave without them, Ward hopped into the back seat and closed the door quickly as Zach began to pull off the lot.

"Dude, we're leaving Tom!" Ward shouted from behind Zach.

Zach didn't respond but instead pulled the Volvo out onto the street, leaving their friend inside the liquor store, still purchasing the extra alcohol.

"Next time, never fill the wackjob with booze, Ward!" Jack yelled from the passenger seat.

"Yeah, next time," Ward yelled back with sarcasm.  "After this, I'm not sure if they'll be a next time with this guy.  Zach, where the hell are you going?"

"I'm following this convoy," he said calmly, punching the gas to catch up with them.

"And then what?  You think they're just going to let us in to see whatever it is"-

"I've seen this happen too many times to let it go now.  I know exactly what they're doing and how they're going to do it too."

"Oh man, this is going way too far here, Zach!  It was funny before but now you're really starting to scare me."

"Relax, I know what I'm doing."  Zach followed the convoy in his Volvo for several miles, traveling behind them from a safe distance to ensure that he wouldn't be caught following it and could see when the authorities were about to set up a blockade, so he could search for a way around it.  By the time they reached a section of city where a collection of pine trees surrounded the rest of the road by the four-way intersection up ahead, the convoy finally stopped and began to close off the area around the perimeter to prevent any traffic from going to and from the road ahead.  Zach stopped by the side of the street and surveyed the scene from afar.

"What are you doing now?" Jack asked impatiently.

"Shh," Zach snapped to quiet him.  "I'm thinking.  They're blocking off the rest of Sun Spark Road from there.  I can get back on from Hugo Street if I go back to Purity Lane and take a left down Ink Hill Drive."

"You don't think they've blocked it off from Hugo Street as well?" Ward asked, hoping that they had so that Zach would abandon his insane plan.

"Not if I get there quick enough," Zach muttered with determination, pulling back the gear and spinning the car into a 180 donut.  Circling the block, Zach made his way to Ink Hill Drive and then finally to Hugo Street, where he was greeted with the sight of the same fresh pine trees that surrounded the block where the blockade was set up.  They had broken the perimeter.

"Okay, genius, you're in," Jack said with frustrated sarcasm.  "Now what?"

Zach didn't answer.  He could see that rain drops were beginning to fall and in only a matter of seconds, the car was showered with water from the sky.  It was abrupt and spontaneous, almost as if the Volvo making its way down the street towards Sun Spark Road led them into the hurricane's wall.  Jack shuffled around impatiently, mumbling under his breath incoherently while Ward sat back and contemplated Zach's actions with a fearful gaze.  As they traveled along the dark empty street, Zach finally turned onto Sun Spark Road and continued, not even giving the others a hint to his intentions behind this chase, or more importantly, reasons as to why they'd been brought along for this seemingly aimless ride.  Before long, Jack had had enough.

"Screw this," he said softly, leaning across the seat and grabbing hold of the steering wheel with one hand.

"What are you doing?"  Zach motioned for Jack to move but instead, Jack responded by jerking the wheel to his left, causing the Volvo to veer off the road.  The wheels spun across the wet surface and the car flew into the air as it glided across an empty ditch that led deeper into the woods on either side of them.  Jack had not anticipated that there would be a ditch and thus did not know the damage he would be causing in the process.  The car landed awkwardly on one end, causing its weight to shift dramatically as it began to roll across the grass of the forest beside the road.  The trio was tossed around the inside like dice in the hand of a gambler, screaming the entire time until the vehicle finally rolled to a stop upside down.

Zach was the first to open the door and squirm his way out of the car, stumbling over his feet, his hands resting on his thighs as he breathed heavily in relief after the excitement of the crash.

"What the hell was that?!" Ward screamed at Jack, climbing out of the vehicle.  "Why did you crash us?!"

"What was I supposed to do?!" Jack shouted, struggling out as well.  "He wasn't going to stop!  I didn't know the car was going to flip!"

"My car...." Zach whispered with pity, grabbing hold of his head tightly as grief began to set in.

"What are we going to do now, Jack?  We don't even have a ride to get back to Tom or the Frat House."

"Ask him!" Jack shouted angrily, gesturing at Zach who stood in front of the car where he was brightened by the upturned headlights of the vehicle.  "He's the one who brought us here in the first place!  He's the one with the plan!"

"My car."  Zach shook his head and shut his eyes, the rain washing away what might as well have been tears.

"Are you serious?!" Jack screamed, storming toward Zach and grabbing hold of him by his shirt collar, shaking him back into reality.  "You just took us half way across the city and now you're freaking mourning over a car?!"

"You don't understand," Zach said, his speech slurred and reckless, spitting rain water from his lips onto Jack's face as he spoke.  "My mom bought me that car when I was 16.  She's dead."

"Oh dude," Jack muttered hesitantly, softening his grip.  "I apologize, man.  I'm sorry, I'm trying to work on being less obnoxious but it's difficult because I'm at this stage right now that in order for me to progress in the process, I have to actually give a damn about you and your problems.  That's what I'm finding the most difficult about this whole deal because that's like a near impossibility for me, especially when I'm dealing with a whiny baby who gets whatever he wants because some spineless idiots don't have the balls to speak up every once in a while.  It wouldn't have gotten this bad had something been done before."

"Don't talk about me like I'm a child!" Zach said, but pulled back immediately when he realized that his father had pretty much said same thing to him not five hours ago.

Jack turned to Zach and glared at him menacingly.  Without warning, he pounced forward and slugged him across the cheek.  Zach sprawled back onto the ground, splashing up a bank of water behind him.  Ward jumped up and grabbed hold of Jack to calm him down but was pushed back aggressively.

"Get off me!" Jack shouted, infuriated.

"Dude, stop it!" Ward said loudly, gesturing toward Zach.  "You already made out with his girlfriend, don't you think you've done enough damage for the night?!"

"You...." Zach stammered, struggling to his feet once again, his body soaked wet.  "You made out with my girlfriend?"

Jack didn't answer.  Instead he made eye contact with Zach as they stared at each other through the intense hurricane raindrops showering from the sky above them.  Zach exchanged looks with Ward and glared at him.

"And you knew this, didn't you?" he said, pointing accusingly.  "You knew all about this?"

"I....Zach-"

Without warning, Zach launched forward, screaming into the night as he moved in on Jack.  Unfortunately, Jack was ready.  As soon as he came within reaching distance, Jack hugged his body from torso to groin and tossed him over his shoulder, body-slamming him hard onto the rainsoaked grass.  The blow knocked the wind out of Zach and as soon as he opened his eyes again, he could see Jack lifting his leg above Zach's head, ready to stomp down on his face in a heartbeat.  Zach closed his eyes as he waited for the impending strike.

Then there was silence.  No indication of a struggle from Jack or Ward.  Not even the ambient resonance of the rain falling around them.  Zach opened his eyes again.  Jack's boot was still above his head.  The light of the topside car beside him still illuminated a menacing light over his face.  But it was still.  So was his body.  Zach leaned to his side once again but this time in utter shock.  He could see that the raindrops around him had quite literally stopped falling.  They were stalled, hanging in midair by the million.  Zach sat up and maneuvered his way out of the path of the boot hanging above him.  He stood slowly, the drops colliding with his body one by one as he rose from the ground.  Jack was still staring downward with a vicious look fixed on his face, his leg raised high.  Ward looked to be struggling as he grabbed hold of Jack's shoulder, obviously trying to stop Jack from performing the attack.

Zach had no clue what was going on, but the opportunity to retaliate was too much to pass up even in as peculiar of a moment as this.  In a fit of rage, he reared back, leaned to his side, and brought the bottom of his foot across Jack's nose.  As soon as it made contact, time seemed to lapse forward slightly and Zach could see that Jack's eyes had closed and his head was leaning back, drops of blood hanging from his nose, suspended in the air.  Ward had moved slightly too; he was still clinging to Jack's shoulder but his eyes had grown wide with a faint reaction to the strike.  However, the two were still frozen like a pair of mannequins, being displayed magificently by the floating crystals around them and the piercing light of the car's highbeams.

He wanted nothing more of this.  Zach turned and sprinted in another direction without looking back, colliding with each drop of rain that hung in his path as he passed.  He had no destination; he would run until he found out exactly what was going on around him.  It had to have something to do with the UFO.  Or his heavy intoxication.  Whatever it may be, he thought, I need to figure it out somehow.

A sharp pain erupted from Zach's nose as he was immediately thrown off his feet and onto his back by the surface of something in front of him.  He grabbed hold of his face as he gazed up and could only see the darkness of the night shrouded by the forest above and lit up faintly by the stalled lightning inside the clouds of Hurricane Emily.

Suddenly, after flickering into view several times, a form began to manifest itself over him.  Within seconds it took shape: a large metal construct came into view, blocking out his view of the sky.  Zach climbed to his feet but was forced to kneel as he rushed out from under the structure to get a better view.  When he was out, he turned and was able to take in the craft in all its glory.

A Spacecraft.  An alien spacecraft.  It stood before him with organically pulsing violet-colored glowing veins protruding from its exterior.  It was fairly big, about the size of a large yacht but it was like nothing he'd ever seen or imagined.

"Oh man," Zach muttered to himself aloud at its magnificent sight.  "I've got to be extra smashed right now."

Contrary to the statement, Zach felt more sober than he had ever felt before in his life.  The side ramp of the ship was still ejected from the contraption and it seemed as if Zach had just tripped a cloaking device of some kind.  He knew it.  The government had sent in the convoy to detain it.  And its pilot.  Zach suddenly did a quick 360 to scope for any signs of the creature that had brought the ship here in the first place, but stopped when he realized that the stalled reality around him would prevent anything from sneaking up.  That is, if he were the only one effected, which was unfortunately unlikely and the thought put him back on the alert.

Zach circled the spacecraft and stood in front of the ramp, surveying its dark entrance with curiousity.  At the moment during which time had stopped, there was a thick trail of fog seeping from it.  How ominously foreboding, Zach thought to himself.  Here goes nothing.  He stepped onto the platform, listening to its organic metal creak like weak bones with each step he took, as if it were about to give way or change form at the slightest movement.  He traveled carefully into the craft, ducking inside into what looked to be a small corridor where he was completely immersed in darkness.  He started to move his hands out in front of him in order to prevent from falling or bumping into anything but hesitated for fear of his fingers rubbing across the surface of something he'd regret touching later.  It must have taken him nearly twenty minutes to patrol the dark interior of the ship before he had made his way to the cockpit, which he confirmed by the view of the forest outside of the front window.

What he could possibly be searching for or doing here in the first place was beyond even him at this point.  He only continued to investigate the area for the hell of it, for the knowledge of knowing that it was here.  The problem was that there wasn't much to see.  With an absence of light, the entire structure was shrouded in darkness.  Realizing that this search was becoming more and more pointless by the second, he decided to leave this be, possibly find a corner in it to rest and wait long enough for daylight to hit, the feds to find it so he could catch them in the act, or for whatever brought the ship here to return.  The last two spelled consequences all over them, but he was beyond the point of caring or possibly too drunk to form a better plan at the moment.

As he began to approach the window by the cockpit, his foot jerked as it met the surface of a step in front of him and he lost his balance, falling forward.  As he was tossed into the air, Zach's hands met the surface of a dashboard, which suddenly sprang to life as soon as it made contact with his hand.  Soon, the entire ship was engulfed with violet glowing light surging from an array of controls in front of him, pulsing organic-looking veins from the machinery around him and the strange symbols engraved across the flat surfaces of the ship's interior.  Zach began to panic, rubbing his hand across the dashboard to undo whatever he had accidentally activated but when the unfamiliar high-pitched sound of what seemed to be exhaust or energy seeping from the alien vehicle rang out from under him, the reality of his actions began to set in.

The ramp outside of the ship closed shut with a deafening boom that he felt vibrate within his chest, sealing Zach in like a thief in a cursed tomb.  Zach's eyes were wide with fear.  He was hyperventilating.  In the midst of his growing hysteria, he could feel a tight rope constricting both of his legs individually.  At first he believed it to be his imagination but when he turned around, he could see that they were actually protruding from the walls of the ship and moving of their own accord.  A second later, the same constricting ropes, which he could see were almost like violet-scaled tentacles, wrapped themselves tightly around his forearms just as they'd done his calves.  Following it, another thick rope encircled itself across the surface of his forehead, clasping around his temples with an unyieldinging force.  It was so strong that it felt as if it were trying to apply enough pressure to crush his skull.  He tried to reach up and pull it off, but the tentacles around his arms grew tighter with each movement he made.  He came to a conclusion.  This must be a trap, some kind of security measure, he thought.  This must be the end.

A sudden shock rippled through Zach's body and suddenly a flash of violet light went off in front of him.  Just as quickly as it'd come, he opened his eyes and was surprised to see a thick violet fog trailing across the edges of his sight, like they bordering his eyelashes.  He looked ahead of him, staring at the reflection of himself in the ship's window.  The entirety of his eyes were glowing the same violet color as the rest of the ship.

A sharp vibration erupted from the spacecraft and soon he could feel as if his body were being elevated from the floor of the ship.  Closer observation showed him that it wasn't his body that was levitating, but the spacecraft itself, as he could spot the trees of the forest growing smaller while the ship rose above them.  Oh God, he thought.  I activated the ship.  And now I'm piloting it.  Now I'm definitely gonna die.

As soon as it came into view, his eyes were fixed onto the dark cloudy sky, which was now erupting with more lightning and pouring rain over the surface of the ship's window, letting him know that time on Earth had resumed.  As if on cue at the sight of the night sky, the ship slingshot forward through the clouds, plowing through into a cluster of mist and light, rocking the ship violently until they finally faded away.  Out of the chaos, the world beyond the hurricane revealed a magnificently bright crescent moon above, the drops of rain adding more beauty to the bright crystals that accompanied it in the endless blanket of space.  Zach swallowed hard in realization as he watched the stars above Earth stretch to either side of the ship's window.  He remembered seeing this in virtually every epic Sci-fi flick he'd tuned into in the past but now he was about to experience it firsthand.  The ship was about to enter hyperdrive or hyperspace or hyper-something.  He was about to travel farther than he'd ever imagined.  Farther than he'd ever thought any human would imagine.

A second later, Zachary English had left Earth.  And he would not be back any time soon....

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