Stumbling in the dark, Lucy felt along the wall for a light switch. There. She flicked it and… nothing happened.
“What the fuck, Dad,” she breathed. This is just like him, she thought sourly, and not for the first time. No power. The utilities might be off, she supposed, but knowing her dad she was sure he tied them to a generator.
He’d passed last year. She’d mostly finished her grieving, she guessed. The holidays came and went, lonely, and a few months into the new year Lucy received a suspicious bill. It had been routed and rerouted several times, first to Dad and then to a few of her old addresses. Oops. Upon opening it, Lucy discovered how much she owed for the 2034 tax year, plus interest for her very late payment.
For the house she didn’t know she owned. In fucking Nevada.
It took Lucy a few days to come to terms with the bill and the news. The bill sucked in its own way: Lucy was a nursing school dropout and didn’t exactly have a slush fund. But what it represented was bittersweet. As a kid, she’d been close to her dad. Got even closer after her mother left. But as she’d aged out of being dad’s little buddy and turned into a moody teenager—then an independent young adult—her dad had increasingly withdrawn in favor of drink and cyber forums. They kept in touch, over email and text messages, but it had been nearly five years since they’d last visited in person.
To see the bill for the property and home he’d apparently built and left in her name without even telling her was bittersweet. Retired military, Dad always talked about how doomed cities were. Corporate types snapped up the good country long ago for vacation homes and resorts—the desert was about all there was left. So in the end, she’d cried, raged, and then emptied her bank account to pay the taxes and started the fifteen-hour drive to see the damn place.
It was hard to find—her nav unit couldn’t hold a signal, and the house was far from the highway. Lucy had rolled her nearly thirty-year-old car down several dirt roads, popped a tire, and walked the rest of the way up the driveway to the house. She worried briefly about the lack of a key—and even pulled a pry bar from her trunk—but it had been short-lived. Dad knew she’d come because she found a spare neatly tucked under an old ceramic pot near the door. It brought a smile to her face: that particular ceramic pot was one little Lucy made herself in grade school before Mom ran off.
The house was modest. A shed-turned-home with an extra-long gambrel roof that nearly touched the ground on three sides and an attached composite deck. It meant that the overall effect was cavelike, with the only windows on the front wall. It sat at the end of a long drive atop a scrubby hill, an unassuming silhouette against the starry night sky. The only windows faced away from the highway, about an hour west.
“Guess I’m sleeping in the dark, then.” Her voice was startling, too loud and sharp against the almost encroaching silence. For the first time, she realized she couldn’t even hear the hum of the self-driving freighters that ran the highways at all hours of the night. She would have appreciated the quiet if it was not also pitch black.
She hummed a tune in the back of her throat to break up the silence and peered around. To her right was a small living area with an overstuffed sofa; to her left was a kitchenette framed out with unfinished drywall. She sighed—this would do for now, and tomorrow she’d figure out how to turn on the generator and see if she could find some rubber sealant for her flat.
She sank into the plush sofa, coughing when a small puff of dust escaped. For all the suffocating quietness and DIY glory of the place, it sure felt good to be here. Smelt like home. Like Dad, she figured. But Dad before... It was nice. With memories of better days swirling in her head, Lucy sank a little deeper into the cushions and closed her eyes.
Before she could drift off to sleep, Lucy’s eyes snapped back open. A distant, low rumble was growing louder by the second. The generator? She hoped. She staggered to her feet, head swimming.
She tried flicking the light switch again—no change—so the sound was not the generator after all. The low rumble was rapidly becoming a deafening roar. It had to be military jets, right? Lucy scrambled to the front windows, peering into the sky.
She didn’t see jets, but she did see… something… that her brain couldn’t identify. A cold knot settled in the pit of her stomach.
It was hovering. No, descending. Emitting a blue light so faint she could almost convince herself her eyes were playing tricks on her. It was oblong and smooth, like a giant metal pill. Or a space coffin.
It thumped to the ground, forceful enough for her to feel the contact in her chest, and her skin prickled. Once grounded, the cacophony cut out and all was silent again—the transition so abrupt her ears popped.
She peered out the window a few more moments, mind sluggish. This was like no aircraft she’d seen, in the vids or otherwise. It was small, only big enough for maybe two people. And it didn’t have any discernible propulsion system. It had just hovered… hovered and roared.
Time stretched on and nothing else happened. Do something, she urged herself. Shaking, she eased the front door open just a few inches. When nothing immediately shot out to strike her down, she opened it just far enough to slip outside. Again, she paused. Waiting. But all was quiet and still, so she took a hesitant step onto the deck.
Once she was entirely outside, Lucy paused. Should she walk right up to it? There’d been stories circulating on the grassroots stations about alien abductions for a few years now. Well, to be fair, those stories had been around a lot longer but they’d started back up again since the Aeronautics and Space Association came out and basically said “we are not alone”.
She nibbled her lower lip. She was already in this deep—if an alien was going to pop out of that coffin and eat her, then it was going to do it regardless of if she crossed that last twenty feet to check out the vessel. It was in her driveway, for fuck’s sake.
Fuck it. She wasn’t quite brave enough to say it aloud, but she sure thought it as she softly shut the door behind her. Hesitantly, she moved across the deck and down the steps toward the object.
With only moonlight to see by, all she could tell was that the vessel was dark and smooth. The glowing blue had faded, and the object could almost be mistaken for a large boulder. She grimaced—should I touch it?—but she knew there was no other way forward. Steeling herself, she felt along the surface. Like cold glass, it wasn’t hot like she’d expected. She felt around for any kind of distinguishing feature and eventually found a seam. Running her hands first left, then right, she deduced the seam ran horizontally around the vessel. Did it open?
Lucy raced back up the steps and onto the porch, snatching a pry bar by the front door. Only seconds later and she was back in front of the strange object, wiggling the tip of her tool into the faint seam. After a few attempts, she found purchase on the lip and, with a great push, jammed the sharpened tip of her tool into the seam. A hiss of air escaping was the only warning before the object split, half of it jumping open on a vertical hinge.
Lucy scrambled back and yelped. Her brain couldn’t immediately make sense of what her eyes saw. Her first asinine thought was that it really was a space coffin, complete with a body—because nestled in the depths of the vessel was a man. Thick arms crossed over long legs cradled close to his torso in a fetal position.
Almost immediately, Lucy realized two things.
First, this was no man. His skin was inky and oddly textured, like the thick peel of a banana, with limbs both too long and oddly proportioned. He had spikes, or quills, that sprouted from his skull in a strange mane. Perhaps most disturbing of all, he had no eyes or mouth that she could see. Just smooth skin over his “face”.
Second, he was completely bare-ass naked.
Lucy staggered back to the deck steps and sat with a thud, hugging her knees close to her body. She would wait for him to wake, or for dawn, whichever came first.