The next day
“I’m telling you, Andy, this is a publicity stunt,” Phoenix suggested for the third time that morning. “I want to believe in it, too, G. They ain’t got no proof and it’s kinda weird that they be deletin images like that.”
The sound of the school bell burred up and down the halls of Snakesborough High, passing each individual on its way with the bearing reminder that class was ready to commence. There was a rich aroma seeping through the hallway. It smelt like early morning rain, but stronger. There were blue lockers built into the walls, repeatedly motioning with loud slams and rattles.
Andy and Phoenix were walking through the cluttered hallways, full of students ranging from freshmen to seniors.
Andy wore the same clothes as the night before. Phoenix had thrown on a black jacket with a red scarf, some tracksuit pants, and gym shoes.
As Phoenix started detailing plans for the following day—plans that would decide what the three friends would probably avoid doing—Andy tuned out and meandered back to the thoughts that preoccupied him so much of the time, accompanied by the same mixture of emotions that he often felt when the UFO came to mind.
He didn’t want to believe it was real. Andy found the idea of extraterrestrial beings frightening, would have forgotten the whole thing had happened if the posts were maybe still uploaded. Perhaps he had been wrong to think that there was ever a chance aliens existed—but the reality was, he couldn’t let go. There was something so fascinating about NASA’s image that kept him wanting to find out more. Countless news articles and YouTube videos were made with the same intention. Andy watched an hour’s worth of them and read a couple of sites, even looked at some older cases from 2010 that were more than likely faked. He also researched to see if he could find out about those helicopters last night. Nothing. Nobody knew anything.
“What the fuck was with those helicopters last night?” Andy asked. “That’s the first time something like that’s ever happened. Big military choppers don’t just appear out of the sky like wars on their way to a peace protest. And why would they be in such a rigorous formatio—”
“Your ADHD is at it again.” Phoenix laughed. “Just chill out, it’s not a big deal and why the hell do you care so much? Not like they gonna abduct you and probe your ass or bomb the city.”
“That’s why you were just as scared last night, don’t even lie.”
“Mans doesn’t get scared.” He put on a British accent. “Man’s six-foot-ten, fam.”
“Yeah, whatever, bro,” Andy said. “Don’t come to me when they start probin you then.”
Phoenix said, doing his best George Bush impression, “Uh-huh, yes, uh, now watch this drive! Them aliens better look out for this drive, uh-huh,” he went on, and then altered to a Mickey Mouse voice, “uh-huh, motherfucker. Uh-huh.”
Phoenix stopped at his classroom door, where other students had already been entering, and said, “Cya, uh-huh.” He went inside.
“And I’m the one with ADHD,” Andy said. He looked down the hallway and saw it clear. He was well away from the entrance now. After a couple more seconds he headed to class.
“LOWER IT! LOWER IT!” General Fraser gestured his hands at the metallic crate they received the other night. Three of them had been dropped in by Boeing CH-47D helicopters. They were large rectangles with sharp edges, a brown exterior, and bars that lined over the top. He took his glasses off and stuck them in the shirt pocket of his uniform.
The driver of the crate carrier struggled to lower the final container.
Alongside Fraser, Lieutenant Heart stood upright with his hand holding his wrist behind his back. His white uniform made him look more like a scientist and less like a military officer.
The inside of The Spire was huge. The glass walls surrounded them in a magnificent sphere that kept only a portion of the blue light from the fluorescents on the ceiling. The floor, smooth as silk, reflected the sun that forced its way in through the panes. Along it, there were horizontal lines of purple dashing from one end of the building to the other. They were in the Delivery Centre.
The big crate carrier beeped at least ten times before lowering the third one onto the floor. The driver stuck his head out the side-window, earmuffs locked on, a yellow helmet strapped to his hair, and a shit-eating grin that coerced his face into wrinkles. “IS HERE GOOD?!”
And, Fraser thought, I might be losing my fuckin mind if they mess up like this one more time. Where do we get these people? FOR THE LOVE OF—
—Christ!” he yelled. “Just leave it here!”
“Will do,” the man said. His earmuffs must have hindered his hearing.
General Fraser dropped his arms to his sides and breathed heavily through his nose, then grimaced, revealing an irregular line of yellowing teeth. His beard, dark and well-groomed, dropped a few levelling inches beneath his chin. Looking up at the crates, he turned to Lieutenant Heart and offered him his gaze. “Where do we get these people?”
“Seems like he is a tad bit naive,” Heart said. “Perhaps a replacement is in order? You know how many people are looking for work nowadays. And crates as . . . precious as this—well, they have to be kept top-tier.”
Fraser watched the crate carrier back away from the Delivery Centre, beeping as it had done when it first arrived. “Well, it’s not about the crate. It’s about what’s in the crate. And I’m not sure they should let amateurs handle it.”
A group of soldiers, dressed in white hazmat suits, made their way towards the metallic object and pulled out miniature weapons of some sort, along with crowbars that seemed as though they didn’t match. The weapons looked like ray guns out of sci-fi horrors: they had aluminium bodies, buttons on top, green light bulbs that dimmed and brightened continuously, and steel handles.
“All right, ladies!” Fraser yelled. “Open her up.”
They activated the weapons by tapping one of the buttons. It made a swift whooshing sound, almost like an arcade game starting up.
It zapped through the metallic steel with a turquoise laser and cut the sidebars open, melting them to liquid zinc and copper.
A sudden odour emitted from the crate.
“C’mon!” Fraser coughed.
The group of soldiers gripped the heating steel and forced it open using the crowbars. Then, the smell was much stronger, sifting through the air and tightening Fraser’s nose. Lieutenant Heart grimaced and coughed into his elbow.
“So this is it,” Fraser said. The glow from the crate steamed open with a grey, smoky fog that reminded him of winter mist. Inside, there had been a coffin made of purple metal, bubbly glass, and wires. He took a step closer towards the coffin in the container. He could see it—its big, buggy eyes sticking out of the sides of its head, sleeping. The skin was not grey, but rather a sickening green that resembled a lizard’s tail.
Fraser smirked and said, “Finally. We can begin.”