“What the hell is that?” Andy said for the fourth time. They were running through the streets, the late-night gales catching their hoods, blowing litter back through the district.
People were screaming. They were terrified. Panicking. But who could blame them? There was a cyan vortex in the ozone layer, humming like an industrial machine from the heavens. The stars warped around it as if it were a black hole, and the clouds evaporated until all that was left was a blue mist.
Alex couldn’t stop snapping her head back. With every few steps she looked to see if it was changing, to see if there was something she could make out in the distance. But she couldn’t; she could only see the terror – the terror that would only further accentuate her heartbeat. Her feet were starting to hurt.
“WHERE DO WE GO?!” she said.
“Away from here, inside, somewhere!” Phoenix said, and then looked at her fearfully. “Maybe we could go to –”
“The Spire!” Andy yelled.
“FUCK NO!” Alex said. She recognised where they were headed.
They were approaching the intersection of Sugarplum Boulevard, by the apartment alleyway where the fridge almost crushed them those days ago. The highway above them was congested with cars, beeping repeatedly and aggressively.
“MOVE IT! JESUS CHRIST!” Alex heard a man yell.
“WE’RE DEAD, WE’RE DEAD, WE’RE ALL FUCKIN DEAD!” another shouted.
The red-brick alleyway looked the same. The blue light of the vortex hovered a little over the entrance, and by the end of that minute, it would have spread halfway through. The dumpster was still crushed, and bits of metal surrounded it.
For a drawn-out moment, Alex slowed into a jog, and then said, “This way!”
They followed behind her. Phoenix could feel the drizzle beat down hard against his neck. His Afro looked like a dripping mop, and Andy’s ginger hair did, as well.
The hum in the sky roared again.
“Jesus Christ!” Andy said. “My feet are killing me!”
As they quickly reached the alleyway, they stopped to put on their socks and shoes.
“Just what the hell is going on?” Phoenix breathed. He sat down against the alleyway wall and struggled to put on his socks.
“I’ll tell you what’s going on,” Andy panted, putting on his socks. “We’re all gonna die! That’s what’s going on! That thing – that thing up there in the sky, yeah, that’s a fuckin real alien ship. A real Goddamn alien!”
“What the hell are you talking about?!” Alex said. “That ain’t an alien! That’s a fucking black hole!”
Phoenix was too shocked to utter a word more. In a hurry, he reached for his shoes and threw them on, tied the laces and sighed heavily with disbelief. His fingers shoved themselves through his wet Afro and pushed his hair upwards. Then he let go. He was only barely aware of the gasps and cries of horror that broke out amongst the city. It felt like dull background noise.
“Man, I’ve had enough of this shit!” Andy shrieked, afraid.
“This shit only startin,” Phoenix finally said. “You saw the video. They’re here for a reason.”
“What’s that?” Andy asked.
“Vengeance,” Alex answered. “They wanna kill us all.”
Andy’s eyes widened. “Oh my God, man!” he yelled. “I’m too young to die! Why does America have to always go startin shit with everyone and everything?!”
They shared a heavy silence. The hum of the sky roared again.
“Well.” Phoenix’s breathing was returning to normal. “At any rate, we ought to stay inside. Maybe The Spire will sort this shit out. Maybe they’ll go to war, I don’t fuckin know. But I do know that these aliens aren’t to be fucked with.”
“Who says these are aliens?” Alex said.
“What?” Andy and Phoenix said.
“I mean, have you seen an alien pop out from the sky yet?” she said. “Or a UFO for that matter? Shit, this could just be The Spire. It could be a regular black hole. Remember the post NASA uploaded first? A ‘UFO in front of a black hole’ or some shit, about what, one hundred and fifty billion kilometres away? That’s not even that far in comparison to the rest of the universe. In fact that’s pretty close, we should be heading towards it right now. And if that’s true, who knows where this thing will take us?”
A long sigh whistled from Phoenix’s lips.
Memories flickered through his mind, at first they were as gravelly as the video of the dissected alien, and then they became clearer. He recalled the message Gecko sent him.
Those be some famous last words, B.
He looked down at the coat he was wearing, and saw it was still drenched like a soaked towel. He remembered when the fridge almost fell on them. A flash of terror. He pulled up his hood and realised he should have done that moments after sitting down.
Then his voice, somewhat relieved: ”We’re gonna be all right."
Phoenix doubted his own words. He looked over at Alex, and then at Andy. “Andy,” he said, “if it is The Spire, we gotta find out a way to stop it. And if it’s the aliens coming back to haunt us . . .” Phoenix looked over at Alex again and said, “Then we try get their alien back. I don’t think this is a black hole, and if it is, there’s nothing we can do. But, chief, I’m sure there’s at least something to do with aliens in all this shit.”
Alex nodded. “Okay, can we go inside now? If I stay any longer out here in the cold my lips are gonna fall off.”
Andy coughed and then sighed. “You’re a fuckin psychopath. But, shit, you’re crazy enough that you might be right, Schizo.”
Phoenix was well aware of that.
They stood up after having been sat down for what felt like fifteen minutes. The blue light flitted in the alleyway.
“Either that, or we fucked.” Phoenix laughed.
The sky hummed once more.