“Lights in the Sky” Suspense by George Gad Economou

Cynthia had her feet up on her desk, her gaze often wandering over to the open sea expanding under her window and away from her computer screen whereon The Lost Weekend played. She moved to the small seaside house three months earlier carrying the belief, and hope, that living in solitude, far away from the hectic big-city life, would allow her to work on her poems and finally realize her lifelong dream.

The past three months had proven her wrong. Despite the ample free time her, gradually depleting, savings offered, she hadn’t managed to write anything. As a teenager, she wrote several poems daily. While none of them would be considered good in any sense of the word, her teachers’ encouragement had fueled up the confidence that she possessed the talent one day to become a world-renowned poet.

She continued to ignore the great movie with the forced “happy” ending, opting to observe the star-studded sky and the roaring sea. An invisible fist clenched around her withering heart and drawing a single breath turned into a grueling task when a torrent of thoughts about her inability to put down even a few lousy lines flooded her whirling head.

The small house in the middle of nowhere should have proffered the perfect conditions for productivity. After all, she could stay in all day long, she didn’t have to worry about studying or going to work…it should have been perfect. The first doubts regarding her talent (or lack thereof) crept into her head, twisting her stomach into a tight knot. Perhaps, her true dream was simply to be able to stay home without having to worry about responsibilities, and scribbling poems had appeared, to her naïve younger self, as the best way to accomplish it.

She choked down her scotch and refilled the lowball glass, still scanning the night sky for inspiration like a lost wanderer searching for water in the desert. The bottle was half-empty and she desperately hoped it was within its bottom the fire of inspiration and creativity hid.

Nothing had worked so far. No matter how much hooch or drugs had gone into her body, they had proved insufficient to kindle the flames of creativity—or even just a damned spark. The blues had settled in, accompanied by the cruel realization that, just like so many others, she simply did not have it.

The smooth scotch glided down her throat, offering her insides a delightful warmth. Her eyes bulged—for a brief moment, even the blues enwreathing her heart dissipated—and she gaped at a tiny, lucent orb that cruised along the sky.

2.

The light vanished after a few seconds. Its brief appearance dispelled the theory that it might have been an airplane and there was no land nearby for it to belong to a car.

She sat up straight and scanned the sky with dilated eyes. She had read several stories about U.F.O.’s but never believed in them. It always amused her reading stories about crashed spacecraft and alien visitations but the rational part of her mind refused even to give the benefit of the doubt to any of those stories.

The strange light was a severe blow on rationality’s nose, forcing her to wonder whether those lights had indeed been of an unknown origin. The existence of aliens was undeniable; aliens flying over the house sounded like bovine excrement. She knew it, she felt it in her bones. Nonetheless, she rejoiced at the thought that an alien spaceship might have cruised over her head, offering her a strange connection to the cosmos.

 She choked down the scotch and fired up a cigarette. She exhaled the first plume of blue smoke toward the open window with a heavy sigh. No matter what she tried, she could not stop her heart from banging hard against her ribs. That last sip of scotch crawled around her head and made the room spin fast around her. Overwhelmed by enthusiasm and passion she had not felt since she was fourteen, she hunched over a yellow legal pad and whirled a pencil between her fingers.

The empty page stared at her, the lines dancing in mockery, challenging her to scribble down lines to rival the brilliance of Paradise Lost.

The dark, undulating sea expanded in front of her eyesight. She could envision the fish swimming around, living a life of freedom and of no tormenting worries about grandiloquent dreams. She stole a good gulp of scotch straight out of the bottle and the blues residing in her heart were temporarily drowned by a veil of euphoria.

Words and lines floated in her spinning head. After a deep breath, she brought the pencil’s edge down to the paper, seeing sentences and verses being born on the lines before she wrote them down.

Her lips twitched into a genuine smile when her fingers glided across the page and the words did appear, flowing out of her fingertips, passing through the pencil, and entering the page. For the first time in a long, long time, she remembered what happiness felt like.

3.

Her head had turned into a site of a relentless bombardment and she rubbed her pulsating eyelids as she lay sprawled on the couch. The last thing she remembered, the last memory her brain saved before setting sail for blackout island, was the strange light in the sky that sparked an old flame in her brain and took her back to her adolescence. A piano came crashing down on her head the moment she sat up. With her hand over her mouth,  she resisted the temptation of lying back down on the couch and waste the whole day curled up in the fetal position.

More jolts of pain traversed her body the moment she set her foot down on the floor. Flinching and wincing, she forced herself up, struggling against gravity that seemed hellbent on pulling her down. With the corner of her eye, she noticed the two empty bottles of scotch whisky, an ashtray almost hidden under a mountain of cigarette butts, and a tiny, almost empty plastic bag that had contained her last 8ball of blow that decorated her desk.

Between the bottles and the ashtray sat the legal pad. She took tiny steps toward the desk, pausing and wincing after every single one, and squinted at the handful of pages filled with her scribbling. She shook her head and shuffled away from the desk, incapable of even considering to sit down and decipher her awful handwriting that more closely resembled that of ancient untranslated languages.

She cursed the coffee maker when it growled and whirred. She collapsed on the metal chair, resting her chin on her closed fists. Her blurry, tired gaze moved to the large window. Despite a deep-rooted certainty that she’d probably written nothing but insipid lines, she did rejoice at the knowledge that she had managed to write something.

She fired up a cigarette and gagged after the first drag. She chased the smoke with some coffee and rubbed her pulsating forehead while trying to negotiate a peace treaty with her whirling stomach. Three months of a diet consisting mostly of booze, cigarettes, and some drugs had taken a toll on her body. However, the thought of the lines on the legal pad more than sufficed to ease the hangover that would have otherwise incapacitated her for hours.

Cold sweat ran down the back of her neck as she pondered what she might have actually written the previous night. After all, the lines could be so horrendous that they’d be the last proverbial nail on the coffin of her dream. Perhaps, it’d be better if they were bad enough to compel her to give up chasing the dragon of poetry.

She topped up her mug with more scalding coffee and shambled back to the living room, cupping the heated mug with both hands. The computer screen remained lit, its light hurting her still-throbbing eyes. The sky was blue and clear and a deep breath of the fresh sea air storming through the window faintly rejuvenated her.

The magnificent view was soothing and she insisted on staring at it, avoiding the dreadful moment of encountering the true product of her latest blackout.

4.

By night time she had read, edited, and revised the poems five times, flabbergasted by the quality and lucidity of what she’d managed to write while residing deep in the blackout mist, which not even blow had been able to lift.

She poured the second lowball of scotch right after draining the first, enthralled by the prospect of repeating the previous night’s roaring success. First, she transcribed the edited poems on her computer, her hands quaking from the desire to find literary magazines to send them to. First, she needed more poems, more work to have to present.

The only thing she could not shed off, and which had a firm grip around her heart, was the poems’ dark tone, and the prevalence of “lights in the sky” in all her poems. Could it be that that damn light she’d witnessed was the sole thing that sparked her creativity?

She rubbed the bridge of her nose and stared at the sea, how it connected with the night sky over at the horizon’s edge, creating a delightful, crepuscular dome that ensheathed and protected her. Draining the second glass sufficed completely to obliterate the hangover that had tormented her while she had hunkered down over her poems

While the third glass rejuvenated her and filled her body with a warm sensation, she could not force her fingers to guide the pencil onto the page, let alone to form any words of some coherence. She lifted her gaze up to the pallid moon, bathing her tiny corner of the world with a soft green light that hardly illumined anything.

The grin into which her lips tugged up when the effulgent lights made a reappearance was more radiant than the moon. This time, there were three distinct lights, moving in a triangular shape. They vanished just as abruptly as they had appeared and her joy turned into melancholy in the blink of an eye.

5.

After finishing her coffee, which failed to subdue the raging hangover, she scrutinized the second batch of poems she’d produced during moments lost in the alcoholic blackout. She bit the corner of her lips, almost failing to believe that she had written the poems that filled several pages of the legal pad.

Of course, they all revolved around the mysterious lights in the sky, and the second batch also had a much darker tone, but they were exceptional, if she might say so herself.

Delighted to have several new poems to send around, she checked her liquor stock and her heart sank: only a fifth of scotch, a fifth of tequila, and a fifth of vodka remained. They were the last soldiers standing, waiting patiently to give their lives for the greater cause.

She lined them up on the desk, their sight enough to make her postpone the necessary visit to the liquor store for the day to come. She cracked the fifth of scotch and poured the first lowball, making sure to crank the volume up on her computer before taking the first nip of the day under the sound of The Byrds’ Mr. Spaceman.

    She broke one of her cigarettes and poured the tobacco on a large rolling paper, mixing some pot in it before rolling it up. The slightly bent, badly rolled joint looked back at her squinting at it and she choked down some scotch. Her brain remained a barren desert devoid of all ideas. There was not a single spark of inspiration in her body.

Two drags from the joint sufficed to make her head feel lighter and to numb her arms. She poured more scotch down the scalding charcoals that had appeared in her throat and hunched over a clean page of the legal pad, holding the pencil’s edge just an inch above it.

No words agreed to appear but she needed, craved, demanded, to prove that the two-night writing streak was not a result solely of the mysterious damn lights. She had to have it in her, the damn lights that appeared only for a few seconds could not have had such a profound influence on her.

Without any forewarning, a storm erupted and a deluge of rain fell on the tumultuous sea. It was impossible not to gawk at the sudden change of scene and marvel at nature’s raw power, capable of exploding in almost destructive ways within seconds.

More scotch went down the hatch, keeping her warm from the frigid breeze that penetrated the house through the wide-open window. Nothing worked. Nothing could sire even a trace of inspiration in her psyche.

It had to be the lights. For some mysterious reason, those goddamned lights had done something to her that nothing else ever could replicate. Why? She sank the scotch and decided to drink the rest out of the bottle. Why waste precious time by filling up a glass?

Perhaps, it would be in blackout she’d experience the strongest of emotions, those that guide, and even impel, the hand to start writing, for no other reason than to get rid of feelings and thoughts repressed into the innermost, most hidden and protected cavities of one’s very being.

Her fingers were inches away from the bottle of tequila, standing there like a beacon of felonious hope, when a loud knock on the front door overshadowed the clamor of the storm and had her spin around with the desk chair, coming close to toppling off to the side.

6.

Flashes of lightning illumined the room every few seconds while the following thunder rattled the air, making her jump on the desk chair every damn time. Her gaze remained glued on the front door, wishing for the power to look through sturdy surfaces.

Her heart palpitated in her throat and her head swirled. In her tipsy condition, answering the door in the middle of the night was not smart. She was in no condition to defend herself, let alone think clearly. On the other hand, if someone braved the storm during this ungodly hour must have had a good reason.

Inebriation fueled her innate curiosity and she lumbered off the chair. The moment she was up on her feet, she held the side of her head hoping it’d make the room stop spinning like a carousel gone mad. After a deep breath, that only increased the whirling of her head, she shuffled toward the door, holding on to any and every piece of furniture in her way.

Whoever the mysterious visitor was, they hadn’t knocked on the door again. If it’d been an emergency, they would have, wouldn’t they? It only made sense that they would; her intoxication made even these simple contemplations appear like deep philosophical musings about knowledge’s true nature.

She crushed into the door and, with heavy panting, tried to open it. Nothing happened. She yanked at the doorknob, tried to pull, and even force, the door open. She huffed and puffed, leaning against the doorframe to stop her rubber legs from sending her tumbling down on the floor.

After another violent tug at the door that almost sent her flying backward, she slapped her forehead and burst into loud guffaws. She grabbed the keys from the end-table to her right and squinted at them trying to feel up which was the right one. Only after she’d unlocked it, with her heart taking residence on the tip of her tongue, did she realize the stupidity of what she was doing.

She would not be able to slam the door shut if the visitor had bad intentions. She opened the door and flinched, almost expecting something bad to happen. Nothing happened. She gawked about at the deserted front yard peppered in puddles of water.

After another quick glimpse around while scratching her head, she closed and locked the door, happy nothing had happened but unable to bear the confusion twirling her head. She laid down on the couch and shut her eyes, covering them with her forearm. Quickly, she succumbed to Morpheus’ embrace and prayed it’d help her overcome the strange, unproductive night.

7.

She rubbed her heavy, shut eyelids and squinted about, trying to dig up the memory of how she ended up in the bedroom. Someone had knocked on her door late during the previous night, that much she could recall almost vividly…she sat up on her elbows, wincing under the thunderous pain of anvils being used as drums by primitive tribes high on bad meth, and grew fearful of the results isolation had had on her mind; namely, whether she hallucinated the whole door-knocking incident.

Enunciating each movement with deep groans and grunts, she clambered up to her feet. There was a knock on the door, there had to have been one. It’s impossible she experienced auditory hallucinations; after all, booze does not cause hallucinations. Parched and with her stomach whirling like a washing machine reaching its crescendo, she shuffled into the kitchen and shoved her face under the faucet. The cold water did nothing but increase her nausea and pinch her sweaty skin. She started the coffee machine and cursed at it like a drunken sailor when it began growling.

After the first nip of the scalding, stale coffee, which did nothing to ease the raging headache or the turmoil ravaging her stomach, she headed back to the living room, ignoring the small drops of coffee that created a trail behind her.

On her desk awaited nothing but the heartwrenching sight of the legal pad’s empty pages. There’d been no blackout poems and she collapsed on the chair, which creaked under her weight, and cupped the mug with both hands, bringing the brim close to her dry lips without stealing a sip.

She bent forth and gagged after dragging the first puff from her cigarette, fighting with all her might to stop her stomach from evacuating her body. A shiver crossed her spine and she cast a sidelong glance at the front door. For some reason she couldn’t comprehend, and didn’t even know if it was an urge coming from within her, she was drawn to the front yard. She had to go outside, for some damn reason.

At first, she just shook her head and nipped on her coffee. Getting out of the chair was a herculean act. However, the burning urge pushed her up on her feet. Failing to ignore the brutal headache that threatened to split her head into two, she dragged her carcass to the front door.

She unlocked the door and put her hand on the icy knob. Her stomach knotted painfully and she couldn’t bring herself to opening the door. It made no sense being so afraid, but she quivered and breathed heavily nonetheless.

After a deep breath and straightening her back, she opened the door and peeked outside. Nothing was out of the ordinary. The yard appeared flooded with various puddles but that was nothing but the result of the storm that had now passed. She smiled at the smell of wet grass that penetrated her nostrils and she took a step out in the yard, avoiding the puddles that were dispersed on the stone pathway leading to the street, and stole a sip of coffee.

Slightly more rejuvenated, she turned around, ready to go back inside and perhaps attempt to put some words onto the page. The mug slipped from her fingers and she didn’t even feel the coffee that splashed all over her feet.

On the front door stood a message written in a strange, lively green color that appeared to be undulating:

WE ARE COMING

8.

After hours of scrubbing the door, she could finally go back inside. She shook her numb arms and her spine produced several cracking sounds when she stretched her back. After flinging the window open, letting the cool sea breeze swarm the room with the hope it would rejuvenate her exhausted mind, she collapsed on the desk chair and reread the poems already transcribed on her computer.

She cracked the fifth of vodka and poured herself a triple, shuddering at the realization it was the last bottle of hooch left in the hose. She savored each nip and wheels turned in her head as she sought ways to make the bottle last till the end of the night. The bottom right-hand corner of her computer screen cruelly informed her it was too late for a quick dash to the stores.

Despite her increasing thirst and the burning desire to sink the lowball, she only stole small sips; every nip she had brought her closer to the bottom of the bottle. She stared at the bright computer screen and her poems, but it was impossible to concentrate. Her mind kept going back to the awful reality that the house would soon be depressingly dry. It clouded all her thoughts and obliterated her attempts to focus.

She sank the lowball and stole a swig out of the bottle; making the bottle last all night long was the wrong course of action. She fired up another cigarette and filled the lowball up to the brim before picking her pencil up and twirling it in her fingers while staring at the fresh page of the legal pad.

She kept toying with the pencil, twirling it in her fingers and tapping it on the desk, making sure it became an extension of her fingers, turning it into an integral part of her body and self. It didn’t work. All she could think of was she was about to run out of booze before she could get drunk enough to pass out.

Her gaze moved back to the window and the magnificent view that was what had drawn her to the house. She had thought it would have helped her recapture the fire of inspiration. The legal pad’s fresh page mocked her, challenged her to prove she still had it, or, at the very least, something resembling talent.

After topping her glass off, the bottle stood next to her half-empty. It was the most disheartening sight, one that filled her heart with dread. She swallowed another long sip, simply to somehow untie her stomach that had clenched into a knot.

She brought the pencil up to her eyes, staring at it almost with hatred until it turned blurry and double. There were no words, no lines to be written. All that engulfed her was darkness and the threat of spending a dry night.

“Come on, damn it,” she snapped and hunched over the legal pad, trying to force the pencil to move, to produce something. Even just letters with no meaning strung up together. It could be a start. A tear dropped from her eye and formed a moist stain on the page.

A humongous triangle of lights appeared in the sky, momentarily overshadowing even the half-moon. The lights were more lambent and larger than before. Whatever caused them was closer than ever before. They vanished once she blinked, but she continued to stare at the sky with intensity and hope.

They didn’t come back. Perhaps, they were toying with her. Appearing only once, and for only a few seconds, just to make sure she doesn’t forget about them. While she realized that perhaps she would never know the truth about the lights’ origin and true nature, she needed to solve the mystery, if only so she would understand whence her poems, and the writing outbursts, had come.

She fell off the chair and rubbed her throbbing hit. A thunderous thud reverberated across the house and she glared up at the rooftop when more thumps were heard.

9.

She staggered off the chair and eyeballed the front door. Her heart drummed right behind her ear, punching her brain and forcing her to wince. Whatever that sound had been, she needed to go outside and check it. Perhaps, an accident had taken place and someone could need help. Deep inside her, she expected someone to knock on the door.

While she wanted to believe that the previous night’s incident was a prank, it was hard imagining anyone would drive in the middle of nowhere just to pull a prank. That message on her door had to have a deeper meaning…perhaps, it was related to the lights in the sky. Her gaze moved back to the remaining vodka in the bottle, waiting to proffer the coveted bliss.

The house was locked, she could swill it down, hopefully pass out, and sleep the madness away. She’d wake up hungover but back into normalcy. She shook her head at the idea; if she even just got heavily inebriated, she would find herself at the mercy of whoever, or whatever, lurked outside, trying to get in.

Her heart nearly came flying out of her mouth when the knock came. Petrified on her spot, she simply gawked at the door, clenching her fists into tight balls. If she ignored it, if she didn’t make a sound, perhaps the visitor would just leave.

She jumped when the second knock blared inside the graveyard silent house. The only other sound in the house was her palpitating heart. With her teeth drilling holes in her lower lip, she lumbered toward the door, compelled to answer. What if someone needed help? What if there had been a car crash or some other sort of accident?

She couldn’t just stand there, ignoring the demanding knocks on the door. If she did, she might end up responsible for someone’s death. She perused the room, searching for anything that could act as a weapon, just in case the mysterious visitor did not have the best of intentions.

Kitchen, she thought and turned on her heels. Once she held the butcher knife’s handle, once it was in her closed fist, she’d feel safer and more confident about opening the door. After taking just one step toward the kitchen door, a thunderous explosion caused the house to quake, and bathed the house in a blinding white light, and she dashed back toward her desk, and as far away from the front door as possible.

10.

She peered at the window and at the heavy rainfall showering the sea. The explosion was nothing more than thunder. While it explained the explosion, and she knew abrupt weather changes were not preternatural, the question of the visitor remained.

There hadn’t been another knock for a few minutes and it allowed her to breathe a little easier. She threw herself on the chair and slapped her hand away when she reached for the bottle. A good sip would allow her to relax but if the visitor still lurked around, she could not afford to be in a stupor.

She brought the bottle’s neck to her lips, taking a sniff of the odorless liquor. There was hardly enough vodka in the bottle to get her drunk. The adrenaline her brain had pumped through her veins had obliterated the buzz she had worked on. Just enough vodka to numb her body just enough to make her feel comfortable and fuzzy.

After biting the corner of her lips, she swilled it down and smacked her lips, cherishing the warm wave that traversed her body and gave rise to tingling sensations all over. She fired up a cigarette and exhaled the first plume of blue smoke toward the open window, letting the strong breeze take it away.

After twirling her head, she hunched over the legal pad and picked the pencil up while the cigarette dangled from her lips, sending thin sheaths of smoke up her nostrils. Perhaps, whatever had happened would suffice to kindle some sparks of inspiration.

She peeked over her shoulder at the front door. Things had been quiet; whoever the visitor was, they must have given up on waiting for her to answer.

She gave up; tilted the bottle in her mouth and the vodka glided delightfully down her throat, first warming her intestines, then moving back up in her head. She crouched over the notebook, ready once more to battle the goddamn page. Perhaps, this whole ordeal, whatever it was, would provide enough inspiration.

However, the message on her front door had been real, someone had written it. In short, someone intended to visit her, to…what would they want from her? She glared at the empty bottle, her head only softly spinning and demanding more booze. She had nothing with which to quell her great thirst.

She wasted about an hour, smoking and playing with the empty bottle, often looking into it with a vain hope of finding some surviving splash of precious hooch. A dry night loomed ahead and that was more terrifying than the mysterious visitor’s potential intentions. The house was bathed in an effulgent white light that momentarily blinded her.

No thunder followed.

11.

She clenched her fists and pricked her ears. The thunder she expected never came. It had to be a distant lightning, nothing more. Sweat ran down her forehead, burning her eyes. Something was afoul, she could smell it in the air.

She glanced up when another thump reverberated throughout the house. More thumps followed; footsteps. Someone was on the roof. She blinked and stared at the ceiling as more and more footsteps were heard, almost as if an entire group of men had landed on the roof.

She leaned against the desk, keeping her gaze fixated on the ceiling. Her brain whirled in hopeless attempts to figure out what she should do. Mechanically, she lit a cigarette and dragged two long puffs before setting the burning cigarette atop the mountain of butts almost concealing the ashtray.

Would the plume of blue smoke she exhaled be her very last one? The footsteps on the roof faded. She peered about, clenching her quaking fists, trying to locate the mysterious intruders. For a moment, she almost expected them to leap into the house through the window, just like it sometimes happens in movies.

That didn’t happen. She twirled her ankles and punched her thighs. She groaned from the cold pain that traversed her muscles and took a few steps around in the living room. There was nowhere she could hide in. The house had no basement, no attic, nothing…after all, the house was not built in order to sustain a heavy attack by unknown forces.

She dashed into the kitchen, slamming the door shut, when heavy knocks thundered the front door. A moment after she was in the kitchen, a blaring sound caused her to wince. The front door was down and she had nowhere to go.

12.

How would the tiny kitchen help her to hide? She yanked one of the counter drawers open, almost pulling it out of its hinges, and grabbed the butcher knife. The sweat in her palms made it almost impossible to hold on to the handle and she raised it up to her gaze, wondering about the last time it had been sharpened.

She didn’t like the answer that came to her head and she licked her arid lips. Cowering in the corner away from the door, she pricked her ears and arched an eyebrow when she heard the ongoing conversation in the living room, transpiring in a language that did not sound native to the planet. She tiptoed her way to the far-end corner and slithered inside the laundry room; nothing more than a tiny room where the washing machine and dryer were. She closed the door slowly, cursing it for creaking.

She pushed the washing machine slightly away from the wall and crawled behind it, wondering why she thought it would offer her any protection. The footsteps moving around in the kitchen caused her blood to freeze and she squirmed deeper behind the sturdy machine while holding the knife with both hands right in front of her chest.

A commotion came from the kitchen: drawers were being jerked open, glassware broke, furniture were dragged across the floor. The intruders obviously were looking for something; what was it? Her gaze dropped down to the knife pointing outward. Did she have it in her to stab anyone, even if it was an alien with evil intentions? She had no idea.

The silence that suddenly befell the house terrified her more than the clamor of moments earlier. She held her breath when the door leading to the laundry room creaked and a thin ray of moonlight illumined the crepuscular, tiny space.

13.

She gasped at the long, thin shadow cast on the floor, reaching up to the wall right next to her. She tightened her grip around the knife’s handle and bit her lips down. The shadow of a tall, lanky creature with a triangular head grew larger, as its owner moved closer. It had to be a trick of the light. It had to be that.

It was just a burglar whose shadow turned monstrous due to the moonlight coming from the kitchen window and hit him in the back. Whatever the intruder’s true nature—human, alien, or supernatural—he stood but a foot or two away from her and would soon catch her.

The knife’s handle was slipping off her sweaty palms and she wondered if her heart’s palpitations were in fact as loud as they felt, and if the intruder already had heard them. An urge overwhelmed her; she needed a drink and to sit in front of her legal pad, to fill pages upon pages with the lines that swirled in her head.

A voice broke the silence and she tasted copper after biting her lips down hard. More voices came from the kitchen, sounding agitated, and the shadow disappeared, along with its owner. Silence engulfed the house. She pricked her ears and heard nothing.

She didn’t dare stir. Perhaps, it was a trap meant to lure her out. She drew a short breath through the nose and held it in, unwilling to lower the knife she held in front of her as a short lance.

14.

Nothing disturbed the awkward silence for a while. There was no way to calculate exactly how long it’d been since she last heard a sound, but it felt like a damn century. She crawled out of her hiding space, rubbing her sore back and stretching her arms and legs. The cracks her joints produced echoed in the night.

Still holding the knife with both hands, she returned to the kitchen with tiny, reluctant steps and gaped around at the destruction the intruders had caused. In the living room and the rest of the house, the situation was similar: the couch had been turned over and the cushions ripped apart, drawers and closets stood wide open and with everything they contained down on the floor, and painting had been slashed in half. It’d take her days, and lot of money, to restore the house to its former condition.

If she hadn’t heard the bizarre language of the intruders, she’d have attributed all this to a gang of burglars looking for jewelry and money. Then, her glance landed on the desk.

Her computer screen had been shattered, and tiny smidgens of glass blanketed the wooden surface of the desk. She dragged her feet to the desk and gawked at the bottle of a strange, red liquid that stood right next to her legal pad. She blinked at something written on the first page of the legal pad, in symbols she had never before encountered.

The utter destruction of the house and the money it’d require to be fixed, courtesy to her having no insurance, meant that her plan of staying in the house for a few more months on her savings had been annihilated.

She picked her pack of cigarettes from the floor and fired one up. Her gaze moved back to the strange bottle the intruders had left behind; the liquid within undulated, almost as if it invited her to have a sip.

What if it was nothing more than otherworldly whisky? She sighed a cloud of blue smoke and looked at the night sky and the calm sea. The storm had passed and everything was peaceful outside the house.

She needed a drink. She craved a drink. It was the only way she could relax a little and momentarily forget that the house looked like a goddamn war zone.

What if the bottle was poisonous? It didn’t matter. She’d risk it all, just in case it was nothing more than an alcoholic beverage from another planet. The first nip was strong, smooth, and carried a faintly sour taste.

She smacked her lips and leaned back on the desk chair, that had miraculously survived the onslaught of everything else in the house. It was alcoholic and didn’t kill her—at least, not right away. She chased a drag from her cigarette with a longer sip, tasting a fruity aftertaste in the drink.

Happy she had something to drink, so she could forget she sat amidst the debris of her house, she glanced back down at the legal pad and rolled backwards with the chair. The words on the page made sense, she could now read the symbols.

After reading the note of the intruders, she gulped down half of the bottle. They’d come back; the next time they did, though, she was not going to hide.

She reread the note and smiled at the bottle, the alien, strange liquor already crawling around in her head, making her delightfully intoxicated:

We come in peace;

We want to help; we want to go home.


George Gad Economou holds a Master’s degree in Philosophy of Science and resides in Athens, Greece, doing freelance work whenever he can while searching for a new place to go. His novella, Letters to S., was published in Storylandia Issue 30 and his short stories and poems have appeared in literary magazines, such as Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Chamber Magazine, The Edge of Humanity Magazine, and Modern Drunkard Magazine. His first poetry collection, Bourbon Bottles and Broken Beds, was published by Adelaide Books in 2021.


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