From Space, by Joseph Rubas
July 28, 2017: I was lying in bed last night reading a tattered John D. McDonald paperback when a loud explosion rocked the world, nearly throwing me out of bed. Now, I’m not the type to have flashbacks, but for a moment there I was back in the Mekong Delta, crouching low as North Vietnamese artillery rained down.
I was back to the here and now fairly quickly. My tidy little cabin on its ridge. One room. Fireplace. Dirt floor. Cozy. Hobbit hole, I call it.
Thinking maybe a plane came down or something, I grabbed my coat and rushed outside. Though I’ve been here for going on thirty years, the unbroken blackness of a Mojave night never fails to surprise me. You can put your hand two inches from your face and still not see it.
Back inside, I grabbed a flashlight and went back out. The explosion sounded like it came from behind the cabin. In the back, I scrambled up the dust-coated hill, got tangled in a Joshua Tree, and nearly fell on my ass. When I was free, I hustled up the rest of the way.
The top of the hill overlooks a wide expanse of desert floor, dotted here and there with thistly creosote scrub. It’s a typically bland scene. But last night it looked like a warzone. The first thing I noticed was the fire: Some of the brush caught when whatever it was came down. The second (seen by the flickering light of the fire) was the crater. At a guess, I figured it to be ten feet across and maybe five feet wide. Embers littered the ground.
I carefully navigated my way down the hill and came to within five feet of the crater’s edge. The heat was intense.
The scrub burned out fairly quickly, plunging the world back into darkness. The only light came from my Maglite and the embers dotting the soil.
When the heat let up a little, I went closer. I paused at the edge of the crater and saw, inside, a rock. There was nothing special about it. Looked just like a plain ol’ boulder, the likes of which dot the Mojave. It was a brownish-gray color, rough, and about the size of a basketball. It wasn’t rounded, however; its edges were jagged and sharp.
I’d never seen one come down like that before, though I once watched one go right over my head and disappear. Science isn’t my area, but I thought it was pretty neat.
Since it was still too hot from coming through the atmosphere, I decided to come back in the morning. Then I’d find a way to get it back to the cabin.
This morning, I went out to look at it, and saw, with a sense of loss, that it crumbled in the night. I brought a few pieces back with me, but I’m still disappointed.
July 29, 2017: I went into town today and stocked up on supplies. It seemed like people were smiling at me and trying to talk to me left and right. I tried my best to be polite, but I don’t want anything to do with people.
When I came home, my front door was standing open. I know I closed and locked it before I left. Grabbing my pistol from the glove box, I went in, but the place was empty. Nothing was missing. Nothing was moved. Maybe I didn’t lock it the way I thought I did.
Anyway, I’ve been studying the rock from space since I got home. There’s really nothing special about it.
Well…except for the membrane.
I don’t know if that’s the right name for it, but one side of the rock (the inside, I suppose) is covered in a thick…well, membrane. Reminds me of an egg. Of course that’s not what it actually is.
August 1, 2017: I woke up last night to the sound of little feet scurrying across the roof. I tried to ignore it, but I’m not the type who likes pitter-patter on old tin, so I grabbed my shotgun and went outside. Though it doesn’t look like it, the desert is full of life, and often that life crossed paths with my own. Coyotes mostly. That’s what I expected to find last night, but when I went out, there was nothing.
Figuring they got the message, I went back to bed, and was just starting to drift off again when something tapped on the window. I got up, but again, nothing was there.
I got the shotgun, went back outside, and did a round of the cabin. No dogs. No nothing.
This morning, I talked to Sundance on the HAM. He’s doing fine. Says he’s going to be coming out this way in a couple weeks and he wants to buy me a beer. I guess that’s fine. He’s a nice enough sort.
August 3, 2017: Something strange is going on here.
Last night, I woke up to that sound of feet on the roof again. When I went outside, I just caught a glimpse of a swarm of something scurrying off into the night.
This morning, I went outside, and the dirt around the side of the cabin was all messed up, like a stampede of animals came through. When I went to go back inside, something crunched under my boot. I bend down, picked it up, and examined it in the sunlight. Looked like a cicada shell, all empty and hollow.
I met with Sundance and we had a beer in town. He’s younger than I thought he was, late thirties or thereabouts. When I got back to the cabin, the door was open again. This time, the place was ransacked. Nothing was gone, though.
Except for the space rock.
I had it on a little shelf above my desk. When I went looking for it, I noticed it was missing right away. Who in the hell trashes a man’s house but only takes a rock?
Could be the government, I suppose. Maybe they wanna study the damn thing.
That sound on the roof again.
Tapping at the windows.
When I switched on the lamp, I caught sight of something scurrying toward the door.
I may be old but I’m fast: I leap out of bed and snatched it up before it could escape. I don’t know much about bugs and animals and all that, but I know this thing isn’t normal. As I write, it’s under a glass bowel next to me, limp and sleeping…or pretending to sleep. My first thought was that it was a spider…there are a lot of those out here, big ones, too. It’s body is bulbous and rounded like a spider’s, and it has long, hairy legs, but only six instead of eight. Looking at it though, I get the feeling it isn’t. It has two black eyes and a tiny little mouth ringed with razor sharp teeth. When I picked it up it tried to bite me. When it couldn’t, it thrashed and yelled. Yes. Yelled. A tiny, high-pitched sound of anger and frustration.
August 4, 2017: Every time I get close to the bowl, the thing jumps at me, hissing and screaming.
I’m thinking about calling someone. UCLA maybe.
Let them deal with it.
August 5, 2017: Noises on the roof.
Noises at the window.
I had my flashlight next to me, and moving as quickly as I could, I snapped it on and threw back the curtains.
Jesus Christ, there’s more of them. I counted six clinging to the glass. These ones were bigger.
So were their mouths.
I tried calling the police, but all I got was dead air.
They cut the phone lines.
In the morning, I went out to look around, and found more of those shells. A lot more.
I’m a proud old bastard, but I fell to pieces then. I tried to leave, but the truck wouldn’t start.
I’m going to try walking out later.
Walking out didn’t work. I was halfway down the drive when they appeared from the brush, a good fifty of them.
They didn’t try to get me.
They just stood there, watching me, blocking the way.
They know what they’re doing.
It’s three in the morning. I don’t dare sleep.
The sound of them on the roof is like rain. Pounding.
I stuffed towels under the door, but a couple found their way in.
I stepped on them. Their blood is green and smells like sewage.
I think they want their friend back. I’m half-tempted to give him to them.
They’ll kill me anyway.
August 6, 2017: There’re two of them under the bowl now.
I noticed it this morning. The bowl hasn’t moved. God help me, I think they can replicate.
I tried leaving again. There are too many of them. Surrounding the cabin. Watching. Waiting.
It’s getting dark now.
I splashed the walls with gasoline. When they come in, I’m gonna light a match.
Noises on the roof.
Noises at the windows.
Joseph Rubas lives on Florida’s sunny east coast. By day he writes horror, and by night he trolls highways looking for hitchhikers to kill and eat. His work has appeared in a bunch of magazines you’ve never heard of, and his last two collections, After Midnight, and The Shapeshifter, have sold very poorly. That’s not his fault, though; it’s everyone else’s.
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Tags: aliens, death, Joseph Rubas, science fiction