…Only for her to suddenly grimace at me when I described the nordic arn and gy-ei who appeared before us. She stopped me there. “You really had me going. Don’t fuck around though. If you think I don’t have much patience for it, wait till you’re giving a statement to the cops.”
I insisted I was relating exactly what happened. She no longer looked frustrated with me but instead bore an uncertain, furrowed brow. Trying to determine, as I did with Tlalo, how much of what I told her was true.
I then described our descent further into the Earth, via the ancient elevator. The immense, Vril-ya sized chambers, corridors, chairs and control consoles. Then the hangar full of 1940s era flying saucers. “Alright, fuck off, now you’re just fucking with me.”
I told her she asked where I was and what happened to me, so I was telling her. That no matter how many times she accused me of lying, she would get no other story out of me, and so may as well listen all the way through.
By this point stragglers nursing their own coffees, one of them smoking like a chimney, were visibly eavesdropping on us. “Not here though” I stipulated. “Let’s go for a drive.” I had no specific destination in mind, but Melanie did.
“This looks like one of those places.” Melanie smirked and told me I’d have to be a little bit more specific than that. Her air freshener, shaped like a cartoon alien head, swayed to and fro as the shitty suspension on her $900 Craigslist special struggled to cope with the potholes.
“Like makeout point, or whatever it’s called in old movies where they go to slobber all over each other until the dude in the rubber monster suit interrupts them.” It really did, too. You could see the whole city from here, spread out below like a jewel encrusted rug.
“I’ve never come here for that” she confessed, adding “but when I first got my license I used to just hang out up here and listen to music. Sometimes I’d pretend I was a super villain, plotting to unleash a deadly plague on the unsuspecting citizens down there.”
It tickled me, coming from her. But then I remembered what that headspace is like. When you’re a teenager, and it’s you against the rest of humanity. Not because they’ve necessarily wronged you, just because you’re looking for a fight.
As I soaked in the sight of the glittering lights before us, I imagined pale golden saucers laying waste to everything. Fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers, Screaming in a mixture of terror and confusion as an impossible reality forces itself on them.
It would look just like the ruins outside of Tlalo’s hideout. If I were to survive the invasion, I might wind up living that life. Staking out the wreckage of the world I used to know up in these hills, plotting attacks on the same hideously beautiful monsters who destroyed his world as well.
That’s when I noticed light coming from the clearing by the road. I couldn’t be certain it was the same one until I fished a pair of ‘nocs out of the glove compartment to confirm it. In the darkness I couldn’t make out the shape of the saucer itself, just the light coming out of its windows and open hatch.
“I have to go back” I muttered. Melanie’s ears perked up. “What, back to underground fantasyland? Where Neil took you?” I shrugged it off and nodded. Melanie asked me flat out if I was on drugs. I shrugged that off, too.
She still lived in this world, where the Earth is solid all the way through and things make sense. I didn’t see any reason to spoil that. “Do you see the lights down there in the clearing?” It took some work to point it out precisely, but she did ultimately recognize the road passing by it. “Do you think you can take me there?”
She had the audacity to shine a light in my eyes before we left. Checking to see if my pupils were dilated, I assume. Yet I couldn’t blame her for any of it. I’d been the same way with Neil. Imagining then that I had a solid grasp on reality, one which there could be no major upsets to.
“This is a cult thing then, isn’t it. While you were with Neil, they brainwashed you with all this stuff about blonde giants and underground cities. If that’s what’s going on, I know some people my Mom used to work with that specialize in deprogramming. They’re not police or anything like that, they-” I assured her I wasn’t in any cult that I knew of. She pointed out that cultists never think so, and I stuck out my tongue.
She continued trying to talk me into it right up until I told her to stop at the side of the road. She then gave it a rest long enough to ask whether to leave the engine running and how long I’d be. “Years, maybe. As long as it takes.” I climbed out of the passenger side, and headed into the woods.
Tlalo was right where I left him. Still standing motionless in the open hatch, stupid puppy dog eyes and pursed lips like he’d been practicing in front of a mirror while I was gone. I’d resolved to give up completely on trying to discern his motives.
Unknowable to me, and therefore irrelevant. My own motives were what mattered. I knew I couldn’t just resume my old life up here. I always knew, but had to come back up here to actually feel it. As I approached Tlalo, I recalled Brother Trent.
Brother Trent was this loon who would hang out in the common areas on campus preaching to anybody who would listen that the end of the world was imminent. I realized I might soon owe him an apology. Maybe I’d even have wound up joining him with my own sandwich sign and megaphone, had Tlalo not waited for me.
“You came back!” he gushed. “As if you didn’t know I would” I replied in my flattest monotone. He began to protest, but then I pointed out that he couldn’t control the Vril staff, and without it the saucer wouldn’t fly.
“…That’s true. I didn’t have a plan B, though. There was no point to devising one. You’re the most promising candidate in decades. It was going to be you or nobody. I still have my laser, I could’ve fed myself here by hunting for a few days…but if you didn’t come back, there would be no reason for me to return either.”
I told him to cram it and get in the saucer. Just then I heard a shriek behind me. Melanie stood just barely within range of the light coming from the hatch, jaw hanging open, eyes bugging out of her skull. I looked over my shoulder at her as I boarded the saucer. “Go home, Melanie.”
The hatch shut behind me with a hiss, then a kerchunk as it formed an airtight seal. Tlalo gestured to one of the swiveling seats, which I eased myself into before mentally commanding the craft to lift off. I briefly worried about hurting Melanie before recalling that there was no hot exhaust and no exposed moving parts.
Not like a helicopter or a rocket. If she was still standing there, staring gormlessly at what was probably the first truly ‘beyond the pale’ sight of her life, from her perspective we’d quietly rise into the air with a gentle gust before zipping off into the star speckled night.
“Should I be worried about her?” I queried. “…Or should you, for that matter?” Tlalo shook his head. “If it’s just one witness, there’s no cause for concern. Nobody will believe her.” I thought back to outlandish stories I’d read on the internet while researching Neil’s background.
How I once scoffed at accounts of statuesque blonde “Pleiadians” conducting all sorts of experiments on drunken hillbillies. Probably the same experiments they’d be conducting on me, had Tlalo’s buddies never shot down Neil’s saucer.
The end of the world. I repeated that phrase in my head a few times, savoring the gravity of it. The end of the world. Like so many ants crawling around in the back yard, oblivious to the house that’s just a hundred feet away. Oblivious to its owner, getting ready to start the lawnmower.
No, I couldn’t ignore it. Not something of this magnitude. Life topside would be impossible. Sleeping through the night would be impossible, knowing what’s happening down there. Like a reverse ostrich, sticking its head above ground to ignore what’s below it.
It’s a common misconception that the word apocalypse means the end of the world. It actually means “sudden revelation”. A revelation which, in my case, made my world impossible to return to. One which at the same time ushered in a fantastical, terrifying replacement I couldn’t opt out of.
Stay Tuned for Part 25!