was his first thought. Not in a serious way, of course, not really. But the
second Cutter looked up from the road and saw those strange twin yellow lights
fixed firmly between black and heavy clouds, that was what had immediately
flickered up in his mind.
say it had been anything else would be a lie.
had just passed through Yuma and was now driving up the I-8 at a rigid 75 miles
per hour, exactly the speed limit. His headlights, taillights, brake lights,
turn signals- all working perfectly and, in the case of the turn signals, being
used religiously. He had no intention of being pulled over now.
gotten through four different border patrol checkpoints- including the one at
the actual border. There were two big German shepherds there, nosing around
either side of his ‘17 Kia Optima, each being handled by a stone-faced police
be fine, it’ll be fine, it’ll be fine-
officer in front peered into the car from Cutter’s open window, chewing gum in
the smacking, open-mouthed way rude children do. He looked him up and
showed him his passport.
smacks, the officer glanced up at the other two with the dogs. Cutter’s heart
was pounding but his face was casual, relaxed, almost bored. He’d been at this
job for the better part of a year now, and this part was always the scariest
and most exciting; it made him think maybe he should’ve tried acting when he
was younger. Shit, maybe he still could. Didn’t that one guy from Home
Improvement get busted that one time for-?
Cutter snapped back to reality. The gum-chewing guy was finally waving him
tipped him a finger and drove. As he crossed into the US he couldn’t help but
grin to himself. He was good at this. Shit, maybe he would try
acting some time. But first-
First he had to get to Phoenix-
up with Retch-
yeah. No. He had no intention of being pulled over now over a broken taillight
or headlight or being caught going just a little too fast in front of a cop
that was just a little too bored-
Not a chance. Because-
under his seat- meticulously Saran-wrapped and stuffed into an airtight
compartment cut right into the floorboard of the sedan- was eighteen raw pounds
of hot, pure Mexican crystal meth.
not a plane. They’re just sitting there.
eyes were like those tacky old cat clocks, darting to the left to look at the
lights in the sky, then quickly darting back right, to the road, to make sure
he wasn’t drifting into the other lane. Back and forth and back and forth and
back and forth.
kind of electrical tower or something?
couldn’t be. The lights were high, high enough to be level with the clouds,
which had only recently begun to clear after a desert rainstorm which had left
the road slick and shiny in his headlights.
small circles of light in the sky, smaller than the moon but bigger than any
star Cutter had ever seen, and yellow, like the warm glow of a lightbulb you’d
find screwed into a lamp on your bedside table. They weren’t moving. They
weren’t blinking. They were just...hanging there. And they were bright.
Cutter had never seen anything like it.
the car was shuddering with the rapid thud-thud-thud-thud-thud of-
he hissed, and swerved back into his lane. Dammit! he cursed himself. What
the fuck is wrong with you? After all that back there, after all that, you
wanna fuckin run yourself off the fuckin road staring up at a fuckin airplane-
his eyes were already drifting back up over to the sky. Now one of the lights-
the one on the left- was fading, like it was literally burning out. It
disappeared. Cutter squinted. Another light, this one slightly below where the
other had been- that same yellow hue- sparked into existence, falling downward
like a shooting star, then fading out before it could touch the horizon. Was it
even far enough to touch the horizon? It’s not a plane,
Cutter thought again. And suddenly-
second light flicked back up in the sky-
He cut the wheel again, swerving back into his lane, but this time he had
overcorrected. He felt the car sliding too far, hydroplaning-
now on the other side of the road-
two yellow lights in the sky became three, then four, then eight, then ten- and
they were moving now, all in unison, moving down, moving towards him-
gripped the steering wheel. His foot stayed off the pedals. The Kia regained
its traction and steadied, but Cutter had no time to sigh, because- yes-
because the lights were wobbling across the sky and through the clouds,
were mounted to something, a great big disc-like thing, long and flat and made
of black metal, and he could make out blue flames licking out of its smooth plating
in a dozen different places; every now and then one of those yellow lights
popping off it and falling toward the ground in a flurry of
blink-and-you’ll-miss-them sparks and then burning out, and yes, it was, it was
flying fuckin saucer! Aliens! I knew-” But the words died in his throat. He
hadn’t been serious when he’d thought that earlier, of course not, and-
he whispered. “Jesus Christ.”
whirred and sputtered, sending a shuddering jolt through Cutter’s entire body
as it passed over and in front of him. Cutter whipped his head to the right to
follow it, still going his even 75 despite losing control a minute ago. There
were more blue flames coming out of the flying saucer now, its wobbling getting
more severe, its bulk falling closer and closer and closer to the ground.
thing from outer space couldn’t believe what was happening. It belched black
foam. A stupid mistake, stupid, and now-
long green fingers snaked frantically over a thousand strange knobs and levers
and buttons. It cursed itself, wheezing, in a cosmic tongue spoken in a
frequency that no human ear was capable of picking up. The thing was sick, with
what it didn’t know, and-
it, within the golden walls of the ship, something popped. Smoke began to fill
the compartment and what you could call the thing’s lungs. More black foam
burst from its maw, splattering onto the glowing displays before it.
this was bad. This was very, very bad.
thing from outer space shut its huge eyes, so black that not even the light
from the brightest star in the galaxy could make them shine.
the smoke stopped. It was like it had hit an invisible wall, and it began to
retreat back as the thing’s eyelids fluttered. It hadn’t had to use this power
in a long time.
else popped, this time to its left. Its pulsing green face was suddenly glowing
blue from a fire that had started at one of the control panels. Then another.
Then another. The thing from outer space had a choice to make.
kept its eyes shut for a millisecond longer, furrowing what one might call its
all at once the invisible wall was gone and the thing was engulfed in the
watched the flaming disc hurtle to the ground in awe. It was nothing but a
field of desert; dirt and cacti and rocks and dry, sparse bushes. The flying
saucer exploded on impact, sending up an electric mushroom cloud of cold blue
fire and black, heavy smoke. Behind the carnage, a train passed. There was no
one else on the road that he could see. And then-
thing from outer space had never concentrated so hard in its entire life, which
had been unfathomably long.
had never been particularly talented at organic teleportation, had never really
had much use for it. The thing could never quite land exactly where it had
intended. Plus it was sick, so, so sick now. But-
the ground rushed up at it-
was no time to-
then Cutter couldn’t breathe. It was like in an instant all the air was sucked
out of the car. He clawed at the window button, the car swerving again, and
this time he didn’t care. A sound like the crack of thunder shook Cutter’s
bones, every hair on his body stood up, his balls prickled so far up into his
body that they ached, and he couldn’t breathe-
window rolled down and strong wind blew his hair back and he gulped deep
lungfuls of breath like a man dying of dehydration suddenly given access to a
waterfall. In his panic he had floored the gas pedal- he was going 90. He
lifted his foot from it, instinctively glancing up at the rear view mirror,
thing had been aiming for a rocky spot in the clearing, far from where its
ship’s wreckage would end up, where the thing could be relatively concealed
from any passerby while it regained what strength it could.
it opened its big, impossibly black eyes, it was sitting in something strange
and hot and dark and oddly hard yet soft at the same time. The thing knew
immediately where it was. It looked up in time to see two weird, widening eyes
in the small rectangle of glass up ahead-
saw it. In the rear view mirror. Green oval face, pulsing under the skin as if
its veins were made of live worms. Tiny mouth, slightly parted to reveal small
serrated teeth, a trickle of black fluid running down from its corner. Big,
black eyes. Big, big black eyes. Cutter-
he SLAMMED on the brakes, the tires screeching, his head thrown forward, his
seatbelt locking painfully against his chest-
alien in the back seat flew forward-
still screaming, the brakes still locking, the tires still screeching-
the alien’s head exploded against the windshield.
It was raining again.
fingers were wrapped so tightly around the steering wheel he thought the skin
on his knuckles would split. His foot was ground into the brake pedal so hard
his calf was cramping. He didn’t move. He couldn’t move. He-
angry truck blew past him on his left. The Kia was stopped in the middle of the
road, engine idling gently, big, fat dollops of rain smacking on the roof and
against the windshield. He loosened his grip.
mucusy gore was splattered across the windshield and all over the dash. The
alien’s head- what was left of it anyway- rested there in a mound of its own
weird brains and bits of bone. Its skull had split open, and was leaking a
fluid that glowed a dull, dim purple. Its body bent forward over the heater
controls and the center console in a broken cobra pose, its arms hanging limply
at either side. Cutter touched his face and was horrified to feel slime.
shrieked and scrabbled furiously for his seatbelt. At last it came undone and
he flung the door open and lept out into the rain, scrubbing at his face and at
his neck and at his arms.
Ah! AHHHHH!” He danced on the pavement, adrenaline coursing through his
veins, feeling like he was going to-
vomited into the rain puddles forming at his feet. His mouth tasted like
pickles and battery acid. He held one hand on the car door to steady
Jesus, oh Jesus, what the...” he trailed off. He peered into the car at
the corpse. What the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck, what, in the
holy name of fuck and all her disciples, was he gonna do?
million thoughts raced through his head.
a fuckin alien in there-)
obviously, but how-
a dead alien, oh Jesus Christ what the fuck-)
have to call someone-
like the cops? Did we forget about-)
dunno, the government or something-
have eighteen pounds of glass in there, and you wanna call the-)
you can’t just leave it-
pounds, eighteen pounds, that’s, what-?)
years, thirty years at least-
you can’t just leave it-)
what about Retch-?)
never do a year of that thirty if you fuck this up for Retch-)
that Puerto Rican guy a few months back-?)
busted with half- shit- less than half-)
Jesus, fuck me-
had him castrated-)
screamed in frustration. He threw a punch at the back window and heard his
he shouted, cradling his bleeding fist. What was he gonna do?
he heard something. Far away, coming from beyond the paved hill up ahead. But
he knew what it was. He knew immediately.
didn’t remember getting back in the car. He didn’t remember hauling the corpse
up by its armpits- the flesh slick and sickeningly soft, almost gelatinous to
the touch- and shoving it into the back seat. Nor did he remember scooping up
the strange glowing goo that was its brains and one big black eyeball up off
the dashboard in haphazard handfuls and shucking them back over his shoulder
into piles on top of the dead alien either. He didn’t remember wiping the black
blood off the windshield as best he could with balled up McDonald’s napkins
he’d had in the glove compartment, and he didn’t remember pushing the start
button on the Kia, accelerating back up to his steady 75mph as a seemingly
never ending stream of wailing police cars and fire trucks and ambulances
appeared over the hill and barreled up past him toward the fiery blue blaze on
the other side of the interstate. But he must’ve done all those things. Because
he was cruising once again up the I-8, trailing behind a Wal-Mart semi. A sign
came up on his right. Gila Bend, a run-down nowhere-town seated halfway from
Yuma to Phoenix, was just fourteen miles away.
breathed. The smell was awful, like a thousand bodies dead for weeks, rotting
in wet, warm weather alongside shit and weeks-old fruit. It seemed to be
rolled a window down. Breathed deeply as fresh air billowed in. It really only
dampened the stench, though. He could feel it burning holes in his
gonna go crazy in here.
thought made him laugh. Surely, given the situation, he was already
plan was a simple one. Once through the two miles it took to pass through Gila
Bend, Cutter would take one of the detours before hitting the 85 toward the
I-10, one of those rough dirt roads leading to nothing but desert for miles
around. He would drive up maybe a mile, maybe two, and he would bury the
corpse. Then he’d drive on to Phoenix and Retch and he would apologize for
being late and he would get paid and he would never speak of this to anyone for
the rest of his life. Never.
had considered just dumping the body and leaving, just pulling the car off to
the side of the road somewhere and hauling the alien out onto the pavement and
never looking back, but ruled that thought out as quickly as it came. If
forensic cops could lift fingerprints and trace DNA from murdered humans, what
did he think fancy government agents could find on a dead alien found in the
desert fifty miles away from where its ship had crashed? Cutter had a record.
His fingerprints were absolutely sitting in some database, just waiting to be
found at some crime scene and send the cops knocking at his cheap, thin,
The alien could not be found.
exit was coming up. He lifted his index finger to push the turn signal stick up
clicked up. Cutter looked down. He hadn’t touched it yet.
going crazy, he thought again. Of course he had touched it. He was just a
little on edge. Who could blame him?
took the exit and rolled down into Gila Bend.
didn’t notice the drops of alien blood and flecks of alien brain begin to float
up behind him and swirl, swimming through the air and hanging there suspended
like drops of dense ink in water.
thing from outer space was not alive. It could not move. It could not feel. It
had no real consciousness at all.
yet there was something. An essence. Some lingering...something. Like
thing from outer space had left something else behind as well.
In this strange new world, shrouded in
darkness as the planet made its nocturnal orbital turn, the virus from outer
space glowed a dim, dull purple.
Cutter stared nervously up at the
headlights reflected in his rear-view mirror. He had turned down the dirt road
about a half a mile back, and those headlights had followed him. He kept hoping
they would turn at one of the intersections he kept passing on the way, the Kia
bumping and grinding with every rock and dip in the road, but they just kept
put his blinker on and turned right, hoping the car behind him would just
continue going straight. Cutter watched the rear view-
headlights slowed, blinking, then turned into full view in the mirror. It was
the fuck is your problem?” he muttered.
as if in answer, Cutter’s worst nightmare-
stomach instantly filled with lead, his mouth went dry, his head began to
in Cutter’s rear view mirror, strobing with cold, authoritative indifference,
were the red and blue lights of a police car.
you know why I stopped you sir?”
stammered. He was blinded by the shine of the cop’s flashlight. “I...uh…”
tags,” the cop said, bored and impatient. “They’re two months expired.”
tags? Cutter’s stomach lurched. Fuck.
Cutter had pulled off and stopped, he’d frantically torn off his jacket and
spread it hurriedly over the dead alien. He hoped that would be enough.
let it be enough.
and registration please,” the cop said. He was wearing the tan and brown colors
of a county sheriff’s deputy. Cutter eyed the gun hanging from his hip
smell it, he prayed. Don’t smell it. Don’t smell it. Don’t smell
fumbled for his wallet and handed his license to the cop with a weak
cop frowned. “Registration, sir?”
a word, Cutter reached over to the glove compartment and fingered the latch. It
fell open and he dug out the registration and handed it over. The cop took it,
not looking away from Cutter’s wide, frantic eyes.
his eyes squinting, “I’m gonna need you to step out of the car.” The flashlight
trailed off Cutter’s face and shined on the back seat.
cop’s eyes widened.
a heap, the body-shaped mound that lay crumpled under a faded denim jacket was
almost comically obvious. The cop’s hand shot to the butt of his gun and it was
drawn in a flash. “Freeze! Hands on the wheel, now!”
his other hand, the cop was already speaking into the radio clipped to his
shoulder. “I got a 10-54 out on Copperton going north, I need a 10-35, repeat,
suddenly Cutter felt sick. His stomach grated, and-
shit, oh, he felt really sick, sicker than he’d been in years,
maybe ever. His stomach lurched again, painfully. His hands fell from the
steering wheel to clutch at it.
The cop’s finger moved down to the trigger “I said freeze!”
looked up at him-
cop couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Cutter’s skin was writhing, as
if the veins under it were made of live worms.
god-” the cop said, and then Cutter vomited, black foam bursting from
his lips and splattering the cop’s angry face, his alarm turning into real
cop stumbled backwards, his eyes burning where the black foam had leaked into
them. “Hey- hey!”
had opened his door and fallen out onto the dirt, crawling behind the back of
the car. He coughed again and more black foam speckled the rocks in front of
cop fired two shots after him, missing a flailing leg with both but hitting the
bottom of his seat with one. Inside the hidden compartment, one of the
Saran-wrapped packages of crystal meth was hit. It burst open, spilling white
shards of glass into the pool of alien blood- black and swirling with the dull
glowing purple liquid that had been leaking out of the alien’s split skull-
blood that was now beginning to seep in from where the bullet had exited.
cop shuffled around the car, gun still drawn and pointing out in a firing
position. He rounded the corner at the back of it and-
was sitting in the dirt. His eyes were open, but-
your hands where I can see them!” the cop shouted. “Get your fuckin-”
didn’t move and-
eyes were black. The skin on his face was pulsing. His veins writhing.
bumped against the cop’s cheek. His concentration broke and he looked up.
around him, rocks and dirt and that black foam floated and swirled through the
air. An empty Coors can touched his knee. Another rock grazed his nose.
the fuck,” the cop repeated, softly, in shock and awe and wonder and
black, so black-
the cop began to scream. He tried to grab at his head, where it hurt, it hurt,
oh god, it hurt so BAD, but it was like his arms were being held
in place by tight, heavy chains.
screamed, and screamed, and his eyeballs began first to leak tears and then
leak blood and then finally his eyeballs burst in their sockets, sending
trails of blood and gelatinous ocular membrane to hang down his cheeks, and he
couldn’t see but he could still feel and it hurt, it HURT, and then the
cop began to shriek, and blood poured- sprayed- out of his nose and then
out of his ears and then-
and brains and bits of bone drenched Cutter’s face as the cop’s head exploded.
The cop stood standing for a moment, headless, and then finally his body fell
forward onto the dirt with a crunchy thud.
desert was silent now.
buried the cop along with the alien in a grave he dug literally with his bare
hands. By the time the last handful of dirt was thrown onto the mound, all of
his fingernails had torn off and the tips of his fingers were ragged, bloody
had coughed up plenty more of the sick, black foam, which at this point had
become a steady trickle that leaked out of the corner of his mouth constantly,
and when Cutter saw that along with it he was spitting out some of his teeth,
he did not react.
he thought, and then thought nothing else.
the time he got back into his car and set out once again for Phoenix and Retch
and his payday, the sun was beginning to rise. Once, as he drove, he craned his
neck up to the rear view mirror so he could see himself. He looked away
immediately. His skin was pulsing, translucent, sagging, seeming almost to be melting
off his face.
veins swimming underneath.
foam bubbling out between his lips.
eyes- black, black, oh, god, so-
Cutter passed the sign that said Phoenix was now only 37 miles away, he spat
out the last of his teeth. It was a molar. It landed in one of the cup holders
below the gear shift. It was black and pitted and stinking.
Cutter realized something.
that, after alllllll that-
began to laugh. A shrill, shrieking, hysterical laugh. He went on laughing
until another spurt of black foam choked him on its way out between his lips,
splattering the windshield and running down onto the dash like seafoam off a
coastal rock. And then Cutter went on laughing.
had forgotten to do something about the cop car. It was still just sitting
there out in the desert, its drivers’ side door ajar, parked and alone and
collecting dust on the side of a road he didn’t know the name of.
laughed, and he laughed, and he laughed-
that, after allllllllll THAT-
came up behind a slow Amazon truck. Still cruising at that rigid 75mph, he
flicked on his turn signal. He slid over to the next lane. Passed the truck.
Flicked the turn signal again. And slid back over.
Allll that, after-
(Alllll that, after-)
then Cutter began to scream.
still he drove.
his seat, inside that hidden airtight compartment cut into the floorboard of
the sedan, the meth that had spilled out into the alien’s blood rattled softly
with the vibrations of the road.
It glowed a dim, dull purple.