*** This has been a lost week for me; things somehow piled up and I am yet again late! So sorry! I'll be catching up shortly.
For now, here's Week 20's story for TCE. The prompt was: "I find myself drawn to the shadow domain."
Wish I'd spent more time on it; it's not quite what I was hoping. Ahh, well. That's what editing is for, right?
Warning: for any folks who believe today is the Rapture, this will be insulting. It also contains mild swearing.***
The Ice Cream Truck of Death
Almost everyone in town called it the ice cream truck of death. It turned onto Main from a side street and headed towards Marjorie’s house. The truck was owned and operated by the local holy rollers; they also did the skating rink outside of town. Alongside the freshly painted warnings of the End Times and quotes of scriptures were the pictures of orangesicles and peanut-covered drumsticks. Tonight, the dusk air was heavy with the possibility of rain, but comfortable, and exoskeletons of the 17-year cicadas made the walk from the screen door to the porch swing set a crunchy one, so she'd taken to tiptoeing. Marjorie sat comfortably in the swing, beer in hand, watching the sun set over the top of Mrs. Ritchie’s house across the street, sharing her swing with one of the sweet-tempered red eyed bugs and her guitar.
It was the time of evening when her friends would stop by for a visit, since there wasn’t anything else to do. Have a beer, catch up. Sometimes she wished there was more “happening” to her, to Centerville, but the evening was nice and she wasn’t going to let herself be annoyed by a lifestyle she hadn’t the wherewithal to change. Marjorie picked up her guitar and strummed a G to match the ice cream music, eyeing the truck. It looked like it was slowing down.
It was. The ice cream truck of death pulled to a stop in front of Marjorie’s sidewalk, its happy-go-lucky music a determined drone. The driver’s side door slammed. Around the front of the truck staggered the best looking man Marjorie had ever seen on the face of the Earth. He was dashing. He was virile. He was sex and romance and maniliness in human form.
And he walked like he was drunk or something.
Surely those Bible bangers didn’t let the alcoholics drive their ice cream truck. Marjorie tried to sit her beer in the shadows of the porch behind the swing set before the man could see it. The man hobbled onto her sidewalk, clutching at his stomach, his throat. Locks of fine hair dropped to cover his face.
“Please,” he gasped, coming to a wavering stop at the base of the porch steps just before her, “may I ,” –gasp— “ingest some of your,” –gasp— “hops beverage?” Gasp, gasp, rasp. Marjorie pushed her swing back a bit. He was terribly handsome. Almost unreal. But still, a strange man doesn’t just drive up to your door in a holy roller ice cream truck and ask you for your beer, especially in a place like Centerville. It’s just not done.
“Umm...” It was all she could think to say. She'd pushed back the swing set so far her legs stretched straight out, tips of her bare toes firm against the concrete. A horse fly buzzed by.
“Please,” he rasped and gasped again. Damn. He must be pretty bad off. Marjorie sighed and leaned over the edge of the swing to grab the beer, and then swung towards him. He collapsed against the steps, drinking till the bottle was empty. When finished, he sputtered a little, shuddered, and then pulled himself to a seated position on the steps. Marjorie just looked at him.
“Thank you,” he said after a few awkward moments. She strummed at her guitar blandly in response.
“I read in the scriptures that I was to receive sustenance from 'an Earth female making music at the setting of the sun,'” he added. Marjorie sat down the guitar on the porch swing after that comment, feeling her mouth drop open. Oddly, she got the impression that statement was intended to be comforting.
“Do you have another hops beverage, good Earth woman?” His color looked much better than before; as handsome as he was she didn’t realize how ill he had looked until color flooded his cheeks now. He nearly glowed in the falling darkness.
Marjorie’s open mouth clamped shut. She got up, strode over to the small cooler in which she kept her beer, opened it, and grabbed him one. He drank to the bottom of the second bottle as well, and grew even more ridiculously handsome.
“What in the hell is going on?”
“Oh,” he said, smiling at her, “I am so sorry. Forgive my intrusion. I was weak when I arrived, and knew only to look for sustenance from a music-making Earth female. And nothing of how I was supposed to find the female,” he said darkly, looking over his shoulder to the ice cream truck, still playing its sunny music. “I should turn that off,” he added. He jumped up, scratched his wrists one by one, and the music stopped in a burst of blue like lightning. He sat back down. Marjorie knew her mouth was hanging open again. This time she didn’t bother to clamp it shut.
“Ahh, better,” he said. “My name is Andsofcineru. You may call me Andsof, if you like. I hail from a world not far from yours, only some 1,289,345,034,895,234,586 light years away, or so. I have come to announce this: THE END IS NEAR.”
His voice boomed down the now silent street. What the hell? She looked around nervously to see if anyone was going to rescue her from this fruitcake. Didn’t Veronica usually swing by right about now, after her shift ended at the restaurant? Main Street was empty. Oh yeah, that bit of road work at the end of Main...She’d be stuck here, possibly alone, for a while. Shouldn’t have given him those beers after all.
“Is it, now?” Marjorie said blandly. “Now seriously, what the hell is going on?”
“I speak the truth to you, Earth woman—”
“Marjorie,” he assented.
“So…you’re a holy roller?”
“Holy roller?” The words formed strange in his mouth. “I am a Gafiosedrong,” he said, “from the shadowed planet Ladsinvoeri. Is that what you mean?”
Marjorie sighed. She would start from the beginning.
“Listen. Are you telling me that you’re an alien, or that you’re a drunk Christian?”
“Yes.” He glowed at her. Good God, he was easy to look at. But she wasn’t going to be distracted. Marjorie narrowed her eyes at him.
“And you drank my beer because?”
“Because it is written that I would.”
“Sorry,” she said, “but I only chilled a six pack, and it’s looking like it’s going to be a long night. You’ll have to do better than that.”
“Well,” he said, “Gafiosedrongs require the distillation of what your species calls ‘hops,’ in order to survive. But none told me how I was to find any, other than from a woman making music at sun’s set.”
“Riiight…And what have you to do with the ‘End Times’?” She used her fingers to make air quotations.
“It is…a very long story.”
“Yeah? No shit.” A few cars trickled down Main; distant neighbors pulling into driveways after their Friday night grocery trips.
Andsof raised his eyebrows at her.
“No, really. The stories are very long. They are the stories of the creation of my world and my people.”
“Well why don’t you tell me the abridged version,” Marjorie said sarcastically. She was going to need a beer for this.
“Very well,’ he said, and he jumped up and scratched his wrists one by one. A line of blue glow flowed from his wrists to her temples. OOOOhhh, she thought. Now I get it.
“So let me get this straight,” she said after Andsof sat back down, “you really are an alien? And your planet gave you up as a sacrifice to your god by sending you via spaceship here? And you stole the ice cream truck to death to go find some beer before you died?”
“And….okay, so I get it, but I don’t get it. Your planet thought it was being drawn into a shadow domain, or a black hole or something, and they only sent one person away?”
“Yes,” he said. “I was to come to a planet whose population believed the end was near, in order to take with me a handful of creatures not yet polluted by the shadow, and then to colonize a new world with both my blood and theirs, without arousing suspicion.”
“Morons,” she muttered about his own people. “But you don’t want to take them,” she said in a sensible, audible voice, “the Bible bangers, I mean. They’re all the crazies! You need to take people with some sense. Not to mention people who don’t condemn beer drinking.”
“Are you offering?”
Marjorie looked at him. Andsof looked at her.
“Forget the plan,” he said. “Let’s go together. We’ll go galaxy surfing.”
Marjorie shrugged her shoulders. She wasn’t exactly fond of her job at the paper. It had been years since any real news flowed through Centerville.
“I’ll have to come back for my godson’s graduation in about thirteen years,” she said.
“Plenty of time.”
“And I’ll need to be in cell phone range.”
“Of course. The Yoksdrogs put up galactic towers eons ago.”
“Great,” she said, “Let me grab my purse and some shoes.”
“And some more hops beverages.”
“Right,” she said, tiptoeing through the cicada carcasses towards the house door. A few moments later and she reapeared, the rest of the beer under one arm, purse slung over the other.
“Ready?” he asked, wrists posed for scratching.
“Yes,” she breathed, linking her purse arm with his. He scratched his wrists. A blue glow encircled them, and a with a burst of noise and light, they vanished from Marjorie’s porch, teleporting to his space ship.
An out of breath Pentecostal rounded on the driveway from the nearest alley, obviously chasing down the stolen ice cream truck of death, just in time to see the glowing light and the two people vanish. In the commotion, a cloud of cicadas flew up from the porch and surrounding yard, as in a great horde; very Old Testament looking, really.
“The Rapture,” he screamed wildly, clutching at his ribs for breath, shaking at the sight. “God has taken Marjorie Smith! God has taken Marjorie Smith! The End is upon us! Judgment is nigh!” And amid the screen doors slapping up and down Main street, the holy roller fainted straight away at the knowledge that a drinker and a sinner got into heaven, and he was condemned to remain on Earth.