“My Dad. He was the one who inspired me. Back when we lived in Arizona, he drove home from work every night along Indian Route 42, barely keeping his eyes open. Well, in the Fall of ’77, he saw something in the sky. A UFO. When he told me, I saw a change in him. It made us even closer and fueled my own inspiration.”
Leonard Forsythe (March, 2032)
Duke’s pickup truck slunk along the Sonoran Desert road as it contorted around a ridge, the same ridge he’d driven by hundreds of times before. The workdays were hopelessly long, never giving him a chance to see his family awake. Phoenix was still an hour away. At this point, he could navigate home even if his headlights and the stars above burnt out.
A flash momentarily outlined the ridge, its green rays cut through the flora and succulents peppering it. A loud bang accompanied it.
Duke slowed down and followed the bend to a screen of fog. He fumbled his revolver out of the glove compartment before stopping. The desert was unkind to those who were unprepared. Two shrouded figures made their way forward, one taller than the other. Little could be seen, aside from glowing green eyes.
“Duncan Forsythe?” The taller one’s voice was synthetic and loud. “We want to talk.”
When their steps brought them out of the fog completely, Duke could see they were both clad head-to-toe in reflective metals, their green eyes mounted on helmets. That, or they were robotic, like the humanoid droid from Star Wars. His son, Leo, had dragged him to watch it earlier that summer. They spoke English in that movie, just as these ones did.
“Turn off your vehicle and step out.”
He rolled his window down but kept the door locked. “No! Not ‘till you tell me who, or what, you are!”
“We have a message from another world, Duke.”
That UFO he had witnessed far above him on this very route a week ago came to mind. He remained silent, feed cap low on his brows and both sweaty palms planted firmly on the steering wheel. The only glances we steered away from them were to his gun on the passenger seat.
They turned their glowing eyes to each other and the tall one motioned to his shorter partner, as if allowing them to speak up.
“Mister Forsythe,” the voice was higher pitched, but still modulated. “Your son will grow to be a prolific artist. You’ve told him of our spacecraft, you saw it in the sky last week, yes?”
“I fuckin’ knew it.”
“Sorry, what was that?”
“Nothing. Go on!”
“Well, tell him this. Every word. Say that we come from the Quasar Sector, the Grand Dynasty dispatched us to police this small planet. However, we would never give up your coordinates to The Legion, no matter what torture they submit us to.”
The tall one tapped the shorter one on the arm. They embraced in a bear hug as both hit buttons on their wrists, causing another green explosion. The beings were gone, leaving behind only the fog.
Duke’s pickup slunk along the Sonoran Desert road as it contorted around a ridge, the same ridge he’d driven by a hundred times already that year. A flash, with an accompanying bang, momentarily outlined the ridge, then another.
Duke slowed down and followed the bend to a screen of fog. It was thick and smelled of ozone, seeping in through every seam of his cabin. Two sets of glowing lights could be seen deep within, then two more accompanied them – eight in total.
As he stopped his car, two figures came forward. The scene in front of him was a nightmarish take on that science fantasy movie he took his son to recently.
“Duke, please step out of the car.”
“No! Not ‘till you tell me who, or what, you are!”
The shorter of the two stepped forward, “You didn’t even tell him, did you?”
Duke wondered if he had fallen asleep and slipped into a dream state. Still, he cocked his gun all the same.
They continued to speak. “Well, time for a different approach then. You saw a spacecraft in the sky, correct? Well, that was our ship. We’ve come back to tell you something very important that must be relayed to your son. If you don’t, your planet will explode.”
He drew the gun out from window. Duke’s left hand wasn’t nearly as steady as his right, but it only needed to scare them. “I don’t take kindly to threats. Now, out of my god-damn way. I’m only telling you once.”
The two metallic beings began taking steps backwards, joining their two others behind them in the dissipating fog.
“We wanted this to be easy. It would be better to not do this too many times, though. For all our sake.”
“Go take your crap elsewhere. I’m going to start counting down, starting from three.”
“Okay, so that didn’t work,” Duke heard the shorter one say.
The taller one replied, “drop the whole ‘threatening his planet’ thing next time. That was pretty lame.” He then turned to the group. “That’s it, guys. Time’s up.”
The four of them paired off and hugged, vaporizing into two green flash before his eyes.
Duke’s pickup slunk along the Sonoran Desert road as it contorted around a ridge, the same ridge he’d driven by a hundred times already that year. Three flashing lights, loudly banging after one another, outlined the ridge.
Duke slowed down and followed the bend to what first appeared to be a white wall, but soon realized was the thickest fog he had ever seen. Little green lights danced somewhere deep within, a dozen of them. Two figures emerged.
“Duke,” the tall one gestured toward him. “Please, do not take up weapons against us. We been observing you from above, I know you saw.”
“I fuckin’ knew it. Aliens.”
He questioned how they could have possibly known of his gun. Still, it didn’t stop him from cocking the revolver and leaving it on his passenger seat.
“We come in peace and mean no harm. All we require of you tonight is to give your son a message. You do that and you won’t see the two of us again.”
“What about them? Who’re your buddies?”
“Them?” four more humanoids stood on the road in the dissipating fog, half tall and half short. “Its complicated.”
With the shock quickly dissipating, Duke found himself re-evaluating the pair. Instead of two otherworldly beings, he began to pick up adolescent undertones.
“So, I tell my son something, for some reason unknown to me, and I won’t see you again? None of you?”
He put his truck into park. “Well, go ahead. I’m listening.”
“Well, we come from the Quasar Sector. The Grand Dynasty dispatched us to police this small planet. Just know that we would never give up your coordinates to The Legion, no matter what torture they submit us to. That is our promise to you.”
“Ahh,” he smirked. “Did Leo put you up to this?”
The short one looked back to his taller partner, then back at Duke. “No. Why?”
“It sounds like the same childish fantasy nonsense he likes.”
“Mister Forsythe, please just tell your son, okay? Our time’s almost up and we don’t want to come back.”
“Sure, I’ll tell him. I’ll play along.”
The two walked back to join their fellow armour-clad spacefarers. Each pairing up and hugging, then exploding into blinding rays of green light.
Duke’s pickup slunk along the Sonoran Desert road as it contorted around a ridge, the same ridge he’d driven by a hundred times already that year. Many flashing lights, each banging loudly, momentarily outlined it.
Duke slowed down and followed the bend to what first appeared to be a white wall of dense fog, the thickest he had ever seen. Laser-like green lights danced deep within the center of this anomaly, over a dozen. Two figures emerged while others seemed to linger in the background. One of them, the shorter of the two, charged forward.
“You’re wasting our time, Duke! This was supposed to be easy! Time jumping doesn’t come cheap, you know. Put the gun down!”
“Woah, back up!” Duke rolled down his window and drew his weapon on the tall one. The two figures split up and flanked his vehicle.
“We just need to give you a message. Please, we—”
A shot rang out, blasting off a piece of the tall one’s metallic face. Its left light fizzled then died. The humanoid stumbled backwards and raised a hand to its head.
The short one darted over to his partner, across the truck’s headlights. “Rayne, you okay? Please tell me your okay!”
Duke, deaf from the shot and choking on gun powder, stomped on the gas pedal, sending his truck careening forward. The shorter one yanked on its partner, both falling back onto the desert floor before Duke’s chrome bumper clipped them. The others, however, were still cloaked in fog and not able to see the charging bull.
Green lights whirled by on either side of the vehicle while clangs and clashes rang out. One of the other tall ones got sucked under the truck’s passenger side, nearly putting Duke into a spin. Two tires touch the desert sand, but he steered the old girl back onto asphalt and sped away.
In his rear-view mirror, bright green flashes flickered in the distance.
Duke’s pickup slunk along the Sonoran Desert road as it contorted around a ridge, the same ridge he’d driven by a hundred times already that year. Many flashing lights, like grounded green fireworks, momentarily filled the sky.
Duke slowed down and followed the bend, stopping when confronted with a wall of fog. Many little green lights floated within; half slightly lower than the others. Two figures emerged, cautiously approaching the truck with measured steps.
The short one helped to hold up his taller partner, who walked with a limp, and had damage to his metallic head.
Duke rolled down his window. “You alright? That some kind a’ explosion behind you?”
“You wouldn’t… believe…” the taller one attempted to continue talking but its modulating voice kept cutting out, like blown speakers.
The shorter companion stepped forward. “You did this, Duke. We come from the future, jumping back in time, always a second earlier than before. I thought about giving up, especially when you shot Rayne in the face. Thanks, by the way. His father’s going to straight-up murder us when he sees what we did to his temporal suits. Yet, here we are, giving this one last try. We have a message for your son.”
Aliens in the sky last week, time travellers now. What’s next week, werewolves?
They were robotic but spoke English. Otherworldly. That children’s movie invaded his brain, the one Leo dragged him to. “I did that?”
“And the limp. You ran over one of his previous selves,” it said while pointing behind him. “Which butterfly-affected my friend. Least surgery in the future is effective. Look, we have half a minute left. The message for Leonard, you’ve got it wrong before. Do you have a pen handy?”
“Shit. When did I do that? How?”
“There’s no time, Duke. Pen?”
“Alright, write this. We come from the Quasar Sector. The Grand Dynasty dispatched us to police this small planet. We will never give up your coordinates to The Legion, no matter what torture they submit us to. That is our promise to you.”
The ink ran poorly at first, and it was hard to steady a napkin on his knee while shaking but Duke managed to write most of the words down.
“Did you get it all?”
“I think so. What’s this? What does it mean?”
In the fog, each tall and short pair began moving closer together while glancing at their arm bands.
The tall one, in his crackly voice said, “Bogdan, he’ll tell… anyway, might as well…. say.”
“Fine. Your son, he’ll make an amazing television show one day. It’s going to be watched by most of the world. He got it wrong though, the ending.”
They embraced each other in front of Duke’s headlights.
“So, you guys are like fans from the future or something?”
“We were. Hope to be again if he can write a better ending this time.”
Before Duke could get another word in, each couple began flashing out of existence in front of him, each generating large booms. One after another in quick successions. Then he was alone on that stretch of desert road once more.
The two time-travellers flashed back to their time, to a minute after they left. Their Autocar spooled up, throwing desert sand and debris all around under a hot sun. They climbed in and it took off, back to an abandoned high school in the heart of Phoenix. Once at their destination, both boys dressed down and put the mechanised equipment into their portable charging station.
The school was approved for several time jumps by the state so Rayne’s father could demolish the building a decade prior, allowing the city’s gentrification project underway to continue without delay. It was a Saturday, and Rayne had stolen the passcodes.
Bogdan helped his friend down on a dusty couch in the old teacher’s lounge; a place they currently wouldn’t be allowed in, had virtual schools not become the norm. While he always envied Rayne’s height, it had clearly made him a bigger target for that ancient pickup truck.
With a nod to one another, Rayne pulled out a small device and flicked it on, prompting an Augmented Reality display for their retina cameras. He went to a bookmarked article from twenty years prior.
“There,” Bogdan said, “start reading after Leonard’s quote. That part looks different.”
Rayne began, “Despite a writer’s room bring full of cohorts who insisted that the show’s antagonists, a group called ‘The Legion,’ should invade Earth, Leonard insisted otherwise. He held true to his firm beliefs that the Quasar Police would never give up Earth’s coordinates. This story decision led to one of the most baffling, anti-climactic series finales in history, plummeting the ratings of the one-time Emmy winning show.”
“Looked it up while you were talking. They’re right, Omni-Critic shows season seven finishing at forty-six percent. It was fifty-eight before we left.”
“Critics, man. Did they even watch the show? Now, it at least fits in with the show’s universe.”
“Well, we tried our best. Least our previous selves let us talk to Duke alone.”
“Rule number four of time-jumping. Always listen to your future selves!”
“You think he actually did see a real UFO, though? Or he was just a gun-happy psycho?”
Rayne sat back, feeling up and down his right leg while continuing to talk. “Like actual aliens? Seems unlikely. Hey, I’d like to call Mobile Assistance to get my leg checked out and the helmet fixed. If we’re done.”
Bogdan punched his friend in the arm. “We could, or you want to see if we can get Lucas to do some edits on the original trilogy?”
“The leg is bad, broken for sure. Although, it did seem to get us some sympathy votes. Suit up!”
Chris Preston is a writer of fiction and creative non-fiction from Ontario, Canada. Formal studies include University of Toronto’s Creative Writing program, as well as various workshops. You can currently see work by Chris within Ash Tales and an upcoming issue of SERIAL magazine. To find out more, feel free to visit the website link listed below.
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Website – www.seeprestonwrite.wordpress.com
Twitter – @write_preston