{v.3} :: a mess


The birds outside her apartment window were just coming to life when Wendy unlocked the door and stumbled in. She checked her messages - just one from Brad - and turned on the TV for the news.

"Ömergency broadcast to all citizens," the news anchor said nasally. "The White House has just had a press conference where they revealed some pretty shocking news. Isn't that right, Martha?"

"That's all very true, Bob. It seems a threat to our nation greater than any we have ever experienced before has arisen. This is probably even worse than Iraq. We'll let President Adams tell you in his own words."

Wendy sat frozen, watching the screen shift from the light, modern interior of the news studio to the dark outside of one of the back doors to the White House, where the President was standing behind a podium, facing an ocean of curious reporters wielding microphones.

"Good night everyone," the President said gravely. "Good night, America. We are now under a bigger stress than ever before. Just this morning I had word from New York. It seems that our greatest fears have come true. An extra-terrestrial vehicle crash-landed just north of Central Park early this morning. We have eyewitness reports that life forms survived the crash and are at large in New York City even as we speak."

The image of the President faded out and the news studio returned.

"Well, that certainly is striking, isn't it, Bob?"

"That's for sure, Martha. We'll be back every hour with updates from this case, or sooner if we learn more."

Wendy turned the TV off.

It had landed only half a city away from her! She was suddenly all sober. The President hadn't said anything about how many aliens there were, how big they were, or even if they were dangerous. She would just have to keep watching the news to hear. This was all very horrible, even though it had happened at a very good time. She had quit her job, and wasn't too concerned about finding a new one, so her days got kind of long in the tiny apartment before she could head out into the city after dark. She had also been without a boyfriend for a couple of months already, and had her eye on several very good-looking guys. She could make them come over to her apartment to hold her and make her less afraid. Yes, that was a good idea.

However, first she had to get some sleep. Her dark bedroom was stuffy, so she threw open the windows, then changed her mind and closed them again. Those damned birds! They'd keep her awake all morning if she let them.

She pulled the sheets over her, let her mind dwell a few moments on the news of the aliens, then fell into deep sleep.

She woke only a few hours later after nightmares of tiny, green men abducting her and taking her to their space ship, far up in the sky. They asked her awkward questions like why she broke up with her boyfriends, why her hair had a different color at the roots and why she covered only parts of her body with clothes.

It took her several moments to realize she hadnít even left the apartment. She got a cup of coffee and turned on the TV to catch the latest news. She almost got up and did something different after five diet pill commercials and four for used cars, but she couldnít really muster the energy to move out of the sofa.

"Now we're back," the anchor finally announced, "with more news of the aliens in New York. It seems that they have fed and grown larger in size after the landing yesterday. We'll show you the only video to be shot of one of the four extra-terrestrials. This is an amateur video, and sadly the photographer performed the greatest kind of sacrifice possible for his country. The camera was retrieved by a special recon squad of the Marine Corps shortly after the aliens passed by. These pictures will help the nation's political and military leaders take the right decisions about what to do about the creatures."

The studio faded over into a pixilated view of a family on 51st street. A pregnant, smiling woman was holding a young boy's hand, while a man sat in a wheelchair beside them.

"I'm starting to film," a man with a British accent announced. Yells could be heard, and people started to run down the street. The camera was pulled around to face the opposite direction. A giant, dark purple sluggish thing was sliming down the street.

"Run!" the man in the wheelchair shouted, and stretched his arm out towards the lens. The picture became unclear for a few moments, and then everything was seen from a much lower point. It was obvious the man in the wheelchair was now doing the filming. The picture tilted a few times while he fastened the camera to the chair, and started frantically to pull himself into a cafÈ.

Meanwhile, the slug, if it could be called that, had drawn closer, and was within a hundred feet of the cafÈ. The camera had been stationary for several moments now, and Wendy could hear the man's frantic breathing. He couldn't get away!

She turned the TV off.

Her cell phone was lying on the table. She stretched out and dialed Tyler's number.

"Hi! How are you? Great. You - are you busy? Wanna come over? OK, see you."

Tyler rang the door bell twenty minutes later. Wendy had taken a shower, put on some clothes and make-up, and swallowed a Tylenol for her headache.

"Hi, sweetie," he said when she opened the door.

She followed him into the living room. He slumped down on the sofa and pulled her down next to him.

"I'm so afraid, Tyler," she whimpered.

"What for?" he asked, looking at her fondly.

"The aliens. I've seen them on TV. Do you think they're dangerous?" She made herself as small and pitiable as possible.

"Not unless you meet one of them, I think. They're not terribly fast, and if you just keep away from them, you should be safe."

"But - but don't they eat people?"

"No, only if they're awfully hungry, and you don't run away." He was trying to soothe her. Good. Men were always weak for women they had to take care of.

"Why do they look so much like slugs? I mean, if they're from outer space, shouldn't they look different? Like something we haven't seen before, I mean?"

"Who knows, babe? They're scary enough looking as it is. Do you really want anything more?"

They talked about other things an hour or so while Wendy grew more and more bored, and fending off his tentative attempts at something more. Finally Wendy asked him to leave. As she followed him to the door, she kissed his cheek, and delighted in his surprised expression as she closed the door.

Her stomach growled, and she remembered she hadn't had breakfast yet. The fridge held a scant collection of vaguely food-like items. She finally settled for a yoghurt that was a week over the expiration date, and a black banana.
She watched a tape of her favorite show from last night while trying not to taste the food. After a half hour she was bored again, and checked the news over again. Nothing new.

She picked up the phone again and scrolled down the contact list. Who could she call now?

Scott would be a nice contrast to Tyler. While Tyler would hold her and protect her, Scott wanted to do something, which she enjoyed fighting against. She would force him to sit down with her and snuggle and just talk.

The door bell rang only minutes after she finished the call.

"Scott! How nice to see you. Come in, come in."

"Hey, I know you don't like it, but why can't we take a short walk? Just around the block, or something. Or, we could go to Central Park. There are loads of cool things going on out there, you know."

"No, I don't really feel good. You know, those aliens out there are really dangerous. We shouldn't move about the city. People have died!"

"Oh, it's not all that bad, after all. The aliens are confined to a pretty small area. We can just go around the block or something."

"Please, Scott. Just hold me. I'm so afraid."

It ended up her way, after all. They snuggled on the sofa and talked for an hour and a half, about the aliens and other things going on in their lives, and then turned on the TV again. Even Scott, as unfazed as he appeared, was anxious for more news of the Slugs, as all the news reports had started calling them.

"Total number of lives lost is now up to twenty-three. No word has yet come from the President or the military about any future actions. They haven't even advised the City Council on what guidelines to give the people of New York. Many have already fled, and the Mayor asks everyone who can, to evacuate. Those of you that cannot, are asked to keep inside, and listen to the news for the location of the Slugs so you can be sure it's safe to leave when you are forced to go out. A curfew is going to be enforced at sundown. And now, for the weather."

Wendy had an idea. She had never been the brightest kid in town, and that was actually why she moved into the City. Everyone knew that all the good people lived in New York City, so she had tried to change herself. The only real difference was the number of guys in the close neighborhood.

"Scott, I just remembered something I have to do. Do you think you could come back tomorrow or something?"

"Sure. Is there anything I can do for you?"

"No, not really. I'll handle it."

"Ok, bye, then. See you soon."

Wendy sat on the sofa for a long time without doing anything. She didn't know who she could talk to to tell someone her idea. Of course, the President was out of the question; everyone knew people like her couldn't talk to the President himself. She could call the White House, or someone in the military, but she didn't know who to ask for.

She was sure she could get the Mayor's number, but she wasn't sure he could do anything about her idea. Still, she decided to try.

"I'd like to speak with the Mayor, please," she answered the Mayor's secretary.

"No? Really? Well, could you get him a message for me?"

"Well, I was thinking about the Slugs deal. I used to live in a small town, and we got slugs in our yard. My mom used to pour salt on them. That killed them very fast. They sort of just dried in.'

'Yeah, it was disgusting, but they stopped eating our cabbage, right?'

'So, if you could tell the Mayor this, I donít know if thereís any other solution. Havenít they tried shooting at them?'

'Right, thank you.'

She wondered about calling someone, but she didnít really want to. She dumped down on the couch to watch the news. Strangely, they werenít on. Instead, she had to watch fifteen minutes of some soap. It was one of those she didnít regularly watch, so there wasnít really any point in doing so now, but she couldnít be bothered to change to another channel.

Happy people, sad people, indifferent people. It was strange, coming in the middle of an episode in the middle of a season like this. She couldnít focus on what the characters said or did more than to see what kind of emotional state they were in.

Just as she sat there, waiting for the news, her cell phone rang. Brett. She didnít want to talk to him. He was too skinny, wore glasses and played World of Warcraft.

Was she a happy, sad or indifferent person?

She picked up the phone. Brett is calling, it said. Should she?

'Hi, Brett.'


'Tell, me, Brett, in a soap opera, what kind of person would you be? Would you be the innocent, nice victim or the manipulating, strong bad person? Would you be the happy, the sad or the indifferent?'

'Sad, I think.'

'You would? Really?'

© Tone Rossow 2006 Back to the Prose section

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