Johnny America


They Came from Out­er Space


Pe­ter was sit­ting in his liv­ing room, drink­ing a glass of wine. His par­ents had start­ed him on it re­cent­ly, the stuff ac­tu­al­ly wasn’t bad. He had the TV off for once, and was lis­ten­ing to mu­sic on the stereo, an old al­bum he hadn’t played in a long time. Sud­den­ly there was a noise com­ing from some­where near the ceil­ing. Pe­ter looked up.

Up by the mold­ing, a small blue fig­ure had winked in­to ex­is­tence. It was about a foot high and was just hov­er­ing there, not say­ing or do­ing too much. Pe­ter fig­ured he should say something.

“Hel­lo?” he said.

“An alien ap­pears in your liv­ing room, and that’s all you can think of to say, ‘Hel­lo’? What are you, a dum­b­ass?” the blue fel­low responded.

“I fig­ured I’d try to in­tro­duce my­self,” Pe­ter replied. The two of them just watched each oth­er for a minute or so.

“Why are you here?” Pe­te fi­nal­ly asked.

“To take over the world. One dum­b­ass at a time.”

“And how are you go­ing to do that?”

“Mind con­trol,” the alien re­spond­ed. Sud­den­ly Pe­ter lost con­trol of his left arm; it jerked back­wards and the glass of wine went sail­ing over his shoul­der and shat­tered against the wall.

“That’s not mind con­trol, that’s telekine­sis,” Pe­ter said.

“Yeah, I know, we’re still get­ting the hang of it. Have to start some­where though,” the blue fel­low responded.

“What is your name?” Pe­ter asked.

The alien made an ex­treme­ly low thrum­ming sound, one so low it was bare­ly audible.

“Sor­ry, I didn’t catch that?” Pe­ter said.

“Our na­tive tongue is go­ing to be a bit tricky for you dum­b­ass­es. Might as well just call me Burt.”

Burt drift­ed low­er, set­tling on­to the end ta­ble at the op­po­site end of the couch.

“How many of there are you?” Pe­ter asked.

“More than you can han­dle, Pete.”

“So you know my name already?”

“Moth­er­fuck­er, I’m an alien from an ad­vanced civ­i­liza­tion. I know all kinds of shit, now enough with the stu­pid ques­tions.” Burt paused for a mo­ment, lis­ten­ing to the mu­sic. “This is a good album.”

“You know Nick Drake?”

Peter’s right arm came up and smashed him in the face, then the ta­ble lamp went sail­ing across the room.

“What did I tell you about the stu­pid questions?”

“Okay, okay,” Pe­ter said, rub­bing his nose. “I hope you guys aren’t all this testy.”

“We are, we’re a very testy bunch in gen­er­al.” Burt lev­i­tat­ed to­wards the ceil­ing again. “I’ll be in touch.” He winked out.

Pe­ter went to the bar the fol­low­ing night.

“Aliens are tak­ing over the coun­try,” he told Doug, the bartender.

“What else is new,” Doug said.

Pe­ter took a pull of his jack and coke. How had they ar­rived? Did they fly in big space­ships, or could they just pop in and out at will, all over the uni­verse? Would they suc­ceed in tak­ing over the plan­et? He won­dered when Burt would be mak­ing a fol­low-up ap­pear­ance. Then again, it might not even be worth it — you couldn’t get a word in edge­wise with that guy, at least not with­out get­ting your arm ripped off. That night, when he got back home, Burt was there wait­ing for him.

“Have a nice time at the bar?” Burt asked.

“Not re­al­ly,” Pe­ter said. “But then again, I rarely do. How’s the world-con­quer­ing going?”

“It’s com­ing along. A few snags here and there. Some of us are won­der­ing if it’s even worth the ef­fort, con­sid­er­ing how fuck­ing stu­pid you peo­ple are.”

“We’re not all that bad.”

“Every­thing is rel­a­tive. Lis­ten, I have a fa­vor to ask you. I’ll tell you in ad­vance— if you say no, I’m go­ing to bring your en­tire apart­ment down on your head. So it’s less of a fa­vor, and more of a directive.”

“Fair enough,” Pe­ter said. “Mind if I get a glass of wine first?”

“Knock your­self out.”

Pe­ter got his wine, came back in­to the liv­ing room and sat down. “Okay, shoot.”

“Heh heh heh, in­ter­est­ing choice of words,” Burt replied. “No, but se­ri­ous­ly, here’s what we want you to do. You work at the ra­dio sta­tion down­town, right? Well, we’re plan­ning on hav­ing our lit­tle com­ing-out par­ty fair­ly soon, and we’d like you to give us some free pub­lic­i­ty. We need you to take to the air­waves and urge peo­ple to think twice about tak­ing de­fen­sive ac­tion — you know, ‘re­sis­tance is fu­tile,’ that sort of thing. We fig­ure it will make things go a fair bit more smooth­ly, with the tran­si­tion and all.”

Pe­ter looked at him with a dull gri­mace. “I’m the host of a lo­cal talk show, with an au­di­ence of about a thou­sand peo­ple, if we’re lucky. The rat­ings are down, we’re not even do­ing that well late­ly. What good is that go­ing to do?”

Burt eyed him sourly. “Look, shit­head, you’re not the on­ly cog in this ma­chine. We’ve got a lot of oth­er pawns like you in the game. Now, is this apart­ment of yours go­ing to stay up­right, or what?”

“Fine, fine, I’ll do it.”

Back at the bar on Fri­day night, Doug asked, “So how are the aliens mak­ing out?”

“They’re not giv­ing me a whole lot of in­for­ma­tion, to be hon­est,” Pe­ter said, tak­ing a sip of his drink. “But the shit’s sup­posed to hit the fan fair­ly soon.”

He left out the part about how he was sup­posed to be as­sist­ing in the ef­fort, fig­ur­ing it wouldn’t go over so well. Cries of trai­tor, and all that. The idea of be­ing a quis­ling didn’t even both­er him too much, though: maybe he’d even get a nice cushy lit­tle spot in the new ad­min­is­tra­tion. Like in Su­per­man, Ruler Of Aus­tralia or some­thing. At least Otisburg.

Pe­ter wait­ed for an­oth­er vis­it from Burt, but noth­ing was forth­com­ing. A few weeks went by, and then there he was again, up by the ceiling.

“What’s goin’ on, Burt?” Pe­ter said. 

Burt now had some clothes on, a lit­tle en­sem­ble with trousers and a bright­ly-col­ored Hawai­ian shirt.

“I like the new out­fit,” Pe­ter said im­pul­sive­ly, then im­me­di­ate­ly re­gret­ted it — he winced, wait­ing for the glass of wine to part ways with his hand, but noth­ing happened.

“There’s been a de­lay,” Burt said, cut­ting right to the chase. He was in no mood for games. “We need you to just tread wa­ter for awhile, stay in a hold­ing pat­tern and wait for fur­ther instructions.”

“Any prob­lems?”

“Just some lo­gis­ti­cal crap, noth­ing ter­ri­bly se­ri­ous. The sup­ply lines are run­ning a bit slow­er than an­tic­i­pat­ed. Any­way, none of your fuck­ing busi­ness. I ask the ques­tions around here. Just be ready.” He van­ished again.

They were sit­ting in the liv­ing room. It was Sat­ur­day night.

“So what do you do for fun back on your home plan­et? Do you have a girl­friend, a wife?” Pe­ter asked.

“No,” Burt said. “None of us do.”

“Then how do you reproduce?”

“We don’t. We’re immortal.”

“Well then, where did you come from orig­i­nal­ly? Were you cre­at­ed by the gods, or some­thing like that?”

Burt looked at him in ex­as­per­a­tion. “Se­ri­ous­ly, if all of you are this god­damn in­quis­i­tive, we’re just go­ing to blow the place up. You’re get­ting on my nerves, man.”

“Sor­ry,” Pe­ter said, sink­ing back in­to the cush­ions. “It’s just that I don’t get to meet crea­tures from out­er space all that often.”

“I ob­ject to the use of the word ‘crea­ture.’ It’s demeaning.”

They sat in si­lence. Then Pe­ter stuck his neck out again.

“So how are things go­ing? Any developments?”

Burt sighed. “To be hon­est, it’s not ex­act­ly go­ing to plan. We may have to call the whole thing off.”

“Mind if I ask what the prob­lem is?”

“Too much wa­ter,” said Burt. “We tend not to like wa­ter, and it’s all over the fuck­ing place here.”

“Yeah, but there’s a lot of land too.”

“And it’s in­fest­ed with ass­holes. We’re think­ing about just an­ni­hi­lat­ing all of you and start­ing from scratch.”

Pe­ter con­sid­ered ob­ject­ing, then thought bet­ter of it. Might not be such a bad idea. Af­ter a moment’s re­flec­tion, Burt qual­i­fied his response.

“But stay ready. I didn’t say we’d made any de­ci­sions, I just said it was a pos­si­bil­i­ty. We might just en­slave you af­ter all. Grunt la­bor is a valu­able com­mod­i­ty, not light­ly tossed aside.”

Burt was back on Wednes­day. “Okay, we’re go­ing the do­min­ion route. We want you on the ra­dio on Fri­day af­ter­noon, and you’d bet­ter make it good.”

“So the fire­works start tomorrow?”

Burt put his lit­tle hands on his lit­tle hips, so ir­ri­tat­ed he bumped his lit­tle head on the ceil­ing. “I tell ya, you and these god­damn ques­tions. Yes, you mo­ron, the fire­works start tomorrow.”

“Where are you start­ing the at­tack?” Pe­ter asked.

“Your apart­ment,” Burt quipped just as he dis­ap­peared from sight.

Pe­ter called in sick the next morn­ing and got up bright and ear­ly to watch the fes­tiv­i­ties. He stayed glued to the news all day long but there wasn’t a peep, not a sin­gle word about an in­va­sion of any kind, not even of a slight dis­tur­bance. The most the lo­cal news would say was that some lit­tle old la­dy had got­ten her purse snatched down­town. Burt was there by three in the afternoon.

“Wait a minute, for­get it, call it off,” he said, ap­pear­ing out of nowhere and quick­ly tak­ing a seat in the lit­tle arm­chair Pe­ter had built for him. He looked de­pressed. Pe­ter wait­ed for fur­ther elaboration.

“It’s not work­ing, we’re not go­ing to like it here. Even the soil com­po­si­tion is all wrong. All you peo­ple can grow is corn and wheat and shit like that.”

“What do you eat where you’re from?”

“Stuff that’s crunchier.”

“We have nuts.”

Burt viewed him with dis­taste. “Quite a few.”

“So you’re gonna pull up stakes and head for home?”

“Per­haps. There are a few of us that think we should just blow you up any­way, on the way out of town.”


“Be­cause the hu­man race is down­right ir­ri­tat­ing. We may have to do it on prin­ci­ple alone.”

“Oh, come on. We have Nick Drake, don’t we?”

Half the books on the book­shelf came fly­ing off and land­ed in Peter’s lap.

“Ad­mit it, you de­served that.”

Pe­ter was down at the bar again the next day.

“It looks like they may be call­ing the whole thing off,” he said to Doug.

“Oh yeah, why?” Doug asked.

“They don’t like the food. Or the wa­ter. Or us, for that matter.”

“Makes you kind of won­der why they came in the first place.”

“Maybe they were just pass­ing through the neigh­bor­hood and de­cid­ed to give it a try.”


Pe­ter re­flect­ed for a while. “Makes you cu­ri­ous though, doesn’t it?”

“About what?” Doug asked.

“About space, and the stars, and aliens on oth­er plan­ets and things.”

Doug thought about it. “No, not re­al­ly,” he said, and went back to dry­ing his glasses.

Pe­ter gave it a bit more thought. Maybe it didn’t both­er Doug any, but it sure as hell both­ered him. I mean, even if these guys left peace­ably enough, who was to stop the next bunch from set­ting the whole place on fire? Who knew, maybe their next-door neigh­bors back home were even more iras­ci­ble than they were. They need­ed to put a big wall up around the whole Earth, stick it in a suit of ar­mor. He couldn’t re­mem­ber ex­act­ly but he thought some­one might have even pro­posed this once be­fore. It might have been from Star Trek. Any­way, Pe­ter thought some­one should look in­to it.

A girl sat down next to him.

“Do you ever think about aliens?” Pe­ter asked her.

“On­ly when they’re hit­ting on me,” the girl said with a scowl, then got up and left.

“Stop scar­ing off the wildlife,” Doug called down from the oth­er end of the bar.

“She’s prob­a­bly one of them,” Pe­ter said.

A few more days went by. There was noth­ing in the news on TV, no re­ports in the pa­pers of any­thing amiss. Pe­ter was feel­ing antsy. He went to the li­brary and took out a few books on ex­trater­res­tri­als. Nowhere was there any men­tion of lit­tle blue peo­ple who went float­ing around; they were al­ways green and spindly, with strange­ly shaped heads. Pe­ter con­sid­ered con­tact­ing the au­thors to help them re­vise their sto­ries. The weeks passed and there were no fur­ther vis­its from Burt. Pe­ter was start­ing to as­sume they’d gone back home. Then one day up­on re­turn­ing home from work, he found a lit­tle post­card sit­ting on the kitchen ta­ble: ‘We’re out­ta here,’ it read. So that was it. In a way, Pe­ter was re­lieved that the plan­et wasn’t be­ing con­quered or blown up or any­thing like that, but at the same time he was go­ing to miss all the ex­cite­ment. He need­ed more of it in his life.

Down at the bar, it was a slow Mon­day night, just him and Doug in there.

“They left, they went back home,” Pe­ter said.

“Prob­a­bly for the best,” Doug said, lean­ing on the bar with his dishrag draped on his shoul­der. “Al­though I’m not so sure.”

“Nei­ther am I,” said Pe­ter. There were times when he thought the world could use a chap­er­one of some sort; maybe the lit­tle blue dudes could’ve done the job.

“Won­der where they live,” Pe­ter mused, half to himself.

“In space,” Doug said, walk­ing away.

See, this was the shit he was talk­ing about. Fuck­ing aliens just came out of the sky and Doug was bare­ly even in­ter­est­ed, it was like some­one had just told him it was go­ing to rain to­mor­row. He was prob­a­bly think­ing about what he’d have for din­ner, or what was on tele­vi­sion that night. What could you do with a race like that. Burt was right, a bunch of dumbasses.

Pe­ter sucked down the re­mains of his jack and coke, then or­dered an­oth­er one. He was get­ting sick of the wine at home, feel­ing like that phase of his life was over with. A cou­ple of guys walked in and sat on the stools di­rect­ly be­side him, a pair of cor­po­rate stiffs, big heavy watch­es and all that. He thought about ask­ing them what they thought about aliens, then said fuck it. It prob­a­bly wasn’t worth it.

Filed under Fiction on February 2nd, 2024

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