Find more of my work at


Receive notifications when this site is updated:

Subscribe by e‑mail.

Subscribe by RSS.

List of categories

Exercise #22: Lead Line: “I was so tired that night, I fell asleep with my clothes on…”

Contrary to every science fiction or horror movie stereotype, they came at about 11:30 in the morning, not in the dead of night. I guess, strictly speaking, it was the dead of night somewhere, because they touched down simultaneously in at least three dozen places around the globe. But it was 11:30 a.m. here, and the last thought I remember having before I heard the shriek of something very large braking in the atmosphere was, “I should think about lunch.”

And then, like everyone else, I raced out of the building to find out what was making that awful noise, and I saw a huge gray cylinder streak across the sky pushing a wave of white heat ahead of it, trailing a stream of white vapor. It slowed noticeably as I watched. The sound of its passage diminished until all that was left was the whoosh of its maneuvering jets as it came to hover over somewhere just west of downtown, then settled toward the ground, where I lost sight of it behind the treeline.

Then silence for a moment, and then a lot more noise of a more chaotic variety—many smaller engines as the tactical craft spewed out of ports on the top of the mother ship. I only know some of these details because Dennis was close enough to see it, and he told me about it later when I met him scavenging in the ruins of a shopping center near my house. I only heard the noise, the rising and falling whines of the small scout ships and fighters whizzing in all directions, criss-crossing the sky and taking out the utility and communications systems with their strange weapons. I hadn’t had a clear moment to try my cell phone, and now that I thought to do so, it showed “No signal.” I thought of Jana, somewhere on the far side of where the big ship had landed, out of contact and alone with the baby.

The nimble flying machines raced back and forth in no discernible pattern, firing staccato pulses of a pale golden light in all directions. Occasionally, a larger craft would emit a pulse that rattled the windows of my office building. I ran back inside. The receptionist had abandoned her desk like everyone else. I picked up the handset of her phone, but the line was dead. The power was out. Even the second hand of the battery-operated clock on the wall behind her desk was stopped. I raced back to my own office and grabbed my car keys, then ran back out to where my car was parked by the curb. I hopped in, shoved the key in the ignition, and turned it, but as I feared, nothing happened.

As I’d been watching the arrival of the invaders and the first wave of their assault, I’d been dimly aware of activity all around me. The other inhabitants of the office suite I shared had been running back and forth in a noisy panic, in and out of the building, back and forth to their cars. I hadn’t been paying much attention to the screams and shouts, but now I suddenly noticed the silence as the assault force moved off in another direction. I was surprised to find I was alone on the street. I suppose that most of my co-workers had gone to find hiding places, or run off to look for help.

I thought for a moment. I went back into the building. Under the sink in the kitchen, there were some empty plastic gallon jugs. I was glad to see that there was still enough water pressure to fill them; with the electricity out, that wouldn’t last for long. I filled all five, but could only reasonably plan to carry two. I left the other three on the counter next to the sink.

To be continued….

Note: Today’s assignment was to use the line “I was so tired that night, I fell asleep with my clothes on….” This story is headed toward a place where that line would fit, but it didn’t make it there before my allotted time for the assignment ran out.

© 2009 Edward F. Gumnick

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


Subscribe without commenting