Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fiction: Lights on the Roof

For day four of 25 Christmas Eves, I've got another science fiction piece for you. Hope you like it.

By: Erin L. Snyder


Christmas Eve, 1954

Brian Wicks lay in bed with a candy cane dangling out of his mouth like a cigar and an issue of Captain Marvel clutched tight in his hands. Sure, it was dark, but the multi-colored glow from the lights dangling right beneath his window was more than enough to make out the words, though his mom would have thrown a fit if she knew. “You’ll go blind!” she’d have hollered. “Blind for Christmas!” Of course, she’d have been far more upset if she knew about the candy he’d snuck into bed. “Rot your teeth out! What’s Santa gonna bring you then? Dentures?”

But what his mom didn’t know wouldn’t hurt either of them. Well, unless his teeth really did fall out or that blindness-thing was actually true. But Brian had heard enough of his mom’s stories to dismiss the lot of them out of hand.

Besides, if there was one night of the year he should have some leeway, this was it. Tomorrow was Christmas! This was about as far removed from a school night as you could get outside of summer. So, by Brian’s rationale, if he wanted to stay up til one reading comics and slurping down candy canes, that should be his prerogative.

Besides, it’s not like he was missing out on sleep. Grown-ups might laugh at kids believing in Santa, but that’s nothing compared to buying the myth that kids sleep on December 24th. Come on: with the haul waiting? Not likely.

Brian dropped the comic onto the floor. He was too distracted to read, anyway. He considered sneaking downstairs to check out the packages and try to decipher what was inside. But that’s the kind of risk that gets you caught. Even if his parents went easy on him for the holiday, who wants to get yelled at the night before Christmas?

Still, his legs were feeling cramped. Brian sat up, shifted the sheets off, and walked over to the window. It was foggy; he couldn’t even see to the edge of the lawn. But he could see something. It was weird; some kind of light in the sky. Probably some decoration or something.

But it was moving. Brian squinted to get a better look. Whatever it was, it was getting brighter; coming closer.

For a brief moment, the obvious crossed Brian’s mind. But it couldn’t be that, because that isn’t real. That’s just a fairytale grownups tell toddlers to get them to stop whining. Brian knew this, just like he’d known it for years. But it’s the kind of thing you know in the day, when you’re around friends. At night, on Christmas Eve, when everything feels magical and everything feels possible... it all feels different. And what should and shouldn’t be real maybe isn’t as convincing.

The window was misting up. Brian wiped it with the sleeve of his pajamas, but the mist was on the outside. Slowly and carefully, so he wouldn’t make any more noise than he had to, he grabbed the window and pushed it open. As he did this, the string of lights just below him shook. Brian froze as powdered snow fell off the wires. He cringed, expecting to hear icicles snap and shatter, followed inevitably by his parents’ door slamming, yelling....

But there was none of that. The wires settled, and his parents hadn’t stirred. He was safe. For now.

Brian peered out of his window. He could hear something faint, but it wasn’t what he’d have expected. It was mechanical, like a plane. But quieter. The light was brighter now and getting closer.

It must be right over the neighbor’s house. He leaned out the window to get a better look. It wasn’t one light: it was several. Dozens even. Some were blinking; others were steady. Then it broke through the fog.

Brian fell back on the floor. Even before his mind had grasped what he was looking at, his instincts kicked in. He wanted to look away or run. But he couldn’t.

It was huge; at least as big as his house. It was round and metallic. And it seemed to drift like a balloon while its lights scoured the ground below.

Brian had read enough comics, listened to enough radio shows, and spent enough Saturday afternoons at the movies to know what this was: it was a craft from another world. It slowed down and drifted over his house. The light shone down into his window, and Brian dove for his bed, burying himself beneath the sheets. Part of him wanted to scream for his parents, but another part was too scared at the thought something else might hear him, too.

He stayed absolutely still for several minutes. The bizarre sound was still audible, and the light was still visible. Slowly, Brian pulled back his sheets and looked out. He stared at the window. Scattered flakes of snow billowed in on plumes of white mist, illuminated by both the alien craft and the candy-colored lights outside.

Brian barely blinked, and he didn’t make a sound. Then, slowly, a hand reached down in front of his window. Whatever it belonged to must be lying on the roof, reaching. The hand was more than three times as long as his own, with four fingers, each with two joints more than it should have. The skin was pale white; almost like snow, but slightly translucent. It stretched down, connected to a long, sinewy arm. The hand reached the bottom of the open window. It felt around for the underside, and the fingers wrapped around.

The arm bent, and the creature’s head came into view. It’s eyes were each the size of Brian’s head. Its mouth seemed absurdly small for the size of its face.

The lights overhead shifted from white to a deep red, and the creature turned its head and hissed. Then it turned back. Its other arm reached over and down past the first, and its hand braced against the outside of the windowsill.

Then, quickly, it clutched one of the Christmas lights, twisted it, and pulled it from the wire. The rest went dark, but the one in the alien’s fingers glowed for a second longer. It held this for a moment, then pushed itself back up onto the roof. A few seconds later, the craft’s lights dimmed, before disappearing completely.

The room was frigid, but Brian stayed completely still for ten minutes staring at the open window. Finally, he stood up, walked over to the window, shut it, and locked it for good measure.

He could just make out the prints on the glass where the creature had placed its hand.

Brian then looked down at the dark line with a missing bulb. “Crap,” he said. It was right under his window; his parents would never believe he wasn’t responsible for taking it. Making matters worse, he was pretty sure they didn’t have any spare bulbs, so when his cousins arrived later, there’d be no lights on the house. His mom would never let him hear the end of this.

“Worst Christmas ever,” Brian said.

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