Kathleen James checked the time on her cell phone. An hour after sunset. It had been NEARLY sunset when Randall Osbourne, or someone who sure looked like Randall, but acted rougher, volunteered to fetch coffee.
Randall Osbourne had clamped a death-grip on her sister-in-law Angelique’s slender wrist, then dragged her into the semi-circular stairwell going down to Floor Two. An hour ago.
Ice cream? Randall went for soft-serve vanilla? No, he said COFFEE. Her mouth tasted like blood. She wanted red strawberry soft-serve? Kathleen! You’re thinking’s wrong. Like a child, all mixed up… You’re a grown woman… It’s the stress… She pinched her eyes shut so tight she could feel the ultralight titanium frames of her eyeglasses riding up her face, reaching for the ceiling.
Uninvited abstractions pervaded her consciousness. Images of shiny coin-like discs. A cluster of cylinders, dewars; huge gleaming tanks like the bridge construction welders worked with… but even larger… as big around as a person. What were dewars? Kathleen suddenly felt herself slip outside her own body. Watching herself… A little girl Kathleen.
She clutched the coins insanely tight, two coins with stars on them, the color of platinum bullion. They were so freezing cold they burned. Her finger joints ached. A man with a nice suit was mouthing a question at her. His teeth sparkled like on TV; shark-teeth and everything… He was dressed quite formally, as for a wedding, or a funeral.
“Vanilla? Or Strawberry?” he demanded. He sounded very harsh. He acted hostile, rough, for a child’s friend. But he had something she wanted. She decided on Vanilla, it would make her mouth feel clean.
Kathleen wanted her ice cream. She wanted to run to the Ice Cream Man too because something was wrong she didn’t know what but she was scared! Kathleen looked a bit closer at that man. He was dumpy, and she pictured an evil penguin wearing an expensive suit. He needed a SHAVE! Blue-black stubs, like little needles sticking out of his face. Bad grainy gray skin. Impassive eyes, deep, dark, and non-reflective. No, they were absent.
Kathleen! You’re hypnotized! Hallucinating!
Then he raised the end door of the Ice Cream Hearse. Hearse! Edward’s Custom Hot-Rod! Joule? Edward called the machine Joule, like the Physicist James Joule.
She’d forgotten all about Edward A James, her husband! The scuba divers had told her their tandem bicycle must have gone off the edge of Parson Promontory, and crashed into The Atlantic. His body was never found. It must have washed away.
She’d lied to Angelique about that part; washing away into the sea. It was such a morbid coincidence. Her husband Edward, and Angelique’s Edward, Edward C Fraser. They both were stolen, they both went into the sea just when the future was looking positive.
The divers seemed reticent. “Dark shards of mist… On Parson Promontory.”
Shards of mist? They talked so strange. Were they Foreigners? Physicists? Poets? The tandem bicycle. Gone into the Atlantic. Then how come she, Kathleen, hadn’t died too! The tandem bicycle. It wasn’t gone! Downstairs, go check. Get up from the sofa. Get up.
Kathleen James couldn’t move. The room smelled like blue sparks and fire.
Underneath Level Zero, the Archonte stirred. The sensitive antennae embedded in The Arielle Facility Of Technology & Art’s ancient frame resonated with a signal originating one billion light-years away from a region of galaxies known as NGC 4038/4039.
An exquisite irony was that the pair of interacting galaxies had been identified by the intensely curious Earth Science-Priests in their late twentieth century, and named the ‘Antennae Galaxies.’
A while back, a narrowband radio signal had been picked up by the SETI Project, (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence). The Earth Inhabitants, the most dangerously inquisitive organic creatures in the known multiverse, promptly followed up with ‘The Voyager Golden Record,’ launched by NASA in 1977.
‘The Golden Record’ was a physical artifact, authorized and blessed by the President of the USA, and his servants; divulging greetings, images, DNA Data; and music of Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Chuck Berry. The Archonte delightfully parsed its contents.
The Archonte Magi were very happy to hear from the Earth People they had discovered the last time they passed by this planet in 1500 BCE. Their biochemistry was very similar. It was a distant commute, but feed stock could be produced on Earth.
Joule Three had been alerted by the Morrison Computer Cores inside him that if the two Archonte known as Synesthese and Clizyati messed up, Plan B would take over. They, Seventh and Sixth-Level Magistrae, had been too thin-skinned. They unintentionally MERGED with the earth-hosts known as Randall Osbourne and Kathleen James.
Joule Three knew ‘The Second Coming,’ was on its way by virtue of the second radio transmission. The remaining ones, the more brutal Archonte Storm-Troops were now thawing out. It was time for some thicker-skinned-walkers. Clizyati and Synesthese would be destroyed, as well as their human host mediums.
All earth-beasts would be dead soon, anyway. There was plenty DNA Stock to make more.