|The Gate, Part Thirty-one
||[Oct. 16th, 2015|03:24 am]
Swaying swings, sky bleached by overcast, wind teased autumn leaves across the playground gravel. School let out half an hour ago but they lingered, delinquent.|
They dared each other to climb the three storey fire escape on the old Romanesque Revival building, attempting to outdo one another. He made it to the half way point before having to turn back, fighting off waves of vertigo. He had to close his eyes. He kept imagining the bolts tearing lose, the entire staircase tumbling down.
The rules of the game they played were made up on the spot, like tag except the ground was lava, and tangentially related to the merchandising vehicle of a cartoon they watched each morning before school.
Jacob could smell the static scent of ozone on the yellow spiral slide as he weighed his options. From the monkey bars to the flying fox, they’d covered all of his potential escape routes. He was cornered. In desperation he tried jumping from the slide, miscalculated..
He saw stars.
The wind knocked out of him. Terror: he couldn’t breathe!
And then he could.
In the back of his throat he tasted copper. Tingling. His face, acutely aware of the muscles beneath. His sinuses. Ringing in his ears. Dazed. All at once.
Someone lifting him, his feet dangling, dragging. Worried voices...
Another school yard.
The nerdy Jewish kid with smeared eyeliner, a mohawk, a thrift store trench coat, and steel toed boots from his grandfather’s workshop, smoking while listening to loud music on his Discman during lunch hour.
Like a dark cloud they descended.
He’d stood up to the bully when they were alone in the library. This time the bully brought friends.
It happened so fast, it was over before he realized.
He hit the cold gum-blistered concrete of the smoke pit, lip bleeding.
He saw stars.
He saw stars.
Pain. Accompanied by tightness in his forehead. Stickiness, his face. Iron tang. Burning plastic. Burning hair.
Discontinuity of consciousness.
Strong wind. Freezing cold.
Thirst, chapped lips.
Being jostled. Lifted.
Blinding sunlight, he squinted.
Awareness came flooding back.
When his eyes finally adjusted what he saw did not make sense.
Janice (Janice?!) holding his hand, looking at him with an expression he’d seen before. He appeared to be in a wheel chair.
To his left the cute Indian girl who sat next to him on the plane. She looked wearied.
He turned his head and saw…
...the woman who killed his niece.
“What the hell?” He coughed copper, raw.
Erin began, “Jacob, I’m so-”
“No. Get the hell away from me!” He turned to Janice. “What, what’s going on?” She just frowned, tears welling in her eyes.
He looked around frantically, ignoring spasms of pain.
They were in a small clearing of hard packed red dirt, dwarfed by strange white obelisks like bleached whale bones growing out of the ground. The sun was high in the sky and the wind rustled through vast fields of yellow fernlike plants.
Of the five people present he didn’t recognize two of them, a man and a woman. Both looked to be in their thirties, both had black hair, the woman slightly taller. Brother and sister by the looks of it, a strong family resemblance. The man avoided eye contact. The woman’s expression was curious.
Everyone, himself included, seemed to be bundled up in winter jackets despite the heat, and he noticed for the first time that he was sweating.
“Someone please just tell me what’s going on!” He struggled to remove the puffy nylon coat with a bandaged arm.
He gasped and fell back in his chair as a sixth individual popped into existence directly in front of him with a barely audible crackle of static electricity. The figure, six feet tall and covered head to toe in form-fitting worn brown leather, all buckles and laces, had its back to him. “What the fuck?! What the hell is that?!” cried Jacob, clawing at Janice’s coat.
She put her hand on his shoulder. “We don’t really know. They call themself Kennedy. Saved our lives.”
His heart raced, each beat exacerbating the headache he was quickly developing. Fight or flight, but there was nowhere to go, he couldn’t even stand, let alone run. His anger towards Erin became wholly irrelevant.
The figure sighed. “Finally awake I see.” It’s voice was genderless, alien. And the acoustics were wrong; the sound seemed to originate from all around them. “I suppose you deserve some answers. You all do.”
Kennedy turned to face him. The mirrored lenses of its mask betrayed no hint of emotion.
“Let’s see... You were in a plane crash. You and.. Sunita? were the only survivors. I’m sorry.” it said, and gave him a moment.
“This next part, well there’s no easy way... Look behind you.” Jacob turned to see a massive copper ring towering over him, over twenty feet tall, the color of the Statue Of Liberty.
“That right there, is an alien artifact.” said Kennedy, the gate reflected in the lenses of its mask. “There are thousands just like it scattered throughout the galaxy. Really old. They facilitate instantaneous travel between two points in space. A wormhole.”
No one spoke, the only sound rustling fields like ocean waves.
“So yeah, uh, aliens are real.” Jacob just stared, mouth agape. “Not like, UFOs, X-Files I want to believe aliens.. More like.. Lovecraft? I guess? These guys are different from the ones that built the gate network and who aren’t around anymore. These guys attacked us. Attacked Earth. Sorta like Independence Day. And we just barely managed to fend them off.”
Kennedy paused. “Yeah. I know. Really does sound unbelievable when you say it out loud.
“Anyways, the US military found a gate in Iraq in 2003, during the war. And they started messing with it.”
Jacob interrupted the monologue. “Something about... Germany. A military base. And letters... EMP?”
This seemed to startle Kennedy. “Yes. Exactly.” It cleared its throat. “At any rate that really pissed off the Anunnaki, uh, the guys who attacked us. They sent one of their warships to take care of us, which would have been enough, but NASA managed to cobble together something that was able to beat them.
“But there was a gate on board the alien ship and when it blew up it was dialed to a command ship in another solar system. So when the alien ship exploded the blast traveled through the gate, vaporizing the command ship.
“Then the gate fell to Earth, which always reminds me of that weird David Bowie movie.. and yeah, landed right on top of your plane,” it nodded at Jacob, “and your hospital.” it said, looking at the woman and her brother, who shivered involuntarily.
“So you all ended up on the other side of the galaxy, stranded on a planet where the command ship was refueling. Which incidentally is also how I got my new toy.” Said Kennedy, patting the smaller artifact clipped to its belt.
“So yeah Jacob, you weren’t really awake for the frozen wasteland part, but you really didn’t miss much. And now we’re here.” Kennedy inhaled deeply. “Much better.”
“H-how do you know all of this?” demanded Jacob feebly.
Kennedy seemed to consider this, and said, in a conspiratorial tone, “Hey, you guys want to see something cool? Everyone, meet Nagini.”