Author : C. Clayton Chandler

They came out of the sky like plumes of fire, these green-skinned sickos with their saucers and their death rays shearing the air, burning atmosphere, coasting smooth and cool out of the everlasting vacuum beyond the bounds of gravity, of reality, of everything we’ve ever known or truly believed.

Hundreds of them, thousands of them, a nation of interstellar marauders gunning for our territory, trailing those torrid banners of flame to herald their arrival.

We didn’t have a chance.

Me and Jane, we grabbed the kids and ran. Away from the chaos in the air. Through the chaos of the streets.

Everyone was running. Everyone was screaming. They weren’t screaming anything in particular, really. Weren’t running anywhere in particular, either. Just moving and making noise, flapping their hands and shielding their eyes and acting like I suppose you’d expect people to act in the face of an extraterrestrial invasion.

“Daddy, what’s happening?” Debbie, clutching the elephant doll we just bought her, what, ten minutes ago? Her hair flapping away from her shoulders and tears snaking down to her chin.

“I don’t know, baby. I don’t know.”

I knew. Debbie knew. Everyone knew what was happening: every cheesy sci-fi movie from the 1950s had just sprung to life. Low-budget nightmares from a hundred years ago were about to walk the streets.

But instead of taking the time to explain all this, I grabbed Debbie’s hand and dragged her back to the museum, where we could huddle and hide between the stuffed wolves and elephants and lions and all the other creatures that once walked the earth. Before there wasn’t any room for them.

We thudded, bounced, crashed off bodies as we careened up the steps. Jane kept pounding my back. Pushing my back. Urging me: Please please please. Willing me forward, but it wasn’t any use. Every earthling on the street was crowded against the doors, shrieking or shouting and shoving, smashing themselves against the bottleneck, desperate to get inside, as if the crumbling marble of a natural history museum could save us.

So I scooped Debbie into my arms. I grabbed Jane’s hand and we turned to watch strange spaceships knifing the smog.

One of them zipped down to skim the street, buzzing over cars and trucks that stood panting with their doors hanging open. It stopped to hover in front of the museum, kicking light off its spinning flanks, and I flinched as I waited for the ray guns to erupt.

Afterburners whooshed. Dust clouded up. The saucer crunched down on the flash-frozen traffic. A door hissed and yawned open and an alien spindled his legs down the ramp.

He stood looking up at us with eyes big as eight balls. His head was like a gourd turned upside down. An overbite showed rows of needle-pointed teeth.

He panned the shriveling crowd with those eight-ball eyes. Those black and emotionless orbs, they swept our gray eyes and knobby faces, our snowpowder wisps of hair. They searched the coal-burned clouds and bare dirt lawns surrounding the museum. And maybe he figured it out. Maybe he guessed that this planet wasn’t worth taking anymore. That the scout reports of green fields and luscious forests were outdated. That we’d squeezed our Earth of every last mineral, every drop of fresh water, every inch of space.

That he was fifty years or so too late.

His shoulders slumped. He turned and headed back to the ship.

Like this was a wasted invasion.

Discuss the Future: The 365 Tomorrows Forums
The 365 Tomorrows Free Podcast: Voices of Tomorrow
This is your future: Submit your stories to 365 Tomorrows