Author: Connor Long-Johnson
A crowd had gathered and soon snowballed into a frenetic mob on the bridge overlooking the river. Cries and shouts swirled in the air as the crowd surged and morphed like the uneasy river below, sirens blared in the background and two lone police officers, barking orders to the baying masses, were drowned out; their presence a paper boat in a tsunami.
For those at the front of the pack who were leaning, stomachs pushed hard against the concrete barrier of the bridge so much so that they struggled for breath, were busy filming the scene on their phones as it unfolded in front of them.
The ship (they had all – in their collective wisdom – decided that it must be a ship) was still on fire. The purple plumes of smoke rising from the tail end of the vessel, its rear end jutting out of the water, were billowing in the early winter morning breeze westwards towards the smatterings of people that had massed to look at the spectacle. Most were donning masks or coughing steadily into the insides of their jackets as the smoke gently chocked them. Meanwhile the leaking fuel from the craft had turned the water of the Thames a sickly green colour, like the juicy snot at the tail end of a cold.
Like moths to the flame they stayed, mesmerised, inhaling the foreign fumes of another world.
“Did anyone see it come down?”
“Na, I heard it crash though.”
“What do you suppose it is?”
“Well that do you think it is? It’s got to be alien.”
“Bollocks, it’s from the military I reckon, some special sort of secret plane or sumink. They test ‘em all the time.”
“Don’t be so stupid, just look at the damn thing, it’s the size of a bloody building and it’s leaking green goop!”
“Whatever it is it’s fucking huge, and it stinks.”
“I heard that they’ve found two bodies already.”
“Let me guess, bald, green and three feet tall?”
Questions began to swirl into the mixture of sirens and shouts, a blanket of erratic muttering like white noise descended on the bridge.
Then, like a rocket blasting off from the launchpad, a scream rose up out the chatter, shrill and piercing, thundering across the water, turning every head and silencing every tongue.
“Her! She’s an alien!”
A woman was stood clutching a child wrapped in a small bundle in one arm, her other pointing a vicious accusatory finger at someone in the crowd.
“Look at her! Look at her eyes!”
Eyebrows cocked and heads began to turn, following the finger to another woman in the middle of the crowd. The accused was hunched over, a hood guarding her face.
“What? Me?” she said in a raspy voice and pointed a gnarled, ghostly white finger dotted with liver spots into her chest, her face contorted, “I am not an alien!”
“Just look at her!” The woman was no longer screaming, she was stood trembling, a deer in front of imaginary headlights.
“I am not an Alien!” the old woman’s voice rose, the coarseness suddenly replaced with venom, “Are you stupid girl?”
“Why are you wearing that hood? It’s 29 degrees today.”
“Is she glowing?”
“What’s wrong with her eyes?”
The silence ushered in by the woman’s scream was slowly being replaced with another gentle murmur.
Slowly, the woman turned, making her way to the edge of the crowd. Somewhere amongst the tumult, a foot, unseen and unknown sent the woman to her knees and pulled the hood away.
Another wave of silence hushed the crowd.
The woman stood up and they all saw her clearly in the daylight, her hair was the colour of molten silver, falling in liquid metal waterfalls and splashing over her two hunched shoulders. The skin on her face was like that on her hands, deathly pale, an unnatural whiteness. It was like seeing a blanket of snow on a midsummer night.
“I told you, look at her!”
“Oh my god she was right.”
` Before the woman could rise to her feet the crowd had broken out into a panic, it began to surge and swell, cresting over the fallen woman in a stampede of paranoid frenzy.
“Please no! I am not an alien!” The woman begged, struggling to her knees.
“Throw her into the river!”
“Toss her in. I saw a movie once where the aliens were allergic to water, throw her!”
The woman began to feel the peculiar sensation of having her own body hoisted into the air, moving out of her control, her arms flailing as she was chucked over the bridge. She felt her stomach roll and then the cold embrace of gravity as the water rushed to meet her.
“That’s it chuck her over!”
“Hopefully she’ll drown. But there must be more of them.”
There was a general murmur of agreement and the crowd dissipated, rabid dogs with the smell of blood on their snouts, all the while the woman, amongst gargling cries, was still insistent.
“I am not an alien.”