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Firefly / Starfight

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Firefly / Starfight

 

By: Louise A. Lowry

 

About 1:30 Am, along Freelang Highway, just outside of Mulen, Kansas, McKenzie saw it. He just stood there on the interstate off ramp in the pressing darkness, his car lights still on the motor chugging hopefully, his eyes fixed on a tiny spark, ignited possibly by the long settled sun beyond the curving horizon. Yet, that distant ember (so McKenzie had dully noted before screaming his tires off the highway to view from a stationary point on the shoulder) was MOVING.

 

It could have been an aircraft. But it was traveling at what McKenzie guesstimated at around fifteen...eighteen hundred miles per hour. An aircraft, YES. But NOTHING created by Douglas or Lockheed engineers.

 

It was all over in a minute. The light poised at two thousand feet off the rim of the horizon. Then it broke out of earth's atmosphere... like a ROCKET.

 

McKenzie drove home......and threw his Bible in the fireplace. King James didn't cover a CLOSE ENCOUNTER of the first kind. It suddenly had become an obsolete pseudo-History Book. <He felt like crying>

 

It ate on him. Bad. Ruling out the obvious truth, McKenzie figured. ..what else, shooting stars? Weather balloons? Satellites? Flares? Fireflies....?

 

Fireflies! All his mind could ponder was fireflies. But not how they illuminate, no, he didn't watch them twinkle and marvel at their amazing luminescent capability. No, all McKenzie's troubled mind could deliberate about was...how fireflies make war! Very territorial, fireflies, invading, defending, slaughtering, all for territory. TERRITORY!

 

His thoughts were dark and troubled. Things cold and moist slithered across his soul. McKenzie couldn't sleep. He tried warm milk, a hot bath, very thing...and finally opted for a Starlight Stroll.

 

It was his farm now, since he'd dropped out of the business world. It used to be his dad's. But the old thinking' rock had always been his own...and he needed it now. BAD! He lit a number and relaxed waiting for the old familiar feeling to come over him. You couldn't hide from the truth when you were stoned, and now was the time for realization!

 

He'd lie back, pick out a constellation or so and wait to assume a low profile in the nerve department. He thought he was tracing at first. ...then, when he realized they were really there....McKenzie swallowed the roach.

 

They fell noiselessly out of the obvious setting, black void above, starwrought space arcking behind them. They came like a vision....FORTY BILLION feet per second! McKenzie watched. They were way out there.... then they were tree-top level, just like that! Like blazing rain falling at his face. They weren't racing. One FLED...the other PURSUED. Shimmering bolts of lightning SEARED McKenzie's farm land. McKenzie had no time to speculate on distances, like exactly how close those battling ships would come before they would snap aside from inevitable impact with the planet's surface, and McKenzie!

 

McKenzie laid there for a long time, until his eyeballs dried out and the stone wore off. Talk about basic RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCES. <cheez>

 

Some twenty minutes later McKenzie stood up and walked to a glowing patch of weeds not ten feet from his thinking' rock. (Ray Blast Residue) It was a night for realization, all right! He could have been this glowing bush. A victim of bystance...instead of a man who just had a Close Encounter of the Second Kind.

 

McKenzie went inside. Ray Bradbury joined King James in the fire. He felt like ASIMOV! It boiled down to this: They were up there! A lot of people knew they were up there. But it seemed to McKenzie that somehow he might be a little more acutely aware than most that THEY REALLY WERE UP THERE!

 

He gathered up three shotguns from different cabinets around the house. Perhaps he alone knew they were engaged in real, tactical, INTERPLANETARY WARFARE.... Two fractions battling over <TERRITORY>. Questions about who was fighting whom....who were the GOOD guys...who were the BAD...didn't even enter into it. All you are to THEM, kid, is TERRITORY! Why should you worry about ways they'll subdivide you?

 

McKenzie was busy not thinking about it. He was killing "FIREFLIES" . Getting it out of his system. Then he tossed the rifles and pistols into the well....and sat on its edge to watch "THREE SHIPS" above him rend each other like rabid wolves!

 

He was relieved to see the morning sky. It was comforting not to see the stars....and what was going on around them. It didn't happen. Not while you were plowing Twenty-Three acres on a hot, sunny spring morning. It just ....DIDN'T HAPPEN! But , when the sun was at its hottest, McKenzie parked the machine, rested, ate a little and WATCHED while one of them about the size of a 747 screamed above the foothills.. ..with two little ones spiraling after it. Not moving like Air Force Fighters. Horizon to horizon in one instant! 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, GONE! FAST!

 

McKenzie tossed the tractor keys into the creek and walked back to the house....slow. He rolled up half a dime bag, threw everyone from Niven to Clarke into the fireplace and got RIPPED.

 

McKenzie sat in front of the hearth, feeling mellow, feeding the blaze, first with his LIBRARY.....then with his CLOTHES. Then he went to work on the FURNITURE. He knew what was coming. He wanted to be PREPARED ! Now, the great mysteries of mankind dwindled into childish RIDDLES. It didn't seem to matter anymore. Now, McKenzie's only concern was withholding two very important items from the fire. His TELEPHONE and a .45 AUTOMATIC.

 

That night McKenzie carried the phone onto his front porch. He called his ex-wife and his kids, a few friends, family, plus a couple of people he owed bread to while THEY slugged it out up there..... Somewhere between his smoking chimney top and the North Star. Sometimes they dueled among the stars and their LASER BURSTS seemed like heat lightning in the midnight sky. Sometimes they were close, their burning lasers RIPPING across the countryside. FIREFLIES>>>>STARFIGHT McKenzie didn't call the police or the government agencies. They'd FIND OUT! He just ran up a HUGE BILL telling people he liked and loved just where they stood with him, telling them {GOODBYE}

 

McKenzie's ancestors hadn't died in bloody RANGE WARS just to teach dumb cattle to work geometry, wear slacks and not to pass. in public. And he just couldn't believe that these interstellar warriors had come billions of light years, then fought a pitched territorial battle in his backyard for ULTIMATE-CONTROL of his planet with the philanthropic intent of offering fatherly advice on PHYSICS, WORLD PEACE and INTERGALACTIC BROTHERHOOD! He watched the starfighters display of gallantry and madness. It was SPLENDID. It was HORRORIFIC. But McKenzie was ready to let somebody ELSE pick-up....where a single shot from a .45 left HIM off. A Close Encounter of the Third Kind was INEVITABLE-and SOON. But it wouldn't be MCKENZIE'S problem to deal with. He handled the first two kinds of the encounter pretty WELL....and two out of three...all things considered.....ain't BAD!

 



 

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