“Margaret?” Jack called to her, but she kept running. He thought the road was a bit too icy for such running.
Normally the street was quiet except for the gravel trucks that ran through the small town on weekdays. The population of 800 was mostly in surrounding farms and about twenty homes that ran from each direction towards the four corners. At the four corners was a convenience store and gas station to the northeast and an over sized church which seemed much too large for the tiny community.
Next he saw Margaret’s husband, carrying their other child. “Nathan? What is going on?”
Nathan stopped and looked over at Jack. “You don’t know?” his question spat white breath at Jack.
Jack shook his head and rocked back in his porch swing. His parka crinkled as he folded his arms in front of him. His salt and pepper bearded chin was full of icicles from sweat. He watched Nathan and the child over the white railing that fenced in the porch. He finished the final drops from his red Budweiser can.
Other neighbors sprinted past Nathan and child.
“It is Rapture. They are coming now!” Nathan pointed to the sky with his free hand. “Do you not see them?”
Jack got up off his swing and walked out from under the porch roof.
Nathan turned and sprinted while yelling over his shoulder, “We must get to the church!”
“Yeah, you do that.” Jack looked up at the sky which, save one circular ball of fire, was mostly blue. However, there were some clouds that were bubbling towards him from out over the horse pastures in the back. “Interesting,” he mumbled to himself.
Glancing down the street, he watched as more of his neighbors sprinted, stumbled and slid towards the tiny church that dominated the town’s four corners.
Jack walked back up to his swing and reached down beside it where he had a cooler full of beer cans. He lifted two more Buds from the ice. He walked back down from the porch and followed the icy cement slab path around the old farm-house. He popped the top of one of the beers and sipped.
Bubbling clouds lowered slowly into the snow-covered pasture directly behind the house. The horses in the barn whinnied in fear.
Jack watched as a black metal flying triangle dropped out of the clouds, slowly. The sky overhead was now dominated by the bubbling black clouds and snow began to fall.
Jack was happy for this as he loved the snow. There was, however, an unusual warmth in the air that started him sweating in his parka. “Gorgeous,” he said to the clouds.
The triangle stopped and hovered a few metres above the ground. A light appeared as a door opened and ramp slid down. The light was so bright that he could only see the shadow of a figure exiting the craft. The ramp quickly lifted and door closed before the craft lifted back into the clouds.
The figure approached jack as the sky quickly cleared. The snow stopped and the air turned frigid once again.
“Damn it. Need that snow.”
“Hi there,” the figure said.
“Howdy,” said Jack who then offered his hand.
The figure shook it solidly. “Andrew,” said the figure. “Andrew Meyers.”
“Jack Toms. Welcome to Earth.”
Andrew was tall and bald. His blue eyes sparkled. “Good to be home,” he said. His shirt and pants looked like white medical scrubs with draw strings at the waist. His feet were held by white sandals. “A bit cold for my taste.”
“Beer?” Jack offered him the other can. He guessed Andrew was about half his age.
“Absolutely,” Andrew said and accepted the can. “Any heat to drink it in?”
The two men walked around to the front and climbed the porch. Jack popped the door of the old farm-house and ushered Andrew inside.
“Take a seat,” Jack offered an old kitchen chair. “I’ll grab a sweater for you. Maybe some socks, too.”
“Much too kind.”
Jack opened a door off the kitchen and climbed the creaky stairs. He returned quickly with a grey hoodie and a pair of flannel socks.
Through the window, Andrew caught sight of people coming out of the church and looking skyward. “What’s that all about?”
“They thought you were the Rapture or the second coming or something.””
Andrew laughed. “Second coming? Would have to have been a first to make me second.” He sipped from his beer. “Oh, that’s lovely.” He slipped off his sandals and pulled the socks on. Then he pulled the sweater over his head.
Jack glanced at him. “Being space ship landings aren’t mentioned in their good book, probably a good thing they were squirreled away. You wouldn’t want to hurt their sensitive eyes.” He sipped his own beer for a moment. “Home. You said this is home?”
Andrew nodded. “Yes, been away for years.”
Andrew pointed up. “I have been a diplomat, you might say. Up there since Roswell.”
Jack blinked, “Really? That’s cool. I was six years old when that happened.”
Andrew almost dropped his drink. “What year is it?”
“2011, December 27, 2011.”
“Wow. That long, really? And where are we? They don’t have windows on those contraptions.”
“A little north of Spokane.”
“Spokane, Washington. Ouch, guess they missed. I asked to be dropped home in Texas. Also explains the snow.”
Jack laughed. “Are you hungry?”
Andrew grinned. “I could eat.”
“Steak? I was going to barbecue.”
Andrew’s eyes brightened with his smile. “First day back. First steak. My kingdom for a steak.”
“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.” Jack pulled two slabs of raw meat from the fridge. “This is a Millie Classic cut.”
“Millie was one of my oldest heffers. Broke her leg in a gofer hole back in the fall. Tough to eat when you name them.”
The doorbell rang.
Jack walked over to the door. “Roswell, that was in ’47. Like I said, I was six. I’m seventy now, but…”
Andrew waved off the rest of his question and sipped his beer. He swallowed and answered, “I left in 1984. Orwell didn’t even call that shot. There is something funny about the aging process when traveling light speed. I was the third diplomat.”
Jack opened the door to find Margaret, Nathan and boy were at the door. The youngster was up in Nathan’s arms with his head resting on daddy’s shoulder.
“Howdy, Nathan…Margaret. How was church?”
“Walter? Who’s your friend?”
Jack smiled. “This is my friend, Andrew. He was dropped off while you were…ah…” His fingers flipped in the direction of the church.
“Ah,” Nathan waved. “Nice to meet you, Andrew. Good to know Jack wasn’t alone during this time.”
“You snooze, you lose,” Andrew whispered causing Jack to laugh.
“Yeah, we’re home if you need anything, Jack.”
Jack smacked Nathan on the free shoulder. “I appreciate it. Go feed that little tyke so he’ll grow up big and strong.”
Margaret’s eyes studied Andrew through the open door until they both turned, without further words, and walked back down the salted walkway.
Jack closed the door and returned to the meat on the counter. “So why did you come home now?”
“I have to warn the king.”
“The king? Dude, Elvis is dead.”
Andrew laughed and sipped his beer again. “King Carlton. I have to warn King Carlton.”
“The leader. The one whom will have to put an army together.”
Jack’s eyes widened. “An army for what? Alien invasion?”
Andrew’s smile melted into a very stern look. “Exactly. Hold on, you said 2011, right?”
Jack turned, looked at Andrew and nodded.
Andrew sighed. “We’ve got a year, so I hope Carlton is ready.”