Monsters and Machines

NOMMED FOR MOVELLA OF THE YEAR 2017

Nabdale is the most boring town in England. It’s muddy, it’s rainy, it’s full of cabbages, and all its residents can talk about is the lights in the sky.

On Sunday night, the lights come down, and barely anyone notices. The few who take notice have three days before they’re silenced. First comes the headache. Then, the nightmares begin. And after that, there’s no waking up.

As a very crazy, very real conspiracy theory takes Nabdale by storm, the residents are forced to push the boundaries of what they believe, and what they’ll do to survive. They’ll have to watch their loved ones suffer; they’ll have to abandon their normal lives, and everything they thought they knew about humanity. They’ll have to die. They’ll have to kill. Sickness and hysteria spread like wildfire, and the plot only gets stupider. It’s the end of the world, and they’re either too early, or too late, to stop it. But that doesn’t mean they’re not going to try.

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3. That Conspiracy Twat

It was one o’clock in the morning, and the sky above the most boring town in England was painted violet. Harriet usually kept the lights switched off when she couldn’t sleep at night, even though the white glare of her screen dampened her eyes after an hour or two, but tonight, she’d left them on. The black shadows sheeting every wall but the one behind her had provided a perfect canvas for those neon green flashes to tear through her skull, and she’d wanted to stop it. She was losing at poker again- she wasn’t playing with real money, but she was playing with her real pride. Harriet looked up from her screen and ended up staring at the wall for ten, fifteen, twenty seconds. Even though she was heavy with fatigue all over, she couldn’t sleep, because she was a fucking insomniac. She couldn’t find a comfortable position in bed, either, and the laptop was uncomfortably warm even through the duvet. She closed her eyes and clamped them to keep them shut, but they just kept springing open again, over and over and over. She gave up. She was thinking about Dylan, mostly, and about Mike. She had to force her mind back onto the subject of her waking up in the garden.

The northern lights. Billie’s husband had claimed he’d seen the fucking northern lights. Even Billie had said the clouds were green. God, country people were idiots. For the first time in a long while, Harriet longed for London, where she’d grown up. City people were assholes, sure, but at least they made sense and didn’t talk about anything boring or stupid unless they were shouting abuse. Here, in Nabdale, there were two things people would talk to her about: their family issues, or that weird thing that happened to insert-name-here at insert-place-here last insert-day-here. When Billie admitted she’d seen green lights in the sky, she’d actually been fucking serious, and not only that- she’d been casual. Because she accepted shit like this so readily it wasn’t even worth worrying about. Harriet didn’t believe a word of it- in fact, she’d dismissed it all so quickly she’d forgotten all about it until now. Until now, when for some reason, the thought of those green lights in the sky when she’d been sleeping outside made some sort of thin cold shiver drip down her spine. She tried to think back to before she’d fallen asleep, but she couldn’t remember a thing. The last thing she remembered was lying on the sofa with a book she wasn’t reading, staring up at the ceiling. That was why she’d assumed she was sleepwalking. But then… how had she unlocked the back door?

No. She was bored. That was all it was. That was the only reason her imagination was running wild. It was three o’clock, and she was still awake because her brain had fucked up and made her ill, and there was nothing better to do. That was the only reason she was thinking about those lights again at all, and that was the only reason she was closing her game of poker and typing Nabdale northern lights into the search bar.

She blinked, and a slice of green flashed through the darkness, and she opened her eyes again to see a pretty damned huge number of results.

“Nice.” She muttered to herself, pushing her hair behind her ears. Then, without thinking, her finger jerked to one side and pressed the cancel button. The window was sucked away and she was left with her screensaver- a photo of her and Dylan eating lollies at the beach last summer. She stared at it for ten, fifteen, twenty seconds, wiping away tears whenever they came with the back of her muddy sleeve.

* * * * * * * * * *

That Conspiracy Twat, huh?” she murmured to herself as she clicked on the link to a blog. “Let’s see if you can beat my idiot friends, shall we?”

The blog she’d clicked on after half an hour of scrolling was badly formatted. Really, really badly formatted. But maybe that was just the way blogs were. At least the spelling and grammar were down pat on this one, which was more than could be said for most. Harriet, despite herself, was snared by the title ‘GREEN LIGHTS IN THE SKY OVER NABDALE--- UNEXPLAINED?!’ and scrolled down.

Hey, guys. So, you know what I’ve been saying about Nabdale these last six fucking months? Yeah, you know. That it’s small, flat, boring, ugly, smells of shit, and is full of bloody morons who care more about their pumpkin harvests than what’s going on RIGHT OVER THEIR HEADS. Yeah. And also that it’s some kind of hotspot. Now, I’m no expert, and I’m not boasting or anything, but I’m an expert.

You all know there are places in the world (most of them in America, believe it or not- that place’s got even more redneck crackpots conspiracy theorists than the British countryside) with a higher volume of UFO activity than other places. Warminster, Long Beach, Wycliffe Well, and the most famous two- Area 51 and Roswell. Most of them are remote areas, little towns. Boring towns. Where nothing ever happens and the air smells of shit and vegetable obsession. Yeahhh, you get what I’m saying- Nabdale is the new kid on the block of UFO haunts! Give it a few years (if we last that long without getting vapourised- getting to that) and I reckon our humble town’ll be up there running with the big boys. Just last month, we had the Disc Cloud infestation- remember that? (It’s blog post #56 if you haven’t already read it for some crazy reason.) But now, NOW, as of LAST NIGHT, shit just got real.

Like, REALLY real.

Harriet liked this writer. She liked him a lot, and felt dumber for it.

I’m talking LIGHTS in the sky, and not red ones. Not white ones. “What?” I hear you cry, because I have supersonic hearing suddenly, and future vision, and I can hear you half-million followers across the globe yelling at me, because you’re all crazy enough to scream at your screens instead of just reading ahead for some reason. Never understood that figure of speech. ANYWAY, back to the point. What happened in Nabdale, or, rather, OVER Nabdale last night was NOT something I could explain. ME, King of the Conspirators. No, I couldn’t do it. This was SO insane that an IRRATIONAL mind couldn’t explain it, let alone a rational one. And I, as you all know, am the perfectly balanced medley of rational and irrational. All good conspiracy theorists are.

Last night, the sky over Nabdale turned green.

There was light everywhere. I mean, the light pollution’s so fucking thick over this town that the sky’s brown in the evening and orange at night, and I could see it all. (I hate not being able to emphasise the word “I” with capitalisation. I mean, it’s capitalised already. And I could just write “i” regularly and “I” for BIG deals, but that’s just teen-fanfic-website levels of BAD GRAMMAR. Then again, suppose it speaks to my gargantuan ego that I feel the need to emphasise “I” so often. Okay, okay. From now on, I’ll embolden it. How’s that?)

Anyway, back to the point. What was it again?

Oh yeah. This MASSIVE-SCALE ALIEN INVASION.

Harriet sighed and tried to stifle a laugh. This crazy bastard wrote like his thoughts had just fallen out on the page and he’d been forced to rearrange the mess into sentences, but it was addictive. She’d read the entire chunk before she could tear herself away, and she was sure she didn’t believe a word of it. No. No. Of course not. Of course not. Whoever he was, he was from Nabdale, and he’d seen what happened last night, which, for some reason, she couldn’t remember at all. And he wasn’t letting logic get in the way either.

Last night, I was sitting in my shitty apartment mansion house, looking out of the grimy glorious floor-to-ceiling window, when what should I see but a MASSIVE EXPLOSION OF LIGHT on the horizon. I was staring, right? For quite a while. So long, in fact, and so wide, I’m surprised my eyeballs didn’t fall out of my skull and plop onto my bile-coloured carpet polished mahogany floor. (Not that that’s medically or scientifically possible; my eyeballs are held in place by tendons, just like everyone else’s, and even if they DID fall out they’d just sort of dangle, which actually would be even worse because I’d have to pick them up and squish them back into place- yeugh. Anyway.)

This explosion of light was neon green, so bright it burned itself into my retinas (again, not literally), and it was moving like it was ALIVE. It was pulsing, like it was BREATHING, and more and more of it kept swelling up (I think from the middle? I’m not sure- again, remember I was watching this through a layer of government-induced brain fog- see post #21 light pollution). And as it grew bigger, all the light just sort of… I guess, collected? Like water in a big droplet, but thicker. And then, eventually, as all water droplets tend to do (not that I spend a lot of time watching water- it’s not like I live in the rainiest fucking town in Europe or anything), it overflowed and broke. Then, all the light fell DOWN. It was, I think, about half a mile, maybe a mile away from my house, and it left a burning trail that stayed in the sky for at least a minute. It CRASHED- that’s right, CRASHED- into the ground, wherever it landed (right in the middle of a FUCKING RESIDENTIAL AREA, by the looks of things) and then VANISHED. And THEN- and this is the best part- there was another. This one was further away from me, right on the outskirts, next to the church if any of you know where this is or feel like drawing a map. (No MS Paint, by the way- you gonna draw me fanart, do it properly. I learned from the last time. In fact, lemme set the record straight- NO, I do NOT have a crush on Devin from Fact or Faked, and I have no idea why y’all thought that from reading the last post. God damn.) The second light was exactly the same- rip in the sky, droplet filling up, overflowing, falling down, blowing up. And THEN- get this- there was a THIRD. Now, THIS one was REALLY far away, all the way over by the valley. I could barely see it, and it vanished behind a hill when it fell. Fucking hills get in the way of everything.

I want to know, right now, why nobody else saw this. Or, if they did, why nobody else who saw this CAME FORWARD. I mean, the explosion itself wasn’t that long, or that bright, and even though I’d opened my window to make sure it wasn’t a reflection or anything (that’s right- I’m That Conspiracy Twat, but I don’t believe EVERYTHING I see), there was no sound at all, but why did NOBODY else see it? Maybe I’m just going crazy. Anyway.

So what? What do I think? I bet you’re all wondering right about now what kind of wacky theory I’m coming up with today. Well, as you all know, I like to SCIENCE THE SHIT™ out of every theory I chuck at you. And you know what? For the first time, in ninety-eight blog posts (Yes, that’s right, this is the NINETY-EIGHTH. Only two more till our centenary- woohoo!!) I have nothing to give you.

I mean… it was a LIGHT. But it wasn’t. You heard what I said, whether you believed it or not- it was like liquid. Like a mass. Like it was breathing. And honestly, despite a year’s experience, I really don’t think I can SCIENCE THE SHIT™ out of that. Because I don’t understand it. It didn’t obey the laws of physics! Not that I’m a physicist. I’m a biologist/chemist/mentalist. Mentalist meaning I’m crazy. But I’m pretty sure PHYSICS applies EVERYWHERE ON EARTH. On EARTH, mind you. And that’s why (you know what’s coming next) for this theory, I’m sticking to the classics.

ALIENS.

*Mic drop*

*Distant sound of people booing*

YEAH, it’s not all that exciting. Or that original. But come ON, you guys! What else could it possibly be? I’m telling ya, this is just the beginning. It’s just like all the movies. But when shit hits the fan, I’m willing to bet it’ll be like no movie we’ve seen yet.

Sit tight and stay inside, till next week.

Cordially,

That Conspiracy Twat.

Harriet didn’t realise it, but she’d been slowly shaking her head. She wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was because she couldn’t believe there was somebody so stupid, so self-absorbed, so completely and utterly deluded, living in the same town as her. He’d said he lived in Nabdale. Assuming it was a bloke. Harriet didn’t reckon any woman could write so ridiculously, but that was probably just sexist of her. She tried to ignore the thought of those lights in the sky, above her, falling down on her as she slept in the fucking garden, but it was too late. They were burned into her skull.

That valley in the hills was three, maybe four miles away from her. She lived on the outskirts, across the road from the church. Right where that blogger had said the second light landed.

Maybe-

“No,” she muttered angrily, forcing the lid of the laptop shut and leaning back on her propped-up stack of pillows. As the perfect white rectangle of her screen slowly faded from where it’d branded itself to her vision, she noticed that her eyes were watering. Hot stings were pressing up against her nose and mouth, too, and her whole head felt heavy, like it was full of water. She had a headache again, and it was a lot worse than normal- it didn’t whine and moan, heavy on her brain. It was acidic and electric and it fizzed, the pain sharp and boiling hot. She squeezed her eyes shut and pressed her temples. She opened her eyes to scrabble around for her box of aspirin, which she always kept nearby since she always, always had a headache, but she had to blink madly for ten, twenty seconds before her vision even came back. Blackness, tingling with neon green flecks, had plastered itself in front of her view and she couldn’t see past it. It faded eventually and she grabbed the tray of pills, dug two out and swallowed them dry, wincing as they caught in her throat. At least that pain was familiar. She’d never felt anything like this headache before.

She insisted to herself it was nothing to worry about. It was just a combination of the glare of the screen, her stubborn lack of sleep, and the painful stupidity of the blog she’d just let herself read.

“Go to sleep,” she moaned to herself, turning over in bed so she was facing the window and curling up to hug her legs. She was cold without her dressing-gown, which was still crumpled in a stale muddy pile where she’d left it in the garden, and her hair was wet. She’d had to wash it in the sink to drag out the mud and weeds. Mud and weeds from sleeping in the fucking garden. After an apparent alien lightshow. No. Stop it. It’s nothing. Go to sleep. Go to fucking sleep.

And then, after a couple of flashes of green and a stomach-churning sinking sensation, she managed it.

* * * * * * * * * *

The nightmare that forced her under the surface eventually pushed her back up again. She woke up when it was still pitch-dark outside, her eyes crusted with sleep and her mouth bone-dry and her headache forcing the split in her head wider and wider open. She’d fallen asleep with her mouth open. Disgustedly, she wiped the thin line of drool off her chin as she pushed herself up, green light still flashing in front of her eyes.

Her nightmare had been fucking psychedelic, black sheets wrapping around her and stifling her and blocking her nose and mouth, tasting of chemicals. The blackness flashed with green and yellow and blue and even red, setting her on fire, burning her, freezing her, tossing her around like she weighed nothing. Harriet had used to fight her nightmares, running through nothing till she was convinced she couldn’t run any more, screaming till she was convinced she couldn’t breathe, but now, she just shut up and stayed still and let them take her.

She blinked for two, three, four, five minutes. The green lights never left her sight.

“Bloody hell.” She pulled back the duvet and stood up, one knee whimpering with a cramp in protest. Bloody hell indeed. She was only thirty-six, but had apparently been cursed with the doddery, badly-oiled body of an old woman. She found herself walking to the window. She didn’t know why; in fact, when she tried to stop herself, her legs kept moving without her. Nice. Sleepwalking again. There was her answer. She clamped her hands onto the windowsill and pulled herself up, tucking her knees under her chin and pressing her back against the wall. It was cold. Fucking cold. And the cold burned.

There was a flash of green light in the sky.

It took a second, maybe two, for her heart to freeze and the sickness to rise into her throat. By then, it was gone. It’d streaked across the sky in an instant, running perfectly parallel to the edge of a cloud and then vanishing, lighting up the edges of the silver haze with bright green. There was less light pollution on the outskirts of Nabdale.

Harriet blinked. There was another flash of green. She blinked again and noticed the shape of the light staying put, burned into her vision. Had it been real? Maybe not. She was probably just hallucinating. Yeah.

Another flash. This time, it was longer, and seemed to hover for a second above the church when Harriet turned her head. Right. She had to wait two, three minutes before the fourth one came, and this time she jerked her head downwards. Instead of staying put, the light jerked down with her. And instead of disappearing behind the church spire, as it should have done, it jumped in front to stay in the way of her vision.

Harriet smiled angrily, tore her gaze away from the sky and jumped down from the windowsill. Just her imagination. The lights were burned into her head, not into the sky, and they weren’t lighting up their surroundings at all. So, as they continued to flash in the sky, she turned her back and dumped herself back onto her bed without pulling back the duvet. That headache was still burning and freezing in her head, and even though she hadn’t eaten since that morning, she was getting an inkling of heartburn too. Who cared? She was just ill. Dylan would be up soon, and then it’d be time to start the school run over again. Everything else- the aliens, the lights and her burning, burning headache, could wait. 

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