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The Shape of Things to Come

A Short Fiction Piece About Paranoia and Societal Expectations

He didn’t like the idea of the foil hat. He didn’t want to become the mad stereotype the cheap tabloids make a joyous mockery out of whenever there are spare pages to be filled. But he needed protection. He didn’t want to be the crazy, dishevelled man who hadn’t showered or shaved in weeks that sits on his front porch, shotgun barrels resting on his legs, spoiling for a fight he’s confident is about to explode into life. And yet that is who he has become.

He didn’t want to be the one to forewarn his neighbourhood of impending alien invasion, and yet as the days drew on and madness’ foothold in his flailing mind grew stronger and stronger, he was starting to reluctantly accept the destiny Fate had handed him. He didn’t want any of this, but he admitted defeat.

He’d drafted a letter to the Mayor giving evidence that the invasion had already begun; silent, discreet but devious probing of the minds of children, for those were of the weakest disposition, the easiest to penetrate. They had been studying us for years, and in his writing he explained it all, with sometimes damning, sometimes highly speculative "evidence." But upon reading it back to himself as the reddened sun dipped behind peaceful suburbia that evening, he saw how mad it all seemed. And so he kept quiet, rocking on his chair as the sun was swallowed by distant rooftops and blooming out of its grave came darkness, moon, and stars; outer space.

How long he fell asleep for, he cannot remember. His eyelids were getting heavy, drooping over his glazed, watchful eyes and soon tiredness engulfed him. Light was beginning its battle with the stars, illuminating all around him slowly but surely, inevitably so when he woke. But it was not the growing light of dawn that had woken him with a start; he could feel a tingling in his mind. It was unlike anything he had ever felt before, and yet it wasn’t wholly unpleasant. He could feel slimy, inquisitive fingertips dancing across the receptors of his brain, following the roads of knowledge that bridged themselves over the rivers of his consciousness.

All around him life purred with normality, all seemed natural and right. But somewhere out there, though he knew not where, They were watching, exploring his mind like Columbus on fresh soil.

As the tingling crawled from his left temple to his right he tightened his grip on his gun. But what use was that? There was nothing there, nothing tangible to attack, no threat to extinguish with a good ‘ol taste of American freedom. And while explorative, alien fingers caressed, squashed, and studied every nook and cranny that dwelt within his cracking and crumbling psyche, he began to think. He didn’t like these thoughts, but they were born without his permission, and in their infantile bones they carried the truth. Were he to talk, to ask for help, to try and build an army with which to retaliate, he would surely be branded a lunatic. He’d be pumped full of drugs; sedated, made stupid and numb. He’d be made a public spectacle, a hilarious buffoon who went mad for fear of "9alien invasion." But in that moment, he wished he had a foil hat after all. Perhaps he should have listened to his heart more than he did worry about what others would make of him.

He had prayed for someone else to learn what he had learnt long ago, so that the burden need not be his and his alone. If there was a God, however, he had ignored his requests; his frantic, crazed pleas.

Then something stirred within, like an adrenaline shot had been rammed right into the centre of his brain, his centre of being. They had found what they needed and They were pulling it from its source, uprooting this valuable, priceless piece of information with no care for its surrounding habitat. They had found a weakness to exploit. With it the already impossible task of defending the neighbourhood would become even more fruitless; he couldn’t let them have it.

It all happened so fast. He didn’t think, for fear had given him no time for that. He just acted. The cold, metallic taste of the barrels stained his lips and he shivered as he pulled the trigger, but, though curling with the deftest subtly, there was a wry smile too.

“Survive this one,” he thought, hoping if his mind’s voice spoke loud enough so that They could hear him and fear the trump card he was about to play.

Pink, splattered brains, mixed with thick, gooey crimson and white flecks of skull; the white painted wood of his front porch took on quite the transformation as the booming, echoic thunder of the shotgun sounded. Birds flew, squawking maniacally from tree branches, their flapping wings cut against the pale blue, early morning sky.

Then silence.

Then, m o v e m e n t.

Pink, splattered brains mixed with thick, gooey crimson and white flecks of skull began to shiver and quiver. They moved towards a centre by the man’s muddied boots. They conglomerated, glowing with a purplish hue, transforming into something indescribable. Then, between the cracks in the porch it disappeared, mutating as it did, into the shape of things to come.   

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