Invasion

The field is green. The sky is blue. The clouds are white. The sun smiles down. Everything’s beautiful.

Kitten romps.

Puppy barks.

Lamb gambols.

Kitten spots a bit of thread. Kitten bats at the thread. Kitten follows the thread. The thread leads back to a blanket. Kitten bats at the blanket. Then Kitten understands. Kitten runs back to the others.

“I saw it!”

Kitten dances from foot to foot. “I saw it! It was a thing. It was an ordinary thing! In the field!”

Slowly, Puppy stops barking. Lamb ceases to gambol. They turn and study Kitten. A long moment passes.

“You’re kidding!” Puppy says happily. Puppy barks and giggles.

“No, ” Kitten insists. “Come and see!”

Puppy shakes his head. “You’re silly.”

Kitten’s fur stands on end. She arches her back. “Don’t argue with a cat!” She turns and runs off.

“Hey!” Puppy shouts. “Hey! Kitten!”

He follows. Lamb follows too. Kitten runs straight to the blanket. She stops. Puppy arrives. Lamb arrives.

“See?” Kitten insists.

Puppy sniffs the blanket. He recoils. “It smells funny.”

“We have to kill it,” Lamb says.

“It’s not doing any harm,” Puppy points out.

“We have to kill it,” Lamb says. “It’s an ordinary thing. Look.”

Lamb uses her nose. She gestures upwards. The sun isn’t smiling. The sun’s just a great inferno in the sky. The clouds aren’t white. They’re just a bunch of mist. The sky is blue. It holds a thousand colors in its depths.

“But where did it come from?” wailed Kitten.

“It’s an invasion,” Lamb says wisely. “Now, you. Each of you, take a corner in your mouths. We’ll rip it apart!”

“I’m afraid,” Kitten says.

“It’s okay,” Puppy says. “We’ll fight it together!”

Gingerly, Puppy bites one corner of the blanket. Snarling, Kitten bites the other. “Pull!” Lamb says. She gambols onto the center of the blanket.

They pull. The blanket tears. It rips like the sundering of the sky. Darkness washes over them. Then all is calm again. Lamb stands on a tuft of flowers. Puppy and Kitten have mouthfuls of plant and soil. The sun smiles down. The clouds are white.

“We showed that blanket,” Puppy says, spitting out flowers.

“In a way,” Kitten says, “blankets aren’t so scary, after all.”

“You’ve showed your courage,” Lamb agrees. “You fought the blanket even though you were afraid.”

Kitten beams. Kitten sits down. Kitten gathers her energy. Then Kitten races off around the field. Puppy giggles and follows. Lamb gambols off.

The sun sinks lower in the sky. The gently snoring moon rises. The sky fades towards night.

“Puppy,” Kitten says. “We should go play!”

“By ourselves?” Puppy asks.

“It’s a special game! No Lambs invited!”

“Okay!”

Kitten and Puppy sneak off. They go to the edge of the field. They go past the fence. Puppy bounces from foot to foot. Kitten sniffs the ground. “It’s best to play this special game at dark!” she says.

A tall standing lamp turns on. Kitten jumps three feet into the air. “Oh no!” she shouts. “Lamp!”

Puppy runs around in circles. He can’t face the horror. It’s too much for his mind.

Kitten hisses. The lamp grows brighter. The circle of its light advances. It touches Kitten’s foot. She jumps back.

“I’ll kill it!” Puppy exclaims. “You run!”

“No,” Kitten says. “It’s a lamp! I can’t leave you!”

The lamp hums with sinister power.

“I must protect Kitten!” Puppy cries. He leaps. He gnaws at the lamp with his little puppy-teeth. He thrashes. The lamp wobbles. Puppy goes flying.

“Puppy!”

Kitten lunges towards him. But Puppy’s still in the circle of light. When Kitten sees that unnatural light on her foot, she stops. She hisses. She dances back. She can’t take it. “Puppy!”

“Chirp!”

There’s a single shot. It severs the lamp cord. The lamp light goes out. The lamp dissolves. Agent Chick strides onto the scene. Agent Chick’s covered in soft yellow feathers. She’s wearing sunglasses. She has a mechanical harness with two steel cybernetic hands. In one hand, she holds a gun.

“What,” she hisses, “are you two doing out here, beyond the fence?”

Puppy bounces to his feet. “We were going to play a special game!”

“Shh!” Kitten hisses.

Chick buries her head in her hand. “Kids,” she says. Then she looks up. “It’s for the best. We’re going to have to gather up everyone at the farm. There’s a major wave coming this way.”

“What’s happening?” Puppy wails.

“Walk and talk,” Agent Chick says. She waddles towards the farm. Puppy leaps about her. Kitten walks beside.

“Stop gamboling,” she tells Puppy. Puppy looks contrite.

“But what’s happening?”

“I’ve seen things that could make your blood run cold,” says Agent Chick. “Beds. Doors. Tables. Bitterness. Kisses. Bicycles. Shopping. I hear there was even a blanket in this area earlier today.”

“We killed it!” Kitten says bravely.

“Good,” peeps Agent Chick. “You’re blooded.”

They pass through the gates into the farm.

“Normally,” says Chick, “when something like that gets created, it gets sent to the human world. The ultimate abode of sin. Earth.

Agent Chick spits on the ground.

“But Earth is full. So now, when there’s a new ordinary thing, it doesn’t have anywhere to go. And it’s hungry. So it comes here.”

They reach the hill. Lamb gambols. Lamb looks at Agent Chick. Lamb stops. Lamb says, “It has come to this?”

Agent Chick nods. “Everyone, we need to move into the barn. This is the Long Night. Tonight, we shall be visited by every manner of horror.”

“Are you sure?” Lamb asks.

A desk chair looms out of the darkness. “Chair!” Puppy cries. Agent Chick fires. The bullets pour staccato from her gun, and she staggers backwards, but she does not stop. Sparks light against the chair’s arm and it begins to spin.

“Oh,” Kitten says. “Oh. Oh.”

She hides her face against the dirt. When she looks up, a single blade of grass stuck to her nose, the chair is gone, and Chick is slumping against the ground.

“Two bullets left,” chirps Chick. “We’ve got to hurry.”

“It’s too late,” Lamb says. All around them are ordinary things: CDs, pictures, a couch, a shopping cart, and three packages of ground beef. The world shakes. Puppy’s vision wobbles. Kitten’s fur stands on end.

“No,” Chick says. “Grab hold!”

Her mechanical hand sweeps Kitten, Puppy, and Lamb towards the shopping cart. They cling to it. Agent Chick jumps on, throwing her full weight against it. Nothing happens. The ordinary things advance. Chick tests the wind. She looks at a framed picture of Elvis as if staring into the face of death. Then she fires.

“Bang!” says the gun. The cart begins to roll. “Bang!” says the gun again. The picture flutters, torn and terrible. The cart rolls faster. It rolls down the hill. It rolls straight for the barn.

“Open the gates!” shrieks Chick. “OPEN THE GATES!”

The barn doors creak open. There’s a shifting seething in the horde of things. The cart races faster and faster. It races right into the barn!

Chick, Puppy, Kitten, and Lamb jump off. The cart smashes into the far wall and explodes in prismatic light. Chick seals the doors. Silence falls. The barn is red. The floor has hay. All is right with the world.

There’s a thump against the door. Then another. They come faster and faster.

“Hold fast,” whispers Kitten. “Hold fast.”

“Is there any other way out?” Chick asks.

“Only the basement,” Kitten says. “The barn has a spooky old basement.”

“. . . Why?”

“I’ve never asked.”

Lamb lights a candle. She balances it on her nose. “I’ll go check it out.” Before anyone can stop her, she opens the trapdoor and traipses down the stairs. There’s a long silence.

“We’d better go after her,” Puppy says. Kitten nods vigorously. She’s scared of the banging on the door.

“Right,” Chick peeps. “We’ll seal the trapdoor after us. Maybe they won’t notice it.”

They follow Lamb into the basement. Lamb gambols in the great dark basement with a candle on her nose.

“Lamb!” Chick says. “You’re okay!”

Puppy barks happily. Kitten romps. Even Chick relaxes. Then the candle goes out and a great darkness comes. Kitten shrieks. There’s a great deal of noise.

“It’s okay!” Puppy says. “I found a flashlight!”

“No!” shouts Chick. “Put it down! In the name of all that’s holy . . .”

Click.

Leave a Reply