This one’s based on a first sentence prompt. Read that first sentence and tell me it’s not ridiculous. Thus, I think it’s fair that a ridiculous prompt deserves a ridiculous story!
The friend I got the prompt from called the story campy, and I think that’s spot on. I was binging on some British TV at the time I wrote it (something about a certain Doctor, though I don’t recall Who) so that may have coloured the story a bit as well. Hope you enjoy it!
Update! This story has been published in the inaugural issue of JUMP (click here to see it). There’s a bunch of other great sci-fi shorts, so by all means check it out and give it a read.
Silver Rocket 5000
This was a situation, James realized sadly, in which his toothbrush would be of no use whatsoever. And it was such a smart thing too. A brand-new, still-in-the-package Silver Rocket 5000. Eight-thousand RPM, a sleek ergonomic handle, a built in timer and alarm, a base-station with integrated charger, and a pressure sensor of all things, to make sure he wasn’t brushing too hard. It was a toothbrush that cared. And on top of everything else, the batteries were included.
No wonder it had been sold out all over the city. He had gone from shop to shop, until finally finding one at Lacy’s Corner Stop, a convenience in the heart of down town. It was the last one too. He had just beaten an elderly woman to the box, nearly shoving her to the floor.
No, James wasn’t proud. Mathilda, his wife, had given him such a dark stare for it, but she had to understand. She just had to. James needed that toothbrush, end of story.
Well, he had reasoned, of course Matty understood. She had after all taken a personal day just to drive him down to Lacy’s. She knew how much his teeth had been bothering him all these years, and the toothbrush was all he needed to fix them. The electric bristles would brush his teeth correctly. The timer would force him to brush long enough. And the pressure sensor, well, it would ensure he didn’t scrape the rest of his enamel off.
The Silver Rocket was a silver bullet for all his dental problems. Dr. Gains had said so himself.
Of course, now that James stood outside Lacy’s and looked up at the sky, the newly bought toothbrush still in its box under his arm, he realized that maybe his dental problems weren’t the most pressing issues in his life.
He looked at the sky and he might have told Matty that it was a beautiful day–blue and mostly clear, with only a few fluffy white clouds far on the horizon–if it hadn’t also been filled with hundreds of metal saucers, each at least sixty feet across.
James stood gawking at the closest one, no more than a few hundred feet above the street. The whole thing was rotating, and it made a metal whining noise as it flew. He had no idea how it stayed aloft though, as there wasn’t a propeller on it and he didn’t see any engines. As the metal disc descended, it careened into a skyscraper and bounced off, sending bits of metal and glass falling from the building.
It was now no more than some fifty feet off the ground, and James saw there was an antenna sort of thing hanging from it. The antenna had a kind of prod surrounded by a radar dish–or at least, what he called a radar dish, but he wasn’t actually sure if radars had dishes or not.
In any case, the antenna spun around a few times. Then there was a loud, electric pew! noise, and a bolt of green light shot out of the antenna. It hit a city bus, which exploded.
James gasped. When he had exited Lacy’s, he had stared up at the sky. Only when the bus exploded did his attention turn to the streets. James looked around, and he saw people running in every direction, screaming. Cars crashed into each other, motorists ran for cover, police were shouting at everyone, trying to bring sanity to the chaos.
And the metal saucers, they were all descending. They filled the air with their green pew!s, and all around things were exploding. Cars, buildings, a mailbox. Even people. Well, the people didn’t explode, they rather just threw their arms into the air and screamed. For a moment they stood like that, all green and with their skeletons showing, and then they vanished into dust.
“James!” Mathilda cried, grabbing his arm. He looked at her wide-eyed, saw her face was red and terrified. “Run!”
He came to his senses and when she pulled him James began running with her. A split second later a green bolt tore through where he had been standing, and it struck the old woman he had sniped the toothbrush from. She threw her arms in the air and screamed, and showed everyone her skeleton. Then she was gone.
“What’s happening?” Mathilda cried as they ran. “Why is this happening?”
“I don’t know!” he called. “Just keep running!”
They fell to the ground when one of the saucers flew over them, low enough for James to feel a cool updraft of air. It passed them and struck a building, cutting through a storey like some giant saw blade. All the while its antenna spun around, pew!ing out more green light. A couple bolts flew into an adjoining building and a third struck a stray dog. It yelped, arched its back, and then turned to dust.
“Oh my god!” James muttered.
Matty grabbed his hand and squeezed it with all her might. “What are we going to do? Where are we going to go?”
James had an idea. He started looking around, back the way they had come. If they could just get to their car–
His jaw dropped when he spotted the smouldering remains of their Kia. They had just leased it three months ago.
“Well, there goes the insurance,” he grumbled.
“Right, right, sorry Matty,” he said. He continued looking around and spotted a safe building ahead of them. “There!” he said, pointing. “We’ll make for the fire station.”
Firemen dealt with emergencies all the time. No doubt they could help James and Mathilda now.
They picked themselves up off the street and started running towards the squat red building. Normally running through the down town streets would be incredibly dangerous, but most of the cars on the road now were either abandoned or craters.
They never got to the fire station though, as one of the saucers smashed into it. It came in fast and at an angle, and it looked like it was stuck, shimmying back and forth to loosen the bricks on it. All the while its antenna spun around furiously, firing its green bolts blindly in all directions.
Mathilda screamed and James pulled her behind the remains of a van.
“Oh James!” she cried. “What are we going to do now? Why is this happening?”
“Hush, love,” he said. “Don’t cry. I won’t let anything happen to you.”
He leaned out from behind the van and took another look at the street. There were a few people running off in the distance, screaming, and more and more of those saucers in the sky. What had started with hundreds was now easily thousands. Then he spotted the subway.
“There!” he said, pointing. “We’ll get under ground! They can’t possibly follow us there.”
Once more they ran, though this time James pulled Mathilda. They ducked into the subway stairs just as a bolt passed overhead–Matty shrieked–and then they made it below ground.
“Halt!” a man shouted. James and Mathilda froze. They saw a policeman standing at the head of a crowd of refugees, a pistol in his hands.
“Whoa!” James shouted, and he and Mathilda raised their hands.
“What’s that you got there?” the officer asked, pointing to the box in James’ hand.
“It’s a toothbrush,” he said. “I thought you didn’t carry guns.”
“Kind of special circumstances today, wouldn’t you say, mate?”
James thought it over a moment and nodded. The policeman lowered his gun.
“All right then,” he said, “sorry for the fright. Look, why don’t you and your lady get behind me there with the others.”
“What’s going on here?” Mathilda asked.
“Up there, I haven’t the foggiest. End of the world I’d wager. Down here, we’re waiting for special operations. The cavalry’s inbound with some real artillery. We’re just going to wait for them down here, nice and quiet, and then we’ll all get out together.”
James and Mathilda went to the group huddling behind the officer. There were no more than twenty of them in all, and it looked like they came from all walks of life.
“How long have you been down here?” James asked a woman in a flowery hat.
“Not long,” she said. “Just got here.”
“Please keep it down,” said the officer, looking over his shoulder. “I’ve got to keep an ear on my radio here in case our orders change.”
James gulped. Up top he could still hear the whining of the saucers and the frequent pew!s. Things were still blowing up too, and there were people screaming every now and then. Mathilda wrapped her fingers in his and he kissed her.
Then they heard a metal clanging.
Everyone–the gathered group and the officer–looked to the subway stairs. The clanging was getting closer. It was an irregular rhythm and it sounded heavy.
“Th-that’s gotta be them,” the officer whispered. “The cavalry. Combat armour, I wager.”
The clanging drew nearer and nearer, and soon they could see shadows at the top of the subway stairs. The shadows stopped for a moment and then began descending.
The first thing James saw was a long, metal spike. It was followed by another one, and then it came into view.
It had four metal spikes on the bottom, each connected to a set of thin, segmented metal beams. These all joined together on a flat circular base, some three feet across. On the base stood, well, James would call it a fish bowl. It was an oversized fish bowl, maybe five feet around in all.
And in the fish bowl, illuminated by eerie green light, there was–
“–A cod?” he whispered.
It was a man-sized cod, suspended in some other-worldly liquid. Except, where it should have had two eyes it only had one big red one, and it had a bushy mustache. There were also four tentacles growing out of its midsection which it used to manipulate all sorts of levers inside the bowl.
There were four other metal appendages whirring around the base. Two were clamps, one looked like a plunger, and the last looked like a tiny antenna with radar dish.
There were three its in all, and when they came down to the clearing at the base of the stairs the humans screamed.
“Ah!” the officer shouted. He levelled his gun at the horrible creatures and began firing. The air was filled with quick flashes of orange light and the blasts of his pistol. His bullets ricocheted off the bowls, and before too long he was just clicking his trigger, his ammunition expended.
The cod creatures looked at him. The one in lead raised his antenna appendage and pew!ed at the officer. A green bolt hit the man and he threw his arms into the air and screamed one last time. Then he vanished.
The three cods turned their attention to the gathered humans, and all raised their antennas.
“Wait!” he said, stepping forward. Mathilda gasped.
“Wait, please,” he repeated. “You don’t have to do this. Or if you do, kill me, but spare my wife. Please.”
The cods looked at each other and then turned their attention to James.
“My word,” said the lead one, harrumphing so hard that his mustache stirred in his bowl. “You speak Grotolaxican?”
“My god,” said James, “you speak English.”
The lead cod harrumphed again. “I do no such thing.”
“You’re doing it right now.”
“Not so. I am speaking Grotolaxican, just as you are.”
“I am not–I’ve never even heard of… what did you call it? Grottomexican?”
“Preposterous!” the cod said, and his two followers harrumphed along with it.
“Could there be intelligent life on this planet after all?” one of the cods asked the leader.
“Scanners were negative, but… well, I suppose anything is possible.”
“You think?” James said. “Of course there’s intelligent life on Earth! What–didn’t you see all the buildings? The cars?”
The leading cod scowled.
“All the electricity?” James asked.
“Well, that’s hardly a sign of intelligence.”
“What!? Of course it is!”
“Please,” said the cod. “My pet blorklor performs nuclear fission every time he defecates. It hardly makes him intelligent.”
James stood gaping at the cod. “That–what?–how–This is different!”
“Hmm,” the cod said, “I’m not convinced.”
“Well, I speak Protoflaxican, so there’s that.”
The cods remained silent a moment, observing the humans.
“He has a point,” said one of the followers.
“This might be above our pay grade, sir,” said the other.
The lead cod harrumphed. “Very well. We’ll refer this matter to the emperor. You will plead your case to him, and he will decide if you’re intelligent or not. Now, if you’ll all please follow us…”
And so James and Mathilda became the prisoners of the codmen, along with the other humans.