Scott’s Place



            Josh and Cindy were at Scott’s place.  At the ages of nineteen and twenty, and living with their parents, they enjoyed having someplace to be when away from home.  As usual, the two of them were waiting for him when Scott got home from work and he let them in.  Scott was a thirty-two year old single man who somehow managed to pay his bills without growing up and he did not mind the company.  Scott had turned on the TV set, found the news and then sat down at his computer, while Josh and Cindy rested on his couch, enjoying being close to each other.  Scott listened to the TV while he played a video game, skillfully working the keyboard.

            The television babbled.  “That’s, like, so messed up,” Cindy observed, sagely.

            “They broke up,” Josh observed.  “She could just leave the dude alone.”

            “What I don’t get,” Scott began.  He paused, playing.  Sporadic small arms fire erupted from inside his computer.  “Is why everyone needs to know about everyone else’s business,” he continued.  He paused again as something exploded.  “They spent five minutes on a war and fifteen minutes on a celebrity breakup.  I guess people don’t get to screw in private anymore.”  His comment was punctuated by more small arms fire.

            “People are, like, interested,” Cindy countered.

            “You can’t be famous and private at the same time, dude,” Josh insisted. “What’s on?”  The news was ending.

            “Umm,” Scott answered, saving his game and logging onto the Internet.  He waited for the TV listings to load. 

            “Like, what is that?” Cindy asked, frantic.  The thing she pointed at had crawled out of the kitchen and casually made its way across the carpet, toward the bathroom at the far end of the small apartment.  The two guys looked up, startled by her tone.  They saw what appeared to be a ten-legged spider, about as big across as a large pizza. Its abdomen was dressed in red cloth, which hung underneath its body, and the two arms situated near its mouth held a metallic box.

            “Spider,” Scott commented, casually, looking back at his computer.

            Josh shot a shocked look at Scott.  “Too big, dude!”

            “It’s, like, in the bathroom,” Cindy commented.

            “Have I got toilet paper in there?” Scott wondered out loud as he perused the evening’s viewing selection.

            “Ah, you don’t think it really will use the toilet, do you, dude?”  Josh was being condescending.  The bathroom door hung half-open, showing ominous darkness and porcelain shadows.  Something inside was clicking.

            “Like, go look in there,” Cindy commanded.

            “Not me,” Josh answered.  “Dude?”

            Josh tried again.  “Dude, it’s your bathroom.”

            “Yeah,” Scott answered.  “In a minute.” 

            They waited.  Scott found something he wanted to watch and changed the channel with his remote control. He worked the computer and the gunfire started again.

            Cindy rose from the couch in a huff.  “I’ll, Like, see if I can see it,” she declared as marched resolutely to Scott’s bathroom.  She clicked on the light, looked around and closed the door.  Suddenly, an odd sound could be heard from in there.  It changed key like an electric guitar, but it was a smaller sound and more mechanical.

            The sound ceased as Cindy answered her cell phone.  Scott and Josh could hear her chatting and laughing, her voice bouncing off the bathroom tiles.  She left the bathroom, smiling. 

            “Find anything?” Josh asked.


            The sound of gunfire from the computer filled the expectant pause while Josh and Cindy looked at each other.

            “Did you find a big, honkin’ spider in Scott’s bathroom?” Josh asked with a reproachful smile.  Cindy did not answer, but gave him an embarrassed look and returned to the bathroom. She left the door open while she opened and closed cabinet doors and moved things.  Josh walked over and stood just outside the bathroom door, watching her.  The thing peered over the edge of Scott’s computer table, so that his reflection was clearly visible in its smooth, black eyes.  Scott continued to play, then paused suddenly and took a swat at it, making a loud clap as his hand struck the table.  The thing raced away with surprising speed, shooting straight toward Cindy as she emerged from the bathroom, concerned.  She shrieked and blundered into Josh, who reached out and caught her.  The thing ran past them and up the wall before turning and racing in the general direction of the closet. 

            “Where did it go?”  Josh’s tone was insistent as he looked to Scott for an answer.  Scott did not look up from his game.  People argued on the television.  Josh had his arm around Cindy, who was shaking and looking as if she had just been violated.  She started to play with her long, unwashed brown hair, nervously.  Eventually, Scott pointed to the closet and went back to playing his game. 

            Josh let go of Cindy and crept up on the closet.  The door was firmly shut.  Cindy slipped up behind him and then jumped back as he flung open the closet door, inspecting the contents from outside.  He started pulling things out.  He removed a vacuum cleaner, a mop, a broom which Cindy snatched up and brandished at the ready, a ball of grocery bags, a fishing net and a couple of cardboard boxes from the overhead shelf.  He poked around in the nearly empty closet and pulled out another box. He felt something move inside it and dropped it.  The box made a heavy thump on the floor and spilled open, releasing something unseen, hidden among the balls of brown packing paper that bloomed slowly open on the floor.  Cindy attacked, bringing the broom down repeatedly and making a rhythmic thumping as the broom struck the carpet.  Something made a glassy cracking noise.

            “Thanks, Cindy,” Scott commented with calm sarcasm.  “I always wanted that smashed.”  Josh squatted over the box, picking through the ruins.

            “Sorry, I like um,” Cindy explained.  “I’ll pay for it.”

            “Order us something,” Scott shrugged.

            Cindy opened her cell phone and wandered into the kitchen, away from the noise of the television.  Scott’s kitchen was separated from the main room by a low wall that concealed his counters, almost making it another room.  His cabinets occupied the wall opposite, creating a nook for the refrigerator.  A microwave oven sat on the corner, displaying the time in glowing blue.  Cindy composed herself, trying to remember the number for the Chinese restaurant a few blocks away.  She leaned against a cabinet, looking over the counter and into the apartment.  She could see the screen of Scott’s computer as he controlled a soldier running through the ruins of a World War II European city.  Josh was putting the closet back together.  A lawyer addressed a jury on television.  She saw something move out of the corner of her eye, as it scuttled up the wall at the far end of the kitchen.  She dropped the phone with a clatter and darted back into the apartment. As she tripped over reinforced table that held Scott’s large TV set at eye level, Josh hurried forward to catch her.

            “I usually play music when we trash the place,” Scott grumbled. 

            “Like, in the kitchen,” Cindy told Josh, breathless.  Josh drew the broom from the closet and rushed into the kitchen, charging into battle.  He stopped, turned on the light and paced watchfully, prowling in the small space.  Nothing.

            He saw Cindy waving him over and rushed back to her.  She grabbed his arm and silently pointed to the leg that stuck out from under the couch.  Suddenly, the leg was yanked back.  Josh reached over the couch and grabbed the back from above, near the center.  He hauled on it, overturning it and jumping back.  The thing hesitated a moment and then scuttled behind a lamp stand, hiding itself in the corner.  Josh stepped over the couch, ready to thrust with the broom’s handle. 

            “Like, careful!” Cindy squealed, cringing.

            The thing uncurled itself and looked straight at him, shifting its legs nervously. Its arms still clutched the small metallic box.  It moved the box upward, as if offering it.  Josh brought down the broom handle with all of his might, in an attempt to spear the thing.  He drove the broom into the wall, breaking it with a crack.  The thing blurred and vanished before his eyes.  Josh stood facing the corner, breathless and frightened.  Gunfire erupted from Scott’s computer, behind him.

            Josh studied the corner, holding the broken broom.  He turned to Scott.  “Did you see that?”

            Scott paused his game.  “What?”

            “Are we, like, tripping or something?” Cindy asked.

            “Dude, you saw it, right?”  Josh was defensive.  “We all saw it!”

            Scott got up, inspected the corner behind the lamp stand and then turned to Josh. “What did you do to my wall?” he whined.

            In the apartment across the hall, a Venusian was laying on the bed.  It looked like a slim, pale man with long, black hair and was dressed in the black, baggy clothing favored by telepathic aliens when they visited Earth, because it made projecting the illusions one wore on ones person easier.  It opened its golden eyes and sat up, glancing around the vacant and sparsely furnished apartment it had commandeered.  It felt disappointed.  Contacting the three human minds across the hall would have been easy enough, if they had not been so different.  Without telepathy, they thought and communicated in ways that were hard to understand.  The Venusian was also unaccustomed to the deceit that his assignment called for.  Telepaths could make up stories, but they could not pass something false off as true to another telepath without the other knowing it.  What it had done had taken a lot of concentration.  It struggled to orient itself.

            It had followed the agreed-upon rules for contacting humans.  It knew the reasons for the rules.  Hasty contact or public exposure could cause problems.  First, one must observe without contact.  It had observed the three people for days, eavesdropping on their minds as they interacted.  They had seemed to have rational values and had expressed disapproval of many of the more primitive aspects of Earth society.  Also, they had seemed to be genuinely in opposition to prejudice and violence. Second, one must administer a test, to see how the specimens would react to the unfamiliar.  The Venusian had used the image of another alien species, a small and harmless creature whose kind shared many worlds with members of its own race.  The reaction it had gotten was disappointing.  It had heard of humans reacting this way to vermin, thinking with their glands and defending their territory, but it had not expected those specimens to attack the unknown.  Third would have been that one should introduce oneself, but not in a public setting.  One should offer an exchange of knowledge and ideas and invite the contactees to join the underground of like-minded people that the Venusians were attempting to build.  Instead, it would simply leave.  It would use the device it had brought along to open an extra-dimensional doorway, step outside, direct itself to the beacon that marked its destination and step back inside, onto the receiving pad on Venus.  It would return to its home, a cluster of underground structures that contained an artificial environment that its species had hidden on the second planet from the sun long ago, when they had decided to create a permanent colony near Earth.



back to main page