The sharp light of the neon tubes highlighted the disgusting looking meat dish on his plate with rigor. His stomach was growling from starvation yet refusing to accept whatever the hell that mushy looking slab of grey substance on his plate was. Fortunately, he still had the energy shake his wife made him before his shift started. Containing a whole avocado, some eggs, oats, nuts and milk; the greenish liquid would probably get him through the night, again. Glad as he was for this dim light of joy during this headache ridden day, he couldn’t help but wonder whether the ingredients, prepared individually, wouldn’t be a lot better. Hell, a crispy fried egg over-easy on top of a sliced avocado with some extra virgin olive oil garnished with freshly ground pepper and salt? Now that would have been something. Top it all off with an oatmeal porridge with dried apricots and hazelnuts, and you could open a restaurant. His wife however, preferred pushing everything through their high-powered food pulverizer, as he thought of it, in order to make the nutrients enter his system quicker. He wanted to eat, not just survive. But all of that didn’t really matter, since he’s had a thundering headache ravaging through his brain for days. Blaming it on the neon lights of the military base he found himself in didn’t work. No, there was something wrong with his sleep, which was particularly noticeable when he was sleepwalking, or should he call it sleep crawling? Apparently, in the middle of the night he would get out of bed, drop down on the floor and start crawling around as if he was under fire. His wife would then give him the order to go back to bed, since anything that wasn’t a direct order from a superior would be ignored. After the first time it had happened, his wife locked his gun into a safe in the wardrobe, which only she knew the combination of. While that made sense to her, he couldn’t help but wonder how he was supposed to protect his family, should a bad guy break into their house and time was of the essence. Dolphin dive over to the wardrobe and shout at his wife for the combination? He figured he could probably pull that off in less than a minute, but that could be too late.
“Hey McNeil!” yelled one of the top-secret weapon testing personnel from across the room. “You look like hammered shit. What happened?”
His headache told him to cower down in a dark corner and sleep, but he resisted. He did have a job to do, which was to stand guard in this high security military base, and that was what he was going to do. So he responded: “I am fine, I just can’t get enough sleep these days.”
“Just make sure not to fall asleep on the job, or otherwise…” a short break was followed by: “Nothing happens.” And the guy broke out in laughter.
‘Goddamn wise ass’, McNeil thought to himself. Admittedly, he was part of the security guard of a top secret underground military base that was hardly known, even to the government itself, and therefore extremely unlikely to be attacked by anyone, but If anything ever happened, he was the only one, besides the brigade of other security personnel of course, standing between friend and foe. That asshole should be grateful for the job he was doing. Judging by the weapons and security protocols in action, HeadQuarters clearly expected something big to come, in the event anything came at all. The huge rifle that had to hang from his body at all times was loaded with tungsten rounds that could pierce through armored vehicles. All of the security personnel had to do target practice 3 times a week just to get used to the absurd recoil that the weapon unleashed onto their shoulders. While he did enjoy being armed to his teeth, the amount of firepower provided made him nervous about what to expect. The only possible answer was another high-tech nation like China, but China invading US soil, just for some weapon prototypes, seemed rather unrealistic. Besides that, once the alarm was triggered, the next military base would send the cavalry, which made any attack on this base a suicide attempt. So, in a way that asshole may have been right, him falling asleep on the job would not be the worst thing that could happen in a day.
Dragging his body back to his post at the vehicle entrance, he noticed the thick metal walls at every security perimeter shielding them off, even against electromagnetic waves. Besides that, there were back up power generators for each hermetically sealed security level of the base and fluorescent patches glued to walls and ceiling. Should even the backup power fail, the fluorescent patches would provide just enough light to defend and navigate through the base. The other guards may not have noticed these details, but it was very clear to him that whoever built this place was fucking scared of something. On the way to his post, he took a big gulp of the greenish liquid his wife made him and thought: ‘Damn! This stuff is fucking tasty’. The front entrance had a door made of more than a meter of solid steel, ready to withstand a nuclear blast. Back at his station, close to the monstrous door, he pressed the communications button for the intercom and said: “McNeil. Back on station. Over.” which immediately prompted a reply: “Station command. Copy that. Over.”
His temples were throbbing from the pain inside his head, it felt like someone was working his brain with a mashed potato hand press. “A mashed potato hand press?” he remembered asking his wife in bewilderment, when she came home with the thing. It looked like an enormous garlic press, which under the aid of an elbow long lever arm pushed fist sized potatoes through pepper seed sized holes. His brain sure as hell felt like it was about halfway through one of those holes.
Looking at the other guard on the elevated security position he noticed a strange heat on his face. Was he going completely crazy now? No, the heat came off of the metal entrance door, when all of a sudden, a rectangular area, about 2 meters wide and 3 meters high, started to shine reddish and then turned into a bright whitish color. Immediately clicking the intercom button again, he yelled:” Enemy incoming, code red.”, but nobody responded. Looking at the other soldiers he could see that all of them tried desperately to communicate in some form, but there was no connection. He readied his rifle at the bright white spot on the wall, but it was too bright to look at. Then the light disappeared and so did the metal in that exact rectangular shape. Also the station lights were out and there was no sign of the backup power saving the day. Only the fluorescent patches on the walls and ceiling gave off a dim gleam that was just enough to see the silhouettes of the other soldiers and the massive hole in the previously impenetrable door. The room was filled with silence before the chirping of grasshoppers started to flood the room with white noise. He tried to see something through the opening, but since it was already night there was only darkness on the other side of that hole. Then, a small object flew through the hole and bounced off the ground a couple of times. McNeil yelled: “GRENADE!” and threw himself on the ground with his eyes closed, hands pressed against his ears, and his mouth wide open; so that the shock wave would not damage his ear drums or lung tissue. A surge of heat and pressure washed over him and made him feel like his wife was now using their food pulverizer on his brain. But when the sensation faded, he realized he was still alive and immediately got back on his feet to hold his position. Back on his feet it struck him, everybody else in the room was dead, not a single one was still moving. He knew what to do, retreat and make sure the cavalry would come. A quick peek at the door reassured him that there was no one in the room yet, so he got up and ran towards the next security station. The spacious entrance path, where his post was located, ended in a narrow tunnel with a thick security checkpoint. Moving from cover to cover slowly working his way to the end of the tunnel he kept peeking back to see if someone was coming in, so far he got lucky. At the station he went through the multistage biometric scanning protocol that would let him enter the double door system leading up to the main base. He knew that there would be about 30 armed soldiers pointing their guns at him, when that other door opened, what he didn’t know was what their orders where in an emergency like this. It could easily be: ‘Shoot at anything that moves’, which was one of the army’s favorites. When he heard the airtight lock of the first door close, his heart missed a beat and his arms got heavy like wine barrels. The short pause inside the lock increased his blood pressure to a point where he could feel the red goo making its way towards his brain through the arteries in his neck. It felt like pushing meatballs through the hollow ends of cannelloni with superheated pressurized tomato sauce. When the second door finally opened, the meatballs exploded into a blood rush shooting into the nerve endings in his eyes providing him with a clear picture of what was waiting for him. 30 bad barrel endings were staring him down in the narrow doorway. ‘Breath!’ he thought to himself.
“Identify yourself!” Yelled the station commander.
“Sargent McNeil. Security station 343.” He responded.
“What the hell happened McNeil?”
“We have Intruders. The first security corridor was breached. All other security personal is KIA.”
“Killed in action?” Whispered one of the other guards, who clearly could not believe that such a thing was possible.
The station commander swiftly took hold of the situation and said: “If anything else at all tries to come through that gate, shoot it. McNeil, all our wireless comms are down, so make your way to the land line and call in the cavalry. Let’s see what those motherfuckers have to say to a battalion of attack helicopters.”
“Roger that Sir!” responded McNeil, who made his way further down into the base.
But there it was again, that strange feeling of heat on his skin, this time on the back of his head where his hair was shaved down to the military standard 2 mm cut. He knew what was coming next, so he immediately yelled: “GRENADE, GET DOWN!”. Before also this security lock light up in bright white, everybody on the station already took cover and got into their bracing positions. Clang, clang, clang was the sound of the grenade bouncing of the ground before it exploded. Again, an intense heat and pressure wave washed over him and whatever part of his brain was still pain free now got mashed packed battered and deep-fried in his skull. The pain was so intense that he lost his consciousness for a second, only to wake back up to a quiet room filled with dead bodies. Now panting, he tried to calm himself, in order to make sure that the enemy wouldn’t be able to hear his breathing. He needed to know who the enemy was, so he readied his rifle towards the hole in the wall where the security lock used to be. Nothing happened. Then, a huge silhouette became visible through the hole. The intruder must have been about two and a half meters high. Impossible. Then, he heard metal footsteps, so he figured it might be one of those power armors that the military was allegedly developing somewhere. Wait, maybe it was this exact base where they developed these things and this intruder is trying to steal their technology. Then, the titan stepped through the hole and the fluorescent patches gave the thing an outworldish hue. Whoever built that thing definitely did not need to steal technology, no, this was something else. Suddenly he remembered the enormous rifle he held in his hands.
“Now how do you like this you son of a bitch?” He whispered when he pulled the trigger.
BANG! BANG! BANG! Rang through the room when he fired a triplet of armor piercing tungsten rounds at the center of mass of the thing. All three bullets hit and yanked the intruder right back through the hole it came. Recovering from the massive shocks the rifle delivered to his shoulder he got back to his senses and looked at hole and said: “You better fucking stay down.”
Breathing heavily, he tried to listen to the sounds from beyond the hole. Nothing. But then, metal noises became audible in the silence. ‘God damn tin can piece of shit’ he thought to himself. What kind of armor could withstand something like that? At this scale this was really remarkable. He needed to retreat, there was no way he could fight back alone against something like that. Making his way deeper into the base, he again noticed the strange corridor design, all the paths were cornered multiple times, almost like a labyrinth, and the doors were small, not too small for him, but definitely too small for that thing. Wait, were they expecting exactly that?
Finally arriving at the next land line station, he picked up the phone and said: ”Area 52, do you read me? This is Area 51, we have hostiles on base and need back up ASAP!”
“This is Area 52. We hear you loud and clear. The cavalry is on the way.”
Ok. That was good news. At least whatever came in would not get out anymore. Everything he could do now, was cause as much damage as possible. That gave him an idea: This is a secret weapons facility, maybe that intruder is worried about the gear being developed here, meaning it can be used against them. Making his way deeper into the base, he snuck past the cafeteria, where he sensed the stench of microwaved vacuum sealed astronaut food that even the astronauts made fun of. But now was not the time to ponder on food, he needed to get down to the deeper levels where he might be able to find something that would stop the enemy.
The base was a complete ghost town, everybody in there was already dead. Whatever they were doing, they just collapsed over it and lay there motionless. It made him want to vomit, but now was not the time for grief either. Arriving at the final security station he rang the bell, since he didn’t have clearance to enter by himself. A monitor flickered on and a bald nervous looking man with low temperament asked: “What do you want?”
“This is McNeil, we are under attack and whatever you are producing in there may be the last chance we have against these bastards.” He responded.
The face of the guy on the monitor fell to the ground. “Wwwwwhat? OK, let me open the gate for you.” Said the scientist.
The guy was nervous. What did he know about the intruder? Considering that he wasn’t even aware that there was one until now.
Entering the laboratory, he noticed the size of the room, a spacious oval room with workstations at the walls and some sort of container in the middle.
“Ok Doctor…” not knowing the little man’s name McNeil looked over at the name tag and continued: “Doctor Fermi, we need to point everything you have at that door and fire it all at once when somebody tries to take a look. The guy who is coming for us? he is very robust!” Commanded McNeil.
“But, we don’t have weapons in here.” Responded the scientist with a quivering voice.
No weapons, in a secret weapons facility? What the hell was the guy talking about?
“And that container? What the hell do you keep in there?” he demanded.
The eyes of the scientist light up and for a second and he completely forgot about the intruder threatening their lives. He even sharpened the corners of his mouth into a villainous grin and said: “Oh that is our specimen.” Walking slowly towards the container he continued: “Do you remember those crazy people who claimed to have been abducted by aliens? Well as it turns out, one of them actually has been and aliens are real.”
McNeil’s mouth dropped open hissing a silent: “What the hell?” as he followed the strange looking man to the container.
“Yeah, I thought the same. Most of these alien sightings were complete nonsense. Just people having sleep paralysis accompanied by hypnopompic hallucinations.” Said the scientist dryly.
McNeil responded: “A what accompanied with what now?”
As if the question was already implied by McNeil’s uniform, the scientist continued his explanation: “When you sleep and enter the R.E.M phase, where most vivid dreams occur, your brain turns a switch off, which prohibits your body from acting out any of the signals that your brain is producing. However, when you wake up there is a small chance that your brain wakes up before the switch is turned back on, leaving you completely paralyzed in your bed not being able to move at all. And even worse, sometimes the R.E.M phase is not completely over yet, and your dreams can ‘spill over’ into reality. This can manifest as an intruder in your room that approaches you and does things to you while you are completely unable to move.”
“Sounds horrifying!” McNeil commented.
“It sure must be. Anyways, as you may have heard, some people claim to have been abducted by aliens. Most of these claims turned out to be nothing but intense episodes of sleep paralysis with hypnopompic hallucinations. However, one claim actually didn’t, which lead us to this beautiful specimen here.” Said the scientist and pushed a red button on the console in front of the container. Metal shutters slid down revealing a glass cylinder filled with a light blue liquid. But there was something else inside. A dark shadow approached the glass and McNeil gasped: “Is that an octopus from outer space?”
“It’s not an octopus and we actually have no idea where it comes from, but outer space is as good a guess as any.” Responded the scientist calmly.
Leaning in closer to observe the creature inside the tank in more detail he thought to himself: ‘That sure as hell is not an octopus, but with some lemon and olive oil fresh of the BBQ it might be just as delicious.’
Getting lost in the blue liquid he suddenly felt a comforting warmth on the back of his head. “Oh Shit!” he thought and turned around. The door was lighting up bright like the sun and then suddenly disappeared just like the security doors before it. A brief moment of silence and then, the grenade. But McNeil already knew what was going to come so he yanked the scientist off his feet threw him on the ground and himself on top, in order to protect the miserable little man. Pressure and heat washed over him reminding him how fucking bad his headache was and then stopped. He opened his eyes to check on the little figure he positioned himself over, but the scientist just laid there like a corpse. Getting back up on his feet he pointed his rifle at the hole in the wall, then peeked sideways and turned the rifle against the container in the middle of the room.
“Come out with your tentacles up your ass you son of a bitch, or your friend here learns how to breathe air.” Yelled McNeil through the hole.
A robotic voice responded: “Do not shoot. I mean no harm.”
“You mean no harm? You killed an entire military base GOD DAMN IT!” McNeil raged, while tightening his grip on the gun and lowering his index finger on the trigger. The glass of that container was thick without a doubt, but the hefty weight of his rifle and the immense inertia that those tungsten rounds would create when fired reassured him that he had all the cards in his hands, finally. He continued saying: “Show yourself and move slowly.”
Soft metal clangs sounded from the hole, when slowly but steadily a figure appeared. Shuffling through the hole was a roundish smooth looking object with four extremities protruding from it. It seemed bizarrely symmetric in all directions, like it had no front up down or sideways. After entering the room the thing erected itself to its full height with two of its arms, or were they legs or tentacles even?, raised over the round main part of the thing. The gesture seemed to emulate someone caught by the police who was demonstrating surrender by raising their arms. The round center part seemed to be made out of a grey metal that had a matt but polished texture at the same time. Almost like butter left out in the sun for two long it also made a slightly liquid appearance. ‘No bullet holes, not even a scratch’ McNeil thought. That was absolutely impossible, there was no metal that could withstand three blows from his weapon without even showing a single dent. The extremities on the other hand were some sort of chain like system that could probably move in any direction.
McNeil went on: “What do you want?”
The robotic voice responded: “My friend, I am here to rescue him.” And one of its raised arms slightly started to point towards the container.
“Freeze motherfucker!” barked McNeil when he saw the micro-movement in the creature’s arm, again tightening the grip of his hand and pulling in the trigger ever so slightly. He could feel how the trigger would soon give way to his grip and release its devastating energy on the glass in front of him. Silence. It would probably be enough to hold the standoff just a little bit longer until the cavalry from Area 52 would roll in. Feeling more and more in control over the situation he started to brag: “In about two minutes the army arrives, and you two beach boys are not going anywhere.”
The voice sounded again saying: “Listen, the other humans, they are not dead, they are only paralyzed. I have triggered their brains to block all movements for a while. You are not receptive to this. You need repairs.”
“I don’t believe a single word you say!” responded McNeil knowing from his own experience in the special operations unit that any lie goes when you’re in a corner.
At this point, the golf ball sized tumor in his head felt addressed by the aliens comment and started to throb against the very part of his brain that would normally induce the paralysis on him. Being responsible for McNeil’s sleepwalking and thundering headache the tumor felt pretty good about itself. The following blood rush to the cancerous tissue produced an intense surge of pain in McNeil’s head leaving him unable to act for a fraction of a second and deforming his face into a grimace of agony. The alien thing, without hesitation, rushed towards the container, slammed the red button to close the metal shields and hid behind it, away from the huge soldier with his deadly looking contraption in hands. McNeil coming back to his senses tried to assess the situation and found himself in a rather uncomfortable spot. The room looked empty, even though there was one alien in a tank and one alien in some sort of three-meter-tall battle armor in here with him. Trying to find a target he scanned the room. The dim lights from the fluorescent strips only made the room look even more sinister. ‘Keep it together McNeil’ he thought to himself. Then he had an idea. By placing himself in the hole, where the door used to be, he could at least block the exit, while at the same time aim at the container, should that thing decide to open it again. Slowly moving through the room, he always kept the container in his peripheral vision while also scanning the environment, in order not to get surprised by some alien bullshit. Feeling goosebumps creeping up his spine he tried to calm himself by mumbling under his breath “Two more meters and then all you have to do is wait for the cavalry”. But in the same moment he felt a sudden cool at the back of his head urging him to yank his head sideways to see what it was. Nothing. But the container was left unattended for a fraction of a second, which was all the alien thing needed. Like a spider it crawled with the insane speed of a galloping leopard towards the big man closing the distance between them. But McNeil was a good shot, a very very good shot indeed, and it took him only a couple of hundred milliseconds to take aim at one of the tentacles and pull the trigger. The thunder of the weapon roared through the room like a volcanic eruption and left his ears ringing so loud that he couldn’t hear his own thoughts anymore, while the flash from the weapons barrel left him completely blind for a fraction of a second. But judging by the fact that he wasn’t dead yet, his shot must have found its target. In fact, when his eyes got habituated to the dim lights in the room, he saw one of the thing’s extremities lying motionless on the floor. ‘Good, you sons of bitches are not invulnerable’ he thought with a smile on his face, while slowly continuing his path towards the hole in the wall. More confident he now yelled into the emptiness: “Come out and play octopussy.” Proud of his multilayered sexist James Bond joke he didn’t notice the cold metal object approaching him from behind. One of the remaining tentacles wrapped itself around the big man clamping his arms to his sides in a strangle hold that was absolutely impossible to escape. Also his legs were now being captured by another one of the aliens protrusions and he was gently lowered to the ground in an eerie uncomfortable love embrace. The strange limbs were tightening around him like a boa constrictor as it strangled its prey. His breath got shorter and he was fighting for air when he gasped: “Let me go!” With terror in his eyes he stared at the ceiling when the limbs stopped tightening. Then, the robotic voice appeared from behind him saying: “You need to be pacified. I apologize.” And suddenly one of his shins snapped in half like a raw spaghetti. A loud knack sounded through the room taking his attention away from his headache and diverting it towards his newfound leg-pain. “AHHH!” he yelled into the dark room. Then, his right wrist got crushed rendering him unable to pull a trigger for at least a couple of months. “Hnnngh” was everything he was still able to produce through his clenched teeth. Like a light bulb switching on, another idea came to him. With his left hand, still unwounded but held firmly to his side by the metal tentacle, he reached into his thigh pocket. Would that pocket have been located only an inch lower, he wouldn’t have been able to reach it. But there he was, fumbling in his pocket just barely breathing, when he finally reached it. A thermite charge that would explode in a fire ball of about 2500 degrees Celsius. ‘If this fucker tries to kill me, I will take him down with me’ he thought when he pulled the pin. A soft almost inaudible click sounded from the grenade, but to him it sounded more like the thunder of lightning bolts sealing his destiny. “Pity.” Said the robotic voice calmly when it noticed the click sound and yanked McNeil into the air and threw the 140-kilogram soldier through the hole in the wall. The immense inertia of his body deformed the large man unnaturally when he was launched away from the alien, and then deformed him far more unnaturally when his body slammed against a wall on the far end of the hole. Completely crippled he lay there counting down the last three seconds of his life, while the aliens started to escape. The last thoughts he could muster were: ‘If only I had fallen asleep on the job today’, before the fire ball consumed his body.