First Contact in Manhattan

Staring up at the smooth, featureless, curved gray surface, I couldn’t help but marvel at the plasticity of the human race. Show us the greatest miracle to ever come to Earth, and we treated it as a sideshow attraction, grew bored of it in a week.

Actually, that would make a good opening line for my next article. I pulled out my iPhone, turned on the dictation app, recited these words carefully into its speaker.

Sentence recorded, I put my phone away with a sigh, looking back up at the huge object in front of me. Off to the left, a couple dozen feet away, two guys in plush, fluorescent green alien costumes were posing with the eager beaver little families from Iowa that still flocked here.

“Damn thing’s a tourist attraction, now,” I sighed, settling back on the bench that I’d claimed as my territory. “Hey, honey, let’s grab the kids for Easter break and fly them out to New York, see that big ol’ alien spaceship that landed there! Won’t that be a treat for them?”

From military threat, the biggest story in the world, to tourist trap. All in just a week.

Unbelievable.

Of course, the whole thing really was unbelievable, right from the get-go. An alien spaceship, saucer-shaped, bigger than a city block, descending down in the middle of New York? Chaos, total chaos that first day. Everyone had their own opinion; I knew, I interviewed them.

“Whole thing’s a publicity stunt,” declared a young man in an expensive suit, waving a hand dismissively even as, behind him, a grizzled homeless man marched forward holding a flaming sign that declared JESUS HAS RETURNED FROM SPACE. “They’ll open it up, and it’s going to be full of Red Bull or something.”

Back on that first day, I’d been scarcely able to think, but my instincts kept me afloat. Talk to everyone. Get names, ages, quotes, write the story. And I had the first real piece out on the wire. My byline hit the headlines around the world. Felt really good, even if we were all about to be enslaved by aliens.

We all waited, breathlessly, for the thing to open. Billionaire and destitute alike, standing shoulder to shoulder as they both craned to see what beings came from beyond our world.

And nothing happened.

It was the worst thing that could have happened, even worse than the ship being full of Red Bull or Marlboros or those organic kale chips they keep trying to convince us are edible. The damn thing just sat there, not moving, not sending out any signals, not doing anything. The military built up some embankments with mortars pointing at it, egghead scientists talked about analyzing it through fancy five-syllable machines, but no one really did much. Hell, the entrepreneurs that offered family photos in front of the thing probably came out the best.

And my asshole of an editor stuck me here, insisting that, since it was my byline all over the world and tied to the ship, I needed to be on hand to report on any further developments.

There’s only so many ways you can say “the stupid ship continued to sit there and do nothing, like an idiot” before you give up on life.

So depressed was I by this summation of my story so far that I didn’t even bother to object when one of the crazies slumped down on the bench beside me. I just glanced over at him, then chose to keep my mouth shut.

I’d learned to recognize them, over the last week or so. Sometimes they dressed in crazy, tattered Army fatigues, sometimes they wore normal clothes. But they all had that insane glint in their eyes, didn’t blink quite as often as they should, stared at the ship in front of us with an incorrect emotion.

Longing, I thought, looking at the man beside me. About a week’s worth of stubble, patchy, camouflage pants and a black tee, loose hair, and that crazy, wild glint of longing in his eye as he stared up at the ship. Like he’d rather be in there than out here.

Much as I hated it, a job’s a job. I opened my mouth, turning to him and intending to get his name and his answers to the standard questions. Maybe I could use him in a human interest piece or something.

And then I felt it.

Vibrations, like an onrushing semi truck was nearby. Like someone was doing construction, maybe – a slightly irregular thumping, someone using a jackhammer as a pogo stick. I frowned, sitting up and looking around in confusion as the man next to me rose slowly to his feet.

It took a few minutes before I saw them. They came boiling out of the side streets, an unstoppable gray onslaught. I didn’t see any pedestrians go down beneath them – most New Yorkers are better at dodging than that – but they did flatten a couple of unfortunately parked cars, knocked down a hot dog stand.

Should have been a peanut stand, I thought with an undercurrent of insane, cackling mirth at the craziness of this.

“They’ve come,” called out the man beside me, grinning like a goddamn banshee as he rose to his feet. Despite the huge, gray creatures boiling out of the city around us, rushing towards the alien ship, he kept his eyes locked on the vast vessel in front of us. His hands slowly rose, up into the air. “They’ve answered the call, the only creatures that could do so!”

Someone else probably would have gone insane, watching a hundred – no, at least five hundred, maybe more – elephants come charging down city streets at them. Maybe I was insane already, just like this guy next to me, but didn’t yet realize it. But no matter how I felt, I still operated on instinct.

I’m a reporter. I get the story.

“Why the elephants?” I shouted to the crazy man beside me, raising my voice in an attempt to be heard over the thunder of their charge. “Why are they here?”

“Because they remember!” he shouted back, a wild rictus of a grin plastered across his face. “Because elephants never forget!”

They rushed in – and finally, the ship did something.

Hatches opened, all along its sides. The elephants boiled in, up the platforms, into the depths of the ship. A gray tide, swallowed by this alien beast.

Damn, I thought as I watched it. I should have brought a photographer with me today.

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