It was a sunny, chilly morning. The kind Phil remembered from elementary school, where everything was right in the world, and everything was right in his life, and the world was full of endless opportunity and boundless enthusiasm. And then his whole world flipped around, and then everything he knew about life went out the window.
All it was, was a skeleton. But none ever found on this planet before. Thoroughly alien physiology. It could have been a deformed human, but it wasn’t. He opened up the field. There were dozens of them. They littered the landscape, left to rot like so much garbage.
“Good morning sunshine.”
Phil came to work five minutes early, as always, went out back, had a smoke, and was five minutes late to start his shift, as always. And, as always Libby greeted him as he made his way behind the counter.
“Good morning sunshine.”
His head was cloudier than usual. He felt like he’d been up all night.
He tied his apron around his waist and signed into the computer.
“Okay, Libby,” he said, groggily, “what do we got?”
“Couple orders, I got a breakfast wrap in the microwave, I need a quiche and a short stack of pancakes.”
Pancakes, his mind repeated. He felt like he’d been up all night.
He grabbed the breakfast wrap from the microwave and slapped it on the grill, then fed the hungry microwave with the quiche. He grabbed the pancake mix from the cooler and poured it onto the fryer.
He leaned back against the counter, folded his arms and closed his eyes.
“You’ve turned out differently than we’d hoped,” his memory spoke to him. His memory was a tall, well-built blond man.
The microwave startled him into alertness, sounding the alarm that the quiche was ready.
“What,” Libby said, shrilly, “you been up all night, drinking?”
There was a war going on. The tops and bottoms of both his eyelids constantly threatened to engage in silent combat. Just like the Americans and Russians he’d heard about and seen about in history.
He flipped the pancake and sent the quiche out. The breakfast wrap was starting to burn on the grill.
“Hello, sleepy head,” Libby said, laughing her matronly laugh, “get the lead out, huh? Keep an eye on those pancakes.”
He flipped the first one onto a plate and got pouring on the second one. He watched the mix ooze out and flatten into a disc.
“Oh my God,” he said, quietly.
“Oh your God, what?” Libby asked.
“Don’t you see?” he answered, suddenly vigorous, “don’t you get what’s going on here? Pancakes. Tall blond men.”
“Whew,” Libby said, quite seriously, “whatever you were smoking last night, keep it to days off only, hon. It’s kind of embarrassing when we’re trying to run a family establishment here.”
“No, no,” he exclaimed loud enough for everyone in the place could hear him. He grabbed Libby by the shoulders and said, “Pancakes, pancakes … flying saucers!”
He untied his apron and threw it aside, into the salad bar and ran around the counter, out the front door.
The second pancake was burning on the fryer.
He fell down to his knees in a great heap onto the field, limp as fresh laundry. His knees were wet from the grass. He dug his bare hands into the grass and started pulling, pulling, exposing topsoil. He dug, and dug, blackening fingers, smearing palms, making a big pile of dirt beside him. After a while, his forehead became smudged with gray earth from wiping off sweat. By mid-afternoon he’d dug down four feet or so and that’s when he found it. The first skull.
Phil looked up from his work and noticed he had drawn a small crowd, gathered around his hole ornamentally. When he uncovered the skull they mostly gasped, some of the older ones exchanged weary glances.
By then he was exhausted and he let the crowd know it by collapsing back into the hole, on top of the strange skull.
ONE MORE SMOKE FOR THE ROAD
9 years ago