Genre: Science Fiction
Type of Short Story: Short Stories
Summary: A man comes home to discover a Bigfoot-like creature watching his tv, a giant robot pays a visit to a couple, a new kid has some unusual toys to share, an inventor creates a gorgeous robot in order to meet women, a girl becomes so ill she has her head replaced with a goat head, someone wakes to discover little eyes growing all over his body, small, hairy creatures come looking to retrieve an object they had misplaced, and a boy finds an unusual pair of sunglasses in the weeds. These are the whimsical, surreal adventures of Tony Rauch.
One Complete Story from this Collection:
red ball jet (drop me off on planet earth)
Aliens appear in my bedroom. They wake me by shining some kind of weird blue light in my eyes. Jerks.
I shake my head and sit up. At first I think, oh great, aliens - that’s the last thing I need right now. Yeah, aliens, that figures. Yeah, that’s about right. But then my curiosity gets the better of me, and I wonder what kind of battery their strange blue light thingy takes. Probably a couple of double A’s.
It’s incredibly late at night. Two of them are looming at the foot of my bed. One of them reaches to me as my eyes adjust to the gray, foggy night. I’m a little scared at first. A little intimidated. I study their outlines - kind of a ghostly gray. They possess a rather ghoulish pallor. I sort of feel sorry for them - being all washed out and gray like that and all. They really should get out more - get some sun.
One of them raises his hand and begins to speak to me telepathically, putting pictures in my mind. He asks me what I want. I tell him I’m tired, that I just want to be left alone. I tell them to buzz-off, that I want to get some sleep. He says, no, we mean if you could have anything you want, you know, like a wish - if you could have anything right now, at this exact moment, what would you want? What would you like to do? Where would you like to go? What would you like to see?
I must admit I’m rather taken aback by this unusual proposal. I think for a moment. What do I most want or need at this time? Right now? . . . Actually, I was rather frustrated. It had been a really boring weekend. There was absolutely nothing going on. Nothing at all. Now I don’t mind layin’ low every now and then, just chillin’ out and all, but this was the beginning of summer, I should be out there after all, out there wandering around, meeting people, hanging out, immersing myself in the soft, dark, velvety night. I tried to call a bunch of people, but no one was around. . . . Just then, in reading my thoughts, the alien asks me if I want to go out. This is a strange thing, to have some big gray dude talkin’ to me in my head. His voice is all long and fuzzy, like out of a metal tube or a long concrete tunnel.
I think for a moment and shrug. Sure, I say, I guess I’d like ta go out. Maybe to a nice party that has lots of nice girls and some great tunes. Maybe to a cool club - some little dive. Heck, I wanted to go out all weekend and here it is Sunday night - and it’s too late to do anything, surely everything is closed up by now. What a waste. Then the gray chap asks me how this makes me feel. I say I feel kind of bad about it - it being summer and all. I mean, I don’t want to waste my summer or anything. I mean, I should be out there - out there doin’ stuff, rockin’ out or something, I shrug, and here I am, stuck here like always. I explain to him that it feels like I’m missin’ out on stuff, that I’m wasting the summer, wastin’ my life. Wasting it. Missing out on things. Squandering chances. Chances slipping right past me. Squandering my life away. What a rip-off. What a shame. Like here I had this great weekend, and what do I do with it? Huh? Nothing. Shoot some hoops and read some science fiction and watch some baseball and stuff. Read some baseball stuff and some Vonnegut and all. Yeah, sure, I cranked some tunes and all, but still, I just wasn’t up for just hangin’ low. I mean, it wasn’t necessarily my fault. I mean, I tried and everything but nothingwas goin’ down. No one was around at all. But still.
I think the guy can tell I’m being sincere, that I’m bummed out, regretful, ashamed - feeling pretty bad about things, because he turns slowly and looks over to the other guy. Then he slowly turns back to me. O.k., he says in my head, we’ll take you out. We want to learn more about your feelings, your inner-workings. I tell him that would be fine, but nothing’s open, nothing’s going on, it‘s too late. It’s just too late. He looks back over to the other gray guy again and then back to me and tells me it’s never too late, that there‘s always plenty of time. Then he asks me where I’d like to go if I could go anywhere, if I could actually be anywhere right now.
I smile a kind of crooked, disbelieving grin out of the side of my mouth, as if to say “get out of town.” But the dude assures me we can go absolutely anywhere, that we can do absolutelyanything. And I am instantly filled with a strange sort of faith, a warmth of trust rushes over me. For some reason I believe them. I mean, they’re aliens after all, surely they could just whisk me off to anywhere. I mean, it just figures.
So I think about it for a second. If I could be anywhere, where would I want to be? If I could experience absolutely anything, what would I like to do? What would I like to re-do?
I remember always being disappointed that I missed the UFO concert back in ‘82. I think I was sick or something, I can’t remember. That woulda been a great show - Saxon, UFO, and Rainbow - what a line-up, I shake my head. Then there was another really great show, The Only Ones and The Flamin’ Groovies back in ‘78. That wasn’t hard rock, though, that was more new wave, modish, power-pop stuff. Yeah, that woulda been something, to see those guys in a small club. A small new wave club. I shake my head. Man, that woulda been something.
I’m looking down, shaking my head and thinking about all the great shows I’ve missed, all the concerts I coulda seen, all the great times I coulda had, when suddenly I’m standing in a well lit bar. Suddenly we’re back in 1978. They’ve whisked me back in time. Just like that. I’m dressed in some weirdo 1978 clothes. They tell me this is to blend in, so no one catches on. The two aliens are here too. Huh, imagine that. And sure enough, they’re disguised as regular folk now too. So I look around, and here we’re standing by the bar. We get to drinking and talking and I ask them their names and where they’re from, how they like it here and all that. And they tell me their names, but the bar is noisy and their voices in my head are kind of foggy and distant, so it ends up sounding something like “Red Bull Jeff” or “Rag Bulges” or something like that. Maybe it was “Redball Jet,” or maybe that’s where they’re from. Aw, in the excitement and noise of the bar, well, you know how it is. So I just start calling the taller one (the leader guy) “Gray Guy” and the other one “Junior.” They just refer to me as “The Subject,” which seems fair enough I guess, I mean since we’re giving each other nicknames, it only makes sense they’d wanna pick one out for me and all.
Anyway, the bands crank up and it’s totally awesome. Unbelievable! I feel like the luckiest guy in the entire world, like I’ve died and gone to heaven, man. We party. We rock. We hit the sunken dance floor and start rocking out like demons. The big guy just kind of stands there and shimmies - I think he’s just playing it cool and all, checkin’ out the scene. But Junior’s really giving it his all - swaying and dipping and swinging around and hopping up and down like some goof who hasn’t been out in way way way too long. And I tell ya, man, he really looks like he needs it too. I knew a night on the town would really do me some good right about now, but I never in my wildest dreams could’ve ever come up with this scene. It was simply, like, the best time of my life, man.
The bands rip into their best stuff - “Shake-some-action,” “Another-girl-another-planet,” the works. Celebratory, ebullient songs of summer, exuberance, and anti-conformity that also happen to rock enormously. The uninhibited music’s beautiful freedom rings in the night forever. Then the bands end and the house lights go up. One o’clock and closing time. Time to go. So I look around, hoping we can meet some girls and hit an after bar party or something. But then I come to. Flash-of-light and I’m in my room, lying back in my bed like nothing has happened at all. Zip. Just like that.
I lay back and think, huh, that’s odd, they didn’t even say goodbye. But it’s late and I’m, you know, kind of tired after the extensive and gigantic rocking-out I’ve partaken in. So I roll over and think about the night. It’s all so vivid in my mind - bright and soft and moist and squishy. The bands, the clothes, the little club, the music, so clear and radiant, the atmosphere, the spiky hairdos, the bright colors, the oranges, the browns, the dankness, the girls. What a night. A dream come true. It totally made my summer. And what a comforting thought that is, that I wouldn’t have to worry about totally wasting a summer on doing nothing fun at all. What a death that would be.
So I’m laying here, smilin’, grinnin’ from ear to ear when I hear something in my bathroom. My sister and I share a bathroom upstairs, like on the Brady Bunch - it’s in between our rooms and we each have a locking door into that bathroom. But the weird thing - she moved away to college so it’s all mine now. I mean, she hasn’t come back home yet. She hasn’t returned. Her school’s not over for the year yet. That’s really odd. She wasn’t here earlier. I mean, what’s she doing back home right now? This late?
I look over and the light’s on. “Hey, who’s there?” I call, thinking maybe it’s the aliens still, Big Gray and Ol’ Junior checkin’ out the medicine cabinet or something.
“Jack?” my sister, Becky, replies. She steps from the bathroom, the light shining in as she stands in the doorway.
“Yeah,” I answer sarcastically, like who’d she think would be sleeping in my bed at, like, a million o’clock in the morning. And here I am wondering what she’s doing home.
“Jack, how’d you get there?” she asks.
“I’ve been out, but now I’m back,” I grumble and roll over, away from the light. “I, ah, snuck in. So I wouldn’t wake anyone.” I have to lie. I mean, what if someone noticed I’d been away. I figure the aliens flashed me back in bed somehow - slipped me in the window, or floated me in on that slick beam of blue light of theirs. Yeah, I gotta get me one a those blue light things. I bet it can do all sorts a stuff, better than a Swiss Army pocket knife.
“Jack,” she calls again.
So I answer, “Ah, yeah,” even more sarcastically. And then, suddenly I appear in the doorway, standing next to my sister.
The me in the bathroom says, “Yeah, whadda ya want?” He’s brushing his teeth.
And Becky looks at him and then back over to me, and asks, “Who’s that in your bed?”
So I say, “It’s me, ding-dong. I’m in my bed.” I sit up and the light from the bathroom catches me, illuminating my face. The eye’s of the me in the doorway get bigger and bigger. He stops his brushing. His toothbrush drops to the floor. Becky clutches the doorjamb to steady herself.
Despite our shock and discomfort, we get to conversing and I explain what went down, and we figure the aliens must’ve drank too much or got lost or something and accidentally sent me back to the wrong time. We must’ve stayed out too late. Dang, I always seem to do that, don’t I? It’s one of my worst tendencies. They sent me forward in time, but returned me three years too early. And the next thing I know it’s like a billion o’clock in the morning and here I am, lying in bed next to myself, all tired and all, stuck back in time. Out of time. Stranded. Marooned. Trying to figure out what to do now.
Naturally the younger me wants to talk. He’s asking me all these questions. And I start getting a little upset. I mean, I’m tired and a little frustrated that they’d leave me back here, and I’m tryin’ ta get some sleep over here. I had a lousy weekend, then I got rousted by some mysterious aliens for reasons I don’t even really know why, I’m out all night, then here I get stuck back in time. And now I’m really tired. Now how’m I supposed to deal with all that? Huh? It’s a little much to deal with right now, you know.
So eventually me and the younger me start fighting. “Get out of my bed,” he grunts, pulling the covers more over to his side.
“No,” I say, “you get outta my bed - go sleep on the couch,” I grab and tug back.
“No way, man. You go sleep on the couch. This is my bed.”
“No it isn’t, I’m older, I’ve slept in it longer, it’s my bed. Now scooch over.”
“Oh go feel yourself.”
“Yeah, like you haven’t done enough of that already.”
“Oh shut up.”
“No, you shut up.”
So, we’re going back and forth like this for a while. Then my sister opens the bathroom door, “Give it a rest already,” she calls, telling us to shut it off. The little me hops out of bed and tries yanking the covers off. I pull back. He starts pointing, jabbing a finger in the darkness, poking me in my ribs. My sister stands with her hands on her hips, insisting, siding with him. “Yeah, imposter,” she accuses. “Why don’t you just get outta our house, this isn’t your house anyway, you don’t even belong here, why don‘t we just call the cops and let them decide.”
And I’m all like, “Whoa whoa whoa, o.k., hold on now, how ‘bout I just try the couch then, hey. Or we could all just cool out an’ get us some sleep already ‘cause it ain’t like there ain’t nothin’ we can do about it right now anyway, so let’s all just cool down here and figure things out. Let’s all just get us some sleep. I mean, I realize this is all highly irregular and all, ‘cause it’s like this crap don’t happen to me often neither, so cut me some slack here, I mean, I am still your brother no matter how old I am. I mean, gee whiz, what’m I supposed ta do about it? Huh? I mean, I’m some kinda genius here? Some kinda astrophysicist or quantum mechanics guy?”
“It’s the government,” Becky shakes her finger in the air.
“It’s not the government,” I sigh, exasperated, “It’s the stinkin’ aliens already. I got ‘em all liquored up. We were just havin’ too much fun.”
“Yeah, the aliens,” the younger me throws up his hands, “They’re worse than the jivin’ hippies already. What we gotta do is get us some guns, an’ if they come back, whoa boy, we show ‘em a thing ‘er two about earthling hospitality by puttin’ a couple a extra belly buttons into ‘em, ya dig,” the little me gets all excited.
I just roll my eyes. “Oh, that’s right,” I groan, “you must be in your ‘gun’ phase. How ’bout we all just get some rest instead. We can assign blame and finger point tomorrow. There’s always plenty a time for that, ya know.”
“Don’t boss us,” Becky snaps.
“Hey, I’m the oldest here, remember,” I explain, pulling up the covers and rolling over.
“You’re not the oldest here,” Becky squeals.
“Yeah I am. Older an’ wiser,” I nod.
“No, no, no you’re not,” she insists, “I’m the oldest.”
“Not anymore you’re not - technically I’m, like, three years older. Remember, I’m from the future. So I say, lights out,” and with that I close my eyes.
There’s a faint glow through the bathroom from Becky’s room. The glow flashes out as she stomps back to her room. The younger me stands there in the darkness for a while. I hear him breathing, thinking. Then he/I finally makes his/my way over to my/our bed.
Finally he climbs into bed and re-joins me. “Scootch over,” he grumbles and I inch over a little. “It’s my bed,” he whispers.
“It’s my bed too,” I respond. “Only I’ve been sleeping in it longer than you.”
“Yeah, but I’ve been here longer. You don’t even really belong here. You’re just a guest, remember?” After a while of lying in the darkness, he asks me if I think they’ll ever come back for me.
“I don’t know,” I respond. “I suppose they will. Probably. They seemed to have a pretty good time. You shoulda seen ‘em. They were really gettin’ into it. I’m sure they’ll be back. I mean why wouldn’t they? They seemed like decent enough folk and all. I mean, you know, other than gettin’ snagged back in time, hung up, caught here like this, other than that, all things considered, they were actually pleasant enough fellows. Very polite and well mannered, although a little on the mysterious-secretive side. . . Yeah, I‘m sure they‘ll figure it all out,” I yawn.
“Either way, you’ll have to lay low,” my younger self whispers.
“Yeah, probably,” I answer. “Say, it’s been a long night an’ I’m kinda hungry. Think you could run down and get me a pop-tart ‘r somethin’?”
“Get it yerself,” is his answer.
So I say, “Hey, I gotta lay low, least someone sees me and freaks out and all.”
The night spreads deeper and thicker, and as I lie there I start realizing how I was actually back in time. Huh, imagine that. I mean, think about it - what if I could go back and change things, redo things, undo things, correct mistakes in my life, regrets - you know, lemons into lemonade, silver lining and all that. So I sez to myself, I sez, “You know, the World Series this year is kind of a shocker. You might wanna get in on the action. Heck, you could put a bunch of money down on the Super Bowl, World Series, the works. All the cake you can. Then hide the winnings in a safety deposit box. Hide the safety deposit box key in our Heavy Metal movie sound track album so I’ll know where to find it when I get back to my time. That way we’ll have a lot of money to spend in the future. I’ll write all the winners down. You just hide the list in the album sleeve and refer to it from time to time. There’s a bunch of bookies in bars around the college. They’re easy to find if you’ve got money. Just ask around. Save up every penny you have and place bets with a bunch of them. We’ll clean up. Really. This is good. This ‘ll work. I’m sure it will,” I grin with pride at my perfection.
The younger me sighs, “Yeah, that’s not a bad idea. What else? Tell me more. What girls like me?”
“Oh, yeah, that’s a good one,” I agree. “In about six months you’re gonna meet this tall girl named Liz. . . .”
“Yeah?” he jumps.
“Yeah,” I nod.
“Is she cool?” he squeaks.
“No,” I shake my head. “Stay away from her at all costs. Trust me. Just stay away. Resist all her come-ons. Believe me, it won’t be worth the trouble. Now, there’s this other girl, Jill. You won’t think she’s interested in you at all. In fact she’ll go out of her way to ignore you and be kinda nasty to you, but she’s just being shy, kinda freaked about her strong feelings for you, that’s all. She’s not very experienced in matters of the heart. When you think of it, it’s kinda sweet in a way. . .”
“No it isn’t,” I interrupt myself, “I’d go with the nice girl. Why waste your time with the one who doesn’t even talk to ya?”
“Just trust me,” I assure him. “She’s interested in you. And the other one isn‘t nice, she just acts nice sometimes.”
“Yeah? For sure? You‘re not just jivin’ me here are ya? Pullin’ some big, elaborate, nasty, time-traveling-big-brother trick on me here?”
“Naw. Don’t worry about it. Here’s what I think you’re gonna need ta do ta pull it off. Now this might not work, but it’d be totally worth it if it does. First you gotta . . .” Suddenly a flash of white light blankets the room, zzzaaappp, ffffffooooooommmmm, and then in the corner there stands ol’ Gray Guy and Lil’ Junior. They tell me they’re very sorry, and that they’ve been looking for me everywhere, that they’d lost me back in time and it just took forever and that they were afraid of gettin’ in trouble and on and on and all that, and I’m all like, “Hey Big Guy, it’s good ta see ya.” And I look over to Junior and I’m all like, “Hey Tiny, how’s it hangin’? That was some night there, back in ‘78, huh? The two of us just shakin’ it all out back there, just livin’ it all out, hangin’ out together, just hangin’ lose. Dang, Slick, we gotta do that again sometime, and I mean real soon - and that’s for real, daddy-o.” You see, I’m not mad at them, I figure they’d figure it all out and be back for me eventually - it was just a matter of time. I always sort of suspected this was maybe all a part of their experiment anyway. So here they’re standin’ there, trying to look all sorry like, thinkin’ I’d be sore at them, and here I’m layin’ here all relieved to see ‘em. Ain’t that just the way though? I mean, wouldn’t that just figure?
So I list up a bunch of sports scores for me to bet on, then I turn to the guys and apply a little guilt. You know, the whole, gee guys, how could you leave me back here. Gosh, I thought we were friends and all, I mean come on here, and finally convince ‘em to take me back again.
I consider going back and checking out a good basketball game. Maybe catch a Clippers game from when they had Lloyd “All World” Free or Bill Walton or something. When they had those cool blue uniforms.
Or maybe I should try an exotic, panoramic locale this time - a setting I’d never get to see - some place romantic, intriguing. Maybe head to Europe. Maybe hang out in Paris back in 1963. Catch some smoky basement jazz joint. Shoot around on a Vespa scooter. A little baby blue number. Scoot around with Audrey Hepburn or something. Hang out with an early 60s era Audrey Hepburn and wear those cool wrap around sunglasses. Yeah, Hepburn in Paris. Audrey Hepburn. That’d be fine. Really nice.
But instead we end up at a kickin’ Sammy Hagar concert down in Texas, circa 1981. Yeah, an early 80s Sammy Hagar concert. But not just any Sammy Hagar concert. No, it has to be aTexas Sammy Hagar concert. And just like that - flash - we’re right there in the middle of it all. And when Hagar rips into Montrose’s “Space Station #5”, I tell you I just lose it, man, just lose control of my faculties, just totally lose my mind. I tell ya, I start rockin’ out like a mad man . . .