A troubled woman does what she must to claim a reward and fight back.
This was getting old.
Her arms felt like gelatin. Her legs were weights. The room was far too bright, and her back ached like crazy. Maybe it was worth it to stay in bed an hour more. This was going to be the rest of her life, it seemed. Wake up, feel like shit, eventually die. Hopefully death came soon.
Brushing her teeth felt like rubbing hardened bristles against wood. She stroked her tongue over molars. Something stung all the way in the back of her gums. It tasted like metal.
Was it even worth it to check the mirror anymore? She lifted the bottom of her black tank top to find little red dots all across her stomach. Chicken pox? No - she'd gotten the vaccine as a kid.
Gently, she brushed her fingers over the specks.
Not chicken pox. Needle marks.
The answering machine in the kitchen beeped.
"Hi, this is Christy from Doctor Gaeta's office. Just wondering if you were planning on scheduling an appointment? I know you talked about wanting to run some sleep-related tests the other week. I could pencil you in Wednesday or Friday if that's okay? You can call the office or give us an email if you're still interested. Thanks."
She stopped chewing on her bagel and sighed. Taking her coffee mug along with her, she walked to the answering machine and deleted the message.
It was a beautiful day. No airplanes, no birds. Just blue sky for now.
The mailbox wasn't that full. Just bills, bills, and more bills. At the bottom of the stack was the only thing worth reading: the March issue of Geeks and Freaks Monthly.
Geeks and Freaks was an independent magazine that covered the most mysterious things in nature. It asked questions about the bottom of the ocean, the depths of space, unexplored parts of mountaintops. It was her only escape from the confines of an abysmal suburban home.
Once inside, she threw the majority of the mail on the dining room table. Falling onto the couch, she opened up the red cover of Geeks and Freaks and flipped to a random page.
That's when she saw it.
Pictures of the Nevada desert, a golden vinyl record with little symbols etched into it, and a column on the bottom of the page...
$20,000 FOR INFORMATION! (SEE DETAILS BELOW)
$20,000 was enough to get the hell out of Dodge. Was this divine intervention? Had this column been written specifically for her? She read the rules, the requirements, the email to contact if she did everything right. Suddenly, she felt like her life had a purpose.
Tonight would be different. Tonight, she'd be making history. And maybe somewhere in making history, she could save her own ass.
"And that's how you use an Apple Watch to take videos from your IPhone!" said the man at the end of the YouTube tutorial. Perfect. Now all she needed to research was if the device had Bluetooth connectivity. That, and what song she'd be playing.
She clicked her ballpoint pen, opened up a little black notebook, and made a checklist...
- A seat belt (at least 60'')
- Metal plates and screws
- An Apple Watch
- The biggest Bluetooth speaker ever.
She grabbed her purse and her car keys, then headed out the door.
Thank god for Home Depot. Everything on the list was in her shopping cart, save for the Apple Watch and seat belt. Hopefully AutoZone and the mall's Apple Store were open this late.
She looked back at the line behind her. As a cashier checked out her items, a chubby kid sucking on a lollipop looked at her funny. His mom was on the phone, unaware the kid was staring.
"What? You never seen a 28-year-old woman in her PJ's at Home Depot before?" she thought while giving him a stink eye. His eyes trained down to her stomach. Her top was up just enough to expose the little red dots.
She looked down at the pudge peeking out of his t-shirt. Her heart stopped when she saw the same marks on him.
Everything was ready to go in the bedroom. But first, dinner. In the time it took her to eat a bowl of chili in the kitchen, she received calls from her mother, boyfriend, and childhood bestie. Their worried tones blared on the answering machine. Every voicemail sounded the same…
“Are you okay?”
“Haven’t heard from you in three weeks!”
“I’ve knocked on your door, but you don’t answer.”
“Maybe I don’t believe you, but I still love you. You need help.”
“Please call me back, Mandy.”
That was the last screw. She put her power drill down and grabbed the leg of the bed. A curved metal plate kept the wooden slab bolted to her hardwood floor. Four screws held it all in place. She tried to give the leg a wiggle, but it was so sturdy, it couldn't move an inch. The bed wasn't going anywhere.
She wrapped a metal chain around the top of the leg, near the mattress. Her fist held the loop together, then she secured it with a padlock. Hopefully the chain would be long enough to reach her foot.
She grabbed her power drill. One leg down, three more to go.
Next was the seat belt. She slid the red polyester underneath her bed, power drilled the ends of the belt into the wooden frame, brought the belt up over her white comforter, and slipped the metal latch into the buckle. Click!
Time for a test. She got under the covers, opened the buckle, and slipped the red belt over her body. Secured it once more. Tight enough. She moved her body up and down, feeling the belt press against her waist.
A morbid chuckle escaped her lips. Is this what it feels like to be restrained in a mental hospital? If only she were crazy enough for a mental hospital. Perhaps to an outsider, she was.
A brand new Apple Watch was strapped to her wrist. She set her IPhone down on a dresser next to the wall, then pointed the camera at her bed. In the watch's screen, she could see herself move across the bedroom. She pressed the 'record' button for a video, paced around, then grabbed her phone and checked the footage. Perfect.
Last but not least, her new Yamaha speaker. It was heavy, but she managed to set it on the bay window seat. It was the kind of speaker a garage band would use, not something for a bedroom.
She hoped when the time came, it wouldn't wake the entire neighborhood.
She gazed out her bedroom window, trying to keep calm while staring into the black void of night. No noise, save for the chirping of crickets. All her neighbors' lights were out. The only thing she could see was the yellow glow of a streetlamp.
Best case scenario, this was her last night in a stupid, lonely, worthless house. She'd see her loved ones again, and have $20,000 in her pocket.
Worst case scenario, this was her last night on earth.
Bedtime. She took deep breaths in and out. It was hard not to tremble.
She buckled herself in, then grabbed the metal chain from the end of her bed. She slipped a cord over her right foot, grabbed another padlock from her nightstand and secured that to the chain.
The speaker was on, the IPhone was ready to go. She turned off her lamp, and tightly grabbed her left wrist...
Until she heard it. That horrible, spine-tingling hum.
Amber numbers on her digital clock flickered. Her right hand was still clutched so tightly around her left wrist, she couldn't feel any blood flow. Quickly, she used the watch to turn on the IPhone camera. From across the room, it began to record.
The hum grew closer. Louder. Hairs on the back of her neck rose. Furniture jiggled: an earthquake in the making.
She screamed as pale green light burst through the window. She'd suffered it several times now, but still wasn't used to how blinding, hot, and constrictive it was. From head to toe, she was paralyzed. Her body left the safety of the mattress. There was nothing but air beneath her.
The window lifted itself up. Only a minute or so until she'd be floating out of it, into the saucer. Fortunately, she could wiggle her index finger enough to tap the screen of her watch. She'd have to open the music app.
Click. Oh no. The seat belt unfastened itself. Those grey bastards and their goddamn outer space technology. Only the chain around her ankle kept her fastened to the bed. The way the metal shook, it wouldn't be long until that broke, too. She tried moving her finger to tap the watch screen, but getting it to budge was like trying to push a mountain.
Like the digital clock, the watch screen flickered. It took a couple tries, but before it could glitch for good, she managed to hit the play button for the speaker.
Chuck Berry's voice blasted out the window.
"Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans! Way back up in the woods among the evergreens, there stood a log cabin made of earth and wood, where lived a country boy named Johnny B. Goode!"
An echoey, monstrous shriek: like nails on a chalkboard, but worse.
They were angry. Was that good or bad? The mini earthquake went turbo. The metal chain snapped. Her dresser slid, cracking the IPhone onto the floor. Her bedside lamp flew out the window. She closed her eyes, preparing for the worst...
And then it stopped. She fell back onto the bed with a thud. Her neck felt like it had snapped, but the green light was gone. The saucer was gone. The hum and shaking was gone. They were gone.
It worked. She let out a shaky breath. Before Chuck Berry could sing, "Go Johnny Go!", she tapped the pause button on her watch. She shot out of bed and checked her IPhone. The screen had shattered, but everything from the past two minutes was still saved onto the device.
Thank god for Bluetooth, rock n' roll, and Steve Jobs.
12:33 PM - The Next Day
She woke up that morning with a smile. It was the best she'd slept in weeks.
Her bedroom was still in shambles: last night hadn't been a dream. She grabbed her laptop from off the floor and drafted an email.
Dear Geeks and Freaks Monthly,
In your March issue, on the piece about Area 51 and the Voyager Golden Record, I saw the box saying you'd give a $20,000 reward to anyone who can provide credible evidence to the existence of alien life. I hope the video I've attached - of me almost getting abducted by extraterrestrials - is sufficient enough for your consideration.
I've been abducted every night for three weeks. It's ruined my relationships, career, and mental health. I was finally able to scare off my captors by using one of the songs on the Golden Record, Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode". When more of them discover that track in outer space years from now, I don't think they'll like it too much. Who's to say if they'll like any kind of human music.
If you find my evidence credible, I'll use the $20,000 to move to a safer place where they can't find me...maybe somewhere in the city. Hope to hear back soon. Thanks.