Kev staggered out of the party, which bustled and boomed in full swing in a maisonette which stood as a stark white silhouette against the star-littered, dark backdrop of the night sky, bible black. Themurky heavens above, a window into near space, pinpricked here and there with coruscating stars and stitched with thin wisps of brooding nighttime clouds, barely visible in the fuliginous, cold night air. Kev looked at the stars, swaying nebulously in his drunkenness, and thought of how he would never get to go to them, not in his lifetime.
He clutched a half bottle of Buckfast and a ready-rolled joint and heading away from the convivial festivities behind, he stumbled the short distance up the garden path which lead into the wide open fields beyond.
He had dropped half an acid and it was coming on, he could feel the rush and tingle of it creeping up his spine, the first rising vibes had told him he had to exit the party. Not because he was 'freaking out', he had done enough psychedelics in his 30 years of being a hippy/punk crossover to know not to panic, and it was only a half dunt, just enough to give him a buzz, but he needed to be out in the field with the grass beneath his feet and the stars above his head so he could come up in the fresh night air. He removed his boots and wandered stumbling out into the tall grass.
He found a comfortable spot in the middle of the field and stretched out spreadeagled to gaze into the inky void of eternity above. The drug was giving him pleasant waves of euphoria, gentle but increasing, the ground rippled slightly like the surface of a pond and he chuckled at this. He took his headphones out, flicked through the selection of classic rock on his iPod, and settled with Darkside of the Moon, by Pink Floyd. perfect for the trip.
As he sat in his baggy clothes, body warmer and yellow woolly hat his bearded face searched the firmament above with wide pupils and a toothy grin. The acid must have been stronger than he thought because the stars were starting to dance about, well, one of them was. It seemed to be coming right down to his field, slowly increasing in size, he could make out little flashing colours of red and green within its glowing shape.
Wow, this acid must be real fucking strong! He thought, as the descending star seemed to be taking shape, a saucer-like disc-shape, and now the flickering colours were beginning to look more and more like navigation lights, and the star was no longer a glowing orb, but a metallic looking flying anomaly. Whoa! Kev eyed his bottle suspiciously, I can't be this tripping from only half an acid, I don't care how strong it is! He was wondering if his wine had been spiked, but why spike him? He would have happily accepted more tabs without the need for surreptitiousness. His hallucinations were becoming auditory now too, as a low, deep thrumming hum filled the air and ascended in pitch until it started to pierce his ears and vibrate in his bones. Suddenly, Kev had had enough, gripping his tonic wine, he freaked out, panicked, and bolted, then there was a bright white flash and nothing left but the breeze in the trees, and the distant sounds of the party, through the woods.
Kev was swimming through the black depths of unconsciousness, he thought he must have passed out because he was sitting in achair when feeling and hearing came back to his senses, he could hear a distant delicate rumbling and felt slight vibrations through the cold floor beneath his bare feet as if he was in motion, but seated. Maybe he was on the train home, he opened his eyes and looked up...
...What he saw made his heart leap into his throat, had he not swallowed hard he felt it may have leaped right out his mouth. Enormous confusion struck his half-baked brain and he had to take a moment to meditate and marshal his thoughts. You're tripping, real hard, this is not real, you're on drugs, you took acid remember, you must have been spiked with more too cos' you're tripping really fucking hard bro. It's okay though, justcalm down, we've been here before, remember that time with the 500g of Mexican Magic Mushrooms? This is nothing, just a hallucination caused by the effects of the drug on the brain... As he was saying all this to himself he noticed something else, he was paralysed.
He opened his eyes again and looked down, not paralysed, but immobilised, he seemed to be clamped into a chair, wrists, ankles, abdomen and neck. What the fuck? This is most unusual, even for acid! I've never heard of anyone tripping like this? I've never tripped anything like this, usually you can move about. He looked up again.
Something wasn't right, what wasn't right was that he wasn't tripping, he had to weigh up the evidence here, he didn't feel tripping, everything wasn't wobbling or melting, there was no trailers coming off stuff, and... He just didn't feel high, not anymore, he felt sober and well-rested as if he had went home and spent the night in bed, but he wasn't in bed, he was... Well...
...He was in a room, a large, oval, smooth, polished, stainless-steel looking room, well, not really stainless-steel, like it, but smoother looking somehow, plastic maybe? But that wasn't the most distinguishing feature, straight ahead of him was an oval shaped window above a bank of controls, the view from the window appeared to be of the night sky, nothing more. Even that however, was not the most distinguishing feature of his surroundings, what struck him the most, and made his blood run a little cold, was the three tall, gangly figures standing with their backs to him before the window.
They seemed to be concentrating on a monitor each, on the screens was the only familiar thing Kev had seen so far, Google, or at least it appeared to be Google, the internet anyway, flashing by on the screen at hyperspeed, but slow enough for his brain to make out the odd recognisable split-second image between texts, the pope, the golden arches of the McDonald's sign, a swastika, the Taj Mahal.
Kev remained silent, perspiring heavily, his mouth dry, like his tongue was made of sandpaper and his gums were coated in glue. He did not twitch a muscle, merely stared ahead, eyes like lamplights, trying to make sense of his trip. Eventually one of the figures turned and his heart sank, it sank like he'd swallowed a lead weight because the face he was confronted with was no rubber mask, it was no costume, the hairs that stood to attention on his body, the increased heart rate, the surge of adrenaline that punctured his chest, told him that he knew deep down subconsciously this was real, when he looked into those two giant orbs for eyes like two onyx stones, he knew there was life and intelligence behind them, and as far as he knew, malice...
It spoke then, its language came to him like a cackle of static, not merely like a Scotsman trying to decipher the words of a Chinaman, but as if his brain wasn't adjusted to the right frequency, their voice sounded like static. It had alerted its companions and they all turned, one's gaze upon him was chilling enough, but with all three turning their attention to him he almost defecated in his camouflage shorts, he had been holding in a long overdue toilet visit since he awoke and he almost lost control of it as the three figures padded towards him. One leaned down close and spoke at him;
'%£$%^##$%R"^&D#"TY#D&F&&###"%^&£^"&*#£#^"&#*%^£#?' was what came out, it turned to one behind it and shook its head, the other one adjusted a dial on a gadget it held and the thing spoke to him again;
'AG'RGHAK HAKK'A AGH'DA HAA'AJH HKKKK RRRSHURRRRRRRRTAH?' Again it gestured to the device-holding one and the knob was turned once more, again it spoke;
'DOSENT EKK FARA SHAN TABSTA GRA NAD LANG?' Same process, dial tweaked;
'Anata wa watashi o rikai shite imasu ka?'. That one sounded vaguely Asian to Kev, but he just stared wild-eyed and sweating and shook his head. Another tuning of the dial;
'Me comprenez-vou?' What the fuck, thought Kev, did that thing just speak French to me? he continued to glare dumbfounded at these things and they began to look impatient, the one behind passed his device to the one at the front and he fiddled with the dial for a time, before finally leaning in close again;
'Do you understand me?' It asked, in plain English.
'YES!' Blurted Kev, a little over enthusiastically at the sound of a familiar language.
'Ah, finally,' the leader glared at the other two, 'I did it in one, it took you several attempts!' He chastised the other two, who looked as sheepish as an eight foot spider-like grey-skinned, bulbous-headed creature can look. The addressee turned back to a trembling Kev. 'Now that you understand me we can converse. How are you? Are you feeling okay? Need anything?' Kev just shook his head frantically, he was too terrified to register anything properly, he was still scrambling in his mind, hoping, praying he was tripping balls on some really fucking powerful DMT or something. 'I regret to inform you that your planet is scheduled for destruction in sixteen space minutes, or... Fifteen earth minutes, if you prefer.'
'What?' Was all Kev could feebly muster.
'Fifteen minutes.' Said the alien, with a crooked smile that seemed like the awkward smile a council worker might adopt as he 'regretfully informs' you you're up for eviction, and well Kev was up for eviction, permanent, eternal eviction!
'Hold on a minute...'
'I'll hold on fourteen minutes, then I have to supervise the destruction, and it's my turn to drive home. Are you comfortable, apart from the restraints I mean?'
'What the fuck?' Stammered Kev.
'I don't understand, that sentence is not quite grammatical, I know fuck is an earth profanity but...'
'Sorry? Oh, yes, destruction, imminent, actually.'
'Why? Well, I suppose you're owed an explanation...'
'Suppose!? You're gonna' blow up my planet you prick!'
'Oh no, not blow it up no, that's far too messy, creates a lot of space junk, dangerous for traffic, plus Earthspace, this solar system, is a reserved area, not many solar systems have two planets with rings you know? No, we're just going to reduce Earth to a singularity.'
'A what? And then what?'
'A singularity, we've done it loads of times over the aeons, that's where you get what you call black holes. And then... And then we'll start again' it shrugged its bony shoulders which housed long, jerky arms, the fingertips of which stretched down to the floor.
'Start again, what do you mean? Am I tripping? Is this a UFO?'
'Sorry, you're going have to slow down...'
'It was that dick Chris wasn't it, fucking Chris, spiked me, must have spiked me with a lot but, hey, the shit those kids are making and taking these days, I mean, who knows what he gave me?'
'Allow me a moment to answer your questions, time is running out - Start again, yes, we've... What would you say... "Fucked it up again", or more specifically, you have. If by tripping you mean, vacationing, not exactly, but I suppose so if you want to look at it like that. You're more of an evacuee though, the only evacuee actually, and I do not know what you mean by UFO'. At this point, one of the others, who had returned to the controls of the ship's deck said something over his shoulder in the static language. 'Ah,' said the leader, 'unidentified flying objects, UFOs, right, well, yes, then I guess we are, to you...'
'What the fuck guys?' Whimpered Kev, 'you've abducted me from my planet, and now you're going to blow it up? WHY!? Why me!?'
'More saved, than abducted, and no particular reason, we just chose an average citizen at random and took you. As to why we're destroying the planet, well, it's gotten out of control again... You see, the rest of the galaxy is fairly civilised, your planet is in the middle of what you call the Milky Way, on what you call the Orion Arm. Well, the outer Sagittarius Arm and the Outer Centauras Arm, as you have named them, are fairly well populated areas, and have been for a very, very long time. Down here in the well of The Milky Way, it's a, what you might say, undesirable area of local space, the slums of the galaxy so to speak...'
'Yes, literally. The outer fringes where we live are quite affluent, even the tenements in the worst parts of Corona Borealis are nicer than most of your Earth's so-called "palaces".'
'What the fuck are you guys talking about? Sagittarius? My wife's a Sagittarius.'
'Yes, well, anyway, the only life you find down this end of the spiral arms, are joyriding teenagers from the Persius Bridge, and some very low bacterial forms, humans are the most advanced species down here, imagine that!' He turned to his companions and they all laughed at the ridiculous notion of a human ever being an advanced species, their laughs were harsh and guttural and stung Kev's ears as much as his pride.
'Listen, that's all very well,' he clamoured, 'but even if we are such a lowly evolved species, why do you want to destroy us, that's like me destroying an ant's nest for no good reason.'
'Are you telling me humans don't destroy ant nests?'
'Look, you wouldn't even be here if it wasn't for us. The majority of your surrounding solar system and beyond is mostly desolate space and uninhabitable planets, your planet is a rose in a bed of shit, to put it bluntly. When it was discovered, by the Eridanians only a little over three million years ago, your planet was already teeming with life, but nothing intelligent so to speak. So they installed some intelligent life. Which became you. I don't know how much you have figured out about your history but you're not even from this planet, you're a genetic splicing of an Eridanian and one of your earth animals, an ape I believe it was...or something like that.'
'How... Eh... What the fuck? So, so, why destroy us?' Kev stuttered with fear and his teeth chattered, the cool objectivity with which this thing was viewing his whole entire species was a little disconcerting to say the least, they intended to wipe his whole world off time and space the way you might wipe bacteria off a steamed up bathroom mirror with a flannel!
'Why destroy you? Don't you think you're destroying yourself, you've passed a point of no return with pollution anyway, you've fucked up an entire conservation planet so bad it is good for nothing now but recycling. Sure, if we eliminated the humans and left the planet it might, might regrow, but do you know how complicated an operation that is? Turning it into a singularity and seeding Mars so that it may one day be another Earth is a much easier way to go. We just press a button, Earth is gone, no-one important gives a shit, and the galactic council will send labourers down in a few earth months to start the process of fertilizing Mars, or maybe one of Jupiter's moons, whichever seems fit. I mean, there used to be civilisations on several of your solar system's planets, but that was a long, long time ago, before even us, we only know from history documents in the Galactic Library, at Kepler Twelve, as you call it.'
'Listen, we're not all that bad! What about... You know... Mother Teresa and... Err... I dunno', Princess Diana?'
'Look, it's not like you haven't had several chances, no point complaining now, it's too late, you've had too many chances'.
'What chances?' Squeaked Kev incredulously. 'I haven't had any chances!?'
'The first lot we had down there, what did they call themselves?' The grey-faced spaceman looked thoughtful, one of his counterparts piped in in their weird language again. 'Ah yes, Atlantians, they had the chance to co-operate and show a bit of decorum, but they didn't show us any respect, even though we had shown them many technologies and shared some of our great knowledge with them. In the end, we destroyed their land, it was where your Antarctica is now, but it wasn't icy back then, we put their cities and kingdom to the bottom of the sea, by manipulating the orbit of your moon and flooding them with high tides on the ground. Destroying the whole planet is a last resort, the first time we just removed the tumour.'
'What the fuck has Atlantiansgot to do with me!?'
'The secondtime was the Sumerians, but they showed us no respect, only drank all our wealth of knowledge with greed and avarice, you earthlings are unable to handle power, lack discipline and are too easily corrupted, you are one of the most selfish species I've encountered!'
'But, come on, there's good earthlings, nice people, like... My mum, and, erm, Stephen Fry...'
'The third time was the Egyptians,' continued the thing, ignoring its hostage, 'we liked them, they had style, well of course they did, we influenced their style, it was based on the cultures of our home planet a star you refer to as Pollux. The Egyptians however were just as untrustworthy as the rest of your kind, tried to betray us, and our secrets. Then there was the Phoenicians, Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Mayans, the Aztecs, a bloodthirsty lot they were, we even tried to communicate with the Nazis, one last attempt, but that was a big mistake! Eventually we learned humans couldn't be reasoned with, and we left you well alone, but we have visited many times in the last thousands of years.'
'Fine, okay, so why you not just leaving us alone now? We're doing no harm.'
'Doing no harm!? Apart from slowly decaying what was once a paradise of a planet, you are hostile towards tourists.'
'Yeah, I mean, people still like to visit the Earth recreationally you know, it has some popular attractions. You have some very pretty species of fish and bird, Australia is a good laugh, you are famed for some of your beaches, bacon is pretty tasty andpig is unavailable anywhere else in the galaxy,you grow some pretty decent marijuana too. But a half an earth century ago you shot one of ours down over one of your American deserts, a harmless innocent tourist, unfortunately that gave you a boost in technology that you now use to pollute, slaughter and commit all sorts of heinous acts from sexual depravities to genocide and terrorism... Nah forget it, you guys have punched your ticket.' The alien went to turn away but Kev stopped him.
'Well,' said Kev desperately, 'won't you be sad to lose these things, the good things you said, the beaches, bacon rolls, the weed, won't you miss them when you reduce us to a single-whatever-it-is?'
The alien mulled this over for a second...
'Nah.' It snorted, and it turned to leave and approach the ship's controls again. 'It's time, I need to supervise the deletion of the planet, these two are just new'. Gesturing to the other two figures, who had started jabbing at buttons and turning dials, seemingly setting co-ordinates.
'Wait, for fuck's sake, wait, let's talk about this!' Wailed Kev.
'But there's so many beautiful things, what about, what about... The Great Wall Of China?' The extraterrestrial laughed heartily at this.
'Haha, we built that! Just as we built your Egyptian pyramids and your Mayan temples among other things, Easter Island etc. etc.'
'What? Well, okay then, what about, err, Vincent Van Gogh, yeah, that painting he did, the uh, the uh, the Mona Lisa!'
'Primitive cave drawings, like a child's doodles compared to the artwork of the Gilesians. A Gilesian wouldn't hang your Mona Lisa on their fridge.'
'All right, poetry, literature, you know, Rabbie Burns, erm, that geezer, er, Charles Dickens! Yeah, books and shit!'
'Look, anything you humans have ever written that's worth a read has been copied and stored in the galactic library. Those interstellar librarians don't miss anything.'
'The Bible?' Attempted Kev weakly, his face was sapped, hopelessness was dawning, surrender came to him as fatigue.
'Haha, The Bible, yes, it's amazing really how so many of your population can put so much faith in a book of fairy tales and bastardised, fantasized, history, to the extent you continually go to war over it, all that bloodshed over the centuries, over fables! Preposterous! Nah, for that reason alone you should be stopped and rebooted. To be honest, I'm surprised you haven't been wiped out yet, constantly pumping radio signals out into the universe to alert anyone who might listen of your presence! There's a lot of predatory warmongering species out in the southern spiral arm, I'm surprised one didn't come along and harvest you all for meat. You stupid buggers even sent a probe out with a picture of you on it and a map to your planet!'. They all laugh raucously again, as if humans are the dumbest thing in the galaxy, and it was starting to look like they were.
'What are you going to do with me?'
'Cross-breed you, genetically, with one of our kind, start it all over again, in our image this time, not the Eridanians, make a better go of it. Sometimes, you have to know when to give up and go back the drawing board.' The alien started to walk away again, Kev noticed planet Earth hovering into view through the viewport, they were in close orbit. As he gazed upon its blue and brown and green face, pockmarked with mountain ridges and shrouded in misty white clouds, he felt a huge pang of regret stabbing through his central nervous system. No, no, they can't do this, my beautiful home, they can't do it! As the planet of his birth hung suspended before him, filling the window of the ship, Kev knew he had one last ace up his sleeve, and this one couldn't fail.
'Okay, okay, look, one more chance... One more chance to show you we're not worth destroying, please, and if that doesn't work, I'll shut up, but this one will work, trust me.'
The creature sighed, its eyes were featureless black orbs, but Kev could still feel 'the rolling of the eyes' expression even if he couldn't see it.
'Fine, one more, come on then, what is it?'
'What about music?'
'Music? Yeah, I like music.'
'Okay, good, well we have some of the best music on Ear... Erm, in the galaxy, I just need you to listen.'
'Okay, but this is your last chance.'
'What about Beethoven?'
'Yeah, you know, doo doo doo dooooo, doo doo doo doooooo'.
'Doo doo doo doo??' His captor was perplexed.
'Fine. Nevermind that, fuck Beethoven, i have something better. Can you play an iPod on this ship?'
'Yeah, like a device, for playing music, just needs a jack to jack cable, or er, bluetooth or something.'
'I don't know what any of those things are, but our ship's technology can interface with nearly any alien technology, something as primitive as one of your music-playing earth gadgets should not be difficult for it.'
'Fine, fine, good, now go into my pocket and get the square metal thing out.'
'You know if this is a trick you'll be vapourised on the spot right?'
'Yeah, just get it, in there'. The strange being reached its long, knobbly, spindly fingers, like gnarled wizard staffs, into Kev's jean pocket and retrieved his black iPod. 'Now,' he said, 'make it play, but select Pink Floyd, Shine On You Crazy Diamond'.
The ship's computer took a few seconds to configure the technology of the inferior iPod and soon Shine On You Crazy Diamond started up its eerie keyboard tones and appropriately interstellar sound effects. Yeah, thought Kev, they'll love this, an absolute masterpiece, and spacey too, virtually designed for the little green men! The alien listened carefully as the song slowly, slowly built itself up, drifting melody, steadily growing intensity, couple of tentative licks of Gilmour's guitar, slight increase in volume, and suddenly it was turned off...
'No wait!' Howled Kev, 'what are you doing? it's not kicked in yet! You gotta' wait!'
'Wait? I gave it three whole earth minutes and fifty whole seconds and all I heard was weird noises! I can't wait anymore, I have work to do.'
'But, but, you'll like it!'
'I don't have time, I gave you nearly four extra minutes.'
'All right, all right, okay, bad choice, Floyd was a bad choice, it takes a while to appreciate it, we don't have time, okay, okay, just give me twenty more seconds, if you don't like the next song within twenty seconds, which I guarantee you will, then you've won.' The alien nodded with an exasperated sigh.
'Go into the iPod, select Jimi Hendrix and play Purple Haze.' The computer, so advanced it took the directions straight from Kev himself, and was so rapid that almost immediately after he had said it, the opening chords of Purple Haze drifted into hearing, within twenty seconds the riff was in full flow and the alien was beaming a toothless smile and nodding his head vigorously.
'Yeah,' he said, 'yeeeeeaaaaaah, that's really good!' Kev breathed a sigh of relief.
'Phew, good.' Wheezed Kev, but then the stellar being before him's expression became downcast again.
'But what about this?' It flicked a button which must have tuned into one of Earth's popular radio stations and suddenly an awful noise filled the chamber. Whiney voices singing over an annoying pop hook;
"Baby you light up my world like nobody else, the way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed, but when you smile at the ground it aint hard to tell, you don't know, oh oh, you don't know you're beautiful!"
A sinking feeling in his chest as Kev recognised the song, his daughter likes them, it was One Direction, he looked up at the alien with tears in his eyes, he didn't know what to say, how could he excuse this abomination?
'No, sorry.' Shrugged the alien, and he pressed a large red button on the console.
The earth didn't explode, in fact without ceremony it simply folded in on itself and within a second, it was gone. The only announcement of its departure was a barely audible inward wooshing of air and then it was as if it never existed, like some God had just pressed the delete button and wiped it from the recycling bin of his laptop, it was as quick as that. All that remained of humankind's existence, was a few errant probes floating through the outer reaches of the solar system, a planetless moon (currently broken free of its orbit and heading out into deep space) with an American flag stuck in it, that, and Kev, a plumber from Cumbernauld, a half-drank bottle of Buckfast which he had been holding when he was teleported on board, and the 2gig selection of songs on his iPod, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Bob Dylan, Nirvana, The Clash and embarrassingly Phil Collins. That was all that remained of Earth. Thank you very fucking much Simon Cowell!