He ran into his house checking all of the rooms. No one was at home. The hole in the roof of the front room felt cold and there was tarp spread all around. Then there was the issue of his safe room. The project was stalled. Fake rocks lined the ceiling and steel beams and cinderblock reinforced the walls. Even so it still lacked a door.
The builder had ordered one from a fabricator in Italy drawn up to his specifications. When it was finished it would look like a boulder and it would move on an expensive hydraulic system that would seal his family off from the dangers of the world. In place, it would make the room look more like a cave with short-wave radios and food rationed stacked beneath fiberglass tree stumps.
The walls would glow as long as there was power from the solar panels that had been mounted on the roof of his house. A flat screened television would keep them informed if the satellite dish held out. Biological scrubbers would clean their drinking water and last for a thousand years. It would be a return to the basics. At least that what Markoff thought at the time that he’d designed it.
Now, with what the recently deceased archeologist had told him he wondered. Had it always been this way? Ancient television sets and designer clothing buried beneath modern subdivisions. How big were the wide-screen plasmas of prehistoric times?
He checked the theater room. The television was on, showing London, Paris and New York as people took to the streets desperate to settle old scores and find safety. The images reminded him of the box. He had to ask Dan Wells to flip the switch.
Bounding down the stairs two at a time he flew out the front door and was stopped dead in his track by what he saw on the street outside. There, beside the blood covered snow and bodies stood the shooter. The pale form held the green rifle at his side looking down at the two victims spread out in death at its feet.
The builder didn’t know what he should do? Should he approach it and talk to it? Should he run back inside and get his own gun with which to kill it? Could it be a new trophy for his wall if they made it through these final hours alive?
Before he’d had a chance to resolve all of this in his mind, the form turned in his direction. Markoff felt its icy stare penetrate his body. He could sense it crawling around in his head examining his thoughts.
His thoughts now were of fear. The builder wasn’t one to be easily intimidated but this creature with its spindly legs and gargantuan height unnerved him more than the gunfire or the meteor ever could. He could tell it was sizing him up.
When it spoke, it put him oddly at ease. “What are you lookin’ at?” It asked in an accent more like his than what he’d expected to hear from such an exotic looking form.
The builder couldn’t answer. Instead he just stood there. Each picture his mind conjured up was stolen by the fixed gaze of the beast.
“You think I’m a monster don’t you?” The creature said stepping forward. As it did so, the builder suddenly realized that it didn’t have a mouth. It must have been communicating with him through some kind of telepathy.
He stammered trying to form the word. All he could think of was how scared he was.
“You think I’m gonna kill you?” The strange figure said. It lifted the gun upwards with one of its skinny arms as if to accentuate the question. “You think I give a damned if you live or die?”
The builder shook his head.
“I’d just as soon kill you as look at you.” The alien continued. “I ain’t gonna though. You ain’t worth one of my bullets.”
Markoff wondered why the creature was talking this way. What kind of redneck planet had it arrived here from? He could have understood if it had affected some accent like Kinkaid or even a steady cool tone like the one Dan Wells had used in that day that he’d seen him in his kitchen.
“These bastards.” The form said pointing the barrel of the gun towards the bodies on the ground. “They’re the ones that I’m after.”
“Why?” The builder head himself ask.
“Ain’t none of you God damned business.” The alien spat, hunching its shoulder and turning towards him malevolently. “Let’s just say that I don’t like they way that they think. They’re too nosey.”
Markoff stood frozen on the front steps as the beast crept around in a circle kicking at the dead men.
“They don’t understand half of what’s going on.” He said giving one a poke with his foot. “They think that they’re so damned smart but they ain’t. They’re just as ignorant as the rest of you ass holes.”
“Then why kill them?”
“Because they ask questions.” The alien said once more flashing Markoff a sinister look. “They think all this crap up and they’re so damned proud of what’s in their heads that they just have to share it with everyone. They’re just as ignorant as the rest of you dumb ass holes. They’re just a lot more proud of their ignorance.”
Slowly, the builder was beginning to realize that it was his own voice that the creature was speaking to him with. Not his voice of today but a larger, more assertive voice that he’d used years ago. This was his way of speaking from years ago. He sounded so sure of himself. “What kind of questions?” He asked.
“You just don’t get it do you?” The beast said. It stalked towards him using it’s long legs to cover the icy ground up to the edge of his yard. “This ain’t about what they think they know. It’s about all the crap that they don’t know.”
Markoff was paralyzed by fear.
“They think this is all so interesting.” It continued gesturing with the gun towards the circle of tents in a disgusted way. “One of those dead ass holes thought that we controled everything while the other one got some stupid idea that we lived and died off a hundred thousand years ago.”
“In the stores.” The builder said. He thought about the rows of merchandise buried beneath his house. He thought about the diggers hiding right now in fear among the aisles of the ancient shopping centers. Somewhere above the asteroid neared the earth’s atmosphere.
“In the stores.” The beast growled.
The sirens wailed and the wind blew. The sky was peach colored and the ground white. It was just the two of them.
Looking at him, the alien’s obsidian eyes suddenly took on a softer tone. “Why don’t people shop at your stores?” It asked.
Markoff shrugged. “People shop at them.” He said. “Just not everyone.”
“But you’re the only one who understands.”
The creature blinked twice. “It’s not about what you buy.” It said in an almost matter of fact way. “It never has been.”
The builder cocked his head.
“I’ve lived for a damned long time.” The alien continued, growing more and more agitated again. “I’ve watched as my kind slowly got squat and fat and stupid like you. As far as I know, I’m the last one left.”
“What are you?” Markoff asked.
He watched as the grey’s eye’s curled up into what would have been a smile if it had, had a mouth. “I’m you.” It laughed.
The builder squinted. “How can you be me?”
“I like to hunt. I like to buy cool things.” The beast shrugged. “I really think it’s awesome what you did with that plastic mountain at the Alpine Village.”
Markoff grinned. “You like that?” He asked. “It works perfectly. I didn’t think that the polymer that we used to coat it with would hold up but so far people are skiing there and nothings gone wrong.”
“Hell yes I like that.” The alien nodded. “Why do you think I blew up the mall? I want people to go to these places and have a good time.”
The builder frowned. The mention of the mall reminded him that he was dealing with a dangerous species. “Why the college?” He asked.
“Have you ever been to college?” It replied.
Markoff shook his head.
“Then you wouldn’t know this but people at colleges tend to be the most narcissistic idiots on the face of the earth.” It spat. “Everything’s about them and their dumb assed ideas.”
The builder listened to his voice echoing out in his head keenly aware of how ignorant that he was about a great many things. “But why the massacre?” He asked.
The creature shrugged. “Back then it was a different time.” It said angrily. “Some idiot bastard got it in their head that people needed to shed themselves of the yoke of society and start living simply. It was all a part of that peace and love movement that the hippies were singing about. They needed to be reminded of the temporary nature of their existence. It was good to go hunting at that point in time. It was the right thing to do. The right time. If I hadn’t they would have wasted their whole lives.”
“I don’t understand.”
The alien sighed. “It ain’t about dropping out and living simply.” It said sounding flabbergasted. “It’s more hedonistic than that. You never get a chance to really grow up so why even try. I’ve been walking around amongst you people for more time than I can count and you all think that you’re so highly evolved. You ain’t got squat to say or do in the scheme of things. Why try?”
“What’s it about?” Markoff asked.
The alien took a couple of more steps towards him. “I’m not going to tell you what it’s about.” It said, leering at him. “You already know.”
“I do?” The builder said suddenly feeling unsure of himself. Like he was being singled out to provide some coherent answer to a question that he didn’t even understand.
“Let me have the keys to your truck.” The creature asked, changing the subject and extending its hand expectantly.
“Well I would take my own car but...” It trailed off with a helpless shrug.
There was a thunderous explosion from somewhere very far away. The earth shook and the planet moved. It wasn’t the end of the world yet. It was the beginning.