The Custodian, On the Cusp

Writing Prompt: Up until 1997, the UK Government had a dedicated department in which they’d search the skies for “alien technology”. You’re working the late shift alone when suddenly, after 50 years of searching, something strange enters the solar system and it’s heading straight for earth.

This is it, this is finally it. Nicklaus is staring at a bank of screens, each one dark with circles of red and green, sensors turning round surveying the stars that plot out space. He doesn’t know yet what it is, just that it’s alien. Sent from above! And hurtling toward the Cliffs of Dover.

Wheeling around in his chair Nicklaus – please call me Nick – comes face to face first with a bulky phone on hook and second with a small glass casing. The phone is the obvious choice, but it requires time he feels he doesn’t have. Your name? Your number? Security clearance? Codes of access… 

“To hell with bureaucracy!” he quickly clasps a hand over his mouth, staring round at the ceiling behind him as two silent cameras blink idly by. They don’t collect sounds, never have. But the government weren’t exactly honest about their capabilities now, were they?

Take, for example, this substation with eyes pointed for the wider realms of space. It had be built far underground in the heart of London. The work itself had aroused no suspicions for Greater London was always undergoing works beneath the Earth. On its trains for one, and now it seems too on its other-worldly study stations. The Custodian of Space, or Cusp for short. A well maintained secret, a collective of hermit men and women tasked with watching, waiting, watching. Never more than one allowed to work at any time. The theory was that lone workers work harder, with less distractions… and of course there was the ease of cleaning up after a lone worker should things go South. A happy accident… a welcome byproduct of this working structure.

Hand formed into a fist Nick hammered at the glass. Not so much a break in case of emergency, but more a break in case of discovery. He quickly slipped his fingers over keys that mapped the UFO’s location, hitting send, and off they went. A stupid grin emerged upon his face. I’ll be famous! The first man to meet the martians! (That they were martians was merely a misguided assumption). He fled to the lower levels of the station, eyes fixed upon his watch.

First through a vaulted door, then down corridors of stainless steel. Up never ending stairs of platformed iron, then yet another vaulted door. A room without windows, a dozen cameras watching, then… freedom… finally out into the streets of London. Nick threw up a hand to hail a black-box of a cab, but when the driver pulled up and Nikc started to ramble – “The Cliffs, my good man. To the Cliffs of Dover! A handsome penny I’ll pay, take me quick. You’ll see. Famous I’ll be!” – it’s safe to say the driver spooked and sped away.

Now what? Nick groped at his pocket, taking out his faithful brick (a bulky looking phone rumoured to be indestructible), and began racking his brain for a name. Who to trust? Who could take me? And at this hour no less!

The rain was falling heavy on the streets, puddles thrown up onto the pavements by the speeding wheels of cars. Street lamps flickered against the dark of the night, barely a star to be seen; and yet soon we’ll see one up close! There was a fog that held the night, simmering through the dense jungle of office blocks and local shops. A man in an apron, a grocer with a sign that flashed open all hours glared suspiciously at Nick. But when Nick looked up from the glow of his phone the grocer turned and retreated indoors. He was still wearing that stupid grin. I’ll be famous! You just wait and see! A smile full of teeth.

Agatha! Nick’s smile broadened, if such a thing is possible. She’ll take me. She’ll see.

Nick dials frantically, each button sounding out a beep. But the phone goes straight to voicemail! Curses. So for now he’ll walk, he’ll find her home, hound the door and talk sense into the woman that leaves her phone switched off at such an hour as this! An emergency, a discovery, and she’d left herself unreachable…

At last Nick came upon Agatha’s door. 10 Downing Street. With broad black gates. He calls the officer by the door from his post, flashing a lanyard with the government seal.

Intrigued the officer asks; “What are you doing? Sir. If you won’t calm yourself, then I’m afraid it’s a night in the cells.”

“Just listen will you. Agatha. Is she home? I need to see her. Tell her it’s Nick. It’s a matter of national security! The skies, my good man, they’re falling.” Nick reins himself in, straightens his back and combs the wet hair from his face, “Tell her The Custodian is here, and we must get to the Cliffs, immediately.”

After what feels like a lifetime the officer returns, two more heavy men at his side. Nick thinks about running, but what’s the use, he’ll been caught, he’ll be sent away, he’ll miss…

“Agatha!” hiding behind the bulk of her guards, “Thank the heavens.” Nick laughs, “We may yet see them, too.”

Agatha scowls at Nick with a bitter distaste, “Hush your mouth, you’ve said enough. I’m only thankful you thought to sound the alarm and send the location. Had it not been for that…” she shook her head, “You are silly man, Nick, and if this plays to the better you’ll be silly and rich. But if it plays to the worse…” she shakes her head again.

The drive is a rush, every second a marvel. Nick stares at the skies hoping he might glimpse what’s coming, but they’re all too bright, and for now he’s all too far. The car bounds down empty roads, an escort at their head, lights of flashing blue and red calling a stop to all others who dare drive this late.

A Deer that hides uphill of a lay-by pokes out its head to see what all the ruckus is. Curious it steps on out, then startled it runs. Crash comes the car to the side of the creature. But no, they will not stop.

Come Dover and the Cliffs are close, rising up from stormy seas. The winds are howling heavy and the rain is falling hard. A light sparks from darkened clouds, a deep groan from the sky erupts across the waters. Out of the car runs Nick, with Agatha close at his tail.

“Hurry now, quick! You won’t want to miss this.”

The sound of lashing waves rings loud upon the Earth, the skies turned purple and grey before the storm. But other than these Earthly wonders the world above seems quiet. No sign of such a thing that’s falling.

A wreckage? Already fallen? Yet the seas and Cliff-side perch are bare.

“All this, you wake me for?” Agatha spreads her arms and sags in disappointment, “You were warned, Nicklaus, of what would happen should your ring a false alarm.”

“No! Please! There’s been a mistake…” the common pleas of the soon to be damned.

“Yes, Nicklaus, and that mistake is yours alone.” Agatha calls her guards to arms, they take Nicklaus in a fit of screaming, legs kicking wildly at the air. To the Cliffs, to the very edge, to the dark of the seas down below. They start to swing him, stomach rising to his throat. Nick gags, nauseated, close to death.

“Wait!” he cries, a sparkle in his eye.

But he’s too late.

The guards let go.

He falls.

Had they waited they might too have seen what graced Nick’s vision as he fell; the sad eyes of a stranger, so wild and white, buzzing with static and set deep within the Cliffs. There were hands with gnarled and pale claws groping for purchase on the rocks. A giant! With a dozen antennae sprouting from its back, and cords flailing loosely from its bowels. There was no sign of a ship, but this was it. The Alien, at large.

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s