"Skiers" by Dorothy Thompson

When Jeremy woke up after a night of snatches of dreams about the aliens, he decided that today he'd try not to think about the aliens. It was difficult, very difficult, as he lived in the shadow of the aliens, on the wrong side of the Hudson River, while great silvery ships, the type that could only be built in space and only flown across the stars by shredding the laws of physics, hovered over Manhattan Island.

Jeremy got out of bed and walked to the kitchen to wash the dishes, something he almost never did. For each the past three days he had washed a hunk of his big sink full of crusty plates and utensils. Now he had almost no dirty ones left. He had been having trouble eating because he was too busy thinking about the aliens. The plates in his hands, slick and soapy, they were too big to be saucers but still reminded Jeremy of the aliens.

There was no work today. There hadn't been any since the aliens. Two days ago he called in and Mildred answered the phone. "No jobs today, Jeremy" she said, "due tocircumstances." The circumstances were the aliens. People were too busy looking up at the aliens to rent trucks. Folks were huddled around their televisions and computers, looking at aliens; they didn't want movers to come in and take their stuff to some other apartment, because that would mean being out on the streets, perhaps under the watchful eyes of the aliens. Mildred alone was in the office. Mildred had found herself alone on the streets walking to work every morning this week, except for the white-faced police and pigeons. Pigeons cared nothing for the aliens. Mildred walked to the office every day with her umbrella to keep her from the sight of the aliens and answered one phone call a day from Jeremy and that was it. None of the other moving men had even bothered to call in. After the aliens, Jeremy thought, maybe I'll buy Mildred some flowers for her desk. Then Jeremy thought that there would be no after the aliens. It was aliens all the way down, from here on in. Aristotle never saw the aliens. Ben Franklin never saw the aliens. The only hero Jeremy had ever known personally, his old great-uncle who had been in the French Resistance and killed Nazi soldiers with his hunting knife and lived to tell about it died eight months ago, eight months before the aliens. Was that what the aliens were like? An occupation that would drive us all down to underground military cells and secret plans hidden under careful smiles and the masquerade of everyday life? Jeremy felt his stomach shift and gurgle again. Everyday life under the aliens made him upset.

Jeremy wanted to read a book so that he could take his mind of the aliens and keep his promise to himself. He couldn't watch tv because it was all about the aliens even the channels like Nick At Nite that only ran old old shows like I Love Lucy, channels that kept up the sitcoms even after 9/11, were running footage of the aliens.

"And here you see the sky over Chelsea," the newscaster explained, "and now, a disruption, or some sort of static interference we don't know what quite happened -- and then when the picture resumes, the craft. Presumably, aliens." Jeremy had seen the aliens on tv dozens of times in the first three hours; there was no other footage, no new movement for three days. Just gray sky then silver craft then the aliens were here. The news even had a very good and entirely reasonable explanation for why they were recording footage of empty air right before the aliens but because of the aliens Jeremy had forgotten the reason.

Jeremy went to the bookcase and tried to find a book to read. Zeke And Ned, he had bought it years ago off the bargain shelf of the bookstore in the mall and had never read it. The cover had reminded him of the Pynchon book he had wanted to read but now the book was only all about the aliens, even though all the action took place within the Cherokee Nation. Do the aliens have a nation, or many nations? Do they have oppressed peoples? Are we going to be them? And Jeremy put down the book half a page in because of the aliens.

Nobody knew why the aliens were here, and after only three days nobody wanted to guess. On the tv, military men explained that they did not know. On the Internet everyone was silent Jeremy looked again at his favorite bulletin board. Three days ago there were tons of excited posts followed by hurried well-wishes and threats about Christ and the Democrats then nothing because of the aliens. Nobody could stop thinking about the aliens long enough to write anything about the aliens. He read some old posts from last week fights, the new book of the moment, he-said-she-said, then aliens and OMG!!!! and The Book of Revelations and then only gray screen blank as the sky was before the aliens.

Jeremy's apartment had a view of the Manhattan skyline. He paid $100 more per month for it. He walked to the window, pushed the curtain aside and peeked out of it the way a little old lady waiting for the mailman might and saw the saucers over midtown. They were still there. Jeremy even wanted to say "Still there," aloud, to himself, but could not because of the aliens. The aliens made his throat dry. He wanted ginger ale but had drunk the last of it yesterday and the stores were open but the aliens. Jeremy wanted to talk to somebody but if he went down to the bodega the man behind the counter would say something about the aliens. So Jeremy drank a handful of tap water he didn't want to dirty a glass because that would remind him of washing dishes and the aliens.

"We're a nation who bowls alone," Jeremy said, remembering another book whose title he remembered, but which he had never read. Bowling was a sport and so was surfing and Joe Satriani had once recorded an album called Surfing With The Alien and there were aliens right outside.

There were no more communities; everyone was just keeping to their apartments, maybe all over the world, because of the aliens. Jeremy wondered about the churches and the aliens. Maybe some people weren't locking themselves in their houses because of the aliens. Because of the aliens the churches were probably packed but you could bet that the sermons weren't about the aliens. Preachers' hands too short to box with the aliens. Aliens killed all the religions when they showed up; it's just that lots of people were attending the wake because of the aliens. The Pope had nothing to say about the aliens. The Dalai Lama said that if the aliens were as spiritually advanced as they were technologically advanced, then the aliens were here to bring us peace. The reporters at the press conference never asked the follow-up question, the one Jeremy and he was sure 6 billion other people had thought of instantly.


Jeremy went to the bathroom and shivered on the toilet. He looked at the covers of the magazines on the tile floor but didn't read them because of the aliens. The President was on the cover of one of the magazines, but back six days ago he was going on about taxes not aliens. On the night of the aliens, the President had kept it short like Lincoln at Gettysburg because, Jesus Christ, aliens. What can you say about the aliens once they actually show up? Not much. Jeremy got up, washed his hands and left but then remembered that he didn't actually go to the bathroom while in the bathroom because of the aliens.

Jeremy decided to call his mother. He never called his mother but the aliens. He actually wanted to drive out to Long Island to visit her but the roads were snarled because of the aliens. Far away from New York, roads were littered with billboards and signs wishing people like Jeremy luck with the aliens. That's not quite true. The people who put up the signs really put them up to wish people who were just like them luck with the aliens. Liberal arts majors turned furniture movers with sinks full of dirty dishes don't rush out and buy oaktag to make up good luck signs because of the aliens. People like Jeremy stare at their phones and think of calling their mothers because of the aliens. Jeremy dialed his mother's number.

Mom wasn't home, or more likely was screening her calls because of the aliens. Mom was probably watching the tv to keep track of the aliens. Was Mom still praying every night, even after the aliens? Jeremy thought so; Mom wasn't too sophisticated in her faith. The aliens wouldn't keep her from thinking she was saved, but she was probably praying to be saved from the aliens. Jeremy called again, this time promising to leave a message on Mom's machine but the aliens, so he just hung up.

It was almost lunchtime but Jeremy wasn't hungry because of the aliens. He thought about napping but the aliens. The darkest alley of Jeremy's subconscious mind remembered his promise and summoned up the sense memory of a Spring Break fling that girl Jen's boozy mouth on his half-limp cock but the aliens. He couldnt masturbate because of the aliens. His mouth was dry again because of the aliens.

The real problem, Jeremy decided, was that the alien problem was the precinct of bad, expensive movies, and bad, cheap paperbacks. Public intellectuals had never bothered with the aliens. Noam Chomsky never wrote anything about the aliens. Edward Said never wrote anything about the aliens. For the last three days, Israeli bulldozers hadn't knocked down any Palestinian houses because of the aliens. If they had Jeremy hadn't seen it on the news because of the aliens. If there was looting and riots because of the aliens Jeremy hadn't seen it on the news because of the aliens.

Jeremy was tired of the aliens. It was 3PM and Jeremy just thought the aliens the aliens the aliens until he felt his brain get tired. It happened a lot these days because of the aliens. Then his thoughts began drifting again. Jeremy thought about Liza but the aliens. Should he have married Liza but the aliens. Maybe he would have had a kid by now, and named him Jack after the old man, but the aliens. Jeremy didn't marry Liza because he just couldn't picture himself in the suburbs lobbing an easy one at his son named Jack atop some well-watered lawn. That was his image of being a Dad. Wiffleball in the yard. That had scared him. Now it was wiffleball in the yard and the aliens.

When Jeremy was a kid he didn't fear the aliens. He liked the aliens. He liked comic book aliens. He liked library books about aliens, the ones that explained that real-life scientists called aliens things like LGMs for little green men and BEM for bug eyed monsters. Jeremy really liked E.T.. ET was a little alien, one who came to earth quietly and didn't make a big show of it. If the news had told Jeremy about ET in some little California cul-de-sac back when he was a kid, Jeremy would have been all right with that. He would have been excited and maybe even looked at a map to see if it was feasible to ride his bike all the way from Boonton to the suburbs of Los Angeles. Jeremy and his friends Leonard and Steve would have been out in the yard in their tents, flash flights glowing and canteens full of Mountain Dew, because of the aliens. Getting ready for the aliens.

But Jeremy grew up. Leonard he lost track of. Steve sold insurance, then managed sellers of insurance, so said the Christmas card last year. A whole generation grew up and got jobs in television and made shows about aliens. They weren't LGMs or BEMs anymore, but gray aliens with inscrutable black eyes and secret plans to control the world. That's why Jeremy didn't have to watch the news footage of the aliens over and over again like the other people did, he'd seen it already on television and in the movies, with fake newscasters and fake sets.

Jeremy stood amidst the mess of his living room for hours, thinking about the aliens. He was glad he didn't have a son named Jack. He was especially glad he didn't have a dog because the dog would need a walk by now, but the aliens. It was getting late but Jeremy didn't have to go to bed because of the aliens. Normally, he would have to go to bed soon in order to get up on time for work but the aliens. Jeremy had no responsibilities because of the aliens. Nobody was about to ask Jeremy to do anything because of the aliens. If by some miracle somebody did, all Jeremy would have to say was "...but the aliens."

So after dark, when the illuminations from dozens of helicopters and the huge spotlights jury-rigged on the tar beach roofs of Manhattan made the alien ships shine like the top of a wave at the beach, Jeremy got together some pillows, all the cushions off his couch, the inflatable guest mattress, and some blankets and went up to the roof of his apartment building. He built his little fort, and along with all the other people on all the other roofs in town some had lawn chairs and telescopes, others just sat cross-legged and tried not to slide their asses down the shingles -- Jeremy watched the aliens.

Nick Mamatas is a writer not just going places, but already well on the way with books like Under My Roof and the Stoker Award nominated Move Under Ground. Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine, where Mamatas toils as editor: "Whether in the glossy pages of the men's magazine Razor or the stolen reams of office supplies that make up the zine The Whirligig," ("The ancestor of this very ezine!" JDF) "the writing of Nick Mamatas is your hitchhiker's guide to the new, and very weird, millennium."