The Cringe Encounter of The Worst Kind

(Note: This is a short story that is part of a collection that is still in progress. As such, some things might change between now and release. While this story is mostly on the completed end, there is still much to work on. Until then, enjoy this preview story that will be on sale April 2020. Take care, and remember, the inn is always open.)

The Cringe Encounter of the Worst Kind
By Steven Capobianco

As featured in How A Donut Destroyed Earth (And Other Strange and Unusual Tales)

Just when I thought living on this mound of dirt was the worst thing in my life, aliens came to Earth. About a week ago, the US president got a radio transmission from an unknown group of people who claimed to be from a far off planet in the Nebulos Galaxy, wherever that was. Considering how no one knew of extraterrestrial life until now, Earth came together and agreed to invite these space-faring aliens to our planet.
Could we trust them? I guess our government found a reason to. I admit, the idea of aliens visiting us had me bouncing off the walls. Even though it could have been some social media prank. Naturally, word spread far and wide. Everyone talked about the first contact—actual aliens. Twitter exploded with hashtags. Memes poked fun at either invasions, jokes about being abducted, begging to leave this planet, or just being a letdown in general. Despite the jokes, we were positive overall, and why wouldn’t we be?
Our parents allowed up to stay awake and take a road trip to see the landing. Granted, my brother just wanted to stay up and play video games all day. Meanwhile, I browsed the Internet searching for anything about our new visitors. Science articles, information from Nasa and SpaceX, even news reports going on and on all day about them. You’d think the world had nothing better to do.
Such a moment, one for the history books, would account for humanity as a whole to be on their best behavior. We knew nothing about them. Were a peaceful race? A violent one. Had they decided to live among us or conquer us? We had to bring the finest humanity had to offer. To convince them that humans were a well-behaved, intelligent, and welcoming race.
So it made sense for some corporate genius to have NBC and Verizon sponsor a televised concert welcoming these “aliens” on the day of their arrival. And they swore to hire the most talented and iconic acts. Not Led Zeppelin, Norah Jones, Elton John, or any actual good performer my parents would listen to. Instead, we got Pitbull, Nicki Minaj, Kim Kardashian for some reason–don’t ask, BTS, and who else to welcome our new visitors than YouTube sensation Kitcat99, whose fingers-rubbing-on-Styrofoam voice was sure to make the aliens welcome at home after their several million light-year journey.
You had one job, Planet Earth.
Tickets were about two hundred dollars total. Stalls were flooded with merchandise of all kinds. T-shirts, glowsticks, cameras, even plush dolls and figurines of what the aliens might look like. Some were creepy, others were like a generic cartoon alien. This was supposed to be the biggest impact on our lives and we’re treating it like a cash grab.
Pretty much most of the US and the news crew on vestibules, packed themselves at the landing point in Roswell, New Mexico. What, you expected a more appropriate and not cliched place? Not on this planet. My little brother and I were lucky enough to be dragged along to this thanks to my parents. I mean, who wouldn’t want to see this live? Aliens were visiting us. But to sit in front of a cringey concert where singers lip sync in the most obvious manner possible was…
“I’m so bored, Cassie!” my little, pain-in-the-butt brother Rory whined.
You and me both. As annoying as my bratty little brother was, I had to agree that this was a washout. Fyre Festival sounded more appealing than this, which wasn’t saying much. Ahead of us, a massive LED countdown ticked the hours by. Five hours, ten minutes, and twenty…nineteen…eighteen seconds until arrival. I’m curious how they could guess that since we had no other warning aside from, five hundred earth days from then.
Five hours.
“Cassie!” my brother said, tugging my skirt.
“Rory, I know. I’m bored too.”
“Now now, kids,” dad said, dressed like he was on vacation. “We need to be good for the aliens when they arrive.”
I seriously hoped we wouldn’t call them aliens. That was fine for a cheap science fiction flick, but not for a people visiting our planet. Ryan Seacrest and some new girl, Monique Sanchez, introduced Pitbull to the stage to a crowd cheering for him. My parents cheered. My own parents.
“They’d probably high tail it if they saw this mess,” I said.
As much as I said that sarcastically, my thoughts were in motion. If the aliens saw this, who knew what would happen? Maybe they’d blow the planet up, or maybe they’d leave and never come back. I wanted to welcome our new guests, and show them how Earth truly was. The good side of our world, to give them a reason to work with us. Not this half-hearted corporate insanity.
“Hey, Rory. Wanna have some fun?”
Rory was curious. “Define fun.”
The two of us went farther back so that our parents couldn’t hear us.
“I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not have our new visitors see that concert. I think we should guide them somewhere.”
“I’m so bored though. Who cares about aliens?”
“I’m guessing you’d rather watch this dumb concert?”
Rory was silent, and that was all I needed to convince him.
“Mom,” I said, approaching her. “We’re going to get some food.”
“Come back soon, okay?” she replied.
“Don’t want to miss history at work!”
Lucky for them, we’ll be making history. Of course I had to grab some snacks and a soda for each of us. Had to have evidence somehow. We also bought some glow sticks and luminescent rings to fit on our heads and arms. That was the easy part. The hard part? Finding a good spot for our new visitors. Our efforts led us well outside of the concert grounds and into the dark recess of Roswell’s badlands area. A large spot of land was empty save for a few cacti and assorted rocks. I could hardly hear the concert beyond. Of course, Area 51 lay in the distance, but I wasn’t interested in fake aliens. Nothing but dirt, rock, and prickly trees. I couldn’t think of a more perfect spot.
“Cassie?” Rory asked. “Where are we?”
“We are going to have our own welcoming concert. I’d rather not let our new visitors hear Pitbull or any corporate personality. They need a good first impression after all. So you and I will invite those visitors ourselves.”
“Really?” he said with a deadpan tone.
“Listen. I know you’re bored, but how often do aliens actually visit us? Like, for real. We’re about to see an entire group of people no one has ever seen before. And I, for one, refuse to let some corporate losers show us the greedy side of humanity.”
I handed him some glow sticks and bright ring toys, then decorating myself with them afterwards. The way I was dressed, you’d think I was myself an alien.
“What do you think?” I asked. I waved my arms, pretending to be some kind of robot. “Hello, Earthling! We come in peace!”
It took a little while, but after a few alien impressions, Rory belly laughed. We both played alien and pretended to introduce ourselves. Only we looked too silly, even by Earthling standards. We still had a job to do. Using one of the glow sticks, I made a large circle pattern in the dirt, with triangles and a small dot inside. It was big enough for the visitors to see, but it took a long while to make. Rory helped along and even wrote, “Welcome to Earth!” Although I made him get rid of the silly face he drew afterward.
“Perfect! That clock said five hours until they get here. After that long we should have…eugh.”
“Eugh, what?” Rory asked.
“That only took us ten minutes.”
“Eugh is right. I’m not waiting that long!”
“It’ll be fine. See that up there?”
I pointed to the bright star up above. It resembled a star, but it flashed like a car light.
“According to them, that’s the alien ship. They’re well on their way, which is why we have to bring them here and away from that stupid concert. Now, you know how to do hand signals, right? Like those light sticks the air control uses to call in airplanes?”
“Not really?”
My arms spread side to side, glow sticks in hand, and I waved my arms around, trying to direct the visitors above.
“What are you doing?” Rory asked, giggling.
“Trying to call them here?”
“They’re not going to visit if you look like that.”
“Better than what’s down there.”
He shrugged. “Good point.”
Rory joined in my air traffic control, looking just as ridiculous as I was. In retrospect, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all. Granted, it was a bunch of kids trying to signal aliens, but we weren’t exactly professionals ourselves. As fun as this was, we might never get their attention.
“You okay?”
“I’m fine. I just needed a moment.”
“We’re not going to see them are we?”
As much as I hated admitting it, he was right. No way were they going to come to us instead of the light show down there.
“Can you fault me for trying? I mean, what were we thinking? We could have gotten a good impression of the aliens, and they could have had a good impression of us.”
I sat on a rock, my head hung low.
“You okay?”
“Just annoyed. Why can’t we do anything right?”
“Cause corporations are terrible.”
Despite the blunt commentary, Rory was right. And that made things worse for me. All I could do was toss a random rock, which hit something, which yelped.
“What was that?” I asked.
Out from behind the rocks, a coyote limped along. There were coyotes here, but we thought they would run from the noise beyond. Worse, this one was a pup. And pips were never without their mama.
Howls echoed in chorus. Then they came out of hiding. One, two, three…six of them surrounded us, snarling and snapping, their teeth bare, claws out. We hadn’t seen coyotes this close before. Never had I wanted to see some dumb pop singer more than right now.
“Sis?” Rory asked, hugging me tightly. “I’m sorry for being a brat! I just wanted to see aliens!”
I held him close. “I’m sorry too. This was a stupid idea. I’m sorry for thinking you were annoying! You’re the best little brother I’ve ever had!”
“You’re the best, big sis!”
They growled at us, but before they could have us for a midnight snack, a heavy wind sent them scattering. We covered ourselves from the intensity and the dirt brushing against us. It was like a helicopter was about to land. I looked up. Above us was a massive, black, floating vessel in all it’s incredible glory. Not that massive ship like in Independence Day but more of an aircraft carrier turned into a ship like the Millennium Falcon. It was circular to be sure, but not like the cliched alien spaceships that only housed one singular alien.
Up close, I couldn’t even begin to state its majesty.
The powerful wind came to a halt and it hovered above us. Hardly any noise. A hole opened from beneath the ship and a light poured down to the circle we had made. Was this really happening? Our first look at aliens? Actual aliens from space? Were they little green men? Humans with strange heads? Animal-like beings? Three individuals came down from the ship, strangely shaped and hardly resembled humans.
This was it.
The light became shape. Their bodies formed into winged creatures, like pterodactyls. Only their heads were faceless and their bodies were more eagle than dinosaur. Their wings weren’t even avian but bat-like. What were these things? They looked nothing like the thousands of science fiction stories we had seen and read in our entire history. Then again, no one knew what aliens looked like.
Then it spoke:
“Dude, is this Earth? Is my Earth-speak okay? Whoa! You two are way small for humans. You know?”
He sounded like a gnarly surfer dude. Assuming he was even a he at all. The other one approaches us. Instinctively, we crept back a bit.
“Brox, these might be their younglings. Hey, uh, where are the adult humans?”
Rory and I exchanged glances. “No adults here, but we know where to find some. Uhh…Is that your ship?”
“Yeah! Tharkin ride, you know?”
“Th-Tharkin? Sorry, we’ve never met your kind before.”
“I’m Zix. My people are called Xiver.” He said it in such a way that I had to make up the spelling myself. I couldn’t pronounce it even if I wanted to. “Saw you humans were laid back, so I brought everyone along.”
“Well, not the planet. Just some friends. Hey, thanks for the landing pad, younglings. Your humans said they were holding a “concert” or something.”
Uh oh. They told him about that concert?
“Uh…That was canceled. Yeah, they thought you wouldn’t show up!”
All of a sudden, loud Reggaeton music reverberated across the badlands of Roswell. The Xiver spread his wings and cawed.
“Tharkin. Brox, come down! These guys are way more chill than I thought! Let’s party!”
The others came down, some small, some bigger than Zix, and just as oddly shaped as the others. They hopped off, assuming they weren’t capable of flight here (or in general for all we knew). We sat there while the aliens headed off to watch Daddy Yankee or something play for them. All this effort, risking our lives, nearly being food for the animals, and all this time, they really wanted this concert.
I never would have imagined caring more about pop music than aliens, but there we were, welcoming alien pterodactyl surfer bros to our wonderful planet. Talk about a close encounter.

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