The Alien

by Peter Uttal

A native New Yorker, Peter Uttal currently lives in Miami, where he's composing a book of short stories. An award-winning science teacher, he has worked in Haiti, Israel, and Germany.



Eddie Casey was a sociopath.  He stole three hits of Mickey Mouse acid from my refrigerator, and ate them.  Upon my discovery of the missing drugs, I confronted him and he admitted to his crime.

“Eddie Casey,” I said, “Considering the gravity of this infraction, I’m going to have to eat three hits myself.”  And so I did.

Eddie seemed like a normal guy, but sometimes he turned into the Incredible Hulk.  There was the time, years before, when we were both freshmen, that he dropped his high school ring down the drain in the dormitory bathroom sink.  He found a wrench and painstakingly took apart the drainpipe, retrieved his ring, and carefully put the drain back together.  Then he took his big booted foot and stomped on the sink until it was wrenched from the wall.  The supply pipes were broken, and water sprayed everywhere.  Why did he do it, we asked.  He didn’t know. Sometimes he did these things.

After we graduated, he got a grounds-keeping job at the Mohonk Hotel, and I stayed on to work for the college, where he often visited me.

While waiting for the acid to kick in, we decided to go to the movies.  Alien was playing.  We left Gage Hall, where I was the dorm director, crossed the campus, and strolled up South Manheim Boulevard to Main Street.  We hiked the two miles up Main Street, past the old stone library building, past the Stop ‘n’ Shop, past the Jack-in-the-Box, to the lobby of the New Paltz Cinema.

We sat in the second row, and put our legs up on the backs of the first row seats, and slumped down real low.  This had the effect of putting the edges of the screen outside our peripheral vision, leaving us to dwell inside the movie.  As we watched the spaceship Nostromo pull up to the asteroid, the acid kicked in full blast.

The screen burst into color, and all the moving objects left colorful trails across our horizon.  We settled into our soft reclining seats.  The space-suited men explored the alien vessel, their amplified breathing sounds echoing through the theater.  They came upon some egg-like shapes, about the size of a reclining chair.  The top of one egg began to open with a slimy slithering sound, and John Hurt bent over it to take a closer look, and –SUDDENLY—something sprang from the egg to his helmet.  A little monster had broken through the clear plastic faceplate and wrapped itself around Hurt’s face and throat, like a giant hand with a prehensile tail.

And just as suddenly, three rows behind us, six Chinamen shot into the aisle like fireballs from a roman candle.  Fearful for their lives, clumped together in the aisle, they proceeded quickly to the back of the theater.  They stayed in tight formation and moved simultaneously, seemingly tied at the ankles, as if they were a giant charm bracelet shuffling toward the exit.  They left, never to return.

We, on the other hand, did not move in the slightest, keeping our legs-up slouching positions.  We sat for the rest of the movie with our jaws agape, three fingers in our respective mouths to the first knuckle.

I was petrified, speechless, unable to move.

The movie proceeded, with the alien later popping out of Hurt’s chest, growing to gargantuan size, and killing almost all of the members of the crew one by one.  In the end, Sigourney Weaver killed the beast, did a little striptease, crawled into her cryotube, said her piece into her voice journal, and the credits rolled.

During the credits, Eddie and I slowly regained our mobility, and surreptitiously removed our fingers from our mouths.

“Were you scared?” asked Eddie Casey.

“Naah,” I said, “Were you?”

“Naah,” he said.  “How about a beer?”

We made our way to the lobby, through the New Paltz Plaza parking lot, and out onto Main Street.  It had gotten quite dark out, and we made our way through the balmy autumn evening, down the gentle two-mile incline toward the center of the old town.

As we passed the peaceful old suburban homes and the fast food joints, little space ships, about the size of sedans, whooshed by, hovering a few feet above the pavement, making Jetson-like sounds.  When the road became silent, I could hear slithering, squishing sounds coming from the bushes on either side of the road.  Out of the corners of my eyes, I could see something moving, so I kept my eyes forward, and welcomed the returning sounds of the spacecraft on the road.

We passed the old stone library, and entered the one long block that comprised the entirety of the old town.  Street lamps blazed, flooding the storefronts and the old Victorian buildings with a blinding yellow light.  Spaceships idled before the traffic light at the bottom of the hill.

We crossed the street between the idling cars (they were cars now) and made our way up the steps into the Thesis Bar.  It wasn’t crowded.  We noticed Frannie’s boyfriend, Pat O’Riley, sitting with Rosencrantz, next to the plate-glass window, with a pitcher of beer.  Pat went to the bar to get two empty mugs for us and Eddie and I sat across from Rosencrantz.  Pat came back, sat himself next to Rosencrantz, and poured two foamy mugs for Eddie and me.

Pat O’Riley was an animal.  He rode his bicycle every weekend, all the way from Brooklyn, a ninety-minute ride by car, to see Fran, his busty little artist-intellectual girlfriend.  Often, we would encounter him and Frannie at Secret Spot, a nude swimming hole in the Shawungunk Mountains above the town.  Pat would jump into the 32-degree snowmelt creek totally naked, and swim in circles.  Climbing out, he didn’t need a towel.  He shook himself off like a dog.

We helped Pat finish his pitcher, and engaged him in conversation.  I looked into his eyes.  They blazed with cornered-animal lunacy.  Out of the corners of my eyes I could see the aliens sitting on the barstools, their tentacles wrapped around mugs of beer which they poured into their double sets of jaws, letting it drip down their nasty black rib cages.  Their long insect-like legs couldn’t fit under the bar, so they sat sideways on their stools.

Engaged in conversation with Pat, every so often I cast my gaze over to the bar, where the aliens instantly turned into people.  When I looked back at Pat, they turned back into aliens again.  Pat was talking about how much he hates punks.

He was scowling at Trixie as he spoke.  Trixie wore a skinny black body stocking, purposely cut to shreds, and then pieced back together with safety pins.  She had piercings around her ears and mouth, topped off with little round black stones.  The sides of her head were shaved, and she had a tuft of fire engine-red hair on top.  She had a pretty face.  Rosencrantz and O’Riley were watching her dance by herself in the middle of the barroom floor, Rosencrantz lost in thought, O’Riley muttering under his breath.

Eddie Casey said, “I wanna get drunkedelic.”

He had no money, as usual, so I used the last of my change to buy another pitcher.  Eddie and I chugged down the beer like we had been lost in the desert for a year.  Pat and Rosencrantz drank theirs slowly.  Pat ordered another pitcher, and Rosencrantz another.

Normally three beers is my limit, but LSD dampens its effect on me.  Eddie Casey and I drank and drank like shipwrecked sailors, and remained sober as nuns.  (Nuns who were tripping on acid, that is.)

We all ran out of money.  O’Riley, Rosencrantz and I were content to stop drinking.  But not Eddie Casey.  He went up the bar and started an argument with the bartenders.

“We drink here every night for years,” Eddie shouted.  “It’s about time you bought us a pitcher.”  He made such a ruckus he caused the aliens to slither backwards on their barstools.  The argument continued as Trixie danced over to our table

“Yer an ugly piece of shit,” said Pat to Trixie.  He was sloshed.  She was self-possessed and smirking at him.

“Pat, you’re not being pleasant,” said Rosencrantz.

“Yer a nasty, smelly little cunt,” said Pat, his eyes narrowing.

“Pat, you’re definitely not being pleasant.”

Pat paid him no heed, and flicked his lit cigarette at Trixie, hitting her in the breast.

“Why, you little pencil dick!” said Trixie.

Suddenly, violence broke out on both sides of the bar.  I caught a glimpse of Eddie Casey with one knee on a barstool and the other on the bar, leaning over the tap, trying to fill a pitcher of beer.  A burly bartender grabbed him by the throat and pulled him right over the bar and onto the floor.

O’Riley practically jumped over the table to lunge at Trixie.  Rosencrantz had him around the waist, but could barely hold the charging animal.  Several bystanders grabbed at O’Riley, who was twisting and howling like a dog.

The two bartenders were still struggling with Eddie, but were gradually herding him toward the back door, as Eddie shouted and lashed out with his skinny arms.

In all the ruckus that ensued, somehow I was shoved out the front door. I stumbled down the stairs and regained my balance on the sidewalk.  I just stood on the street and watched the traffic for a while, enjoying the warm yellow light of the streetlights, and the trails left by the gleaming chrome bumpers of the space ships that passed.

I turned my attention to the front of the pizzeria next door.  There were two nubile coeds attempting to feed a piece of pizza to a midsized, apparently homeless mutt. 

“You’re feeding him?” I asked.

“He’s hungry,” the short blond girl said.

“If I was hungry, would you feed me?” I asked.

“No…” she began.

“Well then,” I said, “Where are your priorities?  Where…are…your…priorities!” 

Just then, I heard some tittering behind me.  I turned around to see R. Couteau, who was scribbling furiously in his little newsman’s notebook.

“Don’t worry,” he said, “I’m getting all of this down.”

Couteau was a painter and a poet.  He worked in abstract oils and be-bop poetry.  He always carried a pad to write new ideas in.

Couteau had a first name, but that is not important.  We called him R. Couteau because that is how he signed his paintings.  It suited him.

“R. Couteau,” I said, “Your eyes are radiating blue energy.  It’s amplified by your blue shirt.  Really powerful.”

“Pauley, you’re tripping again,” he said.

“What makes you say that?” I asked.

We strolled up the street as I told Couteau about the aliens in the bar and Eddie Casey’s attempted larceny.  When I mentioned Trixie, Couteau said, “You know, I’ve been seeing Trixie for a couple of weeks now.  She’s good people.”

“Really?  Well, I’m glad to hear that.  She seems alright to me.”

I had seen Trixie around town, but had never actually made her acquaintance.

R. Couteau and I stopped into the diner for a cup of coffee.  He continued to write in his pad as we talked.

I told Couteau about the research I had been doing with a troop of Rhesus Macaque monkeys in the sociobiology lab.  I had become quite taken with them, and had started to emulate them in my everyday life.  I began to pick at the hair on my friends’ heads, arms and legs, and make threat gestures at other males in my age group.  I would hoot when contented and scream when troubled or aroused.

Back on the street, Couteau walked with me and nodded, and continued to write down everything I said.  We circled the downtown block a few times and then we stopped in the lobby of the clothing store.

“Trixie lives upstairs,” said Couteau.  “Let’s go up and see if she has some beers for us.”

We went up the narrow dark staircase, and into Trixie’s dark railroad apartment.  Couteau led me down a narrow hallway.  There were several bedrooms on one side, and Trixie’s bedroom was at the end of the hall.  It was a tiny room, lit by a single 60-watt bulb hanging from the high ceiling.  It was furnished with a single mattress on the floor, a beanbag chair and a night table.  The closet was separated from the room by a tattered curtain.  On the table was a bag of pot and some paraphernalia.  Couteau rolled us a joint while Trixie went to the fridge for some beers.

Couteau slouched into the beanbag chair and I sat on a corner of the mattress.  Trixie returned with the beers and sat on the mattress too, propping her back up on the wall.

Couteau made the introductions.  “Pauley here is one of my dearest friends.”  Trixie smiled warmly at me and I took an instant liking to her.  We passed the joint around and sipped our beer bottles.  Couteau and I continued to talk about the rhesus macaques.  After an hour or so, Trixie began to fidget, as if she had had enough of being ignored.  She threw Couteau a few glances to show that she was ready for bed.  She took off her shoes and got more comfortable.  I took these signs and realized that she was ready for me to leave.

“Trixie,” I said, “Couteau and I sleep together.”  I was joking, but deadpan.  A long silence ensued.

Finally, Trixie said, “Well then, I guess I’m going to have to sleep with both of you.”

This gave me a chance to talk with Couteau for another half hour.  When we ran out of things to say, I stood up to leave.  Trixie and Couteau stood up too.  I shook Couteau’s hand, and gave Trixie a hug and a little kiss on her alabaster cheek, turned, and headed for the street.

I checked all the bars for Eddie Casey, but he was not to be seen.  The bars were all but empty at this point.  It was three-thirty in the morning on a weeknight.  I had to find him.

The short walk up Plattekill Avenue to the campus was a delight.  Totally alone among the Victorian homes, I enjoyed the cool air and the strong pumping of my legs up the hill.  I reached the old campus, and cut across the courtyard between the ivy-covered buildings.  Past the towering administration building and the squatty modern art center, I entered the courtyard of the five older dormitory buildings.  Gage Hall was at the opposite end of the yard.  I passed among the oak trees until I reached the tallest tree, right next to the private entrance to the dorm director’s apartment.

I kicked off my shoes.  Feeling my biceps bulge and the soles of my feet on the bark, I hoisted myself onto the lowest branch, and quickly scrambled to the treetop.  This was my daily routine; first thing in the morning, and the last thing at night; I climbed to the very top of the tallest tree in the courtyard.

Standing on a flimsy branch, and holding another overhead, I gave the treetop a mighty shake.  I let out a very loud shriek: “Ooh ooh ooh ooh aah aah aah aah!” 

The call was heard in every room of every dormitory.  But lights did not go on, and heads did not poke out of windows.  The students had become acclimated to the sounds of the jungle by this time.

This ritual I had learned from the rhesus macaques in the sociobiology lab.  It meant for all to see and hear, that I was the alpha male of the university troop.  It also meant for all to see and hear that it was my right, as alpha male, to mount any female in the courtyard and the surrounding buildings.

I would retain that right until another male successfully knocked me out of the treetop and took my lofty position for himself.  Fortunately for me, Sociobiology was not a popular course, so very few people understood the deeper meaning of all that tree shaking and hollering.  Hence, nobody challenged my position as alpha male.

Back on the ground, I remembered my mission was to find Eddie Casey.  I was concerned that maybe he had gotten himself into some kind of trouble, gotten beaten up, or was perhaps apprehended by the Campus or Town Police.

But before checking with the authorities (after all, I was the authority in the dormitory by way of being the dorm director) I thought I might check some of the more benign possibilities.  Perhaps he had come back to the dormitory to sleep in the lounge or hook up with one of the lady residents.

I keyed the door of my apartment and headed to the refrigerator for a cool drink of orange juice.  It tasted a bit metallic, because I was still in full Technicolor.  I looked around the dark living room to see if there were still any visual effects.

Yep.  Paisley.

I heard a sound.  It was an animal sound of some sort.  Could space creatures have invaded my house?  Was there an alien hiding under my bed? 

I went to the bedroom and looked in the closet and under the bed.  Nothing. The noise was a little quieter now, farther away.  It was something like a roar, something like a lion purring.  It repeated at regular intervals.  It must be an alien, I thought.

I had a little hammer in my closet I used for hanging pictures.  I grabbed it and crept across the carpeted living room floor.  The sound wasn’t coming from the kitchen; I had already been there.  I checked the bathroom.  Nothing unusual there.  The guest room!  That was the only place left.

I crept toward the guest room with my hammer held high, ready to pounce or be pounced on.  But nothing moved.  In the light of the window, I could see the silhouette of a large form on top of the bed.  Its profile rose and fell slowly, repeatedly.  It didn’t seem to notice me, so I silently sneaked toward it.

Slowly, in the darkness, I saw a face take shape.  It was Eddie’s face.  He was lying on his back, snoring loud like a motorcycle exhaust.  Not an alien.  Not a lion.  Just Eddie Casey.

But how did he get in?  The entrance door was double bolted; I had used two keys to get in.  I checked the interior door, the one that led out to the dormitory corridor.  Also double locked.  I never went out without checking both doors.

So how did he get in?  I searched the apartment for clues.  There were none.  I went back outside, and then I saw it, about thirty feet away.  It was shiny and glinted in the streetlights.  It was a twisted and mangled rectangle of aluminum, a screen from a dormitory window.  I walked back toward the apartment, and cut around the bushes to the window of my guest room where Eddie was sleeping.  There was no window.  That is, the window was there, but the glass was not.  I looked at the bushes, about ten feet down, and I saw something glinting.  I walked over.

Dangling in the bush was a window frame with a fully intact panel of glass.  Slowly it dawned on me.

Eddie had returned to the dorm expecting to find me there.  When his knocking did not produce an open door, he flew into a rage.  He went to the nearest window and did the Incredible Hulk.  He ripped the window screen off the building, twisted it into a mangled mess, and threw it out into the courtyard.  He used his skinny arms, then super-powered with adrenalin, to lift the locked window frame right out of the track, glass and all, and cast it aside, some ten feet away.

Climbing through the window, he found himself in a dark room with a bed.  No longer having an object for his rage, he gradually calmed down, his pulse slowed, and he became tired and lay down.  Just like the Incredible Hulk, he turned back into a regular human being, and fell asleep.  Then he started to snore like a broken muffler.

It was after five in the morning.  Having nothing left to do, but still charged up from the acid, I lay down on the living-room sofa and watched the paisley patterns dance below the ceiling.  Soon the sun would be up, students would prepare for their classes, and I would have to commune with humans again.

____________________

Contact the author at: peteruttal@aol.com



publications


 fine art


Uploaded: 7 Feb. 2014 | Updated: 7 Feb. 2014 | Story copyright © 2014 Peter Uttal. key words: | New Paltz | 1970s | memoir | Seventies | acid | The Alien | literary fiction | short stories | film movies cinema | tripping | stories about LSD