I’m excited that my story, “The Day It Came from Beyond Outer Space,” is a part of Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021, currently funding on Kickstarter! This is the second volume anthologizing a wide spectrum of genre stories in homage to the pulp magazines of yesteryear.
I love classic sci-fi of the forties and fifties, so when editor Bob Greenberger gave me the opportunity to pitch for the new anthology, I immediately gravitated to a period story that saluted the B movies of the time just as much as the short stories filling classic pulp magazines like Astounding Science Fiction.
But I also thought right away of another kind of story I love: kids on an adventure. This subgenre is represented by movies like Stand By Me, E.T., or The Goonies, but also in classic literature like Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The idea being that the kids get involved with something that’s really a bit too dangerous for their age, but under circumstance such that they stick with it anyway. So I told Bob my story was like Stand By Me, but with a flying saucer instead of a dead body. I set it in the farm country of northern Minnesota, where I grew up. Specifically, on a slightly fictionalized version of my grandparents’ farm in 1958, only a little about a decade before I would be playing in the old barn introduced in the opening of the story. So, without further ado, here’s the excerpt . . .
The Day It Came from Beyond Outer Space
Dan and Bobby came to a sudden stop as they walked around the corner of the old Swenson barn and saw the frightening invader. Wayne, close behind on his bicycle, baseball cards thrumming in its spokes, slammed on the brakes.
“What gives?” Wayne said.
Dan pointed at the unexpected visitor: a teenage girl in a white t-shirt, bib overalls, and Chuck Taylors, her long black hair in a sloppy braid. She stood in the shade behind the barn, a cigarette in her left hand, a surprised look on her face. They had to look up at her, because she was taller than all of them, especially Bobby, the youngest.
Dan blurted, “Who’re you?” There’d never been a girl back here before. Bobby stepped behind him and didn’t say anything.
Wayne jumped off his bike, letting it fall into the weeds by their well-worn path. “Yeah, this is our spot.”
She took a puff on her cigarette. “Your spot?” She looked around at the barn, its overgrown pasture, the nearby hayfield. “Which of you owns all this?” She pointed at them in turn. “Larry? Curly? Moe?”
Dan frowned. The Swenson place didn’t belong to any of them, but Bobby’s family harvested the hay since no one else did. “We always come here. We were here first.”
“Not today you weren’t.”
Wayne said, “Are you living here like a hobo?”
She laughed. “No, I’m staying with my aunt for the rest of the summer.” She waved in the direction of Old Lady Lehto’s place, beyond some trees and across the road. It was by a pond, and the croaking of frogs wafted all the way to the barn.
“Well, that tears it,” said Wayne. He already had three sisters to try to avoid. “Summer’s ruined.”
She smiled and stubbed out her cigarette on the foundation of the barn. “What do you do back here?”
“Play on the rock or in the barn, mostly,” said Bobby, peeking out from behind Dan. He straightened his beanie over his fresh buzz cut, hiding the spots where his dad had nicked his scalp.
Wayne punched Bobby in the arm. “Don’t tell her!”
She glanced toward the mostly buried boulder in the overgrown pasture. Dan figured she only saw a big slab of rock, but for them it was Marshal Dillon’s office, or a flying saucer, or a castle, or a raft drifting down the Mississippi. Sometimes it was just for lying in the sun. It was a ways from the barn, which was half collapsed, its siding dark gray with age, only a hint of red paint left. They weren’t supposed to play in there because their moms thought it was dangerous. If they got caught they’d get the worst chore in their own barns: cleaning out the gutter behind the cows.
“I’m Jo by the way.”
Bobby stayed quiet, rubbing his arm. Dan scratched his nose. Wayne jammed his hands in his pockets. Jo watched them, raising her eyebrows. Birds sang in the background. Dan gave in before she started calling them Stooges again and said, “Dan, Wayne, Bobby.” He nudged the other boys as he said their names.
Jo nodded. When none of the boys said anything more, she said, “What else do you do out here in the country? Do you watch Alfred Hitchcock?”
“We don’t have a TV, and that’s past my bedtime,” Bobby said.
Wayne punched Bobby in the arm again. “Don’t tell her!”
Dan opened his mouth as if to answer—then ran for the boulder. It was theirs, and he would be the king of the hill. But he heard Jo running after him. She was laughing and still catching up, which didn’t seem fair. Soon they were neck and neck, stumbling over the uneven ground.
“Go, Dan, go!” yelled Wayne.
Jo was slowly pulling ahead. Her dang long legs, he thought. I’m going to lose to a girl! She gave him a sly sidelong glance and with three big bounds was at the boulder. Dan tried to stop, slipped in the grass, and went to his knees. At the same time, Jo staggered backward with a cry and fell off the boulder.
She rolled around on the ground, clutching her forehead, swearing like the boys’ dads when their tractors broke down. Dan got to his feet, hitched up his short pants, and retied his rope belt. Wayne stepped up beside him. Bobby stayed behind Wayne. They exchanged confused shrugs and looked down at Jo.
“What happened?” Bobby said.
“Tripped and hit her head on the rock?” said Wayne.
“I don’t think so.” Dan stepped closer to Jo. “Uh . . . you okay?”
Jo took her hands off her head, revealing a growing bruise above her left eyebrow. “No, dammit.”
“What happened?” Bobby said again, peeking out from behind Wayne.
“I hit my head!” Jo yelled, and Bobby jumped back.
“On what?” said Wayne.
“I don’t know.” Sitting up, squinting her left eye, Jo pointed into the air above the boulder. “Something up there.” She pulled a pack of Luckies and a matchbook out of the big center pocket of her overalls and lit a cigarette.
“Something . . . invisible?” Wayne said. “You’ve flipped your lid.”
But that’s all you get for now! Please consider supporting this anthology right now on Kickstarter so you can read the rest of my story as well as a bunch of other stories by Michael A. Burstein, Russ Colchamiro, Greg Cox, Paige Daniels, Mary Fan, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Michael Jan Friedman, Robert Greenberger, Glenn Hauman, Heather E. Hutsell, Paul Kupperberg, Karissa Laurel, William Leisner, David Mack, Danielle Ackley McPhail, Will Murray, Aaron Rosenberg, Dayton Ward & Kevin Dilmore, Richard White, and Sherri Cook Woosley.
*Photo caption: This is not what came from beyond outer space in my story, but it is from the cover of Thrilling Adventure Yarns 2021.
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