Early Warning Chaos
by Chris Sharp
Mayor Philip Holiday
Surf City's new remodeled library was never as new as the media made it out to be. The building was really a salute to the old vertical architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. From the moment its rendering was received among its competition to our city council, the city manager took the bid as if it were his baby. I'm just the mayor of this place. I'm Mayor Philip Holiday of Surf City, California
The one freedom I have left in my diminished role as mayor is to invite anyone I want to the city's public events. When my guests RSVP, I encourage them to show up looking like an assortment of medals on the chest of a banana republic generalissimo.
And so at the opening of our brand new remodeled library, my guests glittered like solid gold medals. My wife was the Medal of Honor in last year's Paris runway couture. I don't mean to say that like a provincial. Last year's couture is the closest Surf City ever gets to Paris fashion.
There were many silver stars among the guests as well. My lawyer came with his wife was dressed like a romantic Russian peasant. The editor of our newspaper who has always backed my elections also came with his wife, whose dress looked like a sunset in Acapulco on a good night.
I had also invited as many of our faithful volunteers that I could think of. Foremost among these was our Volunteer Deputy Sheriff Taylor Anglim.
Taylor Anglim is not indeed an actual deputy sheriff carrying a gun and all that stuff. But I had selected a special police cap and a badge for him to wear in his volunteer duties, and also to add a touch of romance to what he did. What he did was known all over America, although to not many Americans in any state. His nonpaying duty was to look out for ghosts in this town that has been written about as the most intense ghost town in the United States.
Taylor may have sometimes looked and acted as if he were addled, but he had the honor of being the only one of our townspeople who were featured in a current and popular book. The book, of course, is "The 50 Weirdest Towns in America." The second chapter of this book goes all out to the tours Taylor gives to tourists who visit Surf City to sight one of our notorious ghosts.
"Taylor, you look well today," I told him. Actually he looked like hell, but you have to say that people who turn up at our rare town events.
"I don't feel very well," said Taylor, talking to the sky.
"Oh, no. Did you sight a ghost at this ceremony?"
"What's wrong then, Taylor?"
"Sir, I have been patrolling, and I have found a group of people who came in who should not be in this city. They have to be here for destructive reasons."
"What kind of people?"
"People who have come from a planet about one and a half times larger than our earth."
I looked more thoroughly into Taylor's eyes but they seemed no more disturbed than usual.
"Taylor, I'm sure the other guests wouldn't mind if you went home and rested from that experience."
"I actually think I should be going out and warning other people,"
"Son, I give you leave to go out and warn other people, and don't worry about that the library dedication."
I felt pretty relieved when he went to his bicycle. Taylor is not a bad young man, but I wasn't feeling comfortable with the way he was talking to the sky so personally.
My name is Buck Ortman. I have known Taylor Anglim since childhood days, and because he is basically a decent guy, I had always thought there was nothing wrong with him that a few good miracles couldn't cure. I have a very good memory, and I know that through middle school and high school, Taylor was hopelessly looped. Yet he had the one saving grace of becoming an uncanny artist. In his drawings of people he always got their wrinkles and dimples in the wrong and improper places, and the same with his placement of veins in his little homages to the fern leaf. But in every case, putting these details in the most unorthodox places put more life in his artistic subjects than not.
So those of us in school generally had the feeling that if Taylor could transfer his talent for drawing to some lucrative field, he might get some protection from his failures everywhere else.
It was about ten years since our high school graduation that one morning I found Taylor peddling furiously on his English bicycle down Surf City's Main Street.
"Hey Taylor," I yelled from my car. "What are you up to?"
He stopped his bike so suddenly to look at me that I felt I was left looking at his obsolete light rays from a previous moment.
"It's Buck Ortman," I said. "From school. Don't you remember? Buck here."
He must have remembered me because I was our varsity team's second starting quarterback and the back-up right fielder for our baseball team. These days -- so distanced from these fields of glory -- Taylor had surely seen me running around the local Albertson's supermarket as its assistant day manager.
"I'm on a special assignment from the mayor," Taylor said.
"What's your special assignment, Taylor?"
"I've found an alien group of people who may be up to harm this city, and I need to warn people."
"Where do these aliens come from, Taylor?"
"They must come from a planet at least one and a half times bigger than ours."
"Could you drive me to their camp? I could try to get my bicycle in the trunk."
"Oh oh. But I've got to go to work."
"I can show you proof they're interplanetary aliens. They're parked right off the state park limits."
"Yeah, but I've got to get to work in fifteen minutes. But it's great seeing you again, Taylor."
Pastor Alex DeFord
I'm Pastor Alex DeFord. I have known Taylor Anglim since he was a young child in my church's youth congregation. On the day of Surf City's remodeled library dedication, I was busy with my weekly Bible class with four senior sisters. Our group was discussing the Apostle Paul on his one-man rampage to throw the Roman Empire upside down. Suddenly Taylor burst through the door into our little study room in the rectory with his volunteer deputy's cap askew.
"Taylor," I said. "Are you coming to join our class?"
"Pastor Alex," he said, taking deep breaths. I should have guessed he had been riding his bicycle exceptionally hard to arrive here. "There is a crisis happening in our city."
"We only have a few minutes scheduled for our Bible class, Taylor, but we all have our own thoughts about the Apostle Paul here, and your own impressions would be especially welcome to add to our salad."
"Pastor Alex, I know you are a man of faith, so you must understand that even the strongest natural laws are subject to higher laws."
"Of course that's true. That's how the Apostle Paul evolved from being just another Pharisee."
"So apply the same open-mindedness to what I have seen, Pastor Alex. I have seen people from outer space camped outside the state park. Why are they there?"
"People from outer space, Taylor?"
"Yes. Why are they hiding there unless it is to advance their domain against ours?"
"Did they invite you to join them, Taylor?"
"No. No. I followed one out there because after all these years I've spent finding ghosts, I have a nose for non-human DNA."
"Of course you do, Taylor."
"I'll show you pictures I took of them. You'll see what I mean that they couldn't be the same people we are."
"You have pictures?"
"Not with me, but I left them at my place. But I can go home and bring them back to you."
"I'm sorry, Taylor. I can't. I have a meeting after this at the other end of town."
"It will only take me about fifteen minute to bring back these unbelievable pictures."
"I'm sorry, Taylor. But I have to sum up this class now."
I'm Susan Anglim. I have been married to Taylor Anglim in a kind of childless marriage for three years now, and it has never been much of a picnic. I say kind of a childless marriage although in a way Taylor has been the anchoring child of our home.
Taylor comes bursting into the house that day, yelling that he "had to get those pictures." I ask, what pictures? He tells he took photographs the other day of interplanetary aliens camping by our state park, but now he can't remember where he put those "lousy pictures".
He tears through the apartment, turning our shelf system inside out. I try to help him, asking him what the interplanetary people look like. He tells me they look sort of ordinary but they carry heavy-leaden ballast in their pockets to keep them from floating away like hot-air balloons.
I ask him, "Why should they float away?"
At first Taylor just shakes his head as if he can't believe how unscientific I am.
Then he condescends to answer to answer my question. "If they didn't come from a planet that's about one and a half bigger than ours," he tells me, "our gravity wouldn't be so weak for them."
"So what did you do?" I ask him. "Did you photograph them when they started floating and they thought no one was looking?"
Taylor looks at me intently. "Yes!" he says.
He has already turned our bedroom upside down, and now he goes into the living room to do the same there. Soon I hear him yell out.
"What is happening now?" I ask him from my place in bed. At this point I feel my bed is the only stable place left in the house.
"They followed me here!" he shouts.
"Who? The floating interplanetary people?"
Suddenly the big window of my bedroom bursts open and a very fat woman floats into the room. Her chubby knees sort of grimace between long shorts and long argyle-designed socks, and her face looks sort like that of a clown who crashes her bicycle into things at a circus.
In the middle of the room, she starts bumping into everything there is to bump. I have a few nice things not already on the floor from Taylor's search, so this concerns me.
"Taylor, there is a very fat woman floating around in our house."
"Being fat makes her extremely buoyant," he says. "You can't chase them because it's like chasing a bunch of balloons in a tropical storm. This is what they want to take over our earth."
"If you such an expert, why don't you come in and stop her from taking over our bedroom?"
"All right. All right."
Taylor runs into the room and looks at the fat woman in the air.
The fat woman looks terrible. Her eyes are closed as if she doesn't want to see where she is going or what she is going to bump into next.
"Susan," Taylor says, "Get on your hands and knees and crawl under her and come here to this door."
"I don't want to crawl in front of this person," I tell him.
"Well, you don't want to touch her because she might have some strange radiation on her," Taylor says.
So I fall to the floor and then I run like a rat underneath the fat woman. When I reach the door, Taylor picks me up by my hands.
"Now out the door," he says. "Run, run, run, darling."
We run out of the house at once. And I scream for so long I think I might be dying for not breathing enough earthly air.
Mayor Philip Holiday
Damned if Taylor wasn't right about aliens. Wish he'd said something about them floating around like blimps -- we missed the deadline for adding to SurfCity's entry in "50 Weirdest Cities" next edition. He was right about them causing destruction, too -- although it's mostly from folks driving into each other while watching one of Them floating or bouncing by.
© 2012 Chris Sharp
Bio: Chris Sharp graduated from Fresno State University in 1997. In 2003, he won the West 35th Street Award for best new fiction by Crimestalkers.com. Between stories, he is a public school teacher at the Menifee School District in Riverside County, CA. Chris's most recent appearance in Aphelion was Death with French Bread in the April 2011 issue. He now has a new non-fiction book, "Dangerous Learning: The New Schooling in California", available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
E-mail: Chris Sharp
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