“Did you ever go to Magic Springs Amusement Park?” asked Cho.
“Yes. I’ve been there a few times,” replied Walt.
“You know that ride, Dr. Dean’s Rocket Launcher?”
“That’s the one that lifts people straight up and then drops them.”
“That’s the one. You ever see the people at the start, when it suddenly jerks them up?”
Cho, who was a stranger to him a few hours ago, and now was the only person he had seen in a week, gulped and said, “That’s what the people looked like when the tentacles fell from the clouds and whipped them up.”
Walt got both pictures in his head. That was what the people looked like, except the horrors were different. On the ride, they had expected it.
Cho had said little after joining him, but now seemed to be warming up. She said, “I’ve had them right by me, a few different times. I’ve seen them bust through the roofs of cars to take people, but they don’t take me.”
They were zigzagging through overturned and wrecked cars on the road. The damage the tentacles could do was apparent.
“They took everyone else,” said Cho. “Why don’t they take us?”
There was a croak in her voice. Walt was long single. Communication wasn’t his forte, and now this woman was in crises and wanted to talk. All he could think to do was be empirical.
“What are the similarities between us?” he asked.
“How are you and I alike?”
She took nearly a minute to answer, but he was glad to hear she was no longer on the verge of crying. “You’re a middle aged white man. I’m a young Asian woman. You’re big, and I’m small. We’re not really alike at all.”
“True, and in the ways we are alike, being human, speaking English, we were also like all the people who got taken.”
They came to a steep slope in the road. Near the end of the slope, Cho said, “This reminds me of The Peak Trail. I’d just come off it when the tentacles came.”
Walt laughed, though it was hard with his lack of air. “I wish I would have hiked more; then I’d be in better shape for all this walking.”
Cho didn’t laugh. She seemed deep in thought. They were making their way around an overturned tour bus when she said, “What were you doing when they first came?”
“Mowing my lawn.”
She seemed deep in thought for a few seconds and then said, “You were mowing, and I was hiking, both outdoor activities”
Now Walt thought for a few seconds and then said, “But we couldn’t have been the only ones. There must have been hundreds doing both activities on a summer day.”
She sighed and then said, “Yeah. I guess.”
Just then, he felt a sting and slapped it. He withdrew his hand from the little mess of blood and insect parts.
Cho got into her backpack. She pulled out a little blue cylinder. “Here,” she said. “I got this repellant off the internet. It works wonders.”
Walt went to spray it on his exposed skin. It wouldn’t spray. “It’s out,” he said.
“Oh yeah. I don’t know why I didn’t toss it. I finished it last night.”
The tentacles were transparent and you could only see them briefly when the sunlight hit them just right. Right now, Walt could see the suction cups behind Cho.
The thought that came seemed to have arrived to mock him. He looked at the can he was holding. He laughed with exasperation and said, “I got this off the internet, too. Good stuff. I bet we were about the only ones to have this particular brand on that day.” He laughed again. “I ran out last night too.”
Cho stared at him with an inquisitive look for a few seconds. Then there was the stunned horror when she was lifted into the sky.
“Yours must have worn off too,” he said to the girl who was gone.
He wondered what his face would look like when he was going up. After all, he was expecting it.
Joshua Scribner is the author of the novels Mantis Nights, The Coma Lights and Nescata. He's published over 100 stories. Up to date information on his work can be found at joshuascribner.com. Joshua currently lives in Michigan with his wife and two daughters.