Little Jeanette sat on the lawn, staring upwards, mesmerized. The millions of magenta-coloured points of light exploded into a new image, this time of a flower, high in the Sunday night sky; slowly, like fireworks, they dissolved and reformed into a new image; Jeanette called to her father.
"Daddy, why does this man have four legs and arms?"
"Uh, I don't know honey." He yelled from the couch. Toronto was down a goal with a minute left, and just pulled their goalie. "It's, uh, uh,"
"Never mind!" called Jeanette, as a blue circle formed around the figure in the sky. She'd seen that picture before in her science textbook, and remembered the naughty bits were pixeled out. Da Vinci, that name appeared in her mind. But here he stood, in all his magenta glory, showing his manhood to all who could see.
Jeanette's father walked out onto the porch, grumpy; Toronto allowed not one but two empty net goals; typical. He released a beer belch, and looked up at the sky; a big magenta frank & beans greeted his curious eyes. So, he thought, it's still going on. He looked at Jeanette.
"OK little lady, I think it's bedtime for you!"
She looked up at him with pleading eyes; Universal Man had started to break up, and a new image was reforming in the night sky. "Please, daddy. Just a few more minutes?"
He looked back at the fridge. His wife had already gone to bed, and was probably asleep; he figured he could fit in one more beer without her noticing. "Alright, but ten more minutes! Then it's straight to bed with Jeanny!"
Jeanette looked up at him with a smile. "Thank you daddy!" And she looked back up at the sky, chin propped up on her hands. The image had morphed now, and changed colour to yellow. The tiny points of light lined up neatly and formed III.I.IIII.I.IIIII in the sky. Jeannie thought it looked like a bar code, and wished she had a laser scanner. Jerry, watching from behind the screen door, swore with derision under his breath.
Fucking idiots, don't they realize kids have school tomorrow!
He shuffled back to the couch and changed the channel to CNN, only to find their "guest experts" still didn't know fuck all, and rehashed the same information everybody had known for the last two days; no one knew where the lights had come from; no one knew how they were made. The only new bit of info, from NASA atronomer Neil Patrick, was that diffusion patterns suggested that the lights were in the upper stratosphere. At least. Astrologer Sylvia Browne weighed in with her typical gravitas that we were on the brink of a new interstellar intelligence which would move us all towards enlightenment. Which was all well and good, thought Jerry. But he had bills to pay, and creditors on his ass, so if interstellar intelligence included twenty six grand for debt clearance, he was all for it.
He heard Jeanette coo in delight from the porch; intrigued, he stepped back outside and saw, high in the sky, a blue circle with a yellow triangle inside; in bright green, the symbols III III sat inside the triangle. Thirty-three? What the hell is that supposed to mean?
"Jeanette, let's go, it's time for bed. You've had your ten minutes." Sternly, and with authority; the way he'd been raised.
"No buts. Get in here, now."
The tone in Jerry's voice suggested any appeals process was unlikely, and Jeanette reluctantly stood up and walked back into the house. She looked back at him with a serious look as she entered the bathroom to brush her teeth.
"Daddy, this is important."
"So is bedtime. Get to it!"
She closed the bathroom door, and heard the tap running. Good girl, he thought. Do as you're told.
The lights were off, and the rest of the house was either asleep or pretending to be; and with three-quarters of a beer left in his bottle, and a warm evening beckoning, Jerry went out to see for himself what all the fuss was about. He walked out onto the front porch and looked up; his neighbours were on their lawns, doing the same. Flickers of light from the high school yard gave away the students gathering there, setting a bonfire now for the second night in a row, smoking pot and fucking with wild abandon; for them apocalypse was upon them, at their tender young ages, with many earthly pleasures yet to explore, and no time like the present.
The points of light separated in the sky, and formed a rectangle; oohs and aaahs cooed from the rest of the street as the rectangle filled to form the back of an American dollar bill, green and white except for the eye in the pyramid, crimson red. His neighbours, both college professors, seemed particularly enthralled.
"Look at the eye! They're denouncing money! Great! Down with monetarism and capitalism, finally someone to show us the right way!" Yelled Marty Sorley, his wife cooing with approval. The image started changing, and he took off his thick, black-rimmed glasses to wipe the lenses.
"Easy for them to say", grumbled Jerry. A crumpled, dirty hundred sitting in his pocket constituted the family's food budget for the next week. He decided he'd had enough of this light show, went back inside, and closed and locked the front door. No telling who'd be up at all hours tonight. It was probably just some clever hoaxer, anyway. He recalled seeing on the news five years ago, some idiot who turned the water in theTrevi fountain blood red, and was hailed as a groundbreaking artist. Probably same idea here, some geek with too much time and too few girls on his hands programming some wild scheme to get famous.
Jerry wondered why they couldn't just get an honest job like regular people as he climbed into bed; his wife stirred from her sleep.
"mmm, Jerry, is that you?" Sleep choked her throat and her words only croaked through.
"Yes, honey, it's me."
"what were you doing?"
Jerry thought about it. "Leafs lost in overtime."
Pause. "Those dumb lights aren't still on, are they?"
"Yeah, Jeannie was out watching them tonight."
Grumbles. "I wish whoever was causing all this trouble would stop. Kids have school and we have work. Mmmm. I'm tired, I'm going back to sleep."
Jerry laid on his back. "Goodnight, Laura".
The next morning, both woke up with a start, unaccustomed to not rising with the alarm. The sun was streaming through their bedroom window, bathing the beige room in a warm glow. Panic quickly set in as neither of them had seen this on a weekday for some years now.
They both instinctively turned their heads towards their digital clock, and were both greeted with a blank burgundy display. Jerry turned towards Laura.
"The power must be out."
"I wonder what's going on? Could you go out and talk to the Sorleys, see if they have power?"
Jerry nodded, got up, and donned his navy terrycloth robe.
"Daddy, daddy!" Yelled Jeanette in the living room. "There's no school today! There's no power!"
"How do you know?" asked Jerry. He looked at the blank 52" flatscreen sitting like a paperweight in the living room.
"I don't know", replied Jeanette. "I just do."
"Well", said Jerry tersely, "better get ready just in case. I'm going to the Sorleys, and after that I'm driving you to school."
Jeanette looked at him with a determination he had not seen for some time. "There is NO school today. Not tomorrow, not ever."
"I don't care if you think school isn't coming back for a thousand years. Now get ready." He strode out onto the porch, and walked across his front lawn towards the Sorleys. Marty was sitting on the front porch, wearing a Burger King crown, a wide grin on his face.
"Hey Jerry! How's it going! Beautiful day out, eh?"
Jerry felt sour. "Do you know what's going on? We have no power, how about you?"
Marty looked at Jerry and broke out laughing. "Nope! The revolution will not be televised!"
"It's ok, man! You don't get it, but that's fine! OK!" He pulled out a fat joint from his pocket and lit it up. "Want some?"
"No, that's ok." This had not been informative. Jerry turned back towards his house. "Well, I guess I'll see you later, Marty."
Marty waved. "Bye Jerry!"
Laura met him in the kitchen. "Christ, I can't even make any coffee. So what did Marty say?"
"He, uh, didn't know what was going on."
"Well does he have power?"
"I don't think so."
Jeanette piped in. "He doesn't"
Laura looked at her tersely. "You need to get ready for school. Now go, get changed."
She walked back to her room, head hung in resignation. Truth never trumps power, she thought.
Twelve minutes later, Jeanette and Jerry were sitting in the cab of his truck, ready to back out of the driveway. Jerry was wearing his blue work shirt, with Jerry written in cursive in a white oval over his left breast. He remembered the pride he felt when he got his very own embroidered work shirt, twenty years ago. Those were heady times for a sheetmetal worker, when public works were still building new things, and when three generations of a family were still working in the same shop. But times changed, fast, and now this shit was happening. Christ, thought Jerry, looking into his rear view mirror. Is three squares and a roof too much to ask for without trouble?
"It is, daddy. Things are different now."
Jerry looked at Jeanette with equal parts comprehension and fear.
"Did you just read my mind?"
Jeanette paused for a second, collecting her thoughts. "Well, I guess. Not really. Not in words or anything. I just got a...feeling from you, is all. It's mostly yellow, with bits of red."
That was damn strange, for a Monday morning. Jerry thought it best to let it slide. "Ok, well, let's go, I'll drop you off at school on my way to work."
"You know, there-"
"Is no school. I get it. Well, we're going to swing by and make sure."
He pulled off of Meadowvale lane, wide as a country highway, onto the main arterial street, Brookdale Ave. The street was mainly empty, except for three military troop carriers careening down the wrong lane well in excess of posted speed limits. They swung past Jerry's truck, slowed down, then backed up, blocking him from the ave. The passenger door of one of them swung open, and a soldier yelled at them.
"What is your business here?"
"I'm just going to work, and my daughter here is going to school."
The soldier glanced at his buddy next to him, and then back at Jerry. "Sorry sir, all civilian traffic is closed today. Best go back home, take a day off." The driver was receiving a frantic message over the walkie talkie, and nodding with comprehension. The faint popping sound of automatic rifles echoed in the distance. A well-dressed man, sitting behind the driver, looked at Jeanette intently, then whispered something in the driver's ear; he had a large black dot on the side of his wrist.
"What's going on?" Asked Jerry, alarmed.
"Nothing, sir." Responded the 21-year old with authority. "Return to your home, immediately."
The truck accelerated down the avenue, wheels screeching.
"I told you so" said Jeanette as Jerry turned back home.
The rest of the day was spent in a state of semi-panic mixed with pervasive boredom. The three of them, the Mr. Jerry Martin family, sat around the table, suggesting entertainment options.
"Maybe we could watch-" started Laura
"We could bake cookies then-"
"No electricity" repeated Jerry.
He looked at Jeanette, who sat at the table looking glum.
"Any suggestions from the peanut gallery?"
Nope. Suddenly, her eyes opened wide. "Mom! Duck!"
Laura looked at her, annoyed. "Duck? What do you mean, duck? I'm trying to think of some constructive suggestions here and you're just-"
A splash of broken glass from the living room window; simultaneously, Laura flew backwards from her chair, at the head of the table, and landed on her back on the floor. Jerry and Jeannie both stared at the nickel-sized hole in her forehead, in shock; neither could fully believe how fast the pool of crimson blood spread from the back of her head across the off-white linoleum. Jeanette looked seriously at Jerry;
“Daddy, he missed.”
The front door flew open; Marty Sorley was standing there, still wearing a forgotten crown; but said nothing. He looked in Jeanette's eyes for a moment, she looked back, and she got up from the table, shuffled past her father, still frozen in shock, and walked towards Marty.
"I'm sorry daddy, but...Mr. Sorley understands." She gave Jerry a hug. "We have to go, they're looking for people like us."
Jerry nodded, blankly. He calmly got up, walked toward Mr. Sorley who was looking at him with sympathy, and decked him in the face as hard as he could. He felt the delicate nasal bones giving way under his fist, and damn it felt good. He kicked Marty in the belly, who stumbled backwards onto the porch, and slammed the door in his face. Jeanette asked him why he did that.
“Look I don’t know what the fuck you’ve got or why you’re acting so weird, but you’re mine. Mine."
"Daddy, you used the f-word!"
"Fuck it. I’m in charge here, and so help me God I will be master of my domain! Now we’re going to get in the truck and-“ The door flew open again. Jerry spun around.
"Marty, I-" And he was staring right into the barrel of a military-issue rifle. The figure clad in black holding it ordered Jeanette to go with him; two more black-clad commandoes rushed in, grabbed her and threw her into the back of a windowless, black Ford Econoline; Marty was already sitting in the back, blood rushing down his nose, handcuffed to the bench. The third commando backed out of the house, rifle still pointed at Jerry, then closed the van door and drove off.
Jerry slumped down the wall and sat on the floor, master of no domain at all.