Parental Warning: contains mention of public urination, gore, violence,drugs, and frequent pop/geek culture references.
Ever feel like the walls are closing in? I definitely had a bed when I went to sleep. Next thing I know, I was lying on the cold, hard and sticky ground. There were some magazines there that I think have been out of publication for years. It was cool getting to know Kerrang's hottest artists of 2014 all over again, but I missed my bed.
Then there’s my flatmate. Don’t get me wrong, the photos on the wall are a testament to the years of us hanging out and having a great time. Thing is though, I’d never met him before waking up on my floor. He’d taken my spare room and the guy had totally cleaned the place. It was weird.
Kyle blamed the drugs I took. That’s not fair. Drugs don't make you weird. You’re weird and you take drugs to deal with it. If anything I needed more weed to chill me out when he started talking about the cleaning rota. It had my name on it, in my handwriting!
He was cool with me taking a moment to adjust as we watched season three of Dollhouse. There was a disturbance in the force as we watched Eliza Dushku kicking ass. My spider sense told me something was wrong. Kyle lamented the early cancellation of Orphan Black, bowing his head to the poster of Tatiana Maslany with due reverence.
I lost it. You can’t joke about the cancellation of a critical series like that. I threw a sock at him. Kyle lost it and threw a brochure for San Diego Comic Con 2021. Even as it hit me in the face I was wondering at the cast photo of Guilermo Del Toro’s Justice League. Since when was Superman played by Idris Elba? Why did no one think of that sooner. Ellen DeGeneris playing the flash was an iffy call for me but if it brought the lighthearted quippy humour from Finding Dory to the ensemble I was all for it.
The weirdest thing about the day was that the cat wasn't talking to me. Marley is normally a chatty little fluff ball. Just don’t ask him for his views on vets. That conversation gets dark.
I had to ask why we had posters for Michelle Yeoh’s turns as Wonder Woman in a strictly Marvel household. Kyle quite rightly pointed out that no wall is complete without a poster of Michelle Yeoh. Marley purred. He was no help.
Little things kept bothering me. I had to check I was in the right universe. Opening up the drawer of my bedside table, I pulled out my copy of Spiderman: Destiny Calls by Neil Gaiman. The dust cover had never been removed. Stuck to the plastic was a post-it. YOUR STILL IN YOUR ORIGINAL UNIVERSE. MIKE. The writing was sloppy. There was a stain from where I’d spilled beer while writing it. I sighed with relief. It was pizza time. My universe had passed my version of the spinner thing test from Inception. I have no idea what was going on in that film but needing a test to know where you are struck a chord with me.
If I haven’t mentioned my superpower yet, I blame ADHD. I can click my fingers and go back and forth between different universes. It sounds cool. Most of them suck.
It had been two days since my last shower, so I deducted from Kyle’s Darth Vader shampoo and shower foam and lathered up behind a shower curtain that depicted the periodic table of fictional elements. An inverted Hugh Jackman watched me from the depiction of Adamantium. Kyle’s brush, a Deadpool riding a unicorn, scratched all the places I can’t read and probably got me a little cleaner in the process. Drying myself with a Captain America towel was at once oddly blasphemous and invigorating.
Kyle hung from the ceiling of the living room like a bat when I walked in. He was painting a mural of the Witcher cast in agonised detail. Particular attention had been taken over Anya Chalotra, his favourite.
“Dude,” he moaned, “get a bra for those moobs.”
I looked at my handfuls and shrugged. “Since when do you care? And also, when did you move in with me?” The attempt at being proud of my body failed, and I cupped a hand over my cleavage.
He turned his head at an angle. His blue eyes turned yellow. The pupil turned slitted. “What are you on about? Are you feeling alright?”
“What the fuck are you?” I asked, shocked by his transformation. I used my fingers to make the sign of the cross, but the jerking movement dislodged the folds of Captain America’s face from my junk. The towel fell at my feet.
“Oh my god, my eyes!” Kyle screamed. “Put your towel back on. I don’t want to see that.”
“You’re a monster,” I said.
“Yeah, well your sea serpent is winking at me and I don’t like it.” He jumped down from the ceiling. His descent slowed as he reached the ground as if by pre-arrangement.
I grabbed my towel from the ground and held it over myself, still looking at him.
“I’m a vampire. You know that. Have you been taking mushrooms again?” He looked concerned as his eyes turned back from yellow to blue.
“Probably. I don’t know.”
“You need to stop taking mushrooms. They warp your mind, and not in a cool way.”
“They’re the closest thing to vegetables in my diet,” I said. “Wait. Wasn’t I going to get pizza?” I wandered out of the living room, bum enjoying the cool breeze from the open window.
Tying my towel across me again, I pulled the rubbery pizza from the fridge and slammed it into the microwave. Some people would have put it on a plate first. Those people clearly clean their plates.
The triangle of aged perfection turned on the stained glass off the microwave pedestal. Yellow light let me watch through the window in the oven door. The welcome ping brought joy to my heart.
When I was dressed in my best Chester Bennington hoodie and boxer shorts, I wandered back through to the living room. Kyle licked his fangs, perched on the end of the sofa. The news was an endless stream of doom. Knights from the moon marched across cities all over the world.
“Do we have ice cream?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” said Kyle. “Should we do something about that?”
“Yeah,” I said. I got up and changed the input on the TV and fired up his Xbox. Turning on my ancient CRT monitor, I turned on my console. “Halo? Multiplayer?”
“Definitely.” He grabbed his controller. “I’m driving the Warthog. You’re on the gun turret.”
Hours passed. All was well for us. Then a distant rumble that had nothing to do with our controllers shook Marley from his perch on the couch. The cat jumped down and ran through to my room.
Kyle peered out of the window, where I saw mold on the frame.
“What is it?”
“They’re here,” said my vampiric buddy.
“The knights.” He flung the curtain wide open. In the dark of night, explosions were visible just a few blocks away. His eyes turned yellow. He became a shadow of benevolent intent. “We need to do something. I’ve almost completed my pokemon card collection.” He opened the window and flicked out through the gap. He was smoke floating on the breeze.
Not wanting to be less heroic than a vampire. I put my shoes on, checked that my fly was zipped and retrieved a baseball bat from the bottom of my closet. Whoever gave me sporting equipment clearly didn’t know me at all, but I was glad for the aluminum weapon as I locked the door of my flat behind me. I’ve tried the whole saving the world thing before but I was so high I slept through most of it.
My area isn’t classy by any means but the statue of the naked guy at the bottom of the stairs with an ivy leaf instead of junk wasn’t helping. I have no memory of that before yesterday.
Running isn’t my thing. I don’t even walk unless I have to. Bangs and explosions were no encouragement for me. Kyle was long gone. People fled past me, running from the invaders. I wondered if they were the smart ones. School IQ tests put me just below average intelligence. I bet all of the clever clogs were running for their lives. Tapping my Ash Ketchum cap, I walked forwards clutching it high, ready to swing.
Screams accompanied the bangs. Smoke swirled from buildings before me. A haze of dust hung at ground level, the fog of war I guess. I felt like one of the warriors of Rohan facing Saruman’s Uruk-hai at Helm’s Deep. I knew that Gandalf would not come to the rescue however. Ian McKellen probably wouldn’t be much use against aliens anyway.
Creatures every bit as terrifying as Sauron moved in the dusty murk ahead. Their shadows flickered in the light of fires ahead of me. I peed a little. Won't lie about that. If anything it was a relief, just the physical admission that I was scared helped a little. Roaring ‘Eulalia’, the battle cry of the badgers, I ran into the dusty cloud before me with a line of piss down my jeans.
Beginner’s luck meant that I met the first of the armoured creatures with its back turned. I hit it over the head and kept swinging until my bat had a deep dent in it. It carried a mace worthy of the Dark Lord. I stole the thing, wishing it didn’t weigh more than the dumbbells that weigh down my overdue bills.
The next one saw me coming and charged with its sword held to stab. I snapped the fingers of my left hand, vanishing into another universe. Taking a step towards where it had been and to the right, I passed the mace to my other hand. Clicking the fingers on my right hand, I returned to my universe.
Having seen me ‘vanish’ the invader was looking around when I hit its sword arm with a wild swing. The short sword clanged to the ground but an armoured fist swung at me for a punch. Clicking my fingers again, I left him swinging, moved aside and clicked back. I hit him on the back of the head, knocking the warrior down. The lunar warrior rolled with my attack, aiming its dive towards the dropped sword. I kicked it instinctively. My blow pushed it past its blade as I curb stomped it. Never kick someone when they’re down isn’t something to apply to alien invasion.
I switched up my weapon for the sword lying in the dust. Couching through smoke and ruin, I marched onwards into the night. Despite the fires around me, the wind on my urine soaked jeans was chilling. It had been two weeks since I’d washed my clothes, it was about time anyway.
Something akin to leather made a good grip for the sword in my hand. It was warm, a purple so close to black that it's barely worth mentioning it. A boarded up Blockbuster store seemed unharmed by the interplanetary war. The Starbucks next door had been trashed, vomiting glass from the open maw of its face.
Someone had been having fun with the invaders, posing their bodies in the ruins of the cafe. Heads hung limp on their shoulders. Shoe laces, elastic bands, and duct tape held them in forms that were out of place for warriors of the moon. Tempted to photograph them for BoredPanda, I kept moving.
Four knights were making their last stand in the town square. Back to back on the band stand, they faced a foe of unspeakable dredd. Kyle switched between physical form and that of shadow and smoke. In the incorporeal form, my flatmate imitated great claws that stretched through the air. The tips of those claws raked the wood of the band stand. Aliens who had crossed the void of space to put humanity to the sword quivered in fear. Fair.
“I’ve killed about a hundred so far. I’ve lost count. You?” Kyle asked. His voice was a cruel cackling growl that echoed off the walls around us with the might of a demonic god.
“Something close to that probably,” I said. “Is that all of them then?” I looked at the four survivors. A claw of shadow made the tally three, cutting the head from one with a casual flick.
“Yeah, that's it. Shame. I was having so much fun. Have you been to Starbucks recently?” His voice made me shiver involuntarily. The quiver brought the sword point too close to my face. I aimed it down.
“Yeah. That’s really good.”
“Alucard eat your heart out,” said the terrible phantom.
“Time to head back to Hellsing Manor?” I asked.
“The bird of Hermes is my name, eat my wings to make me tame. Never got that bit, if I’m honest.” Kyle switched back to his corporeal form.
“Because without your wings you can’t go anywhere?” I shrugged as we trudged back home through the carnage. I swung my sword.
“Cool sword. No shield?” The blood sucker tilted his head at me.
“Nah, too heavy. I need a hand free.” I clicked my finger, tossed the sword to my other hand and clicked myself back to my home universe.
“I’ll get us a shield. It’ll look cool mounted on the wall. Want a suit of armour?”
“I don’t think it would fit us. Are we sure that’s not their shell, like crabs? There might not be much under there.” He pointed to the wreck of a takeout on our way back. “Pizza Hut?”
I nodded. We stepped in over the shattered glass of the door which had been kicked in. Upstairs was an inferno. We had to be fast to save innocent pizzas from their fiery fate. Kyle grabbed the ready pizza bases. I grabbed sealed bags of our favourite toppings from the fridges.
Waddling home laden with loot, Kyle nodded to the line down my jeans. “Lightening the load huh?” His voice was neutral, as if he was asking for my favourite colour.
“Battle isn’t my thing.”
“Sure, but you did really well.” He hung a bloody arm over me. Shadows with razor sharp claws carried our pizzas across the basketball court. “Oh no. The aliens destroyed that naked guy statue.” He grinned, nodding to the immaculate bronze sculpture. A shadow blacker than the dark void of space cut the metal Adonis into cubes. “There’s nothing inside? What a hollow victory.” His ‘waiting for you to laugh at my terrible pun’ smile was evil.
“That was a dad joke,” I said. I pulled my keys from my pocket.
“I’m three hundred years old. I’ve been a dad.” He said it sombrely. “You should try it some time.”
“Me? I’d be a terrible dad.” I slid the key into the lock and wiggled it to get the temperamental thing to work.
“At least your kids would get a good education in geek culture.” He patted me on the shoulder as if I needed comforting.
“How come I don’t need to invite you in?” I asked, watching him enter.
“Two reasons. One: because that's not a thing. Two: because it’s my place.”
I nodded. That made more sense than him not having been my flatmate and best friend the day before. For a guy I’ve known for years but just met, for a guy who slaughters his enemies with glee, Kyle is a great guy.