In February of 2019 the MV Alta took shelter in Ballina bay, and stayed there for three days. Nobody is sure where it had come from, or where it went. There can be no doubt it was there though, because one of its crew brought a story ashore.
‘Hey’, came the voice from the shadows.
‘…dya want a set of nunchucks?’
Gary bit his lip in frustration. It was late, he was tired, and the last bus home was disappearing into the night. He looked to where the voice was coming from; it’s owner wore a black suit and a steel visor.
‘I’ve no use for anything that doesn’t have wheels right now’, Gary replied, ‘and even if I did, look at the state of you. I don’t know where you plan to pull those nunchucks outta, but I definitely don’t want them’.
‘Suit yourself, all I wanted was for things to be fair.’
Then the stranger was gone.
‘Gobshite’, muttered Gary. His mind turned to the walk home.
The evening had begun in the Beach Bar. The perfect end to a perfect day. The last chance to get in a bit of fishing before autumn storms set in, and the three lads had made good use of it.
‘What’s the story with yer man’
Jim nodded in the direction of an old soak who had been working his way around the bar, trying and failing to engage people in conversation.
‘He’s one of the lads that came in off the ship, there’s six of them in the B&B …they were running ahead of the storm’
‘Jesus he’s goosed with the drink, I bet any money he’s passed out by ten’
‘You’re on so’
Eugene pulled out a note and slapped it on the table, ‘twenty says he’s still talking shite at last orders’
The clock behind the bar danced untill there were only four customers left.
‘Were ye lads fishing?’
The old soak already knew the answer, he’d been listening to them for half an hour. It wasn’t an answer he wanted. It was an audience.
‘It’s all well and good playing around in the bay lads, but have any of ye really been to sea?’
‘Here we go, I knew this was coming’
‘Go on ya mad bastard, tell us about your adventures’ said Gary, eyes focused on what was left in his pint glass.
The man continued, ignoring the comments.
‘I’m going to tell ye something now that ye’ll remember forever. Ya think we ran into the bay ahead of the storm …well, it wasn’t the storm chasing us, it’s something far worse than weather. Ya see there’s only six …no eight …or is it six of us left’.
‘There’s only one of you from where I’m sitting’ interrupted Jim.
‘The others must have more sense than listen to you shite on’ said Eugene, who stood up and headed for the toilet.
‘The others are mostly dead …there used to be twenty of us, or there was before we found the Zeoi Kyun. And there was nobody alive on that ship. Well …there was one, who told the story to me, just as I tell it to you…’
‘What?, twisted drunk at one in the morning’
‘Yes, exactly, or no, he was pure sober …but scared shitless, when we came across the ship it was drifting in heavy seas. We were heading South from Bergen and it just appeared on our radar. No communication, nothing. It was listed as a research vessel, but when we pulled alongside her it was obvious the crew had been armed to the teeth’
The man looked over at the door, and shuddered.
‘anyway, there was spent ammo all over the place …and the whole lot were dead. Save one lad. He was ranting about a radio test they were at. Now. I can’t be sure of this bit because his English wasn’t great, and I don’t speak Chinese. But I think they got a message from outer space. And then a spaceman appeared looking for it back.’
‘What, an alien from outer space? how could he tell?’
‘I dunno, uh …have any of ye ever seen a Narwhal breaching under the Northern Lights?’
‘No I haven’t …what about the alien you were telling us about ya loony’
‘Oh yeah, anyway, the spaceman was bull thick about the lads picking up the signal and started slaughtering them with a sword’
‘Ah come on …why would an alien have a sword?’
‘How the fuck should I know?, and I tell ye something, there’s no way I was going to ask.’
‘What, are ya telling me that you saw an extraterrestrial?’
‘Yes. Sort of. From a distance’.
‘What did it look like?’.
‘Uh, do ye know the Stig from Top Gear?’
‘Like him …only his helmet was made out of metal, I think, I was running away at the time.’
Eugene walked back into the bar.
‘What’d I miss?’
‘A boatload of dead gunmen, and an alien’
‘It wasn’t an alien, it was a spaceman …and he’s absolutely deadly at kung-fu, or is it karate …I keep mixing them up, do ye lads know which is the one with the weapons?’
‘Neither, yer story makes no sense, what was this outer space message anyway?’
‘fucked if I know …are ye having another drink?’
‘Right gentlemen, have ye no homes to go to’
The three friends turned to leave but their companion was struggling to stand up.
‘Is he with ye?’
‘No, he’s staying up at the B&B, uh, I’ll bring him, it’s on the way to the bus stop’
‘Good man Gary’
The wind whipped the sea, and was beginning to kick up spray over the footpath.
‘There you go, that’s where you’re staying’
‘Do you want a knife?’
‘Jesus, put that thing away’
‘You’ll need it, the storm is nearly here and that’s when he strikes’
‘Who, the alien, are ya still going on about that? Will ya go and shite, there’s a spaceman about allright, and I’m looking right at him …away with ya’
Gary cursed the sailor one more time as he made his way into Beleek woods. His good deed had cost him a bus ride home. The hike home through the woods was short, but it had started raining.
A slap hit him.
‘Prepare to die, human.’
His eyes focussed on a silver visor and the shape of a blade sweeping through the air.
He dived sideways and began to run.
Footsteps followed, rapidly at first, then slowly, hesitantly.
And then they stopped.
‘I’m going to kill you human’.
‘No, you’re not’
‘Yes, I am’
‘Well come do it then’
‘In a minute’
‘You’re lost, admit it’
‘So are you’
The storm had arrived. Apart from the wind Gary could hear only two things. One was the river, noisy and swollen with rainfall. The other was his enemy searching the undergrowth.
The river would plot the way home. Gary followed the sound. But found his way blocked.
‘Your kind stole my message.’
‘You heard, and now you must pay with your life’
‘Would ya take a tenner instead?’
‘The price is beyond your means, you will die’
Gary dived forward, underneath the reach of the sword, absorbing heavy punches in return for getting close enough to knock the weapon. It fell, and Gary wrapped himself around the spaceman, sending the pair to the ground. He managed to unload a blow as they fell, but his knuckles cracked against a steel visor. He leapt back to his feet with the pain.
‘That helmet is cheating’
‘I tried to make it fair human’
‘Any chance you could try again?’
‘No, it is over’
The spaceman turned to walk away, but stopped and pivoted. Gary just about spotted a foot arcing it’s way towards its target. Which was his head.
There was a splash. The kick launched Gary into the river, and now its current was moving him into the bay. To his right he could make out the lights of Knockroe. There would be two markers at the entrance to the bay. If he could swim inside the left buoy the current would spit him back ashore. Right of it would carry him out to sea.
It was seconds, but it felt like hours.
Pain in his back.
And then he was on the river bank.
Soaked, bloody, and with a long walk home.
The phone woke him. He had slept in the armchair again. One of his boots sat in a pool of water near the door, the other was on his foot. Cornflakes and Coco Pops were scattered on the table, and there was a smell of toast in the air. It must be Monday, the kids had gone to school. The phone rang again.
‘You up for hair of the dog Gary, myself and Eugene are up in Doyle’s’.
There was a pint waiting when Gary arrived, still dressed from the night before.
‘What the hell happened to you?’
Eugene and Jim listened quietly as Gary described his journey home.
‘I’m telling ye lads, that old sailor was telling the truth’.
Jim scratched his head: ‘who, the gerriatric Buck Rogers we met in the beach bar last night?’
‘Yes, I’m deadly serious’
‘Serious about a kung fu alien running about Beleek woods in a steel motorbike helmet? …Jesus Gary, have another drink’.
The three sat silently for a few minutes, Eugene eventually broke the silence.
‘What’s the tallest building in town?’
‘That’s easy, the Manor hotel’, replied Jim
‘Did ye not hear what I just said to ye, there’s an alien out there and he’s about to hunt us all down’
‘Are you gone daft?, St. Muirdeachs is twice the size of the Manor’
‘Lads, that spaceman is going to kill ye!’
‘Are you talking about the number of floors, or just the height of the thing?’
Gary sat in silence, quietly reliving his brush with death. His thoughts were interrupted by five pints, a cheese pizza, and three phone calls from Michelle telling him to get back home. The afternoon was moving towards evening when Eugene stepped up from the bar.
‘Right lads, I’m off’
‘Eugene, take this and stick it in your jacket …just incase that alien is about’
Gary shoved an empty bottle into Eugene’s hand.
‘Ah Gary, come on …Jim, d’ya see what this fella’s after handing me to fight the alien. Would I not be better off with a ray gun! Keep an eye on him? I think his flux capacitor is broken!’
Eugene suddenly looked serious as he placed the bottle down.
‘Jim, watch that fella will ya, he’s the worst I’ve seen him’
He paused before heading to the door ‘…and whatever ya do, keep him away from the aliens!’
Eugene zipped up his jacket and stepped out onto the street.
It was a cold, and a dark squall had begun to spit rain onto the footpath.
‘Hey you …do you want a set of nunchucks?’, came a voice from the shadows.