Viking refused to explain a thing until he had finished his large, all meat baguette. This took far less time than anyone expected.

“Bloody hell, Viking, you look like you’ve not eaten in a week!” Leon said from the back seat.

“If you puke on anyone, we’re having words!” Ned yelled as they drove, a little too fast, down the long empty road.

“What?” Viking asked.

“There’s precedent for it.”

Viking shrugged at this. Before downing a can of cherry cola in one hit.

He burped loudly and then launched into his story.

“Okay, so I know this is going to sound like I’ve been sniffing onions or something, but I swear it’s absolutely true…” he left a pause to give the group a long stern look.

“So, you remember last night, when we got drunk and painted you blue?”

Ned nodded. “I’m still slightly blue!”

“Well, that never happened.”

“What? I’m still blue, you pillock!” Ned parried.

“No, that’s a false memory, implanted into you, maybe by Neetu. I’m not actually sure.”

“Who the fuck is Neetu?” Monday asked.

“Well, see, it’s still vague, but it’s coming back slowly. We got drunk. Then… well, then shit went a bit wrong… and then they returned us to our lives as if nothing happened. It’s all a jumble, but I think this happens a lot. We’re not just binge drinking losers. Well, not all the time.”

“Don’t put me in that category! I have my own construction company!” Leon said indignantly.

“Leon, your construction company is three business cards that you made yourself and your only customer is you, and your shitty house!” Ned screamed. “Now let the man talk!”

“Thank you,” Viking said. “I didn’t go on a train to Scotland on purpose. I was trying to escape her, I think. Yeah, she was looking for you.”

Ned felt himself accelerate, as if it were suddenly far more important than it had been. “What does that mean?” he asked, gravely.

Viking put a hand on Ned’s shoulder. “Ned, I can’t remember all of it. They tried to wipe my memory like they did yours, when you fell and went blue. But buddy… A fucking horror movie alien wants to creep around inside your head.”

Ned went a little faster again. “What the fuck are you talking about?”

Viking, in an uncharacteristically animated outburst, reminded Ned that he just rammed a man with wings and should ‘stop acting like that was normal.’ After a moment to reset himself, he returned to his monotone ways.

“Neetu Ra-Fea, she’s this little big-headed elf looking bitch. She fucks with things around her. It feels like a dream, and she tries to keep you in them while she sniffs you out.”

Viking opened his second sandwich and began to eat. He was suddenly calm again. As if getting it off his chest was therapy for him.

Leon and Monday were stunned. They just sat in the back, quietly glancing at each other.

After a few minutes’ silence, Ned began his questions.

“Why am I blue?”

“I remember something about a daring escape from Neetu’s city-ship. And there was a fountain,” Viking said, still chewing.

“Okay. How do you know this?”

Viking thought for a moment. “We got separated. This flying pyramid got you, wiped your memory. Didn’t work on me, just sort of scrambled my brain for a bit. It’s all still pretty scrambled, so most of that may have been wrong.”

“Why didn’t it work?” Ned asked. Not sure how much of the story he believed.

“You pushed me out of the way of the gadget and I only got hit with a half zap. You got a double zap. I remember you were already blue, by then… Anyway, as I keep having to say, it’s all still a bit fuzzy.”

“And they just let us go?” Ned asked, wondering why this story was so oddly disjointed.

“Yeah. No idea why or how. It’s all bits and bobs. All I know is that we somehow got out, then she kept messing with reality and I couldn’t find my way home. I ended up on a train, then I spoke to you and got off at that town, and winged muscle men were looking for me in the streets. Then, well, now we’re here.”

Leon and Monday were now looking terrified, and still hadn’t made a sound.


They had been driving in silence for a little while. Ned was digesting the information. He knew it was an insane, disjointed, and unbelievable story, but he also knew it was true. He couldn’t quite remember it. It was like it was on the crest of his mind and he couldn’t quite reach it.

He also thought about the odd things that had happened to him since waking up at his dad’s house. The strange darkness in the pub, the tattoo that changed and the glimpse of some futuristic city he had seen at the petrol station. Then he thought of the woman Viking had described.

He knew it was true; he just didn’t know what it meant.

He glanced in his mirror. Leon and Monday were sleeping, each leaning against their own door, jackets rolled up as pillows.

He glanced across to Viking, who was sitting rigidly in his seat. He was thoughtfully stroking his beard. Ned knew Viking well. He had been his best friend for years and he knew that when Viking was rubbing his beard, there was trouble ahead.

“Aliens, Viking?” he finally asked.

“Aliens, Ned,” Viking nodded.

“You know how it sounds, right?”

Just as Viking was about to reply, there was a flash of light in the rear-view mirror. It was bright enough that it shone across the inside of the car.

“Ned, aliens!” Viking said with a fittingly Viking tone.

The light’s pulse subsided, and Ned risked looking back through the mirror. There was no road behind him. In the mirror, it looked like the car was flying. Ahead of him, the road still came.

“What’s going on?” he yelled, risking a head turn.

At the time, he failed to be concerned that his passengers in the back were not waking up. They were tranquilly sleeping, ignorant of the events.

Viking was already turned in his seat, looking back. All the rear windows of the car showed the same thing: space!

The two side windows and the windshield showed the nighttime road, long, dark and mundane. The wing mirrors also showed space. The front and back of the car were just in different locations.

There was a light behind, it was moving in spirals towards them. It was gaining on them. Ned accelerated.

“And that thing chasing us would be?” Ned asked, glancing over to Viking, pretty sure he knew more than he was saying.

“That would be a pickup-pod.”

“Can we outrun it?” Ned asked, optimistically.

“I was a little worried about this. I think they can track me somehow. And no.”

Ned slammed on the brakes and spun the car around in the road. The stars and space which had been behind the car stayed static. Rather than hitting the barrier, as they should have done, the car entered freefall through actual space. It was hard to describe the motion, but the car had essentially driven into space, disappearing from the road entirely and now powered by its own momentum alone, it was gliding effortlessly through the heavens, and towards the chasing white light.

Monday and Leon, still, somehow, snoring in the back.

“Well, I didn’t see that coming,” Viking commented, looking quite surprised by Viking standards.

The car, following the laws of physics, carried on going with the momentum it had when it left the road. The white light carried on spiralling towards it, though, thanks to the car’s change of direction, its precise arc caused it to sail straight past them.

In a flash, the road returned and Ned pulled the handbrake and spun it to an uncontrolled but definitive stop.

The moment the wheels stopped moving, he threw himself out of the car. Viking followed a moment behind. They lay on the road, looking back.

The car was lit, like it was under a spotlight for a moment and then consumed by the light. Ned and Viking turned away at its intensity. A moment later, it went dark. They looked back and there, at the end of a long series of skid marks, was, no car. It was gone.

“Viking!” Ned yelled. “Did Leon and Monday just get abducted by aliens?”

Viking pulled a baguette out of his pocket and sat, cross-legged on the floor. “Looks like it, yeah.”

Chapter 8