“To Hell in a Wheelbarrow” by David Henson


One morning before work, I was watching the news and lamenting the condition of the world — shootings, political squabbling, international tensions, climate change — when an alien materialized in my living room. The being looked to be mainly human except it had a horizontal slit instead of a nose. When I asked why it was in my house, it didn’t speak, but I seemed to feel the answer: The alien was an advance scout.

I called 911, sensing that the alien didn’t care, that it knew no one would believe me. I felt an I-told-you-so from the alien when the dispatcher said it was a crime to make a fraudulent emergency call and hung upon me.

I aimed my phone at the alien, but my camera malfunctioned. I sensed the alien chuckling. I checked my watch and saw it was about time for my girlfriend to stop by on her way to work as she normally does. She would be my witness.

As I waited for Lulu, the creature unspooled a wire from its chest and plugged it into an electrical socket. The alien began shimmering, elongated an arm and pressed its hand to the living room window. I felt that the alien was signaling an armada of ships hiding behind the moon.

I won’t let you get away with this, I said, and felt a sadness coming from the alien. Maybe it was sorry for what they were going to do. When Lulu arrived, I saw the alien had disguised itself as dust on the coffee table. I told her what was happening. She looked worried and put her palm to my forehead. Then as she left for work, she suggested I stay home and read a good book instead of watching the news all day. “You know how sensitive you are, James.” Sure, shed a few tears when your guinea pig dies and never live it down. As soon as Lulu left, the alien reappeared in its true form.

Lulu had said not to mention a word about the alien to anyone else. Sometimes I’m not sure whose side she’s on. I went to the office and told my boss everything.

Ms. Topchienne sent me home and was even nice enough to have someone from Security take me. Insisting Brinks come into my house, I tiptoed up the sidewalk with him behind me, eased open the lock, turned the handle ever so slowly — then flung open the door and burst inside. “There! The alien!” I pointed to the dust crouching on the coffee table.

Brinks headed for the car, and I shouted after him “Tell Ms. Topchienne what you saw here.”  

As soon as Brinks drove off, the being reappeared. My boss called a short time later and told me to take a week off.

Over the next few days, the alien kept a hand pressed to the window in communication with its fleet and watched a 24-hour news station non-stop. Your world is going to hell in a wheelbarrow, I felt the creature tell me. “Hand basket,” I said. I thought I sensed sympathy.

Each time Lulu stopped by to check on me, the creature disguised itself as dust on the coffee table. Once, I grabbed the vacuum, but the window fogged up. When I reached for a rag to wipe the glass, I saw dust on the fireplace mantle. Lulu said she appreciated me wanting to keep my place clean, but was going to leave if I didn’t “shut up about the stupid Martian.” I told her I didn’t think it was stupid nor a Martian. Lulu left.

The next day, I emailed a “letter to the editor” at the local paper, but they refused to publish it. I called talk radio, but they only joked about the alien’s political affiliation. I felt the creature telling me to give up trying to divulge its presence.

I also could sense that the armada was almost ready. They were just waiting for my alien to give the final go-ahead. I knew it was up to me to stop it. I called Lulu and told her she had to come to my place. I promised not to talk about the alien. Desperate times were calling.

As soon as Lulu walked in, the alien became dust on the coffee table as expected. I explained to my girlfriend why she had to stay, that as long as she was there to be my witness, the alien wouldn’t re-form and launch the attack. She looked scared, and I thought she understood. Then she turned to go. I grabbed a lamp. As I said, desperate times.


♦ ♦ ♦


I love Lulu with all my heart and took great care to not bind her wrists and ankles too tightly. I’d have removed her gag more often to give her water and something to eat if she hadn’t screamed. We’d been guarding the dust on the coffee table for nearly two days, staying awake with help from the news channel blasting into the room. Events around the world were as horrible as ever. Suddenly a feeling spread over me as if someone had cracked a raw egg on my head. It was the sense of sympathy again. Could it be I had this all wrong? Maybe the aliens were coming to help, not conquer. I decided to take a chance and untied Lulu.

As soon as she scrambled out the door, my alien reappeared. I sensed it sending the “go” signal to its comrades.


♦ ♦ ♦


I hear the alien ships approaching. They sound a lot like sirens. I’m hoping for the best. Otherwise this world’s going to hell in a wheelbarrow.



David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has been nominated for a Best of the Net and has appeared in various journals including Soft Cartel, Gravel, Literally Stories, and Fictive Dream. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8

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