As is our holiday tradition, here’s a Yuletide story — most especially for those diseased minds who miss all the killing and mayhem of the Iraq War and prey [sic] for its savage return …
Pseudo-Rod Serling intro [for parody purposes only]:
Picture if you will: a man. A mall. A terrifying invasion. But there’s something different about this invasion, a difference that could only show up … in the [Copyright laws suggest that it is not prudent to name the tagline here, our counsel suggests vociferously, albeit sotto voce in mellifluous counselly tones, not quite dulcet and yet not ulcer'd. Butt soft, methinks animated bears are selling toilet paper on teevee ...] [CUE MUSIC]
The Christmas the Aliens Came
Most of you remember the terror, and how it began. Sheerest chance that the invaders appeared at that time of year, or that they arrived at Pismo Beach, California at a shopping mall.
Most of it’s been declassified now, so I can fill in the spots you don’t know. I was working as a tech at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, so I know the whole story.
The ship actually crash-landed in the Pacific Ocean. It wasn’t much size-wise, but they evidently didn’t need much in the way of size. There’s a theory that they spread like seeds on the cosmic winds, with a single “pod” capable of subjugating an entire planet. We still don’t know if they were the only ship, or if they ever contacted their home world, or if they even HAVE a home world.
We recovered the ship, later, after the terror. It was organic, and had already begun to deteriorate. There wasn’t much we learned from it.
They must have assayed us quickly, not understanding the nuances of our culture or our rituals. They saw the deference that was being shown at the mall celebration and chose the leader as a natural form for the invading organism — because, as we later were able to determine, it was a single organism, which is what finally doomed it. And it’s also why it could only take one form, rather than inhabiting multiple forms.
It was carbon-based, of course, which was both what allowed it to so completely overwhelm the West Coast, and at the same time, as everybody knows, what “killed” it in the end.
I don’t need to go into the details about the steady push up the Interstates: up I-5 to Canada, down to Mexico; up I-15 to Las Vegas, and to I-70. I-8 from San Diego and I-10 east out of Los Angeles, and, finally, I-40 to Albuquerque, where we were trying to evacuate north on New Mexico 14 the so-called “Turquoise Trail,” after I-25 to Santa Fe had been cut off by those red devils.
What you don’t know was that eerie conversation that I had with Dr. Esposito at Sandia while we were waiting for the transport buses out of there. Esposito asked me, “Did you ever read any Vonnegut?”
“Sure,” I told him.
“Then you remember Ice-Nine.”
“You mean the idea of a crystallization of water that would be completely inert and would crystallize all the water on Earth?”
“Not exactly,” said Esposito, who’d grown up north of town, in Santa Fe, before going to M.I.T. “But close enough.”
“I don’t follow you,” I said, which was true. I was just a grunt and I didn’t get most of what he said, but I was a good listener and some of the brainiacs liked to bounce ideas off of me. Esposito even used to joke about it. But, you know, in a good way.
“Well, I’ve got an idea about the way that this thing replicates,” he said. “And I think we might be able to ‘crystallize’ its carbon content in something the same way as that Ice-Nine that Vonnegut was talking about.
“Er … great,” I told him. You know. I had no freaking idea what he was talking about, but I humored him, which was what he wanted.
He must have sensed it, because he smiled and said, “well, something to work on when we get to the bunker, I suppose.”
I remember it because of what happened.
You know, we’d gotten to Madrid (that’s pronounced MAD-rid in New Mexico, like they pronounce the Arkansas River ‘ar-KAN-sis’ in Kansas, and not ‘AR-kan-saw’ like in Arkansas.) I don’t remember what dipstick blocked the road with the bulldozer, but there we were, and cut off, and you know all about that.
But what you probably don’t know is that Madrid used to be a mining town. That chunk of the Rocky Mountains is very weird, geologically, and the old Madrid mines were the only spot in North America where you can find bituminous AND anthracite coal veins together.
Which is probably why, when the guns ran out of ammo, and we thought we were at the very end, they started throwing whatever they could at the advancing horde.
And you know that we stopped them. Sheer dumb luck, but Esposito had been right. The anthracite coal tailings catalyzed that “Ice-Nine” reaction, and it spread through the whole “organism.”
Which was what stopped the invasion. But they’ve kept it all classified, because, I guess they’re embarrassed.
They aren’t very poetic in Washington, D.C. but they know enough to suppress the story about how we stopped an invading alien army of Santa Clauses by throwing lumps of coal at them.
And, of course, not a word of it is true.
At least, that’s what I’m at liberty to say.