by Joseph D. Stirling
As the saying goes: “some days are diamonds, some days are coal;” for Darren today was a “coal” day. It had started out much like any other day, waking up late and spilling his coffee in the car while stuck in traffic. With the coffee leaving a stain down the front his pants and shirt, he was glad to put on the bright orange apron at work. He smiled at all the customers that passed him, helped the folks that came to his little counter at the paint section in Home Depot; everything he was supposed to do.
But today was a “coal” day. When he punched out at the end of his shift, Darren had no car. There was only some broken glass and an empty parking space where a car had used to sit. He waited an hour for the police to arrive and spent another hour before they finally told him there wasn’t much they could do. Darren took the bus home; his small apartment seemed all the more dreary this afternoon.
It wasn’t until he got to his front door, keys in hand, that he noticed the woman standing at the corner of his tiny patch of grass that served as a yard. She was facing him but didn’t seem to notice that he was there.
“Excuse me,” he asked. “Can I help you?”
She jumped and gave a quick laugh. “Wow, you surprised me there. Is this yours?”
“Um, sort of, I rent. What are doing here?”
The woman giggled, “Not the apartment. This thing right here.”
She was pointing, but as far as Darren could see there was nothing there. He stepped closer, curious but cautious.
“Do you see it?” She asked, almost a little desperate.
He was about to answer when he noticed a thin red wire. It led from the ground clear up into the sky, not hanging from anything visible, it was just there.
“What the hell is that?” Darren moved even closer and reached out to touch it. The red wire was taught as a guitar string. “How is it sticking out of the ground like that?”
“It’s not,” she said. “It only looks like that from where you’re standing. From over here it’s hanging from the sky.”
Darren stepped around and stood next to the woman. “Oh yeah. It does look like it’s hanging from the sky. What is it?”
The woman never took her eyes from the wire, “I’m Susan.”
“Darren, nice to meet you.”
“Has this thing always been here?” She plucked the wire with a dull thud and they both watched it vibrate in silence.
“How is this possible?” Darren tapped it with his foot where it met the ground.
The wire was impossibly stuck in place. Darren took hold of the thin cable as best he could and pulled, trying to free it from the grass, then heaved to unlatch it from the sky. It didn’t move.
“I tried that when I found it. It doesn’t move,” said Susan. “What is it?”
“You got me. I’ve never seen anything like it.” Darren walked around the wire, watching it change from hanging down to sticking up depending on the angle. “What the hell is it?”
“Where do you think it goes,” she asked. “I mean, if you could climb it what do you think is on the other side?”
Darren had all but forgotten his stolen car; even the coffee stain had slipped his mind. Susan sat down in front of the wire, leaning back on her arms to stare into the sky. The wire looked to disappear a few hundred feet up and neither could say if it just stopped or if it was too thin to see after that.
“What if it’s an anchor, like for a boat, or a tow line? What if we’re being pulled through space by aliens? Wouldn’t that be something!” Susan smiled. “Imagine that, proof of alien life.”
“That would be something, but I don’t believe in aliens.” Darren smiled back, for the first time he recognized her. She lived in the apartment complex a few doors down; he’d bumped into her a couple times at the mail box. “Maybe we should call someone. The Police or the Government… I don’t know who, it just feels like we should call someone about it.”
“What would you say that wouldn’t sound crazy?” Susan tucked her hands behind her head as she lay on the grass. “I thought about calling the Police, but I’m pretty sure they’d hang up when I told them there’s a strange red wire hanging out of the sky.”
“Yeah, it does sound crazy. Have you tried to cut it? I’ve got scissors in my kitchen.” Darren started towards the door, but Susan leaped to her feet and stopped him.
“You can’t! What if it’s holding up the Earth? What then, huh?”
“Well, I think we should do something! If it’s aliens, maybe we should cut it. I don’t like the idea of my planet being pulled around like some children’s toy.”
Darren took out his keys and unlocked the door. Susan stayed in the small patch of grass watching the red wire while he got a pair of scissors. He came out and stood beside her.
“Can I hold your hand,” she asked, a small tear held in the corner of her eye. “Just in case…”
Darren took Susan’s hand and slowly closed the scissors around the red wire.