A young man stood in his bedroom; or, rather, in what would officially become his bedroom at the end of that summer. It was a beautiful afternoon, and all was right with John Egbert’s world. He didn’t have much to unpack, given over the summer most of the stuff from his old house would be shipped here. Enough clothes, movies, and books to keep him entertained until the rest of his stuff showed up. If he even had time, for the first time in a long time all his friends were together.
An extremely unmanly scream interrupted his thoughts from the next room. He ran out, and found his friend Dave stomping out of his own room, muttering what sounded like the phrase “fucking puppets”.
“Bro sneak Cal into your luggage again?” John asked, smirking. “I heard the scream.”
“What scream? Nobody was screaming,” Dave said, expressionless as usual.
“Sure, Strider,” he said, a snicker badly masked. The scream that may or may not have happened roused the attention of the two others unpacking in their respective rooms. Both of them poking their head out of their doors to see what the noise was about.
“Was that you, Dave? Or is the prankster’s gambit stronger than ever, John?” Jade asked, a small smile on her face. Either way that scream would have been funny. John let himself smile, looking towards his cousin.
“Well, it wasn’t me, no sudden surprises in my suitcase.”
“Dave, are the puppets following you up from San Antonio?” Jade said a small laugh in her voice, but she was being more graceful about it then John ever was. Dave opened his mouth to respond when he was nearly mowed over by a huge white ball of fluff.
“Bec! Here boy!” The dog perked up and bounced over to Jade, wagging its tail. She let it jump up for a hug. “Who’s a good boy? Good dog! Best friend!”
“I see my mother managed to keep him alive during our school year,” Rose said, eyeing the dog. “It doesn’t seem he is any worse for wear.” Bec confirmed this with a bark and a drooly grin.
“Rose, don’t be so mean! It was really sweet of her to let him stay.. I would have hated to leave him all alone for the whole school year and summer.” Jade was scratching behind his ears, while he watched Rose. She spared him a pat on the head.
“Back on the topic of surprises in suitcases, Bro stuck about a million condoms in mine. Again,” Dave sighed. “And a note.” He flourished the offending paper and read it. “‘Use these if you need them, and I do not mean to make balloon animals’. Don’t suppose you want any?”
John wrinkled his nose. “Dude, we’re staying with my cousin and my stepsister. Ew.”
“I bet we’ll go into town at some point. Don’t you want to be prepared? I mean what if you meet someone, what if she’s the one. You go up to some secluded Lover’s Lane and both of you spread out on a blanket and start making out and you’re about to take the next step. Then you remember you didn’t take from you good friend Strider’s extensive condom pile and you can’t go any farther. You stop, and then you never see her again. All chances of happiness and your soulmate gone for all eternity just because you were unprepared.” Dave sighed melodramatically.
“If he doesn’t want any, can I have some?”
“Aw, geez, Jade!” John groaned. “I didn’t need that thought.”
“Hey, be nice to your cousin!” Dave told him, handing over a few of the little foil packages. “She just wants to share her love, ain’t that right, Jade? Guess you’ve gotta ‘cos you’ve got so much you’ll explode in a cloud of candyfloss and rainbows if you don’t let some out.” He winked, insofar as the others could tell whether he was winking behind his sunglasses.
“I would point out that you would understand that better than anyone, Strider, however that would be the pot calling the kettle black.” Rose joined the group in the hallway.
“Yeah, I’ll never understand why you two broke up.” John shook his head.
“Are we all done unpacking? If so, perhaps there is something you would all like to do. Other than congregate in the hallway like a very fleshy fire hazard.”
Dave’s stomach answered the question for him with a quiet gurgle. “How about we go eat something other than airplane peanuts?”
“Do you want to head into town or would you rather make our own food here? Either option is fine by me, though going into town might be better than the meager pickings around the house. Mother or us will have to go shopping. Though I am sure we could produce sandwiches. Which might be far more enjoyable than peanuts.”
“Sandwiches sound fine,” John said, shrugging. “Just not peanut butter, okay? I can’t have it and I think Dave would kill himself if he ever sees peanuts again.”
“I don’t intend to kill either of you… Yet,” Rose said with a small smile. John just shook his head at her. “Let us head down to the kitchen then.”
In the kitchen, Rose scowled at the plate of assorted sandwiches, crusts cut off, already waiting on the kitchen table. “Damn. My mother is a cunning and persistent woman.”
“She makes good sandwiches, too,” said Jade, mouth full of cucumber and bread.
“I’m happy it’s sandwiches, not cake. You’ll have to get used to that, Rose. You’ll come home from school and there will be sandwiches and cake waiting for you. Now there’s two of us it’ll be worse than ever, we’ll end up buried in cake and notes saying ‘I AM SO PROUD OF YOU KIDS’. Speaking of your- I mean our mom, where is she?”
“I would assume she is at work. I just can’t believe we are starting these games so soon after I am home. I would think she’d give me at least one day to get my passive-aggressive ability back. Since I am older, I guess she knows I can handle it. How do I counter this?” Rose said with a sigh. She sat down at the table, taking her own sandwich.
“Breakfast in bed?” Dave suggested. “You could get up at like four AM and make breakfast and wake her up about half an hour early so she’s gotta get up and thank you …”
“Dave, don’t encourage her.”
“Or you could make me breakfast in bed,” Dave added, ignoring Jade. “I promise not to be passive-aggressive about it.”
“It was worth a shot - if I make it for you, will you return the favor?”
“I fear what you know how to cook. I was under the assumption you ate nothing but frozen pre-packaged meals. I must say Pizza Rolls for breakfast doesn’t do anything for me.”
“I’m going to get us off of this topic. What do you guys want to do, we still have plenty of sunlight to do whatever.” John said. “Though I gotta admit, I’m a little tired from the flight.”
“Maybe we should just hang out around here then? Watch a movie, TV, or something else. Plan for something bigger later. If y’all don’t mind.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” Jade said. “Then we’ll have a full day if we want to go hiking or whatever. I’d love to go hiking, the scenery’s great around here.”
“Sounds fun- wait.” John looked at Bec, whose ears were perked up curiously. “Can you guys hear something? Sort of a whining, whistling sound outside? I think it’s getting louder.”
Bec jumped up from where he was laying on the floor, barking at the back door. The four friends hurried outside and looked around, unable to pinpoint the noise until Rose pointed to the sky and cried “There! Look!”
A streak of light was tearing across the blue sky, heading towards the earth. From the sound, it was going to land not very far away.
“What the fuck is that?” Dave asked no one in particular.
“Space junk? Maybe a satellite fell out of orbit?” Jade added, squinting at it. “Looks bigger than a satellite though.”
“Is it a plane?” John sounded nervous. “Because it looks like it’s heading right towards us.”
“No, I think we’re safe,” Rose said, blinking from staring at the bright light. “Looks like it’s going to land somewhere on the other side of the hill. It just looks close because it’s big … definitely looks too big to be a satellite.”
“I don’t know what it could be, and I’m usually pretty space savvy. It doesn’t look like any type of thing I’ve ever seen before.” Jade lifted a hand, resting it over her eyes, trying to get a better look at the thing. “It would be landing in the woods that’s for sure. Judging by the trajectory. Though, it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down much.”
“Geez, if it is a spacecraft I hope there’s nobody in it,” John said. “No way is it going to be able to land safely here-”
The mysterious object disappeared over the crest of the hill. Moments later, a loud BOOM shook the house, the shockwave nearly knocking the group off their feet. Bec barked almost loudly enough to drown out the sound of the collision, and everyone was too busy trying to stay on their feet to react until it died down. When all was silent again, the four looked at each other.
“Or we could go hiking right now?” Dave suggested.
“Would you mind, John?”
“Not at all!” John said, rocking back and forth on his heels and grinning excitedly. “I want to know what that was, what happens if it was like a meteor or something? We would get to discover it!”
Bec picked up the excitement from the humans and barked again, happily this time.
“So we’re in agreement,” Rose said with a nod. “To adventure.”
The four moved into the house, each getting appropriate footwear, backpacks, and water bottles, and Rose left a brief note to her mother. Meeting up back outside facing towards the hill, they set off, Bec following close beside Jade. It wasn’t a long walk to one of the trails leading into the woods.
“We stay on the trail, and look for any broken trees or signs of impact.” Rose said. “I don’t really feel like needing a search and rescue team my first day back.”
“This goes over the hill right?”
“If you travel on it long enough it will. Just keep a lookout for any signs of something that big crash landing.”
“Can’t exactly be easy to miss, right?” Dave said with a shrug.
As it turned out, it was. Two hours passed, and not a sign could be found. The group took a break, sitting on a fallen tree and taking out their water bottles. Jade let Bec drink from hers when she was done with it, earning a disgusted look from John.
“Ew, are you sure you should be sharing a water bottle with your dog?”
“Geez, it’s not like I’m putting it in his mouth,” Jade said, pouring the water close enough to Bec’s snout for him to catch it with his tongue. “Poor dog’s thirsty!”
“Hm. Your dog aside, I thought for sure we would have found our mystery object by now,” Rose mused. “I suppose it must be further away than I assumed.”
Jade’s eyes were wide behind her glasses. “That must mean it was really big. I guess it probably landed well away from the path … maybe we should split up?”
“I don’t think wandering off the trail is a good idea. I doubt there’s anything dangerous in the woods, but it’s easy to get lost.”
“Aw, c’mon, we won’t go far,” Dave protested. “We’ve got our phones, right, not like any of us would be caught dead without ‘em? Any of us get into trouble we can call each other, or call for help - there a forest equivalent of the coastguard?”
Rose frowned. “Well, I suppose it can’t really do much harm. As long as we meet back up before dark …”