Imai felt the warm September sun on his face as he stared out at the countryside. He and the other Buck-Tick members were on a vacation in Tennessee. They didn’t plan on going to that state, but when they started planning their trip to Lincoln County, Nevada, Atsushi suggested they all stop in Tennessee for two reasons: Dollywood and the Cracker Barrel headquarters. Somehow, they ended up on a ranch on the countryside, not too far outside of Nashville.
Imai and Yutaka sat on the porch of the ranch, breathing in the fresh country air. After a few minutes, Toll came out to join them. “You’re finally up?” Imai asked, causing Yutaka to turn around and look at his older brother.
“Yeah,” Toll answered, rubbing his eyes. “Where are the others?”
“Riding horses,” Yutaka answered.
“You didn’t join them? You seemed to really enjoy it when we rode yesterday.”
“Oh, I didn’t feel like riding today.”
“You’re nervous about tonight?”
Yutaka sighed, and looked towards the countryside again. “You see right through me. It’s just… I don’t want to be away from you. Just in case anything happens.”
Toll hugged his younger brother. “I promise you no one is going to get hurt. The meme died months ago.”
“--Toll is right,” Imai interrupted. He was kind of nervous too--it was impossible not to be when they were going to a military base at 3AM--but he didn’t want Yutaka to worry about losing any of the members. “No one’s going to be there. Just a few dumbasses like us. We’ll take pictures outside, post them on my Instagram, and then leave.”
“Then why are we taking the car back instead of a plane? Wasn’t the point of that to bring the alien home safely?”
“You and Atsushi made those plans,” Toll replied.
“Oh, yeah. I forgot.”
“Imai and I almost considered taking a plane back on our own. And Atsushi probably just wanted an excuse to have Cracker Barrel three days in a row.”
“It’s true,” Imai affirmed. “As much as I want to know what’s going on in there, we’re not going in if it will put any of the members in danger. I promise.”
“Aww, but I really wanted an alien friend,” Atsushi said.
Imai wasn’t sure how he didn’t hear the horse’s footsteps; they must have really been invested in that conversation. “Shut up, Atsushi.”
“I’m only kidding! But if we find an alien outside of Area 51,” Atsushi got off his horse and held Imai’s hand, “can we bring them home? Please?”
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Hide, who had just arrived at the house, said. “There are no aliens just chilling outside Area 51 because that’s exactly where you’d expect them to be.”
“Maybe they’re going for the meme too! Imai, please?”
Being honest, Imai thought the idea of meeting an alien was interesting too. “As long as it doesn’t try to kill anybody.”
Atsushi hugged Imai. “Thank you!”
“Okay,” Yutaka said, “but what if people actually do storm Area 51?”
“Then we’ll watch them get their asses kicked,” Hide answered.
“Don’t joke about that!” the bassist shouted.
“He’s right, though,” Imai said. “If it actually happens--.”
“--It won’t happen,” Toll interrupted.
“Well, if it does, we’re not joining in. We’ll watch from a safe distance.”
“I have a question,” Atsushi said, raising his hand like a schoolboy. All the members just stared at him, and he lowered his hand awkwardly. “What if aliens can change their appearance to look like us?”
“That’s a rather specific question,” Yutaka replied.
“He’s worried about getting stranded again,” Imai explained. “That won’t happen, because you’re keeping your phone on you at all times.”
“What if aliens can mess with technology? Or there’s a bad connection?”
“Atsushi, we’re not going through that hell again,” Toll answered. “You’re not getting stranded.”
“I don’t know. He has a point,” Hide said, grinning. “Maybe we should keep him on a leash just in case.”
“What happened to, ‘Think of the children?’” Atsushi asked.
“We’re no longer in a family restaurant. That’s what happened.”
“We’re not keeping Atsushi on a leash,” Imai said.
Atsushi grinned. “You say that now, but when we’re in the hotel tomorrow night--.”
“--Shut up,” Imai interrupted. “There’s a solution to Atsushi’s concern about aliens imitating us, though. The moment we get out of that rental car at Area 51, we’re not splitting up. Got it?”
“Thank you, Imai,” Yutaka said. “You’ve really made me feel better about all of this.”
Imai smiled. “I’m glad I could help.”
“Oh yeah!” Atsushi exclaimed. “Hide and I were planning on going on one last ride.” He grabbed Imai’s hand, and pulled him out of his seat. “Imai, come with us!”
“Shouldn’t we get ready to head for the airport?”
“We’ll only go for a short ride. Please?” Imai’s answer was going to be yes, but before he could answer Atsushi got back on the horse.
“Well, alright.” Imai got on the back of Atsushi’s horse.
“I’m going too,” Hide said. “Yuta, you wanna come?”
“Sure! Oh, but Toll?”
“Don’t worry,” Toll answered, and whistled. Suddenly, a horse ran up to them.
“Whoa!” Atsushi exclaimed. “Where did he come from?”
“Where did he go?” Hide replied.
“Where did he come from, Cotton Eye Joe!” Yutaka said. “But really Toll, how did you do that? It’s like you’re Link in Breath of the Wild or something!”
“Beats me,” the older brother answered before getting on his horse.
The five members started riding. “Anyways, Imai, why didn’t you ride with us earlier?” Atsushi asked.
“Oh, I felt tired.” That was partially true, but he also wanted to appreciate the view from the porch. He enjoyed riding horses, but he wasn’t very good at it, and he didn’t get to focus as much on the beautiful countryside.
“I see. I’m glad you’re riding with me now, though.” Imai nodded, but it took a moment to realize Atsushi couldn’t see it. Before he could respond verbally, though, Atsushi started singing “Old Town Road.”
“Oh, again?” Hide shouted from his horse, causing Atsushi to chuckle while singing it. However, he didn’t seem as annoyed with it once Yutaka joined in.
“I don’t understand what’s wrong with him singing it,” Imai replied. “He sings in the car all the time.”
Suddenly, Atsushi started moaning.
“That,” Hide said. “That’s what’s wrong with it.”
“He really has to add moans to everything,” Imai said, sighing after.
Atsushi stopped singing. “Do you think they’ll get me featured on another remix of ‘Old Town Road?’ I’ve been trying to get in contact with Lil Nas X about it but I don’t know if it’s working.”
“From now on, I’m praying every night before bed that that doesn’t happen,” Hide replied.
“How many remixes are there of that song anyway?” Imai asked.
“There are ten so far,” Yutaka answered, “but the eleventh is predicted to drop tomorrow.”
“God, I hope Dolly Parton is in it,” Atsuhi said.
“What does she have to do with aliens?” Imai asked.
“Nothing, but I want her in an ‘Old Town Road’ remix. That’s all it boils down to.”
“If you had to choose between a remix featuring Dolly Parton and a remix featuring you,” said Hide, “which would you choose?”
Atsushi took a minute before responding. “Dolly, of course.”
“An intellectual,” Imai said.
The five of them finished their ride, and got off their horses by the house. They put their bags in the rental car, and Toll drove to Nashville International Airport. On the way, Imai thought about how the next day would go. They were really going to the outside of a top-secret government building over a two-month old meme. Plenty of people went to look at the outside of Area 51, so he figured it would be safe. But still, he worried about how many people would be there, what would happen, and if this trip was even worth it in the first place, especially since they were driving all the way back from Nevada. He hoped the fun memories would make such a silly--and even somehow scary--road trip worth it.