First published in Second Coming: Trinity #2 by Ahoy Comics | May 2023
As he climbed into the limousine, Sawyer couldn’t stop thinking about Hilary Swank. Remember? Best Actress for Boys Don’t Cry? She forgot to mention her husband in her acceptance speech. Sawyer balanced his Oscar on his tuxedoed knee. “Half her luck,” he slurred to himself, and then, to the driver, “Take me home.”
Standing on the stage, trying not to squint under the lights, should’ve been the greatest night of his life. His peers, fanned out beneath him, applauding him and his movie: Eyes Like Saucers. Sawyer blurted out a self-deprecating joke and a long list of thank yous. Too long, it turned out.
Sawyer closed his eyes, champagne-sick. When he opened them again, there were two individuals in the limousine who hadn’t been there before. They wore severe suits and held hats in their laps.
“Why?” said Smith.
“Why did you thank us?” said Doe.
“I know!” said Sawyer. “I’m sorry! I got caught up in the moment!”
“You used our names,” the two say in unison. One voice is a half-octave higher than the other.
Sawyer had presumed they were fake names when they first introduced themselves, three years ago. He’d just seen the premiere of his first feature at a small festival. It was called Juniper: a low budget alien-in-the-woods trifle, aiming for something Spielbergian. None of the kids could act. In fact, Sawyer didn’t know how to get a child to perform. Tell them their parents don’t love them before you say “action”?
But everybody loved Juniper. She was a two-foot tall animatronic he’d made in his garage, long before the film started shooting, and she was adorable. He’d catch the cast fixing her torn overalls, or sharing secrets with her between takes. Nothing in the film – not the acting, the sets, the godawful story – was as convincing as Juniper.
Doe and Smith cornered Sawyer at a claustrophobic afterparty and made him an offer. They’d fund his next movie, production and promotion. They’d shepherd it through the shark-infested waters of the studio system. Hell, they’d even make sure everyone liked it. (He didn’t ask how.)
And all Sawyer had to do was make them a monster.
“You said you were happy, right? With Eyes Like Saucers? It was everything you wanted?” Sawyer was sweating through his tuxedo. He lowered the window and what passed for air in L.A. battered his face. “Because we worked together on the aliens. We created them to your specifications. The eyes, obviously. The fur. The flat noses, the sounds they make…”
“Yes, we’re pleased,” said Doe.
“It had the desired effect,” said Smith.
And again, in unison: “But.”
Sawyer wasn’t too drunk to be frightened. He had always been frightened of Doe and Smith, even when they were singing his praises as the casting was confirmed, the edits came in, or he settled on a title. Even when they’d smiled at him, their teeth bright against sallow faces.
He grabbed a plush toy from the floor; someone must’ve hidden a few of them in the limo as a good-luck gag. It was an alien, from his movie, almost life-sized. “Look,” he said. “You can’t even find these in stores anymore!” He held out the toy like a protective talisman, squeezing it hard enough to activate its sound effect: a strange (but cute) little tck-tck-tck.
“The purpose of your movie,” said Smith, “was to prime the population for first contact.”
“How could they be scared,” said Doe, “of anything like this?”
“That’s right.” With one hand, Sawyer shoved the toy between the seat cushions. The other, he realized, was still white-knuckle clutching his Oscar. “And everyone loves them!”
The chorus of their voices: “That’s why we need another.”
Sawyer almost laughed. A sequel? That’s all? He’d left the movie open-ended – he wasn’t an idiot – but so soon? “Well, sure,” he said. “I have a few ideas…”
The limousine slammed to a stop. Sawyer’s stomach lurched, too, forcing him to swallow a mouthful of bile. For the first time, Doe and Smith turned to look at each other. Something about it made Sawyer sober.
“What is it?” said Sawyer. He stuck his head out the window. There were a half-dozen people in the street ahead of them, bent down over a dark shape, a streetlight as their spotlight. Hit and run, maybe? “Hey,” he called out. “Should I call an ambulance?”
“No,” said Doe.
“It’s too late for that,” said Smith.
Sawyer squinted into the night. It wasn’t a corpse they were gathered around. It was an animal, a little bigger than a cat. It wound around their legs, much to their delight. Someone snapped a photo; someone else reached down to pick it up and cradle it. It made a noise: tck-tck-tck.
“They’re not as friendly,” said Smith and Doe together, “as we’d hoped.”