Martha Longthorn sat at the reception desk of the Beconsby Chronicle. She opened a desk drawer and took out a black crystal. She lifted her skirt and held the crystal between her legs. Outside, a few passersby went past on their anonymous business. Then she noticed a man on the opposite side of the street, looking across at the Chronicle office. He wore a beanie hat and a long dark-green jacket. A carrier bag dangled from one hand, whilst the other clasped a walking stick. He started to cross the road towards her. She hurriedly replaced the crystal in the drawer.
“Guid mornin’,” he said, as he entered. He leant his stick by the door and deposited the carrier bag, to the clinking of glass.
“Good morning. How can I help?”
“Weel, a’ve come tae report a UFO.”
Martha felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, not least due to the man’s broad Scottish accent. “Ah, please take a seat.” While the man adjusted his chair, Martha glanced furtively behind her.
The man unzipped his jacket and sat down. Martha noticed red hair poking from beneath his hat. It matched the red of the tartan lining of his jacket. One of those waxed ones people wore for shooting and whatever else they did in the country, she thought. Quite expensive, no doubt. “Have you reported it to the police?”
The eyes in his florid face widened. “Listen, lassie, I reported them in the past and they nod and take my name. Say my reports’ll be passed on, but I ne’er hear another word. Noo, I’ve taken the time to come here to give your paper a big story, so I’ll be grateful for your attention.”
Martha opened the drawer and her long, painted fingernails drummed on the black crystal. Then she closed the drawer again. She sighed. “All right. And you are?”
“Angelus Thomlinson, at yer service.”
“So, what did it look like?”
“Like a black triangle. Just like an isosceles triangle, if ye ken what that is, lass.”
Martha blushed. She’d been bottom of the class in maths.
Thomlinson took out a pen and drew on a scrap of paper. “And there were lights at the corners, like searchlights they were. The lights came and went, then … woosh, off it’d go.”
Tomlinson laughed. “Fast, lassie, you’ve never seen anything shift so fleet in yer life. One minute, maybe half a mile away. Half a second later, maybe ten miles away.”
“So, where and when did you see it?”
Thomlinson extracted some sheets, crumpled and scribbled on in biro, and proceeded to give lengthy details of sightings, as Martha’s long pink nails tap-tap-tapped on her keyboard.
Half an hour later, Martha opened the door for Thomlinson and watched him head down the street, leaning on his stick, his carrier bag swinging. An odd fellow, she thought. Perhaps fifty? Whatever, she felt pleased he’d gone.
A door behind her opened and two men came out. They could have been identical twins. They were clean-shaven with nondescript faces; you would be hard-pressed to even tell their age. If you had looked one in the eye, you would have seen the iris to be the palest of pale greens, almost translucent, and the pupil strangely slit-like, like a snake’s. They were both clad in black suits, black trilby hats, black shirts, and black ties. One held out a black-gloved hand. Martha opened the drawer and deposited the crystal into his hand, feeling the object’s warmth and vibration as she did so. It was triangle-shaped; one long side, the other two of equal length. Without a word, the two men left. Martha deleted the report she had just typed, then eyed the clock. She smiled. Time to close for lunch.
Taken from the book, Flash Friction: To Cut a Short Story Short, vol. III: 72 Little Stories
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