Picture it: a sullen, preoccupied girl curled in a papasan chair with a Stephen King book, Metallica blasting on the boombox beside her, her pockmarked skin and awkward-in-the-bones hunch announcing her age -13- to the whole world, if only she knew it. The door is closed, of course. Someone calls from the other side of it, three, four, five times, until she makes a face and leans over to open it, dog-earing the book and shoving it under one hip, leaving Bobbi and Gard to dig the big metal thing out of the ground by themselves. The voice, it turns out, is actually coming from all the way downstairs, floating up to her from the dark.
“Am! Come here, quick! You have to see this! Quick!”
It has a breathless, urgent sound to it that makes her get up despite misgivings. So she does, leaving the lamp on to slouch down the stairs and out the front door in a welter of bony knees and scowls, out to where her family is scattered over the porch in the deep twilight, all staring out at some point west-northwest and above the treeline.
There is a light there, far off, hovering in the sky like somebody pinned it in the stratosphere while no-one was looking.
She makes some scornful remark about planes, but it’s already clear to her this is no plane: it moves up, down, side to side, speedy and slightly erratic in a way no plane could move without breaking itself.
It’s getting closer.
Little Brother, 9 and a goofy, spike-haired silhouette, is twitching around like a squirrel; one sister is clutching a post and speaking with increasing worry, the other, young enough to take all this is perfect stride, stands on a brick step looking out over the long stretch of lawn and tall grass, solemn as clergy. Dad and Mom are no better: mom, in fact, announces in the same breathlessly excited voice that she always knew they would come for this family first. Sullen girl is as caught up in it as everyone else, despite an adolescent aversion to All Things Family (and therefore uncool): Sullen Girl has already discovered SF/F, and it is rapidly becoming her genre of choice, and the picture in her mind as she watches that bright spot in the sky grow and dart is less Fire in the Sky, more Close Encounters of the Third Kind. She can hear her boombox blasting Enter Sandman upstairs, and wonders briefly if this is the best soundtrack for a first contact.
By now everyone is hanging off the porch, speaking in hushed half-whispers, all equally breathless. The light gets larger, closer. There is a noise now, something rhythmic and halfway familiar.
Nobody moves. Closer. Louder.
Then the helicopter passes over, searchlight swinging in wild arcs.
Sullen Girl is too mortified to be disappointed. This seems to be a general state of affairs, because everyone goes back inside without a word, to their separate evening entertainment of choice. There’s nothing to say, really. They are, for a moment, all united by a silent and mutual understanding of what a complete pack of loons they are; and Sullen Girl finds something oddly pleasing about this, even as she shuts the door to her room again and puts her palms to her slightly flushed face.
Normal would be pretty boring, truth be told.