By Michael Picarella Staff ‘Human World’ Columnist
I was up at 12:02 this morning. Two minutes into Alien Day and still no chestburster.
April 26th (4-26 draws its origins from the 1979 film “Alien” and the exomoon “LV-426” where alien life is discovered) has become a day I actually look forward to each year. It’s kicked off with a bouncing baby chestburster that comes ripping and tearing out of some poor fool’s chest a la the scene in “Alien” where USCSS Nostromo Executive Officer Thomas Kane, who is previously attacked and impregnated by a facehugger, “gives birth” to a chestburster. The little darling screeches “Surprise!” before scurrying off to grow into a full-size Xenomorph, which then — and always — attempts to eliminate the human species. At 12:04 this morning, I was more than eager to get this party started.
Call me weird. It’s OK, I’m proud of the description. But I wholeheartedly celebrate Alien Day. I’ll typically watch an Alien movie or two. Maybe I’ll read some sort of comic book with aliens or martians. One year I listened to the first few episodes of the “Strange Arrivals” podcast about the mysterious 1961 alien encounter and abduction as experienced by Betty and Barney Hill.
This year, as I tossed and turned in bed — anticipating that first chestburster — I thought about what I’d watch or read ... or do(!) for Alien Day. Probably a victim of ADHD (never diagnosed), I needed something that wouldn’t take me days to consume. In other words, I didn’t want some long TV or podcast series or Stephen King-sized novel that requires weeks if not months to complete. You see, as I previously alluded to, my interests change on a dime — Sasquatch! Seriously, I’m already thinking about chupacabra for Cinco de Mayo. Gotta watch “Chupacabra vs. the Alamo” with Erik Estrada every 5th day of May. Love that movie and all its cheesy goodness!
But I digress.
I need something just for the day only, I thought. Alien short stories would be cool.
I’ve recently been growing my collection of short-story anthologies. Those that have piqued my interest are the ones collected by theme. For example, I just bought one collection called “Flight or Fright: 17 Turbulent Tales,” edited by Stephen King and Bev Vincent, which is an anthology that, as described on Amazon, is about “all things that can go horribly wrong when you’re suspended six miles in the air, hurtling through space at more than 500 mph, and sealed up in a metal tube (like — gulp! — a coffin) with hundreds of strangers.” I purchased that book just before boarding a plane over spring break. Doesn’t that sound like fun? (Got the strangest looks when people saw what I was reading in the airport.)
Then there’s “Fearful Fathoms (Seas and Oceans)” and “Fearful Fathoms II (Lakes and Other Bodies).” I spent a couple years during my childhood living near a lake. That second collection of horror stories is a real treat that brings me back to those days when I knew for a fact that something lay beneath my swimming feet. I especially like these books of terror when planning trips to the water.
I’ve also got Halloween anthologies (I had fun with Ronald Kelly’s “The Halloween Store and Other Tales of All Hallows’ Eve”), a werewolf short story collection, one with noir stories, another with stories about mad scientists, and yet another with tales of terrifying Christmas monsters from around the world (obviously for Christmas time only).
There’s another really cool anthology called “Hell Comes to Hollywood” for when I’m thinking about my time in Tinseltown, and I have two other collections that I like to turn to when I’m taking long drives on the interstate where I’m forced to share lanes with those road-hogging truck drivers (God, I love ‘em!): “18 Wheels of Horror” and “18 Wheels of Science Fiction.” Who doesn’t want a trailer full of trucking terrors and fantastic fiction?
Oh, I’ve still got more collections. There’s “Ghosts” for when I’m home alone at night and the rain is slashing away at the window panes, or “The World of Mystery Fiction” for when I’m itching to solve a crime.
I recently picked up a zombie short story anthology called “The New Dead” that I’ve yet to sink my teeth into. And I’ve got another one I’m still waiting for in the mail from Cemetery Dance Publications called “Midnight Under the Big Top,” which is described as “the world’s grandest tales of murder, madness and magic set in and around the circus.” Bunch of clowns.
But, as I try to reel this thing back in, I have no alien short story anthologies. That would’ve been the perfect antidote for what I was feeling this Alien Day morning! I could’ve gotten up and out of bed for a 15- or 20-minute story, then maybe devoured a few tales throughout the day as I ate breakfast or took down my lunch.
And as I rolled over yet again to check the time — 12:07 — the thing I was waiting for happened. A chestburster! I’d just remembered a book I received in a Halloween box I got from a friend last year: “Sightings: UFOs” by Susan Michaels. This is a collection of stories drawn from the 1990s syndicated television program “Sightings” that, as it reads on Amazon, “recounts the purportedly real encounters of humans with extraterrestrials.”
And so, with the first Xenomorph of the day out and on the warpath, I cracked open my reading for the day and began with: “There were more reported sightings of UFOs in 1952 than in any other year before or since ...” and the story of the great lights over our nation’s capital back when, as Michaels writes, “air-raid shelters were replacing the backyard barbecue as suburbia’s most sought-after home accessory.” My morning reading: “Saucers Over Washington.”
Happy Alien Day to you and yours! May it be out of this world.