Close Encounters of the Creepy Kind
Three Weeks Later.
“What a night…”
Morgan Freeman’s apartment was only a few blocks from the arena, but to Jaclyn - that time meant the world. She slides her hands into the large ringmasters coat, a gift from her friend who insisted she bundle up from the crisp, Chicago cold. Jacky pulls the jacket around her, looks up at the moon - his moon - and smiles.
“What a night!” she giggles, swirling around once before throwing both arms into the air in celebration. She screams up towards the night sky. “I did it baby!”
"Shut the fuck up!" a voice shrieks, thick from smoking and the deep Southside accent that Chicagoan’s had become infamous for.
“You shut the fuck up!” she yells.
"Both of yous shut the fuck up!" A myriad of voices join in, each one encouraging the other to ‘close their mouths’ with varying degrees of intensity. After a moment, the report of a firearm being discharged can be heard and Jacky decides it’s best to be on her way. With the voices behind her and the sirens headed in that direction, she can’t help but laugh, pulling the coat around her once more.
“What a night,” she says. The adrenaline finally leaving her body, Jaclyn could feel her muscles becoming tight from the tournament. She tilts her head to the side, gently rubbing along her neck. The clown had earned back his belt and brought it right back where it belonged.
Jacky smiles up at Morgan’s apartment, a welcome sight after everything she’d been through with everything she'd accomplished. But home was in the heart and even though this was where she laid her head, she was a long way from home. She stops suddenly, patting around her person, first her waist and then shoulders.
“Son of a bitch!” she says, turning back to the road behind her with a sigh. "I forgot the belt.”
The clown-faced creep shakes her head. She’d have to pick it up next week or send for it, she thought as she hurried up the small staircase. Her hands pat about her pockets, then she slides a hand down into her dress and feels around.
“Son of a bitch!” she shouts, turning back once more in the general direction of the arena. “I forgot my keys!”
A dog responds by barking in her direction. Jacky knew Morgan was out of town for the evening and Tank and Trevor were likely asleep, after all with faces like those, they needed as much beauty sleep as they could afford. She hums a tune to herself as she slips around the side of the building towards the back street.
As she approaches the gate, she begins to hear voices, not coming from a television or neighbor - Jacky was not sure if he had any neighbors, but rather the courtyard itself. Hesitantly, she reaches out. If it was Tank, he’d want a cigarette. Tank always wanted a cigarette. If it was Trevor? She shrugs. Who knows with that one?
“Hey guys,” She says as she pushes through, “I forgot my-“
Jacky stops dead in her tracks, her golden eyes going wide as she stares into the courtyard.
“Aliens?” she whispers.
The Showman gets off a bus in front of Northwestern University in downtown Chicago and begins to walk toward a nondescript brick building on campus. It was probably walking distance from Morgan’s apartment, but Monty knew he might have to head out on the lakefront toward Doane Observatory if one of these researchers decided to wax wistful.
He shakes his head, repeating his hypothesis aloud.
Montague: Freaking aliens.
For seventeen years, the United States Air Force had conducted an operation codenamed Project Blue Book. It’s purpose was to document and study reports of UFO phenomena and determine if there was any substance, and if so, did any of it pose a threat to national security.
Ultimately, the Air Force officially determined that none of the almost thirteen thousand reports collected represented any significant evidence of extraterrestrial activity, and therefore posed no threat to national security. The project was terminated in 1969.
One of the lead technicians on the project was J. Allen Hynek. Initially a skeptic, his role was to apply his engineering and technical expertise to debunk reports if possible. The majority of incidents were written off as misidentified weather anomalies or misrepresented military aircraft.
Curiously, however, despite his role as the lead nonbeliever, Hynek walked away from the project having seen at least a few reports he couldn’t parse. These few were enough to convince him that continued study of UFOs was a worthy pursuit, and he set up the Center for UFO Studies, or CUFOS, only four years after leaving Project Blue Book.
CUFOS is now located here at the Chicago campus, collecting and compiling reports over the last fifty years.
The skies over Chicago, and Illinois at large, are especially rife with ‘tic tacs’, ‘orbs’, ‘strands’, ‘diamonds’, ‘disks’, and ‘triangles’. O’Hare gets dozens of reports from pilots and air traffic controllers each week.
Someone here knows what happened over Morgan’s apartment. That means someone here can help him find Jacky.
Montague pushes the unmarked door to the building open and steps into the pleasantly warmed lobby. To his surprise, an oddly familiar face turns away from flirting with a receptionist to mark his arrival. He greets the Showman with a hint of sarcasm.
Jeff: Are you here about the aliens?
Jaclyn Pierrot stands at the door. Her pale, tattooed hand grips the handle, shivering slightly. She is still wearing the clothes she had on when she left the arena over three weeks ago. The showman’s coat, torn and tattered, hangs loosely from her shoulders. Her cotton candy pigtails are soaked, laying flat against the side of her face. Morgan Freeman’s eyes narrow.
“Yes…” she answers, weakly. The clown steps into the parlor letting the large door close behind her. Tank steps into the space between her and the egress.
“You’re saying that my house got destroyed,” Morgan begins quietly, his voice gradually growing louder as he speaks, “And you went missing for three weeks, because of aliens?”
“You what? You tried to fight them off?” She nods. “I can’t wait to hear it…”
Jacky’s eyes, who have so far been locked on the floor, creep up slowly. A slight grin finds its way into the corner of her lip.
“On the 14th of last month, just right there outside,
In the dark of the night, I tried to decide
I was locked out…with no real way to get in
When I heard some voices out back, to my chagrin”
“Not like Dr. Seuss!” Morgan interrupts. Jacky bites her lip as she considers her next words. She draws in a deep breath.
“Iiiiin,” Tank covers his face and shakes his head. “West Chicago, locked outside - in the courtyard is where I saw the bad guys-“
“And not like the Fresh Prince!” The bodyguard, unable to control himself, turns his face away from the enraged actor as he begins to laugh. “Stop encouraging her!”
“Jacky, in your own words - no rhymes, no raps - what the hell happened here three weeks ago?”
“Okay well…it all started when I decided to walk back home…” Morgan folds his arms across his chest, waiting for the tale to take a turn off the rails. “See, I had just won the title and wanted to take some time to myself to celebrate.”
“Tank is paid to drive you.”
“Right, but I asked real nice!” Tank finds himself avoiding the actor's glare. “Don’t be mad at the Tankster! How could he have known aliens would be trying to rob your house!”
“Jacky…” Morgan starts but just shakes his head.
“So's anyway, I got back, but wouldn’t you know it? I forgot my keys. We’ve all been there right? Now I thought to myself, no way I’m walking all the way back to the arena, not without at least jiggling a handle or two. We’ve all been there, right?” She pauses for a moment, expecting some reaction to her joke. There is none. She clears her throat and continues on. “Right, so the front door was locked and I figured the two burley bears were hibernating for the evening. Hey, have you ever heard these two snore?”
Morgan settles back into one of the armchairs, his fingers pressing into his temple as the clown continues to mimic the sounds of sawing logs.
“Hey!” Tank protests. She leans towards him, snoring louder and he shoves her back playfully. She grabs hold of his wrist, tilting the joint back suddenly and he yelps in pain.
“Would you please!” Morgan yells, then stops for a moment to compose himself. “…get on with it.”
Jaclyn clears her throat and continues, releasing Tank's hand.
“Right so, I slipped around back and thought I’d try through the courtyard when I heard people talking. Naturally I figured it was the goon squad out back having a smoke, but when I opened the gate, guess what I saw?”
“Aliens?” Morgan ventures a guess.
“No! Well yes! Well, there were people in robes and then I saw bright lights in the sky. I figured it was an emergency so that’s why I kicked in the back window.”
“And the rest of the house?”
“Well…you won’t let me have my gun and I needed a weapon. I saw at least three of them follow me in and I grabbed whatever I could and threw it but before I knew it, one of them must have tackled me and I hit my head. Next thing I knew...”
“Here you are.”
“Right!” She smiles, nodding her head excitedly. “Here I am.”
A moment passes, the actor folding his hands in front of himself. He picks a piece of lint free of his trousers and turns to Tank. “Call the police.”
“What?” Jacky says.
“Morgan?” Tank asks. Before he can make a move, the door behind him whips open, connecting hard with the back of his head causing him to tumble forward.
“Tank?” Morgan Freeman leans forward as the man spills onto the floor. The magician steps into the room.
“Jacky!” He is able to catch the tiny clown as she comes sailing into his arms. Montague glances down at the cloak he let her borrow - one of his favorites and chooses to dismiss it in his mind. What mattered is that she was safe.
“And hi, I’m Jeff Goldblum!”
Sure enough, walking into the room just behind the magician is the tall, sinewy star(questionable) of Jurassic Park, Jeff Goldblum himself. Jacky pulls away slightly, looking between the two actors. She raises an eyebrow towards Montague: “Are we gonna get sued?”
“Would someone tell me what the hell is going on?” Morgan asks, barely hanging on to his composure at this point. Jeff steps forward and extends a hand.
Tank pushes the door shut once more, his hand rubbing the back of his head. “What the hell is Ian Malcolm doing here?”
Jeff turns whimsically toward the taller man, looking him up and down. He dashes a piece of hair behind his ear then motions towards Tank.
“I…well…yes! In addition to Apartments.com I do like to…dabble, yes, dabble is the word in arts of the scientific, um. Pursuit? Yes?”
“And you're here about the aliens?”
Morgan Freeman glares over at the magician. “Did he put you up to this?”
“Put me up? I - well, he did offer to pay for a hotel?” Montague shakes his head, “Mister Freeman, please, this is very important! We have reason to believe that Miss Pierrot may have had a close encounter with an alien - yes, alien presence.”
“But why did they grab me?”
"Well... studies show that extra terrestrials believe that... well, Earth Girls are - ah - Earth Girls are, heh, Easy."
The clown glares over at him, but he continues to smile nonchalantly. Suddenly there is a hard knocking on the door, causing everyone except Morgan to jump. Montague and Jacky exchange a look and then she slowly turns the knob to open the door.
“Who is it now,” Morgan asks with a sigh, “An alien?”
“Worse,” she says, allowing the door to open fully. Standing on the other side of the portal are two very common looking men in all black suits wearing black sunglasses.
The scene opens to the inside of a large room, the walls made of plain cinderblock and little more. A massive fan dominates the better side of the right wall with an oversized window sitting opposite. One lone guard sits in a plain chair, flipping absently through a week old edition of People magazine. The pair of doors on the center of the back wall and two forms emerge, Montague Cervantes and Jaclyn Pierrot, both dressed in all black suits with matching Ray Bans. Jacky stops short as the Magician steps forward, adjusting his cuffs
Montague: I am beginning to enjoy the way it feels around UGWC lately.
The clown nods her head behind him.
Montague: Not long ago it didn’t seem to matter how many times we humiliated our opponents, it was taboo to give the AstroCreeps any credit. We swiped your crowns and spoiled your tournaments, and even then no one wanted to admit that we were an unfathomable force to be reckoned with. Oh you tried to fathom us, but you missed the mark like a drunk Danny Danger trying to hit record on his computer in one try.
Jacky pantomimes missing a button on a console in front of her over and over. Montague smiles as he continues.
Montague: But now, suddenly we’re a threat. We have a ‘stranglehold’ on the company. We bring ‘destruction that must be stopped.’ Why the shift? What changed for you all? Could it be that you finally understand that match outcomes are largely irrelevant to our vision, especially after the calculated losses we allowed ourselves to take in the Global Challenge, only to emerge as the victors?
The clown peels open the two buttons on her blazer to reveal the Cross-Hemisphere Championship. A key dangling from a leather strap attached to the magician’s wrist is displayed before disappearing just as quickly back into his sleeve.
Montague: Maybe I’m giving you too much credit. I feel like I am. The lot of you can barely see past your next few matches, and you know that we’re headlining those, so you’ve decided to amend your narrative so that you don’t make the mistake of underestimating us again. That’s all it is, right?
Honking laughter erupts from Jacky and she rips the glasses from her face.
Jaclyn: Speaking of who’s headlining and who’s not, did I see that Baltimore Elite will be in this match? I want to ask if they’re still a thing, but someone will be quick to needlessly remind me that they’re the Cooperative Champions at our expense.
She extends her hands in front of herself, slowly clapping.
Jaclyn: Well kudos for them. Their existence barely registered for months leading up to Horizons, and they pulled out a token win over Tragedia dell’Arte at Horizons. Then everyone immediately forgot about them again. They’re a blip on the card this year.
The clown sneers, her golden eyes rolling back in an exaggerated fashion.
Jaclyn: There are three championship matches on the Ever Escalating Endangerment Card, and no one has so much as mentioned one of them. What’s it like to finally, finally get one over on the AstroCreeps, and everyone is still talking about the AstroCreeps? Baltimore Elite gets less air time as the Cooperative Champions than they did when they were failing to be singles competitors.
Montague holds out a hand to pause the clown, the other dropping into his coat to retrieve a pen-like object as he speaks.
Montague: Maybe it’s best if the few of us who remember The Jawdropper and GKD just forget about them like the rest of the world has.
He extends the object forward. As Jacky notices, she whips the Ray Bans in front of her face just in time as there is a bright flash causing the camera to white out momentarily. When it comes back to focus, the Magician stands smiling, hands tucked behind his back.
Montague: Speaking of failures, why is the Piercing Empire in this match? I mean, I get that while Tragedia is collecting the heaviest crowns, there’s not really much of a Cooperative division for… for… who were the champions again?
Jaclyn: I can’t remember. Anyway, what other reason is there for Jet to put Sebastian and Travis together again?
She taps her temple, trying to coax her memories forward.
Jaclyn: What are CCP and TIA? They’re not UGWC entities, yet somehow those are the flags being flown by some of our most celebrated former champions.
Montague: Maybe they’re smelling which way the wind shines this year and are already halfway into jumping ship.
He nods his head slightly as he speaks.
Montague: I get it. The rats are quickly abandoning this handbasket as we pilot it straight to hell. Where are the #CoolKids? Where is Incendium? Alan Wallace? Travis Roberts? The Creepier it gets around here, the more the mundanes feel out of place. The web of the Spider King is getting bigger, and the flies are rushing away to find a safer dung pile to light on.
Montague turns to the clown.
Montague: Do we really expect Everett-Bryce and Pierce to be on the same page on Synergy?
Jaclyn: I mean, they’re both going to be tedious and predictable, that goes without saying. I imagine, though, that they’ll be more focused on trying to out-bland each other than cooperating. This match does nothing for their Twitter reputations, so don’t look for them to put much effort into it.
Montague: How unfortunate. How predictable, but ultimately, just like our opponents careers?
He holds the object out and the clown scrambles once more.
Montague: How forgettable.
There is a second flash from the device and the scene fades to white.