The sky opened, and Hell followed.
Beneath this, it was Tuesday. And to be perfectly honest, it was a rather pleasant one until it wasn’t. Sure, there was quite a bit of suffering carrying on in many parts of the world, including right around the corner from where it all ultimately ceased to be (Oh, the awful things people were doing to each other and their families in the privacy of their own homes – but the less said about this, the easier it is to focus on the fun parts of this horrific, if fictional sci-fi apocalyptic tale). But in some godforsaken shopping center in the sort of Californian city where people with far too much money buy overpriced things from people with far too little of either, the sun was warm, the wind was cool, but not too much, and existence wasn’t all that bad if you could afford to ignore it. In fact, Peter Protagonist managed to catch every red light on the way to work, causing him to be late yet again. Fortunately, Peter hated his job. Unfortunately, he arrived just in time to witness his girlfriend, Ann Plot-Device, having coffee with another man in the parking lot. At least, in the sense that they were currently engaged in some form of sexual intercourse in the backseat of a twenty-year old, mostly primer-colored Honda Civic.
Now. Before anyone thinks to cast judgment on the poor girl, it should be made very clear that Ms. Plot-Device, her extracurricular lover, and that hideous car were all instantaneously vaporized the moment someone falling from the aforementioned Hellhole in the Sky subsequently landed directly on top of – and, I suppose, through – all of this. So do temper your throbbing rage and flaccid demands for primal social justice. Because if nothing else, it’ll all prove rather meaningless in the grand scheme of the next five or so minutes.
That said. There was a bit of fire, a sort of explosion. All fantastically gratuitous, really. But as sexually stimulating as the creation of celestial impact craters and collateral damage may be, they also tend to be somewhat overstimulating for those standing a bit too close to fully appreciate such things. Yet for as bleeding about the head as he most concussedly was after being literally and painfully shock-waved several yards through the air, Peter’s metaphorically broken heart was grateful for the distraction.
“Are you okay?” someone eventually assed to shout in that way where one really wants to sound like they give a shit, but really don’t.
“I think they’re moving,” another added.
“Someone survived that?”
Peter’s vision mostly righted itself and he watched as the gathering crowd heroically tended to the needs of that helpless smoldering hole in the ground.
“Is anyone getting a signal?”
Peter dragged himself bleeding and internally bleeding to the smoldering hole, and saw what all this not-calling-me-an-ambulance business was all about: some clown in the bloodied, tattered remains of some kind of fancy Halloween costume was wriggling about and crying, “They’re coming! They’re coming! Good God, someone get me out of here, they’re coming!”
“Who?” Peter asked in that way one does when they want the other person to stop screaming the same thing over and over and finish their thought. “Who’s coming?”
“Them!” the clown in the Halloween costume replied, lifting and pointing with his broken, mushy stub at an alien armada more or less done gathering on this side of the Hellhole in the sky.
“They’re going to kill us all!”
“It’s the end of the world!”
“Everyone duck and cover!”
But before Peter could follow the rest to the nearest sturdy doorway, desk, or table, the clown in the Halloween costume spoke again. “Sorry. What was that?” Peter replied.
“I said, the Libertitans aren’t here to kill you.”
“Then why are they here?”
“To conquer you, to steal your world, strip mine it, and enslave your people in soul crushing and backbreaking low-paying jobs as they profit off your perpetual misery and labor.”
“”Uh-huh,” Peter blinked.
“I think I’m a bit too far gone now,” the clown in the Halloween costume coughed and spat into his helmet, the blood and viscera staining the visor and making Peter gag a bit. “Only you can stop them now.”
But before Peter could laugh at such a ridiculous statement, the clown in the Halloween costume pulled open their chest cavity with far too much ease, revealing a beautiful gemstone where their heart should have been.
“Ew,” Peter cringed.
“My name is Heckles,” the clown coughed and spat again. “I was just a party clown from Anaheim. Until I got this.”
“What is it?”
“A piece of The Black Star.”
“Okay,” Peter blinked again.
“When you take this, it will grant you power beyond imagination.”
“What’s the catch, the gimmick?”
The clown sighed. “The Black Star will replace your heart and consume your life force until you either die in battle or you burn out like a battery.”
“Why would I ever agree to something so ridiculous?”
“Because this is your chance to become a hero and save the world!”
“Yeah, but I don’t see an upside for me.”
“Are you shitting me? There’s an alien armada directly above us, and all you can think about is how this situation can benefit you personally?”
“Now. See? That’s not fair. You’re the one that came crashing down atop my cheating girlfriend and wrecked my car. And now here you are, a literal clown in some spandex getup…”
“Thank you,” Peter said, then continued. “A literal clown in some spandex supersuit insisting I give up any semblance of autonomy for the sake of saving a world that has proven time and again to not give a super-shit about me, themselves, or much of anything else, really, even when repeatedly faced with one self-inflicted global crisis after the other. Quite frankly, we could use a change in management around here.”
“Bit cynical, don’t you think?”
“Maybe. But we’re not only talking about choosing between one form of lifelong, cosmic indentured servitude over the other. We’re talking about unfair expectations of selfless self-sacrifice from others when, really, you’re coercing someone to act on pure emotion – in this case, fear – without all the facts.”
“And even worse, you’re handing over the equivalent of a doomsday weapon to a random stranger on the street. Do you go around handing out guns and bombs at the local park on weekends? What makes you think I’m not only emotionally mature enough to wield such power without proper training, but to also do so without any selfish inclination to use such a weapon to force my own will on others.”
“I… I didn’t think about that.”
“Of course not. You didn’t think about this at all did you. I suppose you’ve been galvanting all about the multiverse, having one detached adventure after the next, oblivious of any consequences for swooping in and utterly upsetting the natural order of any particular corner of reality, and then being so utterly incompetent as to ensure that your troubles followed you home, where we are incapable – militarily, psychologically – of comprehending such threats, let alone actually fighting with such things.”
But before the clown in the Halloween spandex supersuit could fully process the fault in his logic and the string of mistakes that brought him here, just a few short miles away from where he had wasted much of his previous life on hard drugs, cheap liquor, and one open mic and dating app after the other, the alien armada unleashed their veggie-ray across the globe. And as the collective consciousness of humanity was locally deleted, but backed up to a server somewhere on the other side of Titan, Peter took solace in the fact that, at the very end, he had finally stood up for himself. And that had to count for something, if only because he and all of humanity were being remotely lobotomized by alien invaders from beyond the moon.