The president blinked sideways.
I wasn’t the first to draw attention to it, but I definitely wasn’t the only one who caught it. There I was with the rest of the construction crew, huddled near the single static glittered flatscreen in O’Reilly’s Pub on the edge of our deserted town.
We were all trashed, to say the least. Colin, my boss, was two glugs away from impersonating Dr. Evil singing the national anthem. That’s when the TV interrupted his attempt, punching our eardrums with angst, blaring the emergency alert system installed by our Nation’s Capitol.
It wasn’t safe to be outside after dark, not when the infection was hunting for its next host. So O’Reilly, the good samaritan that he is, lets the crew crash in his wooden booths until sunrise. After the first few infected waitresses and car salesmen, he didn’t want to take a chance. We were his best customers, close enough to be called family. And if anything matters to O’Reilly, it would be exactly that. He lost his oldest daughter months ago, after failing to convince her to move away from the Experimentation Site.
Area 51– once myth, then fact, now an infestation of extraterrestrial vermin. The crew used to mock the CDC, claiming it was all just another hoax to keep us barred within our trailers, instead of working to provide for our families. But that was until Eddy, my brother, pointed his nail gun at Colin that one day. We were on the roof of our latest assignment, trying to coax the nail gun out from Eddy’s white-knuckled grip.
“Eddy, the hell?” Colin scoffed, convinced it was a joke of some sort, slowly raising his hands.
“Eddy?” I remember saying, “What are you doing? That’s not funny put it down before you hurt someone.”
Eddy didn’t move, his eyes fighting against one another, unsure of where to focus. One landed on me, glistening beneath the sunset, begging me to intervene. The other was clouded, shifting awkwardly to the side, rotting into a pale yellow. That’s when I saw it. The first sign I noted from the multiple commercials blaring on every available channel. His eye blinked sideways. Not with his lid which remained open, but with a fish-like film that glided horizontally over his corneas. Like a reptilian in the desert sun.
“I…have to…no…obey…orders,” Eddy mumbled, foaming slightly at the mouth, his feet fidgeting closer and closer to the edge of the roof.
I’ll never forget the look in his eye. The one that begged for me. The one he used to wink with when he found a girl stupid enough to go home with him. The one that remained sky blue like our mother’s. Eddy needed me. But I was too late. And I don’t think I’ll ever forget the sound his body made when it met the dirt below.
We haven’t returned home to our wives since that day, scared that we had caught whatever it was that Eddy had. So instead, we shack up at the pub with the free booze, behind O’Reilly’s bulletproofed doors.
O’Reilly grabbed a sparkling beer mug, shining it further, desperate to stay busy. Colin leaned on a wobbling stool, green with overconsumption. But I reached for the remote, raising the volume over the sounds of multiple workers losing their dinner in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms.
“This is a message from the President of the United States of America,” The TV froze, glitching against my fist as I smacked its side. O’Reilly wobbled out from behind the bar, hurrying to fix the rainbow-striped screen to catch the announcement the entire country has been waiting for.
After a few minutes, we caught onto the President’s final words, “…have been no casualties this week. Area 51 has been decontaminated and is no longer a threat to our strong Nation. Unlock your doors, and have a nice breath of fresh air. Go back to your families. The dark days are over…”
That’s when I caught it. The yellow in his eye, its inability to look the camera straight on— the film that blurred the window to his soul. Something was wrong, and in contrast to our Leader’s assurances, this was only the beginning.