Dan McNeil

A moonrocket isn't the usual means of stabbing somebody to death. The usual means is a kitchen knife, because most killings are domestics. To the best of my knowledge, a Saturn 5 moonrocket has never been used to dispatch a single victim, let alone hundreds of them. Not until I started, anyway.


EarthNetGlobal...1634EST...Channel 5...CONTACT FROM ANOTHER WORLD...WE ARE NOT ALONE...Alien starship approaching Earth...Arecibo takes the first call. Defence forces on full alert, Hubble 2  repositioned.  We go live to Channel 1...

There were 3 stages to a Saturn 5 rocket. The S-IC (first stage) had five F1 engines, which delivered a total thrust of 33 meganewtons. The S-II (second stage) and S-IVB (third stage) used J2 engines, five on the S-II and one on the S-IVB. The last Saturn 5 to stand on the launchpad was110.64 metres tall, the titanium 1:400 scale model that I'm stabbing repeatedly into Bill Simpson's flabby neck is 27.5 centimetres tall when standing upright on my desk. The real Saturn 5 weighed over 2700 tonnes in launch configuration. I'm not sure how much my model weighs. I wonder if Bill does. Crimson comets of blood spray out of the puncture wounds in his neck, their elliptical orbit ensuring an inevitable collision with me, the carpet, the walls, the chair he is sagging in and the photomosaic of Mars on his desk.

EarthNetGlobal 0837EST...Channel 5...I COME IN PEACE SAYS ALIEN...Arecibo starts receiving data from the starship...sole occupant  is ambassador from Enkassa, the alien home planet...Earth invited to join the Enkassan Federation...

A grey world enlivened by contact from the stars. Outside, the rain falls in hard metallic sheets, ricocheting from the flat planes and sharp angles of buildings, but slicing through those not protected. Inside, it's warm, gloomy and stinking. I don't know if I'm in a bar or at a party.

People of all size, shape and desirability are drinking and talking, their voices merging to form a continuous wave of white noise.  Live feed from Hubble's telecam of the alien ship flickers on the TV. The commentator is babbling self importantly about how we can benefit from joining the Enkassan Federation, improve our technology and accelerate mankind's inevitable colonisation of the solar system. I know that this concept excites many people, but the thought of humans spiralling out from Earth and spreading like a plague through the galaxy makes me feel disconnected and homicidal. I imagine my Saturn 5 launching into a clear blue sky and embedding itself in a chest cavity.

EarthNetScience 1300EST...Channel 9...DISSEMINATION OF  DATA DOWNLOAD FROM ENKASSAN STARSHIP...Enkassa is an earth sized rocky planet (key +2 for pix). Thirty per cent of the planet is habitable landmass, with the carbon based Enkassans being the dominant species.
Photosynthesising woody plants are abundant and home to mammalian, reptilian and insectoid species. The remaining seventy- percent of the planet is covered in water. There are no ice caps and the atmosphere, although similar to Earth, is warmer by an average of 8 degrees Celsius.  Enkassa orbits Phelbia, a gas giant three times the mass of Jupiter. Phelbia in turn orbits the parent star - known to us as Upsilon Andromedae - which is 44 light years from our own sun. The planet we now know as Phelbia and two other gas giants were discovered orbiting Upsilon Andromedae in 1988 by San Francisco State University astronomers Geoffrey Marcy and R. Paul Butler, using  doppler spectroscopy data analysis. Following this discovery, Upsilon Andromedae became a shortlisted target for the Terrestrial Planet Finder...

I loved my sister dearly, but now she's dead. Her parents - I don't think of them as mine anymore - had inexorably converted her into something that evolution had not planned, a stultification of all her promise. After converting my sister, they tried to do the same to me. They achieved success, but not in the way they imagined. I saw my sister three days before she died. She was only twenty seven, yet looked fifty - her blonde hair falling out, the green blue eyes I remembered now a dull and sightless grey, her gentle, lilting voice compressed to a croaking monotone, her body horribly emaciated.  She no longer possessed the strength to purge her stomach of the food that was being forced into it, but by then it didn't really matter.  A year after my sister's funeral, the thing I used to know as father had choked on his own blood trying to protect the thing I knew as mother. I killed her next and then burned down the house I used to know as home. These were the first humans I ever killed. Previously, I had killed only animals  - cats and dogs mainly.

EarthNetScience  2200EST...Channel 9...FRUSTRATION AS ENKASSAN AMBASSADOR REFUSES TO DIVULGE SECRET OF FASTER THAN LIGHT TRAVEL...All we know is this - the Enkassan ambassador has advised that the journey from Enkassa to Earth took three days. Speculation is rife as to how this was achieved...

Eating at Walt Shelby's place is essential, but dull. I sit in his hideously decorated dining room, elegantly forking overcooked vegetables into my mouth. The wine is an excellent Zinfandel, although I suspect the Shelbys purchased it because of the pretty label. Mrs. Shelby - clueless, badly made up and drunk - is yacking loudly about some new shrubs she purchased from Wal Mart.
"...and then they suggested I try the holly, but I didn't really want holly,  but they said it'd compliment the picket fence, but the spines, I said..."
"Holly is fashionable in Europe, Mrs Shelby, but I'd have suggested Prunus lusitanica instead, far better suited to Florida and it would really compliment your architecture. It has these dark green leaves that suggest real permanence..."  I trail off, suppressing a giggle as Walt unsuccessfully chases a rogue potato around his plate. He's studiously ignoring his drunken wife, trying to hide the fact that he hates her even more than I do. Mrs. Shelby stares at me with a glazed intensity, her expression one of horticultural adoration. 
"...why don't I drive you to that plant centre up on Kingswood this afternoon, Mrs. Shelby? It'd give me great pleasure to find Prunus lusitanica for you." Actually, it would give me even greater pleasure to hack off Mrs. Shelby's head with Walt's axe, so why the fuck did I make such a dumb time-wasting offer? As penance for being stupid - discipline is paramount - I stab my right thigh quite hard with my food fork, unseen by the perfect couple. Waiting for the pain to subside, I gaze through the solarized windows at the white picket fence, glinting imperiously in the bright sunshine.  Cocooned within its protective embrace is the neat garden, consisting of artificially green lawn, antiseptic soil and manicured shrubs. Upon the smooth asphalt driveway sits Mrs. Shelby's BMW, haphazardly parked with the drunken insouciance of the chronic alcoholic.  Feeling physically sick, I imagine stabbing Mrs. Shelby with my Saturn 5. The sickness subsides, but a headache is looming, expanding, filling my brain, not with the instantaneous violence of a supernova, but with the measured aeonic pace of a swelling red giant. As my brain pushes against its meninges, I experience a temporal shift. With seamless precision, the BMW transmogrifies into a pockmarked red rock. The rest of this soulless suburban scene - the alabaster road, the faux antique streetlamps, the swimming pools, the orderly timber framed houses, the neat eucalyptus trees, the neighbour polishing his Bentley - dissolves into a rusty red plain. All external noises - Mrs. Shelby's tiresome drone, the clatter of cutlery on china plates, the air conditioning, the ice machine - fade out, to be replaced with the soft moan of a musical wind.