Fiction by Bethany Cutkomp

Greetings from the Milky Way

Here’s what I know: subtle truths of the universe are not meant to be viewed with the sober eye. Only those inebriated enough are fortunate to witness impossibilities unfold.

By some celestial miracle, the freckled abyss aligned perfectly to reveal itself to Brock and me the night we stumbled home from the county fair. It was one of those humid summer evenings where gnats stuck to our sweat-drenched skin. Handcrafted within an extra-large gas station cup, Brock’s heinous potion gifted us fun-house vision. The long stretch of gravel bordering crop fields and grazing land contorted before our eyes.

Angelo, we should take the hypotenuse,” Brock slurred.

The what?”

The Pythagorean theorem or whatever.” He sipped and pointed across the field to our left. Instead of going straight and over, we just cut across diagonally. Less walking.”

Brock could be a real genius when he wanted to be.

So we hopped the fence—my shirt ripping open on a loose wire—and started our shortcut across a black, vacant field. I navigated using the weak flashlight from my phone, sweeping the ground in front of us for mounds of cowpies.

A meager crescent moon exposed the universe above. Beyond layers of constellations I didn’t know the names of, a faint cloud of varying hues stretched over our heads. I’d only seen the Milky Way a handful of times, but this sighting outdid the rest. Its vibrance and depth loomed too close for comfort. We were slipping down this galaxy’s esophagus.

Identifying myself as a pinprick in relevance to the cosmos humbled me. In the grand scheme of things, it didn’t matter how low we steeped. Brock and I would still be insignificant—trivial blips in an everlasting timeline.

Something bright whizzed past my peripherals. A shooting star, maybe. I stopped in my tracks. Brock slammed into my back and cursed.

I turned, producing a dusty ear of corn. Where’d this come from?”

You’ve been carrying that around all night, dumbass,” Brock laughed. Don’t you remember? For ten bucks, I dared you to steal from Ol’ Jeremiah’s property without getting your head blown off.”

I undressed the corn and pitched its husk into the void. A wadded ten-dollar bill pressed into my open palm. I flung that out into the field, too. Brock cackled. His jingling keys carried through the dark as he chased after the money. Then his stride faltered.

Angelo, c’mere for a sec,” he said. I need a second pair of eyes to prove I’m not crazy.”

You’re already seeing double,” I joked.

No, for real.” He steered me toward subtle movement over our heads. Look.”

Here’s what I knew about sky dots: stars twinkled, planets didn’t. Easy. But what did that make those blinking specks zipping overhead?

I turned off my flashlight. Dozens of winking orbs swooped in erratic patterns, painting tiny streaks behind them like bioluminescent chemtrails. Definitely not an average aircraft, but too organized to be astronomically random. We picked up our pace. It could have been Brock’s devious cocktail playing tricks on my eyes, but those blinking dots appeared larger. Closer with every backward glance.

Aw, sick!” Brock groaned. Turn your light back on, Angelo. I stepped in shit.”

Hold on. Lemme just—”

A massive object hurtled over our heads, flattening weeds in its wake. Brock fell forward, crushing wet Styrofoam under his weight. Pushing my hair out of my eyes, I gaped at a sight that would stump skeptics across the globe: discoid spacecrafts rimmed in green rings of light.

The only flying saucers I’d ever witnessed were blurred streaks across the television screen, too obscure to prove true. These giant metallic frisbees emerging from the folds of space were high-definition quality, even to the drunken eye. Assembling in a polygonic formation, they casted translucent beams toward the grass.

The consistency of the atmosphere shifted. A static sensation prickled down our arms, raising our hair follicles. My heels lifted from the grass. Then my toes. I kicked the open air beneath me. Brock smacked the naked corn out of my grip and marveled at its act of levitation. They’re screwing with the gravity,” he decided.

Brock could be a real smart-ass when he wanted to be.

I jostled his shoulder and pointed. Holy cow!” Holy cows, that is—clusters of cattle suspended in midair, caught in emerald beams of gravitational deviation. We could have been reaching into the screen of a sci-fi film aside from one contrasting factor: UFOs didn’t abduct livestock from pastures. They deposited them.

Never did I guess agricultural distribution would be such an act of divinity. Upon their gentle descent, the cows took immediately to grazing. No regard to the spacecrafts responsible for their grand entrance.

Upon returning to solid ground, I threw my ear of corn at the cow closest to us. Nothing prompted me to—it just felt right. My aim landed a meaty smack against its belly, provoking a perturbed bellow.

Brock let out an ugly laugh. What the hell?”

Extraterrestrial cows do not enjoy antagonism from small-town dipshits. In unison, they swiveled their heads in our direction. Casted in otherworldly rays of green, I swear, their eyes glowed hot for vengeance.

Shit dude,” my friend shouted, tugging at my wrist. Bail! Bail!

We broke into a lopsided sprint, avoiding backward glances for the remainder of our hypotenuse trek. The assembly of saucers scattered in our peripherals, vanishing as mysteriously as they arrived.

When Brock’s mother asked us about the cow feces tracked in on her carpet, we sealed our lips. As fragments of an unfathomably large universe, it didn’t matter whether or not we told the truth. Nobody ever takes drunken goons seriously. Maybe that’s how the Milky Way got away with revealing itself to pathetic souls like ours.

Bethany Cutkomp

Twitter: @bdcutkomp
IG: @bdcutkomp

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