A Transient Visitors Very Tiny Tale by David O’Boyle
The back tire bumped the curb. To escape the street gutter, Victor turned the wheel counterclockwise and nudged the gas until the car was straight with the sidewalk.
Valentina craned her neck out the passenger-side window. Sun rays reflected off the “No Parking” sign above her head. “Good enough,” she said with narrowed eyes. By squinting, the tenement building beyond an ailing bodega came into view.
“Sixth floor, corner apartment. I’ll take fire escape. You take lobby. Watch for doorman,” Victor said. While he talked, he pawed at the key in the ignition.
Valentina, seeing through Victor’s carefree charade, slapped his fidgeting hands from the lock cylinder and jiggled the key free. Smirking, she tossed the lanyard onto his lap. Then she returned her attention to the tenement building. Pigeons perched on broken satellite dishes above the roof. The cornice crowning the building lay buried in an avalanche of avian excreta.
From the car to the sixth-floor corner apartment, Valentina met only silence. No tenants. No staff. If a doorman was here, he had long ago become bones.
She put her elbow on the kitchen counter. Doing so pockmarked the thin film of sheetrock dust covering blanketing the laminate. She took it off right away, dusting herself off and moving through the hall. Same lifelessness in the den. Empty recliner. Stiff couches.
Valentina’s arm hair stood up. The blinds in front of the casement window blew. Behind them a shadow lurked on the fire escape. The shadow swung inside and became Victor. Valentina nodded to her partner and continued toward the bedroom.
A plane tail, specifically the fin at the end of the fuselage, greeted her entry. It stuck out of the street-facing wall like a train entering a tunnel. The rest of the aircraft… unaccounted for.
Valentina acknowledged Victor with another nod.
They hopped on the end of the fuselage, two rodeo cowboys boarding a bull in a chute. The engine revved. The sound of a propeller on the other side of the wall labored into motion. Victor, conscious of time-constraints, grabbed the rear horizontal stabilizer for balance, and unsheathed the knife taped around his foot. Despite the hard surface of the fuselage, the blade slid in easy. Slicing upward to open the entrails proved more difficult.
Vibrations increased underneath them. Before the engine growled. Now it roared.
The propeller, wherever it was, spun to full speed. And off the plane went, thrusting forward into the sky- Viktor and Valentina its passengers, the brick-facing wall of the tenement building its cargo.
Hostile to being saddle-broken, the plane barrel-rolled through dense cumulous clouds. Loose bricks from the battered wall rained down like dirty hail. Then the propeller sputtered. Gravity gained the upper hand.
The plane and its two riders fell. Victor, with blade still lodged in the guts of the shaft, kept to his work, disemboweling the fuselage wire by wire until he finally found what he was looking for. Another slice. A giant parachute ejected, slowing their descent.
The propeller started spinning again. The rejuvenated plane backflipped and beelined for the center of the parachute. At impact, fabric succumbed to centrifugal force. Nylon clippings spewed into the sky. Up went the plane at a 90-degree angle, destined for space. When it breached the atmosphere, it turned into a rocket ship. During the transformation, Victor and Valentina crawled through the hole in the fuselage and wormed their way inside the crew cabin.
Space and stars. Then eventually all black. Then all white. Another engine sputter.
They fell back down through everything they just climbed past. Impact with the atmosphere roasted the rocket ship. Impact with the ocean quenched it like a knife leaving a forge for a liquid container.
Yet unlike in blade-making, the next step for the rocket ship was not tempering. The next step was change. The rocket ship turned into a submarine.
And down it went, diving towards the seabed. Near the bottom, it lit up the deep with the contents of its torpedo room. Undeterred by the blast bubble, the submarine carried on. It speared through the trench as if the incoming fireball was a school of fish and it was a marlin at mealtime.
When it reached the bottom of the blast site, it hovered for a moment while the empty torpedo room turned into a giant auger.
The new face of the submarine started digging, first through sand, then clay, and then bedrock, crust, and molten rock. The blades had no regard for the planet’s core. When the auger reached the innermost center, it went right on grinding through to the other side.
The interplanetary tunnel ended in the mouth of a volcano. Inactive until now, the submarine shot out amongst projected lava like bullets leave the muzzle of a blunderbuss. On the side of the cove opposite the volcano, the auger struck land on the face of a mountain and dislodged from the submarine. Victor and Valentina, dangling from the shank of the auger, shimmied hand-over-hand until they reached the impact point, where auger met mountain. From there they watched the rest of the submarine plunge into sea, bloom into lava.
Such behavior indicated exhaustion. Previous engagements told them so. Now, then, was their chance. Working fast to carry out capital punishment, they failed to anticipate the instability of the mountain face. The auger had done damage.
The mountain cracked. Then it broke apart and crumbled into the cove. Victor and Valentina were blindsided by boulders and sent into the sea with the rest of the rocks.
Tracks above the water line. A figure gathering driftwood. A kindling teepee. Valentina saw this and grabbed the nearest smoldering pebble on the beach. After a long swim, leftover lava felt good in her sea-frozen hands.
When in range, she threw her catch onto the unlit campfire. Smoke. Then flame.
“At least we’ve got good Firestarters,” Victor said when she was in earshot.
The cove, bordered by an expiring volcano on one side and a ruined mountain on the other, set the conversation.
“Never saw that much of it before. Won’t be long now.”
“The death of the last transformer. Has a nice ring to it.”
Thus spoke Victor and Valentina, twin anti-virus programs designed to scrub the web of what they called ‘transformers’…otherwise known as imagination. Its death, the death of all.