It was a night like any other in Lincoln Park. The sounds of the drums, pounding feet and chachayotes filled the small gym, but soon the tired Aztec dancers streamed out, got into their cars and left. The park was quiet except for the occasional cricket and the sound of the freight trains pushing through the tracks on Valley Boulevard.
The last taco stand shut down for the night and a group of cholos from across the tracks gathered in the now-still park eating chile relleno burritos, drinking some Coronas and just hanging. If you were looking, you would occasionally see the flare of a lighter or the red-tipped ash of a cigarette illuminating one of the guy’s faces. Handsome young men, all of them, with the stances of Aztec warriors of old.
They were fierce and dangerous looking to some, comforting and homey to others.
The aliens above watched from their strangely shaped ship wondering what manner of creature these tattooed, brown gods were…or so they seemed to the tiny and bent luminescent creatures invading their planet with destruction in mind. To their race, only gods were tall.
Still, they thought that their gods were more powerful than these savage-seeming ones. Didn’t they have technology? Hadn’t they conquered world after world, galaxy after galaxy? These god-like creatures had to be unintelligent life forms – just in a large mass and like all lesser life forms, they would die and their planet’s resources would get siphoned into pure energy to take back to their world. They never left survivors. Their very name in their language meant destroyers of all life.
Not being burdened with conscience, they saw only their need for energy and the way to get it. Nothing stood in their way – not even strangely marked brown gods.
They waited. Soon, no one was on the streets. The traffic was gone and only the small group of young men stood alone. The ship turned on its lights and made its way into the parking lot near the gym. It seemed a clear enough space to land.
Jaime saw them first. “Trucha, homies! Watcha. What the hell is that?”
“Holy shit cabrón, I think it’s a spaceship!” Ruben dropped his cigarette and reached for the knife he kept hidden.
“Call the homies,” he said calmly, as if a spaceship landed in Lincoln Park every day. His heart was beating fast, every sense on alert. He knew there was going to be some shit happening tonight and everyone needed to be on the watch.
He sensed it. You didn’t get to come out of some of the places he’d been – not alive if you didn’t have that sixth sense – instinct, whatever you want to call it. It had saved his life on more than one occasion.
Something was up, and he and the homies needed to be on guard.
Little Alex was already texting, sending out the word that some crazy shit was going down at the parque. Like wildfire and chisme, it spread quickly.
In houses, apartments and cars around the small barrio in Eastern Los Angeles, the vatos were arming up for a war. They didn’t know what the hell was going on but it sounded like all hell was going to break loose in the park. Guns, knives, chains, you name it, were getting pulled together in a hurry and guys were running out the doors still combing their hair back or buckling belts. The women were getting ready as well.
La Smiley realized far too late that she still had a can of Aquanet in her hand, so she jammed it in the back pocket of her Dickies and kept running, easily jumping the few fences between her and the park.
Back at the park, the group of seven young men knit themselves together in a tight circle, every muscle tense and waiting. Slowly, with Ruben at the lead, they crept towards the spaceship like jungle cats or the jaguar warriors of their distant ancestors. As they neared the parking lot, Shorty whispered, “Damn, yo…that thing looks like a chancla!” And sure enough, it did.
The ship was glowing purple like the neon color of strip joint signs and was oddly shaped like a sandal. It was lit from within, for they could see no outside lights and it smelled sour and rotten. One of the guys gagged and Ruben whirled to glare at him, finger on his lips. Six more steps closer to the ship and they heard a sharp cracking sound that stopped them in their tracks. They immediately hit the ground thinking it was a shot, then realized it was just the sound of the door opening as the strange purple light grew brighter and the smell of rotted meat grew thicker in the night air.