Reginald sat up slowly, wincing at the bolt of lightning that ripped through his skull. Was this one of his pranks? It seemed unlikely but last night had been one hell of a bender, it was possible—No, no way. Something like this would take loads of preparation and money; he'd remember the money at least. "Hell no mate, this ain't no prank."
"Jesus, Reggie, we're going to die."
"Fuck, I need a drink." Reggie stumbled to his feet and, clutching his head pinballed his way down one of the store aisles, knocking small appliances off the shelves as he went.
"You need a drink?" Morgan's incredulous voice followed him. "You need a drink? We're locked in my dad's department store and woken up to aliens on the intercom telling us they're going to kill us at sundown and you need a drink?"
"I need a drink, it's my birthday, I'm locked in a store and I need a drink. Where the hell would I find one?" Reginald stopped at the end of the aisle, leaned against the shelf and ran trembling fingers through his curly brown hair while he stared blearily at his friend.
"Dude, it's the fucking Bay—there's no alcohol section."
"In the offices then, there needs to be something in the offices."
"Christ buddy, give it up, your hangover is the least of your problems."
"Morgan, if I'm going to die I'm damn well not going to do it hung over—pissed out of my tree, sure, hung over? Fuck no."
"Try in the gourmet foods department, you might be able to find some vanilla extract or something." At Reggie's blank look Morgan grabbed a hold of a shelf and hauled himself up to his feet. Weaving his way through the aisles he led the way toward the gourmet section and then collapsed back down onto the floor, a defeated pile of human flesh wrapped up in a fraternity jacket. "Do you think it's true?"
"What's true?" Reginald asked, spinning a rack containing cooking extracts around, plucking bottles off seemingly at random, and shoving them into his pockets.
"What the aliens said—do you really think they've killed everyone else?"
"Well, that's what they said."
"And you just believe them? You're just going to take the word of a random, freaky voice on the intercom?"
"I believe that whether this is my last day on earth or not, it's off to a shitty start and I intend to work up a good buzz and then I'll worry about death rays that need recharging and aliens who say they managed to vaporize everyone on the planet except two hung over Delta Sigma Phi's."
"I'm going to the electronics section; I'll see what's on T.V. or the radio."
"You do that."
Morgan snapped his cell phone shut and shoved it into his pocket as the scent of peppermint wafted to his nose. He turned around and rolled his eyes at Reggie as he bumbled his way over. His pockets bulged with bottles and one was clenched between his teeth. With every few steps he'd pause, fling his head back until he was looking at the ceiling and swallow, then he'd spit the bottle's carcass away and replace it with a new, full one.
"Jesus dude, that's fucking gross."
"'snot so bad—peppermint extract tastes a lot like schnapps, really. Try some."
"No. So, as you can see, or could if you were looking forward instead of up, there is nothing on the T.V. but snow and I can't get anything on the radio either. My cell phone has a signal but no one is answering anywhere." Morgan met and held Reggie's bloodshot gaze with his own. "I think we're fucked man."
"We're fucked, we're fucked." Reggie parroted, spinning around in a grotesque imitation of a ballerina. "We're gonna die at dusk, so have another drink!" he sang, completely off-key.
"You know, maybe if you stopped drinking for a few minutes we could figure a way out of this situation—I mean it just doesn't make sense, does it? What sort of alien race comes to a planet and kills everyone but two guys and then locks those guys in a department store for a day while they re-charge their deathray? What do you suppose they want?"
"Dunno, don't care. Dude, I'm starting to get a buzz here and you're really bringing me down."
"You just . . . gah! Use your head for something other than ramming into other football players for a second would you?" Morgan grabbed Reggie by the shoulders and stared full into his face, "We. Are. Going. To. Die. Get it?"
Reggie swatted his friend's hands away and plopped himself down on a leather couch with a $799 price tag. "No, you don't get it dude. We're going to die. So whatcha going to do with yer last few hours, spend it thinkin' about what's gone or getting rip-roaring drunk?" Pulling another bottle out of his pocket, this one labeled Banana Extract Reggie lifted it in a silent toast before twisting the cap off and pouring its contents down his throat. "I know what one I'm goin' with."
Throwing up his arms in exasperation, Morgan flomped down on the couch beside Reggie, who bounced and spilled bottles out of his pockets as it resettled beneath his friend's weight. "Maybe they're after money—you think? There could be a way to get out of this alive and make some money too."
Now it was Reggie's turn to be incredulous and he stared at Morgan in silence until he shook his head and continued. "You're right, you're right—they've killed the whole planet, they can take all the money they want."
"And they'd want Earth money why? Dude, they're probably after the air or the water or some shit. Hey!" he jumped excitedly, "Hey! Maybe they're after people—maybe they use us as . . . erm . . . as . . . as food! That's it. What if they eat us?"
"Jesus Reg." Morgan snatched up one of the bottles rolling around on the surface of the couch, opened it and upended it down his throat. "I don't want to be some alien's dinner, dude."
"Eh? Oh, no worries, I wouldn't let them eat you."
Looking askance at Reggie, Morgan nonetheless clapped him on the back, "You're a good friend."
Reggie smiled like he was in a toothpaste commercial, showing off his pearly whites like a consummate professional. "I am, ain't I?"
Morgan consumed another Lilliputian bottle, this one of orange extract, and winced. "You know what, my dad might have a bottle of vodka up in his office."
"Now yer talkin'!" Reggie clapped a hand down on his friend's knee, "Lead the way! Happy birthday to me!"
As it turned out there was a fully-stocked liquor cabinet in his father's office, along with an extensive selection of fine cigars. Time passed and found the pair sprawled out across the floor of the office. Ashtrays overflowed unto the plush carpet and empty glass tumblers rolled around amongst them.
Morgan, clinging to consciousness by his toenails, was propped up on one elbow and trying in vain to focus on his wristwatch.
"Reg...Reg, hey Reg!"
"Wha?" the big man stumbled out of the bathroom, pulling up his zipper with one hand while the other was wrapped around the neck of a two-six of rye.
"Wha' time izit?"
"Fucked if ah know." Reggie started toward the couch, tripped on a wandering glass and fell like a meteor to the ground while thrusting the bottle of liquor straight up into the air. "Ha!" he bellowed once the ground stopped rushing up to meet him, "Didunt spill a drop."
Morgan laughed and attempted to applaud, but his hands seemed to repulse one another like identical poles on magnets—they'd come close to meeting and then skid off in opposite directions. "Reg? Ya 'member my last birthday?"
"Heh, I sure do. Ya know, I still have that picture of you in ma wallet somewhere."
"Yeah, you sure got me good, Reg."
"Yup, I am the 'King of Pranks'...that an' drinkin'" he took another giant swig from the bottle then passed it over to Morgan who, after several attempts, eventually managed to wrap his fingers around the neck, maneuver it to his lips, take a drink and pass it back.
"Nah, yer not the king of pranks, I am."
"You? You've never pulled a prank in yer—dude, what was that? Did you hear that?"
"Wha?" Morgan tensed and wobbled to his feet. "Is it dusk already?"
"I dunno dude, fuck." Reggie whispered, "I can't see no clock, but I fuckin' heard somethin' downstairs."
The corners of Morgan's mouth twitched and he did an over-exaggerated tip-toe over to the office door, "Maybe the aliens are lookin' for a party—we should invite them in."
"Not funny dude, tha's so not funny." Reggie looked from the half-full bottle in his hands to the back of Morgan's skull. "Don't worry buddy, I won't let 'em eat you."
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Copyright (c) 2000, 2004, David Erik Nelson, Fritz Swanson, Morgan Johnson