I was just leaving the steak house when my cell phone rang. I balanced a Styrofoam container of leftovers in one hand and flipped open my phone with the other.
“It’s Ray,” came the breathless voice in my ear. “We’ve got an emergency at the observatory. I need you here – and fast.”
I agreed to come right away. I set the container with half a baked potato and the remainder of a New York strip carefully on the seat next to me as I got in my car and revved the engine. The tires screeched as I shot out into the dwindling traffic of a sultry summer night and headed for the freeway.
By the time I reached the observatory, Ray was already standing outside the door of the white, domed building. He had a glass of iced tea in his hand, the condensation dripping onto the rough pavers of the pathway leading up the hill.
I hailed Ray as I hurried along the path, the leftovers in my grasp. “Some emergency, huh? You’ve got time to enjoy a cool beverage while the world gets blown up? I brought you some food to go with it.” I inclined my head at the container in my hand.
He laughed in response. “Thanks. What took you so long, anyway?”
“I was just finishing dinner, Ray. I got here as fast as I could.” A strong gust of wind blew up from the valley below and lifted the hem of my skirt. I impatiently smoothed it down and kept my palm against my thigh as I regarded Ray in the soft moonlight filtering through the trees. “So what was the emergency?”
“False alarm. Sorry,” he said, taking a long sip of his beverage.
It was then I noticed the strange color of the ice cubes in his iced tea glass – a glowing, neon green. A speck of foam glittered at the corner of Ray’s mouth and I stepped back in alarm, nearly tripping over my long skirt. A strange, worm-like creature emerged from the foam on Ray’s chin and I watched in fascination it grew to enormous proportions. It squirmed and wriggled and suddenly shot forward, pinning me to the ground.
The last thing I remembered was seeing Ray’s face melting away like wax and the huge pincers of the worm greedily attacking the steak and potatoes in my to-go container.