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The bus was silver and pink to match the fancy shoes the pompadoured star strumming a guitar on board wore. His song was on the radio, a rollicking rockabilly number kids were dancing to in school gymnasiums and plunking coins into juke boxes to hear. He was moving fast from town to town with his band, playing every fairground and theater that would have him. The next stop was a town called Ordinary.
“Why don’t you make a song about Ordinary?” The drummer joked.
Johnny Breeze found a bluesy rhythm and sang back, “I ain’t seen the place yet, don’t know if I’ll remember it or forget.”
The band and driver erupted in laughter. Norman Wood wasn’t laughing. He looked up from paperwork for long enough to see something streaking by low in a cloudless sky.
“You see that fellas?” Norman asked.
“I think you need a drink Norm.” Johnny teased.
Norman leapt up from his seat and leaned into a window, watching an ochre-colored contrail descending low over cornfields until it fell down under the horizon. “Driver, make the next right. We’ve got to see what it is.”
Johnny stopped strumming. “C’mon Norm. We’ve got a show tomorrow night. There ain’t time to be hunting, what’s them things called?”
“Mirages.” Someone replied.
“We’ll make the show.” Norman insisted. “Who knows, maybe we can work a publicity angle. Think of it. I can get you on the front page of newspapers.”
Johnny shrugged as the driver downshifted and heaved the bus toward a faint wisp of something curling skyward. “You can see it pretty good fellas.” The driver offered. The drummer and bass player moved up front to peer out the windshield.
“I don’t think it’s a good idea.” Johnny offered. “We’re playing Ordinary tomorrow and you said there’s a place in Des Moines where I can record…”
“So you’ll play Ordinary and cut a new record in Des Moines.”
Johnny picked a few notes on his guitar. “Publicity?”
Norman grinned. “You’ll see Johnny.”
The driver wheeled the bus quick through a series of tight curves that brought the smoke plume close enough for its acrid stench to drift into the bus. A whining siren, soon joined by more, told them local police and fire department were on the way.
“You ever see something like that?” The driver said to no one in particular.
No one answered. Norman and the band were absorbed in the wreckage in a field up ahead. It gleamed like Johnny’s airbrushed teeth on record sleeves, and didn’t look like any airplane anyone had ever seen.
“I never saw anything like that in the war.” The bass player offered.
The drummer pointed. “Or that!” Three humanoids clad in helmets and grey body suits loitered aimlessly near their wrecked ship.
The driver wheeled the bus in close, sighed it to a stop, and turned to face Norman who was shoving film into his camera.
“This is big Johnny.” Norman said, ushering star and band onto the field.
Johnny eyed the humanoids who, through mirrored face shields, might have eyed him back. “What do I do?”
“Play it up humanitarian.” Norman said. “Johnny Breeze helps crash survivors.”
Johnny shrugged and moved closer to the three humanoids, extending his hand as a sign of goodwill.
The taller of the three did the same, presenting admissions tickets for three to see tomorrow night’s show in Ordinary. Johnny flashed his trademark grin as sirens grew louder, and Norman snapped pictures.
No one needed to say it. They knew this was big.
This story previously appeared in 365 Tomorrows.
Edited by Marie Ginga
Andrew Dunn writes science-fiction and fantasy from the state of Maryland, often drawing ideas from jogs through forest trails at sunrise. His work has previously appeared in AntipodeanSF, 365 Tomorrows, Daily Science Fiction, Penumbric Speculative Fiction, and here in MetaStellar as reprints - his work has also short-listed in several writing contests. Andrew welcomes reader feedback at [email protected]