September 14th, 2013
Part of the indomitable Chuck Wendig’s flash fiction challenge over at terribleminds
It didn’t go down as anyone expected.
They just appeared one day. No asteroid impact, no emerging from the bottom of the sea, no scientific experiment gone awry. No story. They were just… there, on the edges of major cities, out past the suburbs. Jets were scrambled, tanks rolled in, and you know what the monsters did? Nothing. They just sat there, and watched, and waited. We’ve all seen the movies, expected some gung-ho commander to launch an attack without orders, some nervous private fresh out of basic to pull the trigger, but… nothing. No one fired first. I mean, seriously, are you going to start something with that?
So the beasts just sat there, and watched, and waited, and slowly the world returned to some semblance of normal. It’s amazing how quickly people can adjust to things, can live in a sudden, hulking shadow, can live under the gaze of an impossible creature’s unimaginable intelligence. We’d been doing it for years after all, living with CCTV and airport body scanners and governments reading our email.
After a few months they started to talk. At first the cable news channels went wild, realised that maybe this was indeed the end times. But they talked about the most banal things, learned the basics of our language and culture, even started doing a few interviews. Of course when asked where they came from, or why they were here, they pretended not to understand the question, but they could talk about popular culture, offer opinions on politics, even give fashion tips. A few people started to get a grasp of how vast these creatures were, not just in terms of size but in age and intelligence. They did everything with a slow, purposeful preponderance.
They started taking jobs. Offering to help with mining, demolitions, even construction. BP were one of the first to take advantage, using a quadrupedal creature who called himself Detheron to transport an oil rig from the pacific to the atlantic. They helped in disaster relief too, rescuing people and shielding them from landslips in Bangladesh, with pictures of these enormous creatures scooping people into their maws and carrying them to safety at UN refugee camps.
They were smart though. They stayed out of the military, never entering war zones, staying politically neutral and being sure never to explain themselves in too much detail.
I remember in the fall, four years after they appeared, the Onion ran a story about how they’d start unionising next, petitioning for workers rights and the minimum wage. Once again, they predicted the future, and life became even more absurd. They unionised, got wages for their work — six dollars an hour in most cases, despite the fact that they finished most jobs in an hour. They bought stocks, buoying the economy at a time when it needed it.
Some of them got into white collar jobs, accounting, finance, even law. Hyperalon became a high profile defence lawyer working pro-bono in new york. Goldman Sachs got renamed Goldman, Sachs & Kellagor. They became managers, and got excellent performance out of their teams — not out of intimidation or eating anyone who didn’t perform, but out of implausibly good people skills. Before long Detheron, the immense creature who had transported oil rigs cross country, was CEO of BP.
A year after that, Detheron bought out his own shareholders, paying cash for the oil company that he was in charge of. This was just the first of a host of buyouts and mergers, and before we knew it just about every major corporation had a monster somewhere on its board.
Life isn’t so bad. Fine, scraping out the spawning tanks takes a while, and Gerry from down the block says the obsidian blocks they’re using to build the pyramids are really heavy, but hey, I just got the new iPhone, and you know what? Not one dropped call yet. Couldn’t say that when there was a human on the board.