by A.A. Garrison
Yeah, I heard the news. Everyone has. Just like when the thing crash-landed here, all them years ago. It had to die eventually, I reckon.
Krokinski. I don't know what it means. Russian, I guess, since that's where it crashed. Really, it don't matter what it meant before - just means 'Krokinski' now, like how the moon's the moon. I doubt the Russians had a name for it any more than we would. And maybe that's just what the word means, 'nameless'.
Around here, we just called it 'the worm'. Not that it fit any better, mind, but it says more'n Krokinski. But there was a semblance, I always thought, with it sort of slithering like it did. That big long black shape, no head or tail, sweeping through the horizon. The worm, or the turd. Heh. There wadn't no comparing how it moved, come to think of it. Compared to anything on this earth, it would always be apples and oranges.
I seen it once, you know, in person, or as in-person as you saw the Krok. Happened when I was a kid, I guess twenty year ago, when my dad had us on vacation at the beach. We was out in the sun and surf and there it was, that big black worm, way far out in the water, doing its thing. It looked closer'n it was, being so damn big - how tall they ever measure that bugger at, few hundred feet? I read once, in some textbook in school, but I forget now. My folks and me all took a look, sure, but that was about it. We'd growed up seeing the Krok on TV and whatnot, and it was just like, 'So, there's the Krok. What time's supper?' Even my grandparents was young enough to be born post-Krok.
I won't lie, I did get scared a little seeing it. I mean, yeah, the Krok was the Krok, and it ain't never hurt nobody in all its hundred years on the planet. But no matter how familiar, it was still... alien, you know? And not just because it crashed here from outer space. No head, no arms or legs, just this huge black body that could take any form it wants, sprouting any utensil necessary for the task at hand. What did the Krok think? It obviously could, was intelligent, prolly way the hell more'n us. But that's just it: how do you get in the head of something without a head? It just throws you for a loop, you know, that sort of one-hand-clapping crap.
And besides, it was watching my family and me as it sailed through the ocean, as it did everywhere it traveled. Maybe that's what Krokinski means in Russian, 'watcher'?
But that ain't here nor there, I guess. Whatever that old boy was thinking, it wadn't how to hurt us, that's for sure. Know what I read? It never once hurt nobody, literally, even when slithering across continents, or flying around, or burrowing down through the ground. And if anyone got close - and oh, how folks tried - it would just pick up and take off, making sure to avoid the daredevil. I mean, think of that: Something that size, travelling the world as it did, right past cities and whatnot - and it don't once slither over someone, or cause an accident, or knock over a boat? It'd be like driving a car for a hundred years without splattering a bug.
Good old Krok.
It respected us, I think. Why else go so far out of its way to leave us be, 'specially if it really did want to study us like they say? I mean, when we wanna study something, we just bull right in and do it, if not put the poor bastard in a cage. It certainly wadn't our manners that won the Krok's respect, I'd say. Ain't no secret we tried and nuke it, back when it crash-landed in 2013. Put yourself in the Krok's shoes: first it has the misfortune to crash its big fancy spaceship on this little blue rock, and then, for all its treating us good and keeping distance, it gets a nuclear warhead. And yeah, I know that's our way, to lay low whatever's bigger or bolder. And I know things was different then, this being back when we thought we had the universe all to ourselves. But damn! What's worse? We try and pretend the nuke never happened, just because it didn't work? You look in any history book, and that nuke is just plumb left out.
Consensual silence. It's just like our PR with the Russians, them lucky stiffs. Just because the ship crashes in their territory and they get to claim it and reap all its technological goodies, suddenly the world's playing nice with them. I seen the old video footage: folks flying Russian flags, diplomats getting real diplomatic, brown-nosing out the wazoo - all because the Russians got better guns, and we was afraid. Just like with America after bombing the Japs, or so some folks say. You won't read about that in a textbook, neither.
I'll bet them Russians loved the Krok the most, seeing how it made 'em the world's lone superpower.
To be honest, I have a right hard time imagining how it was before the Krok. I mean, I grew up with it around, but how must it appeared to folks without precedent for such a thing? Not to mention something so damn alien and so damn big. It'd be like taking a neanderthal to Las Vegas at night - whoa! So I guess I can understand the upheaval after the crash, with all the apocalyptic prophesies and the death-cults. No wonder the stock market went to hell - sure gave the Russians an edge there too. But still, craziness. All the Krok did is zoom around the world, doing its Peeping Tom thing, whatever that was - but we freaked out. Just because it's an unknown, and we'd all agreed there wadn't no unknown.
Man, I'm glad I didn't live back then.
I've given the old times some thought. There's something to learn from 'em, the contrast there - can show you yourself, sort'a. Or, show what you don't wanna be. Like, what if the Krok ain't never crash-landed here? Would we still be swaggering around, thinking we're the upper-class men of the universe? A sad way to go through life, I say, believing you're the top of the food chain when you ain't. For us post-Krok folks, it's just a non-issue, and I think we're better for it. We may kiss Russia's ass, but at least we know our place. All these years, the Krok's hanging around kept that enforced. Hard to be a big-shot when a skyscraper-sized worm is zooming around the world, playing anthropologist on you.
And ain't that what the Krok was, really, an anthropologist? If that wadn't anthropology, I'm the Russian Prime Minister. Yeah, I know everyone has their theories about what it was doing, touring the planet and surveilling us for a hundred years, but what else could it be? Sure, maybe the Krok's anthropology was a bit different - more advanced, like - but I'd be right surprised if I turned out wrong.
Maybe that's Krokinski's Russian meaning: “anthropologist". I'll have to look that up.
And now the Krok's dead. I guess it must be true, since folks've been crawling over the corpse like ants and the Krok ain't shot off as it always had, these last few days. You can't say it wadn't time, the Krok having done its thing for a good solid centennial. Strikes a chord with me, I'll be the first to admit. Have anything around your whole life and it'll give you pause when it's gone, no matter how far it kept from everybody.
I saw it once, in person. I mention that?
What irks me is how we're treating the Krok now: as a science experiment, to be cut up and turned inside-out and passed around. Treating it with the same disrespect we showed it in life, like. How many folks did that old boy ever cut up and put under glass? But it won't help getting my bowels in an uproar, I know. I suppose it's just what we do, try and figure things out even if it kills them. Maybe the Krok would've wanted it this way. The Krok impressed me as the type.
And ain't that the Krok's biggest gift of all, to show there's an alternative to reckless arrogance, that it ain't so inevitable? That's the best the Krok ever gave us, I reckon; not its ship or its big weird body, but its example. How much consideration do we show things big as our pinkie toes? Not too damn much, I say. Maybe that should change.
Well, I guess that's that. The end of a chapter of Earth, you could say, which means a new one's beginning, don't it? After all, what secrets might the Krok's corpse hold? And this time, it belongs to good old Uncle Sam, if the Krok can belong to anyone. Maybe we're starting a good chapter, the kind where we get to cure cancer and fly to the stars. Or, maybe a bad one, where we stop kissing Russia's ass and go to war with it instead, since now we can match its toys. I suppose we'll find out soon enough, God help us.
For now, I think I'd like to be alone for a piece. That Krokinski had a place in my heart, and now it's a right empty one.
A.A. Garrison is a thirty-one-year-old man living in the Appalachian mountains of North Carolina, USA, where he writes comfortably above sea level. His short fiction has appeared in dozens of zines, anthologies, and web journals. He is also the author of The End of Jack Cruz, a post-apocalyptic horror novel published by Montag Press. He blogs at synchroshock.blogspot.com, a repository of strange writing and stranger coincidences.
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