Billy was watching dragons fight in the skies over the vacant lot-come-junkyard near his apartment. The dragons were courtesy of some mushrooms he’d been saving for a special occasion. The special occasion was that his stripper girlfriend — ex-girlfriend — had decided he wasn’t good enough for her.

The dragons were pretty cool, though. Whizzing around, blasting each other with fire. All set perfectly against a sky that looked like it’d been colored with crazy crayons. Too bad construction on the castle just over the ridge kept spooking ’em. Some errant zombie army or something. Whatever it was, it was harshing the hell out of his mellow. And he needed his mellow.

He pulled a sword out of a stone and meandered over to the ridge, knocking a couple of stray gnomes out of the way. He hated gnomes. Wasn’t even sure how the gnomes got there, but they all looked exactly like the creepy little things used to hang out on his neighbor’s porch. Back in high school, he’d once gotten arrested for smashing one of ’em.

The ridge was steep and rather dangerous. Looked like it had grown some since he’d last come out to the lot. That time, he and his buddy Marshall had just been smoking weed, so somewhere in his head he knew the ridge was just a massive pile of construction and vacant-lot debris. Broken concrete, smashed up wino bottles, a few syringes, rebar, and part of a Chevy Nova. Maybe not the best thing to be climbing in worn-out Chucks.

Billy ran into a hunk of metal that said, “ow.” He apologized to it.

Out on the construction site, a couple of aliens were hanging out around a cauldron, trying to stuff a screaming warlock into the ooze. When they heard Billy’s exchange with the metal, they turned his way, horns growing large out of their already over-sized, white heads.

Billy stared, trying to make sense of aliens out in broad daylight. Weren’t they supposed to show up after dark so people could see all their blinking lights. Then again, if there was a time when his neighborhood — a rundown string of half-used apartment complexes along the edge of the freeway — was quiet, it was early afternoon before the drunks got too wasted and before the kids were out of school and trying to kill each other. That was why he’d picked that particular time of day to hang out with the dragons.

Aliens were not dragons. If asked the day before, he’d have said the dragons could kick the aliens’ butts any day, but those aliens moved pretty quickly.

The witch sank below the surface of the cauldron and a horrific smell permeated the area.

The aliens, all three of them, didn’t bother glancing back. They pulled out Tasers or phasers or stun guns. They started running toward Billy.

Billy glanced down at the sword he’d picked up along the way. Even a guy on ‘shrooms knew better than to bring a broadsword to a gunfight. He dropped it and tried running back down the ridge.

The aliens opened fire behind him.

Billy begged the dragons to help him. Even though the adrenaline was suddenly getting through, reminding him that the dragons were just cars up on the freeway. Billy yelled for Marshall, anybody to help him.

He tripped.

He fell on his sword.

Half an hour later, he’d joined the witch in another cauldron.

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