With the customary three raps of Gavin’s life-size StarFleet Viroblade-2000 replica, the biweekly meeting of the Beechwood Middle Intergalactic Relations Club commenced. The BMIR Club (pronounced “beamer”) was unsure whether biweekly meant twice a week or every other week, but their meeting times were so sporadic that this evasive definition suited them. Especially given that Gavin’s basement, the club’s only meeting space, also served as his stepbrother Kyle’s bedroom-- so when the occasional moments of familial harmony struck and Kyle returned from his semi-permanent exile at his girlfriend’s apartment, the Beamers were out of luck. But today, they reigned supreme over their shag-carpeted domain. The windowless basement was thick with the August heat, and the other three members of the elite organization sprawled, motionless and sweaty, over an assortment of stained beanbag chairs.
“Order, order!” Gavin bellowed unnecessarily to the stupefied group, as much as his hopelessly pubescent voice would allow him to bellow. “Ollie, what’s on the agenda for today?” The club’s bespectacled secretary slid listlessly off her sagging beanbag to grab her notebook from a decorative heap of sci-fi paraphernalia.
“Uhh, well, we’re supposed to go case section F6,” Ollie listed dully. “And then the new episode of StarFleet is on tonight,” she continued, brightening.
“Wait, what time?” said Kola, his curly head shooting up from the depths of his beanbag.
Gavin’s freckled forehead creased. “Well, we may not be back in time. It’s already three thirty.”
Three heads turned incredulously.
“Gavin. Dude. We are not going out today,” Ellie groaned.
“Yeah, it’s like a billion degrees outside. It’s only a million degrees in here, and look what I did to this beanbag.” Kola rolled over to reveal an impressively massive sweat stain. Ellie squealed and kicked him off, then squealed again as another sweat imprint formed almost instantaneously on the carpet.
“Really, guys?” Gavin glared disappointedly at Kola and Ellie’s bickering. Ollie avoided his eyes. “This is the whole reason we started the club. This is what we’ve been waiting for, and you’re gonna give up just because of the stupid weather?”
Ellie, without the slightest pause from pummeling Kola with her feet, rolled her eyes.
“We’ve been wandering pointlessly around those stupid woods for weeks and we haven’t found shit. Why would F6 be any different from F5, or B6, or C1, or D3, or--”
“But it’s the last section!” Gavin begged. “It’s got to be there.”
Three months before, just a few days into summer break, Gavin had shot up in bed at exactly 4:27 AM and stumbled to the window. As he gazed expectantly across the beige-paneled suburban expanse of Inglewood Place, a pulsating green light careened from the heavens into the dense woods bordering the neighborhood. Gavin, longtime authority on StarFleet, knew immediately what this had to be.
And so the Beamers had embarked on their summer-long canvassing of the forest, neatly divided into a grid by Ollie. While not entirely unproductive-- the Beamers had by now repeatedly experienced the intoxicating adjacency to young adulthood by way of abandoned beer bottles, cigarette butts, and condom wrappers-- the object of their search remained elusive.
And yet, Gavin insisted that “I know what I saw”-- and they pressed on.
So it was that on the most oppressive day of the waning summer, the Beamers trudged once again into the woods. With the exception of Gavin, the group was more lethargic than usual, halfheartedly overturning rocks and grudgingly scuffing up leaves up to reveal the heat-baked forest floor. Ollie paused every couple steps to clear her fogging classes with a corner of her shirt. Their fearless leader, however, inspected each log, bush, and ditch with a frantic yet meticulous determination.
Suddenly, Ellie shrieked. The Beamers whipped around. Gavin smacked his head audibly on a branch as he shot up from the undergrowth.
She held aloft a grimy six-pack of Miller Lite. “Untouched!” she proclaimed triumphantly. Ollie rolled her eyes; Kola gasped in delight.
“You’re disgusting. Do you have any idea how long that might’ve been out here?”
“I say we crack them open. It’s hot as balls, we’ve been searching for hours, and nobody else is stupid enough to be outside today,” Ellie said pointedly.
Kola was already reaching for one of the sun-warmed dirt-coated bottles when a deep snarl erupted from behind him. The Beamers jumped.
The sound had come from Gavin.
“What the fuck is wrong with you people? Am I really the only one taking this seriously?”
Ollie reached out to touch his shoulder calmingly, but Gavin shrugged her off ferociously.
“Don’t you know what this could mean? We could make contact,” he breathed, a crazed look in his eyes. “We could know things nobody else on this ridiculous little planet knows. They could make us kings. They could take us... anywhere.”
The Beamers looked at each other. They’d all participated in the summer-long search with varying degrees of interest, generously tolerating Gavin’s intensity. But now, for the first time, he was starting to scare them.
Ollie spoke up. “Gavin, of course we’ve been taking it seriously. But it’s hot, and we’re tired, and honestly, the fact that we’ve been looking all summer and haven’t found anything--”
“You don’t believe me?” Gavin said incredulously.
Kola stepped in hesitantly. “Man, we’ve all had weird dreams that felt super real. One time after that StarFleet marathon I dreamed that Captain Condor had trapped me in a treehouse, and he was gonna probe my ass like in that episode of South Park, and--”
Gavin let out a strangled scream of frustration. “It was not a fucking dream!”
The Beamers were stunned into silence. Kola stumbled backwards. Ellie caught him with her non-Miller hand.
“What the fuck, Gavin?” she said scornfully. “That’s it. I’ve wasted my whole goddamn summer on this pointless search and I’m not gonna sit here and get screamed at by a fucking serial killer in training. You’ve been watching too much StarFleet. Or maybe talking to your mom too much,” she hurled behind her as she turned towards home, dragging Kola behind her. “Ollie, come on.”
Ollie didn’t move.
Gavin’s face had turned a stinging red.
“Don’t. Talk about. My mom.”
Ellie whipped around.
“Why not? There’s a lot to say,” she yelled, half-laughing. “It’s weird. It’s fucked up. We’ve been tiptoeing around it all summer while it’s all everyone else in this goddamn town is talking about.”
“Shut up!” Gavin shrieked, his voice rocketing up several octaves.
“Why the fuck do you visit her, Gavin? Huh? We know where you go on Saturdays.”
“Ellie! Stop!” Ollie sobbed. Gavin was now frozen to the forest floor, eyes wide and distant; Ollie couldn’t be sure whether it was from hurt, or anger, or shock, or something else entirely, but despite the heat his face sent a chill running through her body, turning her palms cold and clammy.
When the buzzing started, Ollie could’ve sworn it came from inside his scrawny body.
When the rumbling started, Ellie later recalled no trace of fear on his freckled face.
And when the sickly green light lit his narrow features, lending them a ghostly glow, Kola thought he’d never looked more peaceful.
“Take me home.”
NEWS AND ADVANCE
Est. 1894 *** Spencerville, Virginia *** Saturday, August 17th, 2019
SON OF LOCAL MURDERER REPORTED MISSING
Last night, the twelve-year-old son of the recently-incarcerated Lacy Wright was reported missing. The disappearance comes exactly four months after she was sentenced for the murder of Kevin Wright, her lately-divorced husband of thirteen years and the boy’s father. He was last seen by three of his classmates from Beechwood Middle. His stepmother, Angela Wright, declined to give a statement, but one of his young friends had this to say: “I hope that if he’s somewhere else, he’s happier there than he was at home.”