[Media prompt] UFO hunters claim to have spotted strange cube falling from a ‘black hole portal’ over White Sands military base.
The Cube in the Sky
Listen, ya’ fuckin’ retard, I told you, he was there one minute ‘n gone the next.
The man she said this to, Jesús Vargas, black lines slithering upward from the neckline of his t-shirt, his face buried beneath a web of ink, was picking grit from under a thumbnail with a knife, one he’d taken from a poor dumb white boy in Juárez on Friday night. The men around him stopped what they were doing, and in the silence, including the girl Maria, the one who’d called him a retard, everyone heard the scrape of the blade. Without stopping, without taking his eyes off his thumb, he said to one of his men to go teach the bitch some manners.
Afterwards, Jesús asked her again. Rodrigo. Where is he?
The girl spat a gob of thick blood onto the freshly painted floor. If her nose wasn’t broken, she would have smelled the sour thick scent of an oil change, the dull odour of new rubber tyres stacked in the corner. I’m telling you, she sobbed. We were just standing there, he was there in front of me, like you right now, and then he was gone. He just vanished.
Jesús wiped the blade on his jeans. So, poof, he said, raising his eyes to the ceiling. Like an elephant in a David Copperfield trick? One of his men handed her a tissue, but when Maria put it to her nose he slapped her, requesting quietly that she use it to wipe blood off the floor.
Jesús scratched his neck with the back of the white kid’s knife. Men don’t disappear into thin air, he said. And that goes double for a man with fifty thousand dollars that belongs to me. He understood it’s mine, correct?
Go there and look, said Maria, on all fours dabbing at her blood as it dripped onto the floor. She looked up at Jesús, into this eyes: I can’t tell you anything else. And to be honest, I’m more scared of whatever made Rodrigo disappear than you.
Okay, said Jesús, let’s go take a look. They chose the old Dodge, Jesús sitting up front with his driver Luis, Maria in back with Carlos, the new guy who’d broken her nose. They took Highway 54 into Northeast El Paso, the hot noon sun washing out the sky, denuded mountains on the left, low flat tracts of cheap housing on the right. Maria gave sullen directions until they stopped. The four of them stood on the corner. It was right here, said Maria. The car was there, she said, pointing. Jesús looked down the street, a row of fenced yards, not a person outdoors. I was talking to him, just like this, she said, and I was looking at him, and he, he just vanished.
Luis looked at Jesús and shrugged. Sounds like bullshit to me, he said. Hold that thought, said Jesús, the ring of his phone interrupting him. He listened for a moment then smiled. It’s our vanishing magician, he said to the three of them. Into the phone he said, Where you been my friend? We got strange reports from your lady. Luis and Carlos grinned. There was a short silence, then Jesús said into this phone, Bocas? Where the fuck is Bocas?
There had been a lot of shouting, but now the four of them stared at Jesús’s phone as Rodrigo videoed his surroundings, watching as the twin spires of a whitewashed church, a town square, a tractor driving along a cobblestone street, a small white building with Delegación Municipal de Bocas painted on the front spun past on the screen.
It’s fifteen hours by car from here, said Luis. It takes five to fly. He’s been missing for less than three. How?
That was when, right in front of them, Carlos disappeared, vanishing as if by magic; poof. Jesús looked up and saw a black cube in the clouds. When he looked back down, Luis was gone. The last thing he remembered was a feeling as though his body was being torn in two, a light so bright he couldn’t see. And then he was in the Bocas square, a priest from the church bending over him.