It started, as all such things purportedly start, on an otherwise ordinary day several weeks ago when someone’s border collie transformed—without warning—into a moderately good-looking man with whom that someone began spending all her time all over the house engaged in what the local paper referred to as “questionable activities” until someone discovered what was going on when she didn’t show up for work three days in a row (like, why did it take three days to start wondering) and a relative of hers who is a policeman was convinced, probably without very much encouragement, to kick open her locked back door and inspect the premises.
Then an encampment of demons—membranous wings and leathery codpieces and brassieres, the whole bit—suddenly sprang up in the fields and pastures just outside town, alarming farmers who attempted to spray them away with huge hoses and failing in that took up their pitchforks—yes, pitchforks—and other rustic implements and attempted to no avail to chase them away. Nothing like having a gaggle of demons pointing and laughing at you. Then pixies—shimmery tutus, and very cute, but ill-tempered—were discovered eating gingko leaves and small mammals in the park. I myself discovered half a dozen or so teeny tiny cheerful clean-shaven men drinking the cooking sherry in the pantry. From then on, it’s just been nonstop.
The shapeshifters, housed in the guest rooms of many of our homes until being relocated to a hotel near the airport, have been quiet and charming on the whole—they always have hostess gifts and sweet things to say about one’s most obstreperous relatives and they have never seized control of television remotes to watch videos of bands we thought were dead or interminable rounds of golf, which is more than can be said of most of our visitors or spouses and offspring. Nonetheless, the rather hasty and enforced move of the shapeshifters to the hotel was preceded by an uprising of a clutch of angry husbands who discovered they had been impersonated in ways that, they claimed, made their spouses suddenly more “demanding” in undisclosed ways, as if we would really want to know the details of marital conflicts anyway. It was a bit embarrassing seeing them on national television bunched together but not exactly arm-in-arm and shouting “They are bewitching our women!”
And speaking of witches, we have not seen one single witch hereabouts and assume that they prefer more uptown or downlow entertainments, comestibles, and stiff drinks than our county has to offer. Ditto vampires, gremlins, ghouls. So far. Probably afraid of all the others who in—and I’m not exaggerating—droves have suddenly been attracted to our homes and parks and stores, where, by the way, they never buy anything just take-take-take, though that has been the least of our troubles.
Although they moved on after a week or so, the undead required special meals that were simply beyond what our modest households could supply—plus they were always milling about like slow fish in a tank though I suppose that was preferable to the slow and surly golem-like creatures wedged into any dark alleyway they could find, and suddenly there were more dark alleyways—even in the daytime–than we could ever have imagined. The really big but somewhat friendly hairy guys, well, they apologized for eating almost all our cats, but still, they didn’t even ask, although if they had asked and we’d said no, which of course we would have said, they might have eaten us. We were immensely relieved when they moved on without any prompting on our part, probably joining the undead trudging on roads going wherever, who cares, they were gone.
The fairies and pixies—who arrived travelling together in airy troops but are not related, by the way, and will pinch the devil out of you if you look like you are even thinking that they are related—were a somber, lecturing lot who, now that I think about it, took offense at pretty much everything. And they never bathe, unlike the mermaids, silkies, and water sprites—very laidback and lovely to watch—who held a three-day festival in a local pond, a festival which the townsfolk enjoyed, sitting on their picnic blankies sipping wine that was just good enough for such an occasion, and allowing their children to run amok, tearing through the crisp territories of other families, sending fried chicken, potato chips, and pickled okra flying everywhere and frightening the old people on their colorful scooters who then raced after the children, several of them tipping over and one of them actually running over a child, though no one claimed the child seven stitches and a bandaid later at the hospital. This kind of melee is not unusual for our public gatherings, of course, but it was nonetheless blamed on the fairies and other even less friendly visitors.
Afterwards, one of my uncles said that the only difference between those free-ranging children and the demons camped out in his pasture was that children didn’t seem intent on burning every damn thing in sight (though, in my opinion, they probably would gleefully exercise such an intention if given the wherewithal to do so—at six years old, who wouldn’t). My Miz Uncle, who has no sense of humor, was quick to disagree (she always disagrees) saying that there were many differences between children and demons. For example, she pointed out in that hectoring voice you can hear a mile away, demons know how to cook and are very generous with their food even if no one wants to eat it. She might have added that unlike the children, demons have an unaccounted for and unaccountably cheerful love of Barber’s Adagio, which we loved too until we couldn’t locate the invisible state-of-the-art speaker system from which it issues loudly over and over and over day and night.
Despite anything the demons have done—so far—most of us consider them far more likeable than the gnomes and trolls, another group protesting loudly that we shouldn’t consider them a group—why oh why do they always go around in a group if they don’t want people to group them together in their minds? Trolls, gnomes, baby dolls, whatever they are have a generally uneven temperament that tends to swing toward the violent end of the spectrum, and one has to step carefully around them—literally—to avoid encroaching on their ever-shifting and nebulous boundaries and thereby incurring little kicking punishments that have unfortunately added up to big punishments for several hapless people now in non-responsive states in the hospital where their families and friends are in their own limbo of helplessness and despair—the kind that anyone is in when loved ones are there but not there and the doctors are either too effusively interested or too unaccountably glum and no one anywhere has or will disclose any clue about what is going on.
Although we are all in a state of what-will-they-do-next, one does have to admit that things settled down when the gnomes and trolls discovered our basements and took their roly-poly grumpy officious selves down into them. They appear to be cultivating enormous frilled fungi, though the question on everyone’s mind is why growing things in the dark makes so much racket and requires that racket to go on all night every night like some giant banging endlessly on an empty giant garbage can, a sound, by the way, that the universe makes according to scientists from some little country I forget the name of right now. So much for the music of the damn spheres.
We have been visited by many other fantastic and sometimes grotesque creatures, some merely passing through, some staying for what has seemed like a much longer time than it probably is, and some who will probably stay for a much longer time than we can bear. True, we have been happy to see the backs of many of them as they set out on the road carrying the remains of our refrigerators and, alas, the remains of some of our friends, but many others have been precisely the kinds of interesting though often only partially human beings that we really should get to know better, some of them simply like frenzied versions of eccentrics we already know. And cherish, though the less tolerant among us treat them like features of the landscape and would not share their food with them in case of a nuclear event.
Occasionally, dense clouds of creatures too small to see individually have floated through our yards and hovered above our baseball games for hours. At first we thought it was the bees returning but we abandoned that hope rather quickly a few days ago when they emitted some kind of phosphorescent plasma bomb that screwed up everyone’s electronics. You can get into less trouble insulting someone’s family or ridiculing their attire than you can get into if you mess with someone’s devices of otherwhereness. Suddenly people seemed to notice and to be affronted or even angered by the fact that they are living, working, and even sleeping and having lunch with other people who are actually nearby and touchable. When that’s the state of affairs, is it really so bad to have a demon or a shapeshifter who looks like your spouse sitting out on your deck? I mean, who would even notice?
On the whole—and I mean to say this in a very public and very emphatic way–we’ve not been averse to these visitors, even though not a single one of them has thanked us for a single thing and about three weeks into this evolving and frankly a bit alarming state of affairs, we realized at precisely the same moment that we have been invaded, that our stores of food and water have been radically depleted, destroyed, or rendered unfit for consumption. After we started to understand that we are being, well, colonized, we began to notice other things. For example, these creatures apparently have no children—always a sign of badness—and they treat our children like adults—a sign of another kind of badness—and they show no interest whatsoever in community projects, charitable endeavors, working out at one of our fine gyms, or taking ikebana classes—a sign that they have plenty of unaccounted for spare time in which to engage in as yet unknown and probably terrible badassery. We could care less about national opinion of the does-god-exist-vote-yes-or-no sort that has criticized us for not being more welcoming.
By the time the angels arrived, we didn’t care who they were or where they had come from or who sent them or why they were here: we had really had too much enough of the supernatural.