The Hoax by Jason Darrell

"Thanks for the invite and picture opportunity," Jefferson said, taking the proffered seat in the lounge. Noting that the two long-haired sisters weren't about to offer him a drink, he began the interview.

"The message I got was ambiguous," he explained, "so I'll relate my understanding of the article's premise, committing it straight to tape. Answer my questions as honestly as you can, in the direction of the recorder." To demonstrate, he depressed the record button on the old-fashioned machine.

The sisters turned oddly robotically to face each other, nodded, then turned back to face the reporter in the same slow manner. Jefferson could have sworn he heard the unusual ticking of an engine, so looked at his tape reels. They were running, he shrugged, then began.

"Well, thank you, Carra, Tarra, for speaking to us today," Jefferson said, enunciating clearly towards the microphone, leading by example.

"Us?" the sisters grated in unison. "Who's 'us'? We specified to your editor you come alone,"

"By us, I, mm, mean the magazine I'm freelancing this article for. I assure you, I am very much on my own, today," the reporter answered, barely keeping the nervous edge from his usually steady voice.

Carra and Tarra almost smiled as their heads inquisitively inclined 45 degrees towards each other, drawn together as if by magnets. The grimace disappeared as the magnetic field faded, their heads springing upright.

Taking their continued silence as a signal to continue, Jefferson asked, "So, you informed us - my editor - that you have information about the thousands of fuel thefts reported over the last few weeks. How so, when constabularies everywhere have had fuel inexplicably stolen from gas tanks right beneath their noses?"

"It would be wrong of 'us' to comment on the capability of your law enforcement officials," started Carra.

Without a hair's breadth pause, Tarra added, "but we know what's happened to your petroleum mixture."

"Go on," said Jefferson, discomfort beginning to creep up his spine.

"It has been vapourised, left Earth through holes in the Ozone Layer and is now on an inter-galactic cruiser travelling at 300 times the speed of light toward a distant solar system," the sisters said, this time each saying each alternate word to make a perfect sentence.

With that staccato delivery, Jefferson thought he'd misunderstood. He waited. They stared right back at him, silent, still.

"Oh, come on," gasped Jefferson, questioning both the veracity of their statement and the way they delivered it.

"You think us untrue?" Carra and Tarra said in unison.

"D'uh, yeah! What type of country idiot do you take me for?" he asked.

"Close," said Tarra.

"I'd have thought it obvious," Carra said.

In unison, they droned, "The kind of undeserving idiot who populates this jewel of a planet in its billions."

"OK. I'm winding this shambolic interview up. You're both obviously as deranged as you look," Jefferson said, to the tape machine as much as the sisters. "Nice turn, by the way, that little double act. You ought to be on Netflix."

At that, he folded his notepad, pocketed it, his pen, and exaggerated pressing the tape recorder's stop button: clack!

"Aren't you in the least curious, Jeff?" Tarra asked.

"What? That aliens are pilfering our fuel?" he asked.

"Problem with aliens, Jeff?" they asked as one.

"Only in that they don't exist," he chuffed. "Unlike my peers, I try to retain a modicum of fact in my reports."

"Yes, we've seen your stories in The World, National Enquirer and The Global Snooper," said Tarra.

Carra followed, "That's why we contacted your editor, not any other."

Confused, Jefferson quickly tried to scour his mind for how this assignment came about. The

penny dropped: his old editor, the swine!

"But I worked those rags in another lifetime. I can see now. You just want your 15 minutes of fame. Well, I've moved on from the supermarket tabloids!" he said, slamming the tape recorder away in his briefcase.

"And if you should ever speak to that no-good editor again," Jefferson ranted, "tell him I owe him. Big time!"

"Such a pity," sighed Carra.

"We so wanted you to convey our story to the Men in Black. Now, you've exceeded your use for us," Tarra added.

"The Men i...wh-what? You surely don't believe those guys exist?" Jefferson stammered.

"Oh, we know they do," Carra said, bitterness punctuating every word.

"And we want revenge," Tarra spat, "Agent J killed our brother, Jarra!"

Now Jefferson was getting angry. Angry, and scared.

As he began to back up, the two women rose in unison from the sofa. Not a natural rise from a sitting position: straight, vertical elevation.

The engine sounds came again. Jefferson instinctively looked at the table upon which his tape recorder had sat; of course, it wasn't there.

It did begin playing, though, from inside his briefcase. Jefferson listened, horrified: the muffled replay bore no resemblance to the interview he'd just conducted.

Instead, the conversation in his simulated-but-passable voice detailed how the sisters were smuggling petroleum off the planet in a bid to destabilise the economy and start a nuclear war.

"H-how, how...?" he stammered, looking up. What his gaze met terrified him further. The sisters had disrobed, their heads perched upon tiny bodies implanted into tiny flying saucers, whirring seven feet off the ground.

Jefferson's innards turned to water. He turned to escape through the front door, but the alien plant he'd passed on the porch had quadrupled in size, blocking his egress. Its waving fronds had developed sharp-toothed, chomping mouths, all snapping Jefferson backing into the room.

"Good story, huh? Though, the bit about the petroleum's true," Tarra said. Jefferson's vacated sanity had taken his voice with it.

"Do you think J will bite after the story's printed?" Carra asked her sister.

"Oh, yes. But not as hard as Serleena's apt to bite, now!" Tarra answered.

The maniacal laughter was the last thing Jefferson ever heard.


Published in Issue #20

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