Thursday, May 21, 2015


Hounds Bounce When They Bark
By Joseph Patchen

Rodney awakens to a high pitched, whirling whine outside his eleventh story window. Peeling back the curtains he sees a sky full of saucers firing their rays on the city below. He knows his office is going to be closed today.

The sun’s reflection off the invaders is blinding. The city cracks, splits and explodes all around him.

As his own building quakes and his possessions are thrown off the walls, Rodney tries to call, text and email each and every one of his networks, only to find they’ve all disappeared. There is no television and no radio. The everyday intimacy and security that he’s known through his technology has washed away.

And fear - not only of the terror outside - but the fear of being alone supplants his cyber-camaraderie, as someone else’s technology is raining down death.

What to do? What to do? He thinks, over and over. How extensive is this invasion? Who’s invading?

Running up and down his hall, banging and kicking on doors. No one is home or, at least, no one answers. His calls for help change to shrieks as plaster sprays down from the ceiling.

Careening down the staircase towards the lobby, he continues shouting for help. Once there, he finds furniture overturned and smashed; the steel mailboxes that were so securely embedded in concrete walls are torn out and crumpled like scrap paper.

Onto the street, debris continues to rain down - piling up on cars, bodies and more debris.

The saucers keep flying overhead and shooting at everything below.

Rodney huddles in a pocket of debris between three cars that has become its own cave. He debates his options. Thinking about his parents, his brother and sister; what’s happening to them?

Funny, the things you think about.

For all the times he’d cursed his work and his mundane life, he now wishes he could take it all back. He wishes he was sitting in his cubby, sipping lukewarm coffee, eating day-old danish, reading his bosses' imperious pronouncements on the office intranet.

The assault does not stop. How long has this been going on? How long will it continue? Rodney knows he was sleeping, but any idea that this may be a dream doesn’t enter into his thinking.

The explosions increase. There is no way to pinpoint exactly where. He’s choking on the smoke and fumes of burning gas, oil and rubber, and assorted other carcinogens that, until today, had been neatly wrapped and buried out of sight and mind, deep within the bowels of the big buildings.

There is nothing to do but cringe and pray and contemplate suicide. There is not another soul around: no rats or stray cats, no flies or beetles, not even a cockroach. Rodney wonders if he is the only one left alive.

Eyes are burning; His throat feels full of tar. Rodney’s head is swimming, trying to come to grips with the loss of all.

Through a hole no more than the diameter of a quarter, he spies above. The saucers don’t quite look like those in the movies or on television: there are no long necks or pulsating arrangements of lights. These are sleeker: stripped down, with no markings, about as wide as a standard passenger jetliner. Pretty utilitarian and generic looking, and there are thousands of them.

Gold, silver, red, blue; their color appears to change depending on their positioning against the sun, the clouds and the smoke-- also depending on whether they’re firing or not. At times they even appear clear, almost invisible.

Rodney can’t discern their sound above the explosions. He knows one is hovering over him. It hangs over his makeshift cave for what feels like an hour, although he knows it’s only seconds.

Through his peephole, he watches its underbelly some thirty feet above, and the craft is silent.

Rodney recalls his childhood: baseball, street hockey, army men; Christmases past: that bike, those drums and his favorite catcher’s mitt.

Then Rodney remembers his dog Skye, a devoted hound that followed him everywhere.

Funny, the things you think about.

Time has stopped. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1 pm or 6 am. No trains are running, no meetings to attend, no television to watch. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tuesday or a Friday. Weekend plans are insignificant.

Funny, the things you think about.

The saucers hover. The bombardment ceases. Smaller, egg like crafts exit bellies, floating down to the surface. These black, glass-like ovals skitter about, four feet above the rubble, scanning. They’re searching for survivors: firing on the wounded and near dead just for luck.

Now the moans and screams are heard. Pleas for mercy and God are swiftly met with a ray and silence.

Pile to pile they move, burning or not. One survivor has a pistol. He pumps round after round at the invaders. The bullets are absorbed into the glass void and the blaze of a ray meets his high pitched scream.

Rodney wants to run. But what is the point?

For one week every summer his father would take off from work. The family would take day trips to the beach. Skye was always by his side.

Funny, the things you think about.

The glass eggs converge, methodically following a grid of linear coordinates. They not only kill everything that moves, but with another ray, pulverize everything – concrete, steel, bodies, and trees - into fine dust.

As they close in, Rodney can now see for miles. The city is gone. The dust and smoke are gone, and so are the sounds of demolition. There are no more pleas for mercy. No more sobbing and moaning, just the silent efficiency of machines.

And soon it comes to pass that Rodney is face to face with one. Seeing his reflection in the deep black glass he knows. For the first time all day he chuckles and says, "You know hounds bounce when they bark”.

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Joseph J. Patchen's work has appeared in print, online and on podcasts. He is the literary critic for and you can read more about him at


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