The Space Alien

Chapter 7

A Planet in Fear

Detective Akechi escorted Kitamura-san to the police station, where he made an exhaustive report about his encounter with the space alien. Given the grave nature of the incident, the police superintendent forwarded the report to the Cabinet, which made its way to the desk of the Prime Minister.

The story had the whole country in an uproar. Headlines worthy of wartime coverage filled the papers the following day, with Kitamura-san’s account featured prominently above the fold. But the most immediate effect was to set the nerves of every person in Japan on edge.

Having dressed the same as them, the space alien in the silver mask now mingled amongst them somewhere in the precincts of Tokyo. And not only Tokyo. Flying as swiftly as a plane, it could appear in Osaka or Nagoya or any city in-between. The fearful thought that the creature might be hiding close by at that very moment raised the hair on the back of the neck.

For several days, nothing more occurred. And then another shocking article appeared in the newspapers.

This time the incident happened abroad. Flying saucers like the craft that swooped over the Ginza appeared in the skies of New York. That was only the beginning. Witnesses later came forward to report that a flying saucer had landed in the middle of the mountains and a space alien emerged from the craft. Again, the space alien had a body like a lizard and the wings of a bat.

Japan was not alone. The whole world was fit to be tied.

Beings had flown to Earth from an alien civilization in the galaxy. Nothing like this had happened before in history. Every day the newspapers printed stories about little else. Stories about the space alien dominated radio broadcasts. In every country everywhere, in any group of people anywhere, all anybody talked about was the space alien.

If thousands and tens of thousands of saucers—enough to blot out of the sun—swarmed over the Earth and landed, if tens and hundreds of thousands of lizard men flew out and in a matter of minutes reduced every living thing around them to ash with those terrifying weapons, these creatures from another star could destroy the Earth overnight.

Scholars from around the world published a potpourri of opinions, such as the following editorial by a professor in Great Britain:

The closest planet to Earth that may harbor life is likely Venus. But changes occurred that made living there difficult, such as the planet’s population exceeding the carrying capacity of the land, or the climate inexorably cooling. Thus these beings from Venus may consider occupying the more temperate Earth, eradicating the human race and settling here. To that end, they would first survey conditions on Earth to ascertain how powerful we are. The lizard men that caused so much commotion in Japan and the United States might well have come here as spies to conduct that recognizance.

An esteemed scholar with unimpeachable credentials penned the article. So it was reprinted in newspapers around the world. So people around the world read it, raising all manner of fresh fears and concerns. This was many times more frightening than a war or powerful earthquake. The thought of those creepy lizard men destroying the entire planet left the population of the world gripped by a maddening sense of impending doom.

Several days later, an alarming event occurred near the home of Ichiro Hirano.

Ichiro had an older sister. She attended a music academy and was a virtuoso at the violin. Her lovely face and figure only further enhanced her reputation. She was a veritable angel of a sibling.

That day, Ichiro had gone with his sister to a friend’s house. In the evening, the night falling, they returned home. Not far from the street corner, in a small vacant lot in the sparsely developed residential neighborhood, an old evergreen oak stood like a solitary giant, its branches covering the sky.

Passing beneath the overhanging limbs, Ichiro found himself looking up. He came to a halt and stood there rooted, unable to move.

“What is it, Ichiro?” his sister asked him curiously, stopping as well. “What are you looking at?”

“Look, there’s something weird up there. In the tree.”

His sister also directed her gaze toward the sky. Like her brother, she froze in place. Something truly strange was up there.

On a big branch of the evergreen oak a good thirty feet above the ground was a large tawny object. It wasn’t the foliage. It was hard to make out because of the deepening dusk. It surely seemed to be human figure. A well-appointed gentleman in a light brown suit and a light brown felt hat was perched on the branch.

Ichiro said, “What is he doing? Why did he climb way up there?”

“It is odd,” his sister agreed. “Creepy. C’mon, let’s get going.”

“Wait a second. His face—it’s glittering. Hey, he has a silver face!”

The silver countenance peered down at them from beneath the felt hat, the crescent-shaped mouth locked in a permanent grin.

With a start, the two of them came to their senses and ran off. Hand in hand, they scampered home as fast as their legs could carry them. Short of breath, white as sheets, they told the rest of the household about the creature in the treetops. Their father jumped to his feet and ran out to see for himself.

Hearing the commotion, the neighbors began to gather. As the group grew larger, ten or so ventured cautiously to the evergreen oak. Kitamura-san was among them, someone having given him a heads up. Then a policeman hurried to the scene.

At length, they all gathered beneath the tall old tree. By now the sky was dark, but it was still possible to faintly make out the shape and form of the creature.

Kitamura-san said in a loud whisper, “That’s it for certain! Look at that silver face! And the wings on its back!”

Indeed, the long black appendages attached to the back of its suit must be the bat wings Kitamura-san had spoken of. Recognizing the description of the space alien, the crowd gathered around the tree reflexively took a step back. They were about to run when the creature in the treetops made the first move.

With a whoosh, the well-dressed gentleman unfolded its wings.

Fearing an imminent attack, a cry of surprise and alarm arose from the people on the ground below. The creature jumped from the branch and floated through the air with its wide wings. This prompted another collective cry and a rush for safety. Except the creature didn’t dive towards the ground. It climbed into the heavens.

Realizing what was happening, the spectators all stopped and scanned the dark sky.

Ah, what a strange spectacle—a well-appointed gentleman wearing a suit and a felt hat and even shoes flying through the air on big black wings—it was like they were all living through the same bad dream. Because if it was not a dream, they could not imagine such wild and fantastical events happening anywhere on Earth.

But this was no dream. Ichiro’s father, the police officer, Kitamura-san, and the twenty or so people there watched as the sharp-dressed man with the glowing silver face soared high through the air.

The creature climbed by leaps and bounds into the pitch-black night sky. The stars twinkled above. Moving like a shadow against the starlight, the creature rose and rose until it dissolved into the darkness and disappeared from view.

During the day, perhaps a plane could have been summoned to pursue it. There was nothing anyone could do at night. The witnesses could not even say in which direction it had departed.

The space alien, previously seen only by the lumberjack and Kitamura-san, had at that moment been witnessed by almost twenty people. Those who had previously questioned the veracity of Kitamura’s account now had no choice but to trust his word. A flying space alien with a silver mask appeared in the skies over Tokyo. There could be no doubt that nefarious matters were afoot.

Over the next month, a number of mysterious events happened hither and yon. One such incident took place on the roof of a department store in the Ginza.

One evening, a young employee by the name of Mizutani had to attend to a task in the rooftop greenhouse where tropical flowers and plants were kept. He went alone. After operating hours, the broad store roof was as deserted as a desert. There wasn’t another person in sight.

Mizutani completed his chores in the greenhouse and exited the glass-walled room. Suddenly, sensing another person nearby, he stopped and frowned to himself.

He was sure nobody else was there, but in the far corner of the roof stood a dark silhouette that certainly looked like another person. As he focused his gaze, the dark shadow slowly approached him.

The figure was wearing a gray overcoat. A felt hat was pitched low over his eyes. The sky was so dark that the gray man seemed to be drifting along like a ghost. As he neared, the face beneath the hat came into view, a face white as chalk on a blackboard. No, not really white. Rather, glittering with light.

Mizutani felt the hairs on the back of his neck standing up. He only barely managed to stifle the yelp rising in his throat.

The man’s face shone with a silver light. Ah, wasn’t there another such fellow who met that description? Yes, the lizard man with the silver mask! The space alien from another planet.

Like a mouse caught in the gaze of a cat, Mizutani couldn’t move. The creature was now six feet away. The black crescent-shaped mouth split back to the ears and glowed with an eerie light. A raw stench of indescribable origins wafted about it.

“You know who I am, don’t you? Don’t you?” It spoke in a voice that wasn’t quite human. “You’re trembling. Frightened, aren’t you? Do not worry. I will do nothing.”

Mizutani caught his breath, certain his heart was about to stop.

“Tell everybody in the building you saw me. Spread the word. Understood? Go. Be on your way.”

The creature gave Mizutani’s shoulder a shove. It wasn’t a hard blow, but frozen there like a stone, Mizutani pitched forward and sprawled onto the ground. Unable to run away, he curled up and played possum.

The creature laughed in a strange voice and took off its overcoat, revealing the big bat wings beneath. No sooner had it unfurled the wings but its feet lifted off the ground.

The gusts from the ferocious flapping of its wings rolled Mizutani over two or three times. With a strange whooshing sound, the winged creature rose in a flash, ascending like a dark angel. Like it was slowly dissolving away, the gray form at last disappeared into the twilight sky.

A long moment later, Mizutani came to his senses. He clambered down the stairs from the roof and informed his superiors. His announcement threw the department store into great commotion. The police were summoned but they were too late. There was no way to pursue the creature at this point.

After that, the creature made appearances here and there around Tokyo before again taking to the skies. It always showed up at dusk and in unexpected places. One time, it appeared sitting on the top of a tall smokestack, silhouetted against the evening sky. Another time, crouching on the gunwale of a ferry crossing the Sumida River. And a third time, lounging atop the scoreboard at Korakuen Stadium, chin in its hand.

What was the space alien attempting to accomplish with these antics? The newspapers devoted a great amount of ink to the subject and solicited a great many opinions. By and large, “The space alien is putting on these public performances in order to intimidate the people of Tokyo,” was the overriding consensus.

However, incidents of a grave nature soon took place in both Japan and the United States that made it clear this creature had intentions more devious than simply flaunting its presence.

One day, a Buddhist statue, so valuable it was designated a national treasure, vanished from the National Museum in Tokyo. The theft of such an object alone was not nearly as shocking as the disappearance of the distinguished director of the museum at the same time. The police pulled out all the stops searching for them, but the director and the statue were nowhere to be found.

And then at a major hospital in New York, an advanced piece of medical equipment and the world-renowned chief of surgery went missing. Here as well, the police turned up not a single clue.

Newspapers throughout the world editorialized that these two incidents proved that visitors from outer space were absconding with both important people and things.

It made some sort of sense that spies from a distant star should steal advanced medical apparatus and fine art here on Earth in order to bring them back to their home planet and put them on display in their own museums. By the same token, they must be kidnapping people in order to lock them up in a cage in a zoo. There they could interrogate these scholars to find out exactly what knowledge the people of Earth possessed.

Not long after that, Ichiro Hirano, the youngster we met at the beginning of the story, personally experienced another such alarming incident. The lizard man had demonstrated its willingness to put adults in its sights. Now it raised its sinister webbed hand against children as well.

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