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A Much Needed Invasion by Albrecht Zimmer
SUMMARY: A down and out junkie finds redemption of sorts and inadvertently convinces a race of immortal aliens that Earth is worthy of continued existence. All because of music.
He had a name once, but it didn't matter anymore.
He'd always been lanky, but remove the "y" and that's how he's felt, lately.
He was a shadow of his former self, so worn down only a cliché could describe him. His posture had worsened beyond its usual pre-scoliatic state and his hygiene gone to hell. His hair, once a source of narcissistic pride hung in oily curtains about his acne-riddled face. It was a face, honestly, that appeared to have been shaved by a tiny amok roomba with a razor attachment in his sleep.
(The tiny robot – had it actually existed – undoubtedly lost its tiny artificial life when it fell off his face in its frenzy and landed in the hair below – hair so tangled and filthy the small toiletry whirled in vain until its motor burned out and it died alone, in a dark and horribly smelly place.)
He and his unhappiness had grown into each other and he wore his misery as a veil made of greasy graying hair. But now was not the time to be morose, a flicker of relief had been procured. After four excruciating days, Stagger Dan had finally come through. One more hour of dope sickness and he would have seriously started contemplating the possibilities of his next incarnation. One second at a time, you worthless bitch, one second at a time. He raged at no one, everyone. But primarily himself.
He clutched his personal Grail contained in a half-dozen brightly colored water balloons. This was the only thing that could corral the demons he had lived with these last few months. Now, the malingering presence of unbanished emotions haunted him. Catching his fist making a rather obvious bulge in his right pocket, he tried to relax. Though he was soon to be temporarily free of pain and the voices would still, he could not shake a sense of foreboding. Something was worming its way through him, a sense of dread tinged with something that may resemble relief. He had known carefree days once, or maybe that was just a lie he told himself, something to hold onto. Had his day of judgment arrived? Would he at last learn his fate? He lowered his head to match his general mood and limped down the streets bordering Houston's fifth ward toward his so-called home. He was a ghost. Persona Non Grata. The hookers, the crackheads, the pimps and the used record store employees – they all ignored him. They knew by sight someone even lower than themselves. They could see someone without the spark. Theirs may be dead, but it still lay within them. His was...missing. He glared at them openly enough to be noticed but not enough to incite a reaction; he wasn't fearless – he didn't have to be. He just wasn't worth the hassle.
The sweet smell of chemical residue and decades of filth assailed him as he walked these streets of desolation and depravity. The struggle continued, but none here seemed capable of freedom from the cycle of misery. Sure, some had moved on up and out, but they still worked the same crappy jobs they always did, still drank the same cheap beers they always had. They just weren't blowing the cash on an ever-continuing insensible languor beyond that of a sixer anymore.