From my Notebook >

Short Story: "Echo" by Marc Carson

Author’s Note: This story contains some harsh language and depictions of violence.

It’s morning and we finish our gas station coffee a bit early. We head down the Powerline Road toward the coastline as usual, and there’s once again enough dust to get the truck dirty. Which means I’m washing it later.

I’ve been washing this damn truck every day for the last month.

Haze covers everything that I can’t see, and what I can see is a house that’s meant for monitoring infrastructure. Perfect little house.

We park on the side of the road nearest the house. I head in there while E. heads across the road and takes a look in the canyon. Check the water levels.

Here on the coast, that’s kind of what you end up doing a lot. Working with infra gets you a little paranoid about the ingredients that hold everything together.

In front of me there’s a good amount of panels, switches. Old lights above.

I flip one on. And fuck me, just like it’s timed to my exact movement, there goes the haze. My watch says 10:30 a.m.

Looking out the window I can see we have perfectly clear conditions now, and up there’s the lead element. Just hangin’ around.

We are Still Not Allowed to Talk About It.

I call E. over. “Hey, get out of the damn canyon and look at this. There’s two people walkin’ around up there.”

He says he can’t see shit, hold up. Comes out of the bushes with blood on one of his camo Mechanix gloves, and he’s pulling up something with the other hand.

“What the f…,” we both manage to say at the same time. E. catches my eye this time and it feels good. We laugh. Well, anyway it feels like laughter but maybe the kind you use when things are just off.

E. is holding some kind of dangerous critter by the hind leg. I can’t understand the situation for all the blood, but he says it was laying there. Glass marbles scattered all around it.

I check up there in the goddamn sky, and the two people are looking with interest now. Staring. Wearing these stupid cloaks, I can just make them out without much detail. Dumb fucks. Figures.

“Hey, you kill this?” E. shouts, holding it up for them to see.

They are a few hundred yards out, maybe 500 max. They see him waving the bloody remains and make some awkward motion, looking agitated.

“Sure as fuck they did,” I mutter.

“Man, what the hell is wrong—look at this. This thing is just…shattered.” It’s worse than limp. E.‘s shoes are covered in animal blood.

Yesterday in the office, somebody shared a news story about a mountain lion attack. Killed a 75 year old man about 50 miles north. Just out working in his yard.

The thing with the guys starts turning around, maybe head the other way. E. suddenly looks pissed.


And this is the point where I figured we’d get another talking to.


It’s a giant sphere with all kinds of crazy details on it. We don’t know where it came from, but we aren’t exactly paid for this so it figures.

One of us called it the “lead element” a while back, and it stuck.

It has a front, some kind of railing for the occupants to lean on. Well anyway that’s what they use it for sometimes. The railing disappears sometimes.

At other times the whole damn thing is upside down, like a reflection.

One of the guys we work with once said that UFOs can go through different dimensions. E. says these things cannot stand fog or haze, they hate it. That’s why they figure out different ways to turn it off.

Everybody’s seen it turn off, it’s normal now, but nobody but E. talks much about the sphere or even acknowledges it when I’m not around.

Come to think of it, this is why E. is checking water levels, he’s noticing that the dew ain’t hanging around like it used to. Man, fuck.

Yeah, they definitely have these weird likes and dislikes.

E. and I are thinking they hate critters, after this experience.

Yeah, they have dislikes. They fuckin’ tore that thing to shreds.


We get a call from Team Lead fucking Mitch, who is this asshole thinks everybody either has to do things his way or it’s blame time.

Mitch will blame everybody in the group for some random shit, long before they figure out it’s just a cheap way to put himself back in control, and super-long before they figure out that Mitch himself fucked something up again. Mitch fucks around and gets terrified of himself, so everybody gets controlled harder, this is our new rule.

Mitch was in the Armed Forces, so he looks down on everybody except Hup, who used to be in the Korean Armed Forces, and Hup doesn’t take shit from anybody.

Hup kicked Mitch in the face once, when Mitch gave him an excuse to. He said “kick me in the face” is all it really took, but goddamn Mitch got all thrown off by Hup’s warm-up, and after that snap kick landed, the back of Mitch’s head hit the cork board so hard that he had pushpins randomly falling from his hair for the rest of the day.

E. turned to me all serious right after we watched this occur, and said, “WE’RE GONNA BE LATE IF WE DON’T GO NOW,” I’m like what the hell…anyway we get to the truck and close the doors and he just loses it. We laughed for most of the rest of that whole day.

(To make it worse, E. told me that Hup later gave Mitch his gf’s business card, she is offering to teach Tae Kwon Do to Mitch even though she normally teaches a kids class a couple times a week. I still can’t believe Hup’s military connection with Mitch is enabling every damn bit of this story, but this is how much Mitch cares about control and being vulnerable only to other people who know control.)

So Mitch calls us both in and says: The sky people in Lead Element are out there zapping fish again, can we not just ignore these assholes please??? He says it’s some retaliation or something.

This time though, there is this silence before and after Mitch speaks. We are just standing in there, like we’re trying to think this out.

Lunchtime comes, and E. says Mitch is fucking terrified now, so stay on your toes.

“Look at this thing Mitch sent me,” he says.

E. hands me his phone and there’s a corporate page that announces we are starting a new environmental research project with the Department of Defense, and our board is cooperating “fully”.

E. says in a lowered voice, “you think somebody in corporate is going to put ‘fully’ in there unless somebody has ‘em by the balls?”

Then he scrolls down and taps on “Corporate,” and “Our Board,” and I shit you not, there are two new board members, and one of them has a photo that is shimmering. You can’t even fucking see the person in the photo.

E. turns to look at me, lowering his voice. “You seeing anything different here buddy?”

He goes on to tell me: The three of us, (and why did it have to be us and Mitch), are the only ones seeing this.

Everybody else sees something different, but they won’t talk about it.


“Different as in ‘normal’,” E. tells me. “All they see is a normal photo.”


Right after lunch, Mitch walks out of his office and locks it up, and that’s right about when I start to figure something is really off here, in corporate, maybe everywhere.

And I realize I don’t even know how isolated this thing is. Is it everywhere? Affecting everybody? Controlling everybody?

Fuck, I don’t even know how many people could be affected, if it’s just our little slice of land here or what.

Then I look at my watch and get this abstract idea, of time…like maybe it’s just us now, but now is not exactly the same as later, and we just what, we naturally called this thing the Lead Element?

Who started that?

I am feeling creeped as fuck.

Mitch looks like he is thinking hard about the same thing. He walks around the office one whole time, then comes right to my desk.

“You, me, and Echo. Now. Quietly.” He calls E. by the dumbest military-sounding things, just to remind us more about Mitch’s World.

We get in E’s truck and E. starts filling me in.

“I’m goin’ slow just so nobody gets alarmed. Don’t look around too much, just chill and let’s focus on getting the pass.”

“That’s a good 20 minutes,” I say, before E. cuts me off.

“I FUCKING KNOW THAT,” he says, his jaw clenched hard.

I get a quick glance of Mitch in the back of the cab. He’s crying and looking through photos in his wallet.

There’s not a cloud in the sky, but some light precipitation starts hitting the windshield.

E. turns on the wipers.

Harder. Hail? Harder and louder.

Lots of clicks, some clacks.

“Mitch, can you just focus please? Stay with us here buddy,” E. calls out.

Mitch starts to wail. He’s crying loud now, and hard.

“Fucking—” E hits the gas harder as we hit the steeper grade of the foothills.

The hail comes on so hard that I instinctively scoot toward the middle of the truck.

Then the rear glass shatters into a thousand bits. Just explodes and glass is in my lap, flying through my hair and hitting the inside of the windshield.

I look back there as soon as it’s safe. Mitch’s head is slung forward, the back of his head a bloody mass.

His wallet fell to the floor. It’s open, and there’s a picture of him and his wife and his son. I never saw this photo before. Only saw his wife’s photo on his desk.

In this photo, his son’s face is shimmering. I can’t even make out any details.

Just as I think “E. has to see this,” I look around the carpet and freeze up.

The hail ain’t even hail.

It’s just a bunch of glass marbles.