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The Consequences of Cool Ranch Doritos

Katherine Krishnan '27

          The whole car swerves as Derek yanks the steering wheel to the left. He presses down on the accelerator as his wife, Freya, clutches the dashboard tightly and their daughter, Sia, lets out another shriek in the background.                    

          Derek can barely make out the screaming over the pounding of his own heartbeat in his ears. His nose is assaulted by smoke and heat as he frantically attempts to steer back to the right to keep from careening off the road entirely.  

          If anyone had told Derek two days ago that he’d be engaged in a high-speed chase with aliens as he flees DC with his family—he would never have believed it. Against all odds, defying what he’d always thought was possible, here he was. 

          Aliens were never supposed to be real.  

          It was the first thought in his head when he heard the announcement, still ringing faintly in the background of his mind even as the completely real creatures tail his beaten-up Honda in their incredibly real spaceship. An honest-to-God spaceship! Derek lived forty-four years of his life believing aliens to be as fantastical as unicorns and dragons, but yesterday had changed everything. 

          Sia had been sent home from school early, the world halting as families across the world huddled around their TVs just as the Dilfsons were doing that fateful afternoon. The president announced that the United Nations had made contact with extraterrestrial life, and they were bringing them to DC; and consequently, Derek’s entire life shifted off-course.  

          He worked as an accountant, his wife was a nurse, and their daughter attended the local middle school. He lived his life in the same vein of his father and his grandfather: steady job, stable pay, functioning marriage, hardworking child. One day he would retire and Sia would have a family of her own, and the cycle would start all over again. The existence of alien life, especially in his hometown, completely upturned his worldview and expectations for the future. Derek didn’t appreciate change and he didn’t trust these invaders one bit. Maybe they’d decide to stick around and enter the workforce, and there would be no use for him or his job anymore. America was his great country, and he didn’t want it to be changed and warped by newcomers. They could be carrying diseases, or worse—who even knows? 

          Strangely enough, his family had different thoughts. Freya and Sia were intrigued and excited by the prospect of otherworldly visitors in DC. They were honored to be the first stop on the aliens’ intergalactic tour, and they weren’t alone. Americans from all over the country were attempting to engage in a sort of pilgrimage to see the spectacle unfold. Derek couldn’t believe that everyone was trusting and even welcoming the conquerors! It was insane! The mass lack of survival instincts he was witnessing was genuinely worrying.           

          The sudden influx of travelers to DC meant that the police and military were getting involved to keep citizens out of the capital. Derek saluted the brave men who were protecting his city, but he wished that this attitude could extend to the intergalactic travelers as well! While everyone else was trying to get in, Derek was just trying just as hard to get away. 

          Freya and Sia wanted to stick around and experience the historical moment, but Derek refused. He needed to escape the captured territory before it was too late, and he would never allow his family to become trapped in such a terrifying circumstance. He would’ve forcefully taken them if he had to, but luckily, they didn’t drive him to such drastic action. Derek had his mind set on escape, and his family knew that there was no use in arguing. 

          It took them the whole night to escape DC (which had a traffic problem even under normal circumstances), but by 11 AM the next day, the Dilfsons were well on their way into northern Virginia. Sia was brooding in the backseat, but Derek knew that when she was older, she would understand that he was just doing what was best for their family. She thought that they should give the aliens a chance rather than casting judgment before knowing anything about them, but she was a naïve child who hadn’t experienced the real world. Derek knew that strange incomers to the world were not to be trusted, and he was determined to protect his family. 

          Freya was unhappy as well, but more resigned to the situation. She had been married to Derek for years and knew by now that there was no point in arguing with him on topics like this. He was stubborn and strongly rooted in his own opinions, and no one else would be able to change that. Even when he was uneducated and spoon-fed lies by Twitter or Reddit, Derek Dilfson never backed down or admitted he was wrong. 

          This even applied to types of chips, which his family discovered as Derek engaged in a surprisingly heated debate about Doritos vs. Lays with a tall stranger in a hoodie inside a gas station. He honestly didn’t even care that much about the chips, but he was stressed and angry from the escape and needed to take it out on someone. Unfortunately for everyone involved, this someone was a broad, muscular man whose face was concealed with sunglasses. He was flanked by two similarly dressed friends, who were regarding the situation with amusement as they hung slightly back behind the ringleader, who was apparently a strong supporter of Cool Ranch Doritos. 

          “Okay, I’m done with this conversation,” Derek huffed, upset at having to back down but recognizing that it was necessary if he wanted to escape the DMV before the aliens landed. They had little time for detours and Doritos: the clock was ticking. 

          “Fine, run away,” taunted the slightly accented stranger, tilting his head in a way that suggested hiding a smile. Derek, enraged by the flippant attitude of his opponent, took a threatening step forward as Freya and Sia grabbed his arms. 

          “Listen, pal,” he began, “if I wasn’t trying to save my family from these dirty aliens then I’d argue with you all day.” 

          The three tall strangers shifted forward at this, exchanging a look that Derek didn’t seem to pick up on as he continued his soapbox. 

          "We don’t have the time and energy to entertain the likes of you! Get a life, get a bag of Lays, I don’t care. I have bigger problems than this.” He turned around towards the cash register, grabbing Freya and Sia unnecessarily hard by the arms and pulling them to the cashier. 

          “Dirty aliens?” One stranger called out from behind them. “You haven’t even met them yet. Don’t you think it’s too soon to judge?” 

          “Derek….” Freya murmured warningly as Derek whipped back around. 

          “I don’t need to meet them to know that they’re a primitive race of creatures who just want to mooch off our hard work and innovation! I don’t trust them one bit, and I don’t understand how no one else seems to understand this threat!” 

          At this, the leader of the group stepped forward and removed his hood. The stranger was tall and strong, yes, but he also possessed inhuman yellow skin and slitted nostrils. What seemed to terrify the Dilfsons the most, however, was that this stranger had a distinct lack of eyes..  

Derek gasped, Freya screamed, and then they all ran. 

          As Derek speeds down the street with three angry aliens on his tail, he honestly can’t believe he didn’t see this coming. He fruitlessly tries to steer the car back and forth in a desperate attempt to shake the attackers in their spaceship, but it’s no use. They’re faster and better equipped, and it’s a wonder that the Dilfsons haven’t already been smote. Sia continues to shriek and sob in the backseat, and the piercing sound seems like it causes Derek physical pain.  

          “Hang on!” he shouts, swerving the car into the next parking lot and stumbling out of the vehicle. Freya and Sia tumble out onto the pavement, visibly shaken and paralyzed with fear. Derek knows it’s up to him to protect his family to the very end. 

          In some miracle of fate, the spaceship touches down peacefully in the parking lot beside them without firing. Derek mentally thanks God as he flings open a door to the backseat and searches through the compartments. 

          “How’s that for primitive moochers?” calls an alien. “Does this finally prove that we don’t need to feed off your species? We’re just here to learn and explore.” 

Feeling the cool metal on his fingertips, Derek pulls out his gun from the car and fires wildly in the direction of the strangers. Someone screams (it might be him) and then the world, suddenly hot and searing, goes black.  

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