I turned back. He had stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, looking up at something. Curiosity, apparently, is from the same family as yawning and the common cold. It’s contagious. My eyes followed his gaze, on their own. I didn’t even want to look up. “What is?” I said.
“That ship,” he said. He looked totally engrossed.
The sky was blue and white, the white being fine-weather clouds. What was he talking about? There was nothing but clouds up there.
“What ship? Where?”
He pointed. Around us, the other pedestrians were caught in the contagion, too, I noticed. A couple of business suits gave a furtive look in the general direction of the pointing finger then resumed their conversation. They never stopped walking.
I tried to understand exactly what he was pointing at, and came up with a big cloud. Fluffy, white with some light grey streaks, moving slowly, changing shape. A normal, run-of-the-mill cloud. That could not have been what he was talking about. On the other hand, it was what he was pointing at.
OK. All right. So maybe there was something behind the cloud.
I waited. The cloud moved and revealed … nothing. More clouds, the sky.
“What are you talking about?” I was starting to lose my patience. Not sure if with him or with myself, for not being able to see what he was trying to show me.
An older lady joined us. She looked up and her confused face confirmed what I thought – she couldn’t see anything out of the ordinary, either.
“Can you see it?” he asked her. She looked at him for a second, then at me. She frowned. I raised my shoulders and my eyebrows simultaneously: beats me. She looked up again and said, “What? The cloud?”
“It’s not a cloud.” He seemed really serious about it. “It’s a ship. Look!” He pointed at one end of the cloud. “That’s the front of it. I believe it’s called … ummm … bow.” He moved his finger slightly towards the opposite end. “And that’s the aft. The back of the ship.” He turned to us. “You see it, now?”
I didn’t. Neither did the lady. Meanwhile, a number of other people stopped and tried to figure out what we were doing. None of them seemed to see any ships.
“Whoa! It’s arming its weapons. Oh, crap!” he said. There was real panic in his voice. He was such a good actor, I thought. I decided that he was either nuts, or he was trying to pull some childish prank. Either way, I didn’t have time for it. I turned and resumed my walk.
And that’s when the cloud started shooting.