The humidity of summer vacation filled our lungs like water balloons, so my friends and I decided to cool off with a flick, Cowboys & Aliens. When the credits rolled, like the star of the movie, I wanted to be an outlaw who saved the town of Absolution from extraterrestrial invaders. Yeehaw. We left the theater and went our separate ways. We’d see each other the next day or the next. There was plenty of summer left.

I stopped at home to don the cowboy hat I used for a Halloween costume a few Octobers ago and drove my hand-me-down Ford westward, driving as far as half a tank would take me. Parked, the cicadas serenading me with their fleeting freedom above ground, I got out and stood in the middle of the gravel road. Looking up, I rested the cowboy hat atop my heart.

“Show yourselves,” I said.

A black hole ripped open the sky like a bag of potato chips. Up I went. Gravity squeezed me like a stress ball, no chance for the comforting light of the day-to-day to escape. As I crossed the event horizon, my limbs stretched into fleshy noodles, and my whole existence became a straight line. Inside, time morphed into a symphony, speeding up and slowing down. Inside, seconds behaved like music notes, ringing before dissolving into a background hum.

Then darkness.

I woke up here twelve years later like no time had passed. Where was here? I didn’t know. My memories had been run through a strainer. Only the big chunks remained, washed clean. I had work in the morning. That I knew. It was still summer, but a sepia tone spread across everything like butter.

Trying to find my way back to the past, I streamed Cowboys & Aliens. When the credits rolled, though, I wasn’t inspired to heroics. All I could think about was how bad the acting was, about the ridiculous plot, about how the film was surely just a studio cash grab. That was when I realized that not even space aliens live forever. Yeehaw indeed.