Serial Numbers, Michael A. Kechula

This story was previously published in Alien Skin Magazine in 2006.


When Barney called the FBI about his photographs, they laughed at him.

“You gotta see these pictures for yourselves,” he hollered.  “It’s a matter of national security.”

But they’d already hung up.

Next, he called the CIA.  They put him on hold while they checked his dossier.  Five minutes later, a female agent said the Agency knew he’d been hospitalized for acute alcoholism.  She asked if he was still on the sauce.

“Even if I am, does it matter?  This isn’t something I’ve imagined.  These photos speak for themselves.”

“How many do you have?” asked the woman.


“Where’d you get them?”

“I took them.  With my digital camera.”

“So what’s in these pictures to make you think the world is about to end?”

“Serial numbers.”

“What’s so threatening about that?”

“I think our enemies are putting numbers on things around us.”

“Give me an example,” the woman said.

“I took a close up picture of two autumn leaves in the park near my house,” Barney said. “When I enlarged them on the computer screen, I noticed each had twenty numbers stamped on them.  Next to the numbers was a weird design that looked like a crop circle.”

“Tell me, Mr. Brown, who do you think is doing this?”


The woman hung up.

Barney tried Army and Naval Intelligence.  They hung up faster than the FBI and CIA.  Same with the National Security Agency.

He called the most popular radio talk show in the nation.  He told the call screener he had hard proof of voter fraud in Arizona’s gubernatorial election.

“Our next caller is Barney from Phoenix,” the host said. “Welcome to the Joey Powers Show.  My screener says you have proof that last week’s election in Arizona was fraudulent.”

“Yes,” Barney said.  “The facts are worse than you can imagine.  What I have to tell you is vitally important and very scary.  Martians are out to get us.  But not in ways you might think.”

“Sorry, folks,” the host said, cutting Barney’s call.  “Seems that Barney Ding-Dong forgot to take his meds today.  He lied about his topic to my call screener.  It’s just another example of how the extreme Left tries to sabotage this show.”

Barney wrote letters to Congress, the President, and Cabinet members.  He explained how objects were being marked with numbers, as if somebody were taking inventory.  He said Martians with number-imprinting ray guns were the culprits.  He described a scenario in which Martians would confiscate everything on Earth for relocation to Mars.  Then they’d leave their subterranean caves and live on the planet’s surface, which according to Barney’s calculations had been nuked ten thousand years ago.  By stripping Earth clean, they wouldn’t have to use any of their own resources to rebuild their civilization.

The only response he received was a flyer from his Congresswoman that trumpeted how wonderful she was, and how lucky her constituents were to have her as their representative.

On a hunch, Barney took extreme close-up photos of the flyer.  He nearly died when he found a serial number and crop circle.

He took pictures of everything.  The neighbor’s car.  The landlord’s dog.  Every morsel  from a box of Corn Flakes.  All were all stamped with serial numbers and an intricate design that could only be seen in enlargements using a magnifying glass.

Writing to churches, Barney begged them to read his letter explaining the Martian’s strategy during their sermons.  The only response he got was from the Amalgamated Church of the Sacred Brotherhood—a get well card that said they were praying for his speedy recovery.

He figured if he didn’t stop thinking about what was to come, he’d go crazy.  To distract himself, he bought comedy videos.   The Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, and hundreds of cartoons got him laughing so hard, he began to feel better.

He also joined Internet groups that discussed comedy films.  A woman responded to his postings saying she particularly loved Three Stooges episodes in which they were chased by a gorilla.  They were Barney’s favorites as well. The woman asked for his photo.  When looking for one to send, he noticed all showed him frowning.

Barney mounted his digital camera on a tripod and set the self-timer while watching a gorilla chasing the Stooges.  The shutter tripped while he was in the middle of a gigantic guffaw.

He liked that picture so much, he ordered a wall-sized enlargement from Wal-Mart.  Figured he’d hang it in his den.  Then, the next time he felt low, he’d look at the poster and laugh his ass off.

When Barney picked up the enlargement and looked at his oversized face, he shrieked.  Twenty numbers and a crop circle were etched on his forehead.  That’s when he realized Martians planned to appropriate EVERYTHING that existed on Earth.

Barney raced to a shopping mall to alert everyone.  Security guards threw him out and banned him from ever returning.

Days later, he woke to find himself lying naked on the floor.  The pajamas he’d worn to bed were gone.  So was everything else in his apartment.  He ran out screaming.

The entire city was in chaos as thousands of naked bodies ran helter-skelter.  The tumult was horrible.

Lying in a fetal position in the middle of a field, and dying of thirst, Barney mumbled, “The sons-a-bitches took everything.  Trees, roads, buildings, all our food and water.  If they’re gonna take us, they better do it quick, or billions will die.”

When slimy arms lifted him into a space ship, he realized what pissed him off most about the whole situation was not that nobody would listen to his warnings.  It was the idea that some freakin’ bastard on Mars had his collection of comedy videos.


Michael A. Kechula’s flash and micro-fiction tales have been published by 150 magazines and 50 anthologies in 8 countries. He’s won 1st prize in 12 writing contests and 2nd prize in 8 others. He’s authored 5 books of flash and micro-fiction tales, including a book that teaches how to write flash fiction. See his publisher’s site at: to read a free story or chapter in all of his books. 

Posted on October 9, 2014, in Issue 15: Elves & Spacerockets and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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