Since I could remember, Grandpa Jack’s big, rambling house had only ever been occupied by the two of us. Now, a week after the arrival, the house is full of strangers.
Refugees. Orphans. Rich and poor alike. Most have come here seeking sanctuary. Some have come for revenge.
“One of them killed my husband right in front of my eyes. Just, just pointed at him, a beam of light, then gone. My life, gone, in an instant.”
The woman, Rita, is standing in my living room amongst a circle of survivors. It’s become a tradition over these past few days; a new member of our growing family tells their story. We all agreed. Tell your story and people understand you, remember you. Tell your story and you live on. Even if you’re vaporized or hauled away tomorrow, tonight your life will be remarked.
“We are glad to have you with us, Rita. Thank you for sharing. Please, help yourself to some food.”
Rex speaks for our group, the only one that speaks at all really. His story starts like the rest of ours, only seven short days ago. Rex was with the military, watched the organization crumble into chaos from the top down. Lost friends, lost faith, lost patience. He showed up a few days ago, just after Grandpa Jack was abducted. He wandered in here hoping to gather a resistance. I was his first recruit.
The group speaks in unison once Rex has said his peace.
Funny the way it is. These people hide in my house, eat the food I provide, but I don’t yet feel like I’m one of them. A dozen or so of them all stand and move into the makeshift dining area where a buffet is laid out. They comfort Rita with small talk and smiles. Rex hangs back.
“John, a word please.”
Rex and I aren’t exactly friends. We’re about as opposite as you can get. He’s middle-aged, combat hardened and decisive. I can barely pick which cereal I’ll eat in the morning, if I even wake up before noon. Rex takes me aside.
“John, we can hold out here a few more days, but I think it would be wise to move somewhere more secure. Somewhere with better resources, better protection.”
I nod stupidly. It’s not that I don’t care, but I’m still numb. This was the only place I’ve ever really lived. Without Grandpa Jack around, it holds almost no meaning at all anymore.
“Whatever you think is best, Captain,” I tell him. Rex gives me a fatherly smile and a strong grip to my shoulder. I don’t know what he has in mind but I trust his judgment.
“Will you look at that! So much for ‘take me to your leader’!”
High pitched laughter cackles in the front room. As Rex goes to spread the word about our impending sojourn, I check up on Tyler and AJ to see what trouble they’re getting into now. They’re parked in front of the TV with a handful of others.
“Can you believe this?”
AJ is speaking no one in particular.
On the screen, a small contingent of alien beings have descended from the main ship. They’re standing on a hovering platform about the size of my living room. The three central figures appear differently from the alien soldiers flanking them on either side. They all have that same grayish armor and smooth, polished faces with no visible features. They all tower over even the tallest human and their knees all bend in the same wrong direction. The differences are subtle. A touch of color here or there. A mark or brand on the armor. Like rank insignias or symbols of valor or royalty.
“Here they come!”
A procession of limos and town cars roll down
The haggard Secret Service members form a line from the incoming parade of vehicles to the floating alien reception committee. Local officials, the mayor, state representatives, senators and the Vice President himself file out of the cars. I can see the shaking hands of the elite guard of humanity’s leaders straying towards their pistols. The alien honor guard stands stoically.
“Makes sense. Why be taken to our leader if we can bring our leaders to them?”
Hutch appears next to me. I don’t know how long he’s been there watching. I guess we’re all a little drawn in.
The Vice President steps forward and extends his hand in a gesture of friendship. The central alien figure mimics his motion. I notice two golden suns patterned on his armor, one on each shoulder.
Hutch is breathing heavy next to me. His jaw is clenched and so are my fists as we watch our country’s leaders step up onto the alien platform. The tension eases only after the platform raises back into the sky, into the belly of the mothership. No shots fired, no lives lost.
“What are they doing up there, ya think?” AJ asks.
“Negotiating,” Hutch answers.
AJ seems about ready to ask what that word means. Before he can, Rex appears dressed to the teeth in combat gear and weaponry, his Green Beret perched immaculately atop his head. He hands Hutch and myself a pistol each. Rex is holding a pump action shotgun.
“What’s this about?” Hutch asks. Rex racks a shell into the chamber.