Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
The sixty foot hi-res billboard on the building read, “Show the aliens you are not afraid of them….go to work.” That seems silly to me. But I know the aliens make some people sad. Sometimes, the Aliens make people so sad they don’t want to do anything. Sometimes people become so sad that they do bad things. Betsy Hubble’s mother got so sad after the aliens killed Mr. Hubble that she made Betsy, her brother, and her sister drink poison that killed them. Then Betsy’s mom killed herself. That makes me sad, very sad.
No one knows where the aliens come from. Well, of course, we know they come from outer space. But we don’t know what planet they come from, or even what part of the galaxy they live in, or even if they are from our galaxy. We just know that they come from outer space.
I know a lot about the aliens, even though I am only eight years old. We all know a lot about the aliens. Our teachers teach us about them in school, the different types, what they do when they attack, and how we fight them. Not that they teach us how to fight them. We are only kids. Even if we were grown ups, we probably couldn’t fight them. They are bigger than us, stronger than us and bullets bounce off their skin. Regular bullets, that is, like the ones hunters and police use can’t hurt the aliens. The army has bigger bullets. The First Responders have guns that can kill aliens. The First Responders make me feel safe at night. Every night, me and all the other good boys and girls, pray to God, and thank him for the First Responders. We ask in our prayers that we hope they will be able to keep us safe.
When my Dad’s Dad was a child they had super heroes. But they weren’t real. They were just pictures on the pages of comic books and video screens. They fought really bad men and monsters. The monsters weren’t real back then. Superheroes were better than regular heroes because they could do things regular heroes couldn’t do, like fly, run super fast and hit bad guys supper hard.
We have superheroes now. They are called the First Responders. They are better than heroes and even better than superheroes because they are real. They can do things that normal people can’t do. The government takes these very thin strings looking things out of the aliens and runs them through their bodies. The strings are called fiber softs. Fiber softs make the First Responders faster, stronger and tougher than normal people, so they can fight the aliens.
Not everyone can be a First Responder. The fiber softs would kill most people when the government scientists put them in them. Only one out of ten thousand people can have the fiber softs put in them without dying. Even if it doesn’t kill you, it is very painful to have them put inside of you. You have to have the fiber softs added when you are young, so that your body can grow up around them. If they are added when you are older, like say a teenager they can cause a lot of pain. If they are added latter the fiber softs make the First Responder walk funny and ache a lot when they get really old; if they even get the chance to grow old. Only special people can become First Responders. Mommy doesn’t like me to brag, but I am special. That is why Mommy, Daddy and I drove down to Denver last week.
We all know all about the First Responders, they teach us about them in school. Every one pays attention when the teacher talks about the First Responders. Even the boys who are usually squirrely, pay attention. We learn all about the First Responders and their equipment and weapons. I get A’s on my tests about the First Responders, and stars on papers about them.
They are our heroes. Our superheroes. We see them on the video screens. They are always fighting the aliens. In the comic books, superheroes had heroic names. They had names like Batman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman. First Responders don’t have superhero names, they have call signs. Call signs are like superhero names, but aren’t there to hide their identities from the bad guys. They are like nicknames to give us hope when we hear them, so the aliens won’t make us so sad. They have names like Draco, Hawk and Rubia.
Draco is my favorite boy First Responder. Rubia is my favorite girl First Responder. For Christmas, I got the Rubia doll and my brother, Bobby, got the Draco action figure. My sister Louise pretends they get married. She is too young to know that the First Responders don’t get married, because the fiber softs make it so they can’t have children. That is sad because Draco and Rubia would have a very pretty baby.
The hi-res sign’s picture changes to one of Rubia. They call her Rubia because even though she has dark skin, she has blonde hair that is so light that it is almost white. She is beautiful, like Mommy or a video star. She carries a sniper rifle that is bigger than me. The bullets explode inside the aliens, killing them. When I tell my mommy I am too scared to sleep, because I think the aliens will come and kill me, my mommy wraps me in my blanket and tells me that the First Responders will keep us safe. I ask her if it will be Rubia be the one who will be keep us safe. Then she kisses me on my forehead and tells me yes. Only then do I feel safe.
I want to be like Rubia, beautiful and strong and keep the world safe.
We entered the government building; Mommy, Daddy, and me. This is where they run the First Responders from. Today I will tell them if I want to be First Responder. I am going to tell them I want to be like Draco and Rubia.
We went up the elevator and then to Dr. Chambers waiting room. Mommy and Daddy can’t go in to Dr. Chambers’ office; only me. But that is OK. I am a big girl.
Dr. Chambers sat at her desk across from me. “Do you know why you are here Sally?” she asked, with a smile. Dr. Chambers always smiles.
“So I can tell you I want to be like Rubia,” I responded enthusiastically.
Dr. Chambers nodded, “Is that who you want to be like?”
“Yes,” I said, without a second of hesitation.
“Why?” for the first time in all of our meetings, the psychiatrist’s voice seems almost harsh.
“Because she is pretty, and strong, and fast…,” it dawns on me that somehow, I am not answering the questions the way she wants me to. I began to panic, as if I don’t say the right thing, I won’t be good enough to be a First Responder. I become scared, “…uh…uh…I want to make people safe form the aliens…,” I stammered.
“Is that what you really want?” Dr. Chambers asked. She stares at me right in the eyes. I look away. The only adults I can really look in the eyes is Mommy and Daddy. I feel like I was failing a test at school, because I am not good enough. “Yes, ma’am,” I say soundly.
“What if I told you Rubia is really sad inside?” she asked me.
I am shocked by this. How could Rubia be sad? “Why?” I ask. I am began to feel sad and don’t know why.
“Because she has seen so many people die,” Dr. Chambers answered.
“But even if I am not a First Responder, I see people die,” I replied. “The aliens attacked my town twice this year. They killed over a hundred people.” I then looked down. “If I was a first responder, I could hurt them and I wouldn’t be scared.” I wasn’t sure if the last part will make Dr. Chambers let me become like Rubia or not, but it is how I really felt.
“Rubia tells me she is afraid every time she goes into battle.” Dr. Chambers said in a voice that was just above a whisper.
“Really!” I replied. I was not sure if I am more shocked that even Rubia gets scared or that I was talking to someone who knew her personally.
Dr. Chambers nodded. I told her “But it is a different kind of scared if you can fight the aliens as oppose to when you can’t.”
“She is also sad because she can’t ever have children, because of the fiber softs,” Dr. Chambers said. “Do you want to have a baby someday?”
“Kissing boys is icky,” I said blushing. I know having a baby is more complicated than just kissing a boy, but I am not sure how much more complicated.
“You may not always think that?” the doctor says.
“Yes I will.” I vowed.
“Sometimes, I think Rubia is sad, because she didn’t get any other choices in her life,” the doctor tells me. “Once you are a First Responder you can never be anything else.”
“Why would anyone want to be anything but Rubia?” I asked.
Dr. Chambers nodded again. She then took out a white box from the draw of her desk. For the first time ever she isn’t smiling. “Do you know what this is?”
Again I felt like I was failing a test, but rather than guess and get it wrong, I shook my head.
“It is called an agonizer. It simulates the pain.” She laid it on the desk and beckoned me to join her. “Sally, plainly put, this machine hurts people.”
Obediently, I walked around to her side of the desk. “Why would you want to hurt people?” I asked. “Were they bad?”
“No, these shows people what it feels like when they get the fiber softs implanted,” Dr. Chambers explained. “I want you to put your hand in here.” she said, pointing to the hole on the side of the box.
“Will it hurt me?” I asked, alarmed.
“Yes, Sally it will.”
“But that isn’t fair, I haven’t done anything wrong.” I protested.
“No, but it isn’t fair to make people get the implants and not let them know what it will feel like either,” Dr. Chambers said, and then she repeated again. “I want you to put your hand in the hole.”
My palm was shaking, when I put my hand in the box. Metal clamps grab my fingers. It felt like I was on fire on the inside. I began to scream. I yelled for my Mommy and Daddy to come save me. They don’t. Finally, I yelled for Rubia to rescue me. She didn’t show up, either.
It felt like years and years but the clock on the wall said it was only five seconds. Then the pain stopped, the clamps unleashed. I was mad, very mad. I said bad words my Momma doesn’t want me to say. I wanted to bite Dr. Chamber and make her feel pain like she made me feel.
“I am sorry Sally. I really am,” She said as she put away the white box. She won’t look me in the eyes.
The pain completely vanished. But I was still mad. “You hurt me!” I lashed out.
“Yes, I am sorry,” She said. She tried to look me in the eyes again, but she couldn’t. I saw tears forming at the bottom of her eyes. “You have to know what you are getting into. That was only for seconds. The operation takes many hours, the fiber soft won’t take if you are anesthetized, and the pain doesn’t just vanish when it is over, and it is not just your hand but your entire body.” Then she added, so softly, that I don’t think she knew that I heard her say it, “I hate the aliens making us have to do things like that.”
“I…it…is… OK…,” I stammered. I realized it is not her fault. It is the aliens that make us do it. They make us hurt kids.
“Do you want more time to think about becoming a First Responder?” Dr. Chambers asked.
I nod. For the first time since I can remember, I don’t want to be like Rubia.
“Alright,” Dr. Chambers says. “I will give you two weeks to think about it. Then you can come back and tell me if you decided if you want to continue on with the program.”
Quietly, I got up and walked out to my parents in the waiting room. We took the elevator down to the lobby and exited the government building. Mommy, Daddy and I walked thru the parking lot and Daddy opened the van’s door for me and Mommy. As I buckled in, Daddy notices how quiet I am and asked me if I am OK? I wonder if Daddy knew that Dr. Chambers was going to hurt me like that. “I’m fine,” I snapped.
No one in the van was speaking. They knew I was upset, but don’t seem to know why. “Why don’t we go to Sunny Boys for ice cream,” Mommy suggested.
“Whatever,” I said like I didn’t care. I didn’t mean to be harsh with Mommy and Daddy. They knew something is wrong now because I never ever turn down ice cream.
“What’s the matter baby girl?” my Mommy asked.
Before I can answer, every siren in Denver goes off.
Daddy turned on the radio. “…Four objects believed to contain alien life forms have penetrated the Earth’s atmosphere and are headed for down town Denver…” The man on the radio told us..
There were four loud booms; supersonic cracks. It meant that the aliens are here. I began to scream.
The aliens don’t travel in spaceships. They are incased in this yellow crystal and shoot though space and land on Earth. No mater where they land they start killing as many human as they can.
The four glowing falling stars seemed to be headed right for us.
Daddy began to say the same bad word over and over. He put the van in reverse. The tires squealed loudly. The van learched backwards. Mommy was praying. I no longer though Rubbia is going to save us.
The amber projectiles crash land a few blocks in front of us. The street exploded on their impact. The road seemed to be lifted up like a wave and knocked the van on its side. It is weird. I was screaming, but I couldn’t feel myself screaming. I just heard my voice as if it were next to me.
Mommy held me and told me to stop screaming. She reassured me that I was OK, that I wasn’t really bleeding, and that I have no broken bones. Her words comfort me. I stopped yelling. The van was on its side. Mom lifted me up to the door of the van. Daddy was already standing on the top of the turned over van. Daddy was hurt. Dark purplish blood covered his entire left eye. “Daddy, does it hurt?” I asked, in a sad voice. He put me down on the side of the van and reaches back down in and pulled Mommy out.
The street was covered with gray dust. It made it hard to see anything, but I could tell that something big was moving in it. Aliens! I began to whimper. Daddy told us to hurry as he climbed down and mommy handed me down to him.
The dust began to subside some and I could see what was out there, an octo-pod. They are like an octopus, but they live on land and are bigger than our van. Instead of eight tentacles they have eleven tentacles, with sharp blades at the ends.
I saw two. One was in the distance, but the other one was pretty close to us. I also knew it had seen us too.
It is not the First Responders that arrived first, but the cops. Their police car, with its lights flashing, pushed aside a small compact to get to us. The police got out; a black man with a pistol and a police woman with a shot gun. They can’t hurt the octo-pod. Not with the guns they had. We learned that in school. The octo-pod has a thick leathery skin, then a second skin underneath it. There is a liquid called ichors between the two layers. When a bullet hits one, it is slowed down by the outer skin, and then loses all its force of impact in the ichors.
Now that I think about it, the cops must have known that they couldn’t kill the octo-pod. They were just trying to distract it, so we could escape. Their guns did that much. The nearest octo-pod turned on them, allowing us to run away. But I saw one of its blades severed the boy cop’s head, as another ran through the girl cop’s chest.
I looked at the dead bodies and went into a state of shock. Mommy saw I wasn’t moving and lifted me up and then she began to run away form the alien. Then we heard the engines of the First Responder’s Zuni assault craft. A long time ago, they made a jet airplane that could hover, it was called a Harrier. The Zuni has six engines like the ones used in the Harriers. This allows it to move like a helicopter. The Zuni’s side door is open and a heavily armored gunner begins to fire the gunship’s dual 40 mm grenade launchers. They hit the far away alien with white phosphorus grenades and it began to burn. The one that just killed the cops was too close to us for them use the grenade launcher.
Then he arrived on the scene, just like Hercules. He jumped over the van and ran at the alien like a wild man; a beautiful brave heroic wild man. He put himself between us and the octo-pod. He had camouflaged pants and a green tee-shirt covered by an armored vest. On the back, stenciled in black is DRACO. On his side was a knife big enough to qualify as a small sword. It made me think of Robin Hood or a knight.
He had an M-97 submachine gun. Even its tungsten core rounds would have a problem penetrating the ichors between the layers of alien skin, so he aims for its relatively small eyes, the one vulnerable part on an octo-pod. Black ichors gushed from the octo-pod’s eyes, a sign it was dead.
I hadn’t seen the third one until it wrapped a tentacle around my leg and pulled me from my mother arms and towards it mandibles. I screamed as it dragged me towards its mouth. Draco moves faster than I have seen any human run before. He pulled out his machete and sliced the alien’s tentacle that was holding me in half.
The alien shrieked loudly. It flailed at the First Responder with five of its remaining tentacles. Draco dodged the attacks them with an inhuman speed.
A loud sound, like thunder, rolled over the street.
That was when I saw her. She is more beautiful in life then on the videos; more beautiful than Mommy; more beautiful that a video star. She is beautiful like an angel. She holds a rifle that looks as long as she is tall. Its 18 mm slug tears through the alien’s first layer of skin and then enters though the ichors and keeps going through the second skin, and lodges in the aliens brain/muscle mass, and then it explodes. Black ichors began to run out its eye socket.
Draco gave a war whoop, and then yelled to Rubia, “Have I told you I love you today?”
She moves like an angel, her pale hair flowing behind her back. Even covered with dirt and grime, she is perfect. It is true, it is all true. The Aliens attacked and Rubia had come for me and saved me.
Rubia turned and looked at me with her bright gray eyes, like I was her daughter; a daughter that she can never have. I saw the sadness in her eyes that Dr. Chambers had told me about.
“Come on, let’s get the fourth one,” Draco yelled, and she turned away and bounded off towards the last octo-pod. Mommy grabbed me and we began ran away form the battle field.
Daddy lost his eye. He has to wear a patch until they make his glass eye. I say he looks like a pirate. Mommy says he looks like a hero.
At school, I am the hero. My teacher let me give a thirty minute presentation about what happened. All last week, everyone wanted me to be on their kickball team, even if I am not that good at sports. Everyone wants to be my friend. Doug Exeter wants me to be his girlfriend. I told him no.
Next week, we are going to go back to Denver. I am going to tell Dr. Chambers that I don’t care what kind of pain it causes. I want to be like Rubia. I want to be a First Responder.