Mass Migration | By: Dallas Releford | | Category: Short Story - Horror Bookmark and Share

Mass Migration

MASS MIGRATION By: Dallas G. Releford As Karen Riley drove up her driveway to the big white farmhouse, she felt a strange feeling come over her that sent shivers down her spine. Glancing casually at her Timex, she noticed with a feeling of urgency, that it was four o’clock. She had one hour to put the groceries away, prepare supper and throw some of the dirty laundry into the washer before her favorite show came on the satellite channel. The storm that had kept her at the mall for an hour longer than she’d intended had just moved out of the area. Dark ominous clouds hung over the eastern horizon. More dark gray clouds moved swiftly toward the east above her. Karen had never seen a storm as bad as the one that had suddenly appeared about the exact time she was attempting to find a parking space at the shopping center. It had left the weather forecasters puzzled and still scratching their heads as it passed quickly through the area. The radio personality, a loud-mouthed, insulting late afternoon talk show host had said that the same system had dropped over twenty tornadoes on the Plains the day before. Parking her SUV in a space as near to the mall entrance as she could, she had turned off the radio, switched off the engine and braced herself for what was to come. She’d barely made it through the front door as the wind, rain and hail chased her into the sturdy building. Standing in the entrance safe from the deluge, she’d shook water from her umbrella and left it in a nearby corner. Watching the torrents descend upon the mall lot, she had been surprised to see hail the size of golf balls and lightning so intense that she had hardly been able to see her SUV. It was all over, for now. The weather people were expecting more of the same. She wasn’t looking forward to it. Putting the groceries away, she hurried downstairs to throw some clothes into the washer. She was both dismayed and somewhat angry when she found out that the washer didn’t work. Hastily checking the circuit breaker box, she proclaimed to herself that it had worked fine last night. The circuit breakers were as they should be so she hurried back upstairs to tend to other things. The lights in the house worked so she figured that something had happened to the circuit that the washer and dryer were on. Maybe it will work later, she reassured herself. Sometimes the circuit for the garage quit working. For some unknown, strange reason, it always came back on later. She never understood it. It just happened that way and that was all that she knew. She had never thought to call the electrician because it always came back on shortly after it went off. She hoped that the same situation existed with the washer and dryer and that it would come back on by itself. She’d simply have to call the repairman tomorrow if it didn’t start working by itself. Since her last book, “Someone Lost” had become a best seller, Karen had decided to take a short vacation, and just do “normal things” such as relax, take care of some needed household chores and watch lots of television. She rarely had time to relax and take it easy. She put food in the oven and while she was waiting for it to cook, she decided to watch television. The television didn’t work either and that further frustrated her. All she could see on the screen was the message: PLEASE WAIT … SEARCHING FOR SATELLITE SIGNAL. Temped to curse, she stopped herself in time to feel good about it. She figured that the storm had interfered with the satellite signals and that was all that it was. Maybe there is a storm between here and the satellite, she thought flicking the switch that gave her access to the old antenna on the roof and to the local channels. The storm must have knocked the local channels off the air too, she thought. All she was getting was snow on the screen. Completely pissed that her evening had been totally ruined, she turned the television off and turned on the radio. There was nothing, not even on the AM band. She wondered what was going on because she should have been able to get at least one of the many stations in the area. When the AC power was out, the radio operated from batteries so power couldn’t be the problem unless the batteries were dead. She’d just replaced them a few days before. She glanced at the clock. It had quit at precisely four o’clock PM. She looked at her watch and it still showed about the same time. The hands hadn’t moved since she had pulled into the mall parking lot. She had arrived at the mall at approximately four o’clock just as the storm was passing through. She’d mistaken the time when she pulled into the driveway not realizing that the hands hadn’t moved. It was as if time were standing still. Four o’clock was precisely the time that the worst of the storm had rolled through the area knocking down trees, power lines and taking off rooftops. She wondered what other damage it had done. Karen wondered what the real time was. Since all the clocks had stopped at the same time, the radio and television didn’t work and it was still cloudy outside, she couldn’t see the sun. She really didn’t have a clue as to the real time. She had not talked to her mother for several days and decided to call her. Not too surprisingly, all she heard when she dialed the phone were strange voices speaking in a language she had never heard before. Disgusted, she went to the kitchen to get her dinner. Distracted by the sound of something falling on the roof of the house and hitting against the windows, she stood by the stove wondering what it was that she was hearing. Something was falling on the front porch because she could hear it pounding the wooden floor. She thought that the hail had returned so she went to the front door to check. Her first thought was that the hail was the first sign before the tornadoes dropped down from the sky and that alarmed her. The last thing she wanted was to be in alone in a severe storm. Opening the front door, pushing the storm door open, she stood staring out at the horror on her front porch. A brisk, cold wind wiped her face, tossed her long, dark brown hair in all directions. Appalled, she sucked in her breath and tried to accept that what she was seeing was real. One thing was for sure; hail wasn’t on her front porch. It was something else, something more unusual, and horrible. Dead birds and bullfrogs, many of them still alive, covered the front porch and the yard as she stood staring at them in complete shock. A steady stream of the things just kept falling. Cautiously, as if expecting one of the slimy creatures to jump up and grab her, she stepped out on the porch and carefully kicked at one of the frogs to satisfy her curiosity. She wanted to make sure that it was real and that she wasn’t dreaming. It seemed that she was awake by the way the frog reacted to her kick. She stepped back completely startled as the creature jumped up and hopped away from her. He landed on a pile of stunned and dead birds. Sitting there, staring at her, his big eyes seemed to be watching every move that she made. She never had liked frogs since Jody Henderson had slipped one down the back of her dress in biology class. Karen had been just a little shy about birds since Alfred Hitchcock had scared her to death with a movie about the subject. After dealing with birds and frogs, she wondered what would come her way next. Karen didn’t have long to wait. Hordes of bats, small ones, large ones, black ones and even old ones sent out their chilling, terrifying screams as they flew over the house. She was covered with the things before she could get through the storm door and close it. They clung to her dress, got entangled in her hair and worst of all, they bit her mercilessly whenever the opportunity presented itself. The opportunity was frequent, much to her dismay and horror. Karen fell to the porch floor screaming, squashing frogs, bats and birds in the process. Many of the frogs seemed to come back to life and hopped away from the screaming mass of human flesh and squeaking bats. Just before she passed out, Karen was able to see the onslaught of thousands of crickets, grasshoppers and roaches. * On this particular night, Norman Butler was late for church. As a reporter and photographer for the small towns only weekly newspaper, he wanted to do what every other good citizen in that part of the country did, attend church on a regular basis. He drove along the quiet country road just as a red sun was disappearing through the dark clouds in the west. He was glad the storm was over. However, the sudden appearance of the sun low on the western horizon cast an eerie glow across the dark landscape giving everything a pinkish glow in the twilight before darkness descended upon the land. He pushed down on the accelerator moving the speedometer needle up just past 55 and hoped that all the state cops were elsewhere. The last thing he wanted was a speeding ticket. Regardless, he would have to risk it to get to church before the services started. Seeing curves ahead, he relaxed and let up on the accelerator. As the vehicle responded and slowed, he noticed hundreds of dark forms crossing the road ahead of him. He managed to come to a complete halt, sliding the red Mustang sideways in the middle of the narrow road. Norman had never seen so many deer in his entire life. They were coming across the meadow on the Carrier Farm to his left. Jumping the barbwire fence, they crossed the road and jumped the fence on the other side of the road. The deer headed directly toward the forest to the east of where Norman was watching the mass migration, spellbound. He had never been so paralyzed in all his days as a reporter. Fires, death and even a chainsaw murder hadn’t had such an effect on him. Some of the deer were now hitting the car in a desperate effort to get away from something. What was so terrible that it drove hundreds of animals in front of it? The only thing he could think of was a forest fire. Not seeing smoke, or smell it, he was unable to justify that explanation. Even if there had been a fire, it wouldn’t have lasted long because the afternoon storm had left everything drenched in an ocean of water. Hardly the most likely environment for a forest fire, he figured. Norman sat there for what seemed like an hour while every animal that he could imagine headed east. Birds of every variety were flying overhead while every creature that crawled, walked or slithered upon the earth followed them toward the eastern forest. Wherever they were going, they definitely had a purpose in mind and that thought caused him to wonder if he were losing his sanity. Norman waited patiently until it was safe, started up the Mustang and at the first intersection, headed east also. Church would have to wait because God was calling everything that breathed to the New Noah’s Ark. * Bert Short was admiring the way her garden was growing while kneeling down and removing the weeds. She was repulsed by the mud, but knew that she would have to get the weeds out before it rained again and according to the weather people, that could happen any time now. Bert lived alone on the old Mason Farm just about six miles west of Yosemite. She took some pride in raising the best garden in the area and this year wasn’t going to be an exception. Everything in the garden was growing as it should and maybe it was growing just a little better than it had ever done before, she figured. It was going to be a good season for her garden and her food supply would be good, too. The more food that she could grow, the less food she would have to buy at the store. As the sun appeared briefly and began to sink behind the trees, she quickened her pace. Continuing to pull up the weeds, she occasionally noticed an increasing number of crickets in the area. As she worked, the few crickets became many and she decided to go to the shed and see if she had something to spray them with. She loved crickets. Having them in the garden wasn’t a good thing, though and she knew it. Bert didn’t know if they would hurt anything or not. Having them out of the garden so she could work unmolested would be something that she could live with. When she stood up to stretch her aching body, she was astounded to see that the entire garden and as far as she could see had turned black. The ground was slowly moving and it was moving toward her. Bert felt something cold crawling up her bare legs. She always wore shorts at the first sign of warm weather. When she got up enough courage to look down, she could see thousands of evil little creatures with little dark eyes moving up her legs. Thousands of crickets covered her entire body only minutes after she feinted and fell to the ground. She stopped breathing sometime after that as the mass of insects cut off her air supply and her heart slowly stopped beating. * At approximately three forty-five, the storm hit as Melissa Jones got into her yellow Volkswagon that was parked in front of the building that served as the mayor’s office and the police station. The town only had five cops so the police station only occupied one single room on the west end of the single story, wooden building. Her job as the secretary to the mayor and the Chief of Police entitled her to leave early one day a week and on this day, Melissa was exercising that right so she could go shopping. Melissa was only able to drive a few miles when the storm reached its full fury. She was only a few miles west of Yosemite when her radio quit, the car lights went out and the engine died. As the engine died with a last gasp of life, she let it drift over to the side of the road out of the path of any other traffic that might pass. She sat there alone in the vehicle and became more alarmed at the ferocity of the storm as torrents of rain pounded the windshield. Large balls of hail soon joined the rain and she thought that the windshield would surely crack from the deluge. As balls of hail the size of golf balls pounded the windshield, she sunk as far down in her seat as she could expecting to be covered in slivers of broken glass. Consequently, it didn’t happen as she expected. What did happen was that the rain and the hail stopped abruptly. Straight-line winds were still blowing from the southwest and she thought that her car, and her, might be carried aloft at any moment. I’m in the path of a tornado, she reasoned and that realization sent chills down her spine. Terrified, she couldn’t decide whether to get out of the car and find a ditch or to take her chances in the Volkswagon. Before she had made up her mind, her instinct had gotten the upper hand and she found herself out of the car, running up the road looking for the deepest part of the ditch that stretched along the paved highway. The skies darkened, just as she started to get into the ditch and there was a loud humming sound that seemed to come from directly overhead. Her thoughts were magnified and echoed back into her head giving her the impression that she was thinking the same thoughts repeatedly. Thoughts that she had been thinking seconds before repeated themselves and the experience nearly drove her insane. It was as if she were speaking into a tape recorder and what she had said was instantly played back as she was still talking. She’d never had such an experience in her life. The thought that she was reading her own thoughts turned her blood cold and made her shiver violently. The humming sound grew louder and so did the roaring wind. Melissa shielded her eyes from the wind and the rain with her left hand and looked up at the sky. She wasn’t sure what she was looking at. Was it a tornado that was spinning so fast that it looked like a solid object or was what she was seeing something else? As hard as it was for her to comprehend, she finally realized that she wasn’t looking at a tornado. She was looking at the bottom of something huge and round and it was dark gray almost the same color of the clouds that surrounded it. The thing must be larger than some small towns, she thought. Her head hurt, her body trembled and her thoughts still echoed from her mind. After convincing herself that she wasn’t crazy, that what she was seeing was real, she decided that she really was seeing a real flying saucer, or at least something that couldn’t have been constructed in her world. The enormous gray object was passing over her blocking most of the rain and hail. She couldn’t even imagine how gigantic something like that would have to be to be able to block the rain. Trembling from head to toe, she stood frozen to the ground as the thing passed over her. When she had calmed down as much as possible, everything began to make some sense, at least from her perspective. At first, she was so frightened that all she really saw was something huge and ominous that was obscuring the sky. However, the more she watched, the more detail she was able to commit to memory. The craft was big, perhaps as large as Yosemite, a town of over four hundred people. Her mind could not comprehend such a thing although she was able to accept that intrusion into her world by beings from some other world wasn’t entirely impossible. The enormity of the craft, the implications of visitors from another world, the feeling of being watched and the feeling of helplessness prevailed in her mind committing her to an insecure prison. Wondering how many other people might have looked up into that storm and saw what she’d seen, she watched it as it traveled over the trees in the distance. Years later, she would be able to recall the different colors of the lights, the small openings that she thought were windows and the dark gray color of the craft itself. As the craft slowly disappeared in the east, the rain came down in torrents and the hail hit her so hard that it hurt. Satisfied that she wasn’t in any immediate danger from a tornado, she ran back to the car. Soaking wet, she turned the ignition key and prayed. It started on the first try. However, she just sat there for almost ten minutes thinking about what had happened. Did she really see what she thought she saw or was it some kind of hallucination? She never was one who had believed in such things and didn’t want to start now. To deny that she had seen it would be to deny her own sanity. Melissa decided that she would not mention it to anyone else unless they brought up the subject first and even then, she wasn’t sure she even wanted to talk about it. Glancing at her watch, she was surprised to see that it was still four o’clock. She had left the office at that same time. Melissa shrugged her shoulders, put the car into gear, and drove off in the storm. * Gene Robertson finished his customary late afternoon snack before returning to the barnyard to work on the old tractor. He needed it very badly to help him finish up the spring planting. Without it, he was surely doomed. The weather radio activated before he finished washing dishes and the sound startled him as it always did. The announcer said that a severe storm was headed in his direction so he headed back outside to put his tools away. Things began to happen very quickly as he closed the back door to the screened in porch and stepped outside. The clouds in the west were already piling up and high “thunderheads” were everywhere. It was going to be a real “blower” he said out loud hoping the horses, cows and chickens would have enough sense to seek shelter. Suddenly, a humming sound filled his head and the sky turned black as the first drops of rain began to fall. Ignoring the cold drops of rain that plastered his body, he hastened his pace toward the barn. The pain in his head got worse. Maybe his sinuses were acting up again, he thought. The roar of a thousand freight trains got louder while the clouds grew closer and hail the size of chicken eggs fell all around him. It was darker than he had ever known. Because of the sudden deluge of rain and hail, he was unable to see the tornado that he was sure was somewhere out there headed in his direction. Tools were scattered everywhere by the time he reached the tractor. He managed to find most of them and return them to the heavy toolbox thinking that any time now he might be sucked up into the heavens. With all the tools safely in the box, he pushed it hurriedly behind the big wheel of the tractor. Maybe it would be safe there, he hoped, silently. Replacing necessary items like that was difficult for someone like himself on what little income he had. Suddenly, the hail, the rain and the roaring winds ceased. The threatening roar was replaced with a loud humming noise that vibrated like a jackhammer in the center of his brain. The intense noise caused him to look up in time to see a large, dark object with dozens of flashing lights passing overhead. The object was so vast that it was blocking the hail and rain from reaching him, or most of it anyway. Gene stood there spellbound, his eyes fixed intently on the object. He was aware of the ground beneath his feet vibrating. Terrified, he watched as the tractor jumped all over the place like a Mexican jumping bean. Appalled, he moved out of the way just in time to prevent the heavy machine from crushing him. Knowing that it couldn’t possibly be running because he had half of the engine components disassembled on the ground, he figured that something else must be causing the tractor to move around as it did. Perhaps an earthquake was causing the impossible to happen. When the object had passed over him, the hail and the rain poured down on his already soaked body. Despite the pain caused by the hail, he watched as the craft slowly descended and landed in his plowed cornfield about two miles away. He wasn’t sure about what he should do. He only knew that he had to do something. Should he call the police, FBI or the Air Force? Just who was he supposed to call under such circumstances? Before he could make up his mind or decide on a plan of action, he heard sounds of horses behind him. That wasn’t all that was coming down the road toward him. The three horses that he owned were leading the stampede with his five cows, seven hogs and a dozen chickens not far behind. The eyes of the horses were a fiery red and had a “wild look” in them. Gene thought that they looked like they were running from a forest fire. There was nothing behind them. The storm was getting worse and Gene thought that the lightning might have spooked them. That still didn’t explain their behavior. They had been through severe storms before and had never shown so much fear. They tossed their heads wildly in every direction ignoring the barbwire fence that tore into their flesh as they ran right through it as if it weren’t even there. The cows and chickens followed them as they broke through the fence, went across the pasture, over the wooden fence and out on the main highway. Gene’s frustrating fear slowly gave way to anger as he watched his few worldly possessions run away. Four tours of duty in Vietnam had taught him that if you succumbed to your fears that you were finished. He’d worked hard for what little he did have and those animals were the key to his survival. They were the difference between his success and failure. He still was undecided about what to do. As he stood there, the storm passed over as the clouds remained. His first thought was to call someone, however, his ancient warrior instincts prevailed. Gene headed toward the house to get his shotgun. He would get the animals back one way or the other and even space aliens weren’t going to stand in his way. * Norman Butler followed Route 1197 East and the further he drove, the more numerous the animals and other creatures became. It was something like a mass exodus from the forests and he couldn’t help but wonder why it was happening. He most certainly had never seen anything like it in his life. In his many years as a freelance reporter for some of the areas newspapers, he had seen many things but never a mass migration of animals and insects, especially all at the same time. Things became so bad that it was almost impossible for him to drive. The animals, birds and insects were passing by his car on the paved road just like he was sitting still and not moving at all. All he could do was to drive slowly, edging closer to his destination a few feet at a time. After about fifteen minutes, the sky and the earth itself in the east was just one huge, black mass, a cloud of living flesh that covered the sky and the ground. Suddenly less movement around him allowed him to make better time. Most of the migration had now dwindled down to a few birds and flying insects. It was curious, he thought, how the birds and insects were flying so close together. The birds had ignored the insects. Most of those insects were normally part of the birds food supply. It was as if they’d declared a truce, at least for a while, or something had awestruck them. As he drove to the top of a small hill, he could see the valley below and the forest beyond quite clearly except for the area of about a square mile that was covered with hundreds, maybe even thousands of creatures surrounding a circular object in someone’s cornfield. He stopped the car too dazed to even get out his camera. It was getting dark now, but even the feeble light left over from the daylight hours was enough to reveal a miracle unlike anything that had happened on Earth for a very long time. * Drucella Peters pushed the covers back and looked at the sleeping body next to her. The lovemaking had left him worn out. Nevertheless, she was still energetic enough for a couple more rounds in the sack. She was blond with short-cut hair, large blue eyes that sparkled at the thought of all the love he had given her and her creamy white skin was flawless. Her slim figure made her the kind of woman that would appeal to just about any man. Regardless of the possibilities, she’d chosen Jake Kidd for her lover. Jake was tall, had dark hair, brown eyes and probably could have held his own with the most professional wrestler. Brains weren’t one of his stronger points. As far as she was concerned, having a high IQ wasn’t necessary to make her happy. She had let him move in with her for a very specific reason and for one reason only. Jake would be with her forever. It was now time to put her plan of action into motion. Hadn’t they told her this day would come and that she would have to be prepared for it? “Jake. Jake,” she pleaded, shaking his shoulder slowly at first and then harder when he began to respond. “Jake, it’s time to wake up. We have to go on a little trip. Wake up, Jake!” It seemed like she had shaken him for five minutes before he finally awakened enough for her to talk to him. Jake had always been hard to awaken after sex. She thought that the task was more difficult on this night. Maybe she should have taken it easy on him? “What?” He asked rubbing his sleepy eyes finally realizing where he was. “What’s going on, Dear?” “We’re going somewhere. The time has come and we have to hurry. Get a shower and get dressed. Put on your best clothes.” Jake didn’t say anything. He did his best to get out of bed. My, they sure build them well down on the farm, she thought as she watched his naked body stumble toward the bathroom. She thought that she had made a wise choice. Almost exactly one hour later, they were in his old Chevy truck headed south toward Yosemite. They had a rendezvous that they could not afford to miss. “What’s this all about, Dru?” He asked her glancing over to catch another look at the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. “I’m sorry, Honey,” she replied, smiling. “Just keep driving and I’ll tell you how to get there. I don’t have much time to tell you now. I’ll explain things later. You’ll love it.” Jake didn’t really like it. She was just a little too “bossy” to suit him. Regardless, he did as he was told and kept driving. He drove another twenty minutes until they reached Yosemite where she told him to turn right. As he steered the old truck down the highway, the only thing he could think of to say was, “I wish I knew what was going on here.” By the time they reached the top of the hill where Norman Butler was still sitting in his car mesmerized by the sight below him, it was already dark. A full moon was peeping up over the eastern horizon. “Stop,” Drucella suddenly commanded. “Pull up beside that vehicle,” she instructed pointing at the vehicle where Norman Butler sat watching thousands of birds, insects and other animals congregate around an object that hung in the sky overhead like a small city suspended in space. Jake could not believe what he saw. Drucella acted as if she had either seen it all before or was expecting what was waiting for them down in the foggy valley. * Gene Robertson had arrived at the place where the round craft had landed by taking a shortcut through the wet fields and woods. He didn’t exactly know how he knew the livestock would end up there. The idea seemed to appear in his mind and hang there urging him to meet his animals at the rendezvous. He just knew that there was some kind of connection between the runaway animals and the huge craft. He didn’t have a hankering to know how he knew that. Upon arrival, he had discovered that the so-called spaceship had landed in his cornfield making a mess of it. He had only plowed it a few days ago and had planted the last of the corn yesterday. Now, thanks to some “smart assed” aliens, he would have to do it all over again. He was angry and just wanted to let go at the spaceship with his shotgun. Regrettably, he knew that he couldn’t do that without hitting the animals that were all around the thing as if waiting for a signal to board it. His headache had been bothering him since the storm had first appeared and it got worse as he approached the craft. The pain felt like it would cause his head to split wide open any second. In pain, frustrated and angry, he trudged onward toward the ship that was now just a dark silhouette against the starlit night sky. As he drew closer, he was aware of more animals, birds and insects surrounding the craft than he had thought were there. A wall of living, squirming flesh blocked his path. Someone had opened Pandora’s box and the best and the worst had been collected in one place. There was a constant chatter in his head. It was unlike anything he had ever heard before. A thousand voices and Gene couldn’t understand what one of them was saying or what it all meant. “Sure is amazing, isn’t it?” A female voice said from behind him. Terrified, startled, he jumped not wanting to turn around because he really didn’t know what he might see behind him. The first thing that came to his mind was some beautiful alien that would suddenly eject a long tongue from her mouth and wrap it around his neck. The next thing that would happen would be that her long, sharp teeth would slowly devour him as he screamed in a fit of harsh, unbearable pain. He had read enough science fiction to know a little about how aliens worked. Instinctively, in response to the voice, he did turn around and was surprised to see a lovely young girl holding hands with a young man. Another man was taking pictures with a Nikon camera. Gene knew it was an expensive Nikon because he had owned one during the war so many years ago when he had been a combat photographer. He didn’t know why that was important to him. Realizing that the photographer, the girl and the young man were a connection to reality, to the sane world and that he wasn’t alone, he sighed feeling relieved that he wouldn’t have to face his fate alone. Peering through the darkness, he quickly figured out that the man was a photographer because the camera looked like it had seen a lot of use. Only someone who took a lot of pictures would abuse a fine camera like that. In the dim light of the full moon and the stars, he began to notice a few details about the trio. The girl was blond and beautiful. The only characteristic he noticed about her companion was that he was tall, well built and probably was a farmer. The other gentleman was about thirty-five and wore a felt hat that made him resemble a private detective in one of the old gangster movies. Other than that, Gene’s impression of him was one of professionalism. “I’m Drucella Peters,” the blond woman said, extending her hand. “We didn’t mean to startle you.” “Honey, if all this hasn’t startled me, then a pretty little thing like you doesn’t have much of a chance.” Gene had two grown daughters older than her and hoped that her boyfriend realized that he was too old to be much competition for him. His fatherly attitude toward her was one of friendliness. “I don’t know much about that,” Drucella admitted, “but I do know that this is my boyfriend Jake Kidd and the man there is a reporter.” “We all met back there on the highway,” the reporter replied letting the camera hang from the strap around his shoulder. Offering his hand to Gene, he said, “Norman Butler is the name,” he added. “Glad to meet you, Norman,” Gene said, shaking his hand. “I believe that I’ve seen your name in the local papers.” “Probably so,” he informed him. “Do you know what’s going on here, Gene? I mean, all this is so strange. Is that really a spaceship and are all the animals and insects in the country guarding it?” “You must be a reporter,” Gene said managing to laugh for the first time since the invasion had started. “You sure ask a lot of questions. I guess that’s exactly what a reporter is supposed to do, though. I don’t know much about it except those guys in that ship messed up my cornfield pretty good. That’s about all that I know and that’s not much.” “Well, I guess all I know is what I’m seeing now,” Norman agreed, “except all the animals seem to have come here for some real reason; for some specific purpose. The big question is, what prompted them to come here where the ship landed. They seemed to know it was coming. How did they know where the ship was going to land and that it was coming?” “I couldn’t even guess,” Gene admitted looking at all the life forms that had accumulated around the dark mass that had come from some other place. That place most certainly wasn’t on the earth. “I think that I can shed some light on the subject,” Drucella offered. “Well, don’t keep us in suspense,” Norman pleaded. “What do you know about all this?” “It all started about six months ago,” Drucella said, “and at first, I thought that I was going crazy. Then, I slowly graduated to the idea that I was pregnant. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that I was pregnant. I had headaches, stomach problems and a wild appetite that just about drove me crazy. I wanted everything from ice cream to fried green apples. Scared that I was pregnant, I finally gave in and went to the doctor. He told me that I wasn’t pregnant. He thought that I had some kind of virus. The only problem was that tests didn’t disclose anything.” “So what connection does that have with what has happened here?” Gene asked, wondering what she was getting at. “Well, shortly after that, I started hearing voices,” she continued. “I mean, at first, it was just strange voices that I couldn’t understand. After a few days, I was beginning to understand them. They were speaking with a strange accent that I had never heard before. Eventually, with a little effort, I was able to understand what they were saying. They told me that they were strangers and needed directions to where I was. After some experimentation, I was able to talk back to them. What was so eerie was that all this talk was taking place in my head. That’s why I didn’t know if it was real or not.” “What did these voices say?” Norman inquired wondering if she weren’t as loony as the animals, insects and birds that had followed a spaceship from another world to his cornfield. “Eventually, they got around to telling me that they were scientists from some other world. They disclosed that they were collecting specimens to take back to their home world.” “So, did they say what they wanted the specimens for?” Gene asked. His survival instincts had gone on full alert now. He could think of a lot of questions that he wanted to ask this strange woman that seemed to know more than anyone else about what was going on. Biding his time, deciding not to interfere with her, he decided to let her answer his question before he forced more questions on her. She might clam up and not tell him anything. “After a little while, I was able to understand them enough to figure out some things,” Drucella explained. “From what they told me, I learned that they wanted the specimens as part of their research of life on other worlds. They said this research would benefit us because it would allow them to study diseases and genetic problems that plagued us. Promising that their research would be beneficial to us, they told me that if I helped them that they would find solutions to our problems and help us. They wanted to take a variety of animals and insects with them for study. They even asked if I would go along and help them with their studies. They said I would be invaluable because I could help them identify the species they were interested in collecting. I only agreed when they said that I could take Jake along with me.” She punched Jake in the ribs. The only reaction he could muster was a slight, quirky grin. “Amazing,” Norman said. “So, you mean to say that they’re going to take all these creatures to some other planet and two humans along with them?” “Quite true,” Drucella replied. “Do you want to go, Mr. Butler?” “I don’t think so,” Norman answered. As they stood talking, the dark ship began to glow and rise up again. The animals didn’t seem to be frightened or concerned about the sudden event. “What’s going on now?” Gene asked stepping back and looking up at the gigantic craft as it hovered high above the ground. Suddenly, without warning, a pale, blue light emanated from the bottom of the ship. Many of the creatures began to move under the craft into the light. I think they’ve just been invited to a party, Gene said to nobody in particular. They were immediately sucked up into it as if they were just specks of dust drawn into a vacuum cleaner hose. From the smallest, unseen microbe to the largest cow, they all experienced the same process of having their bodies lifted by the tractor beam. Disappearing by the thousands, they entered a mysterious ship from another world until only four humans were left standing in the drifting fog, the pale moonlight, amazed at what had happened. “So what happens now?” Norman asked. “Are they going to leave us here as witnesses or are we going to be abducted like the rest of those creatures?” “I’ll tell you what happens now,” Gene replied, angrily. “I’m going to go in there and get my livestock back, one way or the other.” “How do you think you’re going to get in there?” Norman asked him. “Just like everything else in creation got into the ship,” Gene informed him. “I’ll use that blue beam there, the same way they did.” “Yeah, but when you’re in the ship, how do you plan to get out?” Norman inquired trying to dissuade him from doing such a stupid and irrational thing. “By the time I get done with them … well, they’ll be glad to let me go and my animals, too.” His anger was stronger than his logic or his common sense. All Gene could think about was the property that had been taken away from him. “Well, you guys can do what you want to do,” Drucella announced, “but the voices are telling me that it is time for us to go.” “Miss Peters, you aren’t actually going to go in there? Are you really going to do that?” Norman asked her. “Of course,” she answered, “after all, that’s the reason we came here.” “Think about this, consider the consequences. What happens to you once they have you under their control? You still have time to change your mind and get the heck out of here,” Norman warned her. “How do you know what those things are in there? How do you know what they will do to you once you are at their mercy?” “Because they said that I could trust them. They sound like decent people,” Drucella replied stating her case firmly. Norman could plainly see that she was determined to hold her ground. “If someone told you to jump off a bridge, would you do that too?” Norman asked getting impatient with her. He couldn’t believe that anyone could reach such a conclusion based on something that complete strangers had told her, especially when the strangers had admitted that they were from another world. “That’s besides the point,” she replied. “And, they just told me that they have to leave. They want all of us to walk into the light. This is my big chance to make something out of myself. Just think, they really need me to help them to care for the other creatures. Jake and I will be the first humans to travel to other worlds, other galaxies and to places that even I cannot imagine.” “Well, you’re not going in there alone,” Norman insisted. “Maybe I can convince them to leave you here. Maybe I can get a good story out of this?” “I’m sure you will be welcome,” Drucella replied, “but please mind your own business. The fact that I want to go with them is my business. Nobody is going to stop me or talk me out of it. I’m sure that Jake feels the same way.” “Well let’s quit the female chattering and get going,” Gene said getting more impatient and disgruntled by the moment. Cautiously, and with a great fear that was always present with the unknown, they slowly walked toward the light. As they approached the ship, they began hearing thousands of eerie, distant voices that seemed to be concentrated in their heads. Only the trained mind of Drucella could understand fully what some of those voices were saying. PREPARE FOR THEM … BETTER THAN SAUERKROTAN … LUSCIOUS FEASTS FIRST … MAIN INGREDIENTS … ADD TO COLLECTION Those words and phrases didn’t make any sense to her. Unconcerned, she realized that she was picking up bits and pieces of communications between the aliens themselves. Apparently, none of the communications seemed to be directed at her. They walked into the light. Four humans who had been complete strangers only a few hours ago, except for Drucella and Jake, now shared the same fears, the same feeling of insecurity and the same fate. Almost as soon as they were under the ship, their minds seemed to melt together. They could hear each other’s thoughts, feel each other’s fears and even know a little about what the other persons were thinking. Most of them were worrying about what was going to happen next. The unknown usually provoked such concerns in the minds of humans and this unknown wasn’t any exception. Their bodies began to tingle as the beam of light mapped every atom, every neutron, every proton, every cell structure and fed the exact coordinates of each of those minute things back into an advanced computer system. In a billionth of a second, in less time than the blink of a human eye, the tractor beam absorbed them. Within seconds, their molecules were reassembled inside the ship. It would be a few minutes before they finally regained consciousness and realized that they once more existed. If nothing else, the men proved something that many had learned in previous years. That fact was that women aren’t the only ones who scream at the sight of something so terrible that the human mind can’t comprehend it. Men scream, too especially when something is so horrible that their minds can’t even understand it. Such was the case that night on the spaceship when four human beings met creatures from another world so unlike ours that their physics hardly applied here. The human mind is quite capable of building images of the way things should be or the way we want things to be. Our perception of the world as we want it to be sometimes oversteps he boundaries of reality. We call that fantasy. Some people have a difficult time dealing with reality so they create their own little world where things are pleasant, appealing and comfortable. Each of the four humans had a different perception of what to expect that night. Not one of them was prepared for what they really saw. Reality was a horror for them so great that it drove them over into a world of insanity. The first revelation Norman Butler had was of a huge room filled with bright, intense orange light. The floors, walls and everything else were made from a dark metal or something that resembled metal. He wasn’t sure what it was. His next realization took some consideration before he was willing to accept that what he was seeing was real. Four enormous creatures stood in front of them. They were dark, oblong and he quickly counted six legs or maybe two legs and four arms depending on how his throbbing mind allowed him to perceive the creatures. Since they were standing on two of the legs, he figured that they had four arms. That didn’t really matter, he thought, because each of those arms had sharp claws. More noticeable were the small heads, dark beady eyes and the two long “feelers” that extended from just above their eyes. Just as frightening to them were the thousands of smaller creatures that flew about the room and crawling on the walls, ceiling and floor. Gene’s eyes were completely white with terror. The room was vast. Looking up nervously, he saw that the ceiling was nonexistent. It appeared as if the interior of the ship extended into eternity. He wondered how so much space could exist inside an object that had only looked like it was about the size of an acre of his farmland. Looking off into the distance, he could hardly see the farthest wall. The walls nearest to him were dark with small squirmy creatures. “Cockroaches!” Gene finally managed to mumble not sure if he was trying to communicate the fact to the others or if he was just trying to convince himself of that fact. “Damn cockroaches. I hate those things.” The others were silent for only a few seconds before the truth finally sunk in. Small cockroaches, perhaps babies and children of the adults, were sitting idly on walls, posts, on the floor and flying around the enormous facility as if they were waiting for a signal from their peers to advance on the helpless humans. The adults stood around them as if not quite sure about what to do or maybe they were contemplating how to approach their guests. Their alien eyes surveyed the humans as their long feelers twitched in every direction. Arguing over some trivial issue that seemed to be important to them, two of the creatures became engaged in a deadly battle to the death. Only one was victorious. Holding one of his arms high seeking attention, he pointed toward the humans and issued an order. As beasts with armored plating on their chests moved toward the humans, they knew their fate. Backing away from the alien soldiers, the humans screamed. The sound of their terrified voices echoed off some distant wall. Struggling, pleading for mercy that they knew would never be granted to them, they succumbed to shock as they were dragged toward an area that had a railing around it. The railing was obviously there to keep the aliens from falling off into the endless space below. Drucella looked at the walls in the room nearest to them. Some parts of the walls were built like shelves with thousands of cages. Those cages contained thousands of animals and insects. Many of those she had never seen before. Others were familiar to her. They were from earth. Frantically looking around her as she struggled to escape from two of the disgusting creatures that dragged her toward the other side of the room, she looked for a way to get away and saw none. Surrounded by millions of “bugs”, she knew that her life would soon be ended. Looking up, she saw that nothing was above her except endless space, and more cockroaches. They were dragged viciously across the cold, damp floor to an area where huge vertical beams were mounted in the floor. These seemed to be about twelve feet high and there were several of them. Many species of animals were bound to these posts. Their horrified screams seemed to pulsate through Drucella’s body with a chilling effect that made her think that the very marrow in her bones was frozen. Drucella recognized deer, cows and many other helpless earth animals among those that she had never seen before. Other cages contained smaller insects and animals. Their strange, unfamiliar screams and shrieks got louder as they realized their fate. It seemed that even the lowest life form knew when it is about to die. That thought pulverized her mind sending shivers down her spine, terrifying her and she just wanted to pinch herself hoping that she’d wake up. It wasn’t a nightmare and she knew it. Everything was real, too real and she knew she was going to die. Glancing at Jake, she wished that she’d never listened to those strange voices in her head. If she’d listened to her female intuition, she would be home with Jake. The realization that they were about to be eaten alive by millions of roaches appalled her and made her wonder how she could be so stupid. She’d made one mistake that she would not be able to rectify. Just like the rest of the helpless creatures that had answered the call of the longest surviving insect—that had been on the earth for millions of years, and had traveled to other planets while dinosaurs roamed the earth—they’d learned the primary reason why the species had so easily survived where others had become extinct. They were deceptive, cunning and they ate anything and everything that could possibly be consumed. Roaches had been enormous, intelligent and aggressive in the early days when dinosaurs provided them with a main source of food. When the dinosaurs disappeared, they’d had to construct giant ships to carry them to other worlds where they preyed on other species until they too, were extinct. Over millions of years, their kind had survived. Foraging the galaxy, they’d inhabited other worlds, stripped those worlds of all sources of food, and then moved on. That had been their agenda, their way of life for millions of years. While humans dominated the earth, roaches retraced their steps knowing that eventually, a new source of food would emerge on the blue and green world where they’d once called home. Now they’d captured enough food to provide them with a good meal. Before the children became adults, they’d have to move on to find more food. Their kind was scattered throughout the galaxy. As enormous as the galaxy was, it wasn’t big enough for the roaches. They’d eventually have to move on to another galaxy, and then another until they dominated most of the universe. Terrified, Drucella screamed. The scream clung to the bottom of her throat and could not escape no matter how hard she tried. As the creatures tore her limbs from her body causing her excruciating pain, she looked at Jake, at Gene and at Norman Butler. The last thing she saw in this world before blackness surrounded her was the creatures tearing them apart with their sharp claws. Gene screamed and the echo seemed to follow her into the darkness where all was tranquil, silent and free of pain. Feasting on the bodies, the roaches occasionally cast their glances at enormous screens on walls near them where the planet earth, blue, green and majestic, swam in a sea of blackness speckled with millions of twinkling lights. Confident that the small world would accommodate them for a long time, provide them with a stable diet and give them food to nurture their young, they twitched their feelers upward in approval. Yes, the world was small, however, the humans were plentiful and their flesh was tasty, nutritious and pleasant to their palate. They guessed they’d stay awhile and devastate the world as they had done before. The End
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