Again, I am alone.
I had long come to the conclusion that we deserved this. We had this coming. Its karma-like qualities were almost laughable. Centuries we sat by and allowed destructions, not only of our own planet but also of each other. War, poverty, famine, theft, homicide, genocide, infanticide, violence, drugs, rock n' roll: It was so easy for us to fall back onto our primeval instincts. It was so natural to hate, to fight, to fear.
And to begin with I did. I hated them, fought them, and most of all I feared them. It was easy for me to spot the interlopers in the masses. Of course, I had no idea WHAT they were, but I knew something was off, even at such a young age. They were such small changes and yet I could spot them from a mile away. The absence of apathy towards day to day violence, the constantly sunny dispositions, the mirror-like flash just beyond their pupils, and last of all the identical scars on the back of their necks. All were my silent clues to the major change to come.
At the time I though little of the changes. In fact, I was delighted by them. Life was suddenly far more peaceful than it had ever been. I could walk home from school alone without fear of getting kidnapped or mugged. School became a place without fights, jealousy, and god forbid, paste-eating. News programs were suddenly concentrated on every four year-olds fifth birthday the next day instead of court cases, car bombings, and double homicides. You could walk through a crowded place without worrying about pickpockets. You could traverse a dark alley at midnight without worrying about being attacked by the creatures of the night. Violence became nearly nonexistent, disease ceased to plague the earth, cancer was cured, famine disappeared, war came to a screeching halt, and that was when we all realized that the earth had stopped spinning.
It wasn't until Amelia went off for a business trip and came back as everything but my mother that the fear finally sunk in. The fear became a crushing reality on my conscience as I realized my friends and family were gone; they had been replaced by beings whose origins I couldn't even imagine. It wasn't long before Daniel became as different as Amelia and it was then that Carly and I knew it was time to run. There was no one left to hold us there and no reason to lose ourselves as they had been lost.
We packed the night after we discovered Daniel's change. At first we were frantic. We naively believed that life would be the same for us if we simply escaped. Carly was twelve while I was five and we were both adamant on bringing every possession in our bedrooms. We quickly discovered that this was not possible. I was incredibly small and could hold little more than a few pounds. I insisted on carrying our only change of clothes. We were limited to what we wore on our backs and the one change of clothes we each had in my little backpack. Carly resolved that food was our best bet for her bag and she packed as much as she could carry. It wasn't until later that I realized how smart that was. She also packed a few leftover medicines, band-aids, medical supplies, and such, as I had always been a clumsy child and would inevitably hurt myself on the run. She also packed a single blanket which would cover us both when needed.
And as the sun set and Amelia and Daniel set us to bed, we quietly made our escape down the fire escape of our small New York apartment. We set off running down the street, determined to put as much space between what used to be our parents' bodies and our own childish frames. In the cloak of the night it was far easier to blend into the shadows without incident. Few of them were out so late and so we were free to flee the city without being called out as runaways. We quickly boarded a train to New Jersey, determined to drive ourselves into the wilderness as much as possible. We both knew, intuitively, that safety was in seclusion, no matter how lonely it may have been.
At first, life on the run was torture, or something quite close to it. Neither Carly nor myself were skilled in taking care of ourselves. Carly could easily prepare food, but we were not accustomed to living outdoors. It lately occurred to us that matches might have been a smart move. We came very close to simply giving up and going home, even after it became quite clear of what was happening to every human on the planet. It was so difficult we began not to care whether or not we were found. Eventually our food ran out and Carly had to steal into the night to find more. Those were times when I was left alone whimpering in the bushes always wondering if she would return. It was those moments that left me wanting to run home even to the creatures that used to be my parents.
But she would always return. She took me up in her arms as though she hadn't seen me in years, and sometimes it truly felt like that. As time progressed, our routines of hiding and stealing became easier. We quickly observed their patterns, their way of life, and they were remarkably similar to us, only far more peaceful. I began to respect them for their dispositions. That did not mean, however, that I wanted to disappear within the confines of my own mind at their hands. I refused to vanish.
Slowly we made our way west. It was far easier to find hiding places in the east, but there was always far more threat of discovery even in the shadow of the trees. Population was far more sporadic out west and thus it was safer to travel longer distances and stay in a single place for a longer period of time. We were able to stay close to a cluster of towns for months at a time before they became suspicious and we had to move on. We had our fair share of Seeker action due to the suspicion and we were always on our toes to make sure we didn't run into them. We both knew that meant death.
Of our souls.
By the time I'd turned twelve, Carly had taught herself to drive and we'd stolen a car back in Maysville, Kentucky. Our travel was much easier and we could slip away quickly and farther away if we needed to. No more running. Of course, at that point we both were strong enough not to have to worry about being overtaken. I was fast and Carly had the strength of any man twice her size. We'd stolen sleeping bags and tents and we now comfortable living as we did. We could pack in thirty seconds flat and go and finding food and shelter was now second nature. Our biggest problem was medicine.
Our own medicine was lacking. Human meds quickly disappeared and it was hard to find their healing materials outside their hospitals. By sneaking into the hospitals we truly risked our heads. It was even harder considering the hospitals were open 24/7. We only succeeded in getting the medicines we needed through Carly's cleverness. We'd monitored the truck schedules for days on end, documenting as we went along. The timing had to be perfect. I was to be the lookout while Carly sneaked into the supply truck and loaded us up on everything from No Pain to Seal. We had meticulously planned every aspect of our little raid and it was successful most of the time.
Most of the time being the operative phrase. We had one rather large slip up.
It started out rather routine. The alien had unloaded a set of boxes onto a cart and we had approximately three minutes for Carly to load everything into our bag. We didn't concentrate on how much we got of each. We just ripped open the boxes and began stuffing our bag. Carly was having trouble opening the Heal which was the most important to us at the time when the alien came out. I snapped my fingers frantically, struggling to pull Carly away before he reached the back of the truck. But she was determined to get the Heal. And that cost us our cover.
"Carly!" I grunted, waving frantically for her to grab and go.
"Who's back there?" The alien asked, peering into the darkness of the truck.
I grabbed Carly's tall shoulder and yanked, pulling her backward and out. She groaned as we took off running. Carly barreled the alien down. I was sure he only spotted a blur of her and me but we would never know. We ran the mile and a half to the jeep, locking ourselves in without bothering to buckle our seatbelts. Carly turned the key and slammed on the gas, rocketing back to the highway. We drove for hours, not bothering to return to our previous campsites. We'd already worked hard to cover our tracks and we were sure no one would find us.
Oh, how wrong we were.
We had settled in the heart of the Arizona desert. We'd located some old Native American settlements that had long been abandoned and we were staying there for quite some time. We were close to the San Pedro River, so there was little worry about water supply. We traveled every few weeks to different cities in the vicinity to supply ourselves with food. In reality we weren't stealing, as money was nonexistent in their society, however I was sure they kept an inventory for supplier purposes. We'd been in Arizona almost a year and however much we hated having to move again, we knew that the time was slowly drawing closer.
We were going on our last raid in the area before we moved on. One more raid before we moved back up north towards Tucson. Carly had recently stolen a brand new SUV and as such we were far less conspicuous in the cleaner and more updated vehicle. I sat in the passenger seat strategizing our next settlement and the possible towns we could raid for food. We had to have an area sparse with small towns but out of the way enough to hide. We would pass through Tucson and I quickly anticipated that would be the most unnerving time of our entire trip.
"So, I figure we move up towards Sacramento and after that Redding. If we stay near Snake Lake we will be able to stay there for a while with a bit more cover than we've had down here. More of them will be around, but it's nothing we haven't covered before." I muttered, tucking a strand of sun bleached sandy-blonde hair behind my ear.
"Sounds like a plan. You are the brains of the operation." Carly responded with a smile, her calloused hands tapping to the music playing through the radio.
I snorted. "Sure. Me. The kid who nearly ran home to her alien parents after they'd been body-snatched. Real brainy." I folded up the map, tossing it on the dash.
"You may have not had the formal education that I had, but you are way smarter than me, and that is saying something." Carly grinned at me, improving my mood tenfold. Carly always knew how to cheer me up, even when I was exhausted as I was at that moment. We'd hurried through packing this morning and the sun hadn't even risen. It was an understatement to say that I wasn't a morning person.
Carly rolled down the windows, allowing the wind to whip her warm brown hair around her face. My hair was usually a dull chocolate brown but due to the last few months in the Arizona sun it had faded to a sandy-blonde. Carly's hair was much darker than my own as though it was obvious we were sisters, it was apparent that I got my looks from our mother and she got her looks from our father.
"Hey, Sky, guess what?" Carly glanced at me from the corner of her eye. I knew that look all too well. It indicated that she had a secret she was keeping from me and it was a mischievous one. Or one of incredibly good news. Either would probably leave me with a grin on my face.
"Does this secret have anything to do with sheep?"
Carly gave me an odd look. "Of course not, crazy girl." She paused, licking her lips just to create suspense for me. I didn't fall for it. "No, it has nothing to do with sheep and everything to do with having a home again, unconventional as it may seem. But then again, our life is the ultimate in unconventional."
"What are you talking about?" Shock colored both my expression and my voice. A home? It had been years since I'd even considered the term a possibility. I had already resolved that I would never again have a home.
"I caught a bit of reports on the police frequency. Or rather, Seeker frequency now. Consequences of being a twelve year-old computer nerd. Anyway, I caught their frequency and I heard that there is suspicion about a place a short way out of Tucson. A couple of them disappeared out there a year or so back. My guess is they were kidnapped. If they'd gotten lost they probably would have stuck in one place to easily be found. I've heard there're caves around this area. I'm betting there's a colony of us down in those caves. And we're going to find it. Can't hurt anything right? You've got the natural sense of direction, so you can find us back to the road if we do get lost. Maybe we'll get lucky. Maybe we'll find a home." Carly smiled with undeniable hope. She was far more optimistic than I had ever been. I knew it wouldn't hurt to try. We were well-versed in our survival instincts.
"I guess. But what happens when we find ourselves in the middle of nowhere? I can find our way back, sure, but will we have enough food and water to last us? We will be in the desert after all. I can't crack open cactuses every five minutes. My hands would go numb. And I'm fairly positive a good portion of that land is cactus free. And what if there's rain? What then? It's hard to survive the flash floods, even with our survival prowess." I answered reasonably, grimacing as I reopened the map of Arizona we'd stolen.
"You are so not going to deter me from this plan, miss Sky." She gave me her stubborn face which clearly indicated that she would not be swayed by my logic. Carly was an extremely emotion driven person. I on the other hand was very logical.
"Ugh. Fine. No matter how irrational this is, I will go along with it. But if we get killed, it's your fault."
"Yeah, yeah, now give us a plan genius girl." Carly laughed, looking up into the rearview mirror. I'd reopened the map and was examining it closely, so it took me several moments to realize that Carly's face had gone extremely pale.
"Carly, sis, what's the deal?" I asked, panic filling my tone.
"Seekers." She merely muttered her voice thick. She pulled over, full knowing we had no choice but to obey the flashing blue and red lights. Otherwise we would immediately be under suspicion. The police car pulled in front of us, blocking our immediate exit. The lights shut off and out climbed the Seeker, seemingly friendly. Carly composed her face quickly and gave me a sharp look indicating I should compose my own.
The Seeker strolled up to Carly's window. "What seems to be the problem?" Carly asked innocently, her warm brown eyes glowing with sincerity.
"There was a report down in Sierra Vista of a stolen car matching the description of yours. I just wanted to check your license. I know it's inconvenient, miss, but it's just a regular check. There is suspicion that there were some rogues in the area." The Seeker smiled. It was obvious that she didn't want to inconvenience us and that she was merely following protocol. I almost felt guilty for hating them.
"Sure thing." Carly muttered, reaching across me as though getting into the box in front of my seat. I knew what she was doing. She had no choice. She had no license because we couldn't take the test. They scanned your eyes in the drivers test and therefore they would immediately reprimand us. We were both self taught, even though my driving was a little early even for a human. It was necessary though and I was a very good driver.
Carly popped open the glove box, reaching into the small black bag and whipped the tiny pistol straight into the Seekers face. It didn't take long for the Seeker to respond similarly. The Seeker's expression was now hard and angry. I was shocked to discover this. I wasn't aware they showed such emotions. What neither of us was expecting was for the Seeker to pull the trigger. And she did. As a warning. The round shattered the SUV's windshield, making me scream as tiny bits of glass spattered my face. Carly, in a desperate panic, gave me a very significant look. It was a look I'd only seen once and then it had been meant as a signal.
A signal for me to cut and run. And leave her behind.
"Ok, Ok. Don't shoot." Carly stepped out of the car, raising her hands in the air. The Seeker stepped backward a few paces, keeping her pistol trained on Carly's head. Carly stepped forward, leaning down to lower the pistol on to the ground. "I'm going to put the gun down. Just don't shoot at my sister again." She grunted as her pistol clattered against the pavement. That was my cue.
I practically threw myself into the front seat, turning the ignition and slamming on the gas. I was fully prepared for the impact of the SUV on the small police vehicle, but it didn't take me long to kick the puny car to the side and speed of towards Tucson at a hundred miles an hour. I didn't bother to look back as tears began streaming down my face. Somehow I knew this day would come. Carly was smart. I knew what she was doing the exact moment I sped off. She'd kicked up the gun she'd laid on the ground and I knew that the Seeker and her were having a standoff as I sped into the distance. She would escape. And she would meet me at the colony.
She would. And I would find it. And we would have a home again. If it was the last thing I did.
s w i t z e r l a n d
It had been eighteen long days walking from the highway from Tucson into the desert and I was absolutely nowhere. I knew my way back, yes, but I didn't know if I could make it all the way back to the car without collapsing of heat stroke. Besides, the car was probably already discovered and so I had no choice but to wander the desert aimlessly, endlessly, forever.
No. I was being pessimistic again. I would find this so called colony of hers. True, I had absolutely nothing to go on except that it was somewhere north of Tucson. It was all the information I could extract from Carly in that short time.
Oh, let's all face it, I was screwed.
It had reached midday when I finally had to collapse on the ground if just for a few minutes. The heat was unbearable. My skin had no problem with sunburn. I tanned well after all these years. However, my internal organs were not particularly enjoying the rising temperature of my body. I felt nauseous and my throat was dry. I still had a couple more bottles of water, but I knew I should save them for tomorrow. It was not healthy, but it would keep me alive just a little bit longer. I briefly wished I'd brought some No Pain or SOMETHING, but panic and determination had me a little frazzled as I stuffed the necessities into my bag back at the car.
I laid against the yellowed dust and dirt of the desert floor, breathing heavily. I closed my eyes, allowing a little of my exhaustion to set in. I could sleep, just for a few minutes. That wouldn't hurt anything. I'd been bitten by some of the worst creatures in the desert and survived. A rattle snake attack I could take. A Seeker attack not so much. They had guns.
Within seconds I fell into a deep stupor. Or maybe it wasn't a stupor. Maybe I had actually fallen asleep. Before I knew it I was dreaming. And boy was it was vivid dream.
Night had fallen and just beyond my vision I could see flashlights circling the ground. Oh no. They found me. I had to move. I had to lift my creaking limbs and run at top speed. Get up, Sky. Stand up.
The flash of light got closer and with their approach I heard voices.
"Is she dead?" The tone to the boy's voice sounded like he wanted to poke me with a stick.
"I don't think so. Looks like heat stroke got this one. Doesn't look like a Seeker. She's awfully young. Why would she be out here?" An older voice wondered. He sounded kind but firm. His voice reminded me of my grandfather.
"Jamie, get down and check her. Be careful boy. She might be faking." The elder voice commanded. It occurred to me that he must be the leader of this ragtag group that was hovering just beyond my dream vision.
Light footsteps echoed behind me and I felt a large but thin hand lift up my hair and feel the back of my neck. I groaned, taken aback by the feel of the boy's coarse touch. His hands felt cool against my skin. My fever must have been through the roof. "No scar, Jeb." The boy Jamie responded, standing.
"Let's take her in. She looks like hell. Doc will be able to fix her up right quick. When she wakes up we'll check her eyes. Who knows, we may have an addition to our community tonight." The man named Jeb stated. It sounded like her threw a gun over his shoulder. "Blindfold her just in case, Jamie and carry her to the jeep."
"Sure thing." The boy Jamie said. I felt his rough hands lift my head and I grunted again as he gently tied a blindfold over my eyes. I was too incoherent to care. This dream was far too surreal to be believed. I felt a bit of coherency return when I was abruptly lifted into the air. However, my stomach grumbled in protest and I curled in reflexively to stifle the pain. I really did not want to throw up.
Jamie laid me in the backseat of a car, sitting next to me and holding my hands together. As if I could resist in my condition. This dream boy was a little stupid. His voice indicated he couldn't be much older than I was. After a few minutes of driving, I fell back into my drunken stupor where dreams were absent and things made sense again.
s w i t z e r l a n d
Okay, I was FAR too comfortable. Wasn't I just wandering the desert to my death? I was in the onset of heat stroke, seconds from puking my guts out on the cracked desert floor! This comfort must've meant that I was dead.
"I think she's waking up!" The voice surprised me. It was vaguely familiar. There was a name to it. Jamie! Yes, that was it.
I groaned, turning and opening my eyes to find myself in a cavern filled with cots. It took me a moment to register several people in the room. The first was the boy, probably no older than sixteen, sitting across from me with a grin on his face. The second was the old man standing next to him with a shotgun in his hand. That comforted me; for it was then I knew I was among fellow humans. No alien would carry a shotgun on them. A small group stood behind them, including a pair of women, exact opposites in appearance and yet there was something distinctly strange about how they stood. There seemed to be a connection I couldn't grasp between them. A man who appeared to be of the care giving nature stood on my other side. I immediately recognized him as the doctor. I wasn't lying when I said I was very intuitive. Next to each of the women was a man, and both were very attractive, though obviously far too old for me. It was obvious immediately to me though of their relationships to the women they stood next to.
What I did not notice for several seconds, however, was the truly strange thing about the smallest of the women. She had fine blonde hair and she seemed rather delicate, though it looked as though she'd grown out of it after some years. There was something distinctly alien about her. I only had to turn my head a couple inches to the left to see the mirror-like glint in her eye.
"She screamed. A shocker." The other woman groaned, shaking her head in annoyance.
"It's okay. She's not bad." The boy said to me, pushing down on my shoulder. It occurred to me that I had nearly tackled the small woman in my hysteria. "What's your name?"
It took me a moment to recover myself, my eyes still locked on the woman with the mirror eyes. "Sky. Schuyler James. Is this the colony? Is this home?"
I realized when Jamie hugged me that tears were again streaming down my face. "Yes, Sky. This is home."