The Coming of the Earthlings

November 7, 2011
The room is only barely lit by the one weak bulb I have left but if I strain hard enough I can make out the words on the pages in front of me. Not that I really need to see them. I’ve read them so many times over the past few years that I can practically recite them from memory. It may seem like a rather depressing way to spend one’s time, but these decaying sheets have become more than just pages in a book. They’ve become a form of familiar companionship to ward off the looming loneliness of this cramped apartment.

My reading is interrupted by the alarm on my watch. I slip my bookmark between the brittle pages and walk into the kitchen. The cabinet creaks the way it always does at half past five as I take my pills out and pop them in my mouth. I rush to get some water while the pills burn a hole in my tongue but I take too long and end up sputtering and spitting the pills out. I cough and gag and swear as I regain my breath. I glare at the soggy pills on the floor.

“Screw you,” I whisper.

I wrest the door to the refrigerator open and yank a bottle of water out. This time I make sure I have the water waiting when I choke back the pills. I stand there breathing heavily for a moment. For the thousandth time I pick the pill bottle up and stare at the list of ingredients and for the thousandth time I have no idea what they are or what they do. I just know I’m supposed to take them every day, twice a day, between twelve hour intervals. My federally mandated prescription that I must refill once a month under threat of imprisonment. “To prevent the spread of potentially fatal infections from other-worldly inhabitants.”

I hear the incessant wailing of sirens growing louder and louder outside. I walk to the only window in the apartment and peek through the curtains. I’m on the third floor and the filthy sidewalk is poorly lit but I can see people looking anxious. Some of them are rushing off in different directions but there are others that are huddling together, as though waiting for something. Then I see him. Even in the shadowy distance I can make him out. He’s standing at the corner, waiting for the bus that runs through here once every two hours. People are keeping their distance, waiting nervously, and I know what they’re waiting for. Someone had called the police on him. I turn my head and see the flashing cars only a few short seconds away now.

“Get out of there, guy,” I whisper to myself, then with more urgency, “Da**it, get the he** out of there.”

The cars are here now and there’s a big show as the police exit their vehicles and the people on the sidewalk back away from the scene in a flash of color and noise. The officers approach the guy and one of them begins talking to him. I recognize the letters on the officer’s jacket. ICSS: Interplanetary Control and Security Service. I hold my breath as the guy begins shuffling nervously through his jacket pockets under the suspicious and intimidating eyes of the officers around him. No doubt he’s looking for his approved Migration and Citizenship papers. He reaches behind him towards his back pocket and one of the officers yells something and slaps his hand away with a baton. The other officers react and tackle the guy in a confusion of blows and shouts. I close my eyes and lean back, trying to swallow my shame. I turn away and go back to my book.

I take out my bookmark and unfold it. It’s a flyer that I had found in my morning paper over a year ago. It warned in large black letters that anyone caught harboring an illegal other-worldly inhabitant would be penalized to the fullest extent of the law. I fold the flyer back up and then turn to the pages of the book it had found itself so familiar with. The War of the Worlds. A book my father had given me when I was a child. My father had owned it ever since he was a kid and he said it was his favorite book, and now it’s my favorite as well. For the past year I’ve liked to mark it with this flyer because I enjoy the irony of it all. I laugh at this world compared to the one envisioned by H. G. Wells almost two and a half centuries ago. I bet he never would have guessed that WE would be the monsters.





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