Country of Origin: United States of America
The invasion happened 40 years ago, in 2027.
Big, oval-shaped metal ships appeared out of the sky. It’s hard for anyone to think that on that day, millions of lives disappeared. The aliens came in their large spacecrafts with protruding metal legs, and walked around our town in Aberdeen.
I was ten years old at the time, with Jay, who was eleven, and our mom. We were at the festival park downtown. Our dad wasn’t there, which was how things usually were. I remember that the perimeter of the park had a shaded, circular path for people who took their afternoon walks. There were two playgrounds. At the north-western side of the park, there were numerous wooden picnic tables, shaded by large trees.
After what felt like hours of Jay and I running around, our mom called us over to the picnic table to have lunch. As we ran over, I heard an eerie, high-pitched buzzing in my ear. I turned around to see where it was coming from. The sound became so loud and painful that I had to cover my ears, trying in vain to protect myself from it. I looked around the park and saw everyone doing the same. A homeless man who always frequented this park with his gang of dogs fell to his knees, his face scrunched up from the buzzing sound. I couldn’t understand what he was saying as I watched him curl into a ball, rolling from side to side with his mouth open.
Jay grabbed my hand and we ran to our mother as the sky turned dark. The beautiful baby blue color disappeared as the clouds quickly moved in, painting it gray. The wind intensified as we raced to our mother. I was terrified that my brother and I were going to get blown away. But thank God, we reached our mother in time and she took us into her arms. I don’t remember what I said because now all I can see when I close my eyes are the clouds opening and the alien spacecraft crashing from the sky.
We couldn’t run for cover. The impact of the spacecraft’s landing caused the ground to shake violently. Each time we tried to get up and walk, we ended up with itchy grass on our faces. The ground where the crafts landed on the cars, the public library, and the city hall were all shaking.
My mom held my brother and me close, whispering, “We are going to be alright.”
She tried her best to shield our eyes from the scene and focused on her, but it was futile. It was impossible not to see the complete destruction of my hometown. I thought again of the homeless man and his dogs. I still remember how hard I screamed when I saw him killed. A part of me, now, is grateful that the buzzing was so loud that I wasn’t able to hear the crushing of his bones or his horror-stricken cry. When the spacecraft’s feet lifted into the air, the man’s body was flattened, and he and the dog’s internal organs fell out of their bodies, mixing together on the ground.
My mom snatched my face and forced me to look her in the eye, “Mina, keep your eyes on mommy, okay? You too Jay! Kids, hold onto my hand tight and don’t let go!”
Jay and I nodded in silent horror.
My mom squeezed our hands, shaking them as she spoke. I didn’t have time to answer and neither did Jay. She got up and dragged us out of the park and towards the car before we could get a word out. I looked at my older brother to see his face turn white, as his eyes flooded with tears, snot running down his nose. I never saw Jay look horrified before then. He was the typical older brother, never afraid of anything. I was the one that would cry hysterically. But at that moment, the roles were reversed. I was the quiet one. I looked over at my mother again. She was clearly horrified, too, but somehow much calmer than either of us, because she wasn’t afraid for herself. Even in the middle of an alien invasion she couldn’t bring herself to be selfish. All she cared about was getting Jay and me out in one piece.
God why didn’t I listen to her then.
Suddenly, my fingers cease to type. Memories of my mother come flooding back. Her strength, her resolve. How she could be so calm amidst total chaos. Writing about her makes the pang of her absence even more apparent. The sick feeling in my stomach twists as I tell you this story.
My mother started sprinting for the car, dragging us by our arms. As we ran, I turned my head around to look at the mayhem. People scrambled to take cover and dodge the craft’s feet. A man carried a woman on his back towards the parking lot. He leaped over the carcasses of the homeless man and his dog but then slipped on the blood-slicked concrete and fell. My mom yanked my arm to turn me away. We were almost by our car when red lights appeared above us. I looked up and saw that each craft had wand-like appendages with red lights on them. I turned to ask Jay what they were, but his eyes were on our mom, unaware of what was about to happen.
Before I could finish what I was going to say. I heard what sounded like a crack of thunder.
Rain? Is it going to rain now?
Suddenly one of the wands shot out a blinding beam of light. The reflection lit up the whole park. A deep thumping sound came from the wand before another beam came out and struck a woman. She let out a horrified cry as her body turned red, and then her arms, stomach, and legs exploded. Chunks of her body scattered around us, her torso fell to the ground while the remains of her leg landed all around us. Something large and red flew past my head, and a moment later, her blood rained down on us. I turned to my left and saw her disfigured leg on the ground.
It was when the three of us took a big leap over something, that I felt a strange substance on my shoulder. I turned my head and saw a red, rust-smelling mass. I tried desperately to get it off me, but Jay’s grip on my hand tightened. I decided to ignore it. We continued running, while our mom pushed and dodged people to get out of our way. She knocked over a woman who was on her knees, screaming for her child to get up. I looked away, unable to bear the sight of it. We were inches away from the car when the sound of multiple lasers rang in the air.
My mom screamed as we finally reached the car and unlocked it.
“Keep your eyes on me!”
She threw Jay and me inside before she hurried behind the wheel. Outside the car window, more crafts swirled around the park, shooting lasers at anything alive and walking. My eyes turned back to the spot where the homeless man was. I saw the woman riding on the other man’s back. She was now on the ground, wailing and calling for him, but he kept running and left her behind. He nearly escaped when the laser beam hit him in the head, disintegrating it immediately. His lifeless body fell along with the other mutilated corpses around him. In a trance, I watched the bodies explode and the earth shake, and heard the buzzing, which overpowered the sound of my mom calling me.
She grabbed my face, “Mina! Mina!” she screamed, her fingernails digging into my skin.
“Mommy, my face hurts,” I whimpered. I tried to move my face away, but her grip was too strong.
Our mom’s voice trembled and cracked, “Mina! Listen to me! Do not look outside! Please honey. Look at your brother.” I looked at Jay, and he looked back at me, hyperventilating. With each pained cry he sucked in more air.
I begged her to let me go, “Mommy please…” I was terrified at the thought that, at any moment, we could all die.
“Jay, calm down honey, we’re going home. Mina baby…”
My vision was blurred with tears, and each time I tried to talk, my throat tightened. The car shook as my eyes trailed away from our mother and landed on the window. More limbs, belonging to both adults and children, were scattered all over the park. Their upper torso would be in one place, but their legs or arms would be far away. The last thing I remember was our mother turning around to start the car. But then, the body of a woman crashed onto the windshield, and suddenly the bright red light of another laser beam consumed my entire field of vision.
I stop the story and save the document. The images of the couple and homeless man replay in my head, and I realize I can no longer breathe. I get up from my desk to lay down on my bed. As my head falls on the pillow, I turn off the headset, put it down to my side, and just breathe. On my bookshelf are vintage books and picture frames that have moving holograms inside. One of them contains an image of my mom the last year before she died.
Our old selves stand in front of the camera with a big smile on each of our faces. Our mom was sitting in the middle while Jay and I flanked her on either side. The three of us posed and waited for the click, when suddenly Jay burst out into a giggle that made our mom laugh. Looking at this picture always causes this same bittersweet feeling: the memory of being with my brother and mom, the elation we experienced from just being with one another, and the sudden pain in my chest and throat when I realize we will never feel that way again. I stare at the hologram picture until my eyesight gets blurry again. I sniff and wipe my eyes as I turn over to face the other wall.
I want to write this story–my story. I don’t know why, maybe so I can heal some deep wounds. I take a deep breath and imagine the sound of her laughter on the day the photo was taken. For a second I question why I am even doing this. Forcing myself to remember her in vivid detail and write about how she was before I lost her. The pain of remembering her in this way is too much to bear at times. For a few minutes I entertained the thought of never opening up that document again, of keeping her memory safely tucked away, my only reminders of her the photographs of her smiling eyes. But then I think back to her final moments, how scared yet brave she was. I cannot let her become just a memory.
I take a deep breath, go to my computer, and open up the document once more.
Thank you to Chloe Waugh for their inspired edit on this piece and everyone else on the Fiction team.
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