Invasion day, p.1
Invasion Day, p.1Adam Bender
by Adam Bender
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Copyright © 2016 by Adam Bender
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After dinner, the boy went outside to gaze at the blue marble glowing in the forever-night sky. He held long-sleeved arms snugly against his chest to keep out the cold, but the sweatshirt was ratty and full of holes. It didn’t matter. The orb enraptured him with its warm glow, fluffy white wisps, and strange green-and-brown puzzle shards.
A happy melody stirred the child from his great fascination. When he looked back to the door of his house, he saw his mother holding a brown cake with a tight cluster of candles. The pride in her expression overcame the gauntness in her jowls.
Grandpa hobbled out behind her on his cane, not singing but wearing a great big smile on his face. Ray knew better than to try and assist the old man—Grandpa was too proud for that, and anyway, he possessed impressive coordination of the stick and his one leg. Ray guessed that Grandpa had learned to be so disciplined from his time serving in the military.
“Happy birthday, Ray,” Mom said, resting the plated cake carefully on top of the small aluminum table outside of their efficiency.
Ray pulled a plastic folding chair out from the table until the back hit the fence, and then attempted a careful slide into the seat. It was just as tight a squeeze for the others. Mom had to help Grandpa, despite his protests.
The cake was about the size of a teacup and lacked frosting, but Ray still couldn’t believe he was really seeing it. They only received enough supplies for three small meals a day, and Mom always took great care in measuring out the bare minimum of ingredients needed.
“I’ve been putting a little flour and sugar aside for the past few months,” she explained rosily. “I wanted you to have a real cake for once.”
Grandpa added, “We melted down one of the table candles to make the birthday sticks.”
Ray closed his eyes, opened them, and blew out the candles. He picked up a fork and gingerly prodded the chocolate substance. The sponge gave way and he scooped a substantial piece into his mouth. A glorious firecracker went off in his head as he chewed.
“Is that Ray’s birthday, then?” a boisterous voice called from over the fence.
Mom beamed at the barrier as if she could see right through it. “That you, Mr. Brown?”
“Aye! Just out for my nightly smoke.”
Ray had never seen him in person but pictured his neighbor as a rotund man with red cheeks.
Mom exclaimed at the fence, “We’re celebrating Ray’s tenth birthday!”
“Well, I’ll be!” Mr. Brown called back. “Happy birthday, Ray!”
Ray went for another bite of the cake, but Mom shot him a critical look. He put the fork down and shouted at the top of his lungs, “Thanks, Mr. Brown!”
Grandpa turned to Ray and asked, “So! What did you wish for?”
Mom looked appalled. “He’s not supposed to say it out loud!”
Grandpa dismissed his daughter with the wave of his hand. He winked at Ray. “How are we supposed to make the boy’s wish come true if he doesn’t tell us?”
Before she could counter, Ray said, “Well, it was more of a question than a wish.”
Grandpa smiled like he’d known it all along. He pushed his chair closer to Ray and clapped him hard on the back. “So! What is it you want to know, my boy?”
Ray pointed at the great blue orb and asked the same question he asked every birthday.
Mom murmured a warning. But before she could deny him an answer yet again, Ray pointed emphatically to the candles that showed two whole digits of life experience.
Grandpa intervened. “I think he’s old enough to know the truth.”
With a sigh, Mom relaxed her shoulders. “I suppose he has to learn some time.”
Ray felt a great tingling that started in his stomach and worked its way up to his throat so that he could barely speak, the excitement was so great. The blue ball in the sky had long been the unknowable mystery, and his family’s hesitation to tell him about it had only made him more desperate to unravel it.
“Well, my boy,” the old man began, “I can tell you that it’s not an ornament!”
He grinned until Ray couldn’t take it anymore. Grandpa laughed. “That up there is a planet! And it used to be our home.”
Ray looked at his mom to see if this was just another one of grandpa’s crazy stories, but she nodded sadly that it was true. He still didn’t believe it, and protested, “But this is our home! The moon is our home!”
Grandpa looked at him critically. “What, this prison? This gray ball of dust?”
The old man’s arms made an exaggerated sweep of their fenced-in surroundings. With sudden pain, Ray saw his home as just another steel unit with a yard, identical to all the other sterile structures beneath the glass dome.
“No, this is not home,” stressed Grandpa, shaking his head. “When I was your age, there were no houses here. In fact, nobody lived here at all.”
Ray frowned. “Where were you?”
Grandpa pointed at the planet. “You’re always looking up there in wonder. Well, before you were born, I was sitting over there, looking right back.”
Ray let his fork drop with a clatter onto his plate. The idea that someone could actually live on the blue orb, that it was a planet with people like his family ... well, he’d considered it, but it never seemed like an actual possibility until now.
“Why did you leave?” he asked.
Grandpa laughed, clapped him on the back again. “We didn’t want to.”
He told Ray about a place where you could breathe without a dome or special suits. Where the green stuff under your feet was living, unlike the shredded plastic imitation they had on the moon. Where fruits and vegetables came from the ground, rather than the inside of an aluminum can. Where the sky glowed pink in the morning, blue during the afternoon and orange in the evening. Where water fell out of the sky and in colder months turned to soft crystal and piled high on the ground.
“We didn’t know how good we had it,” said Grandpa, shaking his head in shame.
He described the fateful day when a great white ship broke through the clouds and brought visitors from another world.
“I remember feeling excited when the first spacemen turned up. They were scientists, and brought with them many amazing gifts—it was like magic. Pocket-sized supercomputers! Generators powered by nature! Small rockets that could fly men into outer space and back again! We thought the spacemen could help advance our people a thousand years in one go.”
“And did they?” asked Ray.
“They promised to teach us their ways if we let them stay. And so, we did. Then, more ships appeared from the visitors’ faraway world. These were bigger, each filled with thousands more spacemen. We soon learned that their home world had become overcrowded. Out of pity, we let them in, too.”
“They were friendly back then,” said Mom. “I remember when a family of them moved into our neighborh
“A what?” Ray asked dumbly.
“It’s a party where each guest brings food to share.”
He made a disgusted face. “Wasn’t their food weird?”
She laughed. “Yes, it did seem strange at first. They had sauces with the oddest colors, and meats seasoned with the most unusual spices.”
Grandpa smiled at the memory. “We kept going back for more.”
“So, what happened?”
He frowned. “At the rate the spacemen were arriving, it looked like they might soon match our population. We had the space, but we started to worry what it would mean for our culture. So, our leaders and their leaders drew up a treaty promising peaceful co-existence in a shared world. We would preserve our culture and they could preserve theirs. We would live together like two spaceships flying side-by-side through the galaxy—moving forward together into the future without knocking the other off course.”
Ray tensed. “But it didn’t work?”
Grandpa let out a great sigh. “We learned—much too late—that the old world of the spacemen was not just overcrowded—it was dying. And now they wanted ours.”
“They said we could stay,” interjected Mom.
“But they wanted to take over,” said Grandpa. “It was our world, and yet they wanted us to assimilate.”
Ray glared at the planet. He felt betrayed by its radiance. “But the treaty....”
“Ignored. Or the spacemen found hidden meanings between the words to
Invasion Day by Adam Bender / Science Fiction have rating 2.1 out of 5 / Based on34 votes