A depraved blessing, p.8
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       A Depraved Blessing, p.8

           D.C. Clemens

  Chapter Eight


  It was noon when we finally arrived in Hornstone and the two-story house of my in-laws. The quaint wooden home rested on a world untouched by the dramatic events taking place not too far off, rather than the two acres stated on the lease. Even the glistening canal water fed by the Iva River close by implied a peaceful realm reigned here. Naturally, Neves Ave was the first to greet us. Dayce ran into his grandfather’s arms, which were waiting outstretched to receive him. Dayce always loved spending time with his grandparents, especially his only grandfather. Dayce laughed as Neves picked him up with his strong arms.

  “Damn! What have you been feeding this kid?” my father-in-law asked, a playful grimace on his smirking face. “He’s grown twice as big since I last saw him!”

  “And I haven’t even eaten a real meal today,” Dayce proudly pointed out. “Is uncle Orins making lunch?”

  “Absolutely! A nice big fish fresh from the river!” He then glanced at Liz, who was walking up to him for an embrace. “And how is my little girl?”

  “Much better now, Daddy,” she animatedly replied, though not completely partaking in his enthusiasm.

  “Ah, Mrs. Rosyth, welcome to my humble abode,” Neves said to my mother, in the most respectful tone he could muster. “I hope you’ll be comfortable here.”

  “Yes, it’s a very nice home,” she replied. “Thank you, Mr. Ave.”

  I could tell she was still trying to comprehend the idea of living, in her view, in the middle of nowhere, though I don’t think Neves noticed it.

  “Roym, welcome back,” he cordially addressed me as we shook hands, which I was always a little embarrassed to do. His hands were so much stronger than mine, something that came from his never ceasing athletic endeavors. “Thank you for bringing my little girl back home safe.”

  “And thank you for not living in a big city,” I rejoined with a smile.

  “Ha! Isn’t that the truth!” he stated as he walked back toward his home, still holding Dayce in his arms. “Now everyone inside! Delphnia and Orins should almost be ready with the feast!”

  I did not think it was possible for me to forget the reality of having just escaped an inscrutable alien vessel, but being with Neves made me come close to it, to my own surprise. His charisma thoroughly subdued anyone he ever spoke with without any form of struggle from the listener, and I doubt he was even trying to win over friends, it simply happened. He found moderate success playing professional shockball in his youth, which allowed him to retire earlier than most. I didn’t only have Neves to acknowledge for my being charmed, but Liz’s mother as well. Delphnia, despite being almost a pair of decades younger than her husband and the embodiment of a trophy wife, was a magnetic hostess. She had a knack for sensing what people needed, whether that be an ear to listen or a mouth to fill up a silent void. Outside of her hosting duties, she helped manage a prosperous restaurant in town procured by some of Neves’ earnings. It was there where her son discovered his passion for preparing food. Liz’s brother could have played any professional sport he wanted for as long as his body held up, but not long after college, he pursued his true desire of becoming a professional chef—to the chagrin of his father and making his mother more than pleased. He gave all his time and energy into cooking and it was exhibited in every meal he created, that day included. It made me feel as though I had been stranded on a deserted island for years and had forgotten what the real taste of food was like.

  That night, the three testosterone guided beings relaxed at Neves’ pool house, as we were apt to do anytime I came to visit, there being no reason why it would have been any different that evening. It was located near the canal, which I was regularly reminded of while in the sitting room, as it had a perfect view of it. The stars, Tess, and Newt, without any hindrance from the clouds or city lights, revealed themselves plainly through the backdrop of the sky. Their waxing light gravitated toward the river where they were then reflected back into interlacing beams dancing above the slow flowing water. Neves and Orins were talking amongst themselves for some time, not quite sure if they perceived my far mind, but I was soon required to join them when Orins presented a sarcastic question to me.

  “So, Roym, you have the biggest brain of all of us, should we surrender now and become their slaves, or should we start sacrificing virgins to them?”

  “Don’t talk like that,” said Neves before I had a chance to answer. “A lot of our friends are stuck in Iva right now and they’re scared shitless. Fuck, I’m scared shitless and we’re not even that close to one of those things.”

  “Didn’t you say you had a friend near the big one?” Orins asked, spinning on his revolving chair to face me. “What does he say?”

  “He’s with some of the smartest people in the world right now and the best they can do is not much more than we’re able to do. Wait and see.”

  “But you must have some guesses,” said Neves.

  “I’m like everyone else, I only have a lot of questions. What’s been bothering me the most is wondering why it even crashed in the first place. An advanced, self-healing ship doesn’t simply crash without a reason, and I can only think of one.”

  “And what’s that?” asked Orins.

  “That something as advanced as itself damaged it in an attack. If that’s the case, then it raises even more unanswerable questions. Why was it attacked? And by whom? Those answers will go a long way in determining what we should do.”

  “I hoped they wouldn’t care about us,” began Orins, “but that wish is out the door with the other ships visiting all our cities. A friend of mine thought they wouldn’t bother us since he figured they would view us in the same way we would see bugs.”

  “Maybe it’s a science ship and they’re studying us?” speculated Neves. “Maybe the crash was to study our reactions and now they’re upping the ante by releasing those other ships. This is what animals in a lab must feel like when they’re being studied.” He pondered over his concluding words, delighted with the concept he had formulated.

  “That’s actually not a terrible guess,” I said sincerely. “But the critical question still remains. How far are they willing to go?”

  A drowsy tranquility was streaming into my newly acclimated home, but the feeling was not shared throughout most slices of the world. Large populations were growing more and more chaotic at every passing minute. Traveling beyond a city limit was becoming a mythical endeavor for millions. Highways were being challenged to their limit and there were suddenly too few airplanes and not enough airports that existed. It did not matter if the actual manifestations of the otherworldly entities were felt or not in a particular region, countless people began leaving their metropolis for less populous areas. A majority of business transactions stopped all at once, crashing entire financial markets. International trade was disrupted to a degree never before seen as thousands of ship captains and pilots were diverted to ports and airstrips that were free of our visitors. To top it all off, the only jobs being attended to involved government workforces trying to find some kind of order. A world war would have been the only event that could generate the panic now felt mutually across the planet, and all this transpired without a single round being fired.

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