I awoke to find Sofia gone. I’d slept right through the day and into the evening hours. It was night again and I was back on the move. I pulled the brim of my baseball cap down over my eyes, as I looked through the rain and into the distance ahead, to see bright lights. Lights that reminded me of the lights that used to stream into the night air from a nearby high school football field, near our house. I was fairly certain, no one was playing football on this field. The Visitors were interstellar terrorists. The ultimate disruptors of social habits and daily routine. I decided it would be better to avoid the lights altogether by walking as far away from them as I could. I hadn’t heard any of the sounds or seen any movement along the tree line of the road for the last couple of days since I’d left the farmhouse.
Up ahead, the pass of road was narrowing. Both sides were decorated with the prickly fur of wooded areas hanging around the loose neck of the road and its drooped shoulders. The damp asphalt bent and curved out into the distance. The center line marker drew it’s ink from my position to a fine point just beyond the furthest curve of the road. As I now intensely listened to the woods, I finally noticed the lack of normal night time sounds – no owls, crickets, or frogs – the quiet was heavy with tension. I heard the noises of the night unnaturally silenced.
I heard my name on a soft whisper, coming from my right. I scanned the tree line for the source. “Mekhi.” When I saw her I let out a sigh of relief from an unconscious realization that she hadn’t completely abandoned me. Sofia was imploring me to come to her. She spoke in a hushed scream, “Come quickly! Follow me.” Leading me by the hand, we snaked around trees and bushes. All kinds of internal alarm bells were going off in my head, but I couldn’t process them to any real effect. I knew this was a place I should not be, but I didn’t want to lose her again.
We came to a clearing where the moonlight shown all the way down to the slick, green carpet of the woods. The bushes and trees to the right of me shook and then settled. Directly in front of us, the bushes and branches began to move. The hulking forms of three Visitors stepped out of the darkness and surrounded us. I quickly jerked my head to look at Sofia. She stood there looking at me forlornly. My eyes flattened as anger raced up my back. I twisted up my lips and reached out for her. My hand passed right through her as she faded away. I stood in shock and slowly I began to laugh, even more so, uncontrollably. The Visitors stood bewildered. Sofia had been nothing more than a creation of my own lonely mind. I dropped to my knees, filling every vacant space of the woods with the madness of my laughter. The hysteria subsided while I scanned the wet earth. My face, which was contorted by my bizarre and stretched expression, reshaped itself into approaching despair.
Hopping to my feet, I dashed between two of the Visitors. Tentacles darted overhead with agility and precision. I ducked them and ran deeper into the woods. I could hear the sounds of cracking and splintering trees falling behind me. The thunderous steps of each Visitor echoed in the shaking earth. I zigzagged, darting in and around groupings of trees and bushes while tentacles and hands snatched up earth near me.
I heard a shrill sound behind me. Instinctively, I clapped my hands to my ears to block it as I fell over some bushes. The vegetation masked a huge and dramatically steep drop that I tumbled down. I flipped over face forward, barely missing trees as I sped along, twisting and contorting my body to avoid them. White hot pain shot up through the nerves in my arm, as it twisted in the socket from momentarily catching on a tree root, as I sledded downhill. A anguished scream erupted from my mouth as my brain bit on the electrocution of the pain. As my body came to a stop at the base of the hill, I lie there, wet and covered in leaves.
The math of the rain fell in patterns of drops onto my face, as the water coalesced into rivers covering my nose and mouth. I squinted and twisted my lips up and out of the soft earth to take in greedy gasps of air. “Come on, Dad! Get up!” I could see my oldest son kneeling in front of me. He stood there looking at me like he did after a hug before bed to be followed by, “Good night dad. See you in the murning. I love you.” Despite the fact we’d said, “good night,” an hour ago, he’d be back up and running around five more times for various made up reasons to resist sleep.
Slightly disoriented, I rose to my feet and stumbled through the woods. The pain shooting through my arm was constant and nagging. Through my blurred eye sight, I caught glimpses of my son, ahead of me, as he ran past trees, before finally disappearing into the lights, shining ahead of me.
My arm hung raggedly, from my shoulder with what I can only describe as a boneless type of movement. As I approached the lights, I realized I was headed into the football field, I spied earlier. Holding my injured arm, I collapsed onto the field, like an open sack of potatoes, tumbling over one another onto the chef’s chopping block.
As I lie there face down, I began to feel a presence nearby. If it was the Visitors, I didn’t have the energy or will to care. Sensing their approach, I felt hands, human hands, looping themselves underneath my body. Someone was attempting to lift me up. I looked up to see a woman and a young man.
“Here, let us help you,” she said. As they stood me up, I began to look around after taking several steps forward. I could barely focus on anything while my mind struggled to process the images of people; people everywhere that my eyes were seeing. After the episode with my wife – with Sofia, and my son’s appearance, I wasn’t sure any of this was real and that I wasn’t at the bottom of the drop still lying in the rain.
“Help me lay him down over here.” I heard her say. A cup was then placed near my lips. I focused to slow my breathing just enough to feel the water flow over the cracked and dry terrain of my throat. In my dazed and confused state I imagined the hand, that was holding the water, was a tentacle – a Visitor tentacle. It would be the last thought I had as I passed into unconsciousness.
I awoke the next morning with my arm bandaged, resting inside a sling. I sat up, pulled the sheets back and placed my feet on the ground. Looking around the tent, I spied a make shift sink, made from a square pan and a toilet of some sort fashioned out of a chair with a hole in it and a bucket seated beneath it. Sitting on a board next to the sink was a roll of toilet paper. My shoulders dropped. I released an exhale littered with a little bit of mental pollution, I’d been carrying.
Walking to the entrance of the tent, I stepped out into the bustle of the camp. There were people everywhere coming and going. All appearing to be busy about the job of doing. “Oh! You’re awake.” A woman smiled. “That’s good to see.” It was the woman from the night before. “This…” She waved her hand showcasing the camp. “…is our human farm. Turns out these football fields are good protection from natural predators. Let me show you around.” I was amazed to see so many people. I thought to myself, Hmmm, football fields could keep the Visitors out? It didn’t completely make sense, but I was so happy to be among people again that I didn’t care. “Over here… They are setting up farming patches while these guys are tending the goats and cows.” Everyone we passed stopped what they were doing as they caught notice of my haggard frame and feral visage.
“Over here is where we house the generators that allow us to power the field lights and other appliances.” I smiled to see children run around our legs as they played. “And over here are our fattening rooms.” She pulled back the canvas on the door. I saw hundreds of people lying on beds, end to end, with non-stop television playing constantly. A bag of grayish paste hung from the ceilings above their mouths. “It’s a mixture of nutrients, sugars, and crushed bone and marrow. ”
Just beyond the tents, I could see the detritus of human remains lay piled in a heap in the far corner. Several people were busily shoveling the bones into the machinery, to my horror. The crushed bones were mixed into the paste and fed into the feeding tubes. “Everything needed to get these guys ready for the harvest.” She said smiling.
With wide eyes, I replied, “What do you mean harvest? You all are feeding human remains to those people.” I said in disgust.
“Correct!” She responded excitedly. “It’s no different than many agricultural methods used to raise food for human consumption during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.” Her eyes widened. “The liver from these guys will be used for a special dish that has become a delicacy for the Visitors.”
“We’ve come to terms with the Visitors. We live out our lives disease free, up until the age of forty thanks to the Visitors technology and science. And in return we farm our human populations to feed them. We’ve learned to survive! Hell thrive. Our numbers are growing in human farms, football fields like this, all over the world.”
I stood in shock, as I slowly understood. The Visitors had learned to grow the local flora and cultivate the local fauna for the foods they needed to survive in this new land. The Visitors were travelers, interstellar pilgrims, who left behind their old, highly regimented, technologically intricate world for a place where life could slow down and become much simpler. A life where they could get back to the basics. Where they could get back in tune with nature and the Universe.
The Visitors were domesticating and breeding us for food. It’s a sober man who realizes, the human species is no longer the top of the pecking order. But it’s what he does after that which is of interest.
“Come on, we’ll need to take a more detailed look at your shoulder and arm. The good thing is that we have, I’m guessing a good eight, maybe ten years to get you on the mend and fatten you up.” She held out her hand and smiled. I looked down at it and then took her hand in mine. “These are going to be the best years of your life, I promise you – filled with purpose and communal friendships!”
I should’ve remained horrified. I didn’t though. I was with people again. I didn’t have to carry the burden of loneliness anymore. I no longer needed to run. I was finally in the company of other people; others going through a shared experience. I would be cared for exceptionally well and this would become my new religion – my raison d’être; and I was happy about it.
Besides, it’s only common decency and good manners of the host to welcome a weary traveler into your home and offer them something to eat.
by malakhai jonezs
© copyright 2016