It was always the dead of night when they came.  The crickets stopped, the wind picked up, and suddenly a great craft was called into being directly above the house.  It was sleek and silver, with bright lights that pulsed, strobed, and searched.  In only a moment they would find their target; wasn’t like it was hard to find.  The house stood far away from the nearest town, and a good twenty minutes to the next neighbor.  Chipped paint quivered in the gale as three banks of twin, powerful floodlights locked upon the weathered old house.  The porch swing bobbed like a cork on the ocean as the great orifice on the craft’s ventral section slid open, silently, its many invisible segments withdrawing like an iris.  The craft spun slowly about its axis, a top in slow motion, searchlights sweeping around the area as a great beam burst forth from the underside.  In it, suspended by principles that would baffle the most brilliant men of Earth, three beings descended silently, slowly into the hallway outside of the master bedroom, on the second floor of the house.

They were short and slender, even spindly, looking as though they scarcely had the musculature necessary for upright locomotion, much less keeping their heads level.  The heads were massive, inverse teardrops with expansive craniums and huge, almond eyes that glinted pitch black.  There were no eyebrows, no eyelids, and the eyes and tiny mouths betrayed as much emotion as the computers that propelled their glittering craft across the vast emptiness between stars.  They walked slowly, with purpose, in a long, swinging gait, three sets of dark eyes trained directly forward.  Ahead, sleeping silently, their subject awaited.  

It was this subject’s final night of testing.  The testing had continued for nearly three years.  Though the three beings present did not necessarily believe the testing necessary, they had their orders.  They needed data…a great deal of it.  If ever there were to be contact, they needed to know all they could, and these creatures showed promise.  They needed to understand them.  Now, they took one step closer to that, as the first of the three extended its needle-like fingers and opened the door…

There was a horrible sound inside the room.  The three beings exchanged glances, their expressionless faces displaying befuddlement as best as they were capable.  It was an offensive sound, shrill and creaking, and it repeated, though its length and pitch varied slightly.  It almost sounded…lingual.  Was the subject in the room awake?  Was it attempting to communicate.  Silently, the three conferred.  Should they abort?  No, it was the being’s last test.  Besides, these creatures still experienced the ravages of old age…the subject’s memories would likely be dismissed, just as they had been before…

Their telepathic link was disturbed as all three reacted in unison to a sharp thump on the door.  There was another…then another…what could the subject possibly be doing in there?  Tentatively, the leader of the group opened the door.  Its effort was rewarded by a framed image sailing through the doorway, crashing against the wall behind them, the impact shattering the frame.  It quickly slammed the door shut, then looked back at its subordinates, stunned.  What was this creature doing?  The shrill noises and thumping continued.

“I’m ready for ya!” Mildred shouted defiantly, standing on her bed in her nightgown and curlers.  “Ya want me?  Come get me, ya little gray bastards!”  The door inched open again, more slowly and hesitantly this time.   Initially, it revealed only a bare wall…then, fearfully, a big gray head with large black eyes peered around the door…

“Oh, no ya don’t!” Mildred shrieked.  Bending down, she wrapped her veiny fingers around her nightstand lamp, yanked it until the cord was pried free of the wall, then hurled it at the door.  The being recoiled in fear and slammed the door shut again, just in time for the lamp to shatter on its surface, spraying glass across the doorjamb.  Her creased face stretched into a satisfied grin.  Shifty little monsters!  They’d been coming for her for years, and no one ever believed her.  Well, no more!  After tonight, it wouldn’t matter whether anyone believed her or not.  Her abductors had visited her for the last time.  They were not coming back.

The door had remained closed for a fairly long time…no doubt her abductors were huddled in the hallway, trying to decide whether or not this was actually worth it.  If they decided to leave, they’d just be back, and they would be careful next time.  Mildred wasn’t about to let that happen.  No, this time she was prepared.  Carefully hopping down from the bed, she pried open the cupboard beneath her nightstand, and withdrew her “insurance policy”…

On the other side of the door, three terrified beings did indeed cower against the wall, debating the merits of carrying out their assignment.  Yet before they could get very far, their conversation was interrupted by a deafening boom.  It pierced their minds, and as they recoiled from the shock of it, a large hole appeared in the door above their heads, preceded by a shower of splinters.  Fearing for their lives, the three beings abandoned their deliberation and took to running.  Not one of them turned, or so much as slowed, when the door behind them opened.

Or rather, it was kicked.  A slippered foot shoved the shattered door aside, a steel barrel was leveled, and Mildred stalked down the hallway, firing away.  She laughed as she blew holes in the walls, shot vases off tables, peppering her house with buckshot in her pursuit of retribution.  “That’s for the time you took my hand!  And didn’t put it back for three days!” She bellowed as one shot caught the leg of the third being, trailing the others.

The first being stopped, but only for a moment.  Looking back at its comrade, it felt a twinge of sympathy.  The other being, unable to stand, reached out to its leader, spindly fingers spread wide, its blank face showing the barest hint of pleading.  Its hand fell dead after the next shot hit it squarely in the back of the head.  What was left of its skull flopped forward, slumped in death.  The time for sympathy and hesitance was over.

The two remaining beings sprinted with all their might down the stairs and through the downstairs hallways.  There wasn’t time to contact their ship, so they bolted from room to room, trying to find an unlocked door.  Every wrong turn elicited cackling and gunfire as they ducked down and shielded their heads against the sprays of glass and plaster.  Finally, frustration getting the better of it, the leader grabbed an end table by one of its legs, and hurled it through a nearby window.  Escape finally within their grasp, the two beings dove past the shattered glass to the freedom that awaited.

Unwilling to permit escape, Mildred rushed to the window.  Brushing away the jagged remnants of the pane, she leveled her weapon and rattled off a few parting shots.  It was futile: the little creatures were far faster than they appeared, and they’d already cleared the front yard.  As they continued to run, their shimmering craft swooped low overhead.  There was a flash of light from the ventral orifice, and they were gone.  No sooner had the two beings beamed aboard than the craft came to an impossible halt, spun toward the sky, and sped off to God knows where.  Elated, Mildred ran out of the house in her nightgown, raising her rifle and shaking her fist.  “That’ll teach ya!  Little bastards!  That’s it!  Run back to Mars!”

As the adrenaline wore off, another point of good fortune slowly dawned on her.  She had killed one of the aliens.  What luck!  They’d been calling her crazy for years…her friends, her neighbors, her kids, everyone.  Ha!  Well, not anymore!  Now she had a real, bona-fide alien, and she’d show them!  A grin crept back across her face as she turned and walked back into the house.  This would be amazing!  She’d show all of her friends, her family, then she’d show the news.  The papers, the TV…she’d find that nice lady from the evening news…Connie Chung, was that her name?  She’d show everyone.  She’d tour the world, be famous!  

The grin was still on her face as she reached the upstairs hallway.  There lay the tiny, broken body of one of the little monsters who’d caused her so much pain and torment for so long.  Now, at last, everyone would know the truth.  Now, they would…

Her musings were ended by an odd sound.  It was a low hum…so low it might not be a hum at all.  At first, she thought she were simply imagining it, but it grew fuller, then louder…then there was a flash of light, and it was gone.  And the alien was gone.  The alien she’d killed, even its blood…every shred of physical evidence vanished, as though it had never been there.  As though it had never happened.

Mildred’s shoulders drooped in defeat…she nearly dropped the shotgun.  Looking around, taking in the scene, with a house littered with holes, plaster dust and broken glass everywhere, she could muster only one response.

“God dammit!” she exclaimed, and no one heard her.  Not even the aliens.


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