Before They Come Back
“Excuse me sir.” Here it comes, I hate it when people ask me for money. I pay my taxes so that there are places they can go when they need help. I’ll just keep walking; ignore him, shake my head, and say “sorry.”
“Do you have an extra pencil that I can borrow?”
Did he say a pencil ? Surprised, I stop to look at the man sitting on the park bench, for the first time. He has the look of someone who has money, but hasn’t been taking care of himself. He’s wearing what was once probably an expensive suit, but was now torn and dirty. His hair is long, and he looks as if he hadn’t shaved in days. In his hand, he’s holding a stub of a pencil, about one inch long.
“I’ve got to finish writing this,” he says while patting a pile of papers next to him on the bench. “People have to know what happened, before they come back.”
He’s staring at me through a pair of thick glasses and has the look of someone that’s on the last leg of a long journey.
I walk over to him and ask, “What do you mean, before they come back? Before who comes back?”
“Oh, they’ll be back, don’t you worry about that, it won’t be long either. What was it they said…? ‘Before your moon is big again.’ So, it won’t be long now, do you have a pencil that I can borrow?”
Reaching into my shirt pocket, I pull out a pencil and hand it to him. He takes it and immediately starts writing again, seeming to forget that I’m there. I walk behind the bench to read what he’s writing.
‘Running his claw-like hand along my spine while making an odd whistling noise that I surmised to be their way of communicating, I began to realize that they were preparing to cut me open.’
“What in the world?” I jump back from the bench feeling as if I’d been shocked by a jolt of electricity. He’s just writing a fiction story about aliens, why am I standing here shaking as if I’ve just seen a ghost?
Turning his head to face me, I see an emptiness in his eyes that can only come from someone who has been through a traumatic event. I’ve seen the same look in the eyes of soldiers returning from the war. This man was either crazy, or he has been through something terrible that has taken the life out of him. But there was something in his writing that rang true to me, like a long forgotten memory.
Looking into my eyes the strange man said, “You’ve seen them too, haven’t you? You know that what I’m saying is true. You have to help me before they come back. We have to let people know they’re coming back, and it will be for the final time.”
“No!” I say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. You’re crazy, only crazy people see aliens!” I scream, as I run away from him, running from… the truth. Suddenly I stop, and as I look back at the man sitting on the bench, head bowed and writing furiously, I remember.
I was nine years old, lying in bed listening to the sounds of the night through the screen of an open window. Listening to a distant train whistle, a motorcycle shifting gears as it makes its way through the city. I’m listening as hard as I can to hear what sound is the farthest away. I distinctly hear an odd whistling sound, unlike anything I’d heard before. It wasn’t a tune being whistled, it was more like a strange bird call, but coming from something larger than a bird. Getting out of my bed and going to the window, I see something in the shadows near my window. Hiding beside the window as much as possible while still being able to see, I catch a glimpse of it as it walks by. It was the size of a small boy, with a body shaped like a large slug. It had long arms hanging almost to the ground, and on the end of each arm was a claw!
Running back to the man I say, “I have seen them. How did you know?”
“I can see it in your eyes. Will you help me?”
How could I not help him? That was nineteen days ago; we think there are only five more days before their return. We have been going to all of the newspaper offices, and the radio stations, talking to everyone that we can, we don’t know what else to do. Some people have contacted us to share their stories, some of them are clearly made up, but enough people have had real contact with the aliens that we are slowly gaining credibility. But we aren’t going to be ready, there isn’t much time left, before they come back.