Alien Ghetto - Chapter One
Where to begin? So much has happened!
First, obviously, we have electricity! My God, you wouldn't know how much it was missed until you get it back – then it sinks in. It's like being cold all day and then suddenly you are standing in front of a warm fire!
All day we were scrounging for appliances and lamps. Suddenly, everyone is trading in hot plates! Mum has never been smiling so much.
We've been without electricity since from the beginning – it's been two years. Two years! It seems like forever. Living was hard at first, and not so good for a long time.
Somehow over the years so much stuff had disappeared. ("You can't have everything. Where would you put it?" My best friend Basram said that. He's a Hindu and can be very philosophical at times.) Pop always said... well, more on that later.
So when we got electricity, Basram and I went to the warehouse district to see what we could find. Though we call it a "district" it's only two old brick buildings, one which used to be a warehouse, now for holding refuse and old and broken stuff. During the first year much then useless stuff was tossed there.
Lieberman, he's our neighbor, said that radios will be a big black market item. (Though there's not much of a black market here.) He said that in the big war – the human World War Two that is – radios were really valuable items because they weren't allowed. (Basram says that was when ghettos first were created. He says we should be considered to be living in a ghetto – in fact that we all, what's left of the human species, are in ghettos now.) I'm not so sure about radios being so valuable any more. I mean, what happened to all the radio stations?
Anyway, at the warehouse district we were looking for anything, including radios (just in case), when we found this old laptop. The screen is damaged a bit in the corner and a key is missing, but who cares! I was afraid we'd never find the power cable but eventually did dug it up. There's not much software (no games!), but at least I can now write. Paper has been really hard to find. Basram said that I can keep the computer as he has his books to keep him busy. Thanks Basram! I don't know how this one survived but I'm thankful it did.
I thought I had many books. You should see Basram's collection. I don't know where he gets them all, but as most kids are into playing (or fighting!), he's into books. He's got so many that is all he talks about when I visit him – he stays with whom he calls his foster parents. He reads them all too. I think that's why he's so smart. He'll read several books at the same time he says (not at the same time, but, well, at the same time).
Well, that's it for today. Mum is cooking again tonight. She's not really good at it but I'd never tell her that of course. She's had nothing to hold on to ever since Pop died. I'm glad that she feels useful again.
I write this at the end of the day from our porch while most of the people gather around a big fire in "the square" – common area near most of the homes and the end of "main street" which was the part of the center street with shops – where people would gather during the day for conversation, or around a big fire at night in the winter. I can make out Basram sitting on the ground near the fire. A book in his hands of course.
I am no story-teller – this is just a diary.
Basram and I spent the whole afternoon in the warehouse district. We talked about maybe cleaning up some of the areas. There is a large office with desks and file cabinets and papers strewn about. "Wouldn't it be cool to live here?" I said. Basram agreed and we started to straighten up. But after a while the acrid smell of rust and decay became too much – and the one window wouldn't open. So we went back to the storage area where several windows were broken out and the air better.
The back had a raised platform with steep stairs up to it. We went up it, kicking the many empty buckets we found there around like we were playing soccer. Then Basram noticed the door to the right. It opened to a ladder going up to a trapdoor. We looked at each other and knew we had to climb!
The trapdoor had a simple latch. Basram concluding that we couldn't lock ourselves out, we opened it and climbed out on to the roof.
From up there we could look out and see the whole town. You know what really amazed us was that there was a whole lot more green then we ever thought. There are hardly any trees since they were almost all cut down for firewood during the first two winters of the occupation, but there was grass and other plants. The garden was noticeable but not too green – it never did grow much.
Sitting up there on that roof top you could see that there weren't enough trees for another winter. Then we'd have to be busting up the unoccupied buildings for wood. But at the end of the last with they gave us their weird stoves. I don't know why they keep some of us alive.
Pop said that the most humiliating thing they did to us was to wall us in.
The wall goes all around our part of town. It's close by just behind the warehouses and then it runs off in either direction, almost being lost to the horizon, then loops around to close off. It almost looks like some giant baseball diamond. There's only one way in or out of town – the gate – and that can sometimes be closed for months at a time and nobody can leave except the three who get to communicate with them.
The wall is over fifty feet high and smooth and too hard to even scratch. Someone once made a tall ladder to get to the top, but what he saw scared him up so badly that he slid down the ladder, knocking it over. He began babbling about the other side was all just more walls amid destruction and decay, and he smashed up his ladder. He became a trembling recluse. No one wanted to look over after that.
We could not see past the wall for the roof was not high enough.
At first some kids starting putting up graffiti but after a while they stopped. Seemed no point I guess. Who'd see it but ourselves?
Today was misty and the walls were shrouded in fog making them look like they were high as mountains. And inside these white mountains were the valleys of green, and inside the valleys were the reds, browns and greys of all our houses and buildings and roads. It reminded me of a really nice watercolor painting that we used to have. It was beautiful that painting, and I don't know whatever happened to it, or where we had gotten it from. I wonder what happened to it. Just another heirloom of the past that has been lost. So many, many things have been lost.
And high above us, just visible, were the huge round ships reminding us of our fate.
They are actually kind of beautiful those huge ships – Spheres we called them – floating high in the sky. Not that I'd ever say that out loud, not even to Basram. But to you my imaginary reader, I will admit that they have a mystery that intrigues me.
They are silver, like polished aluminum. There are just a few dark grey markings on some of them, but no one knows what they are for. No one has seen anything enter or leave the Spheres. They simply float high in the sky. Sometimes, if they are in the sky at dawn or dusk, the sun shines upon them, lighting them up like moons. Once I saw three of them together along side the real moon. I wish I had a telescope so that I can view them close up.
We've all been so busy lately. And jovial! (I'm trying to expand my vocabulary.) It's the having back a bit of civilization after it had been taken away from you that's gotten people's spirits up. People had been working for days to get as many houses and buildings wired, and now most of them are.
When we were told the electricity was coming we had to prepare for it. They just did something to one of the walls and there was a junction box. People worked all day for two days to get the first house wired. Now that electricity is back and appliances and lamps are being used – light bulbs are in short supply though.
Basram and I helped as much as we could, mostly scrounging the warehouse – many people knew we were good at that – for nails, screws and tools. Some guys had "wire duty." Making sure homes were wired properly or to strip wires from unused buildings to be reused. Wiring had to be run from house to house again.
There's nearly 100 people here with many different backgrounds. There were plenty electricians and carpenters and mechanics, and some doctors and even some lawyers, among other professions, but everyone seemed to not mind getting their hands dirty or to help out in any way. We've developed a true community here Basram reminded me.
The initial joy has started to taper off. Now that the work has been finished we are back to our mundane existence, but it is a more comfortable existence. The worst thing of the first year here was fighting off despair. That was rough. The next year, once we realized that we survived, it was boredom.
That year there were meetings after meetings, arguing and bickering over who should do what, who should be what. It all got settled. Though Basram and I were not really part of all that.
People became people – you know, the few shops were set up with "shop owners," a house was set up with a "doctor" and "nurses." A school was created, and a church. New occupations came about (old ones new again Basram pointed out), "fix-it men," a "rag man." Giving people titles can give them purpose.
I always thought that I'd be better off without school. Boy was I wrong. I really miss school after having had some real world civics lessons!
Keeping busy seems to flush away people's anxiety and despair. It sure helps me. And we had been busy working together these past weeks.
I've been rambling. I think I need to take a break for a while.
It's getting hot.
The garden is growing again, mostly flowers as their seeds were easily collected. No vegetables. Gardening and landscaping is something many people like to do. Especially Basram and I. We are always dirty. (There ain't no laundromat here! People wash their cloths by hand.)
No showers or baths either. But when everyone is like everyone no one seems to mind.
Summer is always a better time.
Samuel was buried today. A cemetery is also something that we had to create, as the first year several people died. But yesterday... It was horrible. Samuel was killed by one of the Things.
Things. That's what we call them. I guess I have been avoiding this. We don't call them Aliens anymore. First, they do not look like "Aliens." You can't see their eyes. You don't even know if they have eyes. Some said they were robots, some, some kind of insect, with an exoskeleton. Metal beings is more fitting.
We were in line waiting for the food and water shipment that comes about once a month, Basram and I were not part of those responsible for handling it – there were six men assigned to that – we were just among the people who come to watch and perhaps to see past the gate.
Samuel, a quiet guy who loved gardening, was standing near the wall as the food arrived, I guess. No one really noticed him. Not until he tried to dash out the gate.
There was a cracking noise and a long spark and Samuel fell down dead, smoke coming out of his head. And those bastards did not even move and went on as if nothing happened. Nobody even knew which one of the Things – there were four of them – zapped him.
They would have just left him there to rot. While some went to his body, we had to wait until all the stuff was carried in and the gates closed before we found out that he was dead.
It came as a bad shock to everybody. Everybody liked Sam.
Before the goods were stored away some people carried Sam to the doctor's office, a large crowd following. Though obviously dead, the doctor – Doc, as he liked to be called – looked him over anyway. He said he'd write a report.
It was settled that the funeral would be the next day. The rest of us left Sam with Doc and went to store the goods. Many were cursing. Many were crying.
That evening a bonfire was lit on the square – too much wood used someone mentioned – but this was for Sam and for us he was reminded. Then people started bringing food. It wasn't much of a comfort, as it was food from "them," but it was food and something to share.
Songs were sung, a few homemade instruments played, a couple of people slowly danced. That's what makes for our wakes.
This morning he was laid to rest. Many people took turns with the two shovels we had suited for digging. He was wrapped in sheets and carefully placed. No one wanted to be the first to toss dirt on him. A silence came over us all. Then Basram surprised me again as he is always doing when he stood forward and said a prayer in his own language. No one understood the words but understood their soft, rhythmic sounds.
He then asked for shovel and started the burying process. After nearly two minutes, someone took the shovel from him and continued. Then others followed.
Mum and I and Lieberman all tossed in a handful.
The burial was finished with a nice rock as a headstone. Someone said they'd carve in his name. Then more words were spoken by a few other people. Last, Doc spoke.
"Samuel, humble friend to all, with your hands more deft than mine you brought beauty to our community with your constant gardening. Your death was senseless, but your life was of greatness. You touched all you met, you gave to all you met. You were, are, the best of our kind. The best example of the difference between us and..." He choked up, and we were all filled with tears. "Them."
Then Doc turned to us. "Though little comfort, he died instantly. Those Things again demonstrating their technological efficiency. Samuel's brain all but vaporized." He stopped, looked down, and turned away. "Hell," he was heard to mutter. "Aw hell!"
Many of us stood around for a while, all going home one after another. Mum and I spent most of the day at home.
I guess I'll close with a bit more about "them." Though I hate to think of them now.
They're typical two armed, two legged, beings. (To fit a gravity, land based planet like ours – Basram of course.) But heads are difficult to make out. We've noticed three types so far. The most common and the largest at near seven feet – each one exactly alike – has sharp or square edges. It's black with some gray. Like anodized aluminum someone said.
The other two types – or models – don't differ from each other much. Stubs for heads, arms that seemed to only rotate up and down (or forward and back, depending on how you look at it) – which would be funny under other circumstances. They're shorter at about five feet. Though one's reddish and one's blueish, and they are slightly reflective, there are other differences. Girth for one.
They inspire an unsettling awe and mystery. When they are not the cause abject fear.
Mum and I went shopping today. Seems many want to get back to being people again.
The "grocery" store is where our food was stored. Ms. Markem, who runs the place, is always pleased to see us. She keeps the place looking as much like a real grocery store as possible. The round shaped, bread-like food on shelves. Green, yellow and orange oddly-shaped stuff in tall glass doored refrigerators.
Next to the "vegetables" was the "milk" containers. Like mini-kegs with little faucets, the liquid did look like milk and was even pretty refreshing.
No one likes to admit that they like the food because of the source. But people get creative. The garden did produce some herbs and some other plants that many pretty good herb replacement. Some people are really good cooks.
There was something new this time. Grayish, sausage shaped meat-like food behind the glass case. Mum immediately noticed it. "I knew you'd want to see this, Mrs. Holden," Ms. Markem said, always saying "Mrs." "Is it..." Mum could barely speak. "Sausage," Ms. Markem said giving me a wink.
Mum carried a large basket made by the Co-op. When we left it was half-full. With plenty of "sausage."
The Co-op was a house where a group of artists and other creative people lived and who made things like baskets and clothes. They also hand print a community pamphlet of sorts sporadically – not everybody thinks highly of it. Basram and I do. They also hand print our money.
Community dollars they are called, and with careful accounting, those who do community work, get paid a two dollars a day. Doesn't seem like much but our economy is so small it's just a way to keep people working together. Even if someone lounged around all day they won't go without enough food.
Next stop was Buchanan's shop.
Buchanan "The Scrounger" he was called. "If you want something, Buchanan can get it," he'd say. "If you got something, just tell Buchanan," he'd say. He always talked like that. Basram felt he was not to be trusted but he sometimes had books so Basram said he couldn't be that bad.
His shop was full all manner of things, of kitchen utensils and cups, glasses and plates, of hand tools of all kinds, there were lamps, and chairs. These were all out front, all clean and useful. Out back were boxes of stuff, and many things in disrepair. And to the side was his workshop with a small lathe, a wall filled with tools large and small.
If I sound different here, it's because I feel there's a kind of beauty that inspires there. History and discovery were my favorite school subjects growing up. And that was taken away from me.
We didn't buy anything that day. We just paid our respects as Mum always did when we were out.
Many are suspicious of Buchanan because he has so much good stuff. But he works hard at cleaning, repairing and fixing things. He's also the repair shop. But Basram and I think we know his secret. We knew we weren't the only one's scrounging at places like the warehouse. There are many vacant houses and buildings, their cupboards, basements and attics slowly being depleted.
After our chores Basram stayed over for dinner. Mum cooked again. Boiled "sausage and cabbage" she called it. "We have meat!" she kept saying. "First, the electricity and now meat!" I didn't have the heart to tell her that it was not sausage, not meat at all, but standard substitute made to look like sausage. How they figured out what sausage is, who knows? We didn't care too much as it was hot and a bit spicy which we all really liked it.
Mum seems to stay in the kitchen more and more lately. I caught her weeping again, staring out the window over the sink.
I can't believe what happened today. I am still shaking.
Basram and I thought that we would go into town and look around. We felt like we were playing hooky even though only the children go to school here. We passed Paul and his gang who wanted to go rat hunting in the warehouse district but we told them we had more chores and then slipped into town.
At first we walked slowly, as if we were just wandering about (we were!). But then we went quickly up along the sidewalk. "Window shopping," Basram laughed. Yeah – we didn't have any money!
There was a crate out in front of Buchanan's shop.
We stood on the crate to look in the window to see if there was anybody inside. Basram said that the crate had "black market goods" written on over it. I was about to ask where before getting what he meant. But who'd leave it on the sidewalk I said. He was kicking it when someone from across the street began shouting at us. We couldn't make out what the guy was saying so we started hurrying away.
Down past the next shop was an alley and we ducked in and turned to see if the guy was following. And then BOOM! There was this huge explosion that that shook the building. We instinctively stepped out and looked up the sidewalk. The blast was at Buchanan's shop. Right where that crate was. We took off down the middle of the street. We never ran so fast. All the way home we ran. I'm still shaky.
Basram stayed over for a while and Mum made us something to eat.
"How could someone do it?" Mum keeps asking over and over. I don't know.
All I know was that the bomb was in the crate we were on!
The bombing has really stirred things up. We've been a peaceful community despite our hardships; or perhaps because of our hardships, Basram said. He said that people who are poor and destitute are generally more tolerant of their neighbors (except for the few who would resort to stealing – but when everyone is poor what is there to steal?). I don't know. He may be right though, for we have been getting along with our neighbors for these past years. In the beginning there was some fighting, but mostly over property or food. After everyone realized that each family was as bad off as the others we all got along. There is an underlying tension between some of those who go to church and those who don't, but otherwise we've all been fine. Until yesterday. (Which is why I didn't write anything.)
All the families in our neighborhood share as much as they could. This means that there are always visitors, or that we would visit others. Since there where no places like restaurants to go to, this happens all the time. Well, Wilson, he lives on the other side of Lieberman, called Buchanan a collaborator and said that he may have gotten what he deserved.
Then everyone was talking about it. Lieberman disagreed and said that we should all give Buchanan the benefit of doubt. But Wilson said that the rumor was that the bomb was planted by some of the other merchants in the town, although he could not say who. Buchanan lived alone he said, and that he was frequently seen going out the gate and that takes permission. Permission that not just anyone can get. And how did he get all that stuff, Wilson said. Wilson then called him a sneaky Jew.
Mum let out a gasp and nearly spit out a mouthful of tea. Which I found funny and started to laugh at before realizing what was said. Then Lieberman got up and really let into Wilson something fierce. I didn't think Lieberman had it in him. Lieberman is really old. Ninety something; stooped a bit, and slow in his manner. Basram says he is a truly meek person. (I had to look that word up, and I think he is right.)
You should have heard Lieberman give Wilson a history lesson of how people survive hardships and occupation and about how bigotry and racism is the ruination of mankind. Wilson kind of just mumbled something and stormed out.
We thought it was over but then everyone on our street, and the next street over, seemed to want to visit that night as word got around. People were saying that hatred and bigotry will not be tolerated; that we all had a common enemy that we should concentrate on; that there really wasn't anything to collaborate about anyway. I mean, it's true. We are all in this together. We all have to work together.
But there was now sown the seed of dissent. (Basram said that.) People are different. Acting different. But not Lieberman, he's back to his old meek self. I like Mr. Lieberman even more than I did before.
Buchanan was not hurt by the way.
All anyone could talk about was the bombing. How could anyone get or make an explosive? And who? So everyone now looks at everyone else with suspicion. There were suspects. Those who were loners. The few groups who kept to themselves. As if we didn't already feel rotten every day since we got here. But there's something fishy about this bombing Basram said.
I don't think anyone could be called a collaborator. Three people here get to go outside the gate – though outside is just beyond the gate. Buchanan is one. He had said the Things understand English but only communicate with words on a weird computer-like display. For him, it's about inventory, like food needs.
The others are not too talkative about it. It does have the feel of collaborating with the enemy – but it is just talking about stuff. Unfortunately we rely on them for basic needs.
But now, not just despair and anxiety has come back, but fear and anger and resentment. I hope it won't last long.
That's all I can write today. I hate this place.
Everything is still different with one new thing. Most of the adults are wary Basram and I now, as if we can't be trusted. As if we wouldn't be able to understand. Maybe because we were so close to the bomb. I don't know. (I say that a lot I guess, and it's true. But it's just that I can't find the right words to write down how I really feel about something. Basram says that it is not lack of intelligence but lack of knowledge. He said he'd get me a few good books. One on history and another on philosophy.)
What we can't understand is why? Why bomb Buchanan's shop? It makes no sense. Some people are afraid of reprisals. Or that the electricity will be turned off. But why would the Things care?
Maybe we are being manipulated, or tested. Sometimes I feel we are rats in a maze. Guinea pigs Basram says.
All we know is that there might be more going on here than meets the eye. That's scary.
I haven't written for a while because I've been depressed. I get that way sometimes. It comes on suddenly, "wham!", you're feeling so down. It's painful. It's depressing! Everyone here gets that way sometimes. Lately it seems many people are like that. You can see it in their eyes.
There is a noise in the east – far in the east. The noise is a low boom every several seconds, like a great piston rising and falling, punching inside the earth. You can feel it in the ground coming like a wave. Now I know what a cold sweat feels like.
Did I ever mention that I hate this place?
Basram was gone last night. I looked everywhere for him and no one had seen him. I was really worried and could barely sleep wondering what became of him. He was there, sleeping in his bed, when I went to his house in the morning.
He did not want to say where he was but I kept pressing. Finally he told me. He was outside! Outside the wall! I couldn't believe it until he showed me how he did it.
Basram told me that he went to the warehouse again and found some sturdy boards which he could place on the edge of the roof and to the wall, and thereby make it out on to it! There was a big tree on the other side with branches really close so all he had to do was straddle the wall and make his way to the tree and climb down. Just like that. Pure Basram genius I told him. He liked that and for the first time in a long time he looked happy.
He said little about what he did out there, though he wants to go out again tonight and I'm going with him!
Dirty, cold and tired we made it back early in the morning. But what an adventure! Just a taste of freedom was sweet. And that's not the best part.
When we made it down the tree that night – luckily it had a low enough branch to get back up! – we wandered aimlessly, but kind of straight away from the wall. He said the first time he was out he didn't go far and stayed within sight of the wall at all times. It was dark even with a clear night sky and the moon hanging just over the horizon. A Sphere could just be made out high in the sky not too far away. We couldn't help but wonder if they might see us.
The ground was a bit muddy and mostly barren except for a tree or two here and there. We would rest by the trees whenever we came upon them. We were standing by a tree, both of us giddy with a mix of excitement and fear, when up ahead he thought we saw a light. We stilled and became silent and just stared for the longest time into the darkness.
Then we heard voices.
"Do you hear them?" Basram asked.
I nodded and then said yes.
"The Things don't talk to themselves," Basram said. "Those are people!"
"Can you see them?" I asked.
"No. Wait! Yes. I think I can. Over there." He pointed to the right of us. A flicker of a light could be seen not too far off. The sound of muffled voices came distinctly.
"I see them," I said. "Who could they be?"
"Let's find out." Before I could say anything, Basram moved out, heading directly to whomever was there. I followed. I was scared but I wanted to stay with him.
When we were close we could see four men walking in a straight line diagonally toward us. We stopped and Basram said, "Hello."
One of the men let of a cry and they all stopped, the lead man shined a flashlight, covered with tape so light only shown through a slit, upon us.
"Jeez!" he said. "What the! Get down. Get down!" All four crouched down and so did we. "What are you doing here? Where are you from?"
"Sorry to startle you," I said.
"We are from the walled community not far behind us," Basram said. "We are exploring."
"Do you hear that, guys? For crying out loud! Exploring! You've got to be kidding me."
"No," Basram said. "Not kidding you."
"It's just... Never mind," the man said. "How did you get out?"
The men asked question after question. "Where? Who? How many humans? Things?" And more. We answered as best we could. Our questions were initially avoided, but they finally told us something. It turns out that at night the Things pretty much stay to themselves and aren't roaming around.
They too found a way to escape their walled community. They too were just exploring and have been for many weeks. They have been mapping all of the walled communities and have been contacting people inside by throwing notes over the walls. They were going to our place this night.
Instead they gave us the note to take back with us.
Despite our startling them we parted in good spirits, and we hurried back home – if "home" it could be called.
There was a gathering in the "communal house" – the largest house in which town issues were discussed – yesterday to discuss the note we received. After the initial fear of being spied on by the Things wore off – we always wondered about that – the note was read aloud.
"Good citizens unite! There has been a growing underground resistance movement for over a year now and we have had successful incursions into our Alien enemy's territory. We have been carefully monitoring them and have learned much to our advantage. We know that they are vulnerable. We know that they have weaknesses. We have much to discuss. We ask that you good citizens elect a spokesperson for your community for when we meet. We have ways of climbing the wall. We will contact you again soon. The Resistance."
The packed room broke out into conversation all at once and it took Mr. Grayson – who many call Mayor even though he disapproves – a few minutes to get everyone to be quiet.
"Calm down," he had said more than once, standing on a chair at the back of the room. "We must remain calm and quiet." Everybody quieted and looked to him. "Let us do as the note says and – " He was cut of by Lori Smith, a Mother of three boys. "What can we do? We can't fight them. You can't expect us to fight." There were a few consenting comments from the crowd.
"Of course not," Mr. Grayson said. "Nobody is going to be expected to fight. The note said to meet with them. We don't know what they want yet."
"I'll fight," John Taylor nearly shouted, a twenty year old here without family. There were a few "Me too's," afterward.
"Maybe those who want to resist will get their chance," Mr. Grayson continued. "Obviously, we don't know what this resistance will want from us. Or even if we'll be able to help them. We need to do as they said and elect a spokesman--"
"Spokesperson," someone interrupted.
"A spokesperson," he went on. "Let's elect one and then wait until they contact us again."
The crowd broke out into talking among themselves again and it was a while before they became silent again as Mr. Grayson called for those interested in being spokesperson to step forward. At first, no one did. But after a moment two men stepped forward.
Mr. Grayson called for a vote of hands. Not very many hands went up for either of the men. Then someone called out for Mr. Grayson to be elected. He tried to protest but many hands went up and he reluctantly accepted.
"That's what you get by standing up," someone next to him whispered.
That's what we get. It will be interesting to hear what the Resistance has to say. And learn how they get over the wall. Basram said that they probably have a rope ladder of some kind.
I've been anxious. We all have. And I just haven't felt like writing – and despite what happened this summer a kind of boredom has settled back in. The bombing is still unresolved. Although how it was made is still a mystery, most people now think it was personal.
No contact from the Resistance yet. We wait. We all wait for it, getting lax in our chores unfortunately.
Basram and I have gone outside the wall several times the last week, kind of looking for them, exploring further and further. It turns out that there are many communities around just like ours behind walls, at least in size and we assume in character. Apparently our captors think that smaller groups of people are easier to manage.
Basram said that that was a sign of weakness, that having had to break up larger communities into smaller meant that we had forced them, albeit inadvertently, to do something they might not have planned to do. He said that the Resistance may be right. I think so too, but, who could know for sure.
We also saw many areas not walled in. It was eerie to see empty streets filled with abandoned cars along empty store fronts and tall dark apartment buildings. A few blocks here and there had been destroyed, like they had been flattened.
We never encountered anyone outside the wall.
The waiting is getting to be unbearable. We had a community meeting and everyone was agreed to forget about them and get back to living. Living! We just exist! But after I showed my frustration I was rebuked (Basram taught me that word later). It hurt at first. But I was reminded that we were still a community. That we still had each other, difficult as life is.
Yeah. We do.
It means back to chores almost everyday though!
The Resistance finally showed up!
Basram was right about the ladder. They threw a rope ladder, with hooks, up to the top of the wall to scale it. Once at the top they just turned it around to go down.
Several people from our community met with three from the Resistance – and Basram and I sat nearby and no one seemed to notice us – in the square huddled around around a fire.
They brought stuff for us. Like candles and matches. We told them we had electricity, but hardly any light bulbs. They said that other communities were in the same condition. They said that there exists a widespread trade between communities now. That lifted our spirits.
When they got down to business everyone was quiet and solemn. I kept looking at Basram. He was fascinated and stared at the men, looking eager to join them. I suppose he, as many of us, had a reason to want to fight back. Pop died of a heart attack just after the invasion. Basram's parents at the hands – appendages – of the Things. (He only mentioned it once and I knew to not ask more.)
They told us that the Things ignore people at night. Sometimes they got very close to some of them. This is one of the weaknesses that they found. They were reluctant to go into greater detail right now.
Basram elbowed me and pointed to one of the Resistance. He had a pistol on his belt.
"Do bullets do anything against them?" Basram asked.
They finally noticed us and they were taken aback for a second.
"Ah, we actually have not found that out yet," the man with he gun said. "I can't go into it now, but there are ways..."
"Who are you?" interrupted one of the others.
"My name is Basram and I want to join up," Basram said.
"Me too," I found myself saying. More to back Basram up than anything else.
"You're the two we met outside!"
"Yes," Basram said, proudly sitting up in his chair.
"Outside?" Mr. Grayson was surprised. I explained, although Mr. Grayson was acting like a concerned parent and chastised us.
"We could use resourceful people," the man with the gun said. "Even if they are, what, sixteen?"
"Seventeen," we both said, although I knew Basram was six months younger than me and I was not quite seventeen, but who's counting.
We didn't talk much longer. The men said that they had two other communities to visit that night. But they said they would be back in two days with more information.
We can't wait.
We have joined the Resistance! When they came last night – one day late – they swore us in. I thought it was a bit silly but Basram was eager to follow along. They said that they were going meet up with others in three days and them come get us. They had a map and on it were marked the many walled communities, mostly small like ours, as well areas were the Things had taken over. They pointed to what looked like a valley on the edge of the map. That was where we were going.
Nearly a dozen people were there they said, the main body of this area's Resistance group. There were many groups all over the state, they said. They only worked at night. They were readying for an attack soon – coordinated with the other groups. All who wanted to join were welcome, they said.
Basram and I were going. Don't tell Basram, but I'm really scared.
I told Mum today.
"I knew this would happen," she said. "I felt it in my bones. Is there anything I can... do or say to keep you...?"
"Mum. I'll be back. I promise."
"Your Father promised..."
"Don't cry. I will be back. You can bet on it."
I don't know what will happen, of course, but, scared as I am, I have to do something. I owe it to Basram and Mr. Lieberman. And Pop.
They had came back a day late again – but who cares! We are part of the Resistance now!
So far all we have been doing is hiding out during the day and traveling around at night. Those who seem to be the leaders are always together and making plans or something.
Sometimes, a few of us go over a wall to stock up. (An I to charge up my laptop.)
The other night we decided to take action. We had a bomb.
At the evening of our "action," Jeff and Buddy went out to set the "charges." It was a pipe bomb, plain and simple. The rest of us were laying on the top of an embankment overlooking the parking lot off the mall. Of all places to take over the around here Things decided to take over a mall. We all wondered what they were doing in there but we still did not want to get to close to them.
We had watched the Things here many times before. Basram and I pressed hard for that. We had to study them, to watch, to learn. If they had habits. If they had routines. So we had watched them for several nights. The Things never stopped moving about doing something, night or day, rain or shine. They have routines. Robotic-like or insect-like. The Things could be predicted. And part of their routines here at the mall left us a window of opportunity someone said. For two of the Things constantly walked around it.
Jeff and Buddy had run down the embankment when they passed this spot and would not be back for 6 minutes. They were to tie the bomb to a post, slab dirt over it and wrap the gray wires for it around the post. We certainly hoped that the Things didn't notice little things like that. They then ran the wires along the cement sidewalk, securing them with little pieces of duct tape. There was a crack in the tar lot which they pushed the wires into – we had planned all this as well as they could.
It was taking them longer than we figured, now at four and a half minutes. My scalp started to itch.
But they did it, securing the wires at the base of the embankment with a rock – just like in the movies! They ran back, jumped down behind and slid next to us. The guy with the battery was John – he built the bomb – and the ends of the long wires were stripped, he held one on a battery terminal and held the other ready.
We all wanted to watch. I know why it is said that curiosity killed the cat.
Then two Things, exactly on time, came around the corner from the back of the mall. Both model IIs – called that because they were the second type to be seen – two blueish ones. The Things slowly walked down a grade from our left and when the reached the lot they would pass the bomb.
No indication they noticed it or the wires. More "intel." If they did notice, that would be more "intel" on them as well. We all relaxed a bit though still were tense (and scared).
Just a few more steps... just about now... duck John said and we did – it was a shrapnel bomb – and he touched the other wire to the battery.
They couldn't believe it. But I could. I thought all along that the Things were more than we imagined. We, humans, tend to think in human terms. How else are we to think? Books, movies, science and technology, all together lead how we think. We think of future wars in space as we think of firing bullets at other humanoids. Bullets of some sort of plasma or something maybe, but bullets just the same. Our spaceships of the future are like our jets of today, roaring through space with blue flames coming out of their ass and lit up bullets shooting from the wings or by "phasers". We'll communicate through space with radios in the future too. Bullshit. All of it.
As these Things showed us. Their communication is almost instant and like thinking. It has to be. They act like it is. Their weapons had remote precision nobody ever dreamed of. I've seen them. I've seen a group of people just fall down dead. I've seen buildings collapse in rubble. I've seen planes fall from the sky, vehicles stopped dead. These Things don't fool around with projectiles of lead. They directly manipulate energy. But we had to make the test. We had to learn. We had to see how they reacted. And they didn't.
The explosion went off right on time, we figured. We felt pieces of pipe flying everywhere. We raised up. We had to risk it. We had to see. The post was damaged, the wall was damaged. Smoke actually billowed. When the smoke cleared, nothing. The Things were walking along their route as if nothing had happened.
Winter is coming early it seems. We got some stocks from a friendly community. (And I was able to charge the laptop.)
Basram and I have been in four assaults on the Things. Our weapons have all been typical improvised bombs, and it takes a lot of fire power to even dent the Things. But we do dent them!
The Things do fight back but we just run and they rarely follow. Lucky for us. We heard of an assault during the day, and everyone, it was said, was killed.
We heard there have been some reprisals. I hope Mum is okay. We are now far away from our community and have heard nothing from or about it. That may be a good sign.
But now, with the cold coming, and a few communities telling us we are no longer welcome, we have put all offensive plans on hold. They were futile anyway, though I never mentioned that to anyone. It was just playing out a sense of getting some revenge. A bit selfish, sure, but we all felt we had to do something! But while "playing army" we were for a time not depressed and despairing. Sure, still scared and hiding most of the time, but sitting around just existing behind their walls was worse.
But we do know some important things now. The Things don't notice small changes in the environment, it takes a lot for them to go after us, and as long as we stay away from them we seem to be safe
We have decided to seek out a new home. Scot, our new de facto leader (as Basram called him) is smart and contemplative. People automatically seem to like him. He says that staking out a place of our own, to survive on our own on the outside, should now be our priority. We all agreed.
Despite the coming cold we have hope. We are on hold for now but we will return.
We will continue.