Visitors, p.3

Visitors, page 3



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  But I’d been listening for months now. And so far, no aliens had contacted me. At least not in a way I could understand.

  But now…now, maybe, I would hear from them at last.

  I put the headphones on and listened. For a few minutes, I heard nothing.

  Then something crackled through the headphones. My hand froze on the mouse. I sat perfectly still, listening.

  More crackling. It got louder.

  Was something coming through?

  It was faint at first. I strained to hear it.

  It was just static. But I thought I could hear a voice far, far away. Then it stopped.

  I listened harder, waiting.

  The static began to clear a little. The faraway sound grew louder.

  They were voices! Someone was talking!

  A little louder. Then a little clearer. As if they were coming closer!

  I began to make out a few words. The voice was high-pitched and weird.

  “We are receiving signals,” it said. “‘Welcome…welcome.’ Confirm Earth language.”

  Another high-pitched voice said, “Earth language confirmed. English. Now zooming in on location coordinates.”

  My heart pounded in my chest. It was happening at last!

  Aliens were contacting me!

  “Coordinates found,” the first alien voice said. “Western Hemisphere. North America. The United States. New Mexico. Bitter Lake, New Mexico.” There was a brief pause. “Fifteen seventeen Woodlawn Drive.”

  I couldn’t breathe. That was my address!

  “Coordinates set,” the second alien replied. “Will now attempt contact.”


  I pressed the headphones to my ears, listening.

  “We will land at that location in ten, nine, eight, seven…”

  I leaped to my feet. The aliens were coming to my house! In five seconds!

  I wanted to run to the window. But the cord to my headphones wouldn’t reach that far. I didn’t want to miss a word they said. But I didn’t want to miss seeing them land in my backyard, either.

  I hopped from foot to foot, too excited to think. What should I do?

  “We have arrived,” the first alien said. “I am looking at human specimen now. What a geek.”

  I heard the voice through my headphones—and right behind me at the same time. I whirled around.

  “He’s not worth the trouble,” Sophie was saying into a walkie-talkie. She was standing in my doorway, staring into my room. “Let’s go to Disney World.”

  Will stood next to her, holding his own walkie-talkie and laughing. “You fell for it!” he cried. “You’re so dumb!”

  Sophie cracked up in giggles. “You’re right, Will—your brother really is a weirdo!”

  I should have known. Will had found a channel on his walkie-talkie that my antenna picked up. Another one of his stupid tricks.

  “Beat it, brats.” Summer appeared and slammed the door in their faces.

  Will pounded on the door. “Hey!” he shouted. “You don’t live here! You can’t slam the door on me!”

  Summer opened the door. Then she nodded at me. I knew just what to do.

  “Well, I can!” I snarled, and I slammed the door again.

  I ripped the headphones from my head and tossed them on the floor. Then I collapsed onto my bed.

  “Are you okay?” Summer asked.

  “Yeah.” I sighed. “I don’t get it, Summer. There are thousands and thousands of people in the world who believe in alien life-forms. So why don’t I know any of them?”

  Summer sat in my desk chair. “Most kids are into other stuff, I guess,” she said. “Like sports or music. But all you ever talk about is aliens. Maybe if you had just one other interest—just one…”

  I sat up. “Summer, I’ve been reading a lot of scary things lately. More and more people are saying that aliens are coming to Earth—soon. Really soon. I think they might be coming here.”

  Summer sighed. “Ben, you need another hobby.” She climbed to her feet. “I’ve got to go home now and do my homework. But after dinner I’m going to come over and pull you out of this room. I’ll bring Jeff if I can tear him away from the TV.”

  “Okay. See you later.”

  She opened the door and spotted Will and Sophie huddled in the hallway.

  “Why don’t you two get a life?” she snapped. I heard her stomp downstairs and out the front door.

  A few minutes later, Mom’s car pulled into the driveway. She poked her head into my room and saw me lying on my bed. “Ben, what are you doing? Don’t you feel well?”

  “I’m okay,” I replied.

  “Why don’t you go outside and take a walk or something?” she suggested. “It’s a nice day, and you need more fresh air. I worry about you, always sitting at that computer day and night—”

  “Mom—” I protested.

  “It’s not healthy,” she went on.

  “I don’t feel like walking,” I said.

  She frowned, and I knew that look on her face. She can be very stubborn when she wants to be.

  She opened the door wider and stalked over to the bed. She pressed her hand on my forehead.

  “You’re not sick, so I want you up,” she ordered. She grabbed me by the arm and pulled me to a sitting position. “Why don’t you go outside and ride your bike or something?”

  “I’ve got homework to do,” I whined. That’s usually the ultimate weapon—homework. But she wasn’t buying it.

  “How about a short walk? Breathe in a little fresh air. Take your sweater.” She snatched up a green sweater I’d dropped on the floor a few days earlier. “Come on, Ben. It will do you good.”

  She pushed me out the door. I heard Will and Sophie giggle as I walked past Will’s room.

  I stopped in the kitchen for another apple. “Come on, Biscuit!” I called. “We’re going for a walk—whether we like it or not.”

  Biscuit scampered to the back door. I opened it and she burst outside, running and jumping happily.

  Once we left the backyard and got deeper into the woods, I began to relax. I hated to admit it, but Mom was right. It felt kind of good to get outside for a little while.

  Biscuit ran ahead of me, yapping like an excited puppy. I realized we probably didn’t take her on walks as much as we should have. We usually just let her out into the yard.

  Biscuit kept trotting along, and I followed her, not paying much attention to where I was going. I walked and walked, deeper into the woods than I’d ever gone before. I wasn’t just following Biscuit anymore. Something seemed to be pulling me along.

  I kept thinking about the trick Will and Sophie had played on me. For a few minutes I’d really thought aliens were contacting me. It had been so exciting.

  Just because Will played a trick on me doesn’t mean I’m wrong, I thought. There are still aliens out there somewhere. I know it for sure.

  Biscuit stopped a few yards ahead of me and started barking like crazy.

  “What is it, girl?” I asked, running a little to catch up with her. Maybe she’s spotted a rabbit or something, I thought. But Biscuit wasn’t exactly a hunting dog. She usually didn’t even get excited about cats.

  Biscuit ran a little farther ahead, still barking. I chased after her. I found myself in a big clearing. I stopped dead in my tracks. And stared in amazement.

  In the clearing, a huge, perfect figure eight was burned into the grass. Biscuit ran along the edge of it, sniffing every inch of it.

  The figure was big enough to fit a small house inside it. And it was absolutely, perfectly shaped.

  A human could never make such a perfect figure eight in the grass, I thought.

  I’d never seen anything like it before.

  I walked up to the figure eight and stepped inside one of its loops.

  Zap! A shock jolted through my body. I stared at my hands.

  They were glowing!

  The electricity surged through my body. My arms and legs shook. My whole body s


  Pain shot up and down my body as jolt after jolt crackled through me.

  Make it stop! I begged. Make it stop!


  With a struggle I heaved myself outside the loop, Gasping for breath, I collapsed on the grass.

  The electric jolts had stopped. But my body still shook and my skin tingled.

  I held my hands in front of my face and stared at them. I wasn’t glowing anymore.

  But when I’d stepped inside the figure eight…

  What does it mean? I wondered.

  I was sure of only one thing. This was more proof that aliens had been there. There was some kind of weird force inside that figure eight—an unearthly, inhuman force.

  I’ve got to get a picture of it, I decided.

  “Come on, Biscuit!” I called. I began to run back home. Biscuit scurried after me. We raced all the way through the woods until we reached my backyard.

  I paused outside the back door, panting. I was so excited, I couldn’t wait to tell someone about the figure eight.

  I was tempted to tell Mom. But I was afraid to because I knew she’d only worry. And I couldn’t tell Will. He was too…Willish.

  No, I thought. I’ll have to keep it a secret until Summer and Jeff come over tonight.

  In the meantime, I had to get my camera.

  I passed through the kitchen on my way to my room. “Dinner’s almost ready,” Mom said. Dad was setting the kitchen table.

  “I’ve just got to run back into the woods for a minute,” I said. “There’s…uh…something I want to take a picture of.”

  Mom and Dad exchanged glances.

  “Something in the woods?” Dad said. “Since when do you do nature photography?


  Mom set a casserole dish on the table. She frowned at me. “Sorry, Ben. It’s time to eat. You can go back out after dinner.”

  “But, Mom—” I protested. “It’s important! It will take only a minute or two.”

  Mom and Dad looked at each other again. Their expressions were strange, troubled.

  “Ben, you heard your mother,” Dad said. “It can wait until later.”

  No, it can’t, I thought. It will be too dark to take a photograph after dinner.

  “Will!” Mom called upstairs. “Dinner!”

  “Sit down, Ben,” Dad said.

  Frustrated, I sat down while Mom spooned macaroni onto my plate. I was dying to get a picture of that figure eight. What if it disappeared before I could get back there?

  “What are we having?” Will asked as he bounded into the room and slid into his chair. “Not tuna casserole again?”

  “Macaroni and cheese,” Mom told him, loading up his plate. “Eat some salad, too.”

  She and Dad sat at the table and started eating. I picked at my food, wishing dinner would hurry up and be over.

  I might as well wait for Summer and Jeff to get here now, I thought. It’s going to be too dark. But at least I can take them into the woods and show them the figure eight.

  We ate in silence. It seemed a little strange to me. Usually Mom and Dad asked us all about school and everything. But that night they were strangely quiet.

  Finally, Dad said, “Your mother and I have to go out tonight. Just for a short while. We’ll be back by nine.”

  “Mrs. Jenkins will be next door if you need anything,” Mom added.

  “Where are you going?” Will asked.

  “No place special,” Dad replied. “We should be back by nine.”

  I glanced at Will. He shrugged. I could tell he was thinking what I was thinking—what’s up with them?

  “I’m going to hang with Jeff and Summer tonight,” I told them. “They’re coming over later.”

  “That’s fine,” Mom said. “Keep an eye on Will.”

  “I’m going with you,” Will said to me. “Wherever you’re going.”

  “Yeah. Sure,” I muttered.

  No way was he coming to the woods with us.

  When dinner was over, Mom and Dad left the dirty dishes in the sink, which was also strange. They always cleaned up right after dinner.

  Mom got her purse. She and Dad drove off.

  “Where do you think they went?” Will asked.

  “Who knows?” I replied.

  “Maybe they’re going to surprise us with something,” Will said.

  “Maybe,” I said, but I doubted it.

  I logged on to my computer while I waited for Summer and Jeff to arrive. I wanted to see if I could find any information about weird figure eights. Instead, I ended up on a website with this message:

  Spontaneous amphibian replication is a well-documented sign of alien invasion. Amphibian earth creatures such as frogs, salamanders, newts, and certain lizards reproduce extremely quickly in the presence of alien life-forms….

  “Turn that thing off!” I glanced up to see Jeff and Summer standing in the doorway. I rushed over to them.

  “You guys, I’ve got something so amazing to show you!” I hung my camera around my neck, grabbed them both by the arm, and dragged them downstairs.

  “Hello, it’s nice to see you. Thank you for coming over…” Jeff teased. “There are dozens of greetings you could have used, Ben.”

  “Where are you taking us?” Summer asked.

  “Just follow me,” I told them. “You’ve got to see this for yourselves.”

  I led them outside. It was a beautiful, clear night. I paused in the backyard to gaze up at the sky. There were millions of stars and planets.

  Which ones had aliens living on them? Which ones had sent visitors to Earth?

  We flicked on our flashlights and started into the woods. There was no wind that night. Everything was very still.

  “It’s kind of spooky out here,” Jeff whispered.

  We walked for about ten minutes. I hoped I could find my way back to the figure eight. What if I couldn’t? Jeff and Summer would never believe anything I had to say then.

  “How much farther?” Summer asked. “It feels like we’ve been walking forever.”

  “Are you sure you know how to get back?” Jeff asked.

  “We won’t get lost,” I promised. “I think we’re almost there.”

  A few minutes later, I stepped into the clearing.

  There was the figure eight. The moon had risen, and the figure seemed to glow in the moonlight.

  “This is it?” I told them. Even though it was dark, I lifted my camera and snapped a few pictures.

  Summer and Jeff stared at it. Summer rolled her eyes. “Here we go again,” she mumbled. Then she turned to me.

  “This is it?” she echoed. “What’s it?”

  “The figure eight!” I cried. “Look it at! It’s huge! Something burned it into the grass!”

  Summer and Jeff stepped closer. “So?” Summer said.

  “Don’t you think it’s mysterious?” I cried. “I mean, how did it get here? Who made it? Why?”

  “It’s just smushed-down grass,” Jeff said.

  “Step inside it!” I dared them. “Just step over that line. You’ll see.”

  “You go first,” Jeff said to Summer.

  “Wimp,” Summer muttered. She stepped across the line in the grass and stood inside one of the loops of the eight.

  I waited for her body to jolt the way mine had.

  But she just stood there calmly.

  “Come on in, Jeff,” she said. “There’s nothing to be afraid of.”

  Jeff stepped inside the loop. Nothing happened to him, either.

  “Don’t you feel anything?” I asked them. “Don’t you feel the power?”

  “Ben, stop it,” Summer pleaded. “You’re really scaring me.”

  “Look!” I moved carefully toward the figure eight. I hesitated because I wasn’t eager to get shocked again.

  I stepped quickly over the line.


  I felt a sharp shock and jumped right back out.

p; “Did you see that?” I demanded.

  “I saw you jump,” Jeff said. “But I already knew you could do that.”

  “You don’t feel a shock or anything?” I cried.

  “Ben, is this supposed to be another alien thing?” Summer asked.


  “All you think about is aliens,” Jeff said. “You see signs of them everywhere!”

  “Face it. You’re obsessed,” Summer said. She paused and looked me straight in the eye. “Ben, you’re starting to sound really crazy.”

  My jaw fell open. “How can you say that?” I asked. “You guys are my best friends!”

  They exchanged that look again. My heart sank. If I couldn’t count on Summer and Jeff, who could I count on? I was beginning to feel so alone.

  Then I heard something. A rustle.

  I glanced up at the treetops. The air was dead calm. Not a breath of wind.

  I froze, listening. Something rustled again.

  “Did you hear that?” I whispered.

  “Now what?” Summer said. “Are the aliens landing?”

  “Shhh!” I held one hand up to shush her. We all stood still.

  Behind us, a twig snapped. I heard feet shuffling through the leaves.

  “Now did you hear something?” I whispered.

  Summer and Jeff nodded.

  There was someone else in the woods!

  I ran toward the sound. Whoever was out there, I was going to catch him—or her, or it.

  “Ben, what are you doing?” Summer called. She and Jeff hurried after me.

  I dashed into the woods. I heard footsteps running away from me, back toward my house.

  The moonlight filtered through the tall trees. I flipped on my flashlight. I stopped for a second to listen.

  Someone was running to my left. I ran in that direction, my flashlight beaming.

  I was getting closer. I could hear the person breathing heavily.

  “Who’s there?” I called.

  No one answered.

  At last I got close enough to catch a glimpse. The beam of my flashlight grazed the back of the person’s head.

  I saw a flash of blue. Bright blue. A glowing bright blue.

  A roaring boom—like thunder—made me gasp.

  An alien!

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