Visitors, p.7

Visitors, page 7

 

Visitors
 


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  But Summer pushed hard and crammed it farther into my mouth.

  I gagged as the fur bristled in my mouth. Summer pushed it deeper.

  I gagged again. The fur scratched the back of my throat.

  Summer gave it another shove. My mouth was filled now.

  The egg squirmed. I choked. I couldn’t breathe. A sour slime trickled down my throat.

  Summer gave the alien one final push.

  “HUNNNNNNNNNNGGGH!” I gagged as it slid down my throat.

  Jeff let go of me. I swallowed.

  I could taste the sour slime on my throat. Could still feel the bristly fur filling my mouth.

  The alien slid down to my stomach.

  It was inside me.

  I coughed and gagged again.

  Ms. Crenshaw walked to the bathroom and returned with a paper cup of water. “Drink this,” she ordered. “It will help.”

  I drank the water. It helped clear my mouth and throat a little.

  Rikki let go of me. I jumped to my feet, dazed and frightened. I could feel the alien inside me, moving in my stomach.

  I’ve got to get rid of it, I thought. I’ve got to get it out of me as soon as possible!

  I stuck my fingers down my throat and tried to vomit the alien up. Nothing happened.

  Rikki laughed. “Once we are inside of you, you can’t get rid of us.”

  “That can’t be true,” I said, and tried to vomit it up again. It wouldn’t budge.

  Instead, a strange feeling surged through my body. It felt like electric waves rising from my stomach—to my brain.

  “You will feel strange at first,” Summer told me. “But you’ll get used to it.”

  “The alien inside you connects you to the leader,” Jeff explained, pointing to the biggest egg. “Soon you will feel his magnificent energy.”

  I did feel something. It wasn’t magnificent, but it was powerful.

  I felt wave after wave. And then I heard a voice. A voice deep inside me.

  “You are my host body now,” it said. “You will receive my thought waves. You will do all you can to protect me.”

  My own brain struggled against this. No! I thought. I’ll fight you! I’ll fight you!

  But I could feel the alien’s power growing stronger and stronger.

  “I tried to warn you not to meddle with our plans,” Jeff told me. “When Summer took you skating, I trashed your room. I left that message on your computer to frighten you.”

  “And we sent you that e-mail, warning you to stay away,” Summer said. “But it doesn’t matter now.”

  “You’re free to go,” Rikki told me. “Now that you have one of us inside you, there’s nothing you can do to stop us. You are on our side now. You will help us.”

  “You can help us tomorrow,” Summer said.

  “Tomorrow?” I choked out. “What is happening tomorrow?”

  “You’ll see,” Rikki replied. A cold smile spread over her face. “Tomorrow will be a wonderful day.”

  “But—but—” I sputtered. “Tell me. Tell me about tomorrow.”

  “Go home,” Jeff said. “You are one of us now.”

  “Yes,” the alien voice inside me said. I could feel it getting stronger, louder, taking over my brain. “You are one of us now. You will follow our wishes. And you can’t do anything to stop it.

  “You are powerless,” the voice roared inside my head. “Powerless.”

  25

  I hurried out of the darkroom, through the photography room, and into the hall. The halls were empty. Classes had started.

  I didn’t bother going to class. I ran outside, climbed on my bike, and pedaled for home. Leaning forward, gripping the handlebars for dear life, I fought the waves of alien energy that surged through me.

  I’ve got to tell someone, I thought desperately. Mom and Dad?

  Can I trust them?

  Or have they swallowed aliens, too?

  But then I felt my brain arguing with me. “It’s not a horrible thing. It’s wonderful thing. You are a hero. You are saving an alien life.”

  Oof! A sharp pain stabbed my stomach. I tried to keep pedaling, but the pain forced me to stop.

  I bent over, clutching my stomach.

  “What are you doing to me?” the voice demanded. “Stop! I order you to stop causing me pain!”

  Huh? I’m not doing anything, I thought.

  After a short while, the pain eased up. I continued on my way home.

  Hurry! I told myself. Hurry!

  But to my horror, my body began to slow down. I struggled to pedal faster, but I couldn’t.

  I leaped off my bicycle. A sharp stab of pain shot through my stomach again. I crouched down, moaning, rolling on the ground and holding my stomach.

  “What are you doing to me?” the voice called. “You are not allowed to cause me pain.”

  “I—I’m not doing anything!” I cried out loud.

  “You are not cooperating!” the voice boomed. “I will make you pay for that!”

  Somehow I made it home. I staggered into the kitchen. Mom and Dad were still home, cleaning up the breakfast dishes.

  “Ben! What are you doing home?” Mom demanded.

  I can’t tell them, I decided.

  I can’t trust them.

  “I’m not feeling well,” I said. “The nurse sent me home sick.”

  I felt another stab of pain. “You must suffer the way you are making me suffer!” the voice inside me boomed.

  I suddenly felt so weak.

  “You do look pale,” Dad said. “Why don’t you go upstairs and lie down?”

  “Good idea,” I said. Holding my breath, I walked upstairs to my room. Another sharp pain seized my stomach again. I collapsed on the bed.

  What is this pain? I wondered. Why is the alien doing this to me?

  I lay huddled on the bed as the pain grew sharper, so intense I could barely breathe.

  I’m…dying, I realized. And suddenly, I knew it was true.

  I was dying! Disappearing.

  I was vanishing as the alien came to life inside me.

  I writhed and moaned in pain, struggling against it with all my might.

  The pain moved to my head, pounding, throbbing. Worse than any headache I’d ever had. Pain so intense I couldn’t see.

  I’m going crazy! I thought. I’m going to die! To disappear inside this pain.

  Have to fight it. Have to fight it…

  And then, deep inside me, I heard a horrifying snap!

  At that moment, I knew what had happened to me.

  The alien inside me had taken over.

  I had fought the alien—and lost.

  26

  I felt as if I were floating. I didn’t know if my eyes were open or closed, but I couldn’t see anything.

  Everything went very still.

  Then I felt my chest move up and down. I’m breathing, I realized.

  I opened my eyes. I stared at the ceiling above me. The ceiling of my room.

  My room. Was the alien controlling my thoughts now? Or could I think whatever I wanted? I decided to test it.

  The aliens must be destroyed!

  I have to fight them however I can!

  “Hey!” I cried out.

  That was me thinking! Not an alien!

  I sat up. I had a heavy feeling in my stomach. As if I had eaten too much.

  I tried to sense the alien’s energy, his thoughts, the waves of power he had spread through my body.

  No. Gone. The pain was gone. All that was left was the weight in the pit of my stomach.

  What happened? I wondered. Did the alien die?

  I looked up. Mom and Dad were staring at me from the doorway.

  “Ben—what’s wrong?” Mom asked, hurrying into the room. “How do you feel?”

  “We heard you talking to yourself,” Dad said. “We were worried—”

  “The aliens,” I blurted out. “I was right. The aliens have come. They’ve landed and—and—”

 
; I stopped.

  A chill of fear ran down my back.

  What was I saying? Why was I telling them?

  I had seen the blue glow in the attic. And I had overheard their conversation about the “home planet.”

  I knew I couldn’t trust them.

  They both stood over the bed, staring down at me. Gripped with fear, I watched for their eyes to flash bright blue.

  “Ben, we have to tell you something,” Mom said.

  “Yes. This is the right time to tell you,” Dad whispered.

  Oh, no, I thought. This is it.

  This is where I learn the horrifying truth about my parents.

  I realized I was holding my breath. I let it out in a long, shuddering whoosh.

  “What? What is it you want to tell me?” I choked out.

  Mom sighed, a sad sigh. “We have to tell you the truth, Ben,” she said. “The time has come.”

  “You know, you’ve been obsessed with aliens since you were very small,” Mom said. “You’ve always been desperate to contact an alien visitor.”

  “I know that. So?” I demanded eagerly.

  “Well, we know the reason. We know why you’re so interested in beings from other planets,” Mom said.

  Dad grabbed my shoulder. He stared deep into my eyes. “You’ve always been interested in aliens,” he said, “because you are an alien!”

  27

  “I—I’m an alien?” I whispered. I started to laugh. “Is this a joke?”

  “No joke, Ben,” Dad said, his eyes still locked on mine.

  “Mom, Dad—you don’t understand,” I said. “I just saw a bunch of aliens. And they didn’t look anything like me.”

  Dad nodded solemnly. “If you did, I wouldn’t expect them to look like you,” he said. “Because you are the last of your kind. The last survivor of your people.”

  “You are The One,” Mom said, her voice trembling.

  The One?

  That’s what Rikki and the others were talking about in the darkroom. They said they had to find The One.

  My head spun. “I—I don’t understand,” I said weakly. I gazed at my parents. “That means you are aliens, too?”

  They shook their heads. “No. We found you, Ben,” Mom answered. She came over and wrapped her arms around me. “Oh, Ben,” she sighed. “Come with Dad and me. We can show you everything now. It’s time you knew the whole story.”

  My legs were trembling as they led me upstairs. “Where are we going?” I asked.

  “To the attic,” Dad replied. “We can’t hide this from you any longer.”

  Dad unlocked the door. We stepped inside the attic.

  Then Mom opened the closet door. She reached in. A warm blue glow spread across the room.

  The glow brightened as Mom pulled out a square thing about a foot tall and a foot wide.

  I stared at it in amazement. It was some kind of screen, like a TV screen. Only it held a holographic image.

  It showed three people—a male, a female, and a baby. They looked almost exactly like humans, but something was different about them.

  They all had curly coarse brown hair. Their faces looked so much like mine. And then I realized what was weird about them.

  They had no ears. And they all wore short tops over stomachs that had no belly buttons.

  “I’ll never forget the night we found you,” Mom began.

  “It was twelve years ago. I saw a weird light in the sky,” Dad told me. “Like a pale blue glow.”

  “It was so close, and getting closer,” Mom added. “We walked into the woods, following the light.”

  “We came to a clearing. I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Dad said. “I thought I was dreaming.”

  “A clearing?” I said. “In the woods behind our house?”

  Mom nodded. “There was a huge spaceship. It was shaped like an eight. The ship was so hot it burned a mark on the grass. Sometimes I wonder if the mark is still there.

  “We were so terrified at first, we ran away,” Mom said. “But then we were curious. We went back into the woods. But the spaceship was gone.”

  “It had left that big mark in the grass,” Dad said. “And lying right in the middle of the mark we saw something small. Something alive.”

  “That’s when we found you, lying there in the grass,” Mom said. “You were so cute! And so helpless!”

  “Your mother picked you up and that was that,” Dad said. “It was love at first sight. We were crazy about you. We wanted you to be our son.”

  “You mean you found me in the woods?” I asked. “But what made you think I was an alien?”

  “This hologram,” Mom explained. She pressed a button on the frame of it. The people inside the picture began to move.

  “Please take care of our child,” the woman in the picture begged. “He is the last of our race still alive. If he dies, our people will be extinct.”

  “He is The One,” the man said. “The aliens who destroyed our planet will come after him one day. He is The One to defeat them. Our last chance…our one hope.”

  The figures stopped moving. I stared at the baby in the picture. “Is that…me?”

  Mom nodded. “And those are your real parents.”

  “But what happened to me? I don’t have any ears in that picture.”

  Mom and Dad exchanged glances. “That’s right,” Mom said. “When we found you, you had a hole on each side of your head.”

  I touched my ears. It had never occurred to me there was anything strange about them.

  “We had a surgeon work on you secretly,” Dad explained. “He gave you ears to cover the holes in your head. I always thought he did a great job.”

  “And what about my outie belly button?” I said, staring at the picture. “Did that grow in later?”

  Mom shook her head. “We had the surgeon add that, too. I don’t know why he gave you an outie. I guess it was easier to make than an innie.”

  I stared at the picture again. “So this is why you’ve been acting so mysterious and strange,” I said. “That night you went out and you wouldn’t tell us where you went. Where did you go? Why were you so late?”

  “We’re sorry if we frightened you,” Dad said. “We just went for a drive. We sat in the car, talking about you. We were trying to decide what to do. We weren’t sure if we should tell you where you came from.”

  “It was so hard for us,” Mom added. “We’ve wanted so much for you to be a normal human boy. We knew that as soon as you found out you were an alien, you could never be normal again.”

  I laughed. “You were being so weird, I thought you were the aliens,” I said.

  I sat back in my chair, letting this new information sink in. It was still so hard to believe. I was an alien!

  “What about Will?” I asked. “Is he an alien, too?”

  “No,” Mom replied. “He’s our own, human child. He was born soon after we found you.”

  It figured Will would get to be the human child.

  “But we love you just as much as we love Will,” Mom insisted.

  I was still in shock. So much was happening at once.

  “We hoped you’d never have to know the truth,” Dad told me. “But as you grew older, you became more and more obsessed with aliens. Without realizing it, you were searching for your roots. For your true identity.”

  “Does Will know about me?” I asked them.

  Dad shook his head. “We’ve never told him anything. If you want him to know, it’s up to you to tell him. We’ll never say a word to him unless you ask us to.”

  It wasn’t hard to imagine the kind of teasing I’d get from Will if he knew I was an alien. “Don’t tell him,” I said. “I don’t want him to know.”

  Mom returned the hologram screen to the closet. “I suppose it’s best to keep this hidden away,” she said. “But if you ever want to come up and look at it, just let us know.”

  They each kissed me. Then we made our way downstairs.

  I’m an alien, I tho
ught. An alien!

  It explained so much. Like why I felt such a jolt when I stepped inside that figure eight in the woods, and Summer and Jeff felt nothing.

  I trudged to my room, feeling weary and dazed. My mind raced with a million weird thoughts.

  I’m The One, I realized. I heard my true father say it.

  I’m The One chosen from all the rest of my people to battle the aliens who have come to Earth.

  But how? What can I do against so many of them?

  I lay on my bed and closed my eyes, thinking hard. Those egg-shaped aliens didn’t seem to recognize me. The one inside me was sending his brain waves to me. He never once suspected that I wasn’t human.

  Yes, that’s it. I’m not human, I realized.

  The egg alien inside me must have died—because I’m not human!

  Suddenly, I pictured the leader. The biggest, ugliest, most powerful alien.

  What had I overheard about that big alien? They need the leader to survive—or they’d all die.

  Maybe there’s a way to defeat him, I thought. If I can do that, I can defeat them all.

  But how?

  My head swirled with crazy thoughts. I couldn’t sleep, but tossed and turned in a strange half-dream state, my mind racing.

  Rikki, Ms. Crenshaw, and the others were going to force all the kids at school to swallow those aliens. The aliens would live in their bodies forever.

  Tomorrow…tomorrow…

  They planned to carry out their plan tomorrow.

  But how? How were they going to do it?

  How would they force each kid, one by one, to swallow an alien?

  Think, I instructed myself. Think, Ben. What is special about tomorrow?

  “Oh!” I sat up in bed with a cry. I knew! Suddenly, I knew exactly what they planned to do!

  28

  “Ben, change your shirt,” Mom said the next morning. “You’re having your school picture taken today. Don’t you want to look nice?”

  Actually, looking nice was about the last thing on my mind. But I dutifully went upstairs and changed into a white button-down shirt.

  “That’s better,” Mom said. She smoothed my hair over my ears. I suddenly realized that she’d done that all my life—smoothed my hair over my ears, I mean. And now I understood why.

 
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