I’ve lived in this town my whole life, and most of the time that’s fine by me. But in late fall when the sky fills with birds migrating south for the winter, traveling thousands of miles, I get homesick for places I’ve never been. Places like Egypt, Rome, Paris, anywhere but here.
In this town, every day is the same. I’ve known everyone here my whole life. No one ever leaves this place and no one ever comes here to stay. We get a fair number of tourists, but even that number dwindles every year. What used to bring people here just isn’t that exciting anymore. In a few more years, this town will be relegated to the same status as the “Home of the World’s Biggest Ball of Yarn” or “The World’s Largest Rocking Chair.” It will be another roadside attraction that collects dust and a sometimes road trip stop for hipsters and low-income families.
I was born after the crash, so to me, the site is nothing more than a local landmark. Since the crash site is damn near the center of town anyway, it provides a really useful directional tool for giving directions. “Take a right at the crash.” Or, “Left past the crash and then there’s the Piggly Wiggly.” I don’t think many people really think about what the crash represents anymore; for better or worse, it’s become a backdrop to our everyday lives.
The crash in our town was one of the early ones, which is what garnered it the little bit of fame it does have. It’s also one of the most intact sites still in existence; the others have been pilfered by tourists, the government, and collectors.
When I say that most people don’t think about the crash much, that of course doesn’t count the exception to that rule — the TRUE EARTHERS. They are a fanatical group born out of the time following the aliens coming to Earth. Once the crashes started becoming a frequent thing, international forces rallied together and negotiated with the incoming aliens. And despite the majority of people wanting to handle things peacefully, there were those who opposed the diplomatic approach.
Early on it was clear that the aliens meant no harm. The crashes were their ships malfunctioning entering our atmosphere. Ships that arrived later landed successfully and brought a small number of aliens to live among us. They now live among us and for the most part it’s a peaceful existence.
But that doesn’t mean that everyone likes them here. As I said, the True Earthers would like to kill all the aliens. They don’t believe we should share our planet. They believe the aliens are just the first of many invaders.
And today must be my lucky day because as I’m standing at the diner counter, in walks the head of the local chapter of True Earthers. I close my eyes and wish to be anywhere but here. All I can think is please let me really be sipping coffee in Paris or standing in the dry air of the Sahara. Anywhere but here. I hear Dirk walk through the door and make his way to his usual table where two others are waiting for him. I muster my patience as best I can and grab a menu.
“Here you are, Dirk. Would you like to hear the specials?” I ask.
He looks up at me slowly and snatches the menu from me. “No specials. I will look at the menu for a bit. Scurry along little worker bee.”
“Just let me know when you are ready to order.” I walk away but don’t’ return to my place behind the counter. Instead, I head in the back to the kitchen. I wave at the cooks as I pass through to the dish room. There is my best friend, and one of the few aliens who still lives in our town.
“Guess who is here, worker bee?” I say loaded with sarcasm.
At the sound of my voice, Glek looks up. He grins in that overly toothy way that all his kind do. He looks like your stereotypical “little gray man.” Except, I wouldn’t call him little; he is actually a couple of inches taller than me. He is just absurdly skinny. The other exception to the “gray men” stereotype is that the aliens who landed on Earth don’t have solid black eyes. Like us, they have pupils and irises. Glek has blue eyes like me. It’s one of the reasons he and I became friends in kindergarten.
Glek and I always mimic the weird linguistic choices of the True Earthers. We both find their terminology ridiculous. True Earthers refer to non-threatening non-believers, like me, as worker bees. I don’t know why they use bee hive terminology as part of their belief system, but they do.
“Well, little worker bee, you could always say you have a head ache and go home. Just don’t deal with him today.” When Glek started talking, he was grinning, but that changed as he went on. He knew that Dirk and I didn’t get along.
“Not a bad idea.” I said. But I sighed and added, “I need the money though.”
Glek nodded his understanding, “Don’t we all, little bee.”
“See you later. I better get back out there.” I said as I left the dish room and returned to the front of the diner.
The rest of my shift was mostly uneventful. Dirk was in a more pleasant mood than usual and didn’t harass me. He didn’t even use one derogatory term to refer to me, which he did on most occasions because I was friends with Glek. At the end of my shift, I waited out by my car for Glek. He was coming over to watch the newest episode of our favorite show.
As Glek came out of the restaurant a large truck came around the side of the building. I looked up and Glek hurried over to me.
“Get in the car and get out of here.” He told me as he practically shoved me in the car.
I pushed back. “No. I will not leave you here alone.”
By this point, the truck had pulled up and was blocking the only route out of the parking lot anyway. The engine remained on as three True Earthers hopped out of the truck. All of them were carrying bats of one sort or another. Dirk, their fearless leader, was carrying a cricket bat.
“Where the hell did he get a cricket bat?” I said not really processing yet what the purpose of the bat might be.
Dirk and his goons came closer. When they were about 20 paces away, Dirk said, “Runaway little worker bee.”
Instead I stepped closer to Glek until we were shoulder to shoulder. I looked at him and said, “Not running.”
Glek just nodded at me.
What happened next was not surprising. They beat us. I blacked out and the last thing I saw as I slid onto the pavement was Glek next to me oozing green blood.
We both woke up a few days later. We were hospitalized for some time before we could get around again. As soon as we were able, we gathered up everything we owned and drove out of that town.
Dirk and his men didn’t get in any trouble even though everyone knows who beat us. As we left town, I could see the crash site in the rear-view window. I hoped it would be that last time I would ever see that site again.