Chapter Twenty-three


Upstate New York



Three figures emerged from the craft as Michael reached his ATV. The creatures did not move with great speed. They seemed to float along, expanding into the space ahead of them as they left the space behind them empty.  Michael was struck by how they looked like giant amoebas splitting as they moved, with the old twin giving all of itself for the newer, forward twin.

Mike grabbed the ropes holding the gas cans to the ATV and began to untie the knot.  The aliens were getting closer, about twenty-five feet away. The smoke from the smoldering silo goy in his eyes and made them water. He tried not to panic as he worked the ropes.  His plan was simple: Grab a can, throw it at the aliens and then set them on fire.

His hands stopped moving.

Set them on fire with what? He thought. Matches? A flame-thrower? He had failed to think his plan all the way through, and now cursed himself.

In desperation, he slipped one of the five gallon plastic containers filled with gas and heaved it at the closest creature, now about seven feet away. The other two figures were close behind.

His mind raced as the container fell at the creature’s feet. The Aliens seemed to pause. Michael ran toward the burning silo and grabbed a burning stick and tossed it at the tank. It, too, bounced off the container and onto the ground harmlessly, the fire having nothing to make it catch.

The aliens shrugged off the vain attempt and resumed their movement toward Michael, the two back figures separating to the front’s left and right as if to surround Michael. The silo fire behind him popped and sizzled and allowed him no escape.

The lead alien appeared to kick the gas container, and this struck Michael as odd, and then the gas container began to fizz, making a sound like a carbonated drink in a tall glass. A stream of liquid shot out of the container and immediately caught fire, the length between the fire and the canister shortening like a fuse.

Mike hit the ground as the aliens turned, confused, toward the noise.

The gas tank expanded and burst, not exploding, but flinging lit gas in all directions, completely engulfing the figures.


Washington, D.C.


Tom carried his daughter’s body to the uprooted remains of Arlington National Cemetery. White crosses, six-pointed Stars of David, and flat stones lay strewn all over a wavy landscape. The entrance to the cemetery, once a proud gate made of limestone and iron, had collapsed and been subsumed by the ground.

Tom walked into the cemetery and placed his daughter down into a shallow crevice in the ground between mounds.   He knelt and began to toss near-frozen soil and snow onto the body, his lips moving in silent prayer. His grief morphed into greater anger with each furious scoop. No tears left his eyes.

As the soil grew harder he dug with more intensity, his nails splitting and beginning to bleed. His anger morphed into determination. He started to kiss each scoop of earth before tossing it onto the body, each kiss harder than the previous, until he was pounding his face before each toss. The blood on his hands mixed with the blood trickling from his nose and lips, and when he was done covering the body a bit of him was buried too.

He stood and turned. He saw the rest of the group approaching the cemetery, and began to walk in their direction. People had always come to him, looked to him for leadership and guidance, and they had always followed him.  He would lead them again. Not to garner glory or honors, not to gain popularity or political capital, but toward one simple truth: revenge required survival.


Puerto Rico, mainland



Pudge watched Pocho trip and fall before he reached the base of the sand dune. The light that had been illuminating the aliens and the human captives was now squarely pointed at Pocho, leaving the rest of the area in darkness. Pudge felt frozen in place, unable to neither move toward Pocho nor run away. He wondered if he was missing the fight or flight gene. He wondered if they had been seen. He wondered if this was the night he died.

Luis and Manuel grabbed his arms and pulled him down, leading him quickly away from the vessels and Pocho. He did not resist. His cast was still soggy and now filled with sand, and the weight slowed him down. He managed to keep up with the other two by hopping and grabbing on to their arms as they fled.

Luis stopped after only running fifty yards and turned left, away from the water. Pudge and Manuel followed him, stumbling in the dark. Luis dug into a small sandbank furiously. Manuel pulled Pudge down next to him and joined in the excavation, the sand pushed into growing mounds to the sides of the hole.  They stopped when they reached wet sand, pushed Pudge into the hole. Luis drove the sand mounds onto him as Manuel began a new hole. Only Pudge’s nose and eyes were left uncovered, but the sand created only a thin layer over the rest of his body. He could hear, but not see, the other two struggling to burrow into the sand.

The wind changed directions and picked up strength, and Pudge could feel sand pebbles rolling on his face and entering his nostrils as he fought to control his breathing. With the wind came silence, and the blood pumping in his ears sounded as loud as a dull ax striking frozen wood. He could not see the vessel above them, but he sensed it was there, high above, looking for others like Pocho – Yet the wind never gained enough force for the vessel to be too close, and Pudge exhaled as the wind died down to a normal breeze.

A new sound rose from the beach, and his blood ran cold - Shuffling feet on sand – and he risked raising his head just enough to look down the beach. He saw darkness, and then he saw Pocho. If not for the strange gait of his walk –a lumbering, awkward march- Pudge would have left his hiding place at once. His friend’s strange shuffle made him pause for a beat and in that beat he noticed two shadows, darker than the night itself, drifting unhurriedly at his sides.

Chapter 24