Unity – An Ideological Horror Story in Four Parts – for Worlds and Words Short Story Wednesdays
This is a first person short-form socio-political spec-fic short. This second part is where things get complicated by an Oppressive Government.
Part 2 – Government
Everyone noticed the strange, blue glow from the aliens gathering, and we joked about it, in the corner shop that became our community’s war-room and head-quarters. My neighbour, one of them, the neighbours don’t need names any more than my city or my county does. Your neighbours already have names. If you know them, think of them instead. If you don’t know their names, think of their faces. I want you to have space to make this story your story. That’s important.
So, my neighbour laughed, one day and wondered if the alien-glow was from the government and spying on us. Her friend, who lived on a different street to me, so wasn’t really my neighbour, shook her head and said that she thought the glow was from a kind of mineral that the government wanted to mine. That was was why they were trying to move us out. We all laughed with her, when she laughed, but it wasn’t much of a joke. It would have been far better if the riot policemen had been sent here to move us somewhere else, and mining something off our land would have been a better reason. If the government had a reason, we knew, it wouldn’t be something as simple as greed, and the riot police didn’t really seem in the mood to just relocate us. Regardless, everyone agreed that the glow should be studied, especially as now it had started flashing sometimes, and lingered in bright shapes that made your eyes itch if you stared at them too long. It should be carefully and scientifically measured, we said, but all the scientists worked for the government and no-one who lived in my neighbourhood was allowed to own any scientific measuring equipment, even if anyone living here could have afforded it. It should be studied, but couldn’t be, and life was just full of things like that, so we forgot about it, and went back to building high enough barricades that the riot police couldn’t get any more assault bots on our streets.
I should explain about the assault bots. They might be one of the aspects about the way I lived, then, that you find it hard to relate to. At least, for your sake I hope they are. You will have seen them somewhere, at least one of the brands, but I like to think that people who didn’t have to live in neighbourhoods like ours, didn’t have to see them much in real life. They aren’t very nice to see in real life. Not that the ones the riot police managed to get over our barriers worked. You probably know enough about assault bots to know that there wouldn’t be a story about aliens with us, if even one of the ones that lurked, weathering slowly on our streets, had gotten through our barricades working. We hated them, as you’d expect, as you would do, if you had the great, ugly things leering at you on your street, forcing the local children to play ball in between those eight, fat steel legs. It must sound harsh to you, maybe it doesn’t, but it might, so I’m dealing with that anyway. It must sound harsh, the government action against us. It felt harsh, then, but all power applied carelessly is harsh. You’ll have felt that same kind of harshness, maybe in the rising interest rate on your medical loans, or the unexpected reduction of free electricity hours in the street where you live. You must, please, remember that my story wasn’t, in most ways, exceptional. There is always more that connects, that can explain and link our different lives together, than there is that keeps us apart. We mustn’t think that because the form of the careless power we must struggle against, is different, it makes us different from one another.
It was about that time that my neighbours jokes about the blue glow being a spy for the government (I could see that glow, even at midday in the corners of the room I had, by that stage), were becoming more frightening than funny. It was around then, I think, that I began dreaming of the aliens. I think I was the first in my neighbourhood to do that. Certainly I had the strongest dreams, I know that for certain, even though those first dreams were confused and faded on waking. I only remember that something was happening to me, while I slept, that didn’t seem to be happening to others that I met and talked with. Partly that makes sense, because of something else about me that you might find it a little hard to relate to, that might, at first glance, make me seem different from you. Maybe it wasn’t that at all though, maybe it was that I lived in a tiny room, converted from an underground cellar. I couldn’t afford better as a student, and I couldn’t afford much electricity to feed into the ceiling lamp, so it was dingy at best. The alien-glow was strongest in dark places.
I came home, the night that I think the dreams must have started, exhausted from hours of shield duty. I didn’t switch on any lights because the alien-glow was bright enough to see by, and all I needed to do was kick my shoes off anyway. I remember how good it felt to finally lie down after work, and then nothing else until morning. If the dream was anything like the later ones though, my mind would have been filled with wordless visions of creatures from beyond the stars that sang and sang and sang. I didn’t think much of my lack of memory the next morning. Even waking memories were hard to hold onto then. The government had increased the action against us and everyone was fighting in earnest. We were all spent, all the time. Everyone who had a skill we could use, and that was pretty much everyone in the neighbourhood, because of the kind of neighbourhood it was, worked with everything they had to keep us safe. I was good with the shield, so was especially in demand. That meant I had to travel too, you see, to wherever the riot police were hitting the hardest, and shore that point up. I was always shaking with exhaustion by the time I got back to my cellar room. The only thing that I did notice, that morning after what must have been the first dream, was that the last night’s sleep had refreshed me like no rest ever had before. I could push the shield longer, things worked better around me, people found new reserves of strength. We started pushing the government back, even though they were bringing in new recruits by the day. We pushed the government back far enough that we opened a little breathing room, and in that gap I began really noticing the alien-dreams. They had been here for a long time by then, in their billions. Each one was microscopic, invisible, practically intangible. When enough of them banded together, and sang as one, as was their way, the air holding them glowed faintly. It took a lot of them to glow at all, and the corners of my cellar room were brightening every day. They were here, and more were coming and, far from being a government weapon, they were offering us a way to end the harshness of carelessly applied power, from all governments, forever.
But I’m really getting ahead of myself now. A story that makes as it goes along is a story that is easier to listen to. I want so much for you, who isn’t really all that different from me when you get down to it, to hear this. That’s because I know how much you need to hear it, need to hear me. That want, for you to hear me, that’s, I supposed, something I share with the aliens. You should remember that, even if it doesn’t seem important now. The aliens watched first, for a longer time than anyone would guess, politely not intruding, glowing and growing in number. They waited for someone to here them too. But, I was getting ahead of myself earlier, talking about what they offered me, when I learned how to listen. Not that it was different from an offer that they might have made you, if they’d first come to your neighbourhood. We’re more the same than not, you and I, even if I don’t really know you all that well. Yes, they made us, me, both (that’s sort of complicated), that offer, but only later. Mentioning it now may make things confusing. I’m trying really hard not to confuse you. Please don’t be confused.
Check in next Wednesday for: Part 3 – Neighbour
(where things complicated themselves further)