One day aliens came to Earth, taking over people's bodies, crawling in through the mouth. The prison doors were open, and no one knew what to do next....
Credits and Copyright.
By Derwin Lester II Original Copyright©2015 DGL II Publications First edition. Copyright©2015 DGL II Publications Second edition. Copyright©2017 Divided By Zero Third Edition. Copyright©2022 Divided By Zero Books All Rights Reserved. Written by Derwin Gerald Lester II Edited by Cassie Poormokhtar Cover art by Derwin Gerald Lester II Original Photography by Mary Beth Lester All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
Michigan Day 12 I walked into the church. I hadn’t been inside one in a while, so I felt a little self-conscious about it. I believed in God and was baptized into the church when I was twelve. I asked for forgiveness of my sins, and I still thanked Him whenever He helped me. I followed the game as He saw fit. “You shall have no other gods before me,” He said in the bible, and I complied. If you didn’t comply and ask forgiveness of your sins, you lost the game. Those were the rules. The thing I never understood about the church was why they tried to dress it up in nice, fluffy overtones. God loved all His children; this was true. But if you crossed Him, He wasn’t going to be polite about it. As I looked around the main worship center, the tables overturned and the dead sticking out of the men’s room, I felt a twinge of sadness for the world we had lost. I didn’t know if we could ever get it back. I walked towards the first hallway leading out of the worship center to my left. The power was out, but I saw candlelight flickering shadows off the wall. “Hello?” I said. A crash, and then, muttered curses. “Shoot, I always knock over the candles.” I heard as a man came around the corner. He was a well-dressed man who looked like he hadn’t changed his clothes in several days. Or taken a shower either, judging from the dirt smeared all over his face. He was a white guy, like me. Standard suburb upbringing from the looks of it, a head of hair and set of glasses on his face. His nose was way too long, but there was a ring on his hand that spoke of his triumph over adversity. From the looks of this man, he should have had a nice, quiet life. Not be in a poorly lit church with a pistol tucked in the back of his pants. “Hello,” I said. I didn’t know what else to say in the situation. And from the way he kept staring at me, I don’t think he did, either. “Are you…are you with others?” he asked. I shook my head. “Me neither,” he said. “You been in the cities at all?” “I started in Detroit, but I got out of there as fast as I could. But I suppose that’s what everyone did. What’s left in this town?” I asked him. He shook his head. “Just me.” The light from the candles wavered across that giant nose of his. “Ever since word came from the TV that they had control of the government, the town just ran for the wood line. Some ran south, some went north; some went to the army recruiting stations. “Although, I would imagine they have control of the army by now, too. Even the senior pastor of this church ran for it. I…it didn’t seem right to leave for some reason. My wife left, and my kids went with her, but I couldn’t leave the church. I told them it had been too good for us, but they didn’t care. They said there would be more churches, but the way things are going, someone has to protect the ones who are here already if there are going to be more. And…I didn’t know where else to go. Then the power went out a few days ago. Then you came.” He relaxed a little. Sometimes, it was just good to tell your story to someone. “Do you work for the church? Did you work for the church?” I asked, correcting myself. He gave me a sort of half nod and said, “I’m one of the assistant pastors. Not all the way trained, of course.” I could see he wasn’t giving himself enough credit, so I told him, “Well, Pastor, you were the one who stayed. I think that probably counts for something.” “So, what do you do?” he asked me. “Are you with the authorities…were you with the authorities?” I laughed and said, “Nope. Escaped convict.” “What did you do?” he asked. “Killed three people.” I lit a cigarette. “Did they deserve it?” he asked, which was surprising. “Well, I thought so,” I said. “One of them raped a girl I knew, while the other two watched. They sent me to jail for life. Then about three days ago, the power went out in the prison, and then someone opened up the doors and let us all out. Some of the guys left, and some of them stayed. We all knew something was going on in the outside world. I had an ex-wife out here, so I decided to look for her. In fact, she used to go to this church.”
“Are you planning on hurting her?” the pastor asked, his chest puffing out a little. He was brave, but he had never been in a fight in his life. I shook my head. “Are you going to hurt me or damage church property in any way?” he asked. I shook my head. “Good. Come on in and have a seat,” the pastor said. I followed him into an office with lots of important looking books in it and a very expensive looking computer. Not that it was good for much of anything anymore. “Is this your office?” I asked him. He nodded. “It used to belong to the senior pastor. I guess that makes it mine now. And that makes me Senior Pastor,” he said, chuckling; he reached under the desk and pulled out a bottle of whiskey. “That used to belong to the senior pastor, too?” I asked, smirking. He shook his head and told me, “Nope, this is mine. You want a snort or not, smartass?”
I nodded, laughing a little. I was going to like this guy. The pastor grabbed two shot glasses out of his backpack. Each glass said, “Operation Enduring Freedom” and he filled them up. He looked at the shot glasses for a second, then handed one to me. “To the future. May it always belong in the just and righteous hands of the Lord. And if not in those hands, keep it out of the hands of the bureaucrats.” I smiled and said, “Here, here!” Then we downed the shot. I coughed a little more than he did. After I recovered, feeling less than manly over such a poor display of alcohol consumption, I got tired of beating around the bush. “So my wife’s in the basement, right?” The pastor looked at his feet and started to stammer.“ No, I don’t…” I shook my head, putting my palms up and facing them towards him. “I kinda figured that one out when you asked me if I was going to hurt her. But you don’t want me to see her, yet, right? You want to make sure I’m telling the truth, and that’s fine. I can respect that. Listen, you were in Afghanistan?” I asked. “Yeah. ’06 to ’08. Were you?” he said. “No, I was in Iraq in ’07-’08. What did you do in the service?” His eyes lit up a little bit. “I was a light-wheeled vehicle mechanic in the army. You?” “I was infantry; we were in Victory Base and the Green Zone in Bagdad a lot of the time.” As I said this, the dead bodies in the back of my head wanted to come out of the cage I kept them in. I hated remembering. “It was bad, probably just as bad in Afghanistan. Over in Iraq, people would kill each other over little things like food. Well, from what I can tell, it’s going to get like that very soon, if Detroit and the rest of what I’ve seen are any indication. People are just starting to realize what’s happening, and soon, they’ll start panicking for real,” I said, taking another puff on the Marlboro Light. “This isn’t for real?” the pastor asked, his left eyebrow raised. I shook my head and told him, “The few people I’ve seen out of their homes still think that Uncle Sam is going to send in the Marines and take out those guys from the TV. But what they don’t understand is that anyone in the Marines or the Army who isn’t under their control right now is running for the safest place they can find and trying to figure out some way to detect them. But you know that. And, I think by now, you can tell I don’t want to hurt anybody; I just want to see Lucy. Can I go see her? I’ll even leave my rifle.” I took the sling off my back and laid it on the ground. He nodded. I was surprised that he didn’t ask if I had a pistol on me. I did, but I wasn’t going to volunteer it. We walked down the stairs and into a small guest room. Candles lit the room, and a woman’s smell flooded my senses. The comforting scent of a beautiful woman who had been missing from my life for a while--it was enough to make a man step in front of traffic just to protect her. It was my ex-wife. She was curled up in blankets on a mattress on the floor. The pastor walked over to her and bent down. “Lucy, wake up. There’s someone here to see you.” Lucy moaned gently and opened her eyes. She looked at me and smiled. “You took his gun away?” she asked. He nodded rather proudly. “Ask him about the pistol he keeps strapped to his ankle,” Lucy said; she stood up and stretched in her pajamas. I looked at the pastor and winked. I pulled up my right pant leg and showed him the pistol there. He held out his hand, like I was going to just give it to him. “Nope,” I said. “You got yours in the back of your pants. Only fair.” Lucy put her hand on his shoulder, making him relax a little. Beautiful women tended to have that effect. “It’s ok; he’s not going to hurt me,” she said. “You did a good job.” He nodded, still looking me in the eye; his resolve to protect a woman unwavering. I could see the decency in him. Then he turned to her, smiling diplomatically. “I’ll be upstairs if you need me.” After he left, she turned to me and laughed. “Be nice to him, Robbie. He’s a sweet guy.” I lit another cigarette. “Maybe. I think he means well.” I agreed with her. Then I smirked and asked, “He’s not exactly your type, is he?” “Is that your way of asking me if I did anything with him?” She pouted, both her hands on her hips in that angry way she used to do when we were married. “For your information, I have been single for five months now, which was your idea anyway, since you said you’d never get out. But no, I didn’t do anything with him. I don’t think he’d know what to do with himself if he got the chance. His wife had him on a pretty tight leash. I’m surprised he stayed.” I nodded. Then I reached for Lucy and pulled her close. I put my arms around her and kissed her, gently, just the way she liked; it made her smile. It brought me back to my wedding day. “You were always good at that. Why did you come for me?” she asked. I let go and she bent down to put her shoes on. “Knight in shining armor, I guess,” I said, feeling like I was sixteen again. But she always had that effect on me. “Remember the last time you did that? Got yourself into trouble on account of me,” she said as she leaned in and placed a hand on my chest. “Well, I figured the worst that could happen was they would lock me back up. But…” I said. “There’s not anybody left to lock you up,” she said. I nodded. “Then we have bigger problems, don’t we?” Lucy asked. She pulled the cigarette out of my mouth and took a drag. “What are we going to do?”
Day 258 Michigan They marched in step. In rank and file, platoon formations of thirty. They just kept coming for miles, but none of them said a word. Maybe it was the confidence of their domination over most of the planet. Maybe they just didn’t have anything to say. Not a word for their god or themselves. All I could hear was boots in step. “Holy shit,” Beth said to my left. The other two: Sally and Frank stood in silence, while the invading army marched on outside the office window. The three of them had come in from the north to our Kalamazoo base a week before. They seemed to be able to handle themselves in a fight, so I decided to take them on a scouting trip I’d been planning, right into the alien stronghold. The enemy army looked like humans, marched like humans, killed like humans. But there were aliens inside them. We knew they were operating out of Detroit, but no one had gotten close enough to get a good look. Mostly, we had been fighting and running.
“I can’t stop shivering,” Sally said, standing behind me. I turned to her, concerned. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “I don’t know, Robbie. I can’t t-t-tell you," She said, her teeth chattering.
I nodded. The mission was over. We were at the fifth floor of an abandoned office building. It seemed like a good spot as any to hide from the thousands of Puppets that marched outside. I turned to the group and said, “All right, time to go.” “Wait, we haven’t found what we came here for, yet!” Beth said. I shook my head. “You see Sally? The mission is over. We’ll get one of the squids next time.” She didn’t like it, but that wasn’t my problem. I looked at Sally and saw her eyes start to twitch. I had to move fast. We grabbed our backpacks that held our gear and left. The stairs at the back of the office complex went all the way down into the basement, which led into underground tunnels built decades before. We had to climb down a half mile of ladder to get to them, but the tunnels were better than the sewer. Five miles through the tunnel later, we found the access hatch that led to an ice cream shop. I was the first up; I pointed my rifle forward as I looked behind the ice cream display filled with spoiled fudge. “Clear!” I yelled to the group. They echoed it back as they searched the rest of the shop. I wasn’t worried about Puppets with the squids inside them. They tended to be pretty stupid and couldn’t hide for shit. But when the squids hatched out of their eggs, they tended to lie in wait for anyone. The group had stopped to sit on some parlor chairs, except for Sally. She leaned in on the ice cream display and sneezed blood. “Holy god!” Beth said. Sally’s head lolled up, and she started to make a gurgling noise. I raised my rifle and shot her three times in the head. “No!” Frank yelled, reaching for my weapon. I pointed it at him and shouted, “Look at her!” Sally’s body lurched up, directionless. The squid had trouble operating a human body without a working brain. “Grab her arms!” I said; I lowered my rifle and grasped her left hand. A piece of brain fell out and hit me in the face. I didn’t want to know if a little bit got into my mouth or not. I’d worry about that later, when I couldn’t sleep. As Beth and Frank wrestled the body to the ground, I pulled out two zip ties. Moments later, the hands and feet of Sally’s body were bound together, and I crushed the neck of her body with my left boot, making it deflate with a sickening crunch and destroying the vocal cords. I had to keep it silent. I knew seeing her body like this was going to kill Lucy. She didn’t have many friends before the invasion, and she was getting close to Sally. But Sally shouldn’t have gone off by herself. I didn’t know when the damn alien got her, and I didn’t care, because now we had our squid. Three days later, a cup of coffee steamed in my hand. I didn’t drink it hot. My tongue was sensitive, something Lucy used to tease me about when we were kids. But I hated it cold. There was a perfect temperature that I found after I let it cool for a few minutes. Sometimes I let it cool for too long, and it was ruined. Happened about fifty percent of the time. I finished telling Lucy everything that had happened in Detroit. All the anger and rage that got me through that was gone, replaced with the guilt that one more person I was responsible for died. The part that scared me was every time one of them died, I felt the guilt a little less. Lucy finished her noted and nodded, putting the pen down and closing the notebook. She then stood up, walked around the table and kissed me on the forehead. “You are a good man, and I love you. Don’t you forget that.” “Any word from the last outbound?” I asked, squeezing her hand. “Three parties made it to human lines and returned. Outbound Two successfully dropped off the squid to the right people; although, they didn’t know what it was. Outbound Four did not make it to the border and returned with the personnel they were going to drop off.” “Why?” I asked. “The commander said they could make it to the border and back, but not without losing half the refugees. He said he would plot an alternate route and try again in three days,” she said. I rolled my eyes and groaned with frustration. “That’s forty extra mouths. Aren‘t our food supplies getting a little low?” “We’ll figure something out,” Lucy said. “I hope so, babe. Otherwise we’re going to have a problem.” I closed my eyes for just a second. I opened them and found everyone was gone. The lights were out, and I had a blanket on me. I smiled and folded the blanket up and put it on the chair. As I walked into the living room, I saw the pastor sitting on the couch, reading his bible and making notes on a separate sheet of paper. He was trying to see if we were in the end times or not. “How long have I been asleep?” I sat down next to him. “Fourteen hours. I was starting to get worried,” he said. “Is that why you had the bible out?” I asked. He laughed and shook his head. “What are we going to do about this food problem, Pastor? And don’t say the Lord will provide, because He also says He helps those who help themselves. So, will He provide, or will He provide once we help ourselves? Or is there some sort of celestial welfare program I can get on, because that would be fantastic.” He smiled and shrugged. “God isn’t much of a socialist.” I nodded. “There has to be large food stores left in the local towns. Maybe we should send an outbound to go check them out.” “Sounds good. We’d have to do it in a way that didn’t lead them back here,” I said. “Yeah, we could do that,” he said. I nodded and lit a cigarette, enjoying the edge it took off from my nerves. “So, he’s awake, finally,” Lucy said from the doorway. I looked at her and saw a piece of paper in her hand. “Yep. Did I miss anything cool?” She nodded her head. “We got word from the government, Robbie.” I stood up, amazed. “The government? The United States government? What did they say?” She unfolded the piece of paper and read it. “To James Robinson Cordwood and associates: Without you, this war would be lost for many people. Keep fighting, so that one day, we might rejoin you. You give us hope.” Lucy turned the paper over. “It’s from the Vice President of the United States.”
Lucy smiled in that bright way she had and kissed my forehead. “So, about this food thing. What do you want to do?”
Day 538 Transcript from radio broadcast Radio Free America
“Hello again, everybody, and welcome to Radio Free America,” the announcer said. “We’re happy to be on the air and give a voice to the cause. We want to thank all our human forces out there, fighting the good fight well into the second year of this war. We heard from the President of the United States today. Take a listen."
"Hi everybody. Ole smiling Joe here. I tell ya, we had it all wrong about our new alien friends. I got to know them pretty well lately, and I realized they’re actually some pretty good folks. Hell, I even had a barbeque with their leader the other day, and we worked out this peace treaty that I’m about to put before Congress, if I can ever find them. But our new friends should be welcomed with open arms and trusted completely. I know I trust them. Why don’t you?"
“You heard it here first, folks. The former President of the United States is currently a puppet person. The Vice President has had her blood tested by government officials and they have detected no traces of iron deficiency. She’s human, God help us all. “To any and all listeners out there, especially in the New York City area, the wagon train leaves at midnight. I repeat, the wagon train leaves at midnight. “In other news, the Government of the United States has instituted a one hundred percent draft for all men aged sixteen and over. This will last for the duration of the conflict with the aliens. “There was a mushroom cloud over the cities of Los Angles and San Francisco yesterday morning. It is unknown if it was cause by the aliens or the government. “Scientists in undisclosed locations have determined that the aliens cannot infect any species on Earth besides humans. So, don’t worry about your dogs, everybody. They’re still your best friend. “United States Forces retreated out of Ohio and into Kentucky today in an effort to regroup after the defeat at Cleveland. The Army Chief of Staff had this to say: “‘We are Americans, and this is our home. They’ll have to dig me out of the last bunker on the last hill with the last round in the chamber pointed straight at them before I consider giving up.’ “And to our listeners up far north, behind the lines. I just want to say, we are always thinking about you guys and are proud of each and every one of you. You are the true heroes of this war. As the man once said, the work goes on, the cause endures, the dream still lives, and the hope will never die.”