On the Hill of Arrival
Just a couple of kids, a space craft, and a change that will define them for the rest of their lives.
The skies were clearer than they had been for months the day they arrived. It wasn’t like in the movies. There was no large spinning disk in the sky that shot laser beams. From where I sat on the hill with Billy and a few of the others, there were no beams of any kind descending from the three-dimensional square craft as it soundlessly cut through the air at a slow and steady pace. Every now and then, it’d stop, send out a light on an area, and move on.
“Holy cow,” Billy said with his fingers in his mouth. He chewed on the fragile cuticles just beginning to grow back. “Annie, we gotta get home before they get us.”
He tried to pull me up by my arm to join the ones who ran down the other side of the hill, screaming.
“No,” I said, yanking out of his grip. “I want to see what it does.”
My friends Jules, Madrona, and Shelly were still on the hill watching the ship go this way and that in the sky.
They didn’t run. But they also weren’t staying for me.
“You can go if you want,” I said firmly, “but I’m staying.” I made the face my mother said reminded her of my grandfather who I never met but heard was an awful man.
“Annie,” Billy pleaded. We both knew the rules. He couldn’t return home no matter what without me or else he’d be in trouble. “We’ll die up here just like in the movies!”
Madrona and Shelly shot him a look. Jules only laughed and rolled her eyes.
“If this were the movies,” Madrona began. “You wouldn’t be so short and pimply, Billy.”
His brown skin blushed deep shades as he looked away from the girls and me and the UFO skating through the air.
“Yeah,” Shelly chirped in, but not to humiliate Billy, her back-porch boyfriend. “That thing looks lost not deadly, B. Maybe it needs directions.” She stood up. Grass and dirt stained her rainbow shorts, but she didn’t care because it was only grass and dirt. “Hey! Over here,” Shelly yelled at the craft.
No one noticed but me that she shot him in wink under the glare of the sun. Billy leapt on Shelly. It was gross, annoying, cute, everything they were, and I was not. Madrone and Jules barely noticed them wrestling. They were whispering about whatever girls like them whisper about and nothing else matter. Not even a flying cube.
Shelly left Billy sore and smiling on the ground to return to calling the UFO over. There was a small space between Shelly and Madrona, I took it and watched to see if the cube would come anywhere near us.
“Maybe the dork is right,” Jules said. “We should get out of here.”
“Naw, fuck that,” Shelly barked, whipping her curly bleach blonde hair back over her shoulder. “I’m not sacred of no ET.”
“It’s not about being scared,” Billy said from the dirt. “Dad says it’s about being smarter than the idiot before you.”
“Well, I don’t think there’s any idiots before us. I’d say we are the first to experience this,” I said.
Shelly listened to Jules and ignored Billy as she sat back down, frowning.
“What do you think it wants?” Madrona asked.
“World domination,” Jules answered, “obviously.”
“What if it really is lost?” I asked. “What if it thought we were a different Earth? Different people?”
“A different Earth?” Shelly said.
“Yeah, filled with people like us but better, smarter, kinder. And somehow it ended up here,” I said.
“You’re all wrong.” Billy stood up from the grass. “It’s here to enslave us.”
“That’s what I said,” Jules spat.
“Yeah, dude, way to steal someone’s idea and while the world is witnessing its final day.” Madrona sat down beside Shelly and leaned back on the grass. The sunscreen on her skin shined brightly, reflecting the lights now whirling from the floating cube. “We might want to go, though.”
“Yeah!” Billy shouted. This time instead of trying to yank me up, he went for Shelly. “Let’s get out of here before it gets us.”
The look in Shelly’s eyes was enough for Billy to release her and put his hands in his pockets.
Suddenly, the cube shot out a strong light that blinded me and knocked me on my ass. When I came to, it was gone, and Shelly was staring at Billy the way she does when they’re alone and she’s scared, crying about her dad. Jules was ripping grass from the dirt and tossing it to get caught in the wind while Madrona examined her body.
“What the hell?” Billy said, quickly getting up to his feet and helping Shelly up.
“Did we die?” she asked, leaning into his arms. “I think we’re dead.”
Jules stood up with a handful of grass in her hand and dumped it on Madrona’s head. “Doubtful.”
“That’s good,” Billy whispered to Shelly. “That’s so good.”
I checked my watch. No time, that I could see, had passed. “Naw, we haven’t left or gone anywhere. We’re just where we were, but…”
“Somethings different,” Madrona said. “Somewhere, something is different.”
“Same. I feel that,” Jules said, gazing down over the town.
“We should go,” Billy said, eyeing me. He pulled Shelly closer and began to walk toward our home on the other side of the hill.
“Yeah, alright,” Shelly said, letting him lead her away.
I glanced back to see if there was anything I could see different about the town. It all looked the same. Same mono-colored buildings. Same school. Same church. Same damn sky over us all. It was all the same, but not me. I could feel the change in me. A turn coming on. I followed it down the hill toward the world and away from my home.
Aigner Loren Wilson is a queer Black SFWA, HWA, and Codex writer. She was listed on the honors list for the Otherwise Fellowship award for 2019. Her work has appeared in Tor Nightfire, Rue Morgue, Arsenika, and more. She offers a writing craft newsletter to people who want to become better writers and publish quality pieces.