by Bob Wallace
She was an elderly lady sitting behind the wheel of a parked car, by herself. Alone, as they always were. When she saw me approach, she drew back a little. Her eyes were apprehensive, but without much fear. And, I thought, a little resignation. But she still was a little afraid. Oh, yes, that I could see. Not all were, but most. Sometimes there were tears. But not here, not yet.
I understood the fear. Intimately. They were almost always afraid -- terrified! -- because they thought it was life to death, a guttering away of life and consciousness like a candle flickering out. And in a way it was like that, a little bit. But only at the very first.
Quickest would have been to just grab her. Mere seconds. But I didn't want to do that; I never do. It was much too rough. And it really is the scary way. And I didn't want to upset her. It was better this way, to lull her fear to sleep as much as I possibly could.
She looked like she might have been beautiful when younger. Still was, to me. After enough years, what's inside starts to show on the face, for good or bad.
"I'm a little surprised you came here," I said to her. And I was, too. Some just gave up, but not many. "All the rest who are left have taken to the wilds. Yet you've come back." I left the "Why?" unasked. I knew she would answer it for me. And I already knew her answer. I'd heard it before.
"There is no place for me to run anymore," she said. "I'm tired of running and hiding." She looked at me, almost imploringly, I thought. Then she looked at the house where she was parked. "My family. My children, my grandchildren. My... family."
"And you came back to see them, knowing what would happen?"
She nodded. "Yes, I did. But I no longer care. Not much, anyway. I'm tired, tired of being tired and alone, always hiding, always scared."
"I know. It's the story of most everyone's life." I smiled, I hoped disarmingly. But probably not. Always wanting to be charming, to place people at ease. But if it's a talent that I have at all, it is certainly a minor one. "There's no need to run anymore. There really isn't. And don't be afraid. There's no reason for that, either. None at all."
She looked at the house that she was parked outside. "My... family is in there," she repeated.
"You want to join them." It wasn't a question. I knew. We all want family, to be connected, to not be alone, to share.
"But I don't know --" here her breath caught in her throat -- "if they are my family anymore."
"But they are," I told her. It was the truth.
She lowered her face and rubbed her temples. "I had no idea things would end up like this. No one did." She looked up and at me again. "Your brain," she said in a soft voice.
"Yep, it's still in there." I smiled. "Do you know they would have died if it wasn't for us? All of them. They found us just in time."
I shook my head. "Symbiotes."
"But you're no longer human. None of you are. The whole human race, gone. taken over. And I'll be like you, no longer human, either."
"No," I said, "more than human. Fully human, as much as a human can be."
Everyone thought if they came, it would be like "War or the Worlds" or "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" or "Earth vs. the Flying Saucers" or every silly science-fiction invasion movie every filmed or novel ever written, where they drop in and start kicking the human race's collective rear-ends. But it wasn't like that, just a dying race that we saved, and in the process, may have saved us from ourselves.
"A world without war, without hate or envy or fear," I told her. "A world of family, and love, and connectedness with all. A world of immense clarity, of immense bliss and peace. That's what they gave us. Life. In return, we also gave them the same thing that they gave us."
She closed her eyes, then opened them. "I am so afraid," she whispered.
"I know you are, but soon you won't be." I paused for a few seconds. "You can leave," I said. "I won't stop you. Or ..."
I held out my hand.
This time there were tears in her eyes. "It's like dying," she said.
"No," I answered, "it's like being born."
Her hand was warm.
"Don't be afraid," I told her. "Your family is waiting for you. We're all waiting for you."
Story © 2004 by Bob Wallace firstname.lastname@example.org
Illustration © 2004 by Ehrad THUNDERSHUMA@aol.com
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