Sharon’s Note: So, this year’s Halloween throw down is alien themed. Not something I’ve done before, but challenge accepted. Now this is an idea I’ve seen done before, but I’ve always wanted to play around with it. I will totally win this year. Warning: Creative plagiarism. It’s what authors do.
“It’s freezing out here, Jenna. Can we go home? Please?” Robbie stomped his feet and breathed out a long plume of steam then pointed at it. My brother was a freaking Drama Queen.
“You can leave anytime you want to. Just leave the car.” I repositioned the game camera, still not happy with it’s view of the clearing. Dropping my hands to my sides, I sighed deeply. “We’re going to need more cameras.”
“Yeah, well there’s two more in the mail. It’s not my fault the package got held up.” He rubbed at his arms like that was going to help him warm up. “If you aren’t going to get a good recording, what’s the point of even being up here? Let’s home back in a couple of days. We’ll have the cameras, and it’s supposed to be warmer.”
“Jesus, Robbie, have you heard a word I’ve said? It has to be tonight.” I ran a hand through my hair and resisted the urge to rip it out. “This is the only place we know that they’ll be and the only time we know that they’ll be here. Do you want to clear Dad’s name or what?”
“Dad is crazy! He killed Mom and buried her somewhere out in these woods. You need to let this go, Jenna. Greave. See a shrink if you need to . . .”
“Mom isn’t dead!” I punched the tree and screamed at the pain in my hand. Tears started to trickle down my cheek as I shook out my hand. That made it worse. “She was taken. Dad saw it, and if we can get proof there’s no way they can convict him.”
“There are no little green men.” Robbie shook his head while he bit his lip. “Come on, Bubbles, this is crazy.”
“Don’t call me that, I’m not a little kid anymore.” I turned and fidgeted with the camera. My hand cracked while I flexed it. Damn that hurt.
“Maybe you should stop acting like a kid then. You’re chasing after fairy tales and conspiracy theories to try and clear the name of a man who has been an absolute asshole our entire lives. Why?”
I closed my eyes and counted to five before I turned back to my brother. “Yeah, Dad’s an asshole, but he doesn’t deserve to go to jail for something he didn’t do. Besides, do you really think that our father could have killed Mom? He almost faints every time he gets a papercut.”
Robbie chuckled dryly. “No. Dad was always more passive aggressive than aggressive, but what am I supposed to think? Dad was never a romantic either, but he comes up with this whole thing of taking Mom on an anniversary camping trip . . . Mom hates camping even more than he does. You gotta admit, Bubbles, it sounds suspicious.”
“Don’t call me that,” I said, taking a glove off to let the night air chill my aching hand. “And Dad arranged to do something they’d never done before because their therapist suggested it.”
“That therapist is a quack, and I’m going to be honest with you, Jenna, I find the idea of Dad actually trying to fix his marriage about as believable as UFOs appearing in the same spot every year in the middle of nowhere.”
“Well, the latter is well documented.”
Robbie snorted. “A few blurry photographs of some lights and the word of an old man you met at a gas station do not constitute documentation. And why would the aliens care when the winter solstice is? It’s bullshit and a waste of time. So, can we please go home?”
“It . . . Maybe it is bullshit but . . . please, Robbie, can we just try? It’s just one night.”
“One freezing cold night,” Robbie muttered.
“Yeah, Robbie, it will be a long, cold, miserable night and I am asking you to sit through it with me because I need it. Please.” I put my palms over my eyes and my injured hand was still throbbing even though the skin was icy.
“You know,” My brother put his hands on his hips and bit his lip. “You are a spoiled brat. You’ve always been a spoiled brat, who always got everything she ever wanted. Even when we were little kids, you would tell me to jump and if I didn’t way how high you would run to tell Mom and Dad.”
“Robbie . . .”I dropped my head to my chest. He wasn’t wrong.
“Just let me finish, for once, okay, Bubbles?” He smirked at me as he used my old nickname and this time I didn’t protest. “I never, okay, I rarely did what you asked me to do because our parents made me. You’re my little sister. If you really need my help, I will always help you. Just remember that . . .”
“I owe you.” I couldn’t help but laugh. “Yeah, yeah. Could you go get the tent out of the car? The camera is about as good as it’s going to get, so I might as well get started on making us a fire. I can make hot chocolate.”
“You know how to make hot chocolate over a fire?”
I rolled my eyes. “You don’t have to sound so sceptical about it. I used to go camping with a friend in elementary school. I learned a few tricks from her dad.”
We settled down to wait for the night. It turned out that starting a campfire wasn’t one of those skills that could just sit unused for years. After a very embarrassing hour of trying to spark a pile of tinder while my brother laughed at me, I finally let him pull out the camp stove.
Robbie insisted on coffee instead of chocolate since we were going to be up all night, so we sat next to each other, drinking coffee and watching the cool light of our electric lanterns glint off the ice covered trees. There was something magical about sitting out there on a winter’s night. There was no noise except for my brother breathing next to me. All the creatures of the wood were dead or sleeping under the snow. I could see more stars than I ever had before and both earth and sky looked like they were covered in diamonds.
“Even if we don’t find Mom, this was worth it,” I whispered, and my breath streamed out like dragon’s smoke.
“Even as cold as it is, I have to admit that it’s pretty.” Robbie pretended to be a grouch, so I bumped him with my shoulder to make him laugh. “And, I guess it’s good to spend some time . . . what was that?”
“What was what?” I snapped to attention, looking around for what he’d seen.
Lights flashed deep in the woods, pumpkin sized nimbuses of green and white and blue and they were headed our way.
Robbie’s mug fell to the ground as he stood up, pulling me with him. “Holy shit, they’re real! Come on, Jenna, we gotta get out of here.”
“No! This is our chance to find out what happened to Mom.” With a jerk, I pulled my arm away from him and stumbled out into the clearing. My original plans if we’d seen the lights was to hide and observe, but there was no way they didn’t hear my brother yelling, whatever they were. Robbie hesitated for a moment, then ran back towards the car. Freaking coward. I stood out in the tree line’s circle and faced down the orbs of light as they approached.
The orbs entered the clearing and started to circle me. I couldn’t tell much about them other than color because they were too bright to look at directly. I tried twice to clear my throat to speak past my tremors.
“My . . . my name is Jenna. You have my mother. I need . . . Please, give her back to me. I need her.”
The lights stopped circling, then two of them shot off, leaving only the blue light. It began to pulse, then in a bright flash that made me close my eyes for a moment, it resolved itself into a humanoid figure.
It stood before me, body still glowing slightly. It was gangally, and it’s oblong head was too big from its frail body. It had sharply pointed ears and giant dragonfly wings pulsed at its back.
“Our guest said she had a daughter. You are very bold to come seek us out.” Its voice was hard to listen to, like the harsh ring of a knife running over a sharpening stone.
“P . . . please. Bring her back.” Even though it was below freezing I was sweating.
It inclined its head. “I offered to take her home tonight while the gates were open. She did not want to come.”
“But why wouldn’t she want to come back? She has to come back. Dad will go to jail if she doesn’t.” I winced in pain as I started to wring my fingers without thought.
“You’re hurt.” It walked towards me, leaving no footprints in the snow, and extended a finger to touch my injured hand. With a faint pop, all the pain vanished.
“You are welcome.” It tilted its head to the side. “I will not return your mother. What will you do now?”
“I don’t know.” I looked off towards the direction my brother had run. Bastard had probably taken the car. Would he be willing to testify to what he’d seen? Did the camera catch anything?
“I could take you to see her.” The creature’s words broke through my thoughts. I swallowed hard.
“Like, leave with you? Would . . . would I disappear like my mom?”
“You would be able to come back in a year, if you wanted to.” It reached out a hand.
I was . . . tempted. I could go to my mother and convince her to come back from . . . wherever she was from. If I disappeared they’d have to let my dad go because someone else disappeared while he had an alibi. That’s how it worked, right? I had a life, but nothing so pressing going on that couldn’t go on hold. I didn’t have a boyfriend and I didn’t really care about my job, and . . . I could be honest about the real reason.
I wanted to know. And maybe to stick it to my brother a little bit for abandoning me.
With my newly healed hand, I reached out to take its.
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