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Safety Factory
by Trevor Richardson


Today is Monday. I hate Mondays.
    Rash was not at his usual spot by the window. He was sitting down at a card table talking with a few of the other guys. Rash was a newbie in our little safe house, he was still at that stage where searching for them seemed like a good idea. All the other guys were playing poker at that same table. Except for Rash they were all resigned to a future of just hiding out. I suppose that is what made me different. I just did not care anymore. If they want me they will get me, I can't stop that.
    In a lot of ways this place looks like one of those VFW hangouts. The old guys sit around playing cards talking about their battle scars and the scariest things they have ever seen. The television is always on. Some sit together, some sit alone. Either that or it looks like a support group. Everyone sits in a circle talking.
    Hello, my name is Timothy and I am an alcoholic.
    Hello, my name is Emily and I was molested when I was nine years old.
    In our case things are a little different.
    Outside I can hear the sound of rain coming down like thousands of fingers drumming against a tin roof. We spend most of our time in this little warehouse. We do our best to stay inside as much as possible. It is just safer indoors.
    Every day is exactly the same as the one before. Keeping the aluminum foil fresh and tight over the windows takes highest priority. That way we won't let out excess heat. Covering the windows is the first step in building an adequate safe house against them. They can detect heat. It shows up on their instruments.
    This is how we live, how we hide out, all of us just laying low and playing cards to pass the hours until it is time to wake up and do it again. Rash is at the card table dealing five card stud. He says, "You want to know where Led Zeppelin got their name? UFOs, man, goddam flying saucers."
    This other guy, Trip, snatches his cards from the table and says, "No they didn't, it was all Keith Moon, you know, the drummer from The Who. He heard that Jimmy Page was putting a band together and said it would go down like a lead balloon. That was when John, uh, John something," he snaps his fingers a few times and says, "Dammit, what was his last name?"
    Hello, I am Trip. When I was taken they removed parts of my brain for cloning. That is why I sometimes forget things.
    "58 decibels," Edison's voice drones across the warehouse. He is sitting at a table covered in sound equipment trying to measure the amount of noise we put out. Pressing his headphones tighter to his ears as he stares into the black monitor he grumbles about how we are going to be detected.
    My name is Edison and aliens abducted me when I was a kid. All of us were abducted as children. For some reason all aliens seem to be some sort of pederasts or something.
    "It began with an 'E,' I believe," Trip mutters.
    "John Elton?" Rash asks.
    "It's Elton John, you idiot," Trip says throwing his cards down, "Give me four."
    Morton says, "You can't have four, and Elton John was not a member of Led Zeppelin."
    "63 decibels," Edison says from across the room, "and it was John Entwistle who said it would go down more like a 'lead zeppelin.'"
    "John who?" Rash asks sounding irate.
    "63.5 decibels. John Entwistle, don't you know anything? He said it would be more like a lead zeppelin, later they changed the spelling so no one would confuse the pronunciation."
    Rash laughs and says, "No way, man. It wasn't the lead balloon story. That is what they want us to believe, but I am telling you that Led Zeppelin had an encounter."
    "Zeppelin might be a rock legend, but the truth is out there, not down here," says lard ass Morton.
    Morton was constantly quoting the philosophies of Mulder from The X-Files. It was like his mantra or something. He loved to say, "The truth is out there." Poor Morton was this big fat ass. I am talking beached whale kind of fat. He believed that after his abduction when he was twelve the aliens injected him with a magnetic gel to make him easier to capture with their tractor beams. This is his way of passing blame for his obesity. He would rather cast the first stone at a higher intelligence than just admit that he eats more than he breathes.
    Hello, my name is Morton. The aliens made me fat.
    "You're wrong, Morton. Zeppelin saw something in the sky and didn't have the gray matter to know it was a flying saucer. They called it a zeppelin."
    "I fold," says old fatty.
    "That's it, I'm out," Trip grunts.
    Pretty soon the table is empty and Rash starts yelling, "Guys, come on, guys! We were just talking, lighten up. Come on, come finish the game."
    "91 decibels."
    Now it is time for the television. They all huddle around Trip's nineteen inch television VCR combo waiting for The X-Files to come on. I can hear the theme song echoing around the warehouse. The screen says, "Trust No One," and I hear Morton muttering his affirmatives.
    "You know, guys," Rash begins, "all of these episodes are based on actual cases."
    "We know," they all say in unison, "shut up about it, the show is starting."

Today is Tuesday. Tuesdays are bad because they are just like Mondays.
    Sitting no more than a few inches away from the television screen Trip watches old Martian films back to back. "You know," he begins, "these things are more than just entertainment. They are messages left behind by our predecessors to show us what the government tried to cover up."
    Rash says, "Hey, did I ever tell you about how Pink Floyd was a messenger from them?"
    I have a headache. The aliens are turning up the sonic pressure on all of us. They are trying to keep me from thinking. They want me to slip up and get angry, they want someone to leave and get taken. Every time one of these guys talks it gets harder and harder not to scream at them. It is not my fault. It is just the aliens triggering their devices in my brain, that is all. I can feel the sound buzzing in my ears.
    99 decibels, 100, 101, the pressure is getting worse.
    I have to resist because these guys are my friends.
    Fat ass Morton says, "Trust no one."
    Just then the door bursts open and Edison staggers into the room breathing heavily. Locking the door securely behind him he glares around the room nervously. We are all asking him what happened, but he will not answer. Edison runs around the room securing all of the windows and barricading the door. Walking back and forth across the room chewing on the fingernail of his forefinger he keeps muttering about not getting detected. I try to keep everyone calm.
    "There was a black Suburban following me the whole way here, but I lost 'em," he says between choking sighs.
    Edison starts duct taping all of the aluminum foil down around the windows wildly while Rash stands in his usual spot. The guys follow behind him in a huddle trying to get him to talk, handing him cups of water and patting him on the back like football players.
    Rash folds back a bit of the aluminum foil and stares out into the street. He tells us we are alone for now and Morton says that the truth is out there. Running over to the window Edison pushes Rash out of the way as he tapes down our heat shield. We have to stay safe. Securing the windows is the first step in building an adequate safe house.
    "It tailed me all the way from Main Street," Edison says. "I was just trying to get some supplies. When I saw the vehicle parked across the street just waiting for me I had to throw the bags into the back seat and ground floor it across town."
    Running for his sound station he says, "I just went for food, just a little something to live on, they won't even let us do that anymore. Will they ever let up?"
    "Government plates?" Trip asks.
    "I think so."
    He tells us to quiet down. We have almost cleared 100 decibels. Sitting with both hands pressed down on his headphones trying to keep them tight against his ears Edison just looks small. His elbows are up on the table and I can see his eyes reflected in the monitor. He looks afraid. Not just a nervous fear, it is that sort of weeping red-eyed sort of fear you feel after waking up from a nightmare.
    Hello, my name is captivity. I make the walls feel like they are closing in.
    I can feel the pressure in my ears getting worse. 140 decibels, 143, 149, it only takes a steady 85 decibels to make you go totally deaf. I keep telling myself that if they want us they are going to get us, there is nothing I can do about that. 151, 152, 153, the pressure is getting higher all the time.
    "They are coming for us," Trip says, "it has never been this bad before."
    That is when we heard the brakes outside. A large vehicle just stopped right outside of our door. I am telling everyone to be absolutely still and silent. They will leave if they cannot detect us. They are advanced, but they cannot see through our window coverings. The first thing you have to do to set up a functional safe house is shield the windows. Their instruments detect heat and sound and movement. We always wanted the place to feel like an army outpost, but it always ended up feeling more like a weekend getaway for hypochondriacs.
    Voices outside are having some sort of a discussion. It is difficult to tell what they are saying through the walls, but it almost sounds like a New York accent saying, "Yeah, this place will do fine for our operation. It is quiet and obviously abandoned."
    A second voice says, "We'll send Tony to check out the inside later this week."
    Morton says, "They are trying to make us believe they are normal people, but we all know that normal people do not exist anymore. Everyone out there is so taken by their lies that they are no longer human. Humanity is extinct. The aliens are slowly replacing the real people with android robots. Trust no one, guys, trust no one. They just want us to believe they are actual people."
    Rash says, "We are going to have to get some guns."

Wednesday afternoon comes and I am out on the streets for the first time in a week. It seems a little strange trying to get my hands on what I am looking for, but living on this side of town it is pretty easy to find. They sent me because I am the only one who is not afraid of going out on the streets. If they are going to get me, then they will get me. The others go out if they have to, but I just do not care. There is no sense in fearing the inevitable. There really is no such thing as safety.
    Pushing open the door there is the dull ring of a cowbell hanging from a chain. The room has the faint smell of cleaning oil and alcohol. A man behind a glass case looks at me happily and says, "Can I help you?"
    Yes, I say, I am looking for a few guns.
    Hello, my name is the obvious truth, and some moron has just stated me.
    "Guns, huh? Well, I guess that is apparent," the owner says, "I mean, it is a gun store, right? What did you have in mind?"
    I say I need a few handguns for some friends and me. We are planning to go to the shooting range. We want to get in a little target practice.
    "All righty, then," he says, "let's get started. The man starts talking about legalities and wants me to sign some paperwork.
    I can barely understand him from the buzzing in my ears. It is getting worse and worse all the time, 163 decibels, 164, 165, I can barely hear anything by now. I see his mouth is moving, but no words seem to come out. There is just that long low pulse like static electricity when your ear brushes past the television screen. The gun dealer seems to be speaking in crackling pulses and hums.
    I did not even realize we were done until I heard the cowbell ring and the door swinging closed behind me. In a sort of daze I just felt my feet carrying me back to the safe house like I was meat on a conveyor belt. When I got back all of the guys were playing cards in the dark. Morton says, "'Trust no one,' we are safer in the darkness. So you got the goods I see."

It is Friday night. The hours passed like every other day. Now it is Friday night and something is telling me that they are coming tonight. It might just be a feeling in my gut, my heart warning of impending danger, but it is probably just those alien devices glowing with their power the closer they get to us. They are coming for us. There are sounds outside of the warehouse door.
    Watching the big utility door at the front of the warehouse we just wait for something to come through. That is when the light appeared. It came from behind us, under the back door there was the white light of one of their crafts. It finally happened, they came for us. I always knew that nothing would stop them when they finally came, if they wanted me they would get me.
    "Oh my God, oh my God," Rash mutters under his breath, "it is happening, guys it is really happening."
    "Shut up, Rash," Trip says, "you knew this day would come."
    The door begins to splinter and the light grows brighter around the frame. The aluminum foil starts to tear away from the edges and Edison says, "That's it guys, we're cooked. Our heat shield has been ripped apart, we are sitting ducks in here."
    I ask them if they want to sit here and get taken again or if they want to do something. I say that I have always believed they would find us some day, and no amount of hiding could stop them, but that does not mean I will not fight back. Everyone says I am right and we stand up together. In a line like a firing squad in front of the breaking door we stood ready. Gun aimed and knees shaking I remembered what I told the dealer. We are going to the shooting range, I said, we want a little target practice.
    When the door finally shatters open there is a dark figure standing silhouetted in front of a white orb of light. There is some sort of a weapon in its right hand and it moves toward us slowly. It is now or never, I say. Take him out.
    All five of us fired at once. I told the gun dealer we were going to the shooting range. We wanted to practice bloodshed. With the sound of gunfire echoing around the rafters I knew that our safe house had become a shooting range. It became the fortress I always wanted it to be. It finally looked more like an army outpost than a support group for traumatized children.
    Hello, my name is annihilation and I will be your liberator today.
    Walking toward the body we all felt fear. Looking into his eyes he did not look like I expected. He did not have the bug eyes or the green skin. He did not have the large cranium to house his very advanced brain. It really just looked like a normal man, maybe Italian or Greek, dressed in a black pin stripe suit. There was a crow bar lying on the ground at his right.
    "We got him," Rash says, "we actually did it."
    Trip says, "We actually got one."
    Stepping up from behind me Edison says, "I always thought their blood would be green, it actually does not look much different from ours."
    Morton asks nervously, "Shouldn't he morph back into alien form by now?"
    Then it hits you. This was the shot in the dark, the knife in the back, that hideous big surprise. It was a real man. Standing there waiting for his face to change into something else I began to realize that this was not an alien and it was not self-defense. This was not some accidental death on the highway, he was not road kill, and he was not a hunting accident. This man was murdered. We killed him, and we knew it. Open a door in the dark and wait to find out that there is no such thing as safety.
    "Maybe he is one of their spies, a government agent in their employ," Rash says.
    Morton asks, "Could he be an android robot?"
    I told them all to shut their goddamn mouths. This is a real man and we killed him. The law is coming, I say, we are all going to jail.
    "Shut up, man," Trip screams, "just shut up. That is not going to happen."
    That is when everybody starts screaming. Some of the guys were totally and completely despairing, saying that their lives are over. Some were telling them to shut up about it. No one is going to jail. I can see Edison counting digits on the monitor across the room. 166, 167, we are too loud, we just hit 170 decibels.
    I saw them first, four black figures passing in front of a car headlight blazing in through the back door. We left ourselves vulnerable. We let our guard down. We were nothing more than sitting ducks in that little room. The screams gave us away. Their instruments detect sound. 173 decibels, 174, we are too loud.
    "No one is going to jail, just shut up about it," Morton screams.
    175, 176, a voice at the door silences all of us.
    "That's right, no one is going to jail."
    The light got brighter just before it all went black. So this is how it feels to be put to sleep by their devices. I know I will wake up on one of their space crafts with all of their needles and probes in my body.
    Hello, my name is fear and this is my world.
    When I woke up I was blindfolded and tied in a chair. There were voices all around me discussing what to do with us. I could not tell if the others were with me or in some other part of the alien craft. The smell of cigar smoke filled the air and it seemed peculiar. I heard a voice say, "Do we kill them or torture them for a while?"
    That is when I started screaming. Maybe if I scream loud enough the decibels will burst their eardrums. 179, 180, I want to hurt them like they hurt me.
    I hear an alien voice say, "You can scream all you like, no one will hear you."
    Then another one said, "That's right, and you aren't going to jail. You killed Tony and when someone hurts one of our own we take care of it without getting the cops involved. You belong to us now. You mess with one of us, you mess with all of us."
    My finger slides into something cold like metal and I feel terrible pain as it closes around my knuckle. The smell of cigar smoke gets stronger and I hear my finger fall to the floor. I always knew they would get me, there was nothing I could do to stop that. I just did not expect it to be like this when it finally happened. Spend your life hiding out in the dark, you will find out there is no such thing as safety.



About the author:
Trevor Richardson was born in the West and lives in the South. He has grown up and pays bills but still watches cartoons. He loves his wife Donna and his family, but generally dislikes everything else. He likes old rock bands that say profanities but he goes to church. It is this upside down, backward living, that sort of life in-between childhood and adulthood that fuels his drive for writing as well as his ideas. Trevor has had two stories published with Skyline Publications, "Playing Alone" and "Hopeless Romantic," and now this with Word Riot. Trevor is also at work on publishing his novel.



© 2011 Word Riot

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Midnight Picnic
a novel by
Nick Antosca

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The Suburban Swindle


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