A Response from Voyager

Humanity was a savage apex predator on his world, but in the galaxy, we had no idea what savagery was done in the name of commerce.

O Nature, and O soul of man! how far beyond all utterance are your linked analogies; not the smallest atom stirs or lives on matter, but has its cunning duplicate in mind. — Herman Melville; Moby Dick.

As I stepped over another flayed and harvested body, I felt them long before I saw any traces of them.

It’s their physiology. Tiny tremors at first, but as they get closer, their psychic energy causes the air to shimmer like the desert in summer. But it wasn’t heat. Instead it was a terrifying cold that distorted the atmosphere. I was told this was the only warning I’d get.

Now I had to run. Away from the shimmer, away from the terror I felt building inside me. I knew what they would do if they found me. I hadn’t seen another live Human for months, maybe even a year. The thought chilled me to the bone. I was so close to Mexico.

I found a e-bike last year and rode from Oklahoma to Houston during the summer months. I didn’t see a single soul. I charged it during early morning while it was cool and rode through the hottest parts of the day until nightfall.

I’d heard they didn’t hunt during summer.

Something about the heat doesn’t agree with them or their animal friends. Never really sure what it was, but I was definitely trying to take advantage of it.

I thought if I could make it to Houston, there might be other people there, hiding out. I couldn’t have been the only person to figure out they didn’t like the heat. From Houston I would take I-10 to San Antonio and then I-35 to the Mexican Border. Food was easy to find. Stores lay open, no one had been in them for months.

It was hard to believe it had only been two years since they came. Their early ships scooped people out of cities with some kind of net. Fields of force just swept though major metropolises gathering people by the millions.

In less than a year, all of Earth’s major cities were reportedly empty. What little news came less and less often. People fled. Tried to hide.

It didn’t matter. As soon as too many people bunched together, their ships came and scooped them up until they were gone.

They told us it would be like this. They thought it was a kindness. They figured if we understood we wouldn’t resist. It was estimated nearly five and a half billion people were taken in that year.

And just like that, the first wave of aliens were gone. We saw images of them on our televisions as they warned us of their intent to harvest us.

There was no point resisting, they said. Our species was primitive and had no protections from Galactic commerce. We should be happy to know our DNA would be used in organic computing devices across the galaxy. The universe would grow richer as a result of our inclusion in it. Postumously, of course.

As if that made it right.

When the first ships left, a second wave arrived. These were scavengers picking over the remains of our now mostly dead planet. They weren’t so sophisticated. They came down to the planet and fought us hand to hand. We rarely won. We couldn’t even stand up next to them, their psychic powers just crushed us down.

We were the apex predator on our own planet, we had claimed land, sea and sky. Nothing was beyond our ability to use, eat, destroy at will. We spent the bulk of our time killing each other over useless things; religion, politics, wealth.

They said we should be silent. SETI shouldn’t broadcast our location. It was like ringing a dinner bell. A dinner bell for species who treated us like we treated the whale. Like a natural resource.

On my way out of San Antonio, I found a stripping pit. Fifty people deconstructed, stretched out into piles of bloody goo. Cellular matter stripped away, DNA scooped out, and turned into recording material. I had passed hundreds of these on my way here.

These were people once. I don’t even bother to cross myself anymore. I feel like a hypocrite. Then it hits me. A crushing pressure. An overwhelming urge to prostrate myself. My body locks up. I can’t move, can’t breathe. I can barely see.

Then something blocks the sun. It’s so much bigger up close. Fifteen feet tall, vaguely human looking. Like a football player, only larger.

It sizes me up, turning its four eyed gaze over me. It takes a tool out of its bag and taps me on the forehead. I feel a dribble of blood flow down my face. Then the pressure is gone. I can move again.

It points toward Mexico. It gets back on its terrifying mount and runs north. I can feel the small bead on my head. Try as I might I can’t remove it.

It occurs to me a while later. They knew I was there. They followed me, lead me or pushed me in this direction.

Humane or prudent, I decide it’s just not that important now. All my illusions were suddenly lain bare. I was not a survivor.

I was… cattle.

A Response From Voyager © Thaddeus Howze 2015, All Rights Reserved

Thaddeus Howze is a California-based technologist and author who has worked with computer technology since the 1980's doing graphic design, computer science, programming, network administration and IT leadership.

His non-fiction work has appeared in numerous magazines: Black Enterprise, the Good Men Project, Examiner.com, and Astronaut.com. He maintains a diverse collection of non-fiction at his blog, A Matter of Scale. He is a contributor at The Enemy, a nonfiction literary publication out of Los Angeles.

He is now a moderator and contributor to the Scifi.Stackexchange.com with over a thousand articles in a three year period. He is now an author and contributor at Scifiideas.com. His science fiction and fantasy has appeared in blogs such as Medium.com, the Magill Review, ScifiIdeas.com, and the Au Courant Press Journal. He has a wide collection of his work on his website, Hub City Blues. His recently published works can be found here. He also maintains a wide collection of his writing and editing work on Medium.com.

His speculative fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies: Awesome Allshorts: Last Days and Lost Ways (Australia, 2014), The Future is Short (2014), Visions of Leaving Earth (2014), Mothership: Tales of Afrofuturism and Beyond (2014), Genesis Science Fiction (2013), Scraps (2012), and Possibilities (2012).

He has written two books: a collection called Hayward’s Reach (2011) and an e-book novella called Broken Glass (2013). In 2015 he will be releasing Visiting Hours and A Millennium of Madness, two collections of short stories.

If you have enjoyed this publication or any of the other writing he does, consider becoming a Patron. For what you spend on one cup of coffee per month, you can assist him in creating new stories, new graphics, new articles and new novels. “Creating the new takes a little support.” — http://patreon.com/ebonstorm.