They say the world was destroyed when starships descended from the sky and landed on earth. Not like our starships used to land -- horizontally -- but vertically, standing up like thick, mile-high trees. And at first, nothing had happened. They simply stood there, being enormous. Some countries had patience and tried to contact the aliens, or they tried to analyze the starship materials and figure out how to open them. Other countries had little patience and tried shooting their tanks at them. One crazy country in Asia tried to nuke one.
None of it had any effect. There was no contact, no usable information about what the ships were made of and how to either get into them or break them. In the most modern age humanity will ever have known, they couldn't stop what was about to happen.
Mr. Harcourt was having a regular day. He was an English teacher and looked the part. A brown jacket with patches on the elbows, glasses that nobody would consider trendy, ruffled gray hair and a scratchy-looking gray beard. He had finished his classes for the day and was in the teacher's lounge, grading his students' homework assignments.
The last class he had to grade had been given the assignment to write creative fiction. Not every English teacher considered this important, but he did. To analyze literature, knowing how to build a narrative was very important. He had found, in many parts of life, that it's easy to criticize something you've never done yourself. Once you actually get down and do it, you find that certain shortcuts actually make sense, that certain clichés are simply too useful not to use, and more insights similar to these. He had a simple rule for himself - don't pretend to know better until you've tried it.
"I'm telling you, he's forgotten about us," Berk said to Bob.
"Nah man, he'll be back. He always comes back. You'll see," Bob responded between sips of the water bottle. "Have a bite to eat or something. Relax."
"I'm worried. That's all I'm saying."
Berk went over to the food bowl and saw that it was nearly empty. This didn't give him much hope either, but he grabbed a piece of food anyway. He munched on it a little but he wasn't hungry. He dropped it on the floor and looked out over the room around them. There'd been more stuff before. It was empty now. He'd seen him, the guy who gives them food and water and scratches them behind the ears, but he'd been moving stuff out of the room, and they'd never seen that stuff again. It had been ages since he'd been here. There had been other humans too, people they either hardly or didn't know, and some of them had picked them up and scratched them behind the ears too.
There's always one of those kids in high school class. The one nobody really notices. On one side you've got the 'cool kids' and the bullies, on the other side the 'losers' and the bullied. And there's always one who isn't cool enough or weird enough to really get any attention from anyone.
It's weird, but I never thought I'd be that kid. But in this class, it's the role I've been given and so far, I haven't found a way to break through that. I don't like the same things either side likes, haven't found a single thing to connect through.
With everything packed away, we set off. We are what you would probably call nomadic. We travel around with our tents and herds, and we settle for short amounts of time in a location that fulfills our need at that time. It's an interesting way of living. Your roots aren't in a specific location but with the people you live with.
Now, we might be a little different than other nomads. We have a village elder, and he goes into a trance one every few days. He says it's to detect evil spirits, to ward off bad luck, and more like that. But to be honest, we've got television and satellite internet, so I don't put much faith in that sort of mumbo-jumbo.
The comm rang. Vickers looked at the display and saw the signal was really bad. He hoped he would get through.
"Energix Systems tech support, this is Macie. How may I help you?"
"Yes, hi. Hugo Vickers here, and I'm having some trouble with my Energix Systems FTL drive. You guys have 3 years on-site service, right?"
"Ah," the support agent cleared her throat. "Not anymore. Due to financial reasons we had to end our on-site service package after the first year. If you're having problems, you should take it in to one of our dealers."
"Wait a minute. When I purchased my drive system, I got the extended warranty, so I should still have half a year on my warranty."
"I'm sorry, sir, but all extended warranties were amended to remove the on-site service after the first year. We should have sent you a message about this a few months ago. Let me check."
Jerry had a habit. One specific habit everybody who knew him even a little would eventually notice. Wherever he went, he had a thermos with him, with piping hot coffee in it. He would sip from it from time to time, making sure not to let it cool down too much. There would always be a small hand-written label on it with the type of beans he'd used to brew this specific batch. And they were the kind of beans with at least 5 words in their name. If you looked a little bit longer, you'd notice the sticker on his laptop bag with a red stripe over the Starbucks logo.
Jerry was a coffee snob.
The fire was getting closer, and Simon scrambled backwards on hands and feet. The smoke was starting to make it hard to breathe and he was starting to panic. He saw the fire reach from his race car bed to the ceiling and knew it was too late to do anything about it. He got up and opened the door, stumbling out, slipping on his footed pajamas. He slammed the door shut and caught his breath. The smoke was starting to come out through the cracks in the door frame.
It'd been there as long as they all remembered. And none of them had ever seen it opened. The office manager said nobody had the key and nobody had ever tried to open it, either. It was just a closet nobody needed, so her advice was to just leave it be. But it'd been there as long as they all remembered and they all wanted to know quite badly what was in there.
It was a Friday night and all the managers had already left. All of the over 500 nerf darts had been fired at least twice and all beer had been consumed, as well as the bottle of white wine not intended for them.
"I told you we shouldn't have buried it out here," I whispered. She didn't respond at all, just kept walking through the dark. We were weaving between the trees in the small park. It was late but not late enough that there wouldn't be people we could bump into. We weren't doing anything illegal, but I know myself, I'd get awkward and nervous if anyone looked at us a little too long.
She stopped walking and sighed, then turned to me slowly.