Author: Alzo David-West

What Ozzie did most with his virtual reality game The Invasion was not the playing but the observing.

His parents had recently moved to the big city, and they put him in a new school and a physical fitness club there. However, he was not a gregarious type, and he made no real friends. So frequently, after school or the club, once he finished an olive loaf and lacy Swiss sandwich with a glass of pulpy orange juice, he connected himself to the game.

He would sign in on noncombatant mode, often in the point of view of a tree, a stone, or a bird. The game-world setting was an abundant panorama of weaving coniferous forests and still wetlands under a bright neutron-blue sky. Sometimes everything almost felt real, especially the four-dimensionally simulated wind and the green smell of the branching pines.

All the same, every time, the placid serenity would be abruptly interrupted by the glassy screams of flying saucers, exploding particle beams, and roving units of ragged woodland guerrillas and snipers waging hit-and-run strikes with archaic general-purpose machine guns, fighting desperately against the technologically superior battalions from beyond the celestial sphere.

It was a terrible, mesmerizing, awesome scene that Ozzie took in quietly, speechlessly, and seriously.

He was going through his observation routine when his mother, who usually did not bother him, suddenly grabbed his shoulders and shook him in a frenzy, saying she was extremely tired and needed help emptying the heavy shopping bags she had lugged up twelve flights of stairs because the two apartment elevators were under repair.

“Noooo!” Ozzie shouted. “My POV!”

He saw himself in the middle of a guerrilla ambush. The men and women mercilessly fired their machine guns at a dreary menagerie of straggling creatures that resembled something between sea worms and centipedes. Ozzie felt the four-dimensional simulation of the searing rounds of armor-piercing bullets, as if they were truly rending and destroying the muscles and the bones of his arms and body, and he quickly disconnected himself from the game.

* * *

The guerrilla unit was surveying the area where it had attacked and slaughtered the surviving reconnaissance crew of the flying saucer the snipers had shot down. The soil was sodden with pale yellow blood turning blue, and the ground was a mess of shattered extremities, pieces of life-support suits, and indeterminable entrails. One of the guerrillas, a fair gaunt man with scraggly black facial hair, appeared confused.

“What’s wrong, Gonzolo?” the swarthy guerrilla commander asked.

“I saw a kid, an ocher-complexioned kid.”

“I saw him, too.”

“He couldn’t have been more than eleven or twelve. We killed him.”

“I realize that, Gonzolo. He just ran in.”

“Yeah. He did. … The way he looked, though.”

“How’s that?”

“We’ve been fighting and starving in these hinterlands for six years now, but the kid, he looked totally healthy.”

“He probably came from a stocked-up cottage out there our units haven’t found yet,” the commander said. The two men peered upon the untouched sections of evergreen trees, crystal lakes, and forested islands in the distance before them.

“Yeah,” Gonzolo said, “maybe from one of those islands.”

But there was no more time for the battle-wary men to muse. The guerrillas needed to move, regroup, and rearm. Screams of more flying saucers were fast approaching, and particle beam bombardments were burning through the woods and the glades. Bounding deer fled the fire and the fumes, and somewhere, a wolf howled in rage.