Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
I used to lie awake, listening to the wind blowing through the old telegraph wires that criss-crossed our street. That eerie, ephemeral howling could wake me from the deepest sleep. On nights when the rain turned fine, I would wait for the irregular beat of heavy drops falling from the low points of each wire onto surfaces below. I remember once seeing a fox leap high into the air, struck by one of those fat, silver beads. I always wondered about that, until one night I too got hit. That drop seemed colder than the mizzle about me, shocking me with both temperature and impact: heavier than rain, yet of it.
“Come back, Frederick.”
Michaela’s always paired with me because she can sense when my concentration wavers.
I twitch. One of those full-body ones.
She chuckles: “Felt like all points from here. Only brought you back because I want to daydream for a while.”
“Don’t you mean night dream? It is night, after all.”
“Technically it’s morning. Letting your mind wander while awake is daydreaming. The dreams humans have while sleeping are night dreams. That’s the difference, according to my grandmother.”
“Your grandmother is a wise woman, judging by how often you quote her.”
“Mother was too noshboor to be the witch I needed, so granny stepped up.”
“Okay, that’s getting too close to making one of us the character the audience mourns in this war movie.”
“Gotcha. Jog me if something moves.”
“Likely to be the sun coming up at this rate.”
“That works for me.”
She shoves her hip against my thigh, gets comfortable and zones out. She’s not asleep. It’s some trance state. The Taleon do it instead of sleeping. I find it comforting as her body starts to gently vibrate against me. Which, in truth, is why they teamed the alien liaison with me: she doesn’t give me the creeps.
I scan the area from our vantage point. With a little shock, I realise I’m near my grandparents old place. Looking down at the dusty street below, I imagine I can see a ghost of younger me making my way there from school, then stop myself because I’m the one on watch.
Whispering quietly into the night, I smile at the deceptive calm about us.
“Home again, home again, jiggidy jig.”
Which, probably, is what the Cashdar said when the first of their ships returned to Earth after 12,000 years spent roaming the galaxy, looking for new dominions to conquer and fresh provinces to establish. They were shocked to find us primates ruling the roost, and approximate technological equals in everything except space travel. They took proper umbrage over it. Admittedly, some of our politicians involved in the farcical negotiations didn’t help the situation. End result was the pug-nosed lizardmen decided to exterminate all humans.
Within a year of hostilities commencing, we were contacted by the survivors of the slaughter on Taleo. Turns out that deciding to exterminate the sentients of any place they want is the Cashdar way.
Those survivors brought experience and a little advanced technology. Since then, we’ve been holding ground instead of ceding it.
Stupidly, the Taleon are regarded with mistrust. People find their tendency to change colour when experiencing emotional surges disturbing. The fact that humans can lie without changing colour, which causes the Taleon all sorts of problems, is ignored.
So here we are fighting for Earth against those who used to call it home. We’re being helped by aliens who’d like a place to call home.
I’m dreading what happens after we win.