Author: Rick Tobin

“Sandman, I’m so alone
Don’t have nobody to call my own
Please turn on your magic beam
Mr. Sandman, bring me a dream.”

“Here come those irritating anal-probe bastards in their black helicopters.” Theodore pointed his bison-penis walking cane at the crystal blue horizon holding three floating dots moving swiftly towards the couple standing before their ram-earth cottage surrounded by yard-tall pedestals of new, black soil supporting lush cactus on solid earthen podiums. “At least there’s no sand to blow in my face this landing. Glad our garden’s in a greenhouse.”

“You’re still holding grudges, Teddy. You know military types freak when they lose control, still believing you have secrets to stop Sandmen.” Amelia’s Millennial, petite body hid behind Theodore’s aged, tall, lanky frame as waves of propeller wash rolled over the Mojave Desert floor. They waited for disembarking government visitors to walk to them.

“Hanson, you seem well. That’s surprising with COPD meds gone.” The thirty-something, black colonel rubbed his forehead as he pulled his filter mask back between questions to clearly understand Hanson’s responses.

“Getting tough outside for you normals, Mace? I never felt better. Still got hearing aids, but you’ve got nausea, tinnitus, blurred vision, and headaches. What’s the oxygen up to now, fifty percent? I’m betting that flight out was a bitch. We haven’t seen planes in a year. What’s your fuel source that doesn’t explode?”

“Nuclear. Radiation’s a bear but cut the crap, Hanson. You were the first contact. We heard the groans underground for years until those circular, pulsing, pink cocoons emerged, with silicone worms squeezing out first into your desert. You must know something that stops them. Hell, man, you’ve lived around them the longest.”

Hanson shook his head side to side. Amelia crept forward, grasping his arm. “Colonel, after two years using all your weapons, you have no idea?” Hanson paused. “I’ve seen lightning bounce off them. Give up. Sandmen don’t care about us. You’ve already evacuated your elite below ground inside the cave cities and tunnels of our ancestors, as these worms devour our sands. You won’t slow them from flooding the atmosphere with oxygen waste products, multiplying their herds over land and sea. Still, look what these invaders left–deep, rich, plentiful, mineral-rich soil.”

Hanson bent down, lifting a handful of earth. “Everything grows in it. And rain, my God, what they’ve brought through climate change. Our oceans grow as coastal areas subside and deserts become Edens. Unfortunately, you can’t breathe in these gases or save the great seaside cities. You’ve become choking troglodytes. We won’t. This air blesses those with inherited breathing disorders.”

“A warning, buddy. They could become gray goo, like relentless nanobots. Imagine Earth covered in piles of silicone worms. You and others like you won’t make it on the surface.”

“Wrong, Colonel Mace. They’ve never harmed a single living organism. I’ve listened to their hum and trilling songs, as their red glows guide them on blowing-sand pathways. They scare some animals, but they’ve never hurt one ant or blade of grass. We’re the only species that’s impacted. We can’t adapt fast enough…well, you can’t.” Hanson smiled as the officer exhibited increasing signs of pain foreign to Hanson and Amelia. “Our genetically flawed kind will survive and thrive.”

“Like your healthy daughter?” Mace sneered at Amelia.

Hanson took a deep breath. “Amelia was a chronic asthmatic abandoned by a LA clinic as you forced only healthy people underground. She made her way here, alone. We have no information or help for you…so leave, before you can’t. Oh, and Amelia’s not my daughter.”