Flipper was a normal twelve-year-old kid, or so he thought. Little did he know that a war several million light years away between the Gudes and the Snaders was about to change his destiny. Then again, the Gudes and Snaders didn’t realize Flipper was about to change theirs either.
“It’s Friday and Halloween.” Allison, who was dressed up as Athena, lamented. She wore a long flowing toga and a crown on her head. She loved reading about the Greek gods, and her favorite author was Rick Riordan. Allison had even named her dog Anna, after Annabeth in the Percy Jackson books. She continued, “I don’t think teachers should be allowed to assign major projects when they know everyone’s going to be squirrelly. I mean, the school encouraged us to dress up and they still expect us to be able to concentrate in class?”
Flipper sat next to Allison in Social Studies thumbing through his notecards before the bell rang. He was dressed as a Nerd. His short-sleeve, button-up shirt was partially untucked and he had a pocket protector and pens in the front pocket. His jeans were pulled up way too high. Flipper wondered how anyone actually wore them like that all the time. He had tape around the middle of his glasses and his normally straight, blond hair was black, greasy, and combed with a center parting. He had come to school with a sign on his back that said Kick Me, but a teacher made him take it off when everyone kept doing just that.
“Allison, you’re in sixth grade now. It’s time to grow up. Try to be more like your older, more mature cousin.” Flipper patted his chest as if Allison didn’t know who he was talking about. “Calm, cool and collected.”
She rolled her eyes. “Good grief! You’re eleven months older than me.”
“Yes, but a person matures a lot in eleven months. You’ll see.”
Allison chuckled. Flipper could always make her laugh, even when she was stressing at school. She changed the subject. “Do you have your presentation ready?”
“Yes, but I can hardly think about it. I’m too excited about going to Carlsbad Caverns tomorrow.”
They lived in Roswell, New Mexico, only an hour and a half away from Carlsbad, yet Flipper had never been there. He recently did a report on bats for school so his parents had promised they would take him to see the caverns. People sat outside the caves every evening to watch as the bats flew out, just over their heads. Flipper couldn’t think of anything that sounded more exciting.
“Too excited?” Allison asked sarcastically. “What happened to calm, cool and collected?”
Flipper gave an uneasy smile.
“Hey, guys!” Josh said, coming into the classroom. Josh loved to dress up which made Halloween his favorite time of year. He was wearing an alien costume that had over-sized feet. His seat was right in front of Allison. Josh was tall for a sixth grader and his bulky costume made it difficult for him to slide into his seat, which was connected to the desk.
Allison and Flipper both giggled. They knew Josh didn’t mind them laughing at him. He liked to be silly and make people laugh. Josh was thirteen but still in the sixth grade. His dad was in the military and when he was in the first grade they moved three times. He had to repeat first grade, which meant he was older than most of the students. He was also bigger, which gave him an advantage when playing sports.
“Okay, class,” Mrs. Smith said, standing up from her desk. “It’s time for our presentations. Josh, you’re up first.”
Getting up turned out to be harder than sitting down. Everyone in the class laughed at Josh’s struggle to stand. Flipper was sure Josh was smiling, though no one could see it underneath the papier mâché alien head he wore.
Eventually, Josh made it to the front of the class and gave his report in a muffled voice. “My report is on the Roswell Incident. On the evening of July second, nineteen forty-seven, several people said they saw a disc-shaped object flying through the air. This was during a thunderstorm. The next day a local rancher outside of Roswell, New Mexico, claimed to have found a piece of what he said looked like an exploded aircraft. On July eighth, the Roswell Daily Record reported that the Air Force base in Roswell had captured a flying saucer. Although the Air Force claims that the flying saucer was simply an experimental weather balloon for a top secret project, many people today believe the United States military found a UFO spacecraft, captured the aliens, and covered up the truth.
“Now, every year, Roswell celebrates a UFO Festival during the first week in July. People from all over the world come to visit the museums, talk about aliens, and tour the crash site. My parents told me about the festival in nineteen ninety-seven, which was the fiftieth anniversary of the crash. Hotel rooms were sold out as far away as Albuquerque and Lubbock, Texas. Several celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, were here. The theater at the mall had a pre-release showing of Men In Black and Will Smith was there signing autographs.
“I don’t believe the crash was a UFO with aliens. That doesn’t make any sense to me. It was storming and people wouldn’t have been able to tell what they really saw. Besides, there is no real evidence to prove it was aliens. But, I think the city of Roswell is smart to promote the festival and for businesses like McDonald’s and Wal-Mart to put aliens on their buildings. It helps them make a lot of money. The end.”
Some of the kids clapped quietly.
“Thank you, Josh,” Mrs. Smith said.
“Good job!” Allison and Flipper both told Josh, patting him on the shoulder as he sat down.
As Allison walked between Flipper and Josh after school, her waist-length bright red hair bouncing behind her, she looked at Josh, who was still wearing his alien head. “You know, Josh, I believe the crash in nineteen forty-seven really was an alien spaceship.”
Although it was still a couple of hours away from sun set, the dark clouds gave the afternoon a dusk sort of feeling.
“Really?” Josh said with surprise.
“Yeah. There is so much we don’t know, both in outer space and here on earth. My parents told me the government keeps a lot of secrets from us. Who knows, maybe there are aliens living here in Roswell.” She shrugged her shoulders.
“I think Principal Hermann is an alien,” Flipper’s serious tone made it hard to tell when he was joking. “Have you seen the way she walks around all hunched-back? And she never smiles. If I was an alien from another planet, I wouldn’t ever smile.”
Josh shook his head. “My dad’s been all over with the Air Force. He told me there was no way the military could be hiding aliens without him knowing.”
“Maybe some people are good at keeping secrets,” Allison said, dismissing Josh’s argument. “What do you think, Flipper?”
He pushed his glasses up. “I don’t know. It doesn’t seem very likely. I mean, to keep a secret like that for this long. I think someone would have said something. But maybe, if…” Flipper stopped speaking as Allison stiffened and tightly grabbed his arm. Josh kept walking; with the alien head still on he didn’t notice they had stopped.
Allison was staring across the street. Flipper followed her gaze. She seemed to be looking at the empty lot. In the back corner stood an evergreen — the kind that looked like a large Christmas tree — looking a bit out of place in the barren field. He saw sparse patches of tall weeds, lots of dirt, and a tumbleweed blowing across in the light, steady wind. He didn’t see anything worth looking at, let alone to be frightened by.
He looked back at Allison. Her eyes were glued to the lot and the vein in her neck was bulging. He could tell she was scared but didn’t know why. He suddenly felt cold and uncomfortable.
“Are you okay, Allison?” His voice betrayed his nervousness.
Other than her quick breaths and heaving chest, she didn’t move or speak. Flipper’s arm was throbbing from Allison’s tight grip, but he did his best to ignore it. He felt desperate to help his cousin. “What is it? I don’t see anything.”
“I-I-I… I don’t know,” she finally stuttered. She blinked rapidly like she was coming out of a trance. Her eyes remained directed across the street and her speech was labored. “I didn’t see anything either, but I could feel something. It was like a strong presence, like someone was across the street watching us.”
Flipper looked again. “I still don’t see anything.”
Allison took a deep breath and relaxed. She let go of his arm, looking down as she did so. “I’m so sorry, Flipper!” He was bleeding where her nail-bitten, jagged fingernails had dug into his skin.
“Holy cow, Allison!” Josh walked back toward them. He removed one of his alien gloves and gave it to Flipper. “Here, use this to wipe the blood.”
“I don’t want to mess up your costume.” Flipper tried to hand the glove back to Josh.
Josh waved his hand in refusal and said enthusiastically, “Putting blood on it will make it that much cooler.”
Flipper hesitated, then held the glove over the cuts. “Thanks.”
“What was that all about?” Josh asked, concerned.
“Allison thought she saw something,” Flipper said with skepticism.
“Actually, I thought I kind of sensed something,” Allison tried to explain again. “I had a strong feeling that someone was watching us — the most intense feeling I’ve ever had.” She glanced back at the now obviously empty lot. “I don’t know. I guess it sounds crazy. Maybe it is crazy.”
“Maybe it was an alien,” Josh said, raising his hands and walking towards her — more like a zombie than an alien.
“Stop it,” she said, playfully pushing him away. Allison laughed as they began walking again. “But maybe it was an alien and only I can sense it because only I believe.”
“Sports teams send scouts to watch players they might want to recruit,” Josh said with rising enthusiasm. “Maybe you’re being recruited.”
Flipper laughed so hard he had to stop walking. “Does that mean she’s an alien?”
Josh laughed with Flipper while Allison stood with her hands on her hips, visibly irritated.
“Remember, if I’m an alien, you’re an alien. We’re related.”
Flipper stopped laughing. Josh laughed even harder.
“Flipper, is that you?”
Flipper, Josh and Allison had just come into the house after trick-or-treating later that evening. “Yes, Mom.”
Flipper’s mom hurried into the room. She was full of life and loved the holidays, but this was the first year she had let Flipper go trick-or-treating by himself. She had given them very specific instructions about where they could go, what they could do, and when they had to be back. They each carried a cell phone. But still, his mom worried. “How did it go?”
“It was okay,” Flipper said without enthusiasm.
“Yeah, I think we are outgrowing the whole trick-or-treating thing,” Allison said, slumping onto the couch.
“But not the candy,” Josh said, dumping his sack onto the floor, eager to go through it.
“I’m just glad you’re home safely,” Flipper’s mom said. “And not too much candy. I agreed that Josh and Allison could spend the night since they are going to Carlsbad Caverns with us tomorrow, but you promised you wouldn’t stay up late.”
“Yes, Mom.” Flipper and Allison dumped their sacks on the floor and began eating and trading candy.
Two hours later Flipper, Josh and Allison were in their sleeping bags on the living room floor. Although they were only a few feet apart they could barely see each other. The burnt out streetlight left only the dim moonlight shining through the large front window to see by.
Flipper was giddy about their trip the next day and talked about it non-stop until Josh fell asleep and began to mumble about playing basketball and being stuck in quicksand.
Flipper went quiet and then looked at Allison. “Do you really believe there might be people on other planets? Or were you only teasing Josh?”
“I don’t know. It’s hard to look up at the sky and not think there are more people out there somewhere.” Allison paused before deciding to continue. “But mostly I sense there are others out there. Sometimes I sense they are close — in Roswell. I haven’t really talked about it because it sounds crazy. I know we were joking about it earlier, but sometimes I do wonder if I’m not from another planet.”
Flipper laughed. “That would explain a lot.”
Allison laughed too. “Yeah, I pretty much walked into that one.”
Flipper smiled at her. “Good night, Allison.”
“Good night, Flipper.”
Allison’s dreams that night were intense, and she didn’t feel like she was dreaming. She felt like she had gone back in time — was reliving the previous day — but there was something quite different about this repeated experience, like a long déjà vu.
She was back in Social Studies class and Josh was giving his presentation on the Roswell Incident. Everything looked the same as it had that morning, but this time she was overwhelmed by the same strange sensation she had felt when walking home. She felt like she was in the presence of someone important; kind of like when she met the mayor at a dinner she went to with her parents. Except this felt like she was in the presence of someone much more important than a mayor.
Allison turned and looked behind her. In what had been an empty seat in the back row that morning sat someone she had never seen before. He was older than the students and had a slightly amused expression. His hair was rumpled and his skin was… She blinked, hoping her eyes would clear. His skin was… Allison gaped at him until he noticed her stare and looked her way. She jerked her head back to Josh, droning on about the Roswell Incident.
She felt the presence ease, so she looked back. The man was gone, but she couldn’t get his image out of her mind.
His skin had been purple. Brightly, unapologetically purple.
Instantly, she was with Flipper and Josh, walking home from school. She froze sensing the same overwhelming presence as earlier. But this time, when she looked across the street at the lot, she saw the purple man from the classroom standing, watching them.
This time, she locked eyes with him for several moments. The purple man tilted his head, looking at her, puzzled. The look of confusion on his face mirrored what Allison felt. She looked at Flipper and saw her hand clamped on his arm. She looked back across the street but the man was gone.
Allison tossed and turned as her dream intensified.
She began having flashbacks to their evening of trick-or-treating. Everywhere they went, the purple man was there, watching, following. The sense of his presence intensified with each sighting. Finally, she couldn’t take it any longer and started running towards him. She didn’t know who he was or what he wanted, but she couldn’t stand the feeling any longer. She was scared and angry. She screamed, “Just leave me alone!”
Allison startled awake and sat straight up, sweating, breathing heavily. She was awake, but the intense presence she had felt in her dream was still with her. In fact, it was even stronger. She jumped to her feet and turned around. The purple man was standing in the room with them, holding Flipper in his arms. Flipper was still asleep.
“What are you doing?” Allison demanded.
“We are trying to protect you. Blake… Flipper… has been chosen to save us all.”
And with those words the man and Flipper vanished.
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