An Encounter

A door slammed, and I flinched. The lights flickered and dust fell from the slats in the ceiling. But then there were heavy footsteps overhead, and I knew I needed to be as quiet as I could possibly be.

Slowly, very slowly, I reached my hand out to find the button on my extension cord. The click was too loud, but then the lights went out and I held my breath. The steps continued across the floor and into the next room. Another door slammed and my shoulders fell away from my ears.

“That was close,” June whispered. She clicked on the flashlight around her neck, but kept it trained on the floor. “Do you think they got a tip about us being here?”

I shook my head. “Regular patrols. If they were searching for us, they would have stayed longer.”

The light bobbed up and down as June nodded.

“In any case, we need to think about a new camp. We’ve been here too long. One of these days, those aliens are gonna think about looking under the floorboards.”

June nodded again. After another minute, I clicked the extension cord back on and our small space again filled with light. We went back to our nightly routine of rolling out our sleeping bags and packing everything up in our duffels.

We never knew when we’d have to run, and so even though we’d been camping out in this crawlspace for three weeks, we didn’t get too comfortable. We would always be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. The last thing I tucked into the bag was the extension cord, and then we were plunged into darkness again.

We clicked our flashlights on and stared at each other. June was my very best friend, and we’d escaped our city together. Once the aliens revealed themselves and it became clear they weren’t interested in sharing our planet, the people of earth moved quickly to make their own changes.

“How much further do we have to go?” June whispered.

I’d looked at the map before dinner and didn’t like what I had to tell her.

“It depends. If we take the most direct route, it’s about fifteen miles.”

“Oh! We could cover that in a day!” June’s face lit up with excitement. I hated having to dim her shine.

“But that would take us through the city.”

Her face fell. “Oh. So… what’s the way around?”

I reached a hand across the space between our sleeping bags to find her hand. “Going around will be three times as far. And we’ll have to find new places to camp on our own each night since I don’t know any other refugees past this point.”

She squeezed my hand and sighed. “Okay.”

“But we’re so close.” I wanted to cheer her up. We’d been on the road for so long, having to hide and run and hide again. “Once we’re on the other side of the city, it’s the last alien stronghold until you hit Colorado. We’ll be able to settle down somewhere and relax.”

“Yeah.” But she didn’t sound convinced.