in the overstuffed armchair, Brad dreamed happy dreams of freedom.
He dreamt of days when he could wander freely throughout his town,
his state. He was able to enjoy life outside in the fresh
clear air and life with his family filled him with a sense of joy.
interrupted his visions, setting them down a murkier path, happy
but with a hint of foreboding, like a shiny coat of paint on a rotting
piece of wood. He shifted slightly in his chair, his eyes
still closed. He tried to dream through the tiny dark spot
in the back of his mind. Before his lidded eyes floated images
of his home, his wife, their family. It was a peaceful picture,
tranquil despite the chaos. It was a picture in his mindís
eye of the time ďbeforeĒ. The children ran from room to room
in their big country farmhouse, yelling and chasing. Shoes
and bare feet clattered across the hardwood floors and the dog yelped
as it tried to get out of the way.
gave him a look and he suppressed a smile as he hollered at the
kids. They skidded to a halt in front of their parents and
with heads bowed in shame they gloomily agreed to stop running.
the day darkened early, much earlier than it should have.
Something shadowed the sun and made the day seem as night in the
household. But Brad didnít notice much, nor did he really
swirled and changed, his kids were gone and he lived in the farmhouse
with his wife alone. He had not aged much in the last year,
but felt as if his old life were a hundred years removed.
The house was quiet, the twinkle of laughing children no longer
filling the rooms. The deepest corners were now dark with
silence. They tried to carry out a normal life, eating, sleeping,
reading. But the dark of the sky had penetrated Bradís soul
and he felt as if his heart would break.
looked at him with sadness, her heart as heavy as his. The
absence of the children had taken a toll on them both, but Brad
was much worse off than she. Her every energy was spent in
holding him up. But his dreams made things fuzzy, and though
he couldnít remember why, but he knew he had never felt such sadness
in his life.
door swung open slowly, as if trapped in a slow motion movie reel,
and Brad looked for something to eat. There was nothing but
the same old cans of overly processed mush, placed there for he
and his wife. The mush never changed taste, no matter what
he added to them. It reminded him of pet food, the same meal
day after day. ďPet food.Ē The phrase struck something
in the back of his dream-soaked mind. He opened another can
out of routine rather than hunger.
became nightmares as his rage built. He began to writhe in
his chair as the dreams boiled over into violence. He smashed
things inside of his house, things he loved, things he treasured.
The terror of losing the children was still fresh, a raw tender
wound Brad could not heal. The hurt had become a rage and
the rage a violence that terrified his wife and she begged him to
stop. But the children were gone, taken away, and he had been
powerless to stop it from happening.
outside had long since become permanent and any cracks under the
doors and in between the windows that may have let the outside in
had long since been sealed. Machinery that Brad did not understand
churned in the basement. Strange equipment that pumped and
billowed and gasped geared endlessly and Brad thought that the noise
in his ears would eventually drive him mad. The house had
become sealed up like a tank, and he and his wife were like human
fish drenched in artificial oxygen.
cried in the corner and Brad stopped throwing things to comfort
her. He took her in his arms and she sobbed, his heart aching
and his body shaking with anger at the misery she felt. He
wanted to break through the windows, crash through the door, abandon
caution and venture outside into the damnable darkness. But
he knew that death awaited him out there. Before they were
taken, one of the children had tried to flee, only to die, gasping
and withering in the outside air. His tiny crumpled body could
still be seen from the kitchen window.
outside air had settled into their lives and they would never again
be able to leave the farmhouse. Not on their own. He
led his wife upstairs and together they settled into bed for the
night, finding small comfort in each otherís arms, the feeling of
prying, burrowing eyes watching them with fascination.
were now out of his control and he thrashed in his armchair.
Behind his eyes he saw himself sealed into his house, the house
he had once shared with his wife, now shared with another woman.
Woman was not even the right word. Girl was more appropriate,
easily not older than seventeen or eighteen. She had appeared
one day, not long after his wife had been taken away, and she had
appeared without clothing. Brad, embarrassed for her, rummaged
through his wifeís clothing, pulling out articles too large for
the petite girl, but they would have to do.
huddled, scared and witless, in a corner of the bedroom, blankets
piled high over her. She tried to construct a fortress of
cloth, hiding from the strange man into whose house she had been
placed. Breeding stock, reasoned Brad, though the thought
of being the stud in the pasture made him nauseous.
to speak to her, to offer her food or comfort, but she shrieked
whenever he approached, so he stopped trying. Instead he left
her in the bedroom and set up a space to live and sleep downstairs.
of the last rap jarred Brad from sleep. He paused, sweaty
and nauseous, unsure of who he was or where he was. His dreams
were so troubled lately, he had difficulty telling where the dreams
ended and real life began. Then it came again, the sharp rap
on the window.
out and saw the strange hideous eyes looking in at him. The
curtains to his house had been removed with the children and he
felt like a fish in a fishbowl. The darkness of the altered
atmosphere cast red and lavender hues of sunlight into his living
room and silhouetted the gigantic strangely shaped forms that huddled
outside. The hideous eyes, green and black and yellow, milky
and running, bloodshot and dilated, blinked as they surveyed the
specimen, as though Brad were a fish in a fishbowl.
back into his armchair and began to cry, a prisoner in his own house.
His children were still gone, his wife taken away, the girl was
doubtlessly still upstairs. His life was devastated, part
of some strange intergalactic menagerie, a terrible interstellar
exhibit, a prisoner on the conquered Earth.