Story Contest 2017 #1 - Outstanding Stories » Are We Alone?

Are We Alone

“Are We Alone?” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual Short Story Contest 2017 written by Anchita Hazarika, Kuwait.

Are We Alone?

Beads of sweat rolled down his forehead and yet another branch snapped under his foot. He had been in this forest for over 3 hours; the humidity and heat combined were starting to get to his head. The police didn’t allow him to visit the sight of the “crime”. They were calling it a crime but Augustine knew better. The only memory had been of seeing multiple “creatures” with eyes as big as the moon and as white as fresh snow. All signs pointed towards an alien abduction but whenever Augustine tried to talk to the police about it, they always brush him off like an insignificant speck of dust. No one ever took Augustine seriously, but this time he had to prove them wrong. The girl was found in the forest, miles away from her home. Logically there had to be some sort of evidence, but after 3 hours of extensive searching, Augustine found nothing.

Just as he was about to head home, a loud sound pierced his ears. Augustine frantically looked around, a chill running down his spine. He heard loud footsteps. Holding his breath, he was paralyzed with fear; only expecting the worst. His skin was as white as a pillow. A dark bulky silhouette appeared in front of him. Augustine tried to move his legs but of course, no luck. His heart was beating at an unimaginable pace. Augustine squeezed his eyes shut and

“Um, hello.” said a voice so calm that Augustine was taken aback. Cautiously he opened his eyes.

“Who are you?” Augustine asked the awkward-looking boy. He looked about the same age as Augustine with a huge backpack on his back.

“Are you a cop?”

Augustine rolled his eyes at the clueless boy, he wasn’t trying to be mean but he didn’t exactly have time for this.

“Does it look like I’m a cop? Anyways I asked you a question.”

“Oh right, Jordan. My name is Jordan Byers.” He stuck his hand out for Augustine to shake.

“I’m Augustine Oriol.” he shook his hand hesitantly.

“I’m guessing you’re here because of the murder.”

“It wasn’t a murder.” Augustine said, a little too quickly.

“Woah there, calm down, I never agreed with it, I was just stating what I had heard.” Jordan said, with an amused smile on his face that disappeared as soon as it came.

“What do you think then?” Augustine asked, suddenly curious.

“This is going to sound insane but I think it might have been aliens.”

Silence dawned upon them.

A worried expression clouded Jordan’s face.

“Are you mocking me?”

Jordan looked startled.

“What?! Of course not. I don’t know even know you, I just moved into town.” Jordan said, throwing his hands in the air defensively.

Augustine inspected the boy’s expression. He wasn’t lying.

“So you truly believe in aliens?”

“It would be insane not to. I mean we live in a gigantic universe. We can’t possibly be the only form of life, right?” Jordan explained.

A smile spread across his face. He liked this guy already.

Augustine and Jordan trekked back to the start of the forest, exchanging theories. Augustine found out that Jordan’s neighbour also had some theories to share. They planned to meet up at the same spot the next morning to look for more clues.

By the time Augustine got home, his eyes were so heavy with sleep he was surprised he managed to drive himself home. He entered his messy bedroom and admired his X Files poster on the wall. His bookshelf was packed with books written by multiple conspiracy theorists. His desk was smothered in papers where he doodled or wrote down information about several “abductions”. He had planned to look over his notes and perhaps even add more, but he was too worn out. As soon as his head touched the pillow, he slipped into a deep slumber.

***

An almost blinding bright light woke Augustine up. He shot up into a sitting position. The energy in the room felt electric. Augustine felt dizzy for some reason. He reached for his phone on his nightstand. 3:23AM. Dazed, he got out of bed and sauntered towards his window but found nothing out of the ordinary. The street lights were turned on, but they barely provided any light to the still and dead street. He felt really strange; it was like he had never slept, the fatigue was still heavy in his eyes. A sudden burning scent fills the room but he was too tired to think anything important of it. He returned to bed and once again, slipped into deep sleep.

For the next couple of days, Jordan and Augustine met at the same place, same time. Each day, they went deeper into forest but they always end up with the same result: absolutely nothing.

The next morning, at the start of the forest, Augustine leaned against his car, getting impatient. The flies started to attack his skin. He had been waiting for 20 minutes and Jordan still hadn’t showed up. He considered leaving him behind.

“Hey, sorry I’m late,” Jordan said suddenly appearing in front of Augustine, breathing heavily as though he had been running.

“Your neighbour isn’t here?” Augustine interrogated.

“He couldn’t make it.” Jordan said, almost unsure.

“Care to share,” Augustine said impatiently, folding his arms.

“I came super early because I couldn’t sleep and I found something that you might like,”

Augustine followed him into the misty forest. The trees towered over them, their long, loopy branches shadowing over them. They weaved their way through the forest. The air was thick with humidity and Augustine was starting feel lightheaded.

“Almost there,” Jordan explained, wiping his forehead.

They kept walking in silence; Augustine was starting to get impatient. He got impatient very quickly. The curiosity was killing him. Why didn’t Jordan just tell him what it was back at his car?

“We’re here” Jordan said, sounding a little worried. He had stopped in his tracks. Augustine gave him a puzzled look at pushed past him.

“Maybe you shouldn’t go there. I think it’s a bad idea.” Jordan said, the worry in his voice had intensified.

“What’s up with you?” Augustine said walking in front of Jordan, not looking at him.

“Calm dow-” Augustine stopped in his tracks. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. His jaw dropped to the ground. He was staggered. In front of him laid an irregular shaped piece of metal the size of his head. It rested inside a small, shallow pit. The metal looked spotless and brand new. There was no way that this could not be a restricted area.

“Holy cow!” Augustine glanced back at Jordan who looked a little pale. “This is exactly what we have been looking for!” A huge grin spread across his face, he felt warm with happiness. Jordan on the other hand was not happy at all. His face was masked with anxiety.

“Why aren’t you happy?” Augustine scrunched up his eyebrows with confusion. Jordan took a seat onto a nearby rock. He signaled Augustine to join him on the rough surface, a slight hint of panic present in his expression. Hesitantly, he took the seat.

“Are you ok?” Augustine questioned.

“Couple of nights ago, at around 3 in the morning, there was this extremely bright flash of light. Did you see that?”

Augustine tried hard to remember if he had but no luck. He shook his head.

“Well I did, and I went to investigate. When I got outside, I saw these two men, dressed completely in black, from head to toe. Keep in mind that it is 3 in the morning. They walk towards my neighbour’s door and they don’t knock or anything, they just walk in like they live there, I know who lives there and they most certainly do not live there.”

“What are you trying to say?” Augustine says in an almost snappy manner.

“Have you ever heard of the Organization of Intergalactic Research? They’re similar to the Men In Black but men from the OIR don’t threaten people, they make them disappear.”

“And you’re worried that they might come and get us if we take this piece of evidence to the police?” Augustine asked with raised eyebrows.

“Yes.”

“Are you also worried about the fact that they might be the reason as to why your neighbour has “disappeared”?”

“Well he wasn’t home this morning, and after what I witnessed, can you really blame me for thinking that?” Jordan brought up, folding his arms defensively.

“We are taking this to the police.” Augustine stated.

“But the OIR could take us away”

“Listen, this entire town thinks I’m a joke. This piece of metal right there will make everyone who ever thought I was insane doubt themselves. No one has ever taken me seriously and now I finally have cold, hard, real evidence and you want to just leave it here for someone else to find.” Augustine expressed a spiteful chuckle.

“No one thinks that,” Jordan mumbled.

“Yeah well you’ve been here for a month!” Augustine’s voice boomed across the forest. “I’m taking this to the police and if you’re so scared of the OIR, I won’t even mention your name.” Purposefully he strode towards the pit and picked up the hefty piece of abandoned spaceship. Augustine pushed past Jordan on his way out.

“How do you even know it’s from the UFO?” Jordan yelled.

“I don’t,” Augustine said in a bold tone, not even glancing back at the defeated boy.

“But that won’t stop me from trying,” He kept marching towards his car as Jordan simply stood there, arms hanging by his sides, senseless. He couldn’t feel anything.

***

The inspector barely glanced at Augustine’s face when he had given him the piece of metal. Augustine stood there expectantly.

“Is that all Mr. Oriol?” the inspector grumbled in a deep, irritated voice, not bothering to look up from his paperwork. In the midst of all the chaos of the police station, Augustine seemed more lost than ever. He didn’t know of what he had done was the right thing, but he did know that he wouldn’t be content with just leaving it there. Jordan hadn’t spoken to him in almost four days. Augustine knew that Jordan only meant well but he couldn’t see things from Augustine’s point of view. Letting his thoughts overtake his mind was the worst thing to do right now. He slid into his car and put the radio on full blast. He had done the correct thing, right?

***

Augustine was not doing the right thing. He just wouldn’t listen to Jordan. The conversation kept replaying in his head.

“Listen, this entire town thinks I’m a joke. This piece of metal right there will make everyone who ever thought I was insane doubt themselves. No one has ever taken me seriously and now I finally have cold, hard, real evidence and you want to just leave it here for someone else to find.”

Now that he gave the authorities the biggest piece of evidence, Jordan would have to move. Again. He hated having this life. Just because his parents worked with the government to conceal top secret information about life in space, he couldn’t even go to college or make any friends. Augustine was probably the only friend Jordan had ever made, the most dangerous too. Augustine wouldn’t stop until he got his evidence. Once he almost did give up and Jordan thought that he might not come back. So Jordan did what he thought was right. He knew that his parents had cleared the abduction sight before the police had showed up, so in their office laid the one piece of evidence Augustine needed. Jordan didn’t want Augustine to feel like he was looking for something that wasn’t there because that was the farthest thing from the truth; he wanted Augustine to find evidence. Maybe because he wanted to spite his parents a little bit, scare them. After all, they have taken away a normal life from him. They were never apologetic about it, that’s what really grinded Jordan’s gears. So he hid the evidence in the perfect spot but Augustine found it.

Jordan thought that there was no point in talking to Augustine anymore because he would be leaving soon anyway. He trekked towards the forest, his thoughts adopting his mind. The atmosphere was stuffy and humid, the trees blocking the sunlight, only allowing fragments of sunlight to pass through. He kept walking even though he was starting to get tired. The wind was whistling. His thoughts scattered and he kept moving.

Sighing, Jordan plopped down onto to the log and slowly closed his eyes. The fatigue taking over…

“Jordan?”

Augustine hovered over him.

Jordan budged only a little.

“Dude, get up,” Augustine said, poking him. Jordan awoke with a start.

“Wha--,” surprise took over Jordan’s face. He didn’t know what else to do. He hugged Augustine.

“Woah Jordan, calm down, it’s only been four days,” Jordan backed away, a hint of red on his cheeks that weren't from the cold.

“Sorry” he looked down, embarrassed.

Augustine looked a little uneasy standing in the middle of the forest, where the sunlight was slowly, but surely dying. The trees stood like giants and suddenly Augustine felt incredibly small. His head started spinning; the world was like an underwhelming fair ride. Sweat trickled down his forehead and his stomach churned. He was going to pass out. He looked around franticly, trying to find a way out of this sudden nightmare. Why was this happening? Augustine caught a glimpse of Jordan’s confused expression and didn’t waste time. A sudden rush of adrenaline coursed through him. He ran through the eerie forest, stopping only to pick a pathway. He didn’t realise that tears were streaming down his face until he could taste them. Nevertheless, he kept running. It was like his body commanded him not to stop. His mind was in shackles and he couldn’t think. Run, don’t stop. Don’t you dare stop. Pitch black.

***

Augustine had run like his life had depended on it. Jordan tried to run after him but it was no use, he was too fast. Right now, Jordan was making his way to Augustine’s house just to make sure he got home, alive. Jordan knocked on the door hesitantly; an unsettling feeling grew in his stomach. A middle-aged woman with graying hair opened the door with a worried expression.

“Can I help you?” the woman asked in a tired tone.

“Hello, I’m Jordan, I just wanted to see if Augustine came home safely last night.” The woman’s face tightened and her expression stiffened.

“Why? Have you seen him?” She asked in a frantic voice. “Tell me. Have you seen him?!” she grabbed my arms, shaking my shoulders violently.

“No I haven’t,” Jordan manages to say. Suddenly the woman stopped and her face crumbled as tears streaming down her face.

“I’m sorry,” she says, releasing her tight grip and taking a step back. “Please come in,” she swings open the door and Jordan steps inside the modest house.

“Can I please have a look at his room?” Jordan asked, maybe there was something up there, he thought to himself, an idea formed in his head. The woman nodded and Jordan let himself up the creaky stairs.

Augustine’s room was exactly as expected. Papers with various drawings and notes scattered across the desk, bookshelf packed like sardines with collapsing books and posters on the wall, barely leaving an inch of wallpaper. Sunlight shone through the curtains only in fragments. Then Jordan saw it. An empty syringe laying in a ray of light, gloriously, next to Augustine’s bed. And Jordan recognized it instantly. He seized hold of the syringe and bolted downstairs, mumbling thanks to Augustine’s mum and slamming the front door shut. He sprinted all the way home.

Jordan entered his parents’ office. Even though the lighting was dim, it was hard to miss the multiple beeping machines. He made his way to one of the many refrigerators containing various fluids and swung one open. His suspicions were confirmed when he spotted the syringe in the fridge. The same one he clutched in his palm.

***

Augustine tried to rub the grogginess from his eyes, but failed as his hands were strapped to the splintered, deep breath and took in his surroundings. He was in a large room with murky lighting and only a table directly across him. The air felt stale and he could make out the dust particles surrounding him. A door stood to his right with a small window at the top with translucent wooden chair he was sat on. As were his legs. When realization had set in, panic overtook his mind and he tried to yell. But nothing came out, still he kept trying. When he finally registered into his mind that yelling wasn’t going to help, he sucked in a glass. Augustine’s vision blurred and he hadn’t realized he was crying until he could taste the salty tears. Soon enough, he starting bawling his eyes and hadn’t heard the door creak open. A tall, dark figure took a seat in front of Augustine and clasped their hands on top of the fractured wooden table. Augustine squinted at them with red, puffy eyes.

“Who are you?” he managed to croak out.

The person completely ignored his question and in a raspy voice said, “We need to talk.”

***

Jordan parked his bike in front of the ancient building. It might’ve looked mature from the outside, but the inside was anything but old. He strode into the building a found his way through the maze of hallways to finally get to his parents’ room. They weren’t there. So Jordan roamed the empty hall until he heard his dad’s voice roar along the hallway. He spotted the door and cautiously looks through the translucent window. Two silhouettes were present. One sitting with head bowed down and the other with hands on the table. Reluctantly Jordan opened the door and found his dad facing Augustine’s defeated face.