Chapter Seven: Aliens make us "mad"
Jeff slowly trudged down Kirkwood Avenue, as a windy chill pelted his leather jacket and bounced off. McDonald Park was a block away, and he had a deep desire to sit in its grass and gaze at the water of the miniature lake.
Jeff's street ran roughly parallel to the main street business section, several blocks down. He could see activity, police cars, foot patrol, other people walking--perhaps feeling the same as himself. But his street was virtually empty. Occasionally, a car drove by.
Jeff shuffled his feet and kicked various stones as he entered the front gate. Then he picked up a few pebbles and sat near the edge of the small lake. The rippling surface looked beautiful. Jeff tried skipping a few stones, as he had often done as a kid. Somehow, he couldn't get it to work this evening.
If the Balazons were being truthful, he could live his life as normal, doing whatever he wanted, perhaps even live longer due to medical advances, and hopefully die at an old age, having done everything in life he had wanted to do. He would live again millions of years later, regardless of his accepting them, or getting too close. Perhaps, at least, he could remain neutral. Nothing in the Balazons' philosophy demanded otherwise.
On the other hand, he couldn't ignore the feeling they were up to something sinister. It was a gut instinct, something deep down inside him, but he had learned to trust those instincts ever since they'd helped him escape from a mind-controlling cult. He had the same feeling he was being manipulated and lied to as he had in those days.
A shrill scream suddenly pierced the air. It was a woman's voice, sounded as if she were being tortured. He got up and ran in the general direction of the voice, but it stopped. Then it shrieked again, coming from a large tree on the other side of the park.
Jeff's heart was pounding. As he neared the screaming voice, he could make out a man and woman rolling in the grass. He moved in closer, careful to be quiet.
The man had the woman pinned to the ground. He was holding both of her arms above her head with his left hand, and attempting to pull down his pants with the other. Her skirt was above her waist, revealing torn nylons. She was squirming, screaming, and biting her attacker. Every now and again, the man would curse and slap the woman in the face or punch her in the stomach.
Jeff's mouth went dry. He had always wondered what he would do in a situation like this--what kind of hero, if any, he would be. He still didn't know. "Hey," he croaked lamely. "Stop that."
The man stopped moving momentarily, as if unsure he'd heard anything, then continued his assault.
Jeff cleared his throat. "Stop that!"
This time the man whirled his head around. "Go away, man. I'm just having some fun."
Jeff could hardly believe the indifference in the man's eyes. "You'd better stop or..."
"Or what!" The man got up and spun around, with the woman held tightly in his grip. He flashed a long knife in his left hand; it glinted, reflecting the sunlight. "I intend on doing her a favor. After we have some fun, I'm gonna send her off to the exultation stage. You know, man. Where you go after you die. Guess now I'll have ta do both of you that favor. Like the man sez on TV, ain't no hell, just heaven. And we all go there regardless. I bin wantin ta do something like this fer years, but the fear of the Lord and all you know. My daddy'd pounded that into me since I'z a kid. But now it don't matter. Live and let live. Eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow you die and live forever." The man laughed and looked up to the sky. "Ain't life wonderful? I got me lots'a makin up ta do."
The woman suddenly bolted out of his grip. The man didn't even try chasing her. "Darn. Now look watcha done. Oh, well. Plenty more where that come from." He looked at Jeff. "But you, buddy, are gonna get your exultation papers early." He lunged at Jeff, knife pointed straight at his chest.
Jeff grabbed the man's hand and held it away, as they both fell to the ground in a desperate struggle to see who could stab the other. They rolled over twice before Jeff managed to fully point the knife's direction towards the man. On the third roll, the man moaned, stopped moving, and lay on the ground face down. Jeff stood up and moved several yards away, watching for any signs of life.
He picked up a stone about the size of a baseball and slowly inched nearer until he was a few feet away. When he kicked the man over, Jeff saw the knife sticking out of his chest. He checked for a pulse and breathing, but there wasn't any.
Jeff felt no pity for the man, but he should contact the police. He took a shortcut through the park, and started to walk towards where he had seen the conglomeration of police vehicles.
When he got to main, he saw a mini-war going on. A group of people, young and old alike, were hurling stones and Molotov cocktails at an overturned police car, behind which several officers were hiding for protection. In front of the overturned car, rows of police were wearing riot gear, but instead of shooting tear gas, they blasted what appeared to be rapid-fire flashes of light, which looked like laser beams. Every time a light bullet hit a rioter, he fell to the ground. Then some other men in gray uniforms would come and load the bodies into a paddy wagon.
The unveiling was quite a shock, but Jeff could hardly believe the docile town of Star City would start rioting. At least for the moment, the Balazons were acting peacefully, and he had a hard time believing most people were like the rapist he'd killed in the park. Then again, he understood the unbeliever's viewpoint.
Even though he called himself an atheist, he felt constrained by an inner sense of right and wrong. If he were convinced his feelings were merely due to a conscience-bubble, there were no objective standards for good and evil, and he could live forever regardless of his present behavior, he might like to experiment with his wild side too.
Jeff flinched with the sound of a nearby explosion and ducked behind the nearest building he could find, a hardware store. He periodically peaked around the corner to view the action, quickly hiding again when it appeared as if someone might spot him. He started to think he should try to get home safely and call the police from there, but his house was straight through the fighting. Then there was the tempting possibility he could go in the opposite direction, to the police station. It was a greater distance, but at least it was clear.
Jeff opted for what he thought was the safest route. He'd almost made it to the station when he was confronted by a gang of middle-aged men and women brandishing handguns, rifles, knives, and any other kind of weapon they could carry. Jeff guessed the crowd of malcontents numbered at least two dozen.
"Whose side are you on?" a big man who looked like their leader asked. "Those marauding aliens or us humans?"
Jeff sensed that he shouldn't respond indecisively or claim neutrality. "Of course I'm on the humans' side. Who do you think I am?"
"Just checking." The man eyed Jeff suspiciously. "It's hard to be sure these days, with our own government selling us down the tubes and all." He reached into his side pocket, pulled out a gun, and offered it to Jeff. "You won't mind fighting with us then?" It was less of a question, more of a command.
"I'm afraid I can't. I'm going home to get my own Colt forty-five; I don't feel right taking a gun somebody else could use, especially when I have my own at home waiting."
The leader cocked his left eyebrow and looked at Jeff a little less suspiciously than before. "Well, when you get it, meet us on main for the showdown. We're not going down without a fight."
Jeff noticed movement within the crowd. A forty something aged woman slithered through the crowd, a snake winding its way to the front looking for prey. Her hair was frizzy and she took position beside her leader like a loyal guard dog. Her back arched up slightly like a cobra ready to strike. "He's one of them," she hissed. "Demon!" Her head lunged forward again and again, as she repeated the venomous word, sinking fear into Jeff with each bite, as he imagined she might leap on him at any moment. "Demon, demon!"
The leader raised his arm and blocked the woman's plunges. "Now, now, Bertha" he said. "Calm down. I know a human when I see one. You can tell from the eyes. I trust him. This one is on our side." The woman hissed again but backed up slightly. "Go home and get your gun, Sir. Meet us on main when you have it."
Jeff nodded curtly and walked away as quickly as he could.
After that little run-in Jeff changed his mind about going to the police station and headed home as discreetly as he could, using back-alleys to cover himself, even grabbed a long metal pipe from a garbage can and carried it with him for protection.
Things continued to deteriorate. It seemed as if everyone in Star City were leaving their homes and protesting the Balazons' presence. He heard various shouts of anger against alien interference, trickery, government sellouts, and even a few more demon slurs. Many others were shouting for no reason at all--destroying property and looting for fun, since morals were but a concept of the mind.
Jeff almost made it home when a band of malcontents rushed into his alley; police cars soon closed off both ends. Almost immediately, a barrage of light rained down on their heads, and bodies began to drop. Jeff tried to duck behind some garbage cans but a bolt of light struck him. Every inch of his body started to tingle. Then he lost consciousness.