Population Control

We were fools, we never learned from the past. We always took, and rarely gave back to our planet, and the price of our arrogance, would cost us everything. Some of us thought we were alone, others wished we weren’t. There were those who searched for life beyond, some who claimed it all was nonsense, but no one ever would have guessed the effect we were having on the rest of the universe. When the ships descended from the sky, no one was ready. We never saw them coming. All of a sudden, ships appeared in orbit and were coming down at us. Large vessels set up over and around every major city within moments, there was no time to react.

They did not make us wait, they made their intent known, and everyone in the world heard the message in their native tongue.

“Your species has been deemed a danger to the Galaxy, and you will be culled to maintain balance in the universe.”

World-wide our technology failed us. Planes fell out of the sky, cars stopped responding, everything fell apart. Next, came the explosions, they erupted throughout the world, whole cities and communities laid to waste, billions of people dead in seconds. Three months have passed, and now we are hunted. The aliens do not seem to want our resources, they have come for our blood. Ground troops have landed, and are sweeping throughout the world. They’re searching for, and destroying any survivors, without mercy.

***

“Come on, hurry! We need to get out of here.” Ted said in a hushed whisper. He was in his mid-twenties, a few inches shy of six feet, thin, and pale with short black hair.

“I am trying! We need to find water before we leave.” Susie responded trying to not raise her voice. She was close in age, a bit taller, and close in size, with curly red hair.

“We need to move, either way, we’re too close to the city as is, and they are always patrolling!” he whispered with fear in his voice. They were scavenging in an abandoned home that had survived intact between the rubble.

 “Not until I find some water! They have to have some bottles somewhere!” She said searching the cabinets “We can’t move on without some.”  “Yes!” she said smiling “Almost a whole case, quick grab as much as you can carry!” The two of them loaded their backpacks with as much as they dared. “Can you manage anymore?” She said looking at the several remaining bottles.

“No, we need to keep our packs light” he insisted “If we have to run, we’re not going to get far if they’re heavy.”

Susie took one last long look at the bottles “You’re right, let’s go. We’ve been here too long,” she said. They both shouldered their packs and started to head out, stopping at the entryway, looking up, and down the destroyed neighborhood. Most houses were half rubble, some were just blackened craters.

Ted looked back into the intact house “It’s a friggen miracle that this things in one piece,” he remarked. Susie did not say anything, she grabbed his hand, and squeezed it for a moment, and the two of them looked up down the street once more. Ted took a deep breath and said, “Here we go,” and they struck back out into the nightmare the world had become.

***

The sign said -Welcome to Gaithersburg Maryland- as they walked in the darkness, the two of them worked their way through the streets and avenues, they had been moving away from D.C. for a couple of hours. They passed abandoned cars and buses in the streets, none of them would start, they knew from past attempts. Haunting reminders of what once was, but the night was not silent. These aliens wanted humans dead, but the rest of the animals seemed to be left alone. The call of insects reverberated throughout the night, and an owl could be heard in the distance, but there were other, bigger animals to be feared. Bobcats, bears, mountain lions, and other predators that had started to migrate back in from the wilds, there had been a lot of carrion. The months and the animals had cleared most of it. Ted had found a handgun, it worked he had checked. So, they were not without protection, but telling a bear to freeze, was not something he wanted to try.

“What time is it?” Ted asked looking at the sky, the moon had already set and the street lights didn’t work anymore, it was hard to judge. He had no clue about stars other than finding north, so he at least tried to keep them moving Northwest.

Susie looked at the old wind-up wristwatch she had, “Almost four in the morning,” She responded.

“Fuck! We really need to get shelter before the sun rises,” Ted said trying to hide the fear he knew they both felt.

“We could go back to that house and hide in the basement,” she said.  

“No!” he insisted, “That’s too close to the city, and they’ll find us for sure if we hide there.” He said looking around for any signs of movement.

 “Maybe we can find something here, we’ve gotten away from the worst of it, there is probably a cellar we can hide in, in this town.” She said, he could see the hope in her eyes.

So, he simply said, “Yeah, we can try that.” He didn’t have much hope, but he wasn’t going to crush hers.

***

The sky was just starting to brighten, and they had been searching for almost two hours, but they had gotten lucky.

“This will work, I hope,” he said pulling the door closed behind them. He didn’t bother locking it, he knew that wouldn’t help if they were found. The house they found was standing, if just barely. An entire side was missing, and it was leaned to the side, but the door to the basement opened easily, and to their surprise, when he turned on the small portable gas lantern, part of it was furnished as a bedroom.

“Thank God, a bed!” She said and flopped onto it. It was musty and a bit moldy but it was the first they had seen in weeks.

“I’ll sleep on the floor, you can have the bed,” He said, trying to put authority into his voice.

 It didn’t work. “Nonsense! This is the only bed we’ve seen in forever! I don’t mind sharing it.” She said and then continued “Besides, it would be nice to have someone next to me.” She said, looking at the floor.

He sighed and then said, “Ok, but let’s eat something first.” He pulled out two energy bars and sat next to her on the bed.

As he handed her one as she asked, “What’s your last name?” Then she supplied, “Mines O’Conner.”

He sat there munching on his bar for a moment, and then finally said, “Smith, my last name is Smith, boring I know.” He looked at her and asked, “Why are you asking now?” For a moment her eyes lost focus, she was thinking, or maybe seeing some memory of the past.

He was just about to repeat his question when she said, “It would just be nice to know something about you… from before….” She said trailing off, and looking down, he was afraid she was going to cry, but she looked back up at him and smiled.

Through all the grime and dirt, the clothes that were torn, and getting mangy, he could tell she was beautiful, but he had known that from the moment they met. She was strong though, he knew this, only someone with inner strength or dumb luck could have survived for this long, he knew he had the latter, but he was sure, she had the former. She had survived weeks on her own in this broken world.

He urged her to finish off her power bar and then he turned off the lantern and they laid down together.

“It’s nice to have a blanket over me.” She said, “Put your arm around me… Please?” Part of him wanted nothing more than to do as she asked. He knew this was not a game, but he did what she wanted, and they held each other. Long moments passed in silence, the room was dark, but light intruded in spaces where the ceiling was damaged.

He thought maybe she had gone to sleep, and that would be for the best, but then she said, “What was your life like before…before all of this?”

He didn’t respond for a moment, then he said, “I was just your average retail slave employee, not much to my story, I worked, I slept, I drank, and I smoked a lot. I’m not anything special.”

She was quiet for a moment, then she said, “I was just a rich brat. I never had to any work. My family paid for everything.” She sighed but said no more.

So, he said, “We should get some sleep, we need to keep moving tonight.” She didn’t respond. He listened to the sound of her breathing slow and become even, and then he allowed himself to fall asleep.

***

A few weeks ago, Ted had been scrounging in a grocery store when he had found her. She was just sitting on the floor, in one of the isles crying. He wanted to move on, he knew she would be baggage, but her tears were too much, he couldn’t help himself, so he approached her and asked, “Are you alright?”

She looked up in terror, she had not heard him coming, “Please don’t hurt me!” She cried, putting her arms up before her.

He remained calm and said, “I’m not going to hurt you, I just want to help. What’s your name?” She looked at him for a long moment and her sobs slowed.

He never knew why she came with him, she just seemed to accept him at face value. He could have had a terrible intent, but she just said, “Thank you! I’m Susie,” and she had smiled at him.

***

When Ted woke up, he carefully extracted himself from her, she mumbled incoherently, but thankfully did not wake. He peeked through the doorway, seeing the sun was still a little while from setting. He decided to check their rations. There wasn’t much, a half dozen energy bars, a can of Spaghetti-O’s, and a few packs of ramen. They had plenty of freshwater, thanks to last night’s endeavors, but they would need that to drink. He remembered how his older brother would eat ramen raw, he supposed if he could, so could they. He looked at the gauge on the lantern, there was not much gas left. He decided to quietly look around the basement a little more thoroughly. He checked the laundry room sink, but the little water that did come out was brown and smelled of oil. He found a small deep freezer, opened it, and immediately regretted doing so, the smell was horrid.

When he went back to the bedroom. Susie was sitting up on the bed, “Good morning, or maybe good evening! I should say.” She said in a cheery voice.

Ted wondered how she could have any cheer left in her at this point, but he replied, “Good evening, would be the right term.” She kicked her legs along the side of the bed and said, “Do you think we could keep the blanket? I very much liked sleeping with one last night.”

She was looking at the floor, Ted couldn’t see the look on her face, he thought about all of this for a moment. “If you can carry it, bring it along. Just remember if we must run, it’s not more important than you are.” He said this, meaning it to sound serious, but she looked up at him and grinned.

***

The sun had set, and darkness once again covered the land, the two of them set out. He was trying to head towards Fredrick but wanted to stay off I-270. The highway would be easier to travel upon but there were few places to hide unless you count the cars that littered it, but he knew hiding in a car would not save them, and getting caught on an overpass was a thought that terrified him. They were walking north along rt-355, a local road that ran almost parallel to the highway.

“Do you even know where you’re going?” Susie asked the age-old question.

“Yes!” He responded with annoyance in his voice, and he pointed. They were at a large intersection of main roads, “If you follow that road to its end, my family’s house is in that neighborhood.”

“You lived here! We should go see it!” She said at once.

Ted’s face contorted and he yelled “It is probably no longer there!” He continued to rant, “It’s gone! My family is gone! Everything is Fucking gone!” His anger peeked “It’s the end of the fucking world, the end of everything! Hell, we might be the only two God damn people left!”

She tried to hold back her tears looking down she said, “I’m sorry.”

He looked at her, he has seen the tears in her eyes. The rage left him in an instant. He was filled with regret, but he didn’t know what to do, so he did not say anything. He turned and started to walk again. She stood there hesitant for a moment, and then hurried up to walk beside him. They walked in silence for a time. Then it started to rain, they were still close to the highway and sought shelter under an overpass as it started to intensify. The road was collapsed and made an oversize lean-to.

They sat apart from each other, each trapped in their own thoughts. He started pulling out his poncho, but as he looked over at her doing the same.

He finally said, “I don’t think this is going to let up anytime soon.” As if to confirm this, the rain became a deluge. “We should maybe try to rest.”

She simply said, “OK.” Other than today the two of them hadn’t gotten much peaceful rest.  As the two of them settled in she said, “Come, share the blankets. Were both wet I don’t want for us to catch a cold.” He wanted to argue this thought, but he saw the look on her face. He was smart enough to know he was not going to win, so the two of them wrapped themselves together in the blankets.

As they lay there listening to the rain she asked, “What were you doing… when it happened?”

He was silent for a moment, but answered, “I was driving back from Rhode Island when that message… came. My car died along with everyone else’s, I crashed, and went unconscious.” She turned around to look at him, her face right next to his. He continued, “When I came to, I was surrounded by wreaked or dead cars…, and people….” He swallowed hard. “I just started walking back here. I don’t even know why. It just….” His eyes lost focus. “I did run across a few survivors at first, but I decided to travel alone” He continued. “Less likely to be noticed, and then… I met you.” He said looking at her. She looked him in the eyes, her eyes were a beautiful mix of green and blue, and before he could say anything else, she kissed him. He wanted to resist, wanted to be a good man, even if he was the only one left, but he was only human.

They made love underneath the overpass, two souls reaching out, and comforting each other. Afterward, as they lay there holding each other she explained. Her father had been extremely rich, and very paranoid. He had made a fallout shelter years ago and had thrown her in when they came. He had slammed the door behind her and started the generator, but the lights had gone out and then everything had started to shake.

 “When it all stopped, I didn’t know what to think. I don’t know how long I was down there with our gas lamp, but then the supplies started to run low, so eventually, I opened the door, and everything was gone…just gone…” Her voice sounded hollow.

“Let’s try to get some sleep.” He said holding her. He did not want her to re-live the pain anymore, and the two of them laid in silence until sleep overtook them.

***

When Ted awoke, it was light out, and Susie was nowhere to be seen. He sprang up and dressed as quickly as he could. He thought for a moment, and then pulled the gun from his pack,

“Just in case.” He said and started looking. He heard a scream and started running. It didn’t take him long to find her, and his worst fears had come true. She lay motionless along the road surrounded by them. Aliens of various shapes and sizes. Ted couldn’t think, he started to scream in wordless rage, and he charged them, firing his pistol. He had only ever once fired a gun in his life, and as he exhausted his clip, his rage evaporated in an instant. He realized none of them had even moved. His charge slowed to a stop. They were just watching him, unscathed. He stared at them in disbelief. One of them raised its hand, and suddenly the ground was rushing up to meet him. He struggled to hold on, but everything went black.

***

Ted and Susie awoke at the same time, and they were surprised to be alive but didn’t know where they were. It was pitch dark, and they were laying on the ground holding each other. Ted started to sit up, as he did light began slowly to radiate from walls that surrounded them and gradually brighten.

She got up slowly and said, “Where are we?” They were in a very small room with no noticeable door. Ted tried not to panic, but terror welled up inside of him.

 He got up and started pounding on one of the walls “Let us out of here! What’s goin on?” He screamed as loud as he could. It was all too much, he slumped against the wall, and started to cry. “Why? What have we done?” He said through the tears. Susie walked over to comfort him, and then as if to answer him, the wall to his left suddenly disappeared, and they could see what looked like a Council room on the other side.

He got up, and hesitantly walked over, reaching out in fear, his hand touched a solid surface. He realized the wall had turned into a viewing screen. He looked at Susie, she grabbed his hand. They could not believe what they were seeing. There were eleven seats all filled with different aliens, each more fantastic, or horrifying than the last. In the center, their apparent leader, a horned creature with five blood-red eyes, grey skin, and pointed teeth, some protruding from its mouth, started to speak.

It wasn’t speaking English, but the words they heard were. “Denizens of what you call Earth, the culling is complete.” As it spoke Susie, and Ted put their arms around each other. It continued “This council would like to explain why this evil act was necessary, and what will happen to all of you next.” They looked at each other, realizing with relief, not only were they still alive, but there were others. The room went black, Ted’s grip tightened with fear, but Susie squeezed back and he relaxed a little.

The Earth appeared before them; it was as if they were floating in orbit. The voice continued “This is your planet, you are all unaware, of how you were destroying it.” The hologram started animating along with the explanation. “Energy is a constant in the universe, all energy!” It continued “You never seemed to realize, that what you are, is energy.” They stood in awe as the view zoomed in and a web and flow of energy appeared. “The other creatures on your planet, are scarce now because there are so many humans. You have overbred so much, there is not enough dormant energy for them.” After it said this, the animation panned out, past earth, past our solar system, out it went, showing the whole Milky Way.

“Normally we would not have cared, or taken any action against you, many civilizations have met their demise, due to their ignorance.” The energy flows appeared weaving through the galaxy. “However, the biology of your race seems to have tipped a scale, on the galactic level. You were stealing energy from other planets, you had nearly destroyed two other civilizations, before it was realized what, and where the problem was.” The voice continued and the image disappeared, once again the room slowly brightened and the view of the council was on one of the walls.

“We debated on this for several of your Earth years. It was not something we wished to do, but your population needed to be controlled. You were too great of a threat to us all.” The leader stopped for a moment. It looked as if there was a discussion in the council room, but they heard no sound. When it seemed to have concluded, the voice continued, “It has been decided that you will not be returned to Earth.”

Ted’s heart sank, and he started to tremble Susie silently tried to comfort him, even though there were tears in her eyes. “You shall be taken to a smaller planet, one on which hopefully you can survive but not overwhelm, as you have this one, and in time your Earth can heal.” The voice fell silent, and the wall reappeared. Suddenly they both felt very tired, they tried to fight it, but darkness enveloped them.

***

 Ted awoke, he was laying on grass, Susie was lying next to him. After a few moments of confusion, he remembered all of it, and what the aliens had said. He got up and looked around, he was in an enormous field, with a lake in the center, there were what looked like trees in the distance, mountains beyond, but the sky was what caught and held his attention. A giant gas planet with three sets of rings took up most of the horizon.

Susie who had awoken walked up beside him, and said, “It’s so beautiful!” He nodded, “Yes, yes, it is.” He looked at her and then past, as suddenly two piles appeared out of nowhere. One he saw was food and water, enough for years. The other was a pile of white boxes of various sizes. He walked up to it and saw what looked like a tablet on top.

He picked up the tablet and it lit up, the symbols were alien, but a light emerged from it, and passed over him. The words became English. -Welcome to your new home- The text said. He started to read a bit then turned and smiled at Susie.

“It’s directions for a house, these boxes contain everything we need to create a home!”

She gasped and said, “Look!” All around them people, and piles containing food, and homes started appearing, hundreds, thousands of them, too many to count.

“It’s not all over, we aren’t doomed!” Ted said, and they both wept tears of joy. Standing there, they held each other, looking to the horizon of their new home, and they were filled with hope.

~WRPM©
@TheRavingsofaMadman
@Madman_Ravings

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