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|Waiting at the train station for a different type of train.||
Itís almost time.† The train will be here in the next five minutes, and around me, people are packed into the station, all of them with their tickets out.† The murmurs of those that are here is slowly trickling down to a quiet silence, while the ticking of the station clock seems to be growing louder with every passing second.
When I had left the house this morning, my mother had tears in her eyes.† She hadnít wanted me to go, but I promised her that Iíd be back shortly.† Maya, my younger sister, hadnít understood why I was leaving and Dad had been optimistic, telling me that heíd see me soon.†
My father has always been the soldier of the family, the one to put everything in fact, make it seem so simple to us all. The memory of Dadís voice, seeming so far away already, lends comfort to my mind.
I guess I should start by saying this hasnít always been how things were.† Most of what happened occurred when I was just a baby, so I can only repeat what I heard.†
The world itself was erupting in wars when the aliens came.† The aliens had sent an encoded message through NASA, asking for safe haven to see our world, and offering help in ending the wars.†† The United Nations, thoroughly entranced by this idea, agreed to the olive branch set forth by the visitors.† We should have known better, as a nation and a world.
To be truthful, the aliens did keep their promise.† Using a means not really known to us, they communicated telepathically with leaders around the world, negotiating an end to the breakout of battles and skirmishes all over.† They did this on the premise that theirs was a peaceful society and that they wanted to show other worlds what peace could do to prosper them.†† They showed us what a fallacy religion was, and with their appearance proved to many that there was no God, at least not what was written in the bible.
Within four years, all wars and battles had been stopped.† The Pope in Rome and many heads of religions preached against these ďdemonic seedsĒ but at the same time praised their work in giving the world peace.† Mixed messages were sent to all religions, at the same time.† Many rebelled, choosing the wisdom of the aliens over what they had known all their lives.† Meanwhile, the aliens were setting up small camps for themselves in almost every country.† Some places, like the States, they had found themselves openly welcomed in many different areas.
At the end of six years, the aliens had provided us so much information and two years of peace had convinced the world it was the right thing to do.† Every country disarmed the weapons of mass destruction that they had.† A few countries still had chemical and biological weapons, sure, but not after a visit from our new ďfriends.Ē† Even with all of our science fiction on the subject, no one ever thought to wonder how the aliens were so convincing of everyone.† We should have looked.† Fiction was close to truth at that point.
And into the first decade here, the aliens had been welcomed as members of the UN, allowing a few of them to sit on the council and listen, and offer the advice of the ages.† Almost every country had an advisor from another planet.† With peace being solid for so long, the UN was mostly just an advisory and helping body, to any country that may experience drought or sickness that hadnít had cures yet.
Then something odd happened.† I first remember hearing about it from the newscasts.† I donít recall much about it as I was only four, but I remember the newscaster say that the governments of several world countries had been disbanded.† This had come not only simultaneously, but also on the heels of the States announcing there would be no more presidential elections, but instead, there would be a governing body that would help states get rid of any debt and job woes.
Donít get me wrong, for a while it was wonderful.† Everything seemed on track and the aliens had provided us with what they had promised.† Peace and prosperity.
Nothing comes without a price.
You see, when I was ten is when things started to fall apart.† The same age my sister is now.† The first tickets went out in the mail.† People who got these tickets were between the ages of eighteen and fifty.† None younger or older and not everyone got them.†
With those tickets came a letter.† Those that had the tickets would report to the train station at a certain day and time.† In the States, people had no idea what was going on.† Then, on a joint news conference, the head of the UN, the President, and several other country heads stood together to give us the news.† In typical political speak, it was made to seem a lot less than it was.
Our visitors, long since dubbed benefactors, had given us so much, now we would give back to them.† Twice a year, any person between the ages of eighteen and fifty would have their name in a lottery.† Out of those, a certain number of names would be drawn and those people would be given tickets along with instructions.† At the designated day and time these people would show up at their train station with a bag to wait.† Once the train arrived ten ticket numbers would be called.† Those boarded the trains.† Everyone else went home.
Our leaders avoided questions as to what would happen to those people.† The aliens assured us that it was to help them with rebuilding their equipment and training these people for when they left.† But if that was true, why such a random lottery?
Of course that question was never answered.† And no one that left on those trains ever came back.† It seems like so few people, but ten people in every major city and town across the world two times a year adds up.† It doesnít matter where you live.† Washington, DC.† Winona, Minnesota.† Belfast, Ireland.† Dundalk, Maryland.† The train stopped at all stations.† And by that first year of the lottery, almost every country was considered technology able, and had rail lines built in.† Most of these had been at the urging of our ďbenefactorsĒ so that trade and travel would be easier for people.
And this brings us to now.† Today.† My first time in the lottery and I was picked to show up at the station.† And we are no closer to knowing what the aliens are doing to those that go.† Itís become almost a daily part of life, except for the people that have been affected by it.† Some families have lost almost everyone.† Some have never been picked.†
As the train rolls into the station, I glance back down at my ticket number, trying to notice if there was anything odd about it, if any of these have been pre-determined.†
I could run.† People have tried, but theyíve always been caught.† Thatís the problem when those that come in the name of peace possess powers of telepathy, among any other number of things.† They can find you.† Instead, I am just going to take my chances.
The doors to the first car open and a man steps down from the top step.† Behind him, I see the slim green hand of an alien, touching the edge of the door.† Yet the alien does not come out into the open and I canít help but wonder why.† What are they hiding?† What do they plan on doing to us?
The man, an older gentleman with a British accent reaches into a bag and pulls out a ticket.† ď96344010.Ē† The first ticket of the ten.† Now that the atmosphere has been broken, people have started whispering again and casting nervous glances to each other.† A boy possibly no older than myself gets up and makes his way towards the platform.† The conductor (what else could he be?) takes the ticket, and the boy steps inside.† For a moment, the appendages of the alien vanish from the door edge and then reappear without a sound.
The next several go quickly.† Mostly those who are in their upper thirties it looks like.† Which makes sense, as the baby boom had been thirty or so years before.† When the conductor calls the tenth number, a collective sigh of relief runs through the room and many reach to pick up their bags.†
ďHold!† No one leave this station.Ē† The conductorís voice rings out through the air and everyone looks up.† The tenth ticket belongs to a pretty, petite and very pregnant woman.† As she makes her way to the steps, the man leans forward, stopping her for a moment and whispering in her ear.† She hesitates before turning away and walking for the door.† I donít know what he said, but she has tears in her eyes and a smile on her face.† Rejected because of pregnancy?† Iíd never heard of that one before.
Then again, it could be because the numbers of births have gone down drastically in recent years.† People are so terrified (with good reason mind you) of what may happen to them or their children after the train ride, that they have stopped having children.† Suicides of pregnant mothers in contrast have risen drastically.† Itís odd, really, since most mothers have a survival instinct.† Maybe there is something more happening that I am not aware of. Though if the aliens were using those taken as slaves, it would make sense.† No one too young, no one too old, and no one who would be out for a while with a nursing baby.†
ďó033Ē The last three numbers break into my revere, and I look at my ticket.† There is dead silence in the room and no one steps forward.† 033.† I missed the first part of the call, and my heart seems to stop.† My ticket ends in 033.† Seconds tick by and finally I reach to pick up my bag and take a step forward when Iím interrupted by a scream of despair from the back of the room.
Everyone turns as one.† An older woman is clutching someone who Iíd assume to be her son.† She may have been as young as her mid thirties, or as old as fifty, but the lines of weariness on her face had aged her beyond her time.† My heart goes out to her as I see her face, breaking apart as she realizes the inevitable has happened. The man with her was a few years older than myself and he is whispering frantically to his mother as he breaks away from her.† Her hand remains in his until he wrenches his fingers free, kissing her cheek and stoically making his way through the crowd, which parts in his path, to the steps, handing the conductor his ticket.† The conductor gets back on the train without a word, and the doors slide closed.† I watch all this with some bizarre distance, as if itís not me in the station, but instead Iím watching it all on a television screen.† Someday that woman could be me, and I know that my future children might end up on that train if I donít.† I hear my inner voice shouting at me that all of this is wrong, that this canít keep happening.† I push it down to where itís nothing but a whisper in my ear, and think of the day ahead, and the time Iíll be spending with my family instead of on that train.
Maybe someday someone will revolt and this will stop happening.† Maybe someday we will figure out what the aliens are doing to us and how they became our enemies instead of our benefactors.† Was this their plan all along?†† Of course it was, but itís natural for the human race to trust.† At least it was before this.† I wonder idly how long itís going to be before the human race has died out.† I canít see the idea of letting pregnant women out of the lottery going too much farther or bringing back up the birth rates across the world.
The only sound in the room as people pick up their things and leave is the sound of the heartbroken mother, who has collapsed to the floor and is crying, her hands over her face.
As for myself, I watch people leave with mild interest, until itís just the crying mother and myself inside the now deserted station.† I should stop and help her to tell her things will be okay.† But I donít.† Something inside of me stopped caring the moment I realized it wasnít me getting on that train.† I am happy to just be alive, just be here.† I canít waste the time on people already dead.† Instead I take my bag and walk out into the bright sunshine of this June day.
|Eye of the Beholder|