It’s funny the things you think about when you’re about to die. There is this flash of memory. I was 11 and I remember just how beautiful my mother was. I remember her singing at the opera. Everyone would come to see her and there was a gig one day and she had to convince the owner of the club to let her have the top spot. Even at 11 I knew what that meant. It meant that my mother would be sleeping with him. She would be seducing him. What I didn’t know however was that man was gay. What I didn’t know was that my mother would be willing to give me to him.
I remember how she came up to me that day with a bright smile, rosy cheeks and a scent of bourbon, “You know what sex is, baby?”
“No,” I responded.
I had been lying of course. Maybe part of it was the embarrassment that I had to talk to my mother about such a sensitive topic.
I remember how she smiled at me, “Well you’re about to find out what it is.”
“What is it?”
“Nothing. It’s just your body. It’s not your soul.”
Then she left me with him. She left me with the idea that sex was nothing. It meant nothing at that moment. I wonder why it took me so long to think about that moment again. It was then that I knew I was able to always separate my body from my soul. My mother wasn’t perfect. She wasn’t even close but she taught me how to disconnect.
The body was just a vessel. It was just a carrier and what mattered, what you had to protect, was deep within.
That’s what I took from it but who knows I could be wrong.
“We’re going down!”
The voice comes from one of the pilots. We don’t have access to any of the controls. I leave my body. And I feel so calm. I leave my body. Just like I did when I was 11 years old and a 60 something-year-old overweight opera owner forced me to suck his stubby dick until it got hard enough to climb my back and do what he could; what little he could for my mother’s career.
“Admiral. Admiral. What do we do?” another voice asks.
The admiral’s age is showing at that moment yet again. He panics thrusting his hands on the dashboard. The shuttle is going down, down, down. It’s a slow death and I don’t know why I look over to him and just smile.
“It’s just your body. Not your soul,” I tell him.
I don’t know why I say it. I don’t know why it makes sense for me to give him this advice at that moment. It doesn’t matter. I am introduced to the 2nd Earth in the rudest way. We were crashing.
I can see the structures below. At first, I think they are trees but I’m wrong. Sure enough, they are vegetation but the growths are not green. They are this tainted orange color with white branches that thrust out from the tops like large fans piled as far as the eyes can see. I see us going towards this orange color.
We were about to die.
And then all of a sudden we aren’t.
“We’re slowing down,” Constable Avery announces.
“How?” Selah asks.
It is unclear. I don’t know how to describe it. It’s as though there was this force of gravity working against our inevitable crash. It’s slowing us down noticeably for some reason. It isn’t stopping us completely but it suspends us in time. It slows down the speed of our descent. It’s almost as though God himself has reached down with an invisible hand to try to pull the shuttle and stop this harsh momentum of gravity.
“Who cares?” Lucky responds quickly before turning to the Admiral, “Admiral! ADMIRAL! CHAD! We need instructions! NOW!”
I don’t know if it’s our shuttle somehow slowing down that causes the Admiral to snap back into his moment of authority where he seems to remember who he is.
“Katashi Honda, can you do a hard reset?” the Admiral asks.
He’s looking to me.
Lucky is struggling with this, “Him?”
“Him,” the Admiral states.
The Admiral isn’t the only one who is reset in this moment. I snap to action jumping over a few chairs and charging past Lucky to get to the control panel. I’ve done this several times before and I hoped it would work. Before I know it I’m reconstructing the layout. The way to reset the shuttle would be changing out one of the cords on the main option runtime. I press enter for 3 seconds.
The runtime will change the reset power off.
“Will it work?” a voice says.
I turn and see the Admiral. He is next to me.
“We’re about to see,” I respond, “Once I cut this off there’s a possibility the shuttle can explode. But if we don’t…I should be able to restart.”
“Will we explode?”
“I don’t know. But it’s the only way to regain control of the ship. The only other option is to trust that invisible pull will last until we get some help.”
The Admiral pauses. Everyone is looking over at us. Everyone is counting on us to decide what to do. Me and a man who hates me.
“What do you think?” the Admiral asks.
I don’t have time to think. I don’t have time to consider. So I pull back and shrug, “I don’t want to leave our fate in the hands of whatever is stopping us from plummeting to our deaths. We need to shut down and see if we can regain control of the ship.”
Lucky shakes his head, “Admiral…don’t fucking do this. This is what he wants. You saw who he was. He’s the Upsetter!”
There is panic at that moment. Severe panic. Lucky grabs his gun out of his holster. He points it at me. I’m not even scared. How can you be scared of a gun when you’re suspended in the air ready to crash if our miracle gives way. I don’t know what to do. Once you have too many things to be scared of you don’t get scared of anything. I can hear the Admiral breathing. I can hear literally HEAR his indecision. The whole time I remain cool and collected.
Selah puts his hand on Chad, “That’s what the Upsetter wants. The Upsetter knows Katashi knows these ships from top to bottom. The Upsetter wants us not to trust him.”
Lucky is struggling, “Sir, don’t TRUST Katashi.”
“Lucky lower your weapon. Katashi do what you think is right,” The Admiral instructs.
Everyone is shocked by this. Everyone. He was putting the fate of all of the leaders of the UCE in my hands and I had no choice but to act right then and there. So I do it. I shut down. There is silence on the shuttle.
We don’t explode…
I begin to put in the coding that resets the coding. No one else knows all the necessary coding for these shuttles like me. Having a shitty shuttle of my own, I had to make sure I memorized this stuff in case anything went wrong. So within seconds, I am inputting a 70 series numerical code off the top of my dome and I’m pressing enter.
My heart was in the my stomach at this point. I turn to my right and I see something. I notice Admiral Kane reaching over for Selah’s hand. I notice Selah hesitating to take it. I notice how the Admiral looks at him. For some reason Selah is hesitating to hold his hand in this moment of emotion but I know Selah. I know this moment means everything to him. Regardless of whether or not he’ll admit it or not. There is a reason that in a moment that could be his last he is holding the Admiral’s hand.
“Power is back…” the pilot states, “We have control of it.”
We are the last shuttle to arrive at the docking station. The other shuttles have already arrived. I can see people gathered around. They must have seen our descent. All these colonists were gathered around outside of these doors hoping that we were OK. I sit at my station. My nerves are going. Everyone’s nerves are going. We were so close to never seeing our new home. We were so close to losing it all.
“You did good work,” a voice states coming next to me.
It’s Selah. He smiles and takes a seat next to me. I have tissue in my nose still bleeding from when I was hit by Lucky. He’s the only one who comes up to me and says anything. No, ‘Thanks Katashi for saving our uppity asses’. Nothing like that.
You would think me resetting our control on the shuttle would stop the suspicious glares at least…but that doesn’t even happen. I can’t help but see Lucky talking to Athena. I know he’s discussing me. I can just feel it. I can feel this harsh suspicion. If the Upsetter took on my image to cause distrust for me then it definitely succeeded.
I honestly didn’t mind being left alone but when my friend comes over I turn over and squint, “The Admiral must be busy, I’m assuming. Thought everyone would be excited to run out and see this new world.”
“Not yet. They are going to want an explanation of what happened to us. He’s trying to figure it out.”
“What do you mean what happened? An Upsetter is still alive. An Upsetter sabotaged the ship,” I state shaking my head and slamming on the dashboard as hard as I can.
Upsetter. The alien can change form. That’s how it goes undetected. What I don’t get is how an alien with the power to destroy a planet finds humor in fucking with a ship. I remember the laugh. It was amusement. Pure fucking amusement. It thrived off of this fear. It thrived off of this chaos. It loved every moment of it.
“Not the Upsetter. He needs to figure out why we aren’t dead.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
“It can be a scary thing,” he responds, “But I know why we aren’t alive.”
“We aren’t alone,” he smiles.
He says it in this voice like he just is so knowledgeable. Selah has this smile on his face. This smile that spreads from cheek to cheek.
“You think we were saved?” I ask.
“I know it. It isn’t coincidence we came to this planet. We were saved. They want to help us. There is darkness in this universe. They call them Upsetters but there is light in this universe as well. They call them Familiars.”
Familiars. That’s what they called them. They were shadows that supposedly helped us get from Earth. Jonathan. He was a boy on our ship who filled Selah with these thoughts that we weren’t alone. For a time I believed it. I guess time changed that.
I roll my eyes, “Where are they?”
Selah doesn’t respond, “They are here…we just can’t see them.”
“Well when you can see then bother me with that nonsense, until then I’ll be my own savior. Thank you very much.”
Selah has gone around spreading this bullshit about the Familiars for quite some time to anyone who would listen. The good species. The light. Seeing how his eyes lit up now I am pretty sure he is just itching to get off of this space station and let everyone know that some invisible ship belonging to some invisible race of good aliens saved us. The thing is people outside didn’t want to hear shit about aliens. We didn’t care about aliens that we didn’t see. At one time I believed it. Then Jonathan disappeared and I came to my senses. People nowadays were like me. These people dealt with reality, not myths. Things that they can see. Things that can feel. The aliens these people knew were called Upsetters and nothing Selah could say would convince them otherwise.
“Is there an issue between us?” Selah asks.
I roll my eyes. He likes to do this. Selah was very calculating and I wasn’t here for it. Not today. He likes to put on his big eyes and his sweet smile and pretend like everything is right in the world, but just recently he had an issue with me because I was rude to the Admiral.
“No issue…” I respond.
Regardless of what was going on I didn’t want to upset him. I just wanted to keep it cool.
“Good. Because we have to put on a brave face,” he states.
“I don’t need to be preached to Selah,” I warn him.
“Admiral Kane is depending on us, is all I’m saying,” Selah responds, “We have a whole sector of the population depending on each of us.”
“I don’t have a sector of the population. I have cans.”
“Your ex screwed me,” I state getting up out of my chair, “Because he’s mad about the two of us hooking up. Look at him now. He gets jealous every time you talk to me. He probably thinks we’re still having sex.”
I nod over to Admiral Kane. Selah is too shy to look but I know Selah can feel it. The Admiral is being briefed by his advisors on what to say when he walks out of the shuttle but instead of focusing on that he’s looking over at Selah and me. It’s not the first time. It probably won’t be the last. This thing between Selah and the Admiral was ridiculous, to say the least and I wasn’t having it.
“He’ll get over it…” Selah states.
I think I’m hearing shit when he Selah says what he says.
“He’ll get over it?” I ask, “He’ll get over it? It’s been years Selah. Clearly, he’s not fuckin’ over it. It’s easy for you to say he’ll get over it when he doesn’t treat you different. It’s easy to say get over it when I’m the one getting screwed out of a job.”
“What the hell do you want me to do?” Selah asks.
“Talk to him. I see the two of you looking at each other all the time. I see you the two of you sneaking touches. I saw you hold his hand Selah…”
“Lower your voice.”
“No you need to raise your fucking voice,” I state, “I’m sick of this. Either you are going to be with the Captain or not, Selah.”
“Tried to get back with you?” I ask.
“I turned him down.”
“What the fuck?” I ask, “Selah. Guys have hit on you since then. A lot of guys. You give no one else the time of day. I know you’re still in love with Chad Kane.”
“It’s not about that,” Selah responds, “You wouldn’t understand. I just have decided it’s best if I’m not with the Admiral.”
That’s when I see something that I haven’t really paid attention to before. And I recognize something. This isn’t the first time that the Admiral has noticed me talking to Selah privately and this isn’t the first time Selah has lowered the tone to a whisper while slowly touching me, intimately touching me. Making it seem as though something was going on that wasn’t.
“You’re using me,” I finally realize.
Selah has those eyes. Those big innocent eyes. The kind of eyes that fool you and have you do stupid shit that he wants you to do without even realizing it because of this idea of what he thinks is right. God knows why he doesn’t want to be with the Admiral but it’s clear he’s fucking using me.
“You’re fucking using me. You’ve been using me this whole fucking time. Does he think you and me are…”
Selah gets quiet. Caught in his own bullshit.
“I never said anything.”
“It’s how you act. He thinks you and me are together. I can’t FUCKIN’ believe this.”
I get up off the table. I’m so pissed that I grab Selah by the collar. I swear I just want to choke him up one good time scare that looks off of his face but right when I do I’m stopped. Lucky is there. He has a gun pointed at me yet again.
“Give me a reason, you piece of shit,” Lucky states.
“I wasn’t even threatening him,” I state, “You don’t even know what’s going on.”
Everyone wants to protect Selah. That’s how it is. It’s fucking annoying because I was one of those people but clearly Selah had the ability to use people like puppets when he wanted to. Clearly, he didn’t want to be back with the Admiral and instead of just manning up and having that conversation with him he wanted to play games. And now he was the one with the protection.
“I’m OK, Lucky,” Selah states.
“You sure?” Lucky asks Selah, “I don’t trust this guy…the Upsetter clearly likes taking his face for some reason. I don’t know. I don’t trust him.”
“You clearly made your point,” I roll my eyes.
It was overkill at some point. I hate to say it but I was really becoming used to Lucky treating me like shit due to the orders of his boss.
Just at that moment, the Admiral calls out. We all stand at attention as though we aren’t a band of fucking kids pretending to be soldiers. I look over at this guy who’s pretending to have it all under control when really he’s torn apart over the fact that his first love keeps denying him. Now every time I look at the Admiral I can just see the portrait of me that Selah has perfectly sculpted.
“We’re going to hide the fact that there could have been a possible intervention from the general public,” the Admiral states, “Until we know more about it the events of our situation in the sky is completely confidential.”
I don’t expect anything less from the head of the UCE. More secrets were kept from the general public. The others don’t say a word like me. None of us even move a little bit, but I wonder if they were all wondering the same thing I am wondering.
Did the Admiral just call it an intervention?
If so, an intervention from who?
We are brought out to cheers before the Admiral gives some stupid excuse to the people about us tail-spinning in the air. I don’t pay attention because it’s a little harder to catch my breath here. They had warned us about it. They had warned us about it taking a while for us to adjust. But supposedly something on this planet was producing oxygen or did they say something like oxygen. I’m not sure. Either way, whatever this was It took some time to get adjusted to. And then there was the gravity. I felt lighter. I don’t know why. I jump a few times just to make sure. I don’t notice a difference but it feels like a jump an inch or so more than I could jump in normal gravity. I could just be making the shit up though.
The Admiral stammers on about his excuse but most of us don’t even care. He could say a unicorn pulled us from the sky on a colored rainbow and I don’t think anyone would have cared. We were on a new fucking planet for god sakes. Fuck your speech. I know it’s bullshit so I don’t even pretend to listen to what he says. Everyone else is going to the loved one, or in other words, the makeshift families they’ve created to pretend like they were old enough to have families at all.
And I find Cassie. She’s happy to see me. She’s standing with our friend Anne who is the chief engineer in the UCE and her husband Royce. They had a daughter about the same age as Cassie’s son Hope. They wave me down as I approach them.
Anne is the one who gives me a handful of dirt.
“It’s like sand…the soil here looks like sand,” she states.
I put the soil in my hands. She’s right. It’s tanner. It looks like sand.
“I’m assuming those things aren’t edible?” I ask.
I point to the orange looking trees. I’m sure they aren’t fucking trees but at this point, it’s the only thing that my mind goes to compare them to.
Cassie shrugs, “I don’t know. They won’t let us go exploring. They say it’s for our safety we stay in the town, in our designated sectors.”
Cassie points, “There. Shouldn’t you be guiding me? Jesus Christ, Mr. Constable. You need to stop falling asleep in your leadership meetings.”
Beyond the trees, I see what looks like a town. A perfectly normal Earth town has been constructed. The city has small little mobile homes. Sure it’s not exactly like Earth. There are a few upgrades and what not, but it’s important to note that there aren’t many.
I head to my designated home. My new home. I live with Cassie. I requested to live with her. The house is normal. A stove, an oven, a fridge, a couch, a television, three bedrooms, and two bathrooms. It’s normal. It’s average. Nothing to write home about. Maybe that’s why we don’t spend too much time inside.
We are back outside before we know it. We are touching the ground. The new Earth. We are breathing the new air.
We do it for hours and we aren’t the only ones. Others have abandoned their new homes as well to stand outside and just stare.
“No matter how much they make it look like Earth, it’s not,” I hear one of my new neighbors state.
And he was right.
The sky isn’t quite blue. It’s almost a purple color. The clouds move so rapidly across the skies. I wonder if it’s some kind of storm coming. The orange tree structures aren’t in the town. They’ve cut all of them. I watch patrol guards immediately at work making sure everyone stayed within the walls that were constructed around the town. They want to make sure no one strays at all. Within these walls, it looks like Earth but this isn’t Earth. It just isn’t.
“Hey…” a voice states.
I turn surprised the Admiral is in front of my house. I haven’t explored the whole town but it seemed like it was pretty fucking big so when a mobile vehicle is parked outside of my house with no one but the Admiral in it I am surprised, to say the least.
“You got time to take a ride?”
I’m a little confused.
“Yes, Honda. Now…”
I jump in the military style jeep that the Admiral has. I wish I knew the real term for it, if there was one, but I was a kid and a lot of those terms died with the adults. I don’t have to say goodbye to Cassie even though I can see the Admiral give her a slight nod of recognition but nothing too lasting.
Then we start going. We start going through the town. So many buildings have been constructed to make it look like Earth but I can tell they failed horribly in really thinking about things. As we drive down the street I see a church, laundromat, a movie theater, two grocery stores, a fire station, a school and a goddam titty bar right next to it. All I can think is these poor kids tried.
“The weather here is a bit temperamental,” he tells me, “One minute it rains, the next minute it’s sunny…”
“Sounds like Earth.”
“I wasn’t done,” he responds, “two minutes after it being sunny it’s likely to snow, or hail, or a thunderstorm or a hurricane, for that matter.”
He shakes his head, “Tomorrow is actually supposed to be our first big storm…or so our scientists say. That is why I wanted to take you to see your area.”
I raise an eyebrow, “Everyone getting this treatment?”
The Admiral looks at me and shakes his head, “No. No. I feel like you have a unique talent. It’s the talent to stay cool during stress. I’ve noticed it many times in the past. I’ve noticed it earlier in the shuttle.”
I think about it. I remember how afraid the Admiral looked. I remember how afraid everyone looked. They had so much to lose. In those moments mortality makes the strongest men weak. And then there’s me. I just go into this sense of peace. It’s always happened. I wonder if that’s what the Admiral is referring to.
I look over at him. He’s so serious all the time. Even now. He’s all about business. I know there is an important reason he is speaking to me so soon after landing.
“If you think I am so talented then why assign me to the storage?”
I want to have that conversation with him. The conversation we’ve been avoiding for years. The conversation about the boy that was in both of our lives. Selah. I wanted to see what he honestly felt about it.
I should have known better though. He isn’t going to drop his guard. he is Chad Kane after all. Right now his one and only concern is the business.
“How much do you know about the Upsetters?”
“Not much. They are alien saboteurs who take on forms to cause chaos. They’ve been a pain in the ass of humanity for some reason.”
He nods, “It’s not just us.”
“What do you mean…”
It takes us 30 minutes to drive out of the barricaded wall of the town. The strange figures of this strange new world seem all too unfamiliar to even describe. Shadows you can’t explain. Shapes we haven’t yet had the words for. Smells that never existed on Earth.
And even through all of this, he takes me to the outskirts down a valley to nothing. Nothing at all. An area of empty land covered completely by the strange thing I assume is soil on 2nd Earth.
“What is this?”
“This is Sector 7.”
“This some sort of joke? There is nothing here. There’s no storage here…”
“I didn’t put you in charge of storage, Katashi,” the Admiral explains, “Back on Earth there was an area. Some people called it the Dread Fort. Other people called it Area 51 in Roswell, New Mexico. You are going to be in charge of the residents of this area. The residents that need to be kept secret.”
There were people who lived in my sector after all. I wouldn’t be governing over cans.
“Who are these people? Why aren’t they here yet.”
“They are here. It’s just they are…hidden. The others aren’t ready to see what I’m about to show you. Not yet at least.”
“Here. Take this.”
He reaches in his pocket and hands me something. I am almost afraid when I see what it is. It’s some sort of weird worm-like creature with two heads and a slimy exterior. It’s about the size of a pill.
“What the fuck is that?” I ask.
The jeep is pulled over at this point so I literally jump out. I’m freaked the fuck out. That small worm thing in his hand didn’t come from Earth. It was foreign. It was alien.
The Admiral seems not to be surprised by my reaction, “It’s called an Ugatari. It’s a parasite that buries itself in your brain. It helps you see things that humans normally can’t see. I need you to swallow it whole. I need you to let it bury itself in your brain. It’s not what it looks like. It’s technology.”
“You need to trust me. I need you to be the same Katashi I saw earlier. I need you to put your fear aside and do what it takes. I need you to trust me.”
“You’re fuckin joking me. I’m not doing that.”
“It’s an order, Constable.”
I look at the worm. My heart is racing. For a moment I wonder how the Admiral knows about this alien technology. Is he an Upsetter? Clearly, there was one that was alive somehow. Was this some sort of trick?
No. No one could pull off the seriousness of Admiral Kane anywhere near as well as Admiral Kane. He is giving me an alien parasite and speaking to me of duty. This is classic Kane.
I put my hand out.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this.”
I put the alien parasite in my mouth. I swallow whole. And I feel it. I feel it literally scratching at my throat. I feel it digging up my nasal cavity. It is scratching. It’s digging up my nasal cavity. I feel the thumping in my brain soon after.
It hurts so bad. SO FUCKING BAD!
I fall to the ground.
I spit feeling the pain right through me. The Admiral isn’t any help. He just stands there watching me go through it. Hell, maybe he is enjoying seeing the guy who Selah cheated on him with go through so much pain.
I scratch at the ground. My eyes fill with tears so bad that I close them shut. It feels like I just dove into a sea full of fresh cut onions. Onions didn’t exist anymore though. This was something so different. Something unique. Something foreign.
I scream. I scream so loud but no one is around to hear me.
“Open your eyes,” the Admiral states, “It only took a few seconds when they did it to me the first time. I know it hurt like hell but it’s over now. You can now see what the Ugatari can see.”
The tears have stopped. The pain has stopped. I look up at that moment and I see something.
I open my eyes and the clear field isn’t a clear field anymore. It’s a city…no probably not big enough to be a city. It’s a bustling district, an alien neighborhood, a technologically advanced community was what I saw. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s a metropolis of the future.
I’m drooling when I look up at this. This wasn’t human design. We didn’t have the technology to make something like this.
“What is this?”
“The Upsetters destroyed many civilizations besides us. Some followed us from Earth. Others came from lightyears away. They came looking for the same thing. They came looking for a second home.”
I look at this city. It stretches as far as the eye can see. Have they been following the space station this entire time? Were they able to construct this in the same time that we constructed that makeshift bullshit town?
I don’t know whether to be excited or terrified…
A man walks out. A human man. He shakes my hand. He’s older, much older.
“You’re in good hands,” he states, “My name is Billy.”
“Billy has been the caretaker for the aliens for some time. He has close connections to them,” the Admiral states.
Billy nods, “It’s amazing, isn’t it? I know you are scared, Mr. Honda. Everyone is blown away when they first see the Home station. Would you like to meet the Aliens Constable Honda?”
Is that even a question?
I’ve never been so excited in my life.