Chapter 21: The same material
Mandy jumped a picket fence when she saw the hummer coming back their way. They had just reached the end of the block and were about to cross the street to the church. Elderton was in front of her and didn’t notice it right away. She darted across the street, shotgun raised. Maggie and Martha joined Mandy behind the fence. They knelt and watched.
The pistol Elderton had given Mandy was slick from her palm sweat. She hoped she wouldn’t have to use it.
The hummer slowly rolled past them, as if empty. It rolled up onto the bodies in the street, and it stopped. It rocked back a moment. It sat motionless.
Mandy stood up, but Elderton motioned her back down. Mandy watched as Elderton slowly approached the hummer. She reached it and started to step up on it, but then it started rocking back and forth violently. Elderton backed away.
The moving slowed to a stop.
Mandy wasn’t sure what was going on. What could be making such a violent mess of the hummer? Where were the soldiers?
She didn’t have to wonder long.
Selene popped up from the top and sat on top of the hummer, her legs stretched out across the top. She let a soldier’s head roll out of her hand and it fell to the pile of innocent people they had recently slaughtered. Selene noticed Elderton and got agitated when she saw the shotgun. Elderton lowered the shotgun and waved back to her with a smile.
“She’s gonna killer her,” Maggie whispered to Mandy.
“Shh…” Mandy shushed her.
Mandy watched this strange alien as it stood up tall. She looked down, towering above Elderton from the top of the hummer. She could easily have destroyed Elderton, just as she did the soldiers. What was stopping her? Selene waved to Elderton. Nervous, Elderton continued to wave back, but Selene began to make other hand gestures. After a moment, Mandy realized what was happening.
“Holy shit, the alien speaks sign language!” Mandy blurted it out. Maggie elbowed her.
Selene looked towards the picket fence, apprehensive. But Mandy knew she just wanted to talk. Mandy stood up and jumped the fence. She walked towards the back of the hummer and Selene jumped back a bit. She growled.
“What are you doing?” Elderton said. “Get back.”
“Trust me,” Mandy said to Elderton. She stood at the back of the hummer, and as she looked up to Selene, she signed, “Hello, my name is Mandy. What’s your name?”
Mandy laughed with delight. “Her name is Selene, ya’ll,” she said to the group. She signed more to Selene, “These are my friends. We are nice. We do not want to hurt you.” She looked back to Martha and Maggie, and said, “I’m introducing you, come out.”
Martha came out with her arm around Maggie. “Let’s wave gently, she seems to like that.” Martha and Maggie waved as they came up behind Mandy.
Elderton also moved over and joined the group.
Mandy introduced Martha and Elderton. Maggie introduced herself. Selene introduced herself more formally, as the Princess of the Phobos tribe.
“This is fantastic, but we should get off the streets.” Elderton said. “Can we get her to join us inside the church?”
“We’re going inside the church,” Mandy signed, and then pointed at the building. “Will you come inside with us, please? We want to talk.”
Selene looked the church up and down. She didn’t seem impressed, but she turned to them and signed, “Yes.”
They entered the church, guns at the ready. Selene had to duck to enter through the doors to the church. Once inside, there was a vaulted ceiling with stained glass windows showing off various scenes of the crucifixion. She wondered over and began to examine the imagery.
Elderton and Martha headed off to do a sweep of the rest of the church. Mandy and Maggie stayed with Selene.
“What are these ugly pictures?” Selene signed.
Mandy laughed, and signed, “Jesus—”
“Jesus!” Selene signed excitedly. She remembered how the men yelled it.
Mandy and Maggie just looked at each other and laughed.
They moved from the stained glass. Selene walked up the aisle. She approached the podium and looked oddly at the pulpit. Her head bobbing up and around, sideways and downwards, like a bird.
“A teacher stands behind it,” Mandy signed. “The teacher tells the stories of Jesus to the believers.”
“Why?” Selene signed.
Mandy looked at Maggie for help. “Nope,” Maggie said, “This is your conversation. I’m just eavesdropping.”
Mandy signed, “Because that’s what they believe.”
Mandy signed, “Because they have an old book that they believe a god wrote. And they worship the god, and Jesus, and that’s what they believe.”
Selene stood behind the pulpit and looked down at an open Bible. She picked it up and held it above the pulpit. “Is this the book?” She signed.
“Yes.” Mandy signed.
“Is it very old?” Selene signed.
“Not that one,” Mandy signed, “That’s a translation of a copy of a translation, or something.”
Disinterested, Selene tossed the Bible and it splashed in the baptistry. “These are traditions,” Selene signed. “Old traditions. Not real god.” Selene was deflated and sat down on the edge of the podium.
Maggie sat on the front pew. Mandy sat on the floor at the end of the aisle directly in front of Selene, so they could talk. Mandy wanted to know what in the world was going on in Tipton, why Selene was there and why people were going crazy. She didn’t quite know where to start. She just jumped in.
“What is happening around us?” Mandy signed. Selene didn’t answer at first. She just looked around the room. Not sure if it got through, Mandy signed again, “What is happening around us?”
“Complicated.” Selene signed. “I’m not supposed to say.”
“We’re dying,” Mandy signed.
Selene signed, “Our planet is drying up. We need water, but it is gone. We have been living off a synthetic water our doctors made before water was obsolete. Earth has lots of water, a good place for us to live. But we do not want to hurt. We want to integrate. There’s room on Earth.”
“Not everyone would agree with that,” Mandy signed.
“Yes,” Selene signed, “We have been watching. Hoping. But humans are weak and repetitive. Not evolving. Keep killing. Killing for the same reasons. People are different, so different people kill them. Same, same. We are different people. Humans would not like.” Selene paused for a moment and pointed to her insignia on her chest. “This is my peoples’ tradition.” She pointed back to the Bible at the bottom of the baptistry. “What we believe.” She caressed her finger through the lines of the crisscrossing triangles. All connecting, all coming together. “It means, ‘Despite all our differences, we're all made of the same material.’”
“That’s beautiful,” Mandy signed.
“Yes,” Selene signed. “Our synthetic water is not good for us in the long term. It shortens our lives. We die young now. I am not old but am counted among the elders of my people. I will die soon.”
“It is our life now,” Selene continued, “This is why we want to integrate on Earth. So we can drink real water again.” She paused for a moment. “Our synthetic water is not good for humans either. For some it is received about the same as us. For others, it takes seed in the aggression they harbor, and it festers into something violent.”
“Aggressors,” Mandy had to spell it out, because there was no way to sign it. “That’s what we call them.”
“I like it,” Selene signed. “It turns aggressive humans into aggressors. Your armies want to take it and make it a weapon.”
“Typical human behavior,” Mandy signed. “What about the egg?”
“Elderton said there was a big thing, egg shaped,” Mandy signed.
“OH!” Selene started, “No egg. Container with synthetic water. When we travel, we keep one on ship for nourishment. I was shot down by your army and they took it.”
Mandy was realizing the ramifications of it all now. The container had untold amounts of the synthetic water in it, which could be weaponized. Who knows how little Tipton had been exposed to, who knows how much damage the pod could do to their world? And if the army had their way, they’d reverse engineer it and produce it endlessly. The container with the synthetic water had to be destroyed.
“I have to get it back,” Selene signed, “Or destroy it.”
Selene’s head suddenly looked left. Mandy spun to see what she was looking at and spotted Richard come through the side exit of the church. He wiped blood from his chin, a group of aggressors followed behind him. Richard stood at the edge of the podium. He ignored Selene and looked directly to Mandy.
“There you are, Daughter,” he said, “I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
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