Authors: Jessica Bristol
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Harsh winds blow across my face as I race across on the countryside on my motorcycle. I'm not sure what I just saw streaking across the sky an hour ago, but I know that whatever it is it's going to make for one hell of a story. Working as a journalist in a post Internet world might not be the easiest thing in the world, but it pays the bills and lets me look for my stepbrothers. I don't just go after the small stuff either, I want to get down to the nitty gritty and find out not just what's going on in the world, but why as well. And it's because of that that I'm speeding down the highway at three in the morning to investigate the strange lights that suddenly crashed down to earth . Some small part of my brain was screaming at me. Telling me that this was just like that summer all those years ago, but I won't let my hopes get up until I get there.
I thought that I was going to be the first person on the scene, but as I was hurtling along the asphalt an unmarked black SUV zipped past me with astonishing speed. My first reaction was to be angry at the reckless way that they were driving, but upon further reflection I realized that it was probably a government vehicle heading towards the same destination that I was heading out to. If it
a government car then I might just be on to something huge, and if I can just get there before any sort of clean up starts I might just be able to find a clue about where my stepbrothers are.
I don't like to think of myself as a conspiracy theorist as much as a real truth seeker. Sure I've had enough crackpot ideas that the only magazines that will accept my work are akin to the National Enquirer, but that's never been enough of a deterrent for me to stop looking under each and every rock to try and find out what's
going on in the world. Because if I don't who will?
Growing up and beyond.
Ever since my twin stepbrothers disappeared three years ago I've been trying to figure out where they are and what happened to the two of them.
My mom married their father when we were young. Both of them had recently been through messy divorces and were trying to sort out their lives when they found each other. My mom was in the research and development department for a major pharmaceutical company, and my stepfather worked in the legal department for the same company. When it looked like she might be sued for some unintended side effects of a new arthritis treatment she had developed, he was the lawyer that defended her case and saved her career. After the case was closed they started meeting up for drinks regularly, and eventually fell madly in love.
Neither parent came without baggage though, my mom had a daughter (me) –as well as a number of psychoses that she developed after living with an abusive husband for a number of years—and my stepdad Bill had his twin boys and a somewhat manageable drinking problem. My stepbrothers and I were seven when our parents finally tied the know. I can't begin to express how nice it was to have some sense of normalcy return to my life after that happened. I went from a broken home to having a caring dad and two new best friends.
Life was perfect for the next eight years. Mom and Dad spent their days working, while Tommy, Walter, and I went to school and generally had a great time. Then our entire world came crashing down around us.
Mom and Dad had gone to a party to celebrate a successful release of another new drug. From what I have heard they had a wonderful last night together. They spent the evening drinking, dancing, and celebrating what life had brought them. As the night came to an end Dad got into the car—against the better judgment and wishes of his coworkers—and started to drive home. He had had too much to drink, and while he was trying to change the radio station he lost his concentration and crashed head first into a car in the other lane of the road.
After that; all Walter, Tommy, and I had were each other. We bounced around different family member's houses but nothing ever stuck. Nobody wanted to deal with three unruly teenagers. Sure they felt sorry for us initially, but there is a world of difference between feeling sorry for someone and actually caring about their well-being. After being shuffled around from grandparent to grandparent, aunt to uncle and back again for the next three years nothing seemed stable or worthwhile except for the twins. They had become my anchor to a life that was taken away when our parents died. We always knew that we could count on each other for anything and everything. Constantly being the new kids in school made it tough for us to make any friends or develop any kind of relationship with anyone outside our little bubble. But eventually we graduated high school and were finally able to start living a normal life again.
It's kind of weird to admit this now, but during that time I developed a massive crush on Tom. I know that it might seem odd hearing that I had a crush on my stepbrother, but he and Walt were my world back in those days. They represented stability and normalcy in a world that had plunged us into chaos. It didn't hurt that they were both exceedingly hot. They always made sure to join the swim team at whatever school that we were attending and their bodies reflected that fact. I still remember watching Tom coming up out the water, his bulging muscles glistening with water, a crooked smile creeping across his face as he found out that he had just beaten his personal best record. Eventually I grew out of it, but there is always a special place in a girl's heart for their first crush, and for a long time after that I'd still catch myself watching him lustfully. I don't think I've ever completely let the idea of the two of us getting together escape my mind, but it was definitely a lot easier when we went our separate ways for college.
Tom and Walt were both exceptionally smart, and they managed to leverage their intelligence to get a full ride scholarship to Dartmouth. Tom went into Biochemical engineering, while Walt decided to double major in computer science and electrical engineering. As for me I wanted nothing to do with the sciences. I don't know where I got it from, but I decided to go to school for journalism. I researched for a while and found out that the University of Missouri had one of the best journalism departments in the country and went into massive debt getting my degree from there.
The physical distance between us seemingly sprung up overnight was incredibly tough to deal with at first. We were all broke college kids, so finding time or money to visit was all but an impossibility during the school year. As we all became engrossed in our studies we drifted apart and became individuals instead of the threesome we once were. In an effort to stay close Walt came up with the idea that we should meet up every summer and spend a couple of weeks catching up. We would meet up in the middle, and since the cost of staying in a hotel for a long period was too high for any of us we went camping.
Those summer camping trips were some of the best times in my entire life. It might have stretched my budget to take a few weeks off of my summer job to go and camp out, but the memories I have from those trips are worth every moment of worry about money that I had before and after the trip. It was like the rest of the world fell away and the twins became my entire world again. I'd listen to them talk about the research they had done the year before, and try to follow their conversations as best as I could. I might not have understood everything that they were saying but their enthusiasm was infectious. They were doing their best to change the world through innovation and from the sounds of things I really believe that they would have done just that if they hadn't disappeared.
My crush on Tommy would still peak it's head out now and again on those trips, and for the first three summers nothing came of it. I'd catch myself stealing glances at his increasingly stunning physique and immediately try and squash any romantic feelings that started popping up in my head. He was still just so damn caring, caring and beyond sexy. Every time I'd finally get back to normal around him he'd have to go and do something innocuously sexy like outlining his toned muscles with sweat as he chopped firewood, or recreating my old teenage fantasies as he came out of the lake shirtless. Just when I'd think that I couldn't take it anymore the trip would end and we'd leave each other for another year. Then on our last camping trip before we would graduate my whole world changed again.
The last hoorah
Like most years I was the first one to arrive at the camp site. I was always the punctual one in our little group, and this time was no exception. Walt had gotten caught up researching some new coding language or gizmo and the two of them ended up leaving about two hours late. By the time Tommy and Walt finally arrived I had already managed to set up a pretty decent camp site. The sun was setting and I had already set up a couple of tents and got a decent campfire started.
“Damn Alice!”, Walt said with an impressed look on his face before continuing. “You really did a great job out here. I'm sorry that we got here late... But you really didn't have to do all the work while you were waiting. Half the fun of camping is getting everything ready... I guess we'll just have to make sure and actually leave on time next time.”
“Really, it's fine. I got bored waiting for you two, so I figured that I might as well make myself useful and get everything ready. Besides I know better than to plan on you getting
on time. It's so good to see you guys though! How has the research grind been treating you?” I asked.
Tommy replied first this time, obviously eager to get into the specifics of his most recent project, “Well you know how I was telling you about my new algorithm based....”
Tommy and Walt did their usual excited song and dance, and even though the subject matter was downright boring to me, I couldn't help but share their excitement for life. I think the biggest difference between myself and the twins were the questions we wanted answers to, they were always excited about finding the why's and how's and I wanted to know about the who's and what's of the world. I spent my time on the facts, and the twins went down the path or theoretical whozits and what nots. We may have diverged in our livelihoods, but after puzzling out each other’s passions we all still fell back into our old childhood roles. Walt doing his best to make us laugh, Tommy going out of his way to make sure we are all safe, and me taking care of both of them.
On the third night camping I started to get restless. I thought about what life was going to be like after graduating; how I was going to pay back my loans, what kind of job I'd be able to land, everything that could go wrong or right, and I couldn't get to sleep. I tried to quiet my mind, but after an hour or two of restlessly tossing and turning I decided to get up and go for a walk. Nature walks soothed my mind. I'd look up at the tip top of the trees with their massive size shooting towards the sky and feel utterly dwarfed. Then I'd see the stars, stars which were just as bright as the sun in the morning sky, just billions of miles away. Everything in nature seemed to be there to remind me that in the great scheme of everything I really didn't have all that much to worry about. Just as I was calming down a hand reached out and startled me.
“What the hell!?”, I stammered as I quickly turned around to see who was there. I saw Tommy's face staring at me in the moonlight as adrenaline coursed through my veins. “What are you doing out here? I'm glad to see you, but you scared the shit out of me. Why didn't you just let me know you were out here with me?” I asked.
“I'm sorry I scared you Al.” Tommy apologized before continuing. “I couldn't sleep, and I wanted someone to talk to you. So when I heard you rustling around your tent I saw you walking away and followed you for a while. I should have let you know that I was here, but you just looked so beautiful while you were walking deep in thought. I guess I got distracted watching your face scrunch up at this thought or that. I've missed seeing your face, so it was nice getting to stare at it without worrying about you noticing me.”, Tommy replied.
“You know there is an easier way to look at my face if you want to.”, I said as I leaned in closer to him, throwing caution to the wind. “All you had to do was
“How about this then, Alice you are an absolutely stunning woman. You're strong. You're smart. You put everyone you care about before yourself, and you are beyond beautiful. I don't know what would have happened if we didn't grow up together, but I do know that you are everything I could ever think of to look for in a woman. If you wouldn't mind, would you move a little close so I can get a better look at the woman you've become?” Tommy asked as he leaned his toward mine, closing what little distance there was between us.
“You're just flattering me.” I whispered knowing that I should move away, but inching closer to him all the same. “And what was all that about what you could have had if we hadn't...”
He cut me off mid sentence, and before I knew what was happening his lips were covering mine. I could smell his musk as we kissed. It was a smell I knew better than my own, and it was stronger than normal since we had been out camping for the past few days. It was a smell that reminded me of girlhood dreams, and kissing him back seemed like the best thing that I could think of doing. Our passions rising he began to take off my clothes as quickly as he could. Before we could get very far though, a bright light flared overhead before crashing a mile away from us. The shockwaves that emanated from the crash were strong enough to knock us off of our feet.
“Holy shit!”, I stammered, followed by “What would Walt?”, as I hurriedly started to get dressed again. My composure knocked askew not only from the crash we just saw, but by the crash of emotions that were brought out with my newly fulfilled love.
“Let's go see if Walt's alright, then I think we should go and see what happened out there.”, Tommy replied gathering his senses much quicker than I had.
Walt had already awoken thanks to the noise and impact of the crash, and he met up with us before we could make it back to the campsite.
“What's going on? Why are you guys out here? I went looking for you when I heard all the commotion, and when I couldn't find you I was scared shitless. You know what, I don't even want to know. All I do know that we should get the hell out of here.”, Walt said, trying to be the voice of reason before anything got out of hand.
“Where is your sense of adventure, your scientific nature? Don't you want to see what just happened? There is no one around for miles, we could be the first people on the scene. How cool would it be to find a meteorite as a souvenir? Lets all just calm down a bit, grab some hiking gear and check this out. If it looks like it's something dangerous, we'll high tail it out of here. But if it's not, we'll have a story to look back on for years. Who knows what and where life will bring us in the next few years. We're here together again, and I for one want to see what's out there.”, Tommy replied.
Walt was obviously still against the idea, his brow furrowed and arms crossed. Tommy's speech wasn't enough to convince him. If I know then what I do now I would've sided with Walt, but the endorphins and adrenaline were already hitting my bloodstream so I tried to convince him too. “Look, I can tell that this has you freaked out Walt, but Tommy made some really good points. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity. We can't do this without you. Look, you'll be the one in charge once we're out there. Just say the word, and we'll head back to camp.”, I said.
“Fuck it, we're all going to die someday. Plus if it is something bad out there I'll have a lifetime of 'I told so's to lord over you guys. You know that I wouldn't let you guys go out there alone. Let's just get this over with so we can get back to normal.” Walt said, finally buckling under the pressure of our arguments.
He still wasn't all that happy about going, but after a little while he started getting curious about the crash as well. The forest was deafeningly quiet as we trudged along to our destination. All of the wildlife seemed to have gone into hiding. At first we tried joking around and singing to lighten the mood, but the sound of our voices—and nothing else—bouncing back at us eventually got to us and we continued on in silence. It was easy finding pathways though, a bright light that we thought was a fire coupled with the light of the full moon overhead made visibility a non-issue. It almost felt like we were being dragged towards the site by some invisible source. Like moths to a flame we marched on towards the shining lights.
As we got closer it became immediately apparent that something BIG had hit the ground out here. Huge trees that must have been hundreds of years old were knocked down all around us as if they were nothing more than a field of wheat taken down at harvest. Gnarled roots pointed towards the sky at odd angles, and while I think that all three of us were stunned by what we saw we all kept walking towards the epicenter in awkward silence. Bright lights that were now very obviously not coming from a fire were pulsing in strange rhythms, and it was this that brought Walt out of our shared revelry and back to his senses.
“Guys, this isn't right, we need to call someone else and let them handle this. The police, firefighters, hell lets call the FBI and let them take care of this. But I really don't think that we should be out here right now. You said that I was calling the shots Al, well I'm calling em' right now, we need to leave. Now.”, Walt said with startling amount of confidence in his voice.
At first it looked like Walt was going to get his way. Tommy wasn't all that enthused about the idea of heading back when there was a mystery to be solved that was just out of reach, but we had agreed to listen to Walt. Plus I get the feeling that Tommy was feeling just as guilty about us breaking our childhood trust and kissing me as I was, so we turned away from the broken trees and shining lights and started walking back the way came.
We hadn't gotten very far when we all heard the sounds of footsteps rushing towards us, and helicopters flying zooming in. We all looked at each other, and wordlessly decided to hide among wreckage of the destroyed foliage and see what was going on before showing ourselves. It didn't take long before we saw men in black suits walking towards the crash with a cadre of armed soldiers trailing behind them securing the location as they made their way. We were all scared out of our minds, but Walt looked like he was ready to pass out from the stress of the situation that we had talked him into. I don't know where he got the courage for it, but Walt almost decided to try and make a run for before Tommy clamped a hand over his mouth and pulled him back to us. While the twins were struggling against one another I overheard some voices as the men in suits got closer to our hiding spot.
“We have another one sir. This makes four in the past year. The frequency seems to be increasing quicker than we had previously anticipated.”, the first man said, speaking into a handset. He paused for a moment as he waited for a response, and continued his conversation, “No sir, we haven't seen any civilians yet. We
see a couple of civilian vehicles and a campsite on our way in, but we haven't seen anything to indicate that any civilians have made contact yet.”, he said followed by another pause. “Copy that, I know the procedure by now. We'll assess the situation start a cleanup operation and come in for a debriefing immediately afterwards. Yes sir. Yes. I know. Look, if we see any civilians out here I know how to take care of the... Yes sir, I understand sir. Copy that.”
Walt stopped struggling and promptly quieted himself as the conversation progressed. It was clear to all of us that something bigger than we knew how to handle was going on out here. It was torture trying to stay still and silent as the armed men passed by us, but having Tommy nearby helped ease my nerves. There were a few times that I thought that we would be caught as flashlights lit up the branches over our heads, but after what felt like an eternity the group passed us by and continued towards their destination.
We stayed hidden for another fifteen minutes or so, making sure that were actually out of danger for the time being. We eventually got out of our hiding spot and looked around to make sure no one was within earshot before Walt broke the silence.
“I fucking told you that we shouldn't come out here! Did you see the heat those guys were packing? They look like they are ready for world war three! Why did I have to let you two talk me into this... Speaking of the two of you, you've been awfully close on our walk out here, what
you doing before the crash? You know what, I don't care. I don't care about any of this anymore, I just want to...”
Before he could finish ranting a giant explosion rattled out from the crash site. Some of the already uprooted trees were flung backwards, and wave of intense heat bellowed out after the initial blast. It was clear that something strange was happening around us. It took a while for my head to clear and my vision to stop blurring. I frantically searched for Tommy or Walter but I couldn't see either one of them. I wandered around in confusion for a little while before I finally caught sight of Walter. Something looked... Off about him. He had a strange look in his eyes that, a wildness that he didn't usually possess. He was looking around at the destruction with an intense ferocity, almost like he was angry at the explosion. I was still startled, but I knew I had to get to him, find Tommy and get the hell out of the forest. I started running towards him, but before I could get to him one of the men in suits from before grabbed me. I screamed and Walt saw me then, and he started to come towards us. The suit then put a black bag over my head.