Coming-of-age story of a group of North Carolina friends – and the alien they’re trying to keep alive in the treehouse.
When the last North Carolina alien died, we all cried. We put his poor tiny body in a shoe box and buried it in the field behind the treehouse with the others. At one time there were five of them. We found them in the ruins of their ship in that very North Carolina field. I remember how we were roused from our summer torpor at the sound of the crash. The smoke and fire brought us running.
Billy Jordan was the first to spot the wreckage and the scattered crew. Whatever the alien ship looked like originally was impossible to tell. By the time we saw it, it looked like so much rubble; like one of those crushed cars down at the junkyard and just about the same size. One by one we found the bodies of the ship’s crew. They were not much bigger than my sister’s rag doll except their skin color was a gray/blue and their heads were overly large for their small bodies. We gathered them together and knelt over them with wonder and apprehension. I remember we were squeamish about handling them. “They could have alien cooties,” Alan said.
This got us to step back from the bodies for a while. Finally Charlie, whose father was a doctor and fancied himself one too, stepped forward and lifted one tiny arm. “What are you doing?” Billy Jordan asked.
“Feeling for a pulse,” Charlie said. One by one Charlie performed the same routine on each body. When he lifted the last little arm he said, “This one’s still warm.”
“What the heck does that mean? Is it still alive? Why isn’t it moving? Should we get help?” We all blurted out these questions at once but who we were asking no one could say.
“He’s alive but probably in shock,” Charlie said and no one doubted him since his father was Dr. Lawrence who took care of us all our lives. “We’re going to need to keep him warm. We’ll need a blanket and something to keep him in.
“What about these others?” I asked gesturing toward the four dead aliens. I went home and got a spade from the garage. Alan found an old blanket and Billy brought the shoe box. Then we dug a shallow ditch and laid the dead aliens in it. Alan said a few words like a preacher which made us all giggle as we all bowed our heads. We filled in the hole and marked it with a cross Billy made from a couple of sticks and some string. “You think they’re Christian,” I asked.
We wrapped the surviving alien in the blanket and placed him gently in the box. Then we carried him up the rope ladder and into the treehouse. We sat around waiting to see what would happen. We waited for almost half an hour and soon got bored. The alien was breathing but still unconscious.
After a while the conversation drifted around to school. Fifth grade was going to start in a week and we were secretly excited and relieved. It had been a long summer and we were pretty bored with the long hot days with nothing to do. Billy made a crack about Charlie being excited to see Alice Kelly and made kissing sounds until Charlie couldn’t take it anymore and launched himself at Charlie. As they rolled around wrestling one of them kicked over the alien’s bed and he rolled out onto the floor. He might have rolled through the trap door and fallen the 20 feet to the ground below if Alan hadn’t caught him.
The alien groaned when we put him back in his bed. “He’s in pain. He could have a broken bone somewhere,” Charlie said. Charlie began to poke and prod the alien who groaned periodically. Eventually he opened his eyes and peered at us. He had curious eyes, pale yellow with vertical pupils like a goat’s. He appeared dazed and frightened. The alien looked around and studied us much as we studied him. After a few minutes he fell back and appeared to sleep, his chest rising and falling rhythmically.
We spent the rest of the afternoon planning what to do with the visitor as we started calling him. First we all agreed that the visitor was to be our secret and ours alone under pain of death, double pinky swear. Next we all agreed that we should keep watch to make sure he didn’t escape or, even worse, get carried off by a raccoon or something during the night.
The treehouse was to our minds an impregnable fortress. It was high off the ground with a trap door and a rope ladder providing the only entrance and exit. The trap door had a lock on the inside and with the ladder pulled up we considered ourself totally girl proof.
There were four of us and since we often slept over in the treehouse, doing it again was no big deal as long as we told our folks. We agreed to split the guard duty, two on and two off. Billy and Charlie went home to get their sleeping bags. I waited with Alan until they returned. When they arrived, Alan and I took off for home as it was getting late and I didn’t want to get grounded.
I had a hard time sleeping that first night I was so excited. My god, a real live alien, a crashed spaceship it was every ten year old’s wet dream. What a perfect end to the summer. What a story we had. Would anyone believe us?
In the morning I bolted down my corn flakes and ran all the way to the treehouse. When I got there I gave the secret call and Billy lowered the ladder. “How’s our visitor?” I asked.
“He’s resting comfortably,” Doctor Charlie said. I went over to look at him. He was conscious and looked better at least to my eyes. The visitor was speaking in a language we couldn’t hope to understand. “He’s been going on like that all morning,” Charlie reported.
“He must be trying to tell us something,” I said.
“Well, duh,” said Billy. “The question is what?”
“Maybe he’s hungry,” Alan said. “Anybody bring any food?” We scrounged up some crackers and a piece of an old apple and Charlie offered it to the visitor. We watched him examine the food, smell it and drop it on the floor untasted. We tried again later with a piece of Alan’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich and, after I ran home for lunch, a piece of my tuna salad on rye. The results were the same, the visitor didn’t recognize it as food.
By the second day we began to worry. The visitor hadn’t eaten or drunk anything. Billy brought a turkey baster from home and we tried squirting some cherry Kool-Aid into his mouth. He choked, sputtered and spit it out. We tried Coca Cola, Mountain Dew and orange juice but the visitor rejected them all. He was a sticky mess after that so we threw some water on him and wiped him down with Alan’s hanky. The poor little guy looked miserable.
By the third day it looked obvious that the visitor was dying. He’d stopped babbling and his weird goat’s eyes looked glassy. Charlie who had borrowed his dad’s stethoscope said our patient was in serious trouble and was definitely going to die unless we intervened and did something drastic. “Like what?” Alan asked.
“We need to get food into him. I heard my dad talk about putting food directly into a patient. It’s called inter-vee-nious or something.” Charlie had obviously been giving this some thought because he pulled a big hypodermic syringe from his pocket. We were very impressed. We all wanted to save our dying alien and watched fascinated as Charlie ground some of the stale crackers and bits of sandwich into a jar with some orange juice. We took turns shaking the mixture until it resembled a muddy sludge. Charlie let it settle and sucked some of the liquid into the syringe and turned his attention to the alien.
“We need to find a vein,” Charlie said.
“Do aliens even have veins?” asked Billy but no one had an answer for that. The visitor was still breathing but his breaths were noticeably faster and shallower. We examined his little doll’s arms for a vein. Billy found a faint line running down the back of one arm and Charlie said that was it.
“Here goes,” Charlie said and he stuck the needle in and pressed the plunger. Almost immediately the alien began thrashing around. He emitted a high pitched scream flailed around some more until finally he lay still.
“I think we killed it,” I said.
“My God we’re murderers,” said Alan.
“Is it murder if you kill an alien?” asked Billy. We had no answer for that, but just in case, we huddled together and agreed to bury the alien next to his companions and never ever mention the episode to anyone ever. We all took a solemn oath and carried the poor dead thing outside. We were all crying by then but I couldn’t explain exactly why.
A day or two later, school started and the lazy days of Summer faded into memory. Word of our experience with the visitor was never mentioned both out of fear of how the adult world would react and the realization that no one would believe us anyway.
That was sixty years ago this Summer. The field where we buried the aliens is long gone. It is a suburban housing development now. The old treehouse is gone as well as are those boyhood chums I shared it with. I am the last witness of humankind’s first contact and the tragic fiasco that followed. Looking back on how things played out, I have to say it doesn’t bode well for the future of our spacefaring race. If there is one lesson to be learned from this sad story it would be to hope that none of our brave astronauts encounter any ten year old boys or their alien equivalent.
About the author
Harris Tobias lives and writes in Charlottesville, Virginia. He is the author of The Greer Agency , A Felony of Birds and dozens of short stories. His fiction has appeared in Ray Gun Revival, Dunesteef Audio Magazine, Literal Translations, FriedFiction, Down In The Dirt, Eclectic Flash, E Fiction and many other publications. His poetry has appeared in Vox Poetica, The poem Factory and The Poetry Super Highway. You can find links to his novels at: http://harristobias-fiction.blogspot.com/
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I loved it. Maybe true?