Your Humble Servants
by Roger Pitcher
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
Days passed until the morning of Independence Day arrived. The sky grew light about 4:45, and Toots was up and already working by then. Old Dobbin was let out of the barn to roam the barley field at will and get himself a breakfast.
The two milk cows, Minnie and Mickey, were mooing for attention. Toots milked them with great care, being sure to gently massage out every last drop of milk from their aged teats. The chickens were fed, the eggs collected, the pigs slopped and the cream set out in a bowl for the ferals.
By the time the morning chores were finished, the sun was rising over the stand of white pines that bordered Wilson’s field, the field the Aliens had wanted to trade for. At the edge of Toots’ property, traffic was moving along the road headed for the lake. He watched the line of vehicles chug through the morning mist.
They’re expecting some Alien surprises, no doubt, thought Toots, who had a little surprise of his own planned. So what if it turned out they thought he was nuts? To thine own self, he believed in his guts, be true.
Lake Bungee shone in the afternoon sun. The Alien ship sat half-submerged at the center of the lake. Pleasure boats circled about it, and a few lazy ducks were sunning themselves on the crown of the craft. The air was alive with all the sounds, smells and festivity of an American Fourth of July.
Most years, it was a modest affair. The summer crowd usually kept to themselves and organized their own celebrations, avoiding having to mingle with the locals. But this year, due to the presence of the Aliens, it seemed everyone had turned out.
Along the shore, the Alien visitors, a solemn diplomatic mission, were advancing on the party grounds. This was the first time that they had been seen in numbers greater than one or two. A full column of fifty Aliens, each bearing oddly angled containers marched silently through the parting sea of intrigued onlookers.
The Alien column came to a halt before a tent housing the local 4-H club and solemnly bowed before entering.
“No! No!” called school principal Evans from under the verge of the big Main Tent. “Over here!” He turned to Mayor Gracey and his wife Grace. “I will escort them to the proper venue.”
Evans trotted over to intercept the Alien phalanx and pantomimed that they should follow him. He ran ahead of them, Pied-Piper-like, turning now and then with urging gestures and shouting, “Yes, yes, this way! Follow me!”
Each Alien in turn, as they left the 4-H tent, inclined their eye and ear stalks at the animals in a gesture of respect. Inside the big tent, Millard and Grace Gracey smiled broadly and, using sweeping arm gestures, indicated the tables where the Aliens should seat themselves.
The Aliens set their odd boxes on the ground before the tables and ripped them open with their multi-tentacled hands. The boxes contained enough air-conditioning blankets and taste beads for every man, woman and child attending. “Please accept these small tokens of friendship,” trilled the Alien who seemed to be the leader.
Once seated at the tables, the Aliens were served plates with freshly grilled hamburgers, pulled pork barbeque sandwiches, coleslaw and an ear of corn. The Aliens’ eye stalks turned and looked at one another. The stalks drooped a little and seemed sad.
Each Alien took from a communal bowl on the table a few of the taste-beads and placed them in their mouth tubes. This revived them. Principal Evans, who had seated himself strategically next to the leader turned to speak to the tall Alien.
“You really should try the pulled pork,” sputtered Evans through a mouthful of meat. “The sow was slaughtered just yesterday. She’s been in the smoker all night.” He swallowed and bit off another enormous hunk of rare burger and continued with his ravenous masticating.
There was a commotion at the entrance to the big tent. People were running in and knocking one another over to make way for Toots and his entourage. Toots was tethered by ropes tied around his middle to all the animals from his barn.
Old Dobbin led the procession followed by Minnie and Mickey, three pigs, and two goats. A rooster rode atop Old Dobbins’ head. Roped into their midst walked Toots with a smug, self-satisfied look on his face. No mind reading today, you Alien creeps, he thought.
It was an outstandingly provocative thought to have and Toots felt momentarily afraid to have had it. He worried that the Aliens might take some reprisal if they read it, until he remembered that that wouldn’t be possible, as he had come prepared.
Yep, he thought, good and loud in his head, you Alien creeps will never suspect what I’m thinking, patting Old Dobbin on the flank. Toots hadn’t yet formulated his plan of counter-attack. He’d just wanted to make a gesture of defiance to these Aliens; show them that there was one Bishop’s Creeker, at least, who wouldn’t give up the planet without a fight.
Toots knew why the Aliens were here and he was going to expose them, in front of everyone! Sure, they seemed friendly enough and helpful, but that was just to buy time until their insidious brain infiltration was complete; until their ways became our ways. But Toots had, with the help of his animal friends, remained pure. He’d outfoxed them all! He’d make Bishop’s Creek see reason.
The leader of the Aliens rose and approached Old Dobbin. He held in one tentacled appendage a few of the taste-beads and held them out for the nag. “Hey, wait a minute...” started Toots.
The Alien leader trilled, “The Great One will not be harmed.”
Old Dobbin gently nibbled the beads from the outstretched tentacle. Fool! Toots shouted in his mind, we’ll fight back. We’ll never let you take our planet.
Suddenly a voice spoke in Toots’ head. Who’s the fool, Toots?”
Toots was struck by a strange sensation, one he’d never before in his life experienced: indecision. Could he, he thought, have been wrong about the Aliens?As wrong as carrots in an oat bag, came the voice quickly and more directly. What’s wrong Toots? Not sure what to do?
“Who said that?” shouted Toots. He glared at the tall Alien in front of him and clutched at his head with both hands. “Get out of my mind you Alien bast—”
Hold on, Toots, came the strangely familiar voice again. it ain’t them, it’s me!
With that, he was nudged on the shoulder by Old Dobbin. Toots jumped in fright and collapsed on the ground. “Take a minute and gather your wits, Toots. You look silly sitting down there.” Dobbin let loose with a derisive blast of horsey laughter.
Other Aliens were feeding the taste-beads to the cows, pigs, goats and rooster. Toots’ mind was filled with a sudden burst of talking voices. Many were laughing at him.
Toots picked himself up off the ground and stood staring at his animals as they chattered away amongst themselves. He occasionally heard his own name. He turned to the tall Alien.
“What have you done?!” he yelped.
“Righted a long overdue wrong,” said the Alien. “You cannot continue to enslave and cannibalize your fellow creatures.”
Those in the crowd who had been sucking on the taste-beads heard clearly in their heads the voices of Old Dobbin and the other animals. Word spread and the crowd rushed forward on the Alien visitors, their hands greedily outstretched for beads of their own. Nobody wanted to miss being part of this miracle.
Under this new influence the world suddenly exploded in a revelation of heretofore-unheard voices and understanding. People pointed at the things around them as if seeing these phenomena for the first time.
“Did you hear?”
“I never knew.”
“Well, how about that!”
The cheering and general jubilation of the crowd due to their opened minds had an opposite effect on Toots. He felt himself growing more isolated than ever from his fellow humans.
The animal voices no longer spoke silently for him alone. It was as if a private telephone line had been severed; as if the world he had known his whole life long, where he was a part of the earth and sky, the sun and rain and wind, had turned its face towards the future and its back on him.
The Alien leader, who had gotten a fresh haircut for the occasion, approached Toots with a set of flavor beads. Toots wrinkled his nose and shook his head ‘No’. If the Alien wanted to speak to him, he could darn well use his little talk-box swinging from the chain around his neck.
“We would still like to rent your Wilson’s field, to prepare our departure,” said the reedy, whispering voice of the Alien. Toots was in no mood to negotiate.
Old Dobbin nuzzled the back of his neck and said, “They offered to take us with them, Toots. At my age, you don’t get many opportunities for adventure. I think I’d like to give it a try.”
Toots was shocked. He leapt from the ground and spun around to face his old horse. Side-by-side with old Dobbin stood Tom the goat and Wellington the pig. It seems that all of his animals had decided to take the Aliens up on their offer, even the cows. The animals just wanted what we all want: a future free from fear and a warm stall with plenty to eat.
Toots felt a growing hollow in his chest at the thought of his beloved animals leaving him behind. He’d never been too fond of humans. Dobbin seemed to sense his grief and, after a quick consultation with the Alien chief, made a proposal to Toots.
“I asked the Chief, and he said, if we wanted to, we could take along a pet.” The old roan’s big wet eyes waited hopefully for a reply.
Toots didn’t hesitate. “Dobbin, old pal, you read my mind.”
Copyright © 2016 by Roger Pitcher