by Bill Kowaleski
Part 1 appears
in this issue.
He spent most of the next day pacing from his garden into his living room, back and forth a hundred times at least. When he’d worked out every second, when he’d convinced himself that what he planned to do was right, he tapped the watch.
John emerged in a standard hotel room: two double beds, a recliner, a small desk, and a middle-aged, trim man, someone who’d attract no attention at all on a busy street - that is until recently when he’d been chosen to represent the Blue Party as its candidate for National Leader. Jacob McKinley sat at the small desk, his laptop open, talking to his screen where John saw the image of another hotel room containing perhaps six people. McKinley looked toward the door where John stood, turned back to the screen and said, “Got to go. Be back to you soon.”
John’s plan had been to attack quickly, but McKinley seemed so calm that it threw him off. He took a step but then the terrible image of his hands around the neck of that fat, sleeping man, the memory of the three executed bodyguards and the others who’d been killed all stopped him. He stood, staring at McKinley, who seemed completely unconcerned, who was, in fact, smiling.
“Came here to kill me, did you? But you can’t do it. Am I right?”
Panicked, John pulled back his shirtsleeve to tap his watch.
“Wait a minute,” said McKinley. “Don’t do that. You’ll never know what’s going on if you cut out on me now. The least you can do is give me a few minutes of your time.”
John sat down in the room’s recliner, staring at McKinley, finally saying, “Are you working for them, too?”
McKinley lifted his left leg and pulled up his pants. Wrapped around his ankle was a device, like a fitness monitor or smart watch, only bigger, octagonal, just a little different from John’s.
“So if you’re working for them too, why did they send me here?” asked John.
“Did they? Or did they just say that the device would help you perform a quest?”
John thought a minute. “You’re right, the donkey-ET just said that I’d know what to do, that the watch would help me.”
McKinley’s face lit up with surprise. “Did you say donkey-ET?”
“Yeah. It appeared in my back yard about two weeks ago, told me I could do something meaningful with the rest of my life, that the watch would tell me how.”
McKinley rubbed his chin. “This run for office is my quest. But the animal that visited me was a bulldog.”
“Well, maybe a different individual visited you.”
“Not that simple. Last week someone invaded my room just like you. Another assassin. But he’d been visited by a sheep-ET.”
“OK, supports what I was saying,” John said.
“But if we’re all working for the same bunch, why have there been two attempts on my life?”
“Maybe because your quest is wrong, maybe because your party will be the ruin of this country!”
“Oh, cut the crap. And by the way, how do I address you?”
“Call me John. But I’m right. You have to be stopped.”
“John, you’re just another one of millions of chumps who believe that political parties stand for ideas. They don’t. They represent different groups of powerful people who are trying to take over so they can run things. The ideas are a smokescreen. Think of one election where a party actually implemented the policies they espoused in the campaign. But don’t bother, because it hasn’t happened in your lifetime.”
John considered that. And then he had a thought. “So, Mr. McKinley, if what you say is true, then these extraterrestrials might be one of those groups of powerful, uh, whatever they are.”
“Exactly! Except it’s not one group, it’s at least three, and it seems to me that they’re fighting. They picked zealots of the Gray Party to use those watches, knowing that giving them all that power would encourage them to try to influence events. You are a zealot of the Gray Party, right?”
“I’ve voted for them my entire life. I guess you could say I’m a zealot, and proud of it.”
Both men looked toward the door to the hallway, where they’d heard the sound. A chestnut donkey stood there. It took a single step forward and said, “Tight fit for me in here. Guess I’ll just stay where I am.”
The donkey turned toward John. “I’m taking back your device. You’ve served your purpose. We know what’s going on now. I suppose you’ll have to find your own way back home. OK, I’m outta here, as you Earthlings say.”
“Wait!” shouted McKinley. “Tell us what’s going on! Are there really three factions of your species competing in some way here on Earth?”
That smirk again, John saw it clearly. “Three factions of my species? No, there are three completely different species from three different planets here. We’re on the brink of a very complicated conflict. If you win, Mr. McKinley, then I’m afraid this entire planet will become home to a proxy war. We’ll be recruiting lots of you to take up our respective causes. You’re such a gullible species. I’m sure you’ll eagerly jump in. You always rush to the slaughter.”
“You’re wrong,” said McKinley. “Yes, some of us get fanatical about our own causes but not the causes of alien species.”
“Hah!” spat the donkey. “We know how to manipulate you. We’ll make it look like some noble human cause. And anyway, humans don’t need much justification to fight each other. They love doing it.”
The donkey-ET popped out of existence. McKinley reached down to his ankle.
“Hey, what are you doing?” asked John.
“Taking this thing off. I don’t want to be doing their work for them any more.”
“But it protects you. Don’t you think they’ll try to kill you again?”
McKinley paused, then sighed. “I guess you’re right. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t.”
They sat in silence for over a minute. John stared at McKinley, thinking about what the donkey ET had said. He thought about all the animosity whipped up by blogs, advocate television stations, radio blabbers. He thought about his own hatred of the Blue Party. He realized now what it all was: manufactured outrage designed to manipulate people into a state of perpetual conflict.
Across the room, McKinley met John’s eyes. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking? That all this inter-party animosity is just part of those aliens’ program to use us for their own ends?”
John sighed. “Yeah, but what can we do about it? If we tell people what we know, they’ll lock us up in a psych ward.”
McKinley nodded. “Of course you’re right. They’re exploiting a fundamental part of our nature. They can do it forever.”
John stood, paced up and down the room, head down, rubbing his chin. After three full round trips from window to hallway door, he walked up to McKinley and offered his hand. “Good luck in the election. You’ve got my vote.”
“Really?” McKinley’s expression was somewhere between shock and amusement.
“Really. I can’t do much about what’s going on, but I can do one thing: I can choose not to be a part of it.”
McKinley smiled, shook John David Donne’s hand and said, “Let me help you get back home.”
Copyright © 2016 by Bill Kowaleski