21. March 2023 · Comments Off on A MEMORABLE TRIP TO DISNEY WORLD · Categories: Short Stories

ONE

 “Ah’m so lookin’ forward to seein’ mah ole stompin’ grounds, ya know?”

“Natalie,” Madison chided her friend, “we’re not going to stop at Tampa. We only have three days, and we won’t get to Disney World till past 11 o’clock as it is.”

“Yeah, Ah know, Maddy, honey,” Natalie said with a frown. “But it shore would be nice if we could.”

They’d been on the road from Louisville since nearly midnight the night before, and having shared the driving, both were stiff and grumpy. Both girls were eighteen, and this was their first real adventure since their families had stopped being so over-protective. They were on their way to Orlando to visit Disney World, their absolute favorite place. Both girls had loved it there ever since they’d gone on Natalie’s tenth birthday.

“We’ll stop for breakfast at the next diner we see, okay? Meanwhile, let’s enjoy the scenery now that it’s light enough to see everything.”

“Fantastic! Ah’m starvin’!”

The day had dawned clear and warm on this early summer morning. It had been chilly when they left Louisville, but by the time they’d reached Atlanta, even though it was after 3 a.m., it had gotten much warmer.

“Look at that stream,” Natalie said, pointing out her window. Madison was driving, so Natalie had time to watch the world go by. “It’s so purdy, innit?”

“I know you love to watch water flowing,” Madison said, “but you know I can’t look out your window – I’m driving!”

“Yeah, honey, sorry.” Natalie apologized. There was silence for a while, except for the radio playing Harry Styles, and then Maroon 5. “Le’s stop fer breakfast, and then Ah’ll take over the drivin’. Okay?”

Madison nodded, and turned to smile at her best friend. She realized she was tired and grouchy, and that her friend Natalie was, too. To make up for her harshness, she said, “Hey, what’s your favorite ride? Mine’s the Jungle Cruise, or maybe the Haunted Mansion.”

Natalie grinned. “Yeah! Mah favorite’s the Magic Kingdome. And Ah love Fantasyland!”

“Yeah,” Madison agreed. “Me, too. We’ll have plenty of time to tour the Magic Kingdom, and then we can go to Fantasyland.”

“An’ maybe Adventureland?” Natalie asked.

“Absolutely! Adventureland, too.” Madison herself had been to Walt Disney’s Disney World four times since that first visit; this would be her sixth, and she was nearly as excited about it as she’d been when she was ten.

Natalie had been to Disney World three times since she was ten, and she’d gone with her parents to Disneyland, in California, when she was thirteen. Madison had been so jealous, but Natalie’s family already had Natalie, her grandmother, and her two younger brothers, Mark and Todd. So they really didn’t have room for Madison. Both girls had been disappointed, but Madison’s parents had taken her to see Star Wars four times while Natalie was gone, so she didn’t feel quite so bad.

During this discussion, they listened to Billy Eilish, Lizzo, and finally Cardi B, before the news came on and they spotted a diner just ahead.

As they pulled into the diner, the newscaster was saying, “There were a couple of strange sightings overhead yesterday afternoon, and two people called in an hour ago to complain about lights and a strange thing hovering over their little town.”

He laughed, and Madison turned off the ignition.

TWO

As the girls walked toward the diner, they noticed six or seven cars, and congratulated one another that there wouldn’t be a crowd, and they’d probably get served quickly.

Natalie Devlin, who had lived in Tampa until she was eight when they’d moved to Louisville, was a few inches shorter than her friend. But she had a very pretty face and gorgeous reddish-blond hair that fell halfway down her back in luxurious curls. Her brown eyes, she’d been told, were her best feature, and she loved wearing eyeshadow that enhanced them.

Today she wore a khaki-colored jacket and pants, with a bright yellow silk blouse. These were her favorite travel clothes, as they were permanent-press and didn’t crease, no matter how long she sat in one place.

On the other hand, Madison Moss had lived in Portland, Oregon until her family moved to Louisville, when she was six. She didn’t remember much about Portland except that it seemed to rain every day.

Madison was three months older than her friend, and she was taller than Natalie, at 5’8. But she was nearly as lovely as her friend. She tended to wear her ash-blond hair in a pixie cut that flattered her face beautifully. She had a pair of dimples, and a smile that friends told her “lit up the room.”

For this trip, she wore a new periwinkle blue pantsuit that brightened her wide blue eyes. She also wore her favorite sapphire and diamond earrings, and a matching ring that her parents had given her for her recent birthday.

The girls had met in fifth grade, when Natalie joined Madison’s class, and they’d been BFF’s ever since.

As they pushed through the door into the restaurant, they both stopped and looked at one another. The place appeared to be empty, despite all those cars outside.

Natalie frowned as she looked around the diner, but Madison shrugged and took her friend’s hand. They walked to a booth beside a window, and sat down. Natalie gazed around at the empty diner, and Madison picked up a menu from behind the napkin dispenser.

“I’m gonna have their Breakfast Special,” she said, still studying pages of the menu.

She didn’t look up until Natalie said, “Honey, why do ya think this place is so empty?”

“Let’s wait and see what the waitress has to say, okay? What do you want to eat?”

“Oh, ya know, Ah’m suddenly not so hungry. But, Ah guess, coffee and pancakes?” Natalie said. She turned and gazed out the window, drumming her fingers on the table.

Madison nodded. She was a little concerned too. Why were there no customers? She knew most people ate breakfast before 10 a.m., and it was still only quarter till.

After ten minutes with no waitress appearing, Madison reached over and took Natalie’s hands. “Something’s wrong. I don’t know what, but something is definitely off.”

“Shall we g-go?” Natalie asked, her voice trembling a little.

“Yeah,” Madison said, dropping Natalie’s hands, and started to stand up. But she was stopped in her tracks as Natalie gasped. Madison looked out the window where Natalie was staring, and saw a creature!

“What is it?” Natalie whispered.

Madison shook her head, though Natalie was still looking out the window and couldn’t see her. She started to say, “I don’t know, but . . . “

Both girls were shocked and terrified at what happened next.

THREE

The creature, whatever it was, appeared to be holding onto a child dressed in a little pink pinafore. The creature was about twice the size of the little girl, standing on three . . . legs? It held the child with a hand that seemed far too large for its own size.

Madison grabbed her friend’s hand and squeezed tight, and whispered, “Let’s go!” She pulled Natalie up out of the booth and headed to the door, dragging her friend who seemed to be petrified. Both girls were still watching the creature as they headed to the door. It slammed the child’s head on the pavement, and grabbed the little dog the child had been pulling. The creature banged the dog’s head on the pavement as well, and then turned and seemed to be looking straight at them!

Both girls screamed, and tried to push out the door, intending to run in the opposite direction, despite their car being parked a few feet away from the thing. But they hadn’t even reached the corner of the diner when both were snatched with wiry talons, and held high in the air. Madison tried to see the creature’s shape and form. It was about seven feet tall, with a boxy body. She observed that it had three spindly legs and ‘feet,’ two long thin arms with very large four-taloned hands. Madison found herself coolly estimating its weight might be something more than a hundred pounds, but it was apparently very strong.

The creature carried them back to the front of the diner and then beyond, where they could see a boxy metal thing, about as large as the diner itself.

***

Terrified and speechless for long moments as they flew through the air, Madison finally found her voice and screamed again. This apparently set Natalie off and she screamed, too, but Madison could see that she was crying and her nose was running. This made Madison anxious more than horrified. She could see that her friend was deeply distressed and panic-stricken, and she feared Natalie would faint at any moment. She wondered why she was feeling so much more analytical than Natalie.

Maybe we’re going to die, Madison announced to herself. Maybe it’s better if she does faint. Then she won’t feel any pain when this thing kills us, like it did that little girl and her dog.

But I don’t want to die! And I don’t want Natalie to die! What are we going to do?

It was at that moment that a wide door opened in the side of the boxy contraption. The creature, holding the girls at its arm-length, raced into the . . . boxy . . . thing, and dropped both girls on what felt like a couch, a soft velvety couch!

They rolled toward one another and hugged, trembling and gasping, as they peeked around at their captors.

Other creatures, looking exactly like the one that had captured them, walked, or at least moved, around the interior of what Madison thought must be a ship. They seemed to be identical to one another, and paid no attention to the girls. Madison couldn’t help noticing that they wore no clothing, but didn’t seem to have reproductive organs, nor did there appear to be any opposite-sex aliens among them.

Their faces were blank, with little to no expression. Heads were wide and squishy-looking, with what might have been eyes near the top of the ‘face,’ and a beak-like protuberance with which they made twitter sounds and sometimes what seemed to be a spoken language.

“They’re aliens,” she whispered to Natalie, whose eyes were so big her friend thought they might burst out of her head.

“Aliens?!!” Natalie cried loudly. “Aliens?”

“Shh,” Madison hissed. “They’ll hear you!”

“Aliens?” Natalie whispered, “like from Mars?”

Madison nodded, and Natalie gripped her tighter. “Martians? What are we gonna do? Are they gonna kill us? Maybe they’ll eat us!”

Shaking her head, Madison shushed her friend again. “I don’t think they want to eat us,” she assured her friend. “They’re horrible, but they seem to have some other reason for capturing us.”

“Do you think,” Natalie started, her voice shaking, “they, they captured those people in the cars? That’s why there was no one, no one in the diner?”

Madison put her index finger to her lips, and whispered, “Best be quiet until we know more. I don’t think they plan to eat us, but yeah, I think they must’ve captured the people from those cars. They’re so ugly! I almost can’t bear to look at them.”

Natalie said, “Well, le’s just wait an’ see what happens, okay?”

FOUR

After a while, the girls couldn’t tell how long, two of the aliens moved toward them where they lay on the couch, carrying what Madison thought must be their idea of a gurney. The girls were picked up as they lay huddled together, and placed carefully onto the stretcher-like object. Then they were wheeled by the two aliens toward what Madison had thought was the back wall of the ship, into a room.

“This must be their spaceship,” she whispered to Natalie, as they kept their arms around one another. She told her friend, “They don’t have any hair, and there are no ears but they can hear, so they must have another audio sense. I don’t know if they can smell, but there are scents here on the ship so maybe they have another means of smelling. So they probably also have another means of reproducing. Ugh!” She couldn’t help shuddering.

In the new room, they were picked up together, as before, and dropped onto a bed of sorts. It was comfortable, even though it had looked, in the quick glimpse Madison had as they entered the room, like a flat box.

The aliens left the room, which was illuminated by light coming from seemingly everywhere and nowhere Madison could detect.

After a moment, the girls separated themselves and found they were beginning to relax on this comfortable . . . bed?

They lay there quietly, unable to decide what else to do. Madison looked around at their ‘cell,’ as she thought of it. It was empty, except for the ‘bed’ and a weird boxy item along one wall opposite the door. There was no window at all, and she finally could work out that the light came from where the walls met the ceiling, though none of those things were like she thought they should be.

The ‘ceiling’ was low, and met the ‘walls’ at varying points around the room, rather than at equal points as a human room would have. And the light didn’t seem to come from bulbs, as they would in a human-type room. Madison decided to stop trying to figure out what the room held, and turned back to comfort Natalie, who was still trembling and weeping.

After what seemed to Madison to be a half hour or so, the ‘door’ opened and an alien came into the room. She had no idea if it was the same alien that had captured them, or another. She watched with horror as it came toward their ‘bed,’ carrying a metal tray-like item with other items on it.

Both girls quickly sat up and prepared to fight it, but the alien simply set the ‘tray’ down on the bed, turned and went back out through the ‘door.’

The girls looked at each other. “Wha’ do you think it is?” asked Natalie.

“I don’t know, maybe it’s breakfast?” Madison was skeptical; she’d been thinking that they might be breakfast, rather than eating it.

“Yeah, Ah’m starvin’! Ah hope it’s breakfast!” Natalie turned to the tray and lifted one of the items on it and smelled it. “Well, it’s either food or perfume,’ she said. “It smells sweet, like perfume, but Ah also smell somethin’ savory. Hmm.”

Madison scooped up a small amount of whatever-it-was and brought it to her nose. She too smelled a perfume-y scent, with an undertone of what might be . . . sausage? And scrambled eggs?

“Well, shall we eat it?” she asked her friend. “Either we eat or we starve, or they kill us. I think it’s better if we eat when we can.” Natalie shrugged, and Madison put her tongue out to taste the bit that was on her fingers.

“It’s not half bad,” she reported. She looked around the tray at what might have been several utensils. She picked up one that looked sort of like a spoon, and scooped up some of the ‘food’ and put it in her mouth.

“It’s tasty,” she said. “Go on, Natalie, pick up that ‘spoon,’ or whatever it is, and eat. It’s okay.”

FIVE

The next time an alien opened the door, Madison and Natalie were ready for it. As soon as the door shut, Madison shouted, “You’re ugly! We hate you! What are you going to do about it?”

As if it hadn’t heard a word, the alien walked toward the bed and put the tray down, then turned and walked back to the door, opened it and walked through.

“Well, that didn’t work,” Natalie noted. “Maybe they don’t even consider that we might be talkin’.”

Madison nodded thoughtfully. “You could be right. We’ll have to think of something else.”

Natalie shrugged, and turned to their meal tray. This time the meal smelled fishy. She said, “Do you think they went fishin’ for our dinner?” She laughed, and then giggled, and Madison laughed, and then both girls were giggling. Their laughter soon grew out of control, and both girls were soon weeping, and not eating.

“Well,” Madison said, finally sobering, “I guess all we can do is talk to each other.”

Nodding, Natalie sat down on the bed, picked up the ‘spoon’ and started eating. “It does taste like fish,” she said. “Like salmon, with lemon. Ah can even taste garlic, Ah think.”

“Wow! I wonder how they get the food to look so terrible, and taste so good.” Madison sat down as well, and the girls were soon finished with their meal.

“Maybe we can try to learn their language,” Natalie offered, after a little while. “Have you heard them talking to one another much? I’m not sure I’ve heard them do anything but twitter at each other.”

“Maybe they have another way of talking, like their hearing and smelling,” Madison mused. “Maybe they’re telepathic. Do you think they might be talking to one another with their minds?”

“Do they have minds?” Natalie asked. “They’re so different from us; maybe they’re different psychologically, too. Maybe they’ve got somethin’ like a hive mind? Ah’ve seen somethin’ like that on TV, haven’t you?”

“Yes. But,” Madison objected, “that’s human entertainment. I think we humans just can’t imagine what aliens like these think – if they do think.”

After a long moment of silence, the door opened again and an alien came in. Natalie said, “Do ya think this is the same one that came in before? They all look alike ta me.”

Madison nodded. “Yes, to me, too. But what I’m wondering is, why are they here? Have they come to invade Earth? Or are they just curious about humans? Maybe they’re robots, or people in costumes, trying to frighten people. Maybe they are in costume, but sponsored by Disney World to advertise a new adventure.”

Natalie pondered that as the alien picked up the tray and exited the room. She nodded, and said, “Those are good possibilities. Why would aliens come to Earth, abduct two young girls, and kill a little girl and her dog?”

The girls spent some time pondering and discussing their questions, but finally tired of that and decided to wait for their answers.

“In the meantime,” Madison said, “let’s see if we can get out of this room. We’ve never even tried the door.”

“But there isn’t any doorknob,” Natalie pointed out. “How do we open it?”

Madison twisted her mouth in puzzlement, then said, “I don’t know. Let’s just try it, shall we?”

SIX

The door opened readily when Madison finally figured out that the strange symbol in the middle of the door should be pressed. She stood in the open doorway gazing out at the several aliens who moved around the room, doing who-knows-what. None of them turned toward her, as if they didn’t care if their captives left their room.

She reached over and pulled Natalie out with her, and they moved cautiously among the aliens, not knowing where they should go but unwilling to stay in their ‘room’ any longer.

To the right of the door they’d come through, or been carried through, was another, smaller door. Madison looked around and saw only two other doors, and watched as two aliens went into one of them, and one alien came out of the other one.

“I think this one is okay, Nat,” she said quietly. She located the symbol in the middle of the door that was similar to the one on their door, and pressed it. It opened, and the girls could hear animal noises from inside.

They looked at one another, and Natalie said, “Do they have a zoo here?”

Madison shrugged. “It sure sounds like it.”

Peeking in, she saw a row of cages on either side of an aisle leading toward the back wall of the room. Inside the first two cages, she saw a dog and a horse.

She looked at Natalie, and they both shook their heads but entered the room. Natalie shut the door after her and they stood there, waiting to see if any aliens followed. None did, so they held hands and began to walk down the aisle to look at the further cages.

“Do you s’pose they’re studyin’ the creatures of Earth for some reason?” Natalie asked.

Madison shrugged again. “Maybe,” she said. “Let’s go as far as we can, before we’re captured again and sent to our room.”

Natalie smiled a little, but both girls knew that what they were talking about wasn’t really funny.

***

After the cages with the beautiful Golden retriever, who slept peacefully, on one side, and the agitated black stallion on the other, the next few cages contained a goat, who bleated at them; a Maine coon cat, pacing restlessly; and an eagle. There were two smaller glass-enclosed cages beyond those, containing a swarm of butterflies, and at least a dozen cockroaches. Beyond those were several large aquariums containing a swordfish, a vicious-looking shark, and several other kinds of fish.

“They probably don’t even know they’ve been captured,” Natalie noted sympathetically.

Madison nodded, and pointed beyond the last of the aquariums to a separate set of enclosures that looked more like their own room. As they neared these, they could see that each cage looked like a jail cell, with a couch, a narrow bed, a bookcase, and a toilet.

In each of these cages was a human. They were pacing, or angrily shaking the bars, or sleeping, or sitting quietly on the bed looking at a book. Madison and Natalie didn’t know quite what to make of them.

“Will the aliens be puttin’ us in cages like these?” Natalie whispered fearfully. Madison shrugged once again, but then turned to put her arm around her friend.

“Don’t worry, Nat,” she said. “This is probably how they take care of them. Look, there’s two adult women and four men – no, make that five men,” as they heard a whistle from the last cage in line.

They observed other creatures in nearby cages, including several clearly insane people. One woman had torn most of her clothes nearly off, and was now tearing out her hair. The other woman was ranting at the air, in unintelligible words, as she alternately shook her fist and kicked at the bars.

Two of the men who were pacing were cursing and muttering to themselves, and the one shaking the bars appeared quite apathetic in his efforts.

Both girls shuddered, and quickly returned to their room. They achieved this with no problem, and then sat on the bed, hugging one another and shushing each other’s weeping.

SEVEN

The next day, after their morning meal, Natalie said, “Honey, we’ve gotta work through our fear and figure out how to escape before we’re driven insane, too.”

Madison nodded. “I agree. Do you have any ideas?”

Natalie shook her head, and they sat there for some time trying to work out a strategy of some kind. But every time they thought they had a plan, they quickly realized that it wasn’t going to work.

“Let’s go back to the zoo room and see if any of those people are sane enough to give us some answers,” Madison said.

But this time, when they opened the zoo door, an alien was on the other side. As soon as it saw them, it seized them both in its huge talons, and shut the door. The alien carried the two girls to where another alien, who looked exactly like all the others, sat before what looked to Madison like some sort of controls.

“Maybe he’s the captain,” Natalie commented. The words were strong, but her voice was still trembling, and Madison nodded again.

After the alien holding them made some sounds at the ‘Captain,’ they were transported back to the zoo room, carried effortlessly down the aisle, and thrust into another cage just beyond the one containing the man who’d been sleeping the day before.

After the alien left, Madison turned to their neighbor, who was now standing at the bars between his cage and theirs, and said, “How are you?”

She hoped he would answer her, rather than doing something crazy, and he did. “I’m fine, but you girls don’t look so fine.”

“We’re not!” Natalie exclaimed. She sank to the floor of the cage, put her hands on her face, and wept as if she’d never stop. She wailed and moaned, like the woman in the cage across the way, and Madison began to worry that she might be losing her mind, like the other humans.

“Don’t worry, Natty,” she said, sitting beside her friend and taking her in her arms. “We’ll get out of this somehow, I promise. Have I ever broken a promise to you?”

Natalie shook her head and buried her face in Madison’s shoulder, and they rocked back and forth for a little while.

EIGHT

After they’d both calmed down a bit, Madison said, “I’ve got an idea how we might escape.”

Natalie nodded, and asked, “How?”

“We get one of the aliens to come inside the cage, and one of us distracts it while the other stops the door from locking.”

“Well, we’d need somethin’ like a card to stop the door from lockin’,” Natalie noted. “Do you have anything like that?”

“No,” Madison said. “We’ll have to find something that’ll work. Let’s look through whatever we have in our pockets. If there isn’t anything, we’ll look around the cage and just outside it, and there might be a piece of paper, or something, that might work.”

“Okay,” Natalie said.

The only thing Natalie had in her pockets was the tickets for Disney World. “These will work,” Madison said. “So, the next thing is to get one of those things to come inside the cage. Then you distract it, and I’ll stand beside the door when it leaves and slip a piece of a ticket into where the lock engages.”

“Do you think it’ll work?” Natalie asked, her voice still weak but seeming a bit stronger now.

“Well, all we can do is hope,” Madison answered. “Now, how do we get an alien in here?”

“When do they bring our next meal?” Natalie wondered. “It should be pretty soon now. Ah’m gettin’ pretty hungry.”

“Me, too,” said Madison. Both girls paced back and forth, anxious about their plan, until they heard the door open at the other end of the aisle and Natalie went to sit on the bed while Madison made sure her pacing took her very near the door.

She stood back as the alien opened the door and entered, and both girls started twittering, like they’d heard the aliens do, but their visitor paid no attention. It just set the meal tray down on the bed and moved back to the door where Madison waited.

She moved a few steps back when the alien neared the cage door, but as soon as it moved through the door she quietly slipped part of a ticket between the edges of the door and the cage. As the door shut, she saw that the ticket was securely wedged between the bars, and waited impatiently until the alien had delivered the remainder of its meal trays and headed for the door.

As soon as the zoo door shut, she pulled on their cage door and, miracle of miracles, it opened!

NINE

The girls slipped out of their cage and headed for the door, but the other humans apparently saw them, and made a great deal of noise. Several aliens came running, but the girls had been able to slip through the door before any had arrived.

The girls evaded their captors for a while and ran through the ship, but they knew they had nowhere to go. They were in the aliens’ spaceship, but they had no idea where they were in space. And Madison was aware that even if they did know, she didn’t think there was any way they could get down to the ground.

When they found a hiding place that seemed safe for at least a few minutes, they whispered to one another what they should do next.

“We’ve got no idea where we are in space, Maddy,” Natalie said. She’d apparently been thinking along the same lines as Madison had.

Madison nodded. “We’ll have to find a window or something.”

They exited their hiding place after assuring themselves that no aliens were near, and looked for a ‘window,’ or what they thought of as a porthole.

When they found one, they saw the ship appeared to be hovering over their own city, Talla-hassee, Florida!

“Why aren’t we in Orlando?” Natalie wondered.

“I don’t know,” Madison declared, “but there must be a reason we’re near home.”

But they would have to defer getting the answer as they were quickly captured and returned to their cage, without an explanation, apology, or punishment.

Inside the cage once again, Madison said, “This is truly disturbing. I can’t understand why we were captured in the first place if the aliens aren’t going to do anything to us, or about us.”

Natalie nodded. “Me either. ‘Specially now, when we’re so near home.”

“We have to confront the aliens,” Madison said, steely determination in her voice.

But Natalie was too terrified to think logically for a bit, and Madison had to spend a lot of energy calming her down.

She mused, “Why did they collect all those animals and humans, and why did they cause, or allow some of the humans to go crazy?”

***

They soon found they were able to talk with another captive, who told them to call him Harry. “I can tell you what I know about what’s going on,” he told Madison from his cage across from theirs.

“It isn’t much,” Madison admitted to Natalie, “but I believe him.”

The three of them started talking about how they might escape. Harry said, “The aliens are a race called Echirians. It’s pronounced Ek-hear-ians.”

“How did you find that out?” Madison asked suspiciously; she thought he might be one of those people who turned traitor, and worked against their own kind. She’d seen that in movies, too.

“I picked up a bit of their language,” Harry said, “and I asked what they were called.

“They did have monkeys and a zebra in cages, but the monkeys went crazy and the aliens killed them, and then the zebra died.”

After a moment, he went on. “I watched the aliens land somewhere and load the dog and the horse onboard and into cages several days before you arrived.”

He told them what he’d learned about the other humans in cages, and the animals. He said, “I’m from L.A.; actually, Hollywood.”

Neither girl was impressed, so he went on. “The cages hold me, three women and four other guys,” he told them. “All the adults are at least 40, I estimate. I’m 42.”

Madison said, “I wonder whether any of the adults might be related to any of the others. Also, does the fact that there are three females and five males, and that they’ve now abducted two more females, us, mean they intend for the humans to reproduce as couples?”

She thought, but didn’t add, But that’s a human thing; could it also be an alien thing?

Harry shrugged, and went on. “There already were four other humans aboard when I was abducted, just a couple of weeks ago. The other six were loaded just before you came aboard. I had to watch as they all went crazy. I know I’ll be insane if I don’t escape soon, and I can’t help wondering what’s going to happen to the others.”

Harry and Natalie, who seemed quite calm when talking with him, discussed the possibility that the aliens were actually from Mars. “Or are they from some star system millions of miles from Earth?” she wondered.

“The Echirians speak with twitches and other mannerisms, and they also twitter like birds.”

“Yeah, we know,” Natalie said. “Ah haven’t heard them speak, just twitter and jerk.”

TEN

“What are you doing, fiddling with your phone, Natalie?” Madison asked, a while later. “You haven’t gotten a signal anytime since we were taken.”

“Ah know, hon, but you neveh know; Ah might get a signal at any time while we’re flyin’ around.”

Madison nodded and turned back to her meditation.

“Hey!” Natalie yelled a few minutes later. “Ah do have a signal!”

“Well, what’re you gonna do with it?” Madison asked, not sure what that might mean.

Natalie gazed at her friend for a moment, and then said, “Ah’m gonna call my Mama!”

She dialed the number and put her phone to her ear, but slammed the phone down in disgust a moment later. “It rang twice, but it cut out before Mama could pick up!”

“I’m so sorry, Nat,” Madison said. “Here, let me try.”

The two of them kept trying the phone for the next hour, but they never got another signal.

Head down in disappointment, Natalie sat on the bed, but in another few minutes she lay down and whined, “Ah don’t feel good, hon.”

“What’s the matter? Are you sick?” Madison asked. She came to the bed and pulled the blanket up over Natalie’s shoulders. “Why don’t you try and get some sleep. Maybe we’ll get a signal tomorrow.”

“Yeah,” Natalie sighed. She shut her eyes and Madison took the phone, but was annoyed to find that the phone’s battery was done.

A few hours later, Natalie awoke and Madison noticed that she’d been sweating a lot. She felt her friend’s forehead and learned that she had a fever. Alarmed, she wondered when the alien would come with their meal. I’ll tell him to get her some aspirin, or something, she told herself. But I’m not at all sure they understand English. What’ll I do if the alien doesn’t help her?

Natalie lay back down, and Madison decided to try and find aspirin herself. “I’ll be right back,” she told Natalie. But the girl was fast asleep again.

***

Madison opened the door of their cage and eased out, shutting the door behind her. None of the aliens seemed to take notice of her, but she had no idea where she might find aspirin.

Think, Maddy, she told herself. Where am I most likely to find aspirin, even on a spaceship? As she walked among the Echirians, she told herself, Probably in a First Aid kit. But where on Earth—or Mars?—would there be a First Aid kit on a spaceship?

Nearing what she’d been thinking of as the control room, Madison looked on the walls where she figured a First Aid kit would be in a human spaceship, and saw a boxy item on the wall next to the door into the control room. There were some weird-looking pictograms on the front of the box but, “Faint heart ne’er won fair ladies,” she muttered.

She walked up to the box and tried to pry it off the wall, and it came off in her hands. Opening it, she saw some strange items inside, including a box with what looked like white pills depicted on it.

She grabbed the box, closed the kit and pushed it back onto the wall where it stuck, to her surprise. She shrugged, and walked back to the zoo room and their cage, where Natalie was sitting up on the bed. “I brought you something that might help,” she said, though she wasn’t at all sure it would.

“Where are we?” Natalie asked as Madison shut the door. “Are we at Disney World?”

“What?” Madison was confused. Why would she ask that? She knows we were captured by the aliens, and we’re aboard their ship. “No, Natalie. We’re on the aliens’ spaceship, remember?”

“Oh, are we at Adventureland? And there are aliens! What fun!”

“Honey, lie down. I brought you something that might help.” Madison moved toward her friend, but Natalie stood and tried to walk past her to the door. Madison stopped her, and put her hand on Natalie’s forehead. “You still have a fever, Natalie. Come on, lie down and take one of these pills.”

The fever must be making her delusional, Madison thought. She gently guided Natalie back to the bed and helped her under the covers. Then she took out one of the pills and handed Natalie the glass of water on the bedside table. Natalie obediently took the water and the pill, swallowed both, and then lay back down.

Madison stayed with her, worried whether she might have poisoned her friend, until Natalie seemed to sleep.

ELEVEN

After the morning meal the next day, Natalie seemed much better. Her fever had gone down and she was more alert. She couldn’t believe Madison’s statement that she’d said something about thinking they were in Disney World.

“Why would Ah think that?” she wondered. “Heck, Ah know we’re on the alien ship, and we were hoverin’ over Tallahassee just the other day, weren’t we?”

“Yes,” Madison said. “And I think it’s time we tried to escape again.”

She called across to their neighbor, “Harry, we’re gonna try escaping again. Do you wanna come with us?”

“Sure. I can help ‘cause I did a bit of exploring before you guys arrived. There’s a button they push to get down to the surface. They don’t always go through the door. It’s near the control room, and it’s a red button. But it doesn’t work right away, so you have to be sure there aren’t any aliens near when you push it.”

“Thanks,” Madison said. “Can you get out of your cage?”

“Sure,” he said with a grin. He opened the door and walked over to their cage, opened their door and stood back.

“That’s all it takes to get out of these cages?” Madison asked, almost in disbelief.

“Well, I found a way to disable the locks a couple days ago. I didn’t do it for the crazy people, ‘cause I knew they’d just get out and make trouble for us.”

“Well, thanks so much!” Natalie said. She grinned at Madison, and they both stepped outside their cage. All three crept quietly towards the zoo door.

Harry and Natalie stood beside it as Madison opened it, and they waited for any aliens to arrive. None did, until all three had stepped into the room and two aliens turned in their direction.

“Oh, shit,” Madison said. “What do we do now?”

Harry became a whirlwind, kicking and chopping at the two aliens, until they were down, and the girls headed swiftly toward the outer door. Madison looked back to see Harry crouched as if he were Bruce Lee, waiting for a chance to incapacitate more of the enemy. No other aliens approached him as she watched.

“Oh, dear,” Madison said. “I hope they’re not dead.”

“Why not?” Natalie demanded. “They’re invaders! They’d kill us, and a lot of other humans if Harry doesn’t kill them all.”

Madison didn’t really want them to die, but she did want to escape and she wanted to help her friend escape, too. It looked like Harry wasn’t trying to escape, though. She thought maybe he was going to wait until they were hovering over L.A., so he could escape then.

“I hope he gets home,” she said.

Natalie nodded, and pointed to the red button next to the control room door, just where Harry had said it would be.

She looked around to make sure there were no aliens too close to them, as Harry had advised. Then, “Punch it!” she said.

Natalie nodded, and both girls waited, hoping that Harry had been right.

TWELVE

Suddenly, the girls found themselves on the sidewalk a few doors down from Madison’s house.

“OMG!” exclaimed Natalie. “This isn’t an illusion those aliens created, is it?”

Madison grinned and shook her head. “We’re home. Look, up there!”

Natalie glanced upward to see the big box-like alien spacecraft hovering over them, and both girls watched as it moved up and over, to hover directly above Madison’s house.

“Do you suppose they let us escape?” she wondered.

“What?” Natalie exclaimed. “Let us escape? Why would they do that?”

“Well, I just wondered,” Madison said. “If not,” she went on, “why did they come to Tallahassee? You know, we’re at least a decade younger than the three women up there, and the men. Maybe they didn’t want young people. Maybe that’s why the alien killed that child.”

“Yeah . . .” Natalie said. “But then why did it kill the dog?”

“Maybe because they already have a dog?” Madison said.

Just then, they reached Madison’s house and her parents came out as they walked up the driveway. “Where’s your car?” her dad asked.

“Umm, what?”

“Your car!” he repeated. “Why didn’t you drive it home? Did you have an accident? Or is there something wrong with the car?”

“Oh, Herb,” Madison’s mother said. “Don’t worry about that. Whatever’s wrong, we’ll take care of it, sweetie. Come on in. If you’ve been walking for a while, you must be exhausted. We ate dinner, but there’s still plenty of food. Natalie, you can call your folks from here. I’m sure they’ll be happy to pick you up.”

“Now, kids, tells us all about Disney World,” Madison’s dad, Herb, said as he put an arm around each of them to guide them inside.

“Wait!” Madison cried, stopping short. “We’ve been gone for more than a week! Weren’t you worried?  I’m sorry I didn’t call when we left Orlando, like I said I would, but . . .”

“Don’t worry, honey,” her mother said. “We’re just happy you got home okay. Now come on, I’ll fix you something to eat.”

“But, but,” Natalie tried. But no one was listening.

The girls believed they’d been captives of the aliens for more than a week. But apparently it had only been three days. Both families of the girls had expected that, since the girls had been heading to Disney World for the three-day weekend.

They tried to tell their families what had happened but no one believed them, even when they pointed to the alien spacecraft hovering

above.

But only the two of them could see it; it appeared to be invisible to everyone but them.

Natalie’s parents picked her up after they’d both wolfed down Madison’s mom’s ‘famous’ spaghetti and meatballs. When she got home, she phoned Madison and they talked over what they’d gone through over the weekend.

“We can’t tell the folks,” Madison said. “First of all, they’d never believe us. And second, even if they did believe us, what could they do? The ship is gone now, I watched it leave just after you left.”

“Yeah,” Natalie said. “It hovered over Mama’s car till we got home, and then it left. Ah think they let us off on purpose, and now they’re gone. Ah sure hope Harry gets away.”

Madison said, “Me, too. I guess it’s a good thing only we could see the ship. If anyone else had seen it, the cops or the military would probably have shot it down.“

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