Fourth From the Sun

Submitted into Contest #210 in response to: Set your story after aliens have officially arrived on Earth.... view prompt


Science Fiction Speculative

I felt the warm air begin to blur into autumn as it brushed against my face. It was the morning after Labor Day, and the first day of my senior year, as I began the four-block walk from home to school. I breathed in the fresh air slowly through my nostrils and let it out equally slowly through my mouth. 

I liked this part of my route the best, but it had been a couple of years since I last took it. It was the part where I felt protected by the shade of the mature trees lining the historic Presidential streets of my small hometown, with only small glimmers of sunshine breaking through the leaves. The houses on my street were older homes, “Pre-War” my stepdad called them. There was character all around me, with each home looking a bit different from the last and the sidewalks becoming increasingly hazardous by the tree roots poking through and pushing up the cement. 

But soon I’d be at the end of the block and would have to step out of my cozy neighborhood into the sunlight. There would be no shade trees or bumpy sidewalks. Between my home and my high school, there wasn’t much. An old house turned into a real estate office, a daycare, a small church, and a rundown strip mall which housed a mom-and-pop pharmacy, an ancient diner, a tech repair shop, a laser tag arcade, and a dollar store all sandwiched between a bank and a fast-food joint. I used to hate this part of my walk to school because it was neither as peaceful nor as easy on the eyes as my street. But now I hate it for a different reason.

As I walked past the last big tree, I ran my fingers along its rough, bumpy bark. I stopped there for a moment and looked down at the sidewalk below, which was almost perfectly cut in half by sunlight and shadow. I took a deep breath as I stepped from the shadows to the sunlight. I immediately felt the warmth from the sun rest on my face and forearms, and I shuddered not because of a temperature change, but because what had once been welcome and relaxing was now the cause of discomfort and fear. 

Everything changed when the Sun People arrived. They didn’t like the dark and they didn’t go in the shade, so I don't care much for sunlight anymore. A lot of people don’t. They came just over two years ago. Some people said we knew they were coming and that we let them arrive, others chose to believe the official story that claimed we had no idea. I’m not sure I know what to believe about either, but I do know that I don’t like them being here. 

They came on a Saturday, our family movie night, but it was morning when we found out. My stepdad had turned on the TV to see what would be on later that night. We liked to watch whatever was on cable for our movie nights because my mom and stepdad said you could find some real gems that way. Sometimes if we were lucky, there would be marathons of The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits. I liked those shows, but now they felt a little too real. When my stepdad went to look though, almost every channel was the same: news. News about their arrival, these people from the sun.

At first there was panic, and a lot of questions. Would they be peaceful? Would they kill us all? Would they abduct us? What did they want? Is the sun not a star after all? Is it really a planet? If we were wrong about that, what else might we be wrong about? 

But they didn’t make the first move, and that made people feel better. They just stared at us for a few days through their ships’ windows before finally some brave volunteers coerced them outside. Unlike their home planet, they’re hard to look away from. They were - are - unnervingly ethereal and hauntingly uncanny. So far, they’d not hurt anyone yet. A lot of people assumed they never would, but I wasn’t so sure. One thing we did learn about them very quickly though was that they didn’t care for the dark, and they didn’t like the shade either. 

For some, myself included, that made the dark feel safer than the light.

As I turned off my street and down the main road, I took inventory of my surroundings. If any of them were out I didn’t want to see them, but I knew it would probably be unavoidable, and it was. There were two of them far down the street, well past my school, and one or two in the parking lot of the strip mall. A few cars drove around or were parked. I saw a boy crossing the street about a block ahead whose name I thought was Malcolm Howell. I know all the kids in my school, even the ones outside of my grade. That’s small town life. But Malcolm’s family had moved here just a month or so before it happened. It can be hard for kids to find their way in a small town where everyone’s already friends or enemies with everyone else, but Malcolm barely had a chance to learn anyone’s names before the world spiraled out of control. But things had slowly been stabilizing, and now this was our first day back to school since their arrival. 

“Hey!” I called, and started jogging up to him. “Hey, it’s Malcolm right?”

At the sound of his name, he turned around. He was heavier than I remembered, and cuter too. His face looked kind and his eyes were warm; the kind of warmth I could still stomach.

“Yeah. Do I know you?”

“Sorry, I’m Georgia. Can I, uh…can I walk with you?”

“I guess. Why though?”

“I just, you know. First day nerves and all.” 

We were walking now. 

“You don’t like them much, I take it.”

“No,” I said. “Do you?”

“No. Something about them doesn’t seem right.”

“I agree. What do you think it is? That’s off about them, I mean.”

He shrugged. “Don’t know. Just not sure I buy it, their whole schtick, you know?”

“Do they have a schtick?”

“Sure they do. Their whole ‘we just exist among you’ thing. Not gettin’ involved in human society or anything. Just out exploring, crash landed or some shit. Not here for anything or anyone. Don’t seem interested in us, and we’re all acting like it’s all good. I just don’t buy it. I think they’re biding their time.”

“What for?”

“Don’t know, but I don’t think it’ll be good. I think we’re letting our guard down too easily. I didn’t even want to go to school today, but my dad said it’d be fine. Not that I was scared or anything, I just…didn’t really want to go. He’s into science and stuff, my dad is, so he thinks it’s cool. Hey, come to my other side real fast.”

One of the Sun People was floating across the street towards us. We knew enough to know it probably wouldn’t hurt us, but I still thought Malcolm was sweet for wanting to protect me, a nervous stranger, from the thing’s uncomfortable demeanor. The being hovered past, its mouth agape and globular eyes locked on us the entire time. Their eyes were probably the worst part. Bulbous and protruding, they were too big for their heads, glowing white with tiny black pupils directly in the middle. And their small mouths were always open like that. Just a little. Just enough. 

I held my breath as we kept our eyes on the Sun Person as it passed by, twisting its neck around so it wouldn’t have to stop looking at us.

“I don’t know how anyone pretends like that’s not nightmare fuel,” Malcolm said. 

Finally breathing, I said, “Same. My parents think it’s neat. You know, historic and everything. But even they’re creeped out by them. Especially the sounds they make at night.”

“Oh man, those sounds! You want to hear something crazy? My dad recorded that shit!”

“You’re joking?”

“I’m dead serious! You can hear them in the park by my house at night. Dad stayed up recording it on his phone, and played it for us at breakfast. Ruined my appetite, I’ll tell you that.”

I chuckled. “And I thought my parents were crazy watching those nightly language barrier updates.”

“Oh, my mom’s big on that too. She’s an English teacher at the middle school - that’s why we moved here - so she loves stuff like that.”

“Yeah, they were on TV last night, those guys in Australia. They think they’re getting close to better communication, but I’m not sure how that’s supposed to look.”

“That’ll be when we find out it’s a cookbook.”

I laughed. “You’ve got good taste in TV.”

“Sounds like you do too.” We smiled at each other before he added, “But that’s the thing though, isn’t it?”


“Science fiction’s usually not too far from fact.”

“No, I guess it’s not.”

We were quiet as we crossed the street into the school’s parking lot. Up ahead on the grass, the two Sun People I’d seen earlier were watching the students arrive. Some students ignored them, some looked back at them, and one boy got dangerously close to one while his friends laughed.

“Well, thanks for walking with me,” I said as we approached the front steps. 

“Oh, yeah. Sure. Same. Maybe we can, uh…maybe I can walk you home today, too.”

“Sure. I’d like that.”


“Great. Malcolm, right?”

He nodded. “Georgia?”

“Yep. And hey, maybe we'll have a class together.”

“Hope so.”

“Me too.”

August 08, 2023 21:03

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