In Those Days
By: Conan Helsley
Bobby opened the door and for a moment thought it was an oven he was walking into. His eyes automatically narrowed and he turned slightly, considering very seriously just going back in and playing some video games. It seemed like that was all he'd done the last few months. Every day his dad was complaining that he spent too much time inside, he had all the opportunity now to do outdoor things and who knew how long it would last, that pretty soon things were bound to get back to normal. Bobby wasn't so sure, because no one seemed to know how to fix the issue or even what had caused it. Things didn't just quit working like that, there had to be more going on than they were saying.
Dex came bounding over and just about knocked him down jumping up. “Get down!” he said, and shoved him away. “You know you ain't sposed to jump up.” He knelt and scratched between Dex's ears. “You're a good boy, ain't'cha? Even if you do jump up sometimes, huh? Come on, boy, let's go up in the tree-house and wait for Wayne, huh, boy? You want to?”
Dex started jumping and turning, tongue lolling, slobbering like crazy. Then he was off, leaping up to the first step. The tree was slanted and the steps were just boards nailed to it, but Dex had gotten really good at climbing them. He fell once in a while,when he was too excited, but never from high
enough to get hurt. He slipped through the hatch and reappeared at the window. He barked once, staring
down at Bobby.
“I'm comin, boy, calm down.” He started up the tree. One of the boards was loose and he told himself to remember that and fix it later. He pushed back the hatch and Dex threw that slobbering tongue at his face. “Get off, you nasty!” pushing him away. He climbed all the way up and into the
recliner. His dad had gone through hell to get the thing in there, but it was either that, put it in the basement to rot or throw it away, and he was not about to let something go to waste which he had paid good money for.
There was a table in there too, which was also hand-me-down from the old living room set. In fact, the tree-house was pretty much just the old living room on a smaller scale. They hadn't been able to fit the sofa and love seat, that had gone with Miranda when she moved out. Of course there was no
TV either, it was too big anyway, but there was an extension cord running from the upstairs window that provided enough electricity to power any appliance he might want to run. He only ever used it to charge his tablet when he was up there a long time, which he almost never was anymore. Actually, he couldn't remember the last time he'd spent more than fifteen or twenty minutes in there over the last year or so.
Dex went to the window and stuck his head out. A bird flew by and he snapped at it. He looked back at Bobby as if to ask if he could chase it down.
“That thing got wings, dude, you ain't got a chance.”
Bobby barked back.
Dex cocked his head, as he always did when Bobby made his sounds back to him. He figured if Dex all of a sudden started parroting English back to him he'd cock his own head, and do maybe a little more. Dex turned back to the window and dropped his chin onto his paws, watching the yard like there
was a whole show out there or something. He figured maybe for a dog there was. Dex probably saw, heard and smelled a hundred things he never would. He wondered what it would be like, to have all those heightened senses. Probably one hell of an overload.
He got his phone out and opened Facebook, though tried to was a better way to say it. Two months ago it had gone down. No explanation, just stopped working. Other apps followed in the daysand weeks after. Of course what no one realized was that the entire internet was failing. No one seemed to have an answer. Most thought it was the government, but Bobby didn't think that made sense,
especially since before the failure all those same people had been certain that the whole point of the internet was for the government to monitor and track the populace.
He put the phone down. If it didn't work by the end of summer he figured he would shut it off for good. The cell network was still up, though most cities were experiencing a lot of issues and pretty much everyone agreed that it would go next. His dad thought that was just panic at work, they were
completely separate systems, there was no reason to think the failure of one had anything to do with the
other. That made sense, but if it was some sort of attack or something then whoever had taken out the
internet could take out the cell network too. He'd brought this up to his dad once and had gotten the
illogical response that if they were under attack the government would tell them. Bobby argued that
they wouldn't cause people would lose their minds, and what good would it do to tell everyone anyway, it wasn't like the ordinary people could do anything but hope the government could save them. His dad said he was just a kid and didn't know anything about the ways of government, and he didn't need to be concerned about it anyway. He didn't care that much about any of it really, because there was literally nothing he or anyone else could do about it one way or the other. So he had kept most of his opinions to himself since then, and tried to stay off the TV as much as possible. He checked once in a while, just to see if anything changed. Nothing really had in a few weeks. People were trying to adjust to life without the internet. It didn't seem to be going too well from what he had seen. The government was doing a bunch of stuff to help, but it was mostly just useless advice. It didn't seem very likely people could just change their whole lives in a matter of months. He didn't know much about living life as an adult, paying bills and all that, but he knew it was almost all done on the internet. Who knew how long it had been since the last time people had to actually pay with money or checks or however it was done before. It just seemed like a lot of wishful thinking to believe it was simply a matter of mindset.
Dex barked, glanced at Bobby, and barked into the yard again.
“It's just me Dex!” Wayne said. “Don't attack!”
That was a joke, because the only thing Dex had ever attacked was stuffed animals. He actually shredded them. His dad had gotten Dex for a guard dog, but the older he got the more they realized he would never be much good for it and he had just sort of become Bobby's. They had bonded very early on, and he did all the feeding, bathing and walking anyway, so it just made sense to call Dex his.
Wayne emerged from the hatch and Dex threw that slobbery tongue against his face. Wayne didn't push him away though, he never did. He let Dex lick until he was satisfied and returned to the window and whatever he was so interested in out there. Wayne finished his entrance into the tree-house and plopped down on the bean bag. He pulled some chips out of the drawer and tore them open. “D'you hear what happened?”
“Naw, I ain't been payin attention.”
“Fuck, man, they're sayin they know what happened to the Net.”
“Oh yeah?” He was looking out the window. Not really seeing or paying attention. The tree blocked most of his view from that angle anyway. The leaves were turning over, like there was a storm approaching or something. Only the sun was still shining, sweat popping all over his face, back and under his arms.
“Yeah, they're sayin there's this satellite that's been out in space for like thirteen thousand years or some shit.”
“How the hell would anyone know that?”
“I think it's just a guess or something, based on observances and shit.”
“Observances of what?”
“I don't know, man, just listen.” He munched a bunch of chips and then continued. “So this satellite has supposedly been up there monitoring us, right, only it ain't seem to be sending a signal anywhere, so no one ever thought they needed to do anything about it.”
“You really think they believe this thing been up there that long, and no one figured we should do anything about it? No one wondered how it even got up there? We weren't even around that long ago.”
“Dude, why you always askin so many questions?”
“You can't just believe shit cause it sounds interesting, bro. Or cause you like the person sayin it.”
“I don't do that, I listen to everything before I make a decision.”
“I didn't make any decision, I'm just asking for information you ain't givin.”
“Well if you listen maybe I will.”
A gust of wind rocked the tree-house. Dex barked. He looked back and Bobby told him it was okay, but he wondered how true that was. Maybe there was a tornado coming. That would explain why the leaves were turning with no other evidence of a storm. “Fine,” he said, “finish the story.”
“Well now I don't even know where I was.”
“You were talkin bout how they just left it alone. For some dumb-ass reason.”
“Oh yeah.” He shoved another handful of chips in and scarfed them down. “Okay so apparently now this thing is transmitting.”
“And they know this how?”
“Radio signals, duh. That shit still workin. Anyway, it's transmitting to some star light years away. They say it started transmitting when the Net went down, so it must have shut our shit down, only no one seems to know how.”
“Sounds like a bunch of bullshit. I mean, that would mean aliens are monitoring us, and have been for who knows how long. Forever, I guess. That would also mean that aliens are now manipulating our infrastructure. Why would they do that now?”
“Maybe they think we're a threat or something.”
“Okay, look...” He got up and went to the window. Dex looked at him, dripping slobber all over the sill. “Come here.”
Wayne came over and knelt on the other side of Dex. The dog looked at him too. “Okay, what?”
“Do you see anything in the yard? Down in the grass?”
“Nothin but the fuckin grass. What of it?”
“Exactly, you can't see anything else cause it's all too small to care to notice. There's all kinds of things down there, though, spiders and ants and beetles and all kinds of shit, but you never think about them cause they don't have the power to affect you. If you ever notice them at all it's when they get inside and you gotta get some poison or traps or whatever, but you don't go out into the yard searching
for their homes to destroy them. That's what we are, bro, bugs. There's probably aliens out there somewhere, but we ain't made it past the grass yet, and until we do they got no reason to even notice we're here. Aliens don't give no fucks about us. Trust me.”
“Well still, that satellite's there, and it's transmitting something.”
Bobby shrugged and got up to go back to the chair. Something stopped him. He wasn't sure what he was seeing. He thought of the movie Red Dawn, when the planes start dropping all the
paratroopers. Only these weren't chutes. His breath kind of stuck in his throat, and he heard Dex barking beside him. It wasn't his normal barking, this was like the time he fell off the roof of the tree-house and couldn't catch his breath. It was panicky and frantic. He was backing away from the window.
“Dude, look.” Wayne pointed at the sky.
Bobby had already seen, though. Like little bugs dropping from the ceiling, dots were appearing all over the blue background of their world. As he watched he could even differentiate their shapes and sizes. Some seemed impossibly large, like buildings floating up there in the clouds, descending on the planet, closer and closer.
“I fuckin told you, man! I fuckin told you!” Wayne ran to the hatch and reappeared in the yardbelow, staring almost straight up. “Holy fuckin shit. Are you seein this, man!? Are you seein it?!”
Bobby leaned out the window for a better look. Not that he needed to. It was clear now. There was almost no blue left above them, so little aside from those circles and triangles and other shapes he couldn't put words to just then. It was all he could do to stay conscious, which at that moment was a losing battle. His breath was still trapped and sounds were beginning to warble.
“Holy shit, man! Holy shit!” Wayne's voice seemed to come from the neighbor's yard, though Bobby could see him still standing just beyond the tree-house. “Get down here and check this out, man. Fuck! You gotta be shittin me! It's a fuckin invasion! A real fuckin alien invasion!” He tore the phone from his pocket and began recording.
Bobby backed away from the window and sat in his chair. What was there to see out there that he hadn't seen already? Further approach of the doom that had been on it's way over the past few months? Or had it been on the way even longer? Maybe they had only shut down the internet during the last leg of their journey. Perhaps they had been on their way for the last thirteen thousand years. Maybe that satellite really had been there all along, just waiting for the day it would be activated. For the day that it's builders would arrive. He began to think then that he understood the purpose of human existence. The planet had never been theirs, they had only been keeping it for someone else. For some