Life in Ruins

Josh’s mother was certain life was a daily game of survival in the midst of invisible and omnipresent technological threats. Cancer. Radiation. Microwaves, smoke alarms, airport scanners – and the cell phone, possibly the greatest threat of them all, according to her frequently visited Websites.

Josh had a cord dangling from his cell phone – the prerequisite for his mom to pay the phone bill. That dangling cord was a source of humiliation. No self-respecting high school junior walked around with anything like this. So why even use it? There was no escaping this badge of uncool – his mom had it permanently attached to his cell phone. Always a step ahead of him, his mom had taken it to the electronics store and paid the clerk to glue it on. If it ever looked tampered with, she’d take the phone. An enviable phone it otherwise was: touch screen, unlimited Internet, unlimited texting and calling.

His friend Davey would pass by him in the hallways and whisper “you’re getting radiated anyway.” His mom’s paranoia made him the flaky kid afraid to put a tiny device up to his head.

Josh was far from a flake but he wasn’t 100% convinced. Plus, the cord gave Davey the green light to make fun of him. It was the one angle Davey found and he was relentless.

When Davey asked him to explain this reasoning of the phone emitting radiation and why to date, no one could prove this, Josh gave him his mom’s explanation. “She’s just paranoid about the cell. She says our skulls aren’t as thick as an adult’s.”

“You’re kidding.”

“That what she says.”

“Dude, you’re 17. Plus, that sounds like something she made up. Our skulls are as thick as they’re going to get.”

“For guys, she says it’s 21.”

“Did you ask Mr. Crum?”

“What does he know?”

“He’s a science, teacher, dude. I’m gonna ask him for you.”

“It’s not going to make a difference.”

“Why not try? You look like a doofus with that thing hanging out of your ear.”

“Go nuts, Davey.”

Davey started walking toward the building. “Dude, I’m gonna prove her wrong. Watch.”

Josh walked home in the other direction with surprisingly mixed feelings. It’d long been his goal to get rid of the earpiece. But now, not so much. The headset had become something more useful to him.

It had started as static about a month ago. Just scratchy noise coming through the small earpod. At first it was very low – he’d walk outside, thinking it was indoor interference. It was subtle enough that he could ignore it. But after a couple of days the static got a little louder and he thought he could make out voices. Crossing of phone calls wasn’t terribly common, but he’d heard it sometimes happened – although mostly on wireless home phones.

A week after he noticed the low static, he could make out a male voice. The voice was one-way, though. At first it would just mumble random numbers. Josh never spoke back, never asked who it was. He thought it was a police officer, maybe reading addresses – he wasn’t even paying careful attention. When he paid more attention, he thought it may have been a trucker. Then it occurred to him that maybe he was interfering in some sort of drug trafficking deal. Maybe some cloaked code.

It made him a little nervous. And then a little annoyed that maybe he’d inherited his mom’s paranoia. He started paying more careful attention. It was then that he started wearing the earpod more often. That’s when Davey started getting on his case with “Dude, take that dangling crap off your ear. It’s on there all the time.”

More Numbers

That same day Josh started writing down some of the numbers the male voice would sporadically say.

At the end of the day he looked at the lengthy page of numbers he’d written down. The sun was setting, the New Mexico weather on this May evening was perfect. He stared and stared at the paper. A lot of numbers. They looked familiar, but Josh couldn’t place them. He thought of calling Maggie, his best friend. He couldn’t really predict how she’d react if he told her a male voice was rattling off numbers via his cell phone all day long. She’d ask how long this had been going on. What would she say if he told her a month? That’d be the part she’d find weird. He felt nervous. Maybe Maggie would have ideas for him. Maybe not. Maybe she’d just suggest they go for a bite. That’d be the best suggestion.

He put the cell phone in his backpack, went to basketball practice, had dinner. He checked his cell phone. Three missed calls and eight new texts flashed at him. Most of the texts were from Maggie, one from Davey. Josh responded via text, not touching the earpod. He had dinner with his family. Rotisserie chicken, macaroni and cheese, salad. His nine-year-old brother told them all his new chicken-crossing-the-road jokes. Instead of telling him to shut up, Josh laughed.

“Good one, Zack.”


“Yeah, you got me.” Even the cheese collecting in the corner of Zack’s mouth didn’t bother Josh.

The jokes kept coming in, with is dad throwing some in. Instead of tuning everyone out, Josh listened carefully to their voices and intonations. They wrapped up dinner, picked up plates, and Josh headed upstairs to finish calculus homework.

His phone was blinking again.

He texted Davey: “Can’t talk. Phone acting weird.”

Maggie’s text came in: “Call me.”

Josh plugged the earpod back in, dialed her.

“Hey Maggie, what’s up?”

“I’ve been calling you. Where’ve you been?”

“Just practice – you got my texts?”

He heard Maggie’s voice, but in the forefront was the male voice. More numbers.

“Did you hear what I just said?”

“Hello? Are you there, Maggie?”


“Oh, sorry Mag, I thought our call dropped.”

“I’m here. Who’s on the line? I heard another voice.”

“You did?”

“Yeah, for a second. Is that your mom?”

“My mom? How would she get on our call? You heard a woman’s voice?”

“How would I know, Josh? I heard her voice. Weird.”

“What’d she say?”

“Who knows, Josh. It’s so loud over here. Hey, I have to get going in a second. Are you going to the party tomorrow night?”

“I probably will. I’m not sure. I’ll let you know tomorrow.”

“You’re not going to stand me up, are you?” She laughed. “Hmm?”

“Stand you up?” Josh started to feel a little flip flop in his stomach. He’d been waiting for Maggie to look at him as more than a friend.

But the male voice whispered another number.

“Maggie, I’ll be there. You want me to pick you up?”

More numbers.

“Well, yeah. Duh, Josh.”

“Mag, did you hear that again?”

“Hear what?”

“Did you hear a voice again on the line?”

“No, Josh. I’ve gotta run. Text me, okay?”

They hung up, with Josh promising to himself he wouldn’t let anything get in the way of the party tomorrow.

Davey texted back: “Ur phone is crazy. Ur getting radiated.”

He turned to his homework. Even though it was Friday, he wanted to get it out of the way. It was late, too late. He was getting a headache. Nothing much was getting done in the way of calculus. As he drifted into sleep, he kept hearing the voice with the numbers. More numbers. He sat up. The numbers were the answers to his calculus problems, to his chemistry, to the pizza guy who’d given him change – to every number issue he’d encountered that day. And then there were more numbers – numbers he couldn’t place. Maybe the weather? Addresses? What was going on? Who would give him a string of numbers – some relevant to the very things he’d done that day. Who would know what he was doing, second by second?

He went online, tried to log into their cell phone account but he didn’t have the password. Couldn’t guess it. Maybe the cell phone log would show a number on there somewhere. Someone calling in. It didn’t make sense, but it was something to go on. He went to bed. Nervous, but hopeful that he’d have some answers in the morning. His sleep was restless, full of numbers, voices.

He woke up to his phone buzzing texts. They were from Maggie: “My phone is acting weird.” “Call me.” “Where are you?”

He texted: “What?”

She texted back: “Someone’s hacked into my phone.”

He called.

“Mag, what’s up? What are you talking about?”


“Yeah, I’m here.”

“I think it’s Janelle. She hacked into my phone and now some weird voice keeps reading all these numbers. Maybe it’s a recording or something.”

“Mag, since when?”

“Last night after we hung up. It was so annoying I just turned off the phone. But as soon as I turned it on this morning, those that recording has been playing nonstop. See? Do you hear it? Are you there?”

“Yeah, I hear it.” But he only heard male voices.

For a few moments they each just listened on their end of the phone, saying nothing.

Finally, Josh said, “Okay, let me look something up. Maybe it’s our cell carrier. Maybe something is wrong with the tower. Who’s your carrier?”


“I’m on MobileUs. I’ll call you back.”

He texted his mom for their password. Meanwhile, he searched the Internet for “carrier interference complaints.” About twenty complaints appeared. He clicked on the first complaint.

“I’m getting weird voices on my cell phone. MobileUs hasn’t been able to do anything about it. Anyone out there have similar experience?” The date was May 5. Another poster said: “Finally switched to GoUs. No problems now.” The rest were similar – annoyed customers.

Josh called MobileUs. Customer service was clueless. They directed him to turn his phone off and on, remove the battery. He finally just hung up on them.

He texted Maggie: “No luck”

“This sucks. I can barely even talk on the phone. I’ll just text.” He put his earpod on to call his mom. A louder voice, more numbers. He couldn’t get a dial tone.

He texted Maggie: “Can you come over?”

“Heading over now,” she texted.

Josh’s parents were out. Only Zach was home. Maggie was there within minutes.

“Let’s get going on this Maggie. Lots of work to do.” They spread out long sheets of white paper. They were going to write down all the numbers to see if they made some sort of sense. Neither wanted to hear the voice anymore. But they didn’t have a choice. Hours passed.

“Okay, Josh. I think we’ve got enough. Some of these numbers just keep repeating and repeating.”

“Same thing on mine. Hey Zach! Zach!”

“Let’s take a break and grab something to eat.”

Zach came into the room.

“Zach, I have a big job for you.”

“What’s that?”

“Take this highlighter. Circle the numbers that repeat at least twenty times on my sheet. Then do the same thing for Maggie’s sheet.”

“I’m going to Sammy’s, though. I’ll do it later, Josh.”

“Zach, it’s important – do it before you go to Sammy’s. Please?”


When Josh and Maggie returned an hour later, Zach was gone. He’d marked up the paper. He’d connected some numbers and drew a treasure box with a smiley face. They headed to the neighbors. Sammy answered the door.

“Hey Sammy. Where’s Zach?” Just as Josh said it, Zach jumped from behind Sammy.

“Did you see what I found, Josh?”

“Zach, what are you talking about?”

“We’ve been mapping stuff in social studies. Those numbers kept repeating these coordinates. Sammy and I looked it up. It leads to a treasure.”

“Treasure? Where’d you get that?”

“Sammy’s dad. You wanna ask him?”

They led Josh and Maggie to Sammy’s dad’s study. He was reading at his desk.

“Hey guys. Are you taking a trip this weekend?” They didn’t know what he was talking about. They didn’t answer.

“The boys told me about some coordinates. Those are to the Aztec Ruins National Monument. Real interesting stuff to visit.”

“Yeah, we were thinking about it.”

“You’d love it. I can’t believe living in New Mexico you haven’t been there before. It’s a 400-room multi-story pueblo. You can’t actually walk in there, but you can get pretty close. Definitely worth a trip out there. Not too far.”

Josh and Maggie brightened.

“Really? Maybe we’ll go.”

They left Sammy’s house, unsure what to think. They both agreed to go – and even invited Davey for a little humor along the way.

Ancient Ruins

They drove toward Bloomington. Finding the exact coordinates on their own would be next to impossible. They stopped at an Aztec gift shop nearby – as close as they could get. The clerk was friendly enough – telling them they usually didn’t get many customers.

“We’re looking for these coordinates – we need this exact location. Is this close to the Aztec Ruins?”

“Let’s see,” the clerk pulled out a detailed map. “These coordinates are there, yes.” He looked up. “But you can’t get to them. They’re in the middle of the ancient pueblo. It’s sealed off to the public.”

The three looked at each other.

“What is it that you want to do there?”

“Just look around,” Davey said.

“Take pictures for our sociology class,” Maggie said.

“You’ll have to wait until morning. Park hours are nine to five.”

“So what’s so special about these ruins?” Davey asked.

“You tell me,” the clerk said. “You’re the one looking for them. Well, you aren’t the only ones. At least three other people before you came in asking about those ruins. A lot more than last week’s zero. Most people come through here to watch Air Force practices. But people don’t come through here much at this time of the year.”

“We’re working on a social studies project,” Maggie said.

“The other folks passing through weren’t students,” the clerk said.

No one knew what to say.

“Why don’t you three tell me the truth.”

Finally, Josh spoke up. “Okay, we got these coordinates on our cell phones. It seems we’re supposed to dig there.”

“I hope you’re kidding. Ancient ruins aren’t supposed to be touched. What makes you think you need to dig at the site?”

“Following these coordinates, there were equations, with depth, measurements,” Josh said. “We might be wrong, but everything points to having something important dug up. And then some of the numbers indicate some sort of time sequence. It looks like it needs to be done at a certain time of the day.”

The clerk paled. It was a good long minute before he spoke. “You’re saying something really serious here. I could have you arrested.” Long pause. “But you said something. You said you got this information on your cell phone. What do you mean?”

“A weird voice. It’s been persisting for weeks now. It’s gotten louder. It got so I couldn’t ignore it,” Josh said.

“On my phone, too. Except that it’s a female voice for me,” Maggie said. “And mine started off super loud. It didn’t gradually increase, like Josh’s did. It’s given me all kinds of headaches. I hate the voice.”

The clerk stared at them for a long while. “You may need to speak to Willie.”

“Who’s that?”

“Hold on, let me get him. He may not be in the mood to talk. You never know with him. But if he’s in the mood, he’ll go on and on.”

The clerk was gone five minutes, then it turned to 10, then 12.

He emerged from the back room with a small, frail man that could not have been taller than 5’2″. His back was arched and he had his sharp shoulders hunched forward.

He took a while to speak, but when he did, his voice was surprisingly clear and sharp.

“Is it true about you wanting to go to the ruins?”

“Yes, we do,” Davey said.

“Not a good idea.”

“Well, it wasn’t exactly our idea. But it’s something that’s really important now. And we’re not the only ones.”

The older man just stared at them. “There is evil there,” he said. He sat down, rested his cane on the counter.

“There’s stuff about ruins all over the world that just hasn’t been written on, you know. There’s great mystery as to who built certain things, with, with the lack of machinery and strength that would have been needed to erect some of the ancient ruins in our world. You know what I’m talking about: pyramids, Machu Pichu – it’s a long list. Lot’s of speculation. I’m sure you’ve heard rumblings of extra terrestrial beings having been here, in ancient times.” He paused. “Well, have you?”

“A little. Of course,” Maggie said.

“Yeah, Roswell is in New Mexico and everything,” Davey said. “This is cool stuff.”

Willie continued, “There’ve been rumors that in fact, extra terrestrials were on our earth. As they worked on some of these ruins, it looked like they had to leave suddenly. The thought goes that they may have been unprepared for the elements. Maybe floods. Maybe electrical currents from storms. It looks like they left in a hurry. There may have been other covert visits to these ruins in the course of history. My father was present during one of these visits. He was only ten. But he saw them. They buried pods.”

“Pods? What do you mean pods?”

“I don’t know if we should get into this further. It’s not for you. You’ve got your whole lives ahead of you.”

The three looked exasperated. “We came all this way, and that’s it?” Josh said. “Just leave it? What about these voices? Why are they getting more persistent? Why are they giving us the exact date, time that we’re supposed to be doing this? Give us a little more.”

“It’s important,” Davey said. “We’re probably not the only ones wanting to dig at these ruins. Other people in other areas may be doing the same thing. What happens if they do it? What about these pods? You’re telling us all this but you don’t want to help us?”

The clerk sighed deeply. How many people were busy putting together coordinates? Was this happening all over the world?

Willie was quiet for a couple of minutes. Then he began again, “These alien pods – it’s said that these alien pods, when unearthed and exposed to moonlight will hatch and produce, whatever you want to call it – aliens. The very strain of aliens that fled years ago with added resilience. These pods would be resistant to whatever elements the aliens fled. If the pods aren’t brought to the surface, they can never hatch.”

The silence was heavy.

“So we should do this in the daytime to avoid the moonlight?’” Davey said.

“The park rangers wouldn’t let you go near it. You have to dig at night and then time it just as the sun’s coming up, when it’s light overshadows that of the moon.”

“What are we going to do now,” Maggie said. “Of course we won’t go near it. But what about other people getting these signals? What about people that think they’re going to unearth treasure? What about scientists and anthropologists that are rushing to these ruins to make history, to make the discovery of a lifetime? It’s over. Someone’s going to do it.”

“Do you think this New Mexico ruin is the first? Is there any way to know? Could we contact the authorities?”

Willie shook his head. “They’re not going to listen to alien talk. They’ve dismissed it, at this point. No one is going to waste resources on it.”

“What if we call it something else, then? That way they’ll pay attention?” Josh said.

“Hey Davey, give me your cell phone. I can barely use mine.” He took Davey’s phone and did an Internet search “interference complaints cell phones” – this time he didn’t type in a particular carrier.

The search turned up 100 pages of complaints.

He clicked on the last page. The date was May 5th. At least there were no earlier complaints.

The clerk said, “Let me listen to your phone.” Josh handed him the phone. No sooner had Josh turned it on, they could all hear the voice blaring. No need to even put the earpod on anymore.

“We need to knock down cell phone towers, ” the clerk said.

“Knock them down? We can’t do that. People depend on their cells. What about sick people that depend on communications? We can’t do it.”

“It’s either that, or face an invasion like this country has never seen before,” the clerk said.

“Wait, wait,” Josh said. “Let’s say we decide to not disturb the ruins. And somehow we keep people from going to the coordinates they feel have hidden treasures. What’s to say an earthquake won’t dislodge the pods and push them to the surface? Why can’t we somehow just destroy the pods so there’s never the chance of this happening?”

“Josh, what’re you talking about? You want to take a risk, to make sure these pods will go away forever, so we don’t have this fear hanging over our heads, right? It’s stupid,” Davey said. “We’re taking a risk and these aliens could just find another way to invade. Who knows what’ll happen if we go near these pods?”

“He’s right,” Maggie said. “Plus, we’re guessing. What if they hatch when we start shoveling? What if they don’t even need moonlight and just start hatching when we bring them to the surface? Then we’re all just done.”

“Guys, I think we’re getting carried away.” Josh said. “There’s a reason we were picked to hear the coordinates, given the date and time for this. What if these aliens are just humans – new and improved? What if they aren’t going to take over, but just help us become better? Maybe we don’t need to plan to destroy them.”

This seemed to alleviate some of the stress in the room. But the clerk shrugged.

“Maybe. They might improve our society. I wish that’d be the way it went. But they’ve been real secret. If they were here in good, they’d have been more open – offered their abilities, knowledge in peace.”

“All we know is these things left in a hurry – it wasn’t part of their plan,” Willie said. “And they left their precious pods buried behind. From what I understand the pods are difficult to cultivate and take a long time to harvest. They may not have another shot at harvesting these pods for another two hundred years. They’re not taking chances.”

“So what should we do?”

“I hate to say it, but walk away,” the clerk said. “Just walk away.”

There was a long silence.

“Guys, I got it. Give me my phone,” Davey said.

Josh handed it to him. “I’m just going to get online here.” He started clicking away. “I’m going to get all my friends to send email blasts and post on their blogs that this number business is a hoax. They can even contact the media. We’ll make anyone who listens to this feel like a fool.”

“And then?” Maggie said.

“And then we’re going to destroy this pod,” Josh said.

Maggie started to back out of the store. “I don’t know, Josh. I don’t think I’m in on this with you. I’m out.” She walked out of the store.

“Can’t say I blame her,” the clerk said.

Josh followed.

“Mag, I have a plan. We’re not just going to show up and dig them up.”

“Josh, if we mess up, we’re going to have started this invasion. It’s ridiculous.” “Maggie, we’re going to go up there at night, dig up the pod and set it on fire.”

“How do we know fire will kill them?”

“It has to. Of all the other planets, Mag, they chose Earth – temperate planet. Something happened, so they left suddenly. The clerk said it’s thought an element overcame them – maybe water, lightening. If fire didn’t affect them, they’d have chosen a warmer planet.”

“Okay, Josh. Let’s say you’re right. So we burn the pod here and we succeed. What about the other pods all over the world?”

“I don’t think there are other pods.”

“How do you know?”

“Other ruins have more extreme temperatures. I think their pods were only placed in the more temperate desert areas.”

“But Josh, we’re not the only desert on earth.”

“Yeah, but we’re the most peaceful area. It’d have been risky to bury the pods in other parts of the world.”

“Seriously, Josh. You’re just guessing right now. You’re all over the place.”

“It’s the only thing we can go on right now,” Josh said.

“Josh, you don’t know how ridiculous you’re sounding? ” Maggie said. “It’s like I tell you let’s go disassemble a nearby nuclear plant because it has the potential for disaster. And in doing it, there’s a big chance it’ll leak and we’ll all get contaminated and die. But you’re sure we can do it right. But there are other nuclear sites.”

“What’s your point, Mag?”

“Leave it alllll alone, Josh. We’ve all been fine. Why stir anything up?”

“Maggie, because it’s already started with or without us. An invasion is underway. You want to pretend its not. I’m not going to go back home and hide.”

She started to speak, but changed her mind.

“Mag, I wish I could let you off the hook. You’ve come this far and the truth is I need your help. You, me and Davey. I need you to help dig with the fire. As it is, it’s going to be hard to do with only three people. Don’t ditch us. We only have a set number of hours before the sun comes up. Please.”

“Josh, I don’t know.”

“Let’s go in, talk to Davey and get a little more info from Willie.”

The trio gathered all their tools, gasoline, flashlights, food, water. The sun had set. Willie gave them careful instructions to locate the site.

“I wouldn’t do it, but good luck to you. Don’t mess with the pueblo. Leave it intact.”

The three just stood there. Minutes passed. Finally, Davey shifted his weight. “We’d better go.”

“If we don’t return in the morning,” Maggie said, “then call the police, okay?”

The clerk was staring out of the window to the top of the mountain. “You’ll be back. I know it.”

As the three drove off, Willie walked to the back of the store, staring out. “I hope they manage to finally set them free.”

As the car drove off Davey looked to the side. “Hey, what’s that giant thing behind the store?”

“What?” Maggie hung out of the window. “That thing?”

There sat a huge structure with huge panels angled along the top.

Josh tried to look back as he drove. “Is that a solar panel thing?”

“Slow down,” Davey said. He hung out of the back window. “Wow!”

“What?” said Maggie.

“It’s that moon collector thing!”

“You mean the thing that Mr. Crum was talking about in science? That the hippies in Tucson use to collect the healing powers of the moon?”

The car was silent.

“Are you kidding me?”

Life in Ruins

The road abruptly angled up, starting their ascent – a rocky and dusty ride. They got lost. It took two hours. They arrived at 11:30pm. The night was dark. The wind had picked up and dust made visibility low.

“Willie said to count our steps east from the end-point in the road.”

After counting their steps too many times to count, they arrived at the site. It was behind the sprawling, multi-level pueblo. It was now 2 am.

The numbers indicated they should start digging at 6 a.m. But they wanted to outsmart the voice. Using their flashlights, they started scraping the ground. But the desert ground was too soft. Someone had already been there before them. Or, it was the wrong spot.

“Did Willie give us the wrong directions?” asked Davey.

They heard muffled male voices in the distance.

“What?” Maggie said.

“Shhh,” Davey said. “I’ll do this,” he whispered.

“No, just sit,” Josh whispered. They remained crouched behind the pueblo wall.

They saw two men in the distance struggling to pull a long sack out of the ground.

Maggie whispered, “They dug it up. They think it’s a treasure.”

The three remained there, crouched behind a pueblo wall for an unknown time. They could hear the men, on and off. The three fell asleep. Maggie and Davey awoke first. The sun was starting to come up. Davey peered around the wall.

The two men had their backs to them, working on what looked like some sort of pulley they were creating to lift the sack onto their truck.

Josh was awake now. All three managed to get a good look at the pod from around the wall. It looked more like a fibrous cocoon – bulging at the center. And now the center bulged with movement.

They could hear the men pulling and heaving the sack.

“That kind of looks like Mr. Crum. Is it him?” Josh asked.

No response from Davey and Maggie. “Which one of you told him?”

“Aw, come on, guys,” Davey said. “I told Crum where we were going but I don’t even think it’s him.”

The tall man turned and squatted down to get a better handle on the sack. They saw his face.

“It is Mr. Crum,” Josh said. He crouched back behind the wall. The wind whipped around them. The dust was thick.

Davey put his hand across his brows. “Sorry.”

Minutes passed. They didn’t move.

Maggie spoke. “The weirder part is that I could have sworn that sack thing was moving. I swear it was.”

“I thought I saw that, too,” Josh said.

“Now what?” Maggie said.

“Let’s just wait.

Davey took a mirror out of his pocket and angled it so he could see the pod from behind the wall. It worked. Josh and Maggie leaned in to see. As the men hoisted part of the pod onto the truck, Davey’s mirror caught a ray of sunlight and reflected light onto the lower corner of the pod.

At that moment something ripped through the side of the pod. The three fell back behind the wall.

Davey measured his breaths and grabbed his pant leg.

“It’s breaking out of the pod. Now.”

“Oh my God.” Josh said.

“Willie lied. It isn’t the moonlight. It’s the sun. They feed off the sun.”

New Life

The sound of ripping tore through the morning desert. Panic ensued.
The truck was running its engine, there was the sound of doors slamming. The truck sped off down the road.
The three leaned out from behind the wall. The pod lay on the ground torn and oozing. There was movement, but it was hard to see through the goop exactly what lay beneath. They looked to be the size of puppies. There was no telling if they could stand upright. There was the sound of hissing.

“Get the flare sticks. We’re going to have to douse the area with gas,” Josh said. “Go!”

They reached into their backpacks, grabbed the flare sticks and lined them up. Davey took the gas gallons and started outlining the area surrounding the cocoon. “Hurry, hurry,” he called out. “I’m stepping in the goop! They’re moving!” He started throwing some gasoline into the center of the cocoon.

“Step back, step back!”

“Wait, a little more gas,” Davey called out. Done. He ran back to Maggie and Josh. They threw in the flares. The sun was edging up. The forms in the goop looked larger.

As the flames caught and spread around the cocoon, they heard louder hissing sounds, limbs stretching up to the sky.

“Get in the car! Get in the car now!”

They ran.

As they started the car, they could only see dark, dark smoke.

Maggie stared out of the back car window. She thought she saw dark figures scurrying from the smoke – almost as though they were desert animals – but she could have sworn they were on two legs, not four. She turned to tell Josh and Davey but she couldn’t find her voice. Josh and Davey were focused on driving out of there. In the distance they heard sirens from the park rangers.

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