Somewhat self-contained excerpt from my alternative history creative writing thingie.
| Alarm goes off. He wakes up, gets up: morning.|
Naturally, at six in the morning, Randall is not very different from anyone else. He knocks the bathroom light on, stabs a foaming green toothbrush in his mouth, and makes a go at starting off his day. He realizes something is out of order here. Pausing the bubbling motion in his mouth and replacing it with a slightly drooling stillness, he accomplishes perhaps the most important first-thing-in-the-morning ritual with a spot of sleepy haste. And as the used water flows down the toilet with that always too-loud flush for this early in the morning, the standard order for beginning the day is reinstated.
Once fully dressed for work, he moves quietly out of his bedroom area. The fear, as always, starts to sing through his shoulder blades and lower intestines. His eyes track the familiar, yellowing wallpaper, curling along with the vines and steering for the musty-looking flowers. He steps carefully, slowly, towards the door, reaching for the doorknob as if it were likely to somehow launch out of its bracketing and begin to devour him with little hidden teeth. Clamping his hand hard around the old brassy knob, he draws in a breath and pulls it open.
The interior is the same as it was when he left it. Little pink ponies and little green army men in pink dresses line the edges of the room. A pair of beds lay parallel on separate sides of the room, and buried under the covers of each is a little girl. The sweat on his temples mixes with the carefully applied mousse, maximizing the scent of his neat hair. A gentle stirring from one of the two sleepers, a small sigh expelled, and every muscle in Randall’s chest tenses. He draws in a quick breath, flips the light switch on, and barks, “Good morning, girls! Time to get ready for school. Up, up, now!”
They snap to wakefulness rather quickly, as is the idea, and in something rather close to a chirping unison say “Morning, Daddy” and Amanda adds “But it’s Saturday” and Sarah follows that with “I wish I could go on Saturday instead of today” and their father says back “You’d complain just as much then, so get up and get ready for school” but inside his head and behind his stern expression he is cheering “Oh thank you thank you God they’re still my daughters” and the girls visibly relax when they sense his relief, climbing out of bed and running downstairs to raid the pantry for some variety of intensely vegetable-free breakfast.
He steps down the stairs, calmness reasserting itself in his chest, and greets the nanny with, “Well, good morning, Cassie. Doing well?”
She responds, “Why, yes, thank you, Officer Weaver. I’m looking forward to spending the day with your daughters.”
This is also the correct code-phrase. “Have a wonderful day, and try not to let them find the Easter candy. Much too soon for that. Hey! I see that look in your eye. You can’t have any either.”
And the nanny smiles faintly, shoos him out of his own door.
A long walk through crowds and lines of suspiciously normal people takes him to the precinct. In point of fact, his building squats next to the sprawling police headquarters like a little gray cigar box, sharing a common parking lot and half the approaching sidewalk. Pedestrian traffic steers superstitiously clear of his office. People only go in there if they work there or if they are given no choice. Randall understands: even though he works there and has worked there for a number of years, it still feels like walking past a board of examiners the entire way up to the front door.
And that feeling is not without cause, as the entire distance from the outer edge of the parking lot until about fifteen feet into the main hallway, you are being watched. Not simply watched, either. Your insides and outsides are being carefully reviewed, probed remotely, unobtrusively, unseen and unfelt, but not unnoticed. It isn’t as if this is not happening most everywhere else in the city, but the feeling still persists strongest here, validating itself in chills and a slight twinge of fresh paranoia. And to all this, Randall finds himself smiling. He gets to be the watcher, and that is a heartwarming sort of feeling.
Behind a bulletproof glass window and flanked by a pair of various incapacitating weaponry, the secretary greets him. “Good morning, Randy. Everything good on the home front?”
“Absolutely, Gladys. How are the numbers going?”
“We didn’t pull in a single imposter over the whole night shift. Still holding out hope that this just means we’re rounding up the last of them.”
“Hm. It makes me uneasy.”
“Job getting dull, sir?”
“No,” says Randall, “I just don’t like what it means. Fewer captures means we’re getting worse, they’re getting smarter, or we’re being successful and now they’re cornered. Makes a fellow uneasy.”
“I’m sure it’s nothing you boys can’t handle. We’ll have them wiped by the year’s end at this rate.”
“Well, can’t really bank on that, you know. Still have a job to do.”
“Absolutely. Good luck, sir,” Gladys says as she readjusts in her seat, picks up her crossword again, and digs her tazer out of the point in her ribs that it has been jabbing.
The hallways are clean and grayish and gleaming almost like plastic. Past the front desk, there are several doors for offices and for the large rooms of operators. Great value, that lot, Randall often muses as he walks past. The latest statistics have approximately one out of every four hundred phone calls about suspicious-looking or acting neighbors pan out to anything. They are not worthless, but the real work is done by people like Officer Randall Weaver. Somehow striding along the lines of phone operators as they attempt to conceal their scorn and boredom with feigned sympathy and interest gives Randall a much greater sense of purpose and effectiveness.
He makes his way into the locker room, prepared to suit up. “Alan!” he yells to his squad mate, a heftier, balding man with a taste for chicken sandwiches and being forced to use his baton in the line of duty.
Alan turns and replies, “Randy!” and each syllable is underscored with a strong slap on Randall’s back. “Ready for a big Monday? I hear things have been quiet, which hopefully means that we should find some before lunch.”
“We can hope, Al.” He straps on his bulletproof, fireproof vest and shrugs his official department coat over the top. As he pulls on his left glove, he says, “Hey, did you catch that special last night on conspiracy theories?”
“Ha! You mean the Aliens Aren’t Among Us bullcrap? Saw part of it during commercials. People just love their conspiracies, don’t they?”
“Yep,” says Randall as he finishes gloving his hands and reaches for his headpiece. “Thousands die, thousands more go missing, people aren’t who they were yesterday, and somehow folks still think we Vincents are a violation of their rights. Sometimes I think we should just sit back and let the imposters tear society apart again, just to remind them.”
“I know. You’ve told me hundreds of times. You really need to work on getting some new thoughts in your head.”
“Shut up,” bites Randall, though in a slightly friendly tone. He scratches at his cheek, finds a whisker that he somehow missed shaving this morning.
Alan continues. “People guilty of anything will look at cops funny. And we’re like cops, except we can see their insides.” He grins mock-creepily as he says this. There were always protests from feminist groups, commenting on the almost entirely male Vincent force and the fact that, among many other things, X-ray vision equipment comes standard for each officer. Of course, not a single Vincent to Randall’s knowledge has ever been turned on by a woman’s intestinal structure.
Both men tug their helmets on, open clasps on the sides waiting for the expensive gear to be plugged into place.
“Guilty or not,” muses Alan, “we’re here to protect them.”
“Don’t kid yourself, Al. You’re here because you get bored easily and want to get fighting with some extra-terrestrials.”
“Absolutely,” and a smile. “I’ve only ever had the excuse to shoot one of them. They came to this planet to exterminate us, so I think we should return the favor. Arresting them is too humane.”
“Oh? Now who should work on coming up with some new thoughts? You need some fresh gripes, yourself.”
Ignoring this, Alan says, “We all have our motivations. You’ve got your girls to make the world safe for, and I’ve got a boring childhood to compensate for.”
The clock over the garage entrance reads 9:00. Shift start time. The other half of their squad—the timely half—likely is already in the garage, prepped and waiting. On their way through the door, Alan throws away the peel to a banana that Randall had not even noticed him eating.