A thought on what might have happened after the television series "The Invaders"
"Sammy, we need to talk about why you're here." Dr. Newman rolled a pencil in his fingertips as he watched the asylum's longest term inmate.
Sammy looked away under his gaze. "You know why I'm here, Doc. It's because I'm crazy."
"We need to be a bit more specific than that," said the doctor. "I can hardly write that as my medical opinion, now can I?"
"Well, just say it's because I think you're all aliens then. That's crazy enough, isn't it?" Sammy tried to hide the sneer on his face but the doctor caught the expression and sighed.
"Actually, Sammy, that is one of the things I want to discuss today. You've been with us since 1954 and I think it's time you got over this problem. Tell me again about these aliens of yours."
Sammy shook his head. "What's the point, Doc? If you are aliens, you're not going to let me go. And, if you're not, anything I say confirms that I'm crazy. Let's just say I've changed my mind and I see the truth now."
"But you haven't changed, have you, Sammy?"
For a moment Sammy stared out of the window, wondering what was the right answer to the question. It was true that he was still convinced that the doctor, the staff and the inmates of the hospital were all aliens, but he was old and tired now; all he really wanted was to be allowed to leave and enjoy his last few years far away from the whole messy business. Crusades against alien invasion were all very well for a young man, fresh and full of hope. With age came the desire for peace and rest, a weakening of the need to save his race and planet.
So how could he answer? The truth would ensure he lived out his days a prisoner but a lie would not be believed. It was the perfect paradox, a question without a correct answer. Turning back to Dr. Newman, Sammy shrugged and said, "You tell me; you're the doctor."
There was silence then as the two regarded each other. They had known each other for so long and been through the story so many times that they could be said to be old friends, were it not that one considered the other a captor and a jailer. In the intervening years their relationship had gone from all-out war to a resigned acceptance that stalemate had been achieved and there was nothing more to be said. Their sessions became no more than old men's reminiscences of days gone by.
Finally, the doctor broke the silence. "All right, Sammy, I think for once I will do the talking. It's time you heard my assessment of you anyway."
He sat back in his armchair, steepled his fingers and began. "My opinion, Sammy, is that you still believe that we are aliens. I have seen nothing to convince me otherwise. And that fact alone is sufficient cause for me to keep you here until the day you die."
He paused for a moment and then went on. "Which would be a pity in a way because I know that you're not insane. In fact, you're one of the most stable and intelligent people I know. It's rather like the old question: are you still paranoid if they really are out to get you? To which my answer would have to be no, since a belief in the truth must surely be evidence of sanity. You see, Sammy, the funny thing is that you're quite right. We are alien to this planet and you are the only human in the hospital."
Doctor Newman waited for a reaction. But Sammy gave him none, still suspicious that this was a new trick to confuse him and put him off his guard. He stared back at the doctor and said nothing. And the other sighed and continued.
"It's the truth, Sammy. We're through playing games with you; there's no longer any point in that. While you've been locked away, our numbers have multiplied and we have, as you would say, won. There's nothing you can do to stop us now. The war, if that's what it was, is over."
Sammy had decided how to approach this and now he interrupted. "Okay, let's say for argument's sake that I was right all along and now you've decided to come clean. What I want to know is why? Why would you suddenly admit your plan to me, why this complete turn around?"
"Ah," said the doctor, "I was coming to that. You see, when I said that we've won, that was something of an understatement, Sammy. The fact is that you're the only human left. On your own and as old as you are, you couldn't possibly hurt us. It just seemed that it was time to end our charade and let you go free."
"You expect me to believe that?" Sammy was certain now that this was a psychiatrist's ploy to get inside his head. "How could I be the only human left? There's millions of us on this planet and you can't have killed us all. And why not kill me too and be done with it? It's just ridiculous, Doc, and I'm not buying it."
Doctor Newman shrugged. "That was always your mistake, Sammy. You looked on us as an invading force and assumed we were here to wipe you out. That was never the intent. We needed humans to enable us to breathe this atmosphere and merely merged with them so that we became new creatures. It may seem a little invasive but really it's more of a mutually beneficial arrangement. The human side of us gets the benefits of our technology and we have been able to escape our dying home planet. Everybody wins."
Here he looked sharply at Sammy. "Except you, of course. To be quite honest, you've been a pain in the neck to us with your refusal to see anything but evil in us. Oh, I'm not denying there was some resistance in a few, but they all gave in once they saw how much better a world we were building. And only Sammy Jenkins has beaten us with his obstinacy. You're a marvel, Sam; we've tried everything to break you down and still you resist." He shook his head in renewed wonder at this single human's determination to remain himself. "You're free to go. I think you've earned it."
Sammy gave no sign of hearing the words he had longed for all the years of his captivity. He sat on in the chair, his mind racing as he tried to understand the devilish purpose behind the doctor's announcement. It made no sense. He was completely at their mercy; they could dispose of him any time they wanted to. So why this unlikely offer of freedom? Why the double bluff of admitting the truth and his sudden release? There had to be a trick in it somewhere but he could not imagine what they were up to this time.
In the end, it seemed that there was nothing for it but to play along with them. If it amused them, he'd try to leave the hospital and then see what they had planned. No doubt he'd be back inside before he'd taken a dozen paces. Or dying in a gutter after serving as some twisted form of target practice. He was too tired to care anymore.
"All right, Doc," he said, "I'll play the game with you. What do I do, just get up and leave?"
Doctor Newman laughed. "That's the general idea, Sammy. If you call at the front desk, they have a suitcase for you with clothes and necessities in it. You'll need some money, of course, and we've prepared a wallet with cash and some credit cards for you. There's a phone box just outside the gate and you can call a taxi from there. I think you'll find that we've thought of everything to give you your life back. Even booked a room for you at the Hilton in town."
"So that's it? I'm a free man again?" Sammy wanted so desperately to believe it in spite of his determination not to be fooled.
"Yes, Sammy, it's all over," replied the doctor tiredly. "In a way, I'll be sorry to see you leave. You gave me a hard time but you also taught me a lot about humans. Now get out of here and start to live, you crazy old bastard."
A few minutes later, Sammy was standing at the gate, looking out at the world. Every inch of the way there, he had expected to be seized by the guards and dragged back to his room but nothing had happened, just the long trudge along the gravel drive and now this: freedom beckoning to him from outside.
It looked no different from the way he remembered it. A car went by and it was still recognizably a car, a streamlined metal box with four wheels. Across the street there were open fields and trees, green with the heavy heat of summer; children were playing soccer some distance away and their shouts and laughter drifted to him, bringing pangs of memory to his mind. Freedom was very beautiful.
He saw the phone box huddled against the wall of the asylum but made no move towards it. For a long time he stood there unmoving, looking out on the world denied to him for so long. It was as though he watched a movie, observing but not part of the scene.
And then at last, as the day wore on towards evening, he turned and walked back up the drive towards the house. At the door Doctor Newman was waiting, as though aware already of the reason for his return. He watched as Sammy plodded towards him and then set down the suitcase.
"No go, huh, Sammy?"
Sammy shook his head. "Nope. It's no good, Doc, I can't do it. There's no fight out there; how can I live like that? Let me back in and we can pretend that today never happened. Only I won't be so miserable this time, I promise."
Doctor Newman smiled and shook his head. "Damn, Sammy, you're a fighter. Never known anything like you..."
This little tale owes much to the sixties' television series, "The Invaders". You might remember it as the one in which David Vincent was the only one on earth to know that humans were being taken over by beings from another planet. What sticks in my mind is that the way to recognize an alien was to look at their fourth finger - for some strange reason, this was deformed in a characteristic way. For its time, it was quite a good series and we followed it fairly avidly; we were starved of science fiction in those days.
My own story with similar scenario was suggested by the thought, "What if the aliens won in the end?" It took on a life of its own, however, and the aliens turned out to be rather more friendly than David Vincent's version. And I thought I'd better not mention anything about fingers...
Word Count: 1,878