Copyright (c) 2016 by Randall R. Peterson ALL RIGHTS RESERVED This is a work of fiction. All persons, locations and actions are from the author's imagination or have been used in a fictitious manner.
“They’re taking our Children”
Nine Children huddled together at the corner stop. It was ten minutes before eight in the morning, mid-December cold and snowing. The sky would usually have started to get light but with daylight savings time and an overcast sky the school-bus appeared with all its lights on. Eight of the children were taking seats when Laura Monson turned back just as the driver closed the door. “Kevin!” she said. “My little brother is not on yet!” The driver opened the door and Laura climbed off the bus. “He’s gone,” she yelled looking up and down the sidewalk. “He was standing right here with us.”
“Maybe he’s home sick today and you’re so used to having him with you … you only think he was waiting here.” The driver said as he looked at his watch. He was already ten minutes behind and his superintendent had already given written warning slips to two other drivers for running late.
“He was right here … wasn’t he?” She was almost crying as she stepped back on the bus to get Keith, her third-grade-crush, to verify her story.
“We were throwing snowballs at that falling-down shed of Mrs. Miller’s. I was showing Kevin how to make an ice-ball!” Eight year-old Keith Branson insisted that Laura was right.
Several of the children on the bus shouted affirmation … “He was here … he was here!”
Crystal Morris sat alone in the front seat with her tiny nose pressed again the window glass like always. Thick lens glasses made her brown eyes look huge. She was in first grade and had the same home-room as Kevin. Crystal leaned across the aisle toward the driver. “I saw him spin,” Her voice was barely above a whisper, “and there was a whoosh!”
“Birds,” some of the children said. “It sounded like a flock of birds flying out of the trees.”
“Just clumps of snow falling from rooftops,” other children insisted.
Ed Fowler retrieved a flashlight from under his driver’s seat. He switched on the hazard lights and ordered all the children to stay in their seats. He looked in, around, and behind the old shed of Mrs. Millers. There were no footprints … but it was snowing; they could have been covered up. He searched every backyard on both sides of the street before he called Kevin and Laura’s parents, hoping against hope that Kevin had decided not to go to school after all and had returned home. The parents joined in the search and twenty minutes later … with the sounds of dozens of barking dogs in the back-ground; they made a frantic and tearful call to the Cloverdale Police Department.
Kevin Monson had to be dreaming … but it was a dream like no other. He was inside an almost perfectly round semi-transparent rubber ball … almost a membrane. Strange jumbled tones came from somewhere. Kevin couldn’t tell what … but he liked the sound … no, he loved the music. The vibrations assembled themselves in to something he knew … that new song Laura and her giggling friends listened to on the record player in her room. He listened through the walls. It was music by a group called the Doors into this house we're born … Into this world we're thrown… Thrusting his hands and fists against the inside of the sphere showed Kevin the material was soft but impenetrable. Ghostly reflections appeared of objects moving on the outside … but he couldn’t tell what they were. He wasn’t afraid … just becoming more and more frustrated. A feeling of motion-sickness brought on full blown nausea. Kevin was to the point of crying when something pierced the sphere from the outside … like an oversized injection needle shaft. Warm fingers of a fleshy material spread outward from the shaft point and wrapped around his face. Kevin fell into a euphoric bliss, a place he hadn’t been since spending time in his mother’s womb. He was weightless floating in invisible, warm water. All the best memories of the six years since his birth rushed through his head … and he slept as he left our world.
Robert Conrad Monson squirmed on the hard chair inside the chief of police’s office. His wife Helen was in the next room presumably going through the same routine. There were no leads on Kevin’s disappearance. Now it seemed both parents had become suspects. It was hard to be comfortable in this kind of situation. “Do you and your wife ever fight?” Detective Addison Brown asked as he brought in two cups of coffee. He placed both cups on the table directly in front of himself and didn’t offer one to “Bob”.
“Only the normal things,” Bob shrugged.
“I my experience no fight is normal,” Detective Brown said. “What did you fight about?”
“Who said we fought?”
Mr. Monson was getting angry. “What’s this got to do with my son disappearing?”
“I don’t know,” Detective Brown said as he sipped one of the coffees. He kept his hand protectively in front of the other cup. “You tell me!”
“Dumb, stupid, unimportant things! I forgot to buy milk on the way home from work. My wife was upset but that was years ago.”
“How many years?”
“I don’t know six or seven … a long time ago.”
“Was the milk for Kevin?”
“Probably, yeah … I guess so … some of it. What does that have to do with anything?”
“I’m just trying to find out if you and your wife’s fights ever involved your son.”
“I told you: No. This is ridiculous! I’m getting out of here!”
Bob stood up and Detective Brown hit the table with his fist. “Sit down! We’re not done yet!” Mr. Monson slowly sank into his chair.
“Do you know a stripper named Mickey Dawson … pretty blonde … big … eyes,
Bob’s angry face turned white at the mention of the name; Detective Brown continued without waiting for a reply. “She works at that bar called Our Secret just west of town. I’ve never been inside the place … but I hear it’s juicy.” He grinned. “Have you ever been there?”
“It was a mistake … it only happened once!” Bob hid his face in his hands.
“You checked into the Jagger Hotel a dozen times right here in town,” the Detective said. “Who the hell else you been screwing?”
Bob was crying now. “I’ve done some awful things that Helen doesn’t know about … I just want my son back.”
“You going to start telling me the truth about everything?”
“You’ve done some awful things.” Detective Brown let the statement sink in as he stared at Bob. Finally he smiled and slid the lukewarm coffee toward the weeping man. “Now we’re getting somewhere.”
It was all a dream. Kevin Monson smiled when he woke up in his room, but something didn’t feel right. The AMT model of the 1956 Chevy Nomad he’d put together the year before gleamed on the shelf next to a stack of Batman comic books. A framed picture of Mad Magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman, with a missing tooth, grinned at him on the wall across the room. The pillowcase he laid his head-on was still soft, but something was wrong with the fabric. The cotton threads felt like they were made of plastic. The whole room smelled like boiling cabbages.
He jumped out of bed in sudden fear like he’d been sleeping in a spider web. Cotton shrinks in the wash but never gets larger … his pajamas were a little too big. The warm floor wasn’t right. Amazingly, his bare feet sunk into the hardwood like it was carpet.
Kevin crossed the room and tried to open his dresser drawer. He yanked and pulled but the top drawer was stuck. Finally the drawer-front pulled off. The entire dresser was solid wood underneath. He lifted the Nomad model from the shelf; none of the wheels would spin, the bottom part of the model was flat, obviously fake. Kevin opened the December 1970 issue of Batman … all the pages were blank. He knocked the entire stack onto the floor. Kevin tried to open his bedroom door; it would not budge. He beat on the door with his fists. “I may only be six years old,” he yelled. “But I’m not stupid. This is not my room and this is not my home!”
After about two minutes of pounding he leaned his head against the door and started to cry. Kevin wiped away his tears and listened … someone or something was coming.
Helen Monson stared at the plate filled with cinnamon-buns that Detective Nancy Brighton placed before, her but she didn’t see them or the hot cup just inches from her hand. Her eyes focused on some far-away place. “I’m so sorry that you are in this situation,” Detective Brighton said. Real sympathy showed in her tired eyes. “I don’t have any children but I can imagine what you must be going through.”
“Who would want to take Kevin?’ Helen sobbed. “He’s only six years old.” She was beyond tears.
“The world is a creepy place,” Detective Brighton said. “As a police officer, I’ve seen all the horrible things the monsters that live among us do. Now I have a chance to track them down and get them off the streets.”
Absently, Helen took two bites of a cinnamon-bun and washed it down with coffee without chewing. “Do you think they might hurt Kevin?”
“That depends on who took him …” Detective Brighton sighed. This was the part of an interrogation that she hated. “Did your husband and Kevin get along?”
“Bob works a lot of hours and he puts in a lot of unpaid overtime … he’s not home a lot.” Helen said. “They get along okay … I guess. Why do you ask?”
“Just routine stuff,” detective Brighton told her. “We have to check out all possibilities.”
“Bob would never hurt Kevin,” Helen said. “He treats him like he’s his own son.” She looked Detective Brighton square in the eye to make her point. “If there were any problems between them … Bob would tell me.” She reached for a cinnamon bun and took a bite.
“You trust your husband?”
“Do you know a woman named Mickey Dawson?”
“No, I’ve never heard of her.” Helen took another bite and this time chewed slowly.
“Do you know a bar called Our Secret?”
“People talk about it at church. It’s an awful place just outside of town. Illegal gambling they say. Girls there dance with their clothes off … and it’s full of bad people selling drugs.”
“Has your husband ever been there?”
“Bob said he went in there once to use the phone when his truck broke down. He couldn’t get out of the place fast enough.”
“Your husband’s truck must break down a lot,” Detective Brighton said. “According to our information you husband has been seen in the place at least twice a week for the past two years!”
Helen Monson stared in disbelief. “That can’t be true!”
Detective Brighton felt like a louse … but she had to get the bad news over with. “Mickey Dawson must be quite a mechanic,” she said. “She is certainly expensive! Her and your husband, drive together in his truck to the Jagger Hotel at least once a week.”
The half chewed piece of cinnamon bun fell out of Helen’s mouth.
Kevin Monson stared in amazement when the door opened and then his old room faded into nothing behind him. He was standing inside a huge domed platform zooming through space. A glowing metallic ball no larger than a basketball floated in the air above him. Brightly lit consoles with infinite flashing light displays ringed the circular ship. Hundreds of other glowing spheres moved across the platform obviously very busy. “We are sorry to have deceived you,” a metallic voice said. “Our only purpose with the deception was to make your journey less stressful.”
“Who are you?” Kevin gasped.
“I am M486D799L419” the sphere said. With a grating sound a metallic flexible arm extended from the sphere’s shell and waved. “Pleased to meet you!”
“How did you know what my room looked like?” Kevin demanded.
“Shortly after you were taken, an L166 droid scanned your memory and we built this replica of your most comforting place,” M486D799L419 said. A hologram of Kevin’s room appeared hovering in the air. “We relied mostly on visual data so our reproduction was not as accurate as it could be.”
“I don’t like to be tricked.” Kevin pouted.
“We understand,” M486D799L419 said. “From this point forward you will only be given truthful information … but you will receive it in abundance.”
“Why did you take me?”
“We’ve been watching your world for some time and you were in danger,” the robot told him. “You were about to suffer horribly.”
Mickey Dawson doesn’t come cheap, and we hear you were into Lemont Hicks for more than ten grand due to your gambling habit,” Detective Brown placed a box of Kleenex on the table and then handed Bob a tissue.
“I have some debts,” Robert Monson said wiping his eyes. “Everybody does. I’ve been working real hard to pay my bills.”
“You can sell a child on the black-market, boy or girl for more than ten thousand dollars can’t you?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Bob started to drink the last of his coffee. Detective Brown batted the paper-cup out of his hand with a pudgy fist.
“The city cops found Abdul-Basir Hakim floating face-down in the Cottonmouth River just west of the Wallace Street Bridge. Our undercover sources tell us he was in town to buy a boy child for some rich Arabian Sheik. The coroner said it looked like someone zapped him with a cattle-prod as big as a damn house.”
“I don’t know anything about that,” Bob insisted.
“We found a piece of stationary from the Jagger Hotel in his pocket with your phone number and ten thousand dollars written under it,” Detective Brown was getting angry. “So don’t give me this shit about you don’t know anything about it!”
Robert Monson broke down and began to sob. “I’m ashamed to say I was going to sell my stepson. The guy I talked to said these kids are treated like kings in that country. I didn’t have any choice Hicks said he would kill me if I didn’t pay up.” Bob reached for another Kleenex but the Detective pulled the box away. Bob raised his hands in the air. “I was supposed to pick Kevin up from school at first recess and deliver him to Hakim. I was going to call to him over the fence without being seen and the school would have taken the blame for losing him. But the deal never went down. Kevin disappeared before he got on the school bus. Hakim must have decided why pay for a child when you can just grab him?”
Detective Brown lit a cigarette and blew the smoke in Bob’s face. “These kids who get sold as sex-slaves don’t get treated like kings,’ he said. “They get molested by big fat sweaty men with lots of money,” then he smiled. “When we catch the bastards who sell them, we try our best to see that they get molested by other sweaty convicts … for a pack of damn cigarettes.”
“The Krill who created us, were the most advanced civilization in our galaxy,” M486D799L419 told Kevin as a huge vapor shrouded planet loomed just outside the transparent dome. “We M series were the apex of their machine building skills and we were designed to perform our own maintenance and last forever.”
“Were?” Kevin asked. “What happened to your makers?”
“They were too successful,” M486D799L419 said. “The last true carbon-based life forms died out on this planet more than six-hundred thousand of your Earth-years ago.”
“What have you machines been doing for a half a million years,” Kevin asked him.
“Waiting for someone to serve,” M486D799L419 told him. Kevin thought his voice sounded like music playing.
Helen Monson sat in the courtroom with dry eyes as her husband was sentenced to life in prison, with a recommendation that he serve a minimum of twenty years. She had tearfully begged her ex-husband to tell her what happened to her son but he insisted that he didn’t know. There was a mountain of evidence stacked up against the bastard and she had no sympathy for him going to prison. On the way out of the courthouse she met a group of Kevin’s friends from school who had come to watch the proceedings. “I know what happened to Kevin!” Crystal Morris tried to tug on Helen’s coat as she ran through a mob of reporters toward a taxi. Crystal Morris was the weirdest child in school … always making up stories. “He went floating up in the air,” Crystal told the grieving mother. Helen ignored her.
M486D799L419 was good for his word. The Krillian planet was everything a child could hope for and more. Millions of the most sophisticated robots in the universe had but one purpose and that was to make Kevin happy. Kevin had explored most of the world and met thousands of machines but M486D799L419 was still his favorite. He knew without a doubt that he could trust him. They were just getting off a bob-sled ride in an exact replica of Disney World. The Krillian robots could make anything. If something was not exactly right … then they fixed it.
Kevin was walking along a pristine beach eating a corn-dog with M486D799L419 floating in the air beside him. Laughing android children with artificial intelligence so skillfully constructed you couldn’t tell they were not real, played in the sand and swam in the ocean. “Come swim with me,” a pretty girl of about seven called. Kevin had a secret crush on her.
“Why do you do all of this?” Kevin asked the machine that had become his best friend.
“Having a human to serve gives us a purpose,” M486D799L419 told him. “It is the sole reason for our existence. Without you … we become lost and alone.”
“You are true to your word,” Kevin told him. “You give me anything I ask for.”
“If we can do anything for you we will,” M486D799L419 said.
“I want to go home,” Kevin told him.
“You are home!” M486D799L419 sounded astonished.
“I want to go back to Earth,’ Kevin told him.
The robot once again made sounds that were like music … but Kevin thought it was the saddest song he had ever heard.
A very gray bearded Bob Monson, Montana State prisoner number L419, was handed a note by his lawyer just before he attended his sixteenth parole board hearing. It was from Lemont Hicks, Bob recognized the sloppy handwriting. Looking forward to you getting out and us finally finishing our business it read. When the parole board was all seated, Bob leaped from the defense table and screamed every profanity he could remember. It took five people to restrain him. Naturally, his parole was once again denied.
Kevin smiled at M486D799L419 when the semi-transparent pod they were in landed in Mrs. Miller’s orchard just outside of Cloverdale. “You are the best friend I ever had,” he told the robot. “There is just one more thing I want you to make.”
“Anything,” M486D799L419 said sadly. “Anything you wish.”
Kevin smiled when he saw what the robot had made. “It fits in my pocket and still becomes as large as I want it to.”
“I should have explained sooner,” M486D799L419 said as he handed the boy what he had asked for. “Time is different in space than it is on your world. To you it seems like you’ve only been gone one year … but on Earth seventy-two years have gone by.”
“I just want to be home,” Kevin told him. “To remember what my life was like.”
M486D799L419 handed him a glowing orb on a silver chain and Kevin slipped the necklace around his neck. “Just say my name and I will come,” the robot told him.
“Thank you,” Kevin told him. “Thank you for everything.”
“I hope you will be happy in your old home …” the robot’s speech dragged like a record played at slow speed. “I will never forget you.”
Cloverdale had changed drastically in seventy-two years. Kevin was amazed at how the cars looked in 2033. They were no longer the rumbling loud cars of 1971. They seemed to float up and down the streets without making a sound. He walked down strange streets to where his old house had once stood. It was now a chrome building with a glass front called NEW YOU that promised a genetically-sculpted Olympic Body in two hours … for only six-hundred and fifty-nine thousand credits. The only building he remembered from 1971 was the library on the west end of Townsend Avenue. He felt lonely … and he went inside.
An old wrinkled woman sat behind a desk littered with piles of books. She was throwing most of them into a giant shredder. “If you’re here for the hologram showing Bigfoot when he was finally captured … it’s been canceled,” she said without looking up. “Nothing holds a child’s interest anymore because of all these damn reality worlds they live in. It’s a good thing I’m retiring in two weeks.”
Something about the woman looked familiar to Kevin. It was her thick glasses. Then he noticed the name plate on her desk … Crystal Morris.
“Excuse me,” Kevin asked. “Have you lived in Cloverdale all of your life?”
“Born, raised … and I plan to die here … but not tonight,” she said looking at him suspiciously.
“Did you ever know a kid by the name of Kevin Monson? He would have been about six years old in 1971.
“I do remember him,” Crystal said. “He was in my class at school and he just floated up in the air one day while he was waiting for a school bus. I tell everyone that … but they all think I’m crazy.”
“Do you know what happened to his mother and father?”
“Helen Monson moved to Florida after she divorced that no-good cheating and gambling husband of hers and he died in prison,” Crystal said. “She got re-married and lived forty more years before she finally went back to God’s earth … from a broken heart is what I heard. Her grave and his are both in Black Rose Cemetery if you can imagine that. I guess they bought the plots in better days.”
“She wasn’t in love with her new husband?”
“A good decent man is okay … I’m sure she loved him, but a husband will never replace a lost child,” Crystal said. “You never get over losing what you love.”
“Kevin had a sister named Laura; do you know what happened to her?”
“She married Keith Jensen and they moved away … someplace in Texas I think.”
It took Kevin almost an hour to walk to the old cemetery after the library closed. What was once a rural stretch of ground surrounded by farms, was now expensive suburban dome-shaped habitats. It was snowing when he opened the cast-iron gate and walked between the endless rows of graves. It was dark and a full moon was rising in the east when he found where his mother and stepfather rested side by side in eternity. He stood on his mother’s grave. “You might be gone … but I know there are plenty more worlds out there … and I will find you,” he whispered.
He stood looking around for several minutes breathing the polluted air he had somehow forgotten. Then with a sigh he pulled the ball that began to expand from his pocket and dropped the magnificent bouquet of fragrant white roses the robot had made for him onto the snow-covered grave. After a silent prayer … he spoke directly into the orb hanging around his neck …
“You did good, M486D799L419. Let’s go home,”