I Am Number Four

Page 20

 

  He stares at me, and I can tell he’s thinking about what I said. I drop my hands. Then he sighs and lowers the gun. “I’m sorry,” he says.

  I take a deep, nervous breath. “You should be. What the hell were you thinking?”

  “It wasn’t actually loaded. ”

  “You should have told me that earlier,” I say. “Why do you want so badly to believe in this stuff?”

  He shakes his head and puts the gun back in the drawer. I take a minute to calm myself down and try to act casual, like what just happened is no big deal.

  “What are you reading?” I ask.

  He shrugs. “Just more alien stuff. Maybe I should cool it a bit. ”

  “Or just read it as fiction instead of fact,” I say. “The stuff must be pretty convincing, though. Can I see it?”

  He hands me the latest copy of They Walk Among Us and I sit tentatively on the edge of his bed. I think he’s calmed down enough to not spring a gun on me again at least. Again, it is a bad photocopy, the print slightly unaligned with the paper. It isn’t very thick—eight pages, twelve at the most, printed on legal-sized sheets. The date at the top reads DECEMBER. It must be the newest issue.

  “This is weird stuff, Sam Goode,” I say.

  He smiles. “Weird people like weird stuff. ”

  “Where do you get this?” I ask.

  “I subscribe to it. ”

  “I know, but how?”

  Sam shrugs. “I don’t know. It just started arriving one day. ”

  “Are you subscribed to some other magazine? Perhaps they pulled your contact info from there. ”

  “I went to a convention once. I think I signed up for some contest or something while I was there. I can’t remember. I’ve always assumed that’s where they got my address. ”

  I scan the cover. There’s no website listed anywhere on it, and I didn’t expect there to be, considering that Henri has already searched the internet high and low. I read the headline of the top story:

  IS YOUR NEIGHBOR AN ALIEN?

  TEN FAILSAFE WAYS TO TELL!

  In the middle of the article there’s a picture of a man holding a bag of trash in one hand and the lid to the trash can in the other. He is standing at the end of the driveway and we’re to assume he’s in the process of dropping the bag into the can. Though the whole publication is in black-and-white, there is a certain glow to the man’s eyes. It’s a horrible image—as though somebody took a picture of an unsuspecting neighbor and then drew around his eyes with a crayon. It makes me laugh.

  “What?” Sam asks.

  “This is a terrible picture. It looks like something from Godzilla. ”

  Sam looks at it. Then he shrugs. “I dunno,” he says. “It could be real. Like you said, I see aliens everywhere, and in everything. ”

  “But I thought aliens looked like that,” I say, and nod to the blacklight poster on his wall.

  “I don’t think all of them do,” he says. “Like you said, you’re an alien with superpowers and you don’t look like that. ”

  We both laugh, and I wonder how I’m going to get myself out of that one. Hopefully Sam never finds out I was telling him the truth. Part of me wants to tell him, though—about me, about Henri, about Lorien—and I wonder what his reaction would be. Would he believe me?

  I flip the paper open to look for the publishing page that all newspapers and magazines have. There isn’t one here, only more stories and theories.

  “There isn’t a publisher info page. ”

  “What do you mean?”

  “You know how magazines and newspapers always have that page listing staff, editors, writers, where it’s being printed, and all that? You know, ‘For questions, contact so and so. ’ All publications have them, but this doesn’t. ”

  “They have to protect their anonymity,” Sam says.

  “From what?”

  “Aliens,” he says, and smiles, as though acknowledging the absurdity of it.

  “Do you have last month’s issue?”

  He grabs it from his closet. I quickly flip through it, hoping that the Mogadorian article is in this one and not an earlier month. And then I find it on page 4.

  THE MOGADORIAN RACE SEEK TO TAKE OVER EARTH

  The Mogadorian alien race, from the planet Mogadore of the 9th Galaxy, have been on Earth for over ten years now. They are a vicious race on a quest for universal domination. They are rumored to have wiped out another planet not unlike Earth, and are planning to expose Earth’s weaknesses in a quest to inhabit our planet next.

  (more to follow next issue)

  I read the article three times. I was hoping there might be more to it than what Sam already said, but no such luck. And there is no Ninth Galaxy. I wonder where they got that from. I flip through the new issue twice. There is no mention of the Mogadorians. My first thought is that there was nothing left to report, that more news failed to present itself. But I don’t believe that’s the case. My second thought is that the Mogadorians read the issue and then fixed the problem, whatever the problem was.

  “Do you mind if I borrow this?” I ask, holding up last month’s issue.

  He nods. “But be careful with it. ”

  Three hours later, at eight o’clock, Sam’s mother still isn’t home. I ask Sam where she is and he shrugs as though he doesn’t know and her absence is nothing new. Mostly we just play video games and watch TV and for dinner we eat microwavable meals. The whole time I’m there he doesn’t once wear his glasses, which is odd since I’ve never seen him without them before. Even when we ran the mile in gym class, he kept them on. I grab them from the top of his dresser and put them on. The world becomes an instant blur and they give me a headache almost immediately.

  I look at Sam. He’s sitting cross-legged on the floor, his back against his bed, with a book of aliens in his lap.

  “Jesus, is your vision really this bad?” I ask.

  He looks up at me. “They were my dad’s. ”

  I take them off.

  “Do you even need glasses, Sam?”

  He shrugs. “Not really. ”

  “So why do you wear them?”

  “They were my dad’s. ”

  I put them back on. “Wow, I don’t see how you can even walk straight with these on. ”

  “My eyes are used to them. ”

  “You know these will screw up your vision if you continue wearing them, right?”

  “Then I’ll be able to see what my dad saw. ”

  I take them off and put them back where I found them. I don’t really understand why Sam wears them. For sentimental reasons? Does he really think it’s worth it?

  “Where is your dad, Sam?”

  He looks up at me.

  “I don’t know,” he says.

  “What do you mean?”

  “He disappeared when I was seven. ”

  “You don’t know where he went?”

  He sighs, drops his head, and resumes reading. Obviously he doesn’t want to talk about it.

  “Do you believe in any of this stuff?” he asks after a few minutes of silence.

  “Aliens?”

  “Yeah. ”

  “Yes, I believe in aliens. ”

  “Do you think they really abduct people?”

  “I have no idea. I guess we can’t rule it out. Do you believe they do?”

  He nods. “Most days. But sometimes the idea just seems stupid. ”

  “I can understand that. ”

  He looks up at me. “I think my dad was abducted,” he says.

  He tenses the second the words leave his mouth and a look of vulnerability crosses his face. It makes me believe that he has shared his theory before, with someone whose response was less than kind.

  “Why do you think that?”

  “Because he just disappeared. He went to the store to buy milk and bread, and he never came back. His truck was parked right outside the store but nobody there had seen him. He just
vanished, and his glasses were on the sidewalk beside his truck. ” He pauses for a second. “I was worried you were here to abduct me. ”

  It’s a hard theory to believe. How could nobody have seen his father abducted if the incident occurred in the middle of town? Perhaps his dad had reason to leave and he plotted his own disappearance. It’s not hard to make yourself disappear; Henri and I have been doing it for ten years now. But all of a sudden Sam’s interest in aliens makes perfect sense. Perhaps Sam just wants to see the world as his dad did, but maybe part of him truly believes that his dad’s final sight is captured in the glasses, somehow etched into the lenses. Maybe he thinks that with persistence one day he’ll eventually come to see it as well, and that his dad’s last vision will confirm what is already in his head. Or maybe he believes that if he searches long enough he’ll finally come across an article that proves his father was abducted, and not only that, but that he can be saved.

  And who am I to say that he won’t one day find that proof?

  “I believe you,” I say. “I think alien abductions are very possible. ”

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  THE NEXT DAY I WAKE EARLIER THAN NORMAL, crawl out of bed, and walk out of my room to find Henri sitting at the table scanning the papers with his laptop open. The sun is still hidden, and the house is dark, the only light coming from his computer screen.

  “Anything?”

  “Nah, nothing really. ”

  I turn on the kitchen light. Bernie Kosar paws at the front door. I open it and he shoots out into the yard and patrols as he does every morning, head up, trotting around the perimeter looking for anything suspicious. He sniffs at random places. Once satisfied that everything is as it should be, he bolts into the woods and disappears.

  Two issues of They Walk Among Us are lying atop the kitchen table, the original and a photocopy that Henri has made to keep for himself. A magnifying glass lies between them.

  “Anything unique on the original?”

  “No. ”

  “So, now what?” I ask.

  “Well, I have had some luck. I cross-referenced some of the other articles in the issue and got a few hits, one of which led me to a man’s personal website. I sent him an email. ”

  I stare at Henri.

  “Don’t worry,” he says. “They can’t track emails. At least not the way I send them. ”

  “How do you send them?”

  “I reroute them through various servers in cities across the world, so that the original location is lost along the way. ”

  “Impressive. ”

  Bernie Kosar scratches at the door and I let him in. The clock on the microwave reads 5:59. I have two hours before I have to be at school.

  “Do you really think we want to go digging around in all this?” I ask. “I mean, what if it’s all a trap? What if they are simply trying to root us out of hiding?”

  Henri nods. “You know, if the article had mentioned anything about us, that might have given me pause. But it didn’t. It was about their invading Earth, much the same way they did Lorien. There is so much about it that we don’t understand. You were right a few weeks ago when you said we were defeated so easily. We were. It doesn’t make sense. The entire situation with the disappearance of the Elders also doesn’t make sense. Even getting you and the other children off of Lorien, which I have never questioned, seems odd. And while you’ve seen what happened—and I’ve had the same visions, too—something is still missing from the equation. If we one day make it back, I think it’s imperative to understand what happened in order to prevent it from happening again. You know the saying: he who doesn’t understand history is doomed to repeat it. And when it’s repeated, the stakes are doubled. ”