From out of the darkness, the small spacecraft slowly settled down onto the surface of the alien world. The airlock hatch opened and Bob stepped out. He took a moment to look out over the bizarre landscape then called out for the others, “Ready or not, here we come!”
Actually the alien planet was one square block where the spaceship crew – aged seven to eleven – happened to live. It was a warm summer night, too sticky for the adults to enjoy, but for the kids it was a different matter. They were playing a new game, a combination of “Freeze” and “Ghosts in the Graveyard”. It was called “Alien Tag”. The crewmembers split up into groups of two and three to look for the hostile alien hiding somewhere nearby. Once the alien was found, their roles would reverse; hunters becoming the hunted. So far, the game was a great success. Everyone loved to play it. That is, everyone except Dave.
“Some help you are!” cried Bob in disgust. “Why don’t you stop dreaming and help me look for the alien?” No answer. Bob shrugged his shoulders and continued with his search single-handedly. It wasn’t until they had made their into a patch of darkness between two houses that Dave explained his lack of enthusiasm. There was the thinnest slice of moon hanging in the sky overhead. Not enough to see by; their bodies were reduced to mere silhouettes.
“This tag game is wrong,” said the silhouette of Dave. Bob’s form stopped rustling through the shadows of bushes and straightened.
“What do you mean?” he asked. The air was heavy with water and Dave felt sweat beading on his forehead.
“I can’t really put it into words, Bob. It’s a good game, but…” Dave stopped. Bob’s silhouette seemed a little bit different than before in a way he couldn’t describe, even to himself. However, Bob urged him to continue.
Dave cleared his throat and looked down to address his blackened shoes. “The games we normally play: Cops and Robbers, Guns, you know – they’re all out of real life, but Alien Tag is different. How do monsters from another planet fit in?”
“Well,” Bob’s shadowy shape began, “maybe it doesn’t fit in with real life just yet. It might be a little ahead of its time.” The silhouettes arms seemed a little longer, the head a little wider. He took a step towards Dave.
“Maybe there are aliens. They’re just hiding and waiting for the right time to strike.” Two antennae erupted out of the silhouette’s skull. Dave was mesmerized; he couldn’t feel his legs. His eyes were locked on Bob’s metamorphosis, unable to turn away from the explanation.
“Maybe kids found out about the aliens. Grown ups wouldn’t listen, so Alien Tag was invented to prevent the human race from becoming totally extinct.” The silhouette was now nearly nine feet tall and still growing. Almost unconsciously, Dave edged away, but one of Bob’s four hands – each with seven fingers – grabbed his shoulder, holding Dave in place.
“I think you’re wrong, Dave. This game fits in perfectly with the others.” Bob finished with an odd reverberation in his voice that no human could have mimicked. “It’s a pity you didn’t learn how to play better.”
A bright light erupted from between the two houses. For a brief moment, the silhouettes were lit in all their glory, every detail burned into the humid air. No one saw though and no one heard Dave’s last silent scream.
“I found the alien.”
Ten minutes later, Bob returned for round two of the game minus Dave. One of the others noticed the absence and asked Bob where he had gone.
Bob smiled. “He didn’t want to play anymore.”