“I’ve found the alien!”
The cry echoed off the dark silent houses on Walnut Lane and set the game into motion. An adult standing on the corner would have seen the kids dashing across the yards and dodging each other for no apparent reason. However, to the kids themselves, they were crossing alien deserts, jumping craters, braving the unknown with an alien monster close behind. They were playing Alien Tag. This time, the monster was played by one of the fastest kids on the block. He chased the spaceship crew across two long yards and a wide field. In the confusion to escape, two of the hunted broke from the main pack and fled into a swath of tall weeds overlooking a small park lit by a single streetlight. With their sides heaving, they congratulated each other on their escape.
“isn’t this great?” cried Bob. “When we play this late at night, the game almost seems real!”
Dave agreed. “And this fog makes your imagination go wild!” The fog had descended upon the neighborhood earlier, growing thicker until it had erased their surroundings completely. Only a diffuse yellow light was visible in the general direction of the park.
“You know, this reminds me of a story,” Bob remarked. “This guy was taking a walk when this fog rolled in and he ended up someplace else.”
“What do you mean, ‘someplace else’?” Dave asked with a chill running down his back.
“Well, he started his walk in San Francisco,” explained Bob. “He was thinking about other planets -“
“You mean he ended up on the planet he was thinking about?” Dave shivered though it was still quite warm. Bob nodded and a grin slowly emerged. He could hear a taint of apprehension in the voice of his friend. Bob looked around; Dave was just a smudge on the clouds. Beyond him, there was nothing. Nothing at all. The grin turned into a smile. Perhaps it might be fun to play with Dave’s mind a bit.
“What kind of a world do you think we’d end up on if we were transported by this fog?” he asked innocently. Visions of alien planets covered with hostile alien predators filled Dave’s mind.
“It’s possible that we’re already somewhere else.” The fog thinned in one direction, enough so they could see a low dark mass floating in a featureless sea of yellow-gray. Bob pointed at the object. “I think that’s the big rock in the park, or maybe…” He let Dave’s imagination fill in the details. The fog swallowed the shape and once more they were alone. Dave was getting more uncomfortable by the minute.
“Have you noticed we haven’t heard from any of the others in quite awhile?” There was an ominous tone in Bob’s voice.
“Maybe they went in,” replied Dave. His voice was shaky.
“You’re probably right. They must have just gone in,” Bob agreed. “But then again, it’s possible they’re not here anymore.” Dave knew what was coming. He tried to ignore it, but to no avail. “Or maybe they were here and It already got them.” Dave could picture It in his mind. The alien was ten feet tall with razor sharp claws and a hunger for human flesh. Despite its size, the creature was able to wait in ambush until the others, confused by the fog, walked by. It probably hadn’t taken long to finish the others. They hadn’t had time to scream. And now it was looking for more. Dave could almost hear the sound of It’s claws dragging across the ground as it searched for them. Scrape-scrape… scrape-scrape…
And now the fog was fading away. Dave whirled, looking for cover. Bob’s laughter shattered the silence. It would know where they were now!
“Damn you, Bob! This is all your fault!” Dave screamed at his friend. “It was just a story! JUST A STORY!” The dark shape reappeared. There wasn’t any time left. They would be completely exposed in seconds.
Scrape-scrape… scrape-scrape… Dave tore through the field between him and the object. Bob’s laughter carried out over him, mocking him. The fog was almost completely gone, but his destination was still uncertain. Dave closed his eyes and stretched out his grasp, not daring to look again until his fingers raked across the cold damp surface.
It was just the rock.
Tears of relief poured down Dave’s cheeks. He grasped the rock and turned his head to the sky to give a silent prayer. Behind him, Bob’s laughter was cut short. There was a blood-curdling scream and then the sound of crunching bones. There was silence for a heartbeat and then –
Scrape-scrape… scrape-scrape… Dave took no notice of the approaching monster. His attention was still fixed on the sky. The fog had completely vanished, leaving behind thousands of stars.
But they weren’t the stars of Earth.