Never let your guard down. I should have thought about it like chess. Even when you think you’ve it made; even when you know that you’re only three moves away from checkmate, you never let your guard down. Because once you become arrogant, you relax. And that’s when your enemy storms in and attacks. Then it’s game over.
Meiying and Jia spotted them first – two strange figures creeping through the darkened quarry. Jia darted inside and crawled beneath the bed. Meiying froze, just barely managing to squeak out, “M-mom!” in a panicked voice.
Aksel and I came rushing up from below, where we’d been cleaning up the dinner dishes. We spotted the visitors, who still had not noticed us from across the quarry.
Aksel helped Jia out from beneath the bed, then pulled both girls close. “I want you both to listen to me carefully.” His voice was low, but urgent. “Remember what we discussed? What we planned for?” The girls nodded, trembling. “You have to run. Understand? Don’t talk, don’t make a sound. Just run as fast as you can to the hiding place. Mom and I will come for you as soon as we can. Go – now!”
Our girls turned and fled, as silent as Chaplin, who bounded after them. My throat swelled as they went, but I couldn’t let myself cry. Not now.
“We have to hide, too,” said Aksel. “There’s a chance that they’re not searching for us. They could just be wanderers like us, looking for shelter.”
But they were not wanderers. The moment Aksel and I emerged from our room, we could hear them speaking in the odd Bixsian language I had come to understand well.
“We are not to harm the child,” said one of the aliens in a smooth, commanding voice.. “She is to be returned safely to her family. But the earthlings…”
The other alien let out a shrill, unhuman cackle that made my skin crawl. “The earthlings, the earthlings,” he sang like a kindergartener. It was like listening to an extraterrestrial version of George and Lennie.
There was a smacking sound, and the laughter stopped. I dared to peer around the corner, then let out a gasp. One of the aliens had a shiny, bulbous head and lizard-like face. He was glaring at the other alien, who had a large, wrestler’s build, a tiny purple head, and – I swear, I am not making this up — a mullet. Scary, I know.
Unfortunately, the aliens heard my gasp and swiveled in my direction. “There’s the human – get her!” said Lizard-face. But before Mullet-head could take a step in my direction, Aksel, my usually non-violent, “let’s talk out our differences” hero, ran up from behind and socked a surprised Mullet-head in the jaw. What!
Sadly, that was the only violence my Aksel could muster up. He hadn’t really even hurt the alien. But he sure had managed to tick him off. Mullet-head retaliated, his effortless blows knocking Aksel to the floor. He might have even killed him, if I hadn’t prostrated myself in front of Lizard-face. “Please let him live,” I begged. “Please!”
Lizard-face sighed and rolled his eyes. “Okay, fine, fine. Don’t kill him, Lennie,” he said to Mullet-head.
Wait…his name was actually Lennie?
“Allow me to introduce myself,” said Lizard-face, as Mullet-head – I mean, Lennie, tied Aksel’s and my hands and shoved us into a fancy hover car. “My name is Mac Daddy wicket-wickety-wickety wike! My friends just like me ‘cause I’m sick on the mic.” He paused his rap, studying our faces. “But you can call me Mac for short. Word!”
Apparently, 1980’s earth culture had made a huge impression on the Bixsians.
After thirty minutes in the car, listening to Mac’s impression of Run-DMC and Lennie’s eerie, childish squeals of glee, I was almost relieved when the aliens finally shoved Aksel and me into a cage. Well, it was a jail cell, technically. But it was outside, in a park. And the door kind of disappeared the moment Mac turned the key. That was it. Our girls were hiding in a cave somewhere, frightened and alone, and Aksel and I were totally trapped like zoo animals.
Game over, man. Game over.