but I wanted to help the woman. Every instinct, every fibre in my
body, strained to just go to her aid. I suppose everyone else who was
watching -- and there were hundreds of us stood there watching --
felt the same. Maybe even some of them had lost someone that
I didn't help ... because I knew it simply wasn't possible. I'd
already tried a hundred times, without result.
maybe it is that thing -- not
personal helplessness, but the total inability to lend aid to another
--- that makes us all feel so degraded by the Tthirh.
were four of the aliens. All in flight, performing impossible loops
and dives and break-offs. And all herding her.
was indoors, in a shopping mall. An otherwise wholly ordinary
Saturday afternoon, with families and couples come out for the
afternoon, parcels being carried, cafes filling
up, kids getting overexcited or complaining they were bored. Just the
human race, happy and busy at minding its own business.
there was no warning, never is. The Tthirh just popped up out of thin
air, above a promotional stand for vacations in Paris. Hovered there
a moment while they chose their newest victim.
the Cage started appearing.
they began driving her in its direction.
did they choose that particular human being? There is never any
discernible sense in who they decide to home in on. They've taken
anyone from toddlers, the blind, and homeless drunks to the extremely
elderly, senile, and almost dying. They took the Deputy Prime
Minister of Finland last year.
one was in her mid-forties, untidily dressed. Nothing special about
her at all. Nothing to mark her out. But the Tthirh drove her towards
that Cage as though their very lives depended on her capture.
we all just watched it happen.
many times had everyone seen this? At least once a week, a pattern
repeated all across the world.
from her piteous screams, the only sounds at all emerged from two
very small children, near to me.
were clinging to their mother's coat and whining, "It's the
Fear, Mom. It's the Fear."
little kids call them that. And they are right
to do so.
was almost four years back now, to the day, when we first realised
something odd was happening to our own Moon. And three months after
that before we realised it had been colonised.
by any of us. I hasten to add. We had already given up on space
exploration by the late Two-Tens, after the second Mars Disaster.
were just curious electromagnetic disturbances showing up on charts,
at first. Then shifting bands of colour began to appear across our
satellite, in places there'd been merely shades of grey before. We
still have no idea what they are. Highways? Dwelling places? It seems
dubious that something like a Tthirh would need an actual dwelling.
third Mars super-rocket was still standing
on its launch pad, waiting to be scrapped. So we used that -- amongst
much vitriolic protest in the press -- to go and take a closer look.
cannot believe," I can still remember Mandy almost yelling,
"they're going up there again! After everything that's happened?
After all those people dead?"
awful, final screaming of MarsDome's inhabitants --
broadcast live on network tv -- continued to echo in our racial
we dutifully watched the take-off. "In just three days' time --"
the anchorman told us.
In two days' time, we all got our first look at a Cage.
was much larger by far than the one the woman was being driven into.
Took the entire ship. Subsequent ones swallowed up the nuclear
warheads that we fired,
once we came to realise that we were under attack.
the Tthirh? They just started appearing, the weekend after Coloniser
3 vanished. And began to snatch us away, one by one.
She was one of the first to go.
Cage takes some fifteen seconds to fully materialise. Hence the chase
-- if it started to form actually around someone, they could simply
step away from it.
appears in the form of shimmering rings, some two dozen of them and
usually some eight feet wide. They spin and criss-cross, but there's
nothing neat or uniform about them. Like the bands of colour on the
Moon, there's a randomness about them, a total lack of coherent
pattern, which seems an attribute of Tthirh creations.
it has been suggested there are patterns we are just incapable of
the beings themselves? Of what size? What shape? What substance?
something viscous deep within them -- they don't remain still long
enough ever to be sure. Sometimes they might take the form of a
single, undulating wing. Other times they're eel-like. Or round, or
ovoid. They'll abruptly sprout stuff without any warning ...
tendrils, appendages, stumps. One time, even something like a skinny,
can perform near-impossible aerial manoeuvres. It would actually be
astonishing, beautiful, if the point of them wasn't quite so deadly.
the real issue as regards the Tthirh, is this. They can touch us. But
we can't touch them.
hand, a fist, simply passes through them. The same with a stick, a
bullet, a grenade. Gas has been tried, and high-voltage shocks, and
lasers. They don't even seem to notice. They behave as though --
from their freshly chosen victim -- we simply aren't there.
time was no exception.
Cage was wholly-formed by now. And the woman -- who'd been trying to
clamber across an information desk -- was forced gently backwards by
one of the airborne creatures. Found herself, now, within six feet of
the whirling rings. Looked round at all of us, so desperate, so
terrified, and ... maybe something else.
by the way we watched? Abandoned and betrayed? Oh lord, I'd seen that
she tried to move away. Tripped over her own heel. Let out a shriek.
Cage rolled forwards and closed over her.
were the beings themselves.
many times had we seen all this being played out? But it still
doesn't lessen the shock. A few people turned away, but that was just
denial. An awful lot of others, by this time, were clutching at their
mouths or crying. A young man across the way leaned into a wall and
face in the crowd caught my attention. A face like a flat, pale
stone, above the only person moving. Edging -- painfully
slow -- forwards, towards the last spot where the woman had been.
terribly wide, yet strangely blinded.
I knew that look as well. This was her lover or her husband.
own eyes filled with hot dampness, and I finally ducked my head and
thing about the Tthirh is ... that they give us no choice at all but
to behave like weakling cowards.
an electronic board hung in the centre of most towns, these days,
which shows the number of abductions known so far, world-wide. It was
up to 869,314, the last time that I passed by it.
She was number three.
front window of the home we used to share looks out across the park
that we were hurrying through, that evening, when the aliens
appeared. We had actually been discussing the first two snatches, by
an awful irony.
stride was far quicker than normal, and there was a tremble to her
can still hear the way that it turned into a piercing
yes, I tried to fight them, chasing, kicking, punching.
even wound up yelling out 'Take me!' when I realised it was hopeless.
of it did any good.
It still burns when I look at that park.
the worst view from my window isn't even that, these days.
at night, when the moon comes up.
a race, we used to see it as romantic and poetic. Wrote sonnets about
it. And especially songs. 'Blue --'.
'Shine on, harvest --'. 'By the light of --'. These days, no one
wants to hear them any more. Two weeks into the attacks, some stupid
DJ in New York played 'Bad Moon Rising', and got badly beaten up.
I don't want to. Not ever. But I can't help looking out at it,
especially when it's full. It seems so disdainful of my gaze, the
cold bright moon.
... could Mandy be up there? Alive? And is she frightened? Hurting?
What are the Tthirh doing to her, if they've got her there?
one knows because we still know absolutely nothing about the aliens,
save their name. We only have that because the commander of Coloniser
3 kept repeating it over and over -- trance-like -- before the Cage
closed on him. Otherwise ...?
very best minds are to this day working flat-out. But with precisely
no result at all. Every telescope of every kind is focussed on the
lunar surface, of course, but can make out nothing save the coloured
bands. They can't find the ship, the missiles, not even with Hubble.
is on some kind of trank these days. The churches are full. Nervous
breakdowns, and suicides? What would you imagine?
it feels like being
dead, while still alive.
nights, I get drunk and stagger out into that park. Stand up as
straight as I can and tip my head back. Stretch my arms towards the
yell out, as I did the first time, "Take me, you sons of
bitches! Come on now! Take me!"
least I might see Mandy again, that way, my be-fogged mind figures.
But they never accept the offer. Never come.
I'm ever left with is the Moon, silent, still, as though embarrassed
by my antics.
if the truth be told -- is to imbue it with our own emotions.
night, when it comes up, it is a symbol of our puniness and our
one day, after a little more than four years, it all simply stopped.
meter in town just stopped moving, at 870,427. It clicked up one more
notch a couple of times over the next twenty-four hours, late reports
from far-flung countries finally trickling in. But the herding and
the kidnapping had ceased, as abruptly as it had started.
ripple passed through all of us, like a gust
of wind across tall grass.
new was going to happen now. Quite what, we had no idea in the
cities grew hushed. People could barely speak at all, they were so
choked with apprehension. We did the only thing we could do ...
remained by our television screens, waiting for news.
was night again, and warm. I had all my lights off and the windows
open. The glow from the tv screen was matched by the moon's lustre,
spilling in across the floor.
... I'm still not sure what happened. I just realise -- by
this stage -- that the same happened to everyone.
was just past midnight. Had I become over-tired? Did my attention
wane? My eyes slide shut a moment?
in that brief instant, the phosphordot pictures on the screen seemed
to grow enormous in my mind's eye, then change. And I was looking at
Ten of thousands of them. Standing in rows that stretched off into
the distance. One of them was Mandy.
And she turned her head towards me, as though knowing I could see
whole manner was calm, and her expression peaceful. And she -- gently
vanished. I jerked. Had I just dreamt that?
after a moment of inertia, I realised that the room seemed to be
was when I went to my front window.
know now that everyone who'd had someone abducted saw a different
face, a loved one's features. Saw how calm that person was, and
watched them as they smiled.
Tthirh are gone, and that's something. Yet we have lost a whole lot
more. Nearing a million people, for a start.
tides. There are no more tides.
did get one thing back, though. And it still provides the subject for
the world's major debate. That same night, Coloniser 3 re-appeared on
its launch pad, although not in its original state.
massive rent had been torn in its side, as though
by a meteorite. All its fuel was gone, its oxygen tanks were empty.
All its electronics were burnt-out. The interior was charred with
act of vandalism by an alien race? That hardly seems likely.
so, were they trying to tell us something?
are various theories as to what. Myself, I can still remember Mandy's
words when the ship first went up, and that helps form my own
cannot believe they're going
up there again! After everything that's happened? All those people
about submarines, really. Wait. Just listen.
submarine is a vessel that dives into an utterly hostile, cold
environment, where people cannot live or breathe or possibly survive.
And it was the same when we tried to explore space. A spaceship? Just
a flying submarine. A tin can hurled into a freezing
vacuum. And the MarsDome? Simply ... more of the same.
still cannot imagine what other way there is to get beyond our
planet. No one yet can. But there is one thing that I'm prepared to
take a guess at.
Tthirh did not simply spirit away all those human beings by
themselves. The people they'd abducted had a purpose, an involvement.
... did something,
themselves. Somehow reached inside. Found something that was in there
simply ... travelled.
the theory I subscribe to, anyhow.
still take the occasional night-walk in the park, though not drunk
any more. And I miss Mandy like all hellfire when I do that, but I
don't feel quite so bad about her these days.
no Moon up there, the sky looks so much clearer. Full of stars.
just a little brighter than they were before. Seemingly, just a
is an illusion which still continues to mock us.