"... Why do you suppose it keeps sparking like that?"
"I couldn't say, maybe a minor circuitry error. Everything seems fine on the scanners... hmm... these statistics have stayed regular over the past 24 hours."
"We must stop worrying about it then. Agreed?"
"Agreed. There is more to concern ourselves with, and this is simply an experiment."
Ten-year-old Dennis Bradley watched the two odd figures walk hastily to the garden's picket gate from his second-story bedroom window. Both were rather tall with fair scales that appeared to glow faintly, and shining suits decorated by colorful badges. Their heads were snake-like, attached precariously to long necks. One creature's eyes rapidly flashed two shades of green, the other's flashed blue.
He'd counted ten straight minutes of conversation having to do with some "project" on a digital clock resting by his bed. Its purpose remained a mystery, and he wondered if his parents had seen them.
Dennis's brown eyes widened when they suddenly disappeared upon passing to the other side of the fence. He squinted hard to make sure the pair hadn't just gone outside the limits of his sight, finding they were really gone. They're aliens, he decided, I've just seen aliens. But what were they doing in my backyard, of all places?
Dennis settled back under the warm cover of his Superman bed sheets. Allowing sleep to slowly overtake his body, he wondered about saying anything at school the following morning.
After a few minutes, his eyelids fell completely. By then, he'd decided against it.
. . .
Of the two sets of swings the school's playground had, he favored the older, rustier one. Its creaks and groans were somehow relaxing, and the swings themselves were higher off the ground. A hot summer's breeze hit his back, which reminded him that he had less than a week of what a child might call "prison" left.
Dennis had no plans for the vacation. He wished often to have at least one friend but, in this case, he never could achieve such, due to shyness. Catching a glimpse of a group of boys playing soccer only deepened a preexisting emptiness in his heart. At least his parents had faith in his ability to find friendship, something he lacked.
“Maybe I’ll figure out what I’ve been doing wrong,” he mumbled, kicking a pebble.
The sun gleamed off a nearby puddle a late rain had created before two girls playing tag ran through it. Water droplets splashed into his eyes, and he groaned in pain before rubbing them.
When Dennis looked back up he spotted the aliens standing tall by the furthest swing. His breath caught in his throat as they looked directly at him.
“It’s still sparking. I’m reading similar statistics, but there’s been an increase in neural activity. Is that what’s causing it?”
“Who knows?” The green-eyed figure raised an eye ridge.
“How odd. A beneficial malfunction.”
“Do we need to add a new situation to the code? A new conflict?”
The other creature shook its head. “No. Let’s leave it be for a while, let’s not interfere. I’m intrigued by the results we’re getting here. More time will be dedicated to these efforts.”
They walked off, disappearing once again: this time stepping up on a concrete slab by the outside wall to the gymnasium. Dennis jumped when the bell rang loudly to signal the start of Language Arts, remembering only then to breathe.
. . .
Every student was staring at him when he entered the squeaky bus doors to go home. Their eyes remained unblinking, and their heads turned attentively with every movement he made.
Sitting in the last seat didn’t stop them from glaring. Calling them out on it didn’t stop them. Getting the bus driver’s attention didn’t stop them. He began panicking and waving a hand in front of the closest kid, pinching them, but nothing fazed the 4th grader.
“I see you changed your mind about us interfering in the project,” they whispered after a moment, turning to look at a high schooler. “What are you planning?”
“I overheard speech in here while I passed the door,” was the quiet reply.
“Speech? Real speech?! We didn’t program that. It’s not possible.”
Dennis held his head, beginning to hear an irritating ringing in his ears, trying to wrap his mind around it. The aliens were speaking through people? How? What was happening?
“I realize that, but it’s true. Somehow it talked.”
“It’s grown too advanced for its own good. Turn it off.” The words were filled with a building fear.
“That’s what I’m trying to… what…?”
“What are you doing to everybody?” he screeched, “why are they staring at me?”
“‘Everybody?' We had a simple three-person family scenario running.”
“Turn it off or something, undo what you did!”
The sky around started to flicker between day and night, unable to decide on either. Dennis found that he was now alone in the bus, yet he could still hear the aliens bickering. It grew hard to keep awake.
His ears rang louder. He imagined his head was about ready to explode. Colors swirled where they hadn’t before, and once or twice color was missing altogether. The bricks making up the little K-12 school broke apart, crumbling and clattering to the ground, but the ringing was so deafening that the noise wasn’t audible.
“Shut it down, damn it! All our work is being destroyed!”
“I can’t,” came a strained reply, “the code is taking over the controls.”
“These assets and programs… we didn’t log them in. ‘School’? What’s a ‘school?'”
Dennis saw them again. They flickered into the bus seat opposite him, the one that was always empty, and looked about wildly. The compression of the leather underneath them showed they weren't just an image in his mind.
"What is this place?!"
One of them started to say something but cried out in agony before it was able to finish. The slip-up responsible: Dennis had met its gaze.
Slowly it shrank to a smaller size; the flashes of light emanating from its blue eyes ceased, and the features of its face grew sharper in some places and softer in others; curly orange hair sprouted in certain spots on its head, spreading over the entirety within a few blinks. A little boy sat groggily in place of the alien.
The other turned to gawk at its comrade, starting to shake.
“No…” moaned the second. “Don’t do this. Let us go, please.”
He paid no mind, not understanding its plea in the first place. Dennis winced when it screamed, too.
. . .
Andy smiled upon seeing all his new classmates at school the next year: all were friends and acquaintances he’d made over the summer. They laughed and talked amongst themselves while a new teacher tried desperately to settle them down. He found a seat between Dennis and Joseph, his best friends, and immediately caught their attention.
“Hey, Dennis, ready to start another round of this mess?”
“Oh,” he sighed, “you know I am. Andy, how about you?”
Andy shivered suddenly as an intense, inexpiable fear filled his stomach. He looked down at his desk, whispering something to himself. His eyes darted rapidly back and forth; his fingers danced across the smooth surface.
“Andy, you alright?”
An odd sort of pull compelled him to reluctantly stare in his friend’s direction. For a bit he stopped moving, entranced by something in Dennis’s worried expression.
Then he smiled politely, looking as if he’d just shaken water off his curls.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Just thinking of a bad dream I had, that’s all.”
“Was I in it?” Dennis asked.
“No,” he lied, voice weak, “that must’ve been what made it so bad.”
Written by SoDaft Potato