OUT OF TOUCH
"Jazon, you're watching it speeded up again." Marie
spoke gently with the non confrontational tones of
the seasoned space traveler. But Jazon saw her
shoulders were tense for there were no secrets after
all these months with just the two of them in the
"It's not too bad now," said Jason. "We're slowing
down all the time. It may still be a bit compressed but
it's a real live signal from Earth. I like live. It was
great to be picked for deep-space but there is
something special about getting to go home. Listen to
this guy. Don't you think he sounds a bit like Mickey
"So we get to listen to a four hundred year old
rodent," said Marie. "Go on record it and play it back
with the Doppler edited out. Please, it's great to get
regular Earth programs again and we've been far
enough away and moving fast enough to have some
real catching up to do."
"OK you win again, take the control," said Jason and
they settled down to watch Marie's choice of Earth
TV played at the correct speed.
"Hundreds to choose from and you pick an old Star
Trek," said Jazon.
For a while they watched the scary monster head
speaking American English with a strange accent and
little attempt at grammar, telling the poor Earth-folks
what they needed to know about the new world order.
"Don't you dare change the channel, I love Star
Trek," said Marie as she went aft to the galley to get
herself something for a TV snack.
When she returned, what she saw caused her to let it
float forgotten from her grasp .In the few minutes she
had been gone, Jazon had turned pale, almost grey.
She reached out with the back of her hand and found
the perspiration strangely cold on his face. His chest
heaved in a struggle to draw breath and he held the
TV control at arms length as if it had suddenly
become something evil.
Jazon struggled to find the words and they were
words Marie would never be able to get out of her
mind. "They're all the same. All the channels are the
It was a once-in-a-lifetime moment of realization.
Nothing that had come before had prepared them.
Everything that came after was chilled in its shadow.
Throughout the long days and weeks that followed,
their fragile enclave flew on lit by ancient starlight
that now had a cold and sinister quality about it. They
didn't use the manual override to set a new course.
What was waiting for them was all the more terrible
for their fall back to Earth was inevitable. They had
nowhere else to go. Nothing to do except wait until
the tug of Earth's gravity would take hold to reel
them in like they were on the hook of some distant
There was little variety in the transmissions but they
recorded them all and played them back over and
over again. Nothing beamed out of Earth except what
the invaders beamed out. The message was simple.
They had dominion over all of the Earth. They were
'The Orrrg.' Apparently it meant something like
'Gods' in their own language and they saw themselves
as superior beings that must be obeyed with a
servitude that reeked of worship.
After way too many days of this, Jazon went off
without a word to the propulsion pod. He was gone a
long time but Marie knew not to interfere.
"I think I know what that is," said Marie pointing to
the makeshift device he brought back.
It was not a time for words. The longest look they
had ever exchanged was all that was needed. With
this, they agreed. It could be little more than a gesture
of defiance but they had sufficient fuel reserves for a
gesture that would run to a good few megatons.
The Earth drew closer. Soon they could see it as a far
off speck with even the modest optical equipment
Then the Orrrg transmissions stopped abruptly and
completely. Nothing came in their place though Jazon
and Marie took turns to listen for something,
anything that might break the empty silence.
"The lights are on but is anyone home?" said Marie
for the lights of Earth's great cities were reaching out
to them as they prepared for a night descent and
watched the heat shield deploy.
The landing was unexpectedly heavy and they were
glad to be well strapped in. They had ploughed into
soft soil just deep enough to prevent them opening
the hatch from inside.
"Don't cry now, after all we've been through," said
Jazon. But he found himself sniffing just a little too
for here they were like rats in a well sealed trap
For Marie and Jazon there was something scary and
unreal about any sound from outside after hanging
for so long in the noiseless void. They shrunk back
into their seats as unseen tools scraped and clanged
on external hatch fastenings.
Then fresh air, good clean natural Earth air rushed in
and it was human hands that helped them out.
"I've to take that," said the leader of the recovery
party. It seemed all so natural that Jazon had handed
over his trigger device before he realized what was
happening. Then the unspoken question in his eyes
brought a smiling reply. "Get used to it. They know
what we're thinking and I'm sorry but you'll have to
wait for any more answers. Orders are orders."
So it was in near silence that they were taken to the
Jazon and Marie gasped it out together for their many
years in the vastness of deep space had given them
something like the closeness of thought of identical
twins. "You're not what we were expecting."
"Ah, of course you wouldn't know. We're the second
wave. Much smarter and much nicer than these
'orrible Orrrgs." The little round smiley creature
bounced up and down gently as he communicated
without any need to move his mouth. He seemed to
be very much entertained by his own clever mastery
of an Earth language that some might have found
He continued, "Please relax. Just sit here for I want to
know everything about your journey."
After barely a couple of minutes, the alien left the
room without even another glance in the direction of
Marie and Jazon.
A party of uniformed humans came to lead them out.
"He'll have read every minute of your journey." said
one. "They're very quick. It's a great pity you came
back carrying a weapon of mass destruction. They're
not bad but the one thing they will not tolerate is any
kind of threat to their person. If you know that, you're
all right but of course you didn't know. We're taking
you to your quarters now. Try to make the best of it."
The smell hit them first.
"It's a Zoo," said Jazon as they were led past cage
after cage of Earth's most exotic animals. Then came
the shock of seeing the human exhibits. Some called
out; others just stared blankly as they were led by.
"Breeding pairs," said Marie quietly.
They stopped at an empty cage that lay at the far end
of the human pairs and beyond which stretched a line
of caged Orrrgs that hissed and spat and rattled their
Locked in and left on their own, Jazon and Marie
were careful not to get too close to the side of their
cage where a large Orrrg pair threatened them noisily
through the bars. They had drinking water but no
food so this was the first thing they asked their
human neighbors on the other side. However, apart
from a few muttered words about not looking
forward to feeding time, little response was
All at once, a new activity outside the cage stirred up
a fresh frenzy in the Orrrgs next door. Human helpers
set out a row of small chairs that were soon filled by
a group of smiley alien children all clutching paper
"Oh no," said Marie. "They're going to throw us
"Perhaps they'll want us to do tricks for it," said
But when the smiley children opened their paper bags
it was to eat their own lunches as they looked
expectantly at Marie and Jason eager to catch every
moment of their reaction to seeing the bars slowly
raised between themselves and the hungry Orrrgs.
Out of Touch was published in
Separate Worlds, June 2012.
First appeared as the Runner-up in
Adult Creative Writing Club
Competition No.106, June 2010.