Harold Grover Wells dropped into the water tower’s cistern next to the Man in Black named Will, the off-worlder tapping its spindly fingers delicately along his hand and arm, its ghostly white face like a four-eyed weather balloon with the point of a funnel at the bottom. A wormy tongue slipped out of the funnel and curled through the air, then slipped back in.
“What’s it doing?” asked Harold.
“I think he’s learning me something, but I couldn’t tell you what,” said Will. “The longer he does it, the meaningfuler it seems to be.”
The off-worlder released Will and withdrew to its sled on the other side. It removed a block of some kind from the end that curved upward, and manipulated it. A globe of the earth appeared between them, green and brown land on blue oceans. Harold gasped.
Will reached up to it, and when his fingers passed through, he withdrew. “Wow,” he said.
Harold’s breathing grew labored, so he took a deep breath and let it out slowly. The off-worlder returned to touching Will’s arm.
Will jerked his arm away. “Gol’durn. He’s… he’s… he’s reaching my thoughts.”
The off-worlder didn’t pursue, but stayed put, gently waving its fingers.
“Are you sure?” asked Harold. “You want me to try?”
“Not, yet.” Will scowled. “I’m not going to go yeller.” He tentatively reached his hand back.
Will relaxed. “Safe. That’s what I’m getting from him. I know what he’s telling me! He says he’ll only send messages into the meat—the brain! He’ll only send messages into the brain, but he won’t control it.”
Harold smiled. “You’re getting that from it?”
“Yeah. That and more. He’s very afraid.”
“Go reckon,” said Harold.
“Not of us—I mean not of men, though maybe some. There’s something else. Something bad. Something dark.”
With its free hand it manipulated the globe, and came upon North America, the shape slightly off and more intricate than any Harold had seen.
“They’ve been eyeballing us for a long time. We have something no other species has, and they long to know it, but they’re afraid of our turbulent nature.”
The creature swished its fingers, and a large portion of the eastern United States changed to blue, a red dot in the middle of it.
“That’s where we are,” said Will.
The globe shrunk rapidly until it was almost invisible and the sun came into view, shrinking almost as rapidly. They kept shrinking until the stars jammed all together into spiraled arms.
“I think that’s our galaxy,” said Harold.
“Is that what we call it,” said Will. “He comes from this arm of the spiral.” Will spoke, but the creature pointed to the spiral just in front of earth’s. “We’re at the far reaches of their range. But he believes some other off-worlders came from this spiral.” The off-worlder pointed to the spiral behind earth’s.
Everything grew again, disappearing from the image until the sun and then the earth came into view, the earth finally taking up the entire space, the red dot and purple regions still colored in.
“These others have knocked them out of the sky in seven places in this purple region.”
“Why?” asked Harold.
“He doesn’t know.”
“How did they do it?” asked Harold.
“He doesn’t know.”
“What’s their purpose here?”
“He doesn’t know,” said Will.
“What does he know?”
“What do you think he knows? He knows he wants to go home.”
“Yeah, I reckon he would,” said Harold.