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Howard Casner
     Whenever I think about what happened, it always takes me back to when I was a child, less than ten years old, and I was doing something I shouldn’t. My mother would warn me to stop or she’d punish me. Of course, I didn’t stop, I was less than ten years old. Then she would warn me again, and again I paid her no mind. This time, though, she would tell me that this was definitely her last warning. And when I again ignored her warnings, this time she would punish me with a swift and brutal sentence: no computer, or television or allowance for a week. And what could I do; I had been warned.
     At that time, I didn’t think it fair, being punished like that. If she had really meant it, she should have punished me the first time. How could I take her seriously if she’s going to let me get away with something for such a long period of time?
    Of course, the punishment the visitors inflicted on us was so far beyond what my mother did, it may seem ridiculous or even completely lacking in empathy or understanding of how we were treated to make such a comparison in the first place.
    Still, fair or not, it is what I think about when I think back to when the visitors came and did what they did.


They came near the end of summer. I can’t say why they chose just then to come, why that particular hour, that particular day or month or year. In thinking back, there did seem to be some method to their madness in choosing August, not long before fall began and the children would soon be back in school. But beyond that, it all seemed somewhat arbitrary.

In the end, though, I suppose the way to look at it is that they were going to come at some point, so why shouldn’t it have been that day?

When they landed, or actually hovered, above the ground, to be more exact, it was at the UN. It all seemed like a cliché, something out of a B sci-fi film from the 1950’s. Still, where else could they have landed that would put them in contact with as many representatives of as many countries in the world as was possible at one time?

There was a lot of panic at first. How could there not be? But after a bit of time, arrangements were made and a representative was allowed to address the UN Council, and by extension, the whole world. And with that, a calmness seemed to come over the earth.



And the clichés kept coming.

Their representative looked fairly human, or actually exactly human, I don’t think anyone could tell the difference if they met him on the street. And he wore a suit like my father wore to work, only better tailored. And he spoke English which was then translated into the various languages of the UN members by those who worked there.

All in all, it came across very much as a when in Rome situation.

His message in some ways was very simple. He had come to save us from ourselves. They had been watching us since time immemorial and now, since we had reached a point where we could destroy the world, their morality obligated them to step in and prevent such an event from happening.

They were also going to give us a chance to do it ourselves. As for how, they didn’t care as long as we ridded the world of all nuclear capabilities.

But it all came with a caveat, a warning. It was vague, yet in some ways, very clear. They warned us it would be extremely unwise not to do it and leave it to them to do it for us, because, he very calmly, too calmly, with an almost disinterested delivery told us, we would not care for their solution.

He gave the world one month to come up with a plan. One month and they would return.

And then they left. Left as dispassionately as they had come.


A month really isn’t a very long time, not when something as strange and wondrous as the visitors coming to earth was. And after a few days, their return almost felt something like a child feels when Christmas is nearing. It was far too far away, yet suddenly they were coming back on the next day. After all, I was only ten hears old when it happened.

But in that one month, the various leaders of various countries did what they do best. They argued. They argued and lied and promised and broke promises and blamed a lack of progress on “them”, and who “them” was depended very much on who the “we” were, blaming “them” for taking advantage and not negotiating in good faith while “we” were models of negotiators.

Until at the end of that one month, no progress had been made.


So the visitors returned and they spoke again. They refused to listen to any excuses; offered no insight or help to get everyone to agree on a plan; showed no more emotion over the situation as when they first appeared.

This time they again gave the earth one month. But this time it was accompanied by a dire warning: this was the planet’s last chance. If in thirty days nothing again was done, the visitors would resolve the issue themselves.

There was one difference this time. This time they left behind a clock, a clock that counted down the seconds, the minutes, the hours, the days. But still the countries and their leaders could make no progress. They even considered using those nuclear weapons they were supposed to be destroying against the aliens. That would teach them for interfering in a situation that didn’t concern them.

As for the clock, resentful of this otherworldly interference, the army tried to dismantle it. And when they weren’t able to do that, they tried to destroy it. And when that failed (whatever it was made of, it was something nothing on earth could demolish), everyone decided to simply ignore it, though they could only pretend to do so because in reality, no one could look away from it, even if they only looked at it from out of the corner of their eyes.

So it continued counting down as taggers tagged it with graffiti and tourists flocked to it to take selfies.


Another month passed and the last second clicked on the clock and the visitors returned. But this time their stay was very short. This time they told the world they had been warned and only had themselves to blame for what would happen next.

And with that pronouncement they left, leaving the timer behind as a reminder.


At first the world just held its collective breath, waiting for something to happen, waiting for whatever the visitors had warned us about to take place. But nothing did and a week passed and everything remained the same. And everyone, all the countries, all the leaders, all their representatives, every citizen of the world, patted themselves on the back, bragging about having stood up to a bunch of interplanetary invaders and won.

No one was going to force them to make peace if they didn’t want to.

And that, they all thought, was that.

But it wasn’t.


At the end of the week something happened that at first didn’t alarm anyone because they didn’t really grasp what was going on. But when they did, it set off a mild panic that quickly became a world-wide fear and then left the world in a shock.

Children had gone missing.

Not all children. Only those who were ten years of age, and even then not all of them. And as more and more reports came in, cities, states, countries found the number to be of equal proportion. It was the same percentage of children no matter the locale.

The children were simply no longer there.

Was this the action of the visitors? Was this what their warning meant?

It certainly got everyone’s attention and now there was a much higher call for peace and disarmament than there had ever been before.

But just as equally were the cries of those who didn’t want to give in to extortionists and kidnappers.

And so nothing was done again.

In a few days, the children reappeared as if they had never left. And again, those who had held firm congratulated themselves for not capitulating to the visitors. They would not be moved.

As for the children, after being questioned and probed and studied, they returned to their normal lives of family and school and friends.

Then another two weeks passed.


Then it happened. There was no real build up, no warning, nothing to prepare us. It just started one day and it wouldn’t stop.

People got sick and then more people got sick and then more people got sick. They began vomiting black bile, ran high fevers that burned inside their heads and rotted their brains, and got sores and scabs all over their bodies.

And then they started dying.

There was nothing to be done. The doctors had never experienced anything remotely like it. People going mad in the streets, filling up hospitals and care centers, and…dying. Dying in numbers they had never seen in all their years of practicing medicine. On the streets, in their homes, at work. Dying by the millions. And it was the same all over the world.

It was too late to isolate anyone who was ill. The virus was communicable long before symptoms showed. And doctors, nurses and hospital workers were no more immune than anyone else and spread it to patients who were ill with something else. Hospitals became death palaces.

It was then when the cleverness of the visitors was revealed. Giving it to children, children who would pass it on to their family members and once returned to school pass it on to their classmates and teachers.

And once started, it couldn’t be stopped. There was nothing to be done except wait it out.

Not everyone dies from a plague. There are always survivors. But in the course of six months, eighty percent of the earth population fell victim to the illness and never recovered. And another five to ten percent died in the anarchy that followed as various governments tried to maintain order.

But in the end, the entire earth population was razed to the ground.


While everyone was caught up in the panic and violence and upheaval that followed, the visitors returned, though almost no one noticed.

With no one to stop them or set off missiles or bombs, they quickly and methodically removed every bit of uranium or other elements that could destroy the world.

They had warned us.

They did what they said they were going to do.

They left as quickly as they had arrived.

And they have not returned since


I am ninety years old now. It has been eighty years since The Visit (the official name that was eventually given the event). I am one of the survivors, thought I don’t know why. But does anyone ever?

The earth is now on its fourth and fifth generation since then. There are very few people left like me who actually lived through it. And, of course, there are fewer every year.

The younger the person is, the less of an emotional connection they have to those events. All they see is a world with plenty and with no war, only peace. They take it for granted. How could they not? They are young and the young always take it for granted.

Every year, when The Visit is remembered, commemorated, observed, most now skip all activities connected with it and just use it as another holiday to go to the movies, or the beach, or have a bar-be-que.

And that is where the world is now.


There is one question I would like answered and that is why? Why interfere? Wasn’t it all the same to them whether we destroyed ourselves? And why in such a horrifying manner?

However, since the visitors have never returned, I have not received an answer to my question. And in the end, aren’t there always some questions no one ever gets an answer to?

And if they do decide to return one day, well, the longer they wait, the less anyone will even think of asking the question.



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