Edwina
By: Gabriella Balcom

I listened to my four classmates' excited chatter, careful to smile when they did, laugh when they did. But my stomach churned and I felt like crying.

We were in the tenth grade at Rachel High School in Nevada. They saw this as an adventure, and I knew they'd brag about storming Groom Lake—better known as Area 51—to the entire school tomorrow. They probably thought I wanted a thrill like they did, but I didn't. I wasn't anything like them. I hadn't even planned on accompanying them the almost–forty miles from Rachel until two days ago, and it wasn't exactly a choice. I had to come.

We stopped talking when Don turned from the main road onto the small, back one. After driving several miles, he braked hard without any warning and a cloud of dust rose around us.

"Sorry," he muttered before backing the car between short, thick acacia trees. He broke branches with heavy clusters of leaves off a tree and positioned them in front of the car. "Hopefully, no one will notice it. Let's go. We can talk for the next mile or so, but after that we'll have to be super quiet. I did a bunch of research, and no security cameras are out here, but about a mile and a half ahead, there are both cameras and guards."

"Once we get over this hill, the ground's flat with only a few plants here and there," Josie commented. "Won't they see us coming?"

"Not if we're careful," Don replied. "Don't worry. Lana and I planned for everything. The sun's setting now and it'll be dark soon. They've got outdoor lighting but we've got a solution for that." He glanced at Lana. "You brought them, right?"

"Yeah. I could only get three, so some of us will have to share."

We asked what she was talking about, but she only said, "It's a surprise," and Don winked at us.

In less than an hour, we were crouched behind a cluster of large prickly pear cacti and studied the chain–link fence several hundred yards in front of us. The main gate stood about three hundred feet to our left with security cameras positioned here and there in plain sight.

"Anytime now," Lana murmured, glancing at her watch.

A few minutes later, a taxi cab appeared in the distance.

"Watch," she said.

The cab drove up to the gate. Security appeared within seconds, and we could barely hear the cabbie explaining someone had paid him in advance to pick up a fare. The guards turned him away, making sure he drove off before they vanished.

Don, who was skilled with computers and hacking, pulled a small tablet from his fanny pack and worked his magic. He snickered when the closest cameras tilted to the ground. "I jammed them. The other electronics, too. But we still need to watch out, in case something goes wrong or they regain control quicker than I'd expected."

Lana took a small square from her jeans pocket.

"What's that?" I asked.

"The latest in lightweight camoflage," she replied. She unfolded the square, revealing a thin layer of clear material resembling an inexpensive plastic poncho but larger. "My dad's with the DOD, so he has access to all kinds of stuff. Look at this."

She pulled the material over her head, demonstrating how it reflected our surroundings, blending in with them, completely concealing her.

We covered ourselves with the camoflage poncho and crept up to the fence.

"My turn." Jimmy produced tin snips and a paperclip from his own fanny pack and tossed the clip at the fencing. "Just making sure it's not electrified or anything like that." He slowly stretched out his hand, touched the fence, and shook all over.

I thought I'd throw up, but then he laughed and I realized he'd been pretending.

He snipped links on the fence.

Soon we were at the corner of a building, still holding the transparent camo over ourselves.

"Let's go find us some aliens," Don said, sporting a huge grin. "Jimmy and I are recording everything on our phones. The rest of you, take plenty of pictures."

"Selfies, too," Josie added, snickering. "Those jerks who said we were full of hot air are gonna eat their words. We're plastering everything on the web."

Once more, I forced myself to laugh.

***

While slowly wandering the halls, we stumbled upon a locker room. We took off our camouflage there and changed into uniforms we found in the lockers. Seeing Josie aiming her camera this way and that, I also took some photos and selfies.

They started off down the hall, and I followed for a couple minutes before deliberately separating myself so I could work on the real reason I'd come. I swiped an identification card someone had left lying on a desk and continued on my way.

I froze when I saw the door labeled "CONTAINMENT," and chewed the inside of my cheek. My heart pounded in my ears but I tried to ignore it and stay calm.

Using the identification card, I opened the door. I glanced to my right and gasped, my breath catching in my throat. Five figures with oversized heads, spindly bodies, overly–long arms and legs, and green skin were chained to the wall. Shackles encircled their ankles. Their arms were outstretched with shackles around their wrists. It was obvious some of them were injured—or had been tortured—because welts dotted their skin and a dark–blue liquid trickled from their wounds. My eyes lingered on one in particular and filled with tears.

Another figure opened its eyes and mumbled something.

I pried my eyes away from the tortured bodies and saw empty hospital beds on the left side of the room. No facility employees were around. I quickly wedged a chair under the doorknob, so the door couldn't be opened from the outside.

As I hurried toward the prisoners, I found myself panting so hard I could barely breathe. I went straight to the one who was second from the left and threw my arms around him.

"You're alive," I sobbed. "We've been so worried."

"Nuyt devzk, smayk," he responded, then repeated it in English. "Don't cry, precious. Everything will be okay."

"How can it be okay, Daddy? They caught you."

"Yes, but they have no idea who I am or what I can do. Get us loose, okay?"

Keys hung on the wall near the door. I rushed to get them. Trying one after another until I found the correct one, I freed my father first, and then he helped with the rest of our people.

"We need clothing, Max," one of the others told him.

Daddy rummaged in a cupboard and found scrubs and lab coats. Frowning, he stood still with a look of intense concentration. His form rippled, changed, and soon a human male stood there. As he dressed, the others morphed and put on clothes, too.

While many Americans dismiss the idea of aliens existing, much less interacting with humans, kidnapping them, landing on Earth or crashing, I've known the truth most of my life. Aliens didn't just visit Earth. They've lived here for generations. With their advanced technology and the knowledge they'd gleaned from examining human subjects, they'd manipulated their own biology years ago, changed their appearance, and passed for humans themselves. Since then, they'd interacted with humans, worked with them, and even married them.

My family and I have been guarding our potentially dangerous secret ever since my Granny Mona fell for Grandpa Burton, who was her high school's star quarterback back then. She didn't have a clue that he'd come from another planet with his parents, but after they fell in love, he'd revealed everything. He'd proved it by modifying his internal DNA and changing into his original form in front of her. "I didn't care where he was from," she told their children when they were old enough to hear the truth. "I didn't care if he turned green, purple, red, or neon. I just knew I loved him." Their love endured, and their daughter—my mother—Angie married a man whose alien blood was even farther back on his mother's side. That man was my father.

Through the years, each family, including mine, presented a normal outward appearance to the community. They—we—maintained friendships with humans while keeping our closest ties with others like us.

Whenever the aliens who chose to remain on their home planet came to Earth for periodic visits, we met. During the last visit, one topic of discussion was our missing people. Rumors had circulated for a long time about a spaceship crashing in America. Most people thought if there was a crash, the crew must've concealed their ship before dying, but a few individuals had suspected a different outcome—possibly involving the so–called Area 51. They'd been more suspicious since the U.S. Government's admission that the place did exist.

Two days ago, my father and his best friend, who is also half–human, decided to do a bit of poking around. Dad told our family it was important to find out if the rumors about captive aliens were true, and he and his friend were confident they could sneak around without the authorities catching them. Neither of them returned home that night, though.

My mother, terrified and not sure what to do, called Dad's job to report he was sick. His friend's wife did the same. We've talked about a number of disturbing possiblities. Maybe they were dead. Maybe the authorities forced them to reveal the truth. Maybe our families are in danger. Maybe…

I'm the oldest, big sister to my two siblings, and my mother is due to give birth again in less than three weeks. Remembering I'd overheard some classmates discussing their plans to go to Groom Lake, I laid my terror aside and told myself, "I can do this. I can."

I studied my father now, impulsively hugged him and whispered, "I love you, Daddy."

He kissed the top of my head. "And I love you, Pumpkin."

Although I was glad my father and the others were alive, I understood something bad could still happen, and I couldn't bear the thought. That would destroy my family. We had to get out of there. I took a deep breath, moved the chair I'd positioned under the doorknob, peeked out the door, and entered the hallway.

We were nearly at an outer door before we were spotted.

"Have a good evening," a man called out from behind me and my small entourage.

I tensed, turned my head slightly, and saw a uniformed man looking in our direction. Forcing myself to respond, I said, "You, too."

I exited the building, my father and the others behind me.

The End.

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