Short Story by Ava Reiss

I received positive feedback for the short stories I posted at the end of last year. As a show of appreciation, I’m sharing another :). This one was in my original short story anthology, Ava’s Shorts, and is sci-fi. I hope you enjoy!

            An unassuming black sedan with armored doors and bulletproof one-way glass arrived at its destination, an old and worn down barn. The barn stood larger than average and the boarded up windows suggested it was abandoned. Faded blue paint chipped, indicating decades of neglect. As the car rolled to a stop, a man stepped out and adjusted the lapels of his suit jacket. His dark skin glistened in the desert sun as his eyes scanned the distance. They were hundreds of miles from the nearest sign of civilization.

The heavy front door of the barn opened creaked open. Steel reinforced bars lined in the inside. “Agent Clagney, thank you for arriving on such short notice,” a stout man approached him with heavy steps. He stopped to straighten his lab coat before shaking hands with the man. “I am Dr. Jiminez.” 

            A strong hand extended from a standard gray suit, “Call me Michael,” the tall man responded in a commanding voice. His request for the doctor to call him “Michael” was not out of cordiality. He preferred to be unassuming. It often helped to drop his title as “Agent.”

            “Of course,” the man in lab coat nodded with a nervous twitch. He pushed his sliding glasses up his nose. “Come with me. The sooner we can figure out what’s going on, the easier everyone can be.” There was a slight tremble to his voice.

Michael began to smirk at the doctor’s uneasiness, but stopped. Instead he remained stoic as he followed inside. Contrary to what the outside of the building would suggest, a gray box of a lobby with minimalist décor greeted them. Electronic eyes covered every square inch, with the closed circuit feed linked to a hidden location. As the men approached the elevator at the far end, the door opened automatically like a convenience store entrance. One inside, the man in the lab coat pressed his thumb against a rectangle on the wall. As he removed his thumb, a green light blinked accepting his print.

“Doctor Jiminez and Agent Clagney to level thirty,” Dr. Jiminez spoke.

“Accepted. Please stand clear of the doors,” an automated voice announced.

The stainless steel doors closed and the elevator began to move. Michael felt the usual sensation in his stomach as the car lowered thirty levels. When the doors opened again, he was met with a dimly lit corridor. Lights in drop ceilings illuminated their path as they marched towards an unknown destination. They did not see anyone else along the way. Michael had been to this facility once before. Everyone was tucked away behind their own titanium door that lined the halls. Each was on separate project, all marked top-secret.

The last time Michael visited level thirty he was escorted to a titanium door far from the elevators. As he made his way through the narrow halls, he sensed they radiated from a central location. He even passed a gate and caught a glimpse of an especially heavy titanium door. It appeared to be the only door leading to a central room.

Michael’s job was to ask questions, but only to his mark. He saw no need to question the doctor. He didn’t need to know where he was going and the man in the lab coat was sworn in under securities so heavy he couldn’t breath differently without permission.

Dr. Jiminez made a turn and stopped at the gate. Michael lifted an intrigued eyebrow but remained silent. He watched as the doctor pulled out a keycard and swiped a panel. The gate unlocked for him and Doctor Jiminez waved for Michael to follow. The two entered and approached the heaviest of all titanium doors on level thirty. Behind them, the gate swung closed and locked with a click that sounded too similar to a gun cocking. Michael fought to calm the hairs that rose automatically on back of his neck. He worked with some of the most dangerous people in the world and rarely do things go as planned. More often than he liked to admit, Michael found himself at gunpoint, hearing the familiar click.

Doctor Jiminez pressed his thumb on a panel next to the door. It glided open to reveal a retina scan machine. He went first. Then Michael scanned his iris. He waited patiently as the computer confirmed his identity. A green light flashed in his eye. There was a buzz followed by the sound of the heavy door sliding open.

Michael stepped back from the panel and followed the doctor through the door. They entered a small passaged with a grid that confirmed bio-signatures. The door closed behind them and sealed shut with a hiss.

“What would happen if the bio-signature scanners were to malfunction?” Michael could not help but ask.

“They wouldn’t,” Doctor Jiminez answered with borderline pomposity. “But if they determine you are not who your iris scan show you are, the lasers in the grid will paralyze you.” 

Michael was seldom impressed, but at that moment he felt a hint of excitement. He and his escort exited the passage into a large room filled with three-dimensional screens. They stepped down from a landing that circled the dome shaped room and onto the floor. At a glance, about a dozen other men in lab coats were busy running tests and twice as many security personnel patrolled the walkways surrounding the room. 

“Here is his file,” Dr. Jiminez handed Michael a tablet. Agent Clagney scanned his thumb and the device unlocked. He began to review his target. 

Michael had worn many hats when it came to national security. In recent years his job was to pull information from uncooperative subjects. There was a formula to breaking people. Secrets were kept to protect someone or something. In his experience, the most common culprit was money or blood. Michael only needed to figure out what the subject wanted to protect, no matter how messy it got for them or him.

After reading quickly through the information, he raised an eyebrow. “Are you serious?” Michael lifted his head to the doctor.

Dr. Jiminez shrugged, “Three weeks ago if you told me it was him, I would have thought that you were crazy. After the ‘astronomical anomaly’ last week, I am open to anything.” The doctor let out a long shaky sigh. “It’s terrible, my sister’s kid almost lost an arm. Luckily they were able to get her to a hospital on time.”

Michael was uncomfortable with Dr. Jiminez’s newfound openness. He ignored the words and instead stared at the information on the tablet, trying to find a pattern. After another moment he shook his head. “This kid is a community college student who flips burgers for a living. He has no living relatives and spends most of him time alone with minimal social media action. In fact, since 2013 he hasn’t had any online activities. What person in their late twenties stays off the internet for two years? Are you sure you’ve got the right person?”

“Hey, that’s your job!” the doctor lifted his hands in the air. He turned to point at the far end of the room. A smaller titanium door waited with a guard positioned beside it. “You’re the interrogator,” he added, “Figure out how he’s involved.”

Michael sighed and steeled his gaze, “Let’s see what he has to say.”


            A one-way mirror separated Michael from a young man wearing a standard issue jumpsuit. They had shaved his head but allowed him to keep his goatee. A few colorful beads were braided in, creating a haphazard pattern. Michael glanced down at the photo on the tablet. A crooked and crazed smile was plastered on the kid’s face. His dreadlocks poked high on his head as if he never bothered with hygiene. 

Dr. Jiminez spoke to Michael, “I’ll be monitoring the interview from the other room. If you need anything, just signal.”

Michael took a breath and waved the doctor away, handing him the tablet. He approached the door and with a firm hand, twisted it open. He stepped into the room like he had stepped into thousands of other rooms. The familiar sound of a sliding bolt behind him assured him this was just a standard day of work. 

Michael kept his face impassive as he pulled out his chair as far as the chain would allow. He took his time sitting down. There was nothing else in the room except a table and the young man’s chair. Both were chained to the ground. The young man fidgeted, looking around wildly in a terrified manner. His eyes would study Michael’s face for one minute, then dart over his shoulder the next.

“Bert, is it?” Michael asked.

            “Yeah, man,” he coughed, “That’s my name.” A second later those fleeting eyes locked on Michael’s face. “Are you?” he paused. Then leaned forward and whispered, “From the exchange?”

            “What would make you think that I am from the exchange?” Michael asked neutrally. Though he was trained not to make assumptions, the phrase “conspiracy nut” wormed its way into Michael’s mind.

            The young man let out a sigh and leaned back, “Look dude, I just want to go home! Crazy stuff has been happening and I need to know if the folks I care about are okay.” 

Michael studied Bert’s haggard face. It was apparent that he had not been sleeping well. A lot weighed on his mind. Michael considered briefly who Bert’s “folks” were.  Their records were thorough and it showed Bert had no living relatives. 

            “Tell me what’s been bothering you, Bert?” Michael asked. “The friends you work with at the burger joint tell us that you’ve been antsy the past few weeks.”

            “Yeah something’s been bothering me!” Bert was impudent. “Were you not here three weeks ago?” he exclaimed in frustration. He gestured rudely into Michael’s face.

            Michael took a deep breath to keep his patience, “Tell me about what happened three weeks ago.” He remained impassive. 

            “Um, hello! The near total invasion? It’s kind of hard to miss! They wiped out over three million people!”

            “Do you remember why they attacked?” Michael asked. 

            Bert rolled his eyes, “Those friggin’ cretins have always had a problem with us! Don’t you guys call them something here? I dunno, was the word ‘terrorist’ or something?” He shuffled his weight onto on arm and stared off to the left, tapping his foot nervously. 

            Michael recognized that Bert did not taking him seriously. The kid felt entitled to some sort of protection and was just waiting for Michael to leave. That was not going to happen and Michael was done wasting time. He needed to accentuate to Bert the severity of his situation. This honky will fix his attitude, if not by his own free will, then by fear. The large man took his sweet time reaching across the table and grabbed the shrinking Bert by the collar. 

            “I don’t have patience for your crazy talk,” Michael growled, leaning into the boy’s face. “You will tell me what happened or you won’t be talking at all.”

“Okay, dude! Just chill!” Bert whelped and lifted his arms in defense.

“What is you name?” Michael demanded shouting into the boyish face.

“It’s Bert!”

“Where do you live?”

“On planet Earth!” Bert quaked, “Oh gawd, please don’t kill me!”

Michael saw in Bert’s eyes surrender to cooperation. The boy was quick to break. Michael held on for a moment longer to stress his point that he did not take nonsense. He then shoved Bert back into his seat and sank with calculated motion back into his own chair.

“Now, Bert,” Michael continued in a calm voice, “Tell me what happened last week.”

“I got angry and I attacked them,” Bert said meekly. A flimsy hand scratched at the back of his head. He didn’t say anything more. Michael folded his arms on the table and heard the kid gulp. He engaged Bert with his most poisonous look.

“You are in a lot of trouble here,” he began. “Those alien ships that appeared three weeks ago were hovering peacefully in our orbit, unknown to the civilian population of the world. Before we could sort out their presence, some idiot attacks their mother ship and a war begins.” Michael leaned over the cowering boy, “By some miracle, that idiot manages to destroy the mother ship and then fall back Earth, alive.”

            Bert was meek, “Sir, if you are asking if I am that idiot, I’m not denying it. I said that I was angry when it happened. Right now I just want to know if you can get me home. I’m sure my actions are inconsequential.” 

            Michael felt his anger flash, something that rarely happened, “I would hardly call the loss of millions of lives inconsequential.” He struggled to keep his cool.

“You’re not from the exchange then?” Bert asked with tears brimming in his voice.

            “What do you think?” Michael snipped. In the back of his mind, he wondered about the exchange. Did it have something to do with the events three weeks ago? “I’m here because you will tell me what technology you used to attack the aliens. You will also tell me how you obtained this technology.”

            Bert lifted a trembling finger, “One question at a time please,” he said. He shuddered when Michael glared back. After pausing to regain composure, he continued. “What do I think? I think I’m screwed. I figured that after all the crazy stuff the exchange would send for me and take me home. I haven’t heard from them in over a year and now I’m worried the aliens took them away to leave Earth vulnerable. You know, to cut off communication or whatnot.”

            Michael narrowed his eyes, “What are you talking about?”

            The boy scratched nervously. “I am also surprised that you don’t know about the exchange program.”

            Michael leaned back in his seat and studied Bert for a moment. He contemplated whether he was genuinely delusional. Regardless, facts don’t lie. This young man was found amongst the ocean debris. They had tracked his unknown craft falling from orbit. The men in lab coats were given custody of him and his technology.

The broken ship was reported to be of an unknown ceramic. The circuits, which would have been silicon-based on Earth, were made from undetectable materials and solid gold. None of the countries were known to work with that kind of technology.  

“To answer your other questions, I’ve learned the history of your planet and I knew where many crafts were hidden. They taught us all the antediluvian stuff at orientation,” Bert added.

Michael blinked slowly. He tried to process the words that left Bert’s mouth. Orientation? Did this runt think he was at school?

Bert continued, “I wasn’t really sure how to fly it, but I guess I managed and I got the weapons to work too. I got lucky, I guess.” His eyes wandered off to the side. “Normally if I need to go somewhere, I just contact the exchange. They send for people to take me away.”

“Don’t you mean ‘our’ planet?” Michael spoke after a lengthy silence. He was having a hard time finding an approach to his line of questioning. If the boy was delusional, he needed to be careful or the subject might lapse into a psychotic break. The alternative was that Bert was telling a version of the truth convoluted by misunderstandings. Michael would have to decipher Bert’s interpretation of information.

Bert shook his head, “Look man, I’m scared. I’m trying to see things from your point of view, because that’s why I’m here in the first place, you know–to learn about Earth’s humans. But I can’t help but think that you’ll think I’m crazy.”

Michael scoffed, “Tell me the truth.” He put on his most amiable expression. Bert’s cringe told him that it was not successful. Michael had never been a friendly man. Despite trying, he often failed. He had been around too many hardened criminals.

Quickly discarding the “good cop” attempt, Michael got straight to the point, “You’re facing a precedent crime, one that has yet to be named. Your preemptive attack on the alien fleet in Earth’s orbit elicited a counter measure on their part. The death of millions around the globe is blood on your hands. Your one redeeming act would be to tell me where you obtained your technology, how we can replicate it, and use it if and when the alien’s reinforcements return.”

Bert shook his head sadly, “The aliens you refer to are a race called the Shubans. I don’t expect you to understand. Earth is on the outskirts of our civilization and out of touch. This planet has been forgotten for countless millennia and is unique to the galaxy.” Bert fidgeted his hands but was appearing calmer. “In my studies I came across these islands that I could use as an analogy.” He paused and stared at the ceiling. “What was the name of them again? Some dude named Darwin found them. The species on them had all evolved separately.”

“The Galapagos?”

“Yes, that’s it!” Bert waved a finger. “Anyway, Earth is a rarity. A lot of stuff here, like the cultures that emerged independently are awesome! It’s sad though because this settlement is dying. The planet’s ecosystem can’t keep up with humans’ needs of productivity. Especially not with the rate the population has grown here.”

Michael thought back to his reports. The men lab coats had done a thorough physical exam on Bert. By all intents and purposes, the boy was human. So what was he saying?

“You think you’re a Shuban?” Michael asked.

Bert let out a raucous laugh. When he saw that Michael was not joking, the laughter died. He cleared his throat. “No, man. I’m definitely human. Though the Shubans and the humans evolved away from a common ancestor over what would be 60 trillion Earth years ago, we are both ancient races existing far before the formation of this tiny planet.”

“Then what are you saying.”

Bert let out a whistle and tilted his chair back, “Oh man. I can’t imagine what it would be like for someone like you to hear this for the first time. I mean, I’m someone who grew up knowing about all humans, but you guys out here on Earth, you all have no idea!” Bert leaned forward on his elbows. His face took on a serious expression as if he were about to share a friendly piece of advice. 

“Dude, what if I told you that Earth is not the only planet with humans? There are thousands of settlements with our species spread out across the stars. Our home planet is a place about twenty five thousand light years away called Ollipsa.” His eyes grew misty. “It’s beautiful and about ten times the size of this little settlement, Earth. Ollipsa has eight moons, each rich with our life and culture.” Bert paused for a moment to reminisce. Michael sat silently, waiting for Bert to continue. As difficult as it was, he kept his reservations to himself.

“It’s natural and within our human nature to explore and learn from the universe. That is why we have colonized countless other planets. Most of them were prolonged successes, Earth being one of them. However as our population grew, so did the Shubans’. Territorial disputes have been growing increasingly violent.”

Bert frowned as his voice took on an unfamiliar accent. His saddened posture indicated that he was losing hope. Whatever he was hiding, he was beginning to not care anymore. “About an Earth month ago, my private transmissions to my family were going unanswered. They live nearby on Prisma, that’s a planetoid orbiting Alpha Centauri. Well, you guys call it that. We call Alpha Centauri Fish-Eye, because from Ollipsa it’s in the Fish constellation as the eye. 

Anyway, my transmissions were not receiving a response. I got really worried, man! Four years ago, when I came here to Earth I heard that the Shubans were drawing near. I was all chill about it, thinking that everything would work out.” Bert leaned towards Michael and spoke in a low voice fraught with fear, “You want to know what I think? The Shubans must’ve destroyed our settlements on Prisma! There have been reports that they were committing routine genocide missions to protest the humans colonizing fresh planets!”

Michael scoffed, “That’s an interesting story, but why are you the only one who believes we are from this Ollipsa and in the Shubans? I have access to hidden recesses of the internet. There is not a single mentions of Ollipsa or the Shubans.”

Bert grasped his head in frustration, “Dude!  I’ve been trying to tell you! I’m here on a student exchange program! Just me, no one else! It’s illegal for me to talk about life outside of Earth with native humans. I study Advanced Human Anthropology in Outlying Settlements. My thesis is on how to inform Earthlings that they are not alone in the galaxy without inciting panic. I’ve spent the last segment of my life learning how to walk and talk like an Earthling! Oh yeah, a segment is like twelve years here.

Anyway, the point is in a few segments, Ollipsa was planning to send officials here to tell you guys that you’ve gotta move! This planet is dying!” Bert shook his head, “In fact, the Shubans kind of did you guys a favor. With all the people who were killed, it’s bought you Earthlings at least another ten years. I’m telling you all this now at the risk of spending of the rest of my life in jail because there is no one left of Earth for me to go to for help!”

Bert was exhausted. He dropped his head onto the table and covered it with his hands. A long dejected groan escaped as he mumbled to himself incoherently.

Michael sat keenly across from the young man. His training taught him to consider all possibilities while remaining objective. The look in Bert’s eyes told Michael that the boy was telling the truth. Yet the words were so absurd that Michael didn’t know how to believe. Perhaps Bert suffered from PTSD or a hallucination. No, the better story here was that Bert worked for an enemy country as a test pilot on new technology. 

Michael grabbed his chin and frowned. That could not be right either. Most of the countries on their watch list took heavy hits from the aliens during the counter attack. If their enemies were going to use a weapon, wouldn’t they only target the alien ships that hovered over the Western Hemisphere? Another thing that bothered him was Bert’s bizarre accent. Michael could not place it and he had dealt with men and women from all over the planet. He even spoke seven languages himself.

“It’s going to haunt me forever,” Bert grumbled as he lifted his head. “I knew it was the Shubans, but I waited. I didn’t do anything. Meanwhile the mother ship was right here all along. Right here,” Bert cried, “while the other Shubans probably went to Prisma and slaughtered everyone! I should have taken them out sooner!” 

His eyes drooped as he shook his head, “I should have known bad things were going to happen when I lost contact with the exchange advocates. I think the Shubans sent down assassins to take them out. Since I was just a lowly student who wanted to blend in with the Earthlings, they probably thought they could eliminate me out when it became Earth’s turn for a sweep.” Bert dropped his head again, “This is a nightmare.”

A thought occurred to Michael, “Why were you able to destroy the Shuban mother ship?”

“Oh yeah, you don’t know your complete history,” Bert looked up. “Earth was originally intended to be a military research base. They gave up when the ecosystem proved that it could not sustain the necessary demands. That’s why it became a forgotten settlement. Some of the old, really brutal fighter crafts were left behind. The heavy firing equipment causes massive damage to the hull, making atmospheric reentry dangerous. That’s probably why the ship I used fell apart. Anyway, after that big flood mentioned in that bible book, they all became buried.” 

Bert stared Michael in the eye, “My brother is in the military. He used to tell me all about the crafts and weapons.” He dropped his head sadly, “I haven’t heard from him in years. His ship lost communication on its way back to Ollipsa. I think the Shubans got to him.” Tears streamed down Bert’s cheeks.

Michael cleared his throat, “Let’s say I believe you. Why now? Why did the Shubans select Earth at this time if our ecosystem is pending collapse?” 

Bert rolled his eyes, “You Earthlings really are geocentric, aren’t you?” He threw his hands into the air. “The Shubans don’t care about Earth in particular. They are a systematic species. They are sweeping from point A to point B. Earth just happened to fall in between.” He let out a sigh, “Many of us thought the issues would have been resolved by now, but I guess not,” he finished with a shrug.

“Are you saying all this so that you will not be charged with the death of millions?”


“Based on your story, you are a savior for the rest of us Earth humans.”

Bert shook his head, “Whatever man. I was just angry when I attacked the Shubans and acted emotionally. Think, if you were studying some exotic tribe in a rainforest, away from modern civilization and you get word that your country’s enemy just slaughtered a bunch of your citizens, how would you feel? Then you see a bunch of the enemy camped nearby and you have a weapon. What would you do? I admit that I was impulsive, but at least I slowed them down. It was all for the human race.”

Those words resounded with Michael. His job gave him many sleepless nights and constant glances over his shoulder for tails. He didn’t do it for the pittance of a pay, he did it for the people of his country. Michael rubbed his jaw with a hand.

Yet, how much could Bert’s words be trusted? It was all so absurd that he didn’t know how to continue with the questioning. This was a first. Perhaps he could ask the men in lab coats to do a psych evaluation to see where they stand. After considering for some time, Michael decided to give it another crack to see if he could poke holes in Bert’s story.

“Let me get this straight. Earth was settled by humans after the flood in the bible.”

Before the flood in the bible.”

“Whatever. Earth was settled by humans from elsewhere.”

“Yes, Ollipsa.”

“Stop interrupting.”


“So, Earth was settled. Meanwhile, the humans on our home planet are having territory disputes with another race that systematically destroys settlements. Earth was only targeted because it is a settlement. Why not target Ollipsa?”

“Because Ollipsa is unreachable. It has eight moons. Beyond the eight moons are other planets also settled, and beyond them are asteroids hollowed out to create biomes. In these asteroid biomes are the patrols that constantly scan for threats. The outer planets are all required to keep a strong battle fleet. If the Shubans ever make it to Ollipsa, the eight moons have these, what do you call them here? They’re like antennas. I don’t know exactly how it works, but they can activate a protective force field around Ollipsa.”

Michael listened intently. Against better judgment, he was starting to believe this crazy hippy. He just had one more question. “If you came here to blend in, then why are you taking like someone from decades ago?”

“That was my carelessness, man. I didn’t account for the time difference. I began preparing for this trip well over two segments ago when I was still in primary school. I always knew that I wanted to visit a settlement! Back then, I had only selected my embedding location and everyone talked like this. So I learned to talk that way too.”

Michael opened his mouth for more questions, but the sealed doors to the interrogation room opened, cutting him off. Doctor Jiminez escorted three men and one woman into the room. Michael recognized the first man as his chief. The woman and one of the men wore clothing with odd designs. Michael furrowed his brow. The material was smooth and seemed to lack thread count. It also didn’t appear to have seams. He was trained to read people based on their clothing and posture, but these two gave him nothing.

Then the third man stepped into view. He could not be mistaken. It was the Vice President. Michael stood quickly and saluted.

Bert leaped to his feet, “Lorton!” he exclaimed in a voice filled with emotion, “I thought you were dead!” He moved to rush towards the group but the chains on his legs kept him behind the table.

“Please unchain this young hero,” Michael’s chief ordered. Dr. Jiminez moved to comply.

Bert’s eyes were locked on the man in the strange clothes, “Prisma, is it?” he asked desperately.

“It’s safe,” his friend nodded and spoke in a soothing voice. “Our friends and family are fine.”

Bert slumped back into his chair as Doctor Jiminez worked with his stubby fingers to remove the boy’s cuffs. He turned to Michael and smiled as if they were chums. “This is my brother,” Bert announced quivering with relief and pride. “Judging by his clothes, he and his diplomat friend are here from Ollipsa. Things are about to change here on Earth.”


            A year passed since Michael’s interrogation of Bert. He stood in humble silence looking out the windows of his apartment. He had lived on the twenty-eighth floor for over a decade and always enjoyed the clear view of the skies. During the alien attacks the year before, his building was lucky to be spared. Throughout the city, debris remnants were still scattered, some as close as two blocks away.

            A knock came at his door. Michael called for the person to enter. The sound of the turning handle caused unease, but there was no more looking over his shoulder. The duty of protecting the people was no longer his.

            “We’re ready for you, Michael,” announced a kind, familiar voice in broken English.

            Michael let out a sigh. “I can stay. I can help.”

            Footsteps approached his side. “I’m sorry, friend, but you must come with me. Earth is no longer safe. The Shubans are returning and only military personnel from Ollipsa’s home system are allowed to stay.”

            “You’ve forcefully evicted the entire planet! How can you do such a thing?” Michael cried, barely containing his cool.

            Lorton spoke in a low voice, “This cannot be easy for you. We are sentimental creatures and partings are always painful. We have this energy that grows within us and it entwines things into our lives, let it be living or an object. It is called love. You love your home and that is understandable. I apologize on behalf of our home planet for not negotiating peace in time for you to stay. You have suffered the travesty of losing so many of your local brethren. Now I ask you to look at the facts. Earth was originally intended to be a military base. Even as we speak, they are uncovering the abandoned ships and repairing them for use. This planet will become a battleground.”

            “Why do we not have a say in this?”

            “Quite frankly, I am surprised that many of you Earth humans are holding on so tightly,” Lorton continued. “The ecological state of this planet is in shambles. You must understand that an environmental collapse is imminent, brought about in part by the humans’ stressful contribution. Prisma, where we are taking you, has an ecology more suitable for our species’ demands.”

            “Where is our voice? Earth’s humans–we did not choose this.” Michael turned to Lorton.

            “Friend,” Lorton’s eyes were compassionate, “there is very little we get to decide for ourselves in life. The best we can do is to understand the facts presented to us. The facts I have presented to you are irrefutable. Earth is no longer safe. Your home is not just here. It is in many places amongst the stars that welcome you with open arms. Now come,” his tone took on firmness, “it is time to go.”

            Michael let out a shaky breath. For as long as he could remember, he followed the facts using them as anchors of logic as he deduced his subjects. Now Lorton was using the same tactic to rationalize with him. Though he did not feel ready, he knew Lorton was right.

He bent down and reached for his bags. Lorton took one from his hand to be helpful. The two were soon on their way to a spacecraft in a city nearby. As it prepped to launch, Michael glanced at the sky. His eyes could only see a few wispy clouds, but he knew there were Ollipsan fleets made up of millions of fighter crafts defending his planet, Earth. Beyond them was Prisma. There, Bert eagerly waited to show him around.

The End!

If you’ve enjoyed this tale, and would like to read others, please check out my anthology on Amazon: Ava’s Shorts.

“Imaginary Jace”

short story by: Ava Reiss

            It was the first day of the “best years” of Eva’s life; the first day of high school. Her hands trembled, clutching the straps of her book bag. Studying a map of the halls, she found her homeroom. She turned uncertainly and trudged past a group of large boys. Their jackets indicated they played varsity. She wasn’t the athletic type. She didn’t know what lacrosse was.

            Eva wished Jace were with her. She could picture the way his eyes creased when he smiled. The bottom lid bubbled. He was her imaginary friend.

Eva had started to picture him when she was five. She was at a church picnic and fell into a ditch in the nearby woods. Eva knew she shouldn’t have wandered, but she thought she had seen a butterfly. A really pretty one. She couldn’t climb out and shouted for help. She continued hollering at the top of her lungs for quite some time, but no one came. Afraid she was doomed to stay there alone forever, Eva wept.

In the exhaustion, a boy appeared. Eva couldn’t recall exactly how, but he was covered in mud like her. He said his name was Jace. He couldn’t climb out either. He looked worried but managed a smile. It’s when she first noticed the bubbling lower lid.

Jace had told her they should try shouting together. Eva agreed. Before long, adults found them and there was lots of clamoring. Eva was too young to understand what was going on. Drowsy, she fell asleep.

            Afterwards, Eva had asked her dads about Jace. They didn’t know anyone by that name. As Eva grew older, she never saw the boy at church again. She eventually concluded he was an imaginary friend, created in a moment of distress.

            Eva’s thoughts returned to high school as a tall girl pounded through the halls. She ducked out of the way. As Eva rounded the corner, she sighed in relief to see a familiar face. Seda, from her art class last year, waved her over. She was chatting with some people Eva didn’t recognize. She scooted over. “They go to my Hebrew school!” Seda announced with excitement.

            “Pleased to meet you,” Eva smiled sweetly.

Seda’s friends studied her with curious eyes. She patted her big hair nervously. Eva wanted to say more, to make friends, but it was never easy. Her tongue felt heavy, as if the right words took pleasure in escaping. She wished she could be as eloquent in person as she was on paper. Over the years, she had written slews of letters to Jace.

            Seda introduced the girls first, “Anneli, Soroya.” The boys were, “Elijah, Abner.”

            “I’m Eva,” she squeaked.

            “We’re freshmen too” Soroya beamed. “Where’s your homeroom.”

            “Um…” Eva looked past the group towards her door.

            At the same time, a swarm of people headed their way. Some shouted excitedly. Teachers appeared in the halls to scold the level of noise. The teenagers paid no mind. The ruckus was headed straight for Eva when she noticed a boy at the center of it all. She froze as he stepped beside her.

            No way.

            A boy who could be a grown version of Jace cut into their group, with dozens more people crowding from behind. Eva felt like a sardine. She couldn’t move. Helplessly, she watched the boy lean towards her, eyes down. Eva dared not breathe as his cheek hovered inches away. He spoke pessimistically to Elijah, who was crammed beside her, “Transferring here was no use. I think I’m going to homeschool or drop out.”

            “Alright cousin. We tried,” Elijah responded.

            The boy quickly disappeared around the corner. The boisterousness followed.

            “Was that Jesse Danger?” Anneli squealed. She slapped Elijah’s arm, “You said your cousin was a web celeb, but you didn’t say he was THE Jesse Danger!”

            “Yeah, he doesn’t like people knowing,” Elijah appeared uncomfortable.

            Eva gulped. “W-who’s Jesse Danger?”

            Anneli’s jaw dropped. “The free runner that travels across country, shooting vids on or around national monuments? He also sings a cappella love songs! Everybody loves him!”

            Elijah’s next words floored Eva. “He started really young after falling into a ditch. He got really into climbing things after that. Said he didn’t wanna get stuck again.”

            “A-and it was just him in the ditch?”

            “Yah. Why?”

            Eva shrugged.

            “I think Jesse just got another fan,” Seda teased.

            A bell rang, alerting the students they had five minutes to get to homeroom. The group parted ways. Eva drifted down the hall, lost in her mind.

            What if that was Jace? I was young. I could’ve mistaken his name. Jace sounds a little like Jesse.

            Eva found her seat and pulled out her phone. She searched for Jesse’s history. She didn’t find anything relating to his ditch incident. Perhaps only his family knew.

            “I see you’re a Jesse Danger fan,” the girl behind her said. “Me too.” Eva swirled to see a blonde fanning herself. “I never expected him to come to our little town!”


            “He’s from the West Coast! Hasn’t been this far east, ever. Only transferred here ‘cause he’s got family in the area.”

            Eva frowned. Jesse couldn’t be Jace. She was crazy to think so in the first place. She’d never left the East Coast. Dejected, she put her phone away.


            The bell rang for lunch. Eva rubbed her eyes before putting her glasses back on. Her stomach was in knots. Now came the pressure of figuring out where to sit. Gathering her books, she headed to her locker.

Seda and her friends found her. “Come sit with us.”

            Eva felt relieved. “Okay!”

            As the group made their way to the cafeteria, Anneli busied herself scrolling through her phone. “Check this out!” she cried. “Jesse uploaded a new song this morning!” She leaned onto Eva’s shoulder, flashing her the screen. “I’m sure you’ll dig this!”

            “Dig? Who says that anymore?” Abner snickered.

            “Shut up!”

            Eva gently accepted Anneli’s phone. She had trouble hearing over the noise, so she plugged in her headphones. Jesse’s Danger’s smooth voice flowed into her ears and Eva’s steps slowed.

            You chased pink butterflies,

Because they take you to the world of dreams.

Hopes are fleeting so we hold on tight.

My big-haired darling,

I can see it in your eyes. It’s no surprise.

The loneliness we feel, makes life unreal.

The fire of candles you burn,

late at night, as you write,

Are your only friends, until the end.

Together, we gotta fend…

            Eva pulled out her headphones and quickly returned the phone to Anneli. “Excuse me,” she dashed towards the bathroom, rubbing a sore mark on her thumb. She had burned it the night before with wax. Eva liked to set the mood when writing to Jace, and often used candles.

            Locking herself in a stall, she pulled out her phone. Eva performed a search on Jesse Danger lyrics. As she read, she sank to the floor. “Th- these words. Half are from my letters!” she mumbled. An odd sensation crept up her spine. Eva didn’t feel well. “What does this mean?”


            Eva felt like a creep. Yes. She was stalking Jesse Danger, but not because she wanted to. Well, maybe a little bit. But she needed answers!

            It was inconvenient to get him alone. There were things she needed to ask, but she knew she would never have the nerve to do so with others around. It was difficult enough just thinking of speaking to him.

            She joined the journalism club at the first chance. Everyone wanted to interview Jesse Danger. Eva did something she wasn’t proud of. “I’m a good friend of his family. He’ll feel comfortable giving me real answers,” she lied during their first meeting.

            “Yeah, I’ve seen her hanging with that Elijah,” a boy whose name she’d forgotten grumbled.

            “It’s settled then. Eva gets the interview.”

            The rest of the staff groaned.

            It was hard to get Jesse to commit. He didn’t like the idea initially. Eva kept emailing and texting. He eventually agreed to “be nice.”

Eva couldn’t eat for days. She didn’t know which questions to ask first, the ones for the paper, or about her words in his songs. She had never shown her letters to Jace to anyone.

Is Jesse cosmiscally reading my letters somehow?


The door to the empty classroom opened. Eva’s heart skipped a beat. A sandy-haired boy peered in.

“Hi Jesse,” her voice broke and her cheeks burned. Eva cleared her throat, and forced herself to try again. “I’m Eva. I’ll be doing your interview today.”

Jesse shrugged, “’Kay.” He found a seat and folded his hands on the desk, disinterested.

Eva cleaned her glasses before placing them back on her face. She brushed a loose strand of hair away, knowing she couldn’t stall forever. In her backpack sat a few letters she’d written Jace.

“I- I’d like to start by asking about your inspiration for your songs.”

Jesse shrugged, “Oh, you know, they just come to me.”

“Do you talk to people to get your ideas?” Eva didn’t know how to move forward.

“Look,” he exhaled and leaned back. “Do you just want the usual FAQs?”

Eva knew her chance was slipping away. “I-I,” her mouth went dry.

“If it’s okay, I’ll just email you my press pack. You can use it how you want.”

“No,” Eva whispered.

“What?” Jesse leaned forward.

Unsure what to do, Eva panicked. She grabbed her letters out of her backpack. “Jesse, your words are mine!” she clutched them in his face.

Jesse battled a look of disgust. “Oh no, not another super fan,” he breathed. “This interview’s over.” He stood and headed for the door.

“No wait!” Eva pulled out a letter with lines she knew were in his song. But there were more than just those lines. There were private things she’d only shared with Jace. If Jesse somehow had read her letters, he would know them too.

She started to read, not knowing what she had hoped for. Eva kept on, promising to stop when she heard the door slam.

It never came.

Eva reached the end of her letter. As she set it down, footsteps approached. Jesse sat back down. They stared at each other with uncertainty.

Jesse eventually spoke, “Dreams. That’s where I get my ideas from.”


“Yes. Sometimes I hear someone talking to me. I don’t always see her. But…” Jesse looked scared, “I’m pretty sure those were words I once heard.”

“I also fell into a ditch when I was little…” Eva didn’t know what else to say. “I thought a boy named Jace was with me…” Eva bit her lip before she said she thought Jesse could be the boy. It was preposterous.

Jesse’s face contorted. His eyes darted about as if he were thinking hard. He let out a long breath. “You can’t write in the paper what I’m about to say.” He begged, “Please.”

Eva nodded, “Promise.”

“Yeah I fell into a ditch when I was little… but I thought I heard a kid down there. And,” he clutched his head, “I coulda swore I saw her too! But everyone said it was just me!”

“Jesse, my dads swear I was never in a ditch. They say they didn’t even go to church that year.”

His face paled. “A church?”

“… Yes?”

“Not many people know it was by a church. How do you?”

“I dunno…”

Jesse grew excited, “I had friends tell me it was ghost, buried on the church grounds. I even saw a shrink, and she says the girl was an imaginary friend!” He scrunched his face. “I was messed up for a while. No one believed me.”

“Did you see butterflies in the ditch?” Eva grasped for anything that was similar.

Jesse nodded, “An iridescent one.” He raked fingers through his hair. “My uncle Martin said the girl was astral projecting from someplace. He’s into that stuff.”

Eva frowned, “What’s astral projecting?”

“It’s when you sleep and your mind goes someplace else. Sometimes, other people can see you.” Jesse grew concerned. “Just double-checking, you’re still not planning to write any of this, are you?”

“I promised.” Eva couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Jesse, did you fall into the ditch in the early evening?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Well, if you were on the West Coast, and I was on the East Coast. It would’ve been my bedtime.”

He sat up with a start. “What are you saying?”

Eva’s head swam. “I- I dunno.” She pulled off her glasses and rubbed the bridge of her nose. The chances that she really astral projected were astronomical. With a sigh, she replaced them on her face.

Jesse narrowed his eyes. “Wait…” Slowly, he reached towards Eva. She pulled away a bit when he pinched the sides of her glasses. Yet his eyes were kind. Eva patiently allowed him to remove them. The two stared at each other for a long while. Jesse’s face sifted through a half dozen expressions, each harder to read than the last.

Finally, it settled on a grin. Eva had never seen Jesse smile before. Now, his bottom lid bubbled. “You’ve grown, Ella…”

The End

To read more from this anthology, Ava’s Short Short’s can be purchased on Amazon: here