• Charlie Benton

Short Story: When the Quiet Came

I hated looking at my own son. To say it out loud makes me feel like a terrible person, but it's true. He wasn't right. He was too perfect.

When we found out Ally was pregnant, it was the happiest day of our lives. Six years trying and suddenly, out of the blue, it happened. A dozen different fertility doctors proved wrong by a tiny line on a stick.

We were so ecstatic about the news, so engrossed in everything that comes with pregnancy and babies that we didn't really take much notice of what was happening. Crazy how easy it is to get wrapped up in your own bubble.

We saw stuff about it on the news, obviously. Hell, we saw it every time we looked up. That strange, shimmering shape beneath the moon every night. But we weren't looking up much. We heard scientists on the news use words like 'extrasolar' and 'artificial', but we didn't really take it in.

When Aden was born, I promised him the world. I held him in my arms and looked out of the window of our private hospital room, Ally resting quietly behind me, and told him it would be his one day. I said everything a father should say. But even then, his eyes unnerved me. Too blue, too perfect. Too alien.

We called the children born after the arrival the Quiet. They rarely spoke, though they developed at a healthy rate. Abnormally healthy.

The difference between the children conceived even in the days before the arrival and in the days after was stark. Pre-arrival babies were perfectly normal; some were slow, some fast, some fat, some thin. They exhibited all the quirks and flaws of humanity.

The babies conceived after it arrived? They were all perfect. Their skin was always clear, their eyes bright. They were never ill. They never suffered colic or cot death. Infant mortality rates fell dramatically.

Aden was a perfect example of perfection. By four months he was walking. By one he could read. By two he was speaking: six languages, though he rarely did so. It would have been incredible, if it wasn't so terrifying. The same went for every Quiet. They excelled at everything, as though it was programmed into them, to learn everything.

As it goes with humans, the Quiet were shunned. They were separated into classes of their own. Viewed with suspicion. They couldn't be truly human without flaws, so what were they? The link with the strange object in the sky was clear immediately. People stopped having children almost entirely.

When it became obvious that every child being born was Quiet, panic set in. If the Quiet weren't human, how was humanity supposed to continue? Would we, with our flawed skin and flawed morals, simply die out, leaving the Quiet to flourish? Were we Neanderthals, left to the mercy of evolution?

If it was the thing in the sky, some argued, that was causing this, could we not simply destroy it and go back to the way we were?

The Icarus mission took a few years to come to fruition. By that time, the Quiet were starting high school, still segregated from the 'normal' children. Ally and I struggled to live with Aden. We loved him, of course, but it was difficult. That love was never returned. He seemed to just... tolerate us. Worse, he seemed to pity us, with our limited intellects and restricted minds.

Once, we bought him a puppy. He came home to find it sitting at the top of the stairs, wagging its tail. Aden looked it over, described the breed, then disregarded it. We rehomed it the day after.

Another time, I grew so frustrated with living with Aden and his deafening silence and constant condescension that I lashed out. I tried to hit him. He just grabbed my arm and squeezed hard enough to bruise the bone. As he stared into me with those bright eyes of him, Ally begging him to let me go, he seemed to be saying: you are nothing to me. If I crossed him again, he could break me without a thought. I stayed away from him after that.

When the Icarus mission was announced, things changed. The Quiet began to act strangely, cliques of them formed. Aden would leave the house at strange times and disappear.

The plan was simple. The mission would be launched to land on the object, if possible, and make contact. All radio communications from Earth had been ignored. Satellite flybys offered nothing. Perhaps they, whoever they were, were waiting for us to come up and meet them.

The Quiet were not happy. On the day of the launch, those cliques of theirs merged into a vast gathering outside the launch pad. News stations. The White House. The mission was scrubbed. They were just standing there, but everyone knew: they were not our children, not really. They were far stronger than us. Smarter. They did not want us to do it, and we had no choice but to do what they wanted.

When the revolts came, from humans tired of living with sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, who saw them as insects, they were put down. Quickly. The Quiet never killed, but they did what they had to do. The uneasy truce continued.

Eighteen years after it arrived, the Quiet left their homes, going out onto the streets and marching in formation. Ally and I watched as Aden left his room and marched to the front door. Before he left, he turned to us, nodded curtly, then stepped out into the morning air. We never saw him in again.

The Quiet simply vanished. One moment they were stood, emotionless statues in vast formations of millions, and then they were gone. The thing that had been orbiting the moon for almost two decades winked out of existence.

We had lost our children, but for many it was a relief. I know it was for us. To this day, I don't know if Aden was truly my child, or if Ally and I had just been caring for someone - something - else's. I try not to think about it.

The first children born after the Quiet had departed were entirely human. They were ugly and sickly, stupid and kind. No more Quiet children were born.

I wonder, sometimes, where Aden is now. Ally and I never had another child of our own. We were too old by the time Aden left and we were sure it was safe; but we did become foster parents a few times over, for children born after the departure.

Sometimes I think about those terrifying blue, emotionless eyes. I wonder if, one day, I might see them again.

And I hope to god I never do.


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© 2018 by Charlie Benton

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