“I forgot sometimes — well, that was exactly the problem, I forgot. I was not as young as I used to be, so I may have wandered a little far into the forest, forgetting to turn around before my old body got too tired.”
We moved to a smaller town in New Mexico on July first. It was a smaller house, with more land to get lost in. By the time Bill and I had finished unpacking, I was ready to take a walk. “I’ll be back soon, Bill. I’m going to explore the neighborhood, okay?” I called, hoping that he would come with me.
“No problem, honey. See you then.” I heard the TV turn on before I stepped out onto the front step into a new life.
The houses were lined along the street next to each other. Each home had a similar structure, but each was unique. I passed a blue house, then a yellow one, then green, then red. But I had only been walking for ten minutes when I came to a dead end. Just past the road was a forest. I thought it might have been nice to journey into the woods on the path, so that’s what I did. I forgot sometimes — well, that was exactly the problem, I forgot. I was not as young as I used to be, so I may have wandered a little far into the forest, forgetting to turn around before my old body got too tired.
Winded, I ended up having to sit down. I chose a large rock next to a tree to rest on. I heard a noise — at first, I thought it was a bird or deer or some other animal, but then it came again.
Curious, I stood up and strolled over to where the sound came from. “Huh?” It wasn’t an animal, for sure. Glinting in the sunlight was a strange kind of sword. I noticed a symbol on the handle. It looked like an anchor inside of a space helmet. I recognized it…
I started to get nervous, because who or whatever had this sword could still be out there.
After a few minutes of waiting on the rock to make sure no one came to claim it, I decided to take the sword and hide it under my clothing until I got home. “Bill?” I yelled.
I entered the living room to find my husband on the couch catching up on the news. “I have something to show you,” I told him.
“What is it?” he asked, not taking his eyes off the screen.
“Bill,” I said, “it’s important.”
He looked up at me, concerned, reached for the remote, and turned off the TV.
“Okay, so I walked into the forest — ”
“You what? We just moved here, Angie, you don’t know what could be in there. Why didn’t you just walk around the neighborhood?”
“Relax, Bill, I’m fine. I followed a path,” I continued. “Anyway, I found something.” I pulled out the sword.
His eyes widened. “What — ” he started.
“Bill, before you say anything, I found it after hearing a crashing noise and waited a few minutes to make sure nothing was out there,” I told him.
“That doesn’t help!” he cried. “You don’t just go picking up weird swords in weird places with weird sounds! What were you thinking?”
“It doesn’t matter! Look closer!” I said. I watched his reaction as he leaned in to see the symbol on the sword’s handle.
Bill’s expression was blank, speechless. He slowly leaned back into the couch, staring straight ahead. “The metal… ”
“I know,” I said.
The month before, we had visited the house for the second time before deciding to buy it. This time in the garage, there was a large metal plate of sorts with the same anchor/helmet symbol on it. I had asked about it, but the realtor dismissed my curiosity, saying, “It’s just old junk that we found right outside. Don’t worry, it’ll be cleaned out by the time you move in, if you like the house, of course.”
“What does it mean?” Bill asked, lying down on the couch.
“I don’t know, but I want to find out.”
Throughout the month, I researched anything I could find that might have been linked to the symbol. Bill helped me every so often, and together we thought we could solve our mystery.
That is, until Izzy showed up. It was early August, and the pale, blue-haired teen knocked on our door rapidly. “I’ll get it,” Bill said. We had just finished breakfast and were cleaning up the dishes.
“Hello,” I heard Bill say. “How can I help you?”
“Hi,” said the girl. “I know this seems strange, but may I come in? It’s kind of urgent.”
“I don’t know, miss. Why don’t you tell me why you’re here first?” Bill said. At that point, I began to get worried. I went to stand in the doorway.
“I don’t expect you to understand, but maybe this will change your mind,” the girl said. She took her jacket off and pointed to the symbol on her T- shirt. Bill and I exchanged a glance.
“Come in,” I said.
“Thank you,” said the girl once we were inside. “I’m Izzy.”
“So, let me get this straight. You’re a space pirate?” I exclaimed.
“Yes,” said Izzy calmly. Her yellow green cat-like eyes were enormous.
“And you want us to pretend to be your grandparents?” Bill said, shocked.
“But why? And where are your parents?” I asked.
“They died. I tried to save them, but my enemies in space killed them. I was too late,” said Izzy, looking down.
“Oh.” Bill and I looked at each other, and I was hoping that we were both thinking the same thing: I knew she was a stranger, but she was an orphan. We had to take her in. Plus, she could help us figure out why that scrap of metal was in the garage and why the sword was in the woods. Bill asked the question before I could.
Izzy looked at him. “I know you’ve seen the symbol. Why else would I show it to you before I came in?”
“But why were the objects with the symbol on them near our house? How did they get there?” Bill asked.
She took a deep breath before beginning. “After my parents escaped, the ones who killed them tried to kidnap me in their spaceship. They were flying back to their headquarters, but the ship hit a comet near Earth. It crashed, but I jumped off before it hit the ground.”
“Wow,” I said. “That’s, um… ”
“A lot,” Bill finished. I shot a glance at him. He continued anyway. “A lot, not just to take in, but a lot for a teenage girl to go through.”
“Oh, it’s okay, I’m actually in my 500s,” Izzy responded quickly.
“What? 500s?” I said.
“Yes, aliens age much slower than human beings,” she explained. “I think in earth years I’m… sixteen?”
“Huh,” Bill said, taking in the information. He seemed a bit skeptical. So was I, but I wanted to find out more.
“Wait, so you escaped, we know that, but you didn’t tell us how the metal and sword got here,” I said, craving answers.
“Right,” said Izzy. “When the ship hit Earth’s atmosphere, it started slowly falling apart. The metal was a piece of the ship that fell off, and the sword was mine. It fell out of the opening in the ship that the fallen metal created. I made a mental note — which is an actual note in my mind, I think that’s different for you humans — about the location the objects fell in. These things are harder to explain, because our brains work differently from yours. Mental notes, locations, and some other minor things.” She must have seen the shock on our faces, because she said, “Don’t worry about it.” Izzy’s face was impassive, untroubled, calm. “Anyway, I figured you two would either believe me because you had seen the objects, or you know too much, disagree with me, and I need to erase your memory.” We were speechless and transfixed listening to her. “So which will it be? Please don’t let that comment about erasing your memories influence your decision.”
There were a few moments of silence before Bill or I gathered the courage to speak. Finally, I spoke up.
“Bill, can I talk to you for a minute?”
“Yeah,” he said, staring at Izzy with a blank look before standing up.
We walked into the kitchen.
“What do you think we should do?” I asked.
“I have no idea. It’s just, it was a lot of stuff — ” he said.
“I know. But we have to make a decision,” I said, then paused. “I think we should do it.”
“You mean, let her stay with us? Be her fake grandparents? Embrace all that crazy stuff we just heard about?”
“Yes. I know it’s crazy, but she’s a child,” I pleaded. “She needs a home.”
“She’s not a child, she’s flipping 500 and who knows how many more years old!”
“Still,” I said. “Isn’t there a part of you that wants to help her? A part that wants someone to take care of, even if it’s not our biological grandchild?”
He sighed. “Of course there is, but we don’t know her.”
“You’re right, we don’t. But we’ve just retired, we don’t have any grandchildren — ”
Bill put his arm around me. “We don’t know how much taking care of she needs. But… ”
“Let’s do it.”
“Yes, of course. She needs help,” he said. “And we can help her.”
We walked back into the living room.
“Izzy,” I started.
“We’ll be your fake grandparents,” Bill announced. “That’s a sentence I never thought I‘d say,” he muttered.
“Oh, that’s great! I was starting to get worried, especially since I can’t actually erase your memories. I just wanted you to say yes — but thank you,” said Izzy.
I smiled. This should be fun.
The next morning, I woke up at 7:45. I got up, trying not to wake Bill, and headed downstairs to find Izzy.
“Good morning,” she said.
“Wha — oh.”
I almost forgot what happened yesterday. But here she was, a girl I had to somehow learn to take care of.
“Bye!” said Izzy as she walked toward the front door.
“Now, wait a minute. Where are you off to this early?”
“School,” she responded. “It’d raise too many questions if the new girl in town didn’t go to school.”
“I didn’t think about that,” I said, sitting down for breakfast as Izzy left.
What did I get myself into? Raising a 500-year-old alien/girl? She seemed pretty normal, I guess, minus the blue hair and space pirate thing. I would just have to wait and see. It could be hard, but it might be easier than I thought. It could be the worst thing I’d ever have to do; or it could be the best thing to happen to me.
I went outside to work on my new garden. Bill and I loved our new house, but gardening was one of my hobbies, so I decided to put in a garden in our backyard. It took a lot of work, but I was doing it a little bit at a time. Just as I started to rake the dirt, I heard a voice.
“Good morning,” said Bill. “I thought I’d find you at here.”
I laughed. “Good morning.”
“Where’s the girl?” he asked. “I thought we should talk about her. I know it’s been hard to be around kids since — ”
“Ray wasn’t a kid, Bill,” I said. “He was 22 and finishing college.”
“I know, I know.”
I took a moment to think about our son before speaking again.
“Izzy will be different,” I said unconvincingly. “We’ll keep her safe.”
“Of course we will, Angie. I just wanted to make sure you’re feeling okay about all this.”
“I am,” I snapped. I took a deep breath. “I’m okay,” I assured him.
Bill walked back inside, and I finished my garden work for the day.
It was 4:00. Izzy wasn’t home, and I realized that she should have been by now. I was pretty sure high school got out at 3:30ish. I started to worry. What if she was taken? What if her space enemies found her? Anything could have happened to her!
She was a girl in high school; sure, anything could have happened, but maybe she was just exploring town or hanging out at the pizza place or something. I could call her and ask her where she is, but she didn’t have a phone. I should have gotten her a phone! I had to know she was okay.
“Bill, I’m going into town!” I called.
“Okay, don’t be too long,” he yelled from the kitchen.
I rushed out the door and walked toward the pizza place first. I saw the two teenagers who help their parents run the place, Mario and Luisa. When you’re a local in the town of Arcaea, you know almost everyone’s name, whether you know the person well or not.
“Have either of you seen a teenage girl in here? Pale? Blue hair?” I asked them.
“Nah, sorry,” said Mario.
I exited the store without replying. Next stop was the arcade. I didn’t love it in there because of the lights and teenagers gaming and the noise, but it was the kind of place an alien might find interesting.
I walked into the building, noticing the Arcaea Arcade sign in neon lights. I saw Izzy standing next to one of the goth kids in the back next to the game Space Invaders. Of course she would like that game.
Watching her, I realized I shouldn’t take her home. No one wanted their “grandma” embarrassing them in front of their new friends. Instead, I went back home. I’d order Izzy a phone later.
On Saturday mornings, I always went grocery shopping.
“Okay, I’ll be back later,” I said to Bill.
“Where are you going?” said a voice from the stairs. I turned around to see Izzy.
“Shopping,” I said slowly. “Do you need anything? Hold on,” I turned back to Bill. “Before I forget, remind me later to look up why my tulips aren’t growing.”
Izzy looks at me peculiarly, tilting her head to the side.
“I don’t need anything,” she said, but stayed put on the stairs.
When I got back home, the first thing I did was check the garden. I knew flowers didn’t grow over an hour, but a small part of me wished the tulips had sprouted while I was gone.
I was astonished to see that my wish came true! The flowers had not only sprouted but were in full bloom.
“Aren’t they pretty?” said Izzy, walking toward me.
“Did you do this?” I asked. She smiled and nodded.
“How — ” I started.
“I’m part alien, part pirate. I can do a lot of thing that’d surprise you,” she answered.
I started to tear up, remembering the times I needed help with my old garden.
“Oh no, don’t cry,” Izzy said worriedly.
“I’m sorry, it’s just,” I tried not to burst. “This was so nice of you, and I can remember the last time someone helped me garden… ” I stopped to calm myself down.
“Who?” Izzy asked curiously.
I decided I should tell her. She deserved to know a little about my past since I knew a little about hers. I looked her in the eye.
“Ray,” I paused. “My son.”
“What happened to him?”
“He died about 20 years ago. Car crash.” I fought back tears. I’d gotten past the event, but it was still hard to talk about.
“Oh.” There was a moment of silence before either of us said or did anything.
“I know what it’s like to lose someone,” Izzy said.
“Right, your parents. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it.” She looked at me with a small, sad smile on her face. “It’s okay.” I smiled back.
“Come on,” I said, and we walked into our house, side by side.
Days passed, then weeks. Izzy helped Bill and I around the house with her various powers. She could pick up objects with her mind and clean anything up without using her hands at all! She still went to school and hung out with her friends, but she had a phone now to text us if she had plans. By October, she felt like a real granddaughter.
It was a Monday, so Izzy was at school. I got a text from her asking me to pick her up after school. Bill offered to drive.
We were on our way to pick her up when I heard a distant, high-pitched scream ahead. Several more cries followed. They sounded like kids.
“What was that?” I said, frightened.
“It might not be anything serious, don’t worry. And if it is, well, we’ll probably find out soon,” Bill replied.
He kept his eyes on the road. The further we drove, the louder the yells became, until they stopped completely.
As we pulled up to the school, I was shocked at what I saw. A huge UFO as tall as the school and as wide as a sixteen wheeler hovered over the parking lot. A couple hundred teenagers crowded the front of the school, some clinging to their friends, some frozen still, afraid, all terrified for their lives. I got out of the car, followed by Bill, and tried to spot Izzy in the crowd, but I didn’t see her.
“Bill? Do you think — ”
“Izzy’s — ” he was cut off by the loud, painful sound of a microphone screeching. Then, a low, robotic voice came out of the spaceship. It was unclear if the voice was human, alien, or robot.
“Where. Is. The. Girl?” it said. “We. Need. The. Girl.”
“No,” I whispered. But Izzy appeared, now standing in front of the ship. Bill looked at me.
“What are we supposed to do?” he said, not really asking, but stating that there was nothing we could do.
“There has to be something,” I said, but the voice in the spaceship spoke before I could say anything else.
“YOU. Our leader. Must have. A sacrifice. You have deceived. Our kind. You. Must. Come.”
“No!” I screamed. “Please, no!”
Many confused, scared students turned their heads. So did Izzy. There was a murmuring among the students.
“Who are you. To speak to us?” said the voice.
“Angie — ” said Bill, a hint of fear in his voice.
“It’s okay,” I told him. I was afraid, but confident. I knew what I had to do.
I walked toward Izzy. Bill followed. “Angie!” he pleaded. I ignored it. I didn’t know where to look when talking, so I just stared up at the spacecraft.
“I’m Angie,” I yelled. “Her grandmother!” I put my hand on Izzy’s shoulder.
“You don’t have to do this,” she tried to say. “They want me, it’s okay, don’t do this!”
Izzy and Bill both looked at me with fear in their eyes and pleading looks on their faces. I turned to look at both of them.
“Listen. Izzy, you have so much life left to live,” I started. A tear ran down her cheek. “It’s okay,” I continued. “I’m not young like you. I can do this, it’s okay. Bill, take care of her.”
“No, Angie, I’ll go, you stay,” Bill said, tearing up. But I knew he wasn’t prepared to do what I was about to do. He wasn’t prepared to let go.
“I love you,” I said. I turned back to the spaceship.
The voice said, “I suppose. Any sacrifice. Will suffice.”
And with that, a long ramp was released from the ship.
“Come. Our master. Will. Kill you. Himself.”
I took one last look around. The trees, the sky, the grass — it was all so beautiful. Sometimes you forgot to notice the little things in life. I smiled at Bill and Izzy.
“Goodbye,” I said, and I walked up the ramp.