I wrote this story in response to this week’s Tipsy Lit prompt. You can see the original prompt here: http://tipsylit.com/2014/01/20/prompted-age-is-meaningless/
You can vote for your favorite entry in this week’s challenge when the poll is posted tomorrow. We appreciate the time you spend supporting us and voting in our challenge.
“The Glowing Ones”
Jessie walked with Mr. Dalbert. No, he reminded himself. Not Mr. Dalbert. It was Grandpa now. Grandpa Gerald and Grandma Betty.
Jessie’s first summer visit to his new grandparents’ home included a trip to the outdoor market.
Grandma Betty slyly tucked a crumpled bill into Jessie’s hand. Grandpa Gerald had done the same moments earlier when Grandma Betty was out of the kitchen.
Mom and his new stepdad, Brian, sent spending money with him for the trip. Going to the market was sounding like more fun now. His new grandparents were okay for ancient people.
The three of them climbed the hill. Jessie held the leash of the surprisingly spritely black Labrador, Boris. Boris had grey chin hairs and slept all day. Maybe he only came to life when he saw the leash.
Booths with colorful canopies stood end to end along three sides of the plateau at the top of the hill. People greeted his grandparents cheerfully. Jessie heard whispers about himself as he passed. “Heard his dad died a couple of years back. Bad business. Involved in the crime world.” “What did Brian bring into this family?” “The mother’s something to look at. That makes a smart man dumb, you know?”
Vicious. Typical. Nearly all of it was true. His mother was beautiful. Dad was dead. Brian did bring them into his family.
“Gerry,” cried an older woman in her housedress. “How lovely to see you! Is this your grandson? Hi, I’m Margie. I used to teach your stepdad when he was your age. You’re around 10 years old, right?”
Margie’s genuine warmth took some of the sting away from the bitter comments the others flung around without thought to Jessie’s feelings.
Jessie nodded, then was spared further questions as Margie moved in to hug Betty and ask about her germanium patch.
Wood airplanes hung from the ceiling of the purple canopy. A few boys and one little sister stood in front of the booth, fondling a large airship. Two lucky children in town owned one of the coveted airships. One was Bradley, the only son of the wealthiest family in town. The other was Tommy, a boy who was only now coming home from his hospital stay for chemotherapy treatments. The airship had appeared on his doorstep the day he came home.
Boris tugged hard at Jessie’s arm so that he could pursue a yipping poodle across the way. Jessie ordered Boris to sit. Boris complied, groaned, and tossed dirty looks at Jessie and the poodle.
Grandpa Gerald slinked away from talk of jam recipes to admire the airships with Jessie. “Unparalleled craftsmanship. Would you like one of these, Jessie?”
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” was his non-answer.
Grandpa Gerald gauged that his new grandson wanted the airship as much as he himself would have wanted it when he was Jessie’s age. It was time to put a bug in Betty’s ear.
“A gift.” Mag-Tri offered a basket of candy to the children gathered in front of the airship.
Jessie noticed Mag-Tri for the first time, noticed the slight glow to his skin. Jessie nudged Boris with his foot to prod the big dog into a run-walk that would take them to Grandpa Gerald and Grandma Betty quickly.
“You saw the glow,” Grandma Betty empathized. She took him aside to where they could speak plainly. “They’re called the glowing ones.”
“Are, are, they a- aliens?” He whispered, trying not to glance back.
“No one knows, Jessie,” Grandma Betty assured. “They’re perfectly lovely people. Notice how good it feels to be near them. Most of us go to them when we’re under the weather. Being close to them is enough for most things.”
“How do you know they’re safe?” Jessie asked, prodding for more.
“Safe? They’ve been here longer than anyone else. They’re wonderful. No one in the towns around their valley goes hungry. If you have hard times, they will drop food on your porch. If your home is damaged and you can’t afford to fix it, they will do it for you. In the fall one or two of us will become like them. I’ve wished since I was a child that it would be me.”
“You mean like pod people?” Jessie was horrified.
“I wish I knew. If it happens to you, you’ll begin to glow. Then you’ll go down to Circle Valley and there you’ll stay. Their numbers only increase. We don’t believe they die.” Grandma Betty’s cheeks took on a rosy glow while she wished in her mind that it would happen for her.
“You make it sound so normal!” Jessie cried, outraged.
“It’s anything but normal.” Grandpa Gerald joined them. He put a soothing hand on Jessie’s shoulder. “But people come from all over the world to live near them in hopes that they can become one of them. The rest of us are satisfied with eating what they grow and buying what they make.”
“But-” Jessie’s rebuttal ended when Grandpa Gerald handed him the airship.
“I’d like you to meet Mag-Tri. He made your airship by hand.” Grandpa Gerald made the introductions.
Jessie unwillingly held his hand out to Mag-Tri. He wanted nothing, nothing to do with him. Or his airship.
Mag-Tri smiled at Jessie. Jessie’s arm relaxed. Jessie raised his hand again, moving forward for the glowing one’s hand. Mag-Tri took it gently. No other argument entered Jessie’s mind, then or since.
“Jessie, could you take Boris out for his night walk?” Grandma Betty asked from her armchair.
Jessie closed the hatch of the airship, tucking some of the carved figurines into his pocket. Opening the hatch to discover a crew and handfuls of accessories was a fabulous surprise. He couldn’t part with all of it to take Boris out.
Boris led him back up the hill, where Jessie looked out over Circle Valley.
Mag-Dela and Mag-Vort walked up the hill behind them, holding hands and humming between them. They were bright enough to rival the moon.