"They did something to us."
The voice was wrong --his could not have made that high-pitched sound. The naked, smooth, pink body could not be his, either--he was an adult, he had adult muscles, he had adult height--
The ground spun, he began to tremble. Two more high-pitched screams pierced his mind, then a curse, a moan, but they weren't his, they came from behind ... he didn't look. All he could do was stare at his shaking hands, now so small and so close to the dirt his bare toes gripped.
A new sound, a shout, made him look up. Like cattle out of control, a gaggle of adults rushed toward him, led by a short woman, ponytail bobbing, trying to keep a vidcam balanced. The wave of men and women in business suits and coats and jeans and slogan-bearing T-shirts and shorts and dresses and pants but almost all shod in the same style of soft-sided shoe rolled down like an avalanche. For a second, he forgot his own predicament and gaped.
"What's your name son--" "Stop shov--" "Get some clothes on these kids, for chrissake--" "Here, son, let's put this on--" A tall man picked up a shirt and held it up so he could slip his arms in. It fell below his knees (But it's my shirt ... ). "Where are the people who disappeared into the ship--" "Did you come off the shi--" "One side--" "Fuck off, CNN asshole--" "ABC shithead--" "Who are you, kid--" "Where's the Holn--" "Was your mother on that ship--" "Where are your parents--"
"Yarrow! Cohen! Baker! Get some people around these kids!" The tall man shouted. "The rest of you clowns back off, goddamnit! You act like you've never seen naked children before."
"Who the hell are you?"
"FBI. Wanna make something of it?"
"Easy, sir, easy. We're just trying to find out what's going on, the same as you, I'm sure," said a tall --(All of them are tall)-- black man in a light tan suit with muted red-striped tie. Next to him, a beefy bearded man in a Metallica T-shirt hefted a vidcam. The lens barrel swiveled to the FBI man.
"Don't get solicitous with me, Kinsea. You media gorillas are causing a lot of problems here. Officer! See if you can get that squad car over here. Clear the way! That means you!"
"Were you on the ship--" "What happened--" "Who are--" "Where are--" "How did--" "When did--"
All he could see were legs, torsos. Once I could look a man in the eye. Once I could look down on a boy-- The ground tilted again; knees met dirt.
The FBI man squatted, big face creased in concern. "Just hold on a second, son, we'll get you out of here." He stood and shouted again. "Clear the way for that car or I'll start punching!"
Stones pressed into his knees. The sun beat hot on his head and the ground still threatened to tilt. His breathing came in ragged gasps, the shouting now just meaningless sound hammering at him. He looked up to see the cyclops eye of Metallica T-shirt staring back.
"All right, son, come on." A strong hand pulled him to his feet. He grabbed for, but missed, a pair of pants on the ground nearby.
"My stuff--" he croaked.
"We'll get them later."
As the hand moved him inexorably toward a big black car, his last sight of his shoes were of them side by side, a pair of brown argyle socks folded neatly across the tops.
The car smelled of vomit. The door slammed shut. He kept his head down, but pushed an impatient hand through unruly hair.
Before he could pursue the thought, the other door opened and a girl was pushed in. When the door shut, she pressed herself back against it, staring at him through wide blue eyes. One hand clutched a yellow wadded-up cloth against her chest; her other hand kept a tight grip on too-big blue jeans covered with dust and weeds where they extended beyond her feet. He'd seen her somewhere before--tall, slim and lithe, walking with an easy grace. Hair, dark as mahogany, flowing over her shoulders and back and down to her knees like a brown waterfall, framing an oval face with pert nose and angular eyebrows, high cheekbones and clear skin. Yellow pullover blouse in loose folds across her front, not completely obscuring a gentle swell of bosom; stonewashed jeans covering long legs; sandals on her feet. Her passing scatters a delightful aroma toward him--now she was small and frightened, hair in tangles across her chest but still long enough for her to sit on. Her face retained many of its striking features, although softer and rounder, like a portrait of a child.
Boy and girl stared at each other until a uniformed policeman got in behind the wheel, slammed the door and started the engine. The faces outside flinched as the electronic siren blared and the car began a slow trek forward.
* * * *
[[ "No one is sure where these children came from. Observers say most were found dazed and confused, and all were naked. The garments you see in neat stacks are adult clothing, although we are told the children claim them as their own. Some became rather upset at having to leave the articles behind, although police attribute that to confusion. Jack Theodoric, an FBI agent at the scene, had some choice words."
"A zoo. And you media types were gorillas. Of course, a couple of agents and soldiers acted like muddleheaded baboons, but given the utter hysteria of the place, I'm surprised we stayed on such an even keel."
"Do you have any idea what happened to the seventeen missing adults?"
"Not a shred. The ship took off, and that was that. We're trying to identify the children, and trying to find their parents. That's all we can do right now."
"The unknown children include this boy, who was discovered by a CNN crew not far from the spot where the Holn ship took off."
"They did something to us."
"If anyone knows who this boy is, please contact the FBI or your local police immediately.
"Marinka Svoboda, CNN, the Holn site, New Mexico."]]