Not Alone
Joe Green
Marvin Morefield spends his days at school eating lunch in a lonely corner of the cafeteria with a ... Show More
Genres:
Comedy, Sci Fi, Thriller, Young Adult
Tags:
alien, aliens, robot, robots, maker, makerism, SETI

Subdivisions

     It was a typical day at Edgar Allan Poe High School. The lunch bell rang, and Marvin Morefield made his way through the school’s angular and labyrinthine 1970s architecture into the cafeteria, passing the entrance to Poe's planetarium and the hallway mural that read EDGAR ALLAN POE HIGH SCHOOL, HOME OF THE RAVENS.

     After waiting in line, Marvin carried his tray of spaghetti to a table in an out-of-the-way corner of the cafeteria, where Pete Hardcastle, Benny Van Cortlandt, and Naoko Suzuki waited for him. As freshmen, Marvin, Pete, and Benny had found refuge at this table, one far from those occupied by the school's more obnoxiously exclusionary cliques. More recently, it was the first  table at which Naoko had been made to feel at all welcome after she first came to Potomac City as an exchange student from the small Japanese city of Shimotsuma.

     "So what's up?" Pete asked, as Marvin opened his milk carton and began to drink from it.

    "I just got assigned this history paper about Marco Polo."

     Pete shouted across the table, "Marco!"

     "Polo!" Benny yelled back.

      A confused Naoko asked "What are you talking about?"

     "It's another one of those American things," Marvin explained. "There's two kids in a swimming pool, and the first one closes his eyes and keeps yelling 'Marco!', and the second one yells back 'Polo!', and the first one has to find out where the second one's at while keeping his eyes closed."

     "Oh. That actually sounds fun!"

     "You know what I did for that current-events assignment?" asked Pete. "I did a presentation about the NASA Kepler mission... and it didn't go over well with some people."

     Naoko inquired, "I heard Marvin say something about that once, but I don't know what it is."

     "Long story short, they're using a space telescope to search for Earth-like or otherwise potentially habitable, planets in other solar systems," Pete explained. "In particular, they found one called Kepler-186f- it's just slightly larger than Earth, and it's a rocky planet like Earth, as opposed to a gas giant like Jupiter, or... Uranus." Pete paused momentarily to stifle a laugh at his own mention of Uranus, while Benny rolled his eyes. "It's about as close to its star than Mercury is to the Sun... but this star is a red dwarf, so Kepler-186f is in the habitable zone, which means there could be liquid water there- and maybe even life. So anyway, I was talking about all this in my presentation, and when I took questions afterward, Tim Walmsley said 'You do know there's no such thing as aliens, right?' And Mr. Z kinda grumbled at him for that, but then I brought up SETI, and that screensaver thing you can download-"
 
     While Pete spoke, Barton Hargreaves, the star lacrosse player, accompanied by his girlfriend Maddison Tinsley-Brown and his friends Chad Roane and Tony Benedetti, approached the table carrying an air horn.

     As Naoko began to open her mouth, but before she could say anything, Barton triggered the air horn, which emitted an extremely loud blast.

     Benny reacted by letting out a high-voiced shriek, and twitching in such a way that he knocked over his milk.

     The four unwelcome visitors laughed loudly, with Barton saying "I got Spazzy Boy good this time!"

      Pete slowly turned around to face Barton and growled "Why don't you go pick on someone at your own evolutionary level?"

     "What does that even mean?" Barton asked, staring blankly.

     "He's the really angry one, remember?" Maddison said. "He might like, try to pick another fight with you... or worse!"

     The quartet of bullies then slowly walked away from the table, with Chad turning around and shouting "See you later, Spazzy Boy!"

     "Dr. Cohen is gonna get an earful about this the next time I see him," Benny moaned, while cleaning up his spilled milk with a napkin.

     "So what Pete was talking about," Marvin said to Naoko, "is the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. What they've been trying to do all these years is find radio signals that might be broadcasts from another planet. The screensaver is called SETI@home- I have it on my computer, and you can use it to scan the signals they pick up, and see if there's anything unusual.”

     “Wow, this is all really interesting!” Naoko said.

     The bell marking the end of lunch rang, and the four got up and went to their respective classes.
 
***

     At the end of the school day, Marvin led the group down the sidewalk along Colonial Boulevard towards his car, a red-and-black Ford Crown Victoria that had been a Red Top Cab in its former existence. After he and his friends had all gotten in, he drove away from Poe with Pete in the passenger's seat, and Benny and Naoko in the back.

     "You look worried," Naoko said to Benny.

     "That thing those guys did to me at lunch, it made me have a panic attack, and now I'm having anxiety attacks."

     "That sounds bad. I'm so sorry."

     "I am getting help for this stuff, though."

      Marvin drove through Hilldale, the relatively new neighborhood that was home to Naoko's host family, the Lundegaards, and arrived at their house on Delia Place.

     Naoko opened her door and said cheerfully "Bye-bye, I’ll see you all tomorrow! And Benny, I hope you feel better soon."

     She then walked through the front door of the house and saw Mrs. Lundegaard sitting in the living room with her two sons, Randy and Jason.

     "Oh, hi, Naoko!" Mrs. Lundegaard said, in the still-recognizable accent of her native Minnesota. "Did you have a good day at school today?"

     "I had a mostly good day, but at lunch someone did something very cruel to Benny. It's like those things that made me stop riding the bus to school."

     "It's too bad kids can be so mean, but then it's so nice of Marvin to let you ride in his car with his other friends, now isn't it?"

     "Yes, he is very kind."
    
     Naoko then walked up the stairs to her room, and sat down on her bed next to the plush Totoro doll that she'd brought from Shimotsuma. She reached over to the nightstand and picked up a framed photo of her father Eiji and her mother Rumiko, and slowly started crying out of homesickness.
***

     Elsewhere in Hilldale, Benny got out of the Crown Vic and walked up the front walkway to his house. He entered the house and saw his mother Dorothy and a group of her friends sitting in the living room and giggling over glasses of wine.
   
     "Welcome home, Benny," Dorothy said. "You have that look on your face again- did you have an anxiety attack at school today?"

     Benny hesitated for a moment and then said "Yes, yes I did."

     A few of the women began a fresh round of giggling, prompting Benny to angrily shout "It's not funny!"

     "Bennett!" Dorothy cried. "Be polite!"

     "They should be polite, too," Benny mumbled, as he slunk down the hall towards his room.

     In his room, Benny started trying to remember Dr. Cohen's advice about dealing with panic attacks.  He looked up on his shelf and started staring at the trophy he'd won for his third-grade science fair project, the one in which he'd built and demonstrated a homemade magnetometer to measure the effects of solar storms on Earth's magnetic field. He found himself remembering a simpler, happier time in his life, and the anxiety gradually began to lessen.
 
***

     After leaving Hilldale, Marvin dropped Pete off.

     Pete walked up the front steps and entered his house, then saw his mother Maureen reading something on her Kindle.

     Maureen looked taken aback and nearly dropped the Kindle, and then asked "So did anything interesting happen at school today?"

     "I did a current-events presentation in Mr. Z's class," Pete answered. "It got an... interesting response."

     Pete went up to his room and walked to the terrarium that was home to his pet turtle, Gamera. He reached past the autographed Rush poster that hung over Gamera's terrarium and picked up a canister of fish flakes, which he then fed to the turtle.
 
***

     Elsewhere in the same neighborhood, Marvin finally arrived at his own family's house, pulling into the driveway next to his father Roger's Ram 1500 pickup. As he walked through the front yard, the Morefields' calico tabby cat, Hathor, ran towards him purring excitedly. He stooped down to pet her and scratched the top of her head.

     As Marvin entered the house, Roger leaned over from his recliner and asked, "How was school today?"

     Following a momentary awkward pause, Marvin said "It was... okay, I guess."

     "You sounded a little hesitant there. You and your friends didn't get into trouble for anything, did you?"

     "No… we didn't."

     "I keep worrying Pete will get into some kind of trouble again one of these days. It's not that he's a bad kid, he's just too much of a hothead sometimes, you know?"

     "Yeah, I know what you mean." Marvin then went into the kitchen and poured himself a glass of water, with thoughts of Marco Polo and SETI swimming through his head.
Log in to add a comment or review for this chapter Chapter updated on: 6/6/2016 11:43:29 PM
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    9/20/2016 3:37:51 PM
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  • Nyri Bakkalian commented on :
    9/16/2016 1:47:05 AM
    So it feels a little like I'm having to absorb a whole lot of information at once in this opening chapter, but that quibble aside? I like these characters already. Props ... Show More
    • Joe Green Thanks for the critique, and I'm glad your overall opinion is good.
      9/16/2016 4:06:12 AM
  • Andre Clemons commented on :
    9/15/2016 2:14:03 AM
    "EDGAR ALLAN POE HIGH SCHOOL, HOME OF THE RAVENS" I can't help but imagine what a school like that would be like. I mean, with a name like The Ravens, how dark and ... Show More
    • Joe Green Thanks! I'm glad you like what I'm doing here.
      9/15/2016 2:32:36 AM
  • TP Keating commented on :
    7/8/2016 11:29:11 AM
    From the blurb which tells us that the "...stakes are nothing less than the ultimate fate of humanity," through to the ominous feeling in the first chapter, and the way ... Show More
    • Joe Green Thanks, it's nice to see I'm making a good impression on my readers.
      7/23/2016 11:01:39 PM
  • ela leo commented on :
    6/8/2016 2:46:30 AM
    I like these characters.
    • Joe Green Thanks, I really appreciate that!
      6/8/2016 6:19:24 PM