The mic was on and the producer began the countdown, “5…4…” Xoen nodded to indicate he was ready, “2…1…” the producer pointed to him and mouthed “We’re live!”
Xoen took a quick breath, leaned into the mic, and began in his well practiced tone.
“Hey out there all you True Believers! It’s just after dark and we’re live here at the Satellite Tower – ready to bring you the truth, the light, and everything that’s right! But first, a word from our sponsors.”
He flipped the ‘mute’ switch on the mic and leaned back in the well worn chair, a grin on his face. The producer gave a thumbs up from the other side of the glass and motioned to a timer on the wall. The commercial would last about 30 seconds. This was a big night for his little podcast. After nearly two years on the air, a planet wide broadcaster had finally taken notice. If tonight’s show went well, there would be a lucrative contract waiting.
Xoen leaned toward the mic.
“Welcome back True Believers! If you’re a new listener – I’m Xoen – your guide to the inside and you chose a good night to tune in. Tonight we’re talking about the big one–” He paused for effect then dropped his voice low, and rattled “–abductions.”
The producer knocked twice on the glass; an indication that they had callers in the queue.
“For the uninitiated,” He resumed his regular clear, booming tone, “abductions are mental or physical experiences that can only be explained as otherworldly. These events can take place within someone’s mind or the victims disappear to locations unknown for days at a time.”
Xoen looked at the console beneath his fingertips. It was inlaid with a multitude of switches, dials, and numbered lights. Every light was blinking out of sync white flashes, each one indicating a different caller on hold. A digital screen to his right was populated with pertinent details about each of them. It was collected by the producer before the show began so Xoen could quickly choose who to bring on live. So far, tonight’s callers seemed unimpressive. He held his arms up in a show of irritation to the producer, who shrugged in response. With no better options, he selected the first blinking light.
“Hello! This is Xoen, who am I talking to tonight?”
“Hello Xoen! This is Xera, I’m a big fan of the show!” A squeaky, but pleasant, woman responded.
He nodded out of habit, “Thanks for calling Xera. Have you had an alien experience that you want to share with us?”
“Oh, I have Xoen. I have.” she replied, her voice suddenly more solemn.
“Please,” he matched her tone in an effort to relay empathy, “tell us.”
She took a deep breath into the phone, a sound that translated poorly into his headphones. He grimaced but remained silent as Xera began her story.
“I didn’t know I had been taken until I got to work that morning. Then I discovered it was a full day ahead on the calendar when my boss questioned me about missing the prior day’s shift. My co-workers had tried to reach me, but it didn’t appear that I was home. I still have very few memories of that missing day.”
Xoen leaned forward, seizing the opportunity, “Few memories – so there is something you remember?”
Her rasping breath scraped his ear drums once more before she continued. “Yes, just a few vivid images. They began appearing in my dreams after the black out.”
“What do you see?” he asked with intense interest.
“They are always in the same room. It is large and everything is white, with lights high up in the ceiling, and there are many shapes moving over me. They look like us but with much more pronounced features.” Her voice had begun to quiver as she described the beings. “Their bodies are much taller and wider than ours, but they have arms and legs like we do. They were dressed strangely too, in white coats with metal tools hanging around their necks.”
Xoen stifled a yawn, “Wow, that is a terrifying image, Xera. Thank you for calling in.” He switched off the line. “Now we need to take a quick break, but we’ll have more stories when we come back!”
He muted his mic and looked up to see the producer waving emphatically at him. A few feet further behind the glass stood the network executives, chatting amongst themselves and looking around the studio. He was glad they had missed the first caller. She had been a snoozefest. Now that the audience Xoen cared about had arrived, he paid close attention to the producer’s notes on the digital screen. With seconds to go before the end of the break, he scanned for a really incredible story.
“Welcome back True Believers! I’m Xoen, your guide to the inside. Our next caller refers to himself as Xume and I cannot wait for you to hear what he has to say.”
He stole a glance at the producer, who was now shaking hands with the executives and gesturing into the host booth where Xoen sat. When their eyes were on him, he flashed a smile and pressed the next blinking light.
“Xume, are you there?” His buoyant voice echoed back in his headphones.
Xume’s brittle voice replied, “Good evening young man. I’m here. Shall I begin?”
Xoen fought the urge to roll his eyes and instead leaned closer to the mic, “Yes please, sir.” he added.
The man cleared his throat. “I don’t normally do things like this, but it’s not something I can ignore. I have been taken, not once like that lady on here a minute ago, but many times throughout the decades of my life.”
The producer was standing shoulder to shoulder with the network executives. They were staring attentively through the glass at Xoen as if he were a highly anticipated theme park attraction. He forced his attention back to the caller.
“Each time I’m taken to the same room. I know it sounds frightening but I’m always overwhelmed with a sense of calm. I suspect the aliens, or whatever they are, have a method of manipulating mood.”
Xoen captured a snort just before it escaped into the live mic. Xume carried on unaware.
“They talk to me. Tell me things. Always about the future and they’re always right. That’s why I’m calling. I have received a message.”
He had to interrupt, “I’m sorry, the aliens give you information about the future. Is that what you said?”
“Yes,” came the dry reply through his headphones.
“Can you give us an example?” Xoen asked. He was pleased to see the executives nodding with approval.
“About 15 years back,” Xume’s tone remained unchanged, “the space program received signals from a new galaxy they called Milky Way.”
“I remember,” Xoen straightened up and rolled tension from his shoulders, “that was a historical day for the whole planet.” The executives were still watching him intensely.
“Well, that was them, and I was the one that told our scientists where to look.”
His eyes darted to the producer, who was nodding in confirmation. Xoen attempted to mask his surprise, “Incredible, so you are the Xume. I have to tell you sir, your name is quite famous in the True Believer circles.”
The caller chuckled. “I really don’t go in for that sort of thing. I am a normal man who has the abnormal ability to receive alien premonitions.”
Xoen clapped his hands. He knew it wasn’t great showmanship so close to the mic, but he couldn’t deny his excitement. Not only was the renowned Prophet Xume calling into his show, but he was doing it on the night that executives from a planet wide network were in the studio. He was practically bouncing in his seat.
“Xume, again thank you for calling us tonight. It is truly an honor. Please, tell me and the rest of the True Believers – what is the message you called to deliver?”
The fragile voice of the prophet cracked as he replied, “They’re here.”
“I’m sorry sir, what? Who’s here?” The line had gone dead.
Rumbling filled the room as if a massive storm surge had somehow begun inside. The producer and two executives wore shocked expressions as they braced themselves against the reverberating sound. The lights on Xoen’s console had all gone out, every caller having hung up or lost their connection.
He pulled off his headset and shouted over the deafening rumble, “What is that?” The producer shook his head and gestured to the door leading outside. Xoen rose to follow everyone out.
A crowd had gathered in the street outside of the studio. Xoen and the others joined them, their eyes fixed upward. Great white warships filled the sky. They were made of sleek metal sheets with cannons mounted on all sides. He craned his neck upward, in awe of the alien crafts. This was why Xume had called – to announce their arrival. All around him, onlookers whispered in disbelief. Their voices commingled inaudibly beneath the roar of the ship engines.
Without warning, the cannons whirred to life. The crowd’s timid curiosity erupted into chaos as the cannons unleashed a flaming stream of destruction. Xoen joined in the panic as everyone scrambled for shelter. He dove behind the scorched ruins of what had just been a brick wall of his studio. Everyone had scattered quickly but the ships were thundering after them.
The cannons fired without pause. Xoen watched in horror as the blazing beams tore through building and person alike. He cried out to the monsters in the sky, “Stop! Please! Please stop!” but the sound was swallowed by the roar of the massive engines. As they passed, one ship hovered close enough for him to see it was undecorated but for a single emblem. Depicted was a large sea blue circle, dotted with several deep green masses. Through his tears, Xoen thought the image looked like a planet, though he didn’t recognize it. It hardly mattered where they had come from. It was clear why they were here now.