They came the night Dave finally snapped at Raul, said he was only using Debs to stay in the country. Three months being stuck in his sister’s house, and he’d had enough.
Debs glared at him, started ranting about Dave being too spineless to stand up to Sally, how she’d used him. Dave bit his tongue and stormed off to the cramped spare room, only just resisted attacking those stupid paintings she’d done years ago.
With Debs and Raul bickering in the next room, he hadn’t slept well.
And in the morning, one of those things stood in the park at the end of the street. Dave could see it from his window, over the rooftops.
It was all over the news. Thousands of them, across the world. They were human-shaped, but they didn’t move, didn’t appear alive. Some said they were an art prank.
“Rubbish!” Debs yelled at the TV. “No way they’d keep something this big a secret.”
“Maybe they come from the stars,” Raul said, hardly looking up from his cornflakes and yoghurt, or whatever that gunk was.
Debs rolled her eyes. “Sure it’s not the CIA? Another of your bloody conspiracies?”
“Maybe it is diversion, like your reality shows.”
Debs’ jaw hardened. Dave made his excuses, left the house.
He didn’t want to hear that argument again.
* * *
They’d cordoned the thing off with streams of police tape. It was telling, though, that the officers stood guard on this side of the barrier.
Dave pushed through the crowd, listened to the gossip. Up close, the thing was impressive. It was light grey, perfectly smooth, and seemed to glow. There was a disturbing solidity about it.
Someone said a group had tried pushing one over in Brussels, accused it of being pro-Europe propaganda. Others said that made no sense when they were everywhere. They were even in jungles, Asia and South America, places with freedom fighters and kids with machine guns. They’d tried shooting the things, burning them down. Didn’t make the slightest difference. They simply stood, unmoving, uncaring.
Sentinels. That’s what people were calling them.
“You think it’ll do anything?” he asked some old woman he vaguely recognised.
She gave him a toothy grin. “Not until there’s enough believers.”
He backed away, avoided her eyes, and reached for the tape, pulling it up slightly.
“Can’t do that, sir.” The police officer took the tape from Dave’s hand.
He wanted to ask on who’s authority. But the man was young, still had spots, probably couldn’t even grow a beard.
Typical. Something like this, and they leave a kid as security.
Dave shrugged, and walked back to the house.
* * *
The Sentinel did nothing for a week. There were tents around the tape now, and if Dave opened his window he could hear singing.
“Why doesn’t it move or something?” Debs asked again.
“Maybe it does not want to.”
She shot Raul a stern look, and Dave braced for another insult. But none came.
Raul turned to Dave. “What do you think, brother-in-law?”
“You want my opinion?”
A shrug. “Why not?”
“Dunno. Alien invasion?”
Debs snorted. Raul smiled. “Then Wells was right. It caught a cold and is dead.”
“If it was ever alive.”
Raul nodded, thoughtfully. “Alive, or…what is the word?”
“Inanimate?” Debs said. “Enough of that round here.” She looked at Dave, and he readied for another round of insults about the job he’d been stuck in for the last ten years.
But she turned away, her face turning red. And Raul reached out, laid a hand on her arm. A smile pulled at the corners of her mouth.
* * *
A week later, after a curry Debs cooked—far better than the usual ready-meals—Dave took his usual evening walk. The young cop was on duty again.
“Hiya Josh. Still not moved?”
“Me or the Sentinel?”
Already, the joke was old. But the kid smiled, and so did Dave.
“No. All mellow.”
A few days ago Dave would have scoffed at that, but the word was apt. There was something calming about the giant immovable figure, and when Dave cast his gaze over the smooth surface, he smiled.
“It’ll make a believer of you yet.”
The voice was old and female, and Dave recognised the old lady from across the road.
“I believe it’s there, Liz. Nothing more.”
She nodded, and her eyes sparkled. “Nothing more,” she repeated. “Maybe that’s enough.”
He looked up at the stylised, expressionless features on the Sentinel’s face. What did it think, he wondered, as it saw all these people? So small, with all their petty little concerns. So wrapped up in their own little dramas.
The news had said that some of the sentinels were being worshipped. In some places, they were surrounded by offerings of guns and drugs and all kinds of other stuff. Politicians were talking, not just arguing, and there was talk of connecting the sentinels in some way, across the world.
* * *
The following day, Dave cooked steak, made a salad.
“Never was much of a chef,” he said as he placed the plates on the table.
“It looks good to me,” Raul said.
Debs cut into the meat, took a bite. “Not bad. Could do with a sauce, though. I’ll show you sometime.”
They chatted, and the meal drifted on. Raul cleared up, and Debs pulled out her sketch-book, the one she’d bought the other day. Good to see her getting back into her art—she’d always been talented like that. Raul made drinks, and they played cards until Dave felt his eyes closing, headed to his room.
He pulled back the curtains, watched the Sentinel as it oversaw everything. No, as it let others see it.
As it put things into perspective.
“Thanks,” he said.
He slept soundly that night.
Always The Same
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