He looked up from the magazine, sliding open another drawer. The Cricket phone inside was dark. It would need to be charged before he could send the texts.
Afterwards, he’d quickly destroy it. Using a ghost number, he would text his parents, brothers, and Nanna. I’m OK, he would type. Just need space.
He’d add that he loved them too. They’d all know it was definitely him, as the message was an inside, morbid joke. “The boy back from space just needs space,” William would quip to his parents when he was in a rotten mood.
When he sent the monthly texts, they were always followed by a flurry of calls and texts. Where are you? This has gone on long enough! Just call us! We’ll come get you! Don’t you know that you’re making this worse?
Nanna’s texts were less demanding. Please come home.
He’d then immediately smash the cheap phone so it couldn’t be traced. Even the sight of it brought on a familiar unease in his stomach. He slid the drawer shut and resumed scanning the article.
The piece picked up as they always did, with the same damn recap.
How the world watched him grow up, clamoring for details of how he’d been found by his grandmother, Lynn Roseworth, the wife of a US senator and vice presidential contender, who hid from her own family that at one point in her life she was a researcher of UFOs.
The paragraph broke to feature a screen grab of the now-infamous video of his grandmother meeting with extraterrestrial researchers in Illinois. Once, a few years ago, he’d gotten on YouTube to see how many views it had received. At that point, it was more than two hundred million.
The article went on to detail how his grandmother never publically discussed how she found him or what happened in the town of Argentum, only saying at a brief news conference afterwards that a great government conspiracy was hiding the truth from the public about extraterrestrial abductions.
Almost immediately, the man suspected of abducting and killing William, Dr. Steven Richards, was released and was never seen in public again. His alleged accomplice, Barbara Rush, was also freed, but refused to talk to reporters.
The world held its collective breath after the town was locked down for three months by the Department of Homeland Security. Despite the isolated and brutal conditions of the area, the network news divisions set up temporary bureaus outside. Families of missing people arrived from across the globe, holding an almost constant vigil.
When the government finally allowed the media in, the experience for the reporters was a disappointing and resounding thud. No spaceships, no alien bodies, no Roswell. Only a sad little broken-down town, with hardly any residents, who knew nothing about what had occurred. In interviews, they were mostly agitated that their streets were lined with satellite trucks and just wanted to go back to living off the grid, thank you very much. Their main complaint was that after the military occupation, the only hotel in the town had shut down when the well-liked front-desk girl skipped town.
“How she did it when the rest of us couldn’t leave is really the only mystery we’ve got,” grumbled a former occupant, who said he was forced to move in with his girlfriend and now had to clean his own room.
The government encouraged everyone in the town to do interviews, including the staff at the hospital, who claimed William was simply never there. Despite rumors that other abducted people were brought to the town, the doctors explained they were basically a small research clinic for people with amnesia and had very few patients, given the dwindling population of the town. They preferred the isolated location because the quiet and calm was soothing to their troubled clients. They’d considered shutting down for years after their prime source of income, a private donor whose wife had suffered from amnesia, had died.
“Perhaps,” the lead doctor had told reporters, “Mrs. Roseworth is deeply troubled.”
The article explained how that quote was prominently featured in the ad campaign for the eventual movie that followed. Next to the paragraph was the poster for the film adaptation of the international bestseller, The Senator’s Wife, showing a beautiful British actress in her mid-sixties—who’d mastered a southern accent enough to land her an Oscar nomination—standing in the snow, thrusting out a pistol and holding tight to a red-haired boy while a looming shadow of a massive alien fell upon her.
In quotes at the bottom of the dramatic scene were the words, “Perhaps Mrs. Roseworth is deeply troubled.”
The official government report was equally as damning. It prominently listed the cost of the occupation of Argentum as more than $10 million, resulting in no proof of any extraterrestrial life or abductions. It also cited repeatedly that neither Lynn Roseworth nor her companions, Roxy Garth and Don Rush, would agree to interviews with government investigators.
When reporters confirmed that Don had, in fact, been reported missing decades ago, and that the trail led to his sister, Barbara, who had already been revealed to be a UFO researcher, the condemnation by lawmakers had been swift and merciless.