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Search and Rescue

Adam Himmer lives in Minnesota with his wife and three kids. He is an engineer by day, family man by evening, and aspiring author once everyone else is asleep. This is his first professional publication.

We tried to stop them. We could see where they were headed. But they had a tendency to hear only what they wanted to hear. To not see what was obvious to everyone else. Not that they were completely flawed. They did have some redeeming qualities. Which is why we search for those leftover; the few survivors still out there.
The creature cowered in the center of the circle of lights that now surrounded it.
"Easy, everyone. Give it some room."
The circle expanded slightly. Seeing this, the creature stood up. I switched off my light and slowly approached. It was smaller than most of the others we had found, and judging by its physical characteristics, it was a female of its species.
I turned on my automatic translator. "Don't worry. We mean you no harm."
The creature's eyes widened. She slowly turned her head from side to side, inspecting each of us, before returning her gaze to me. Without warning, she rushed forward and threw her arms around my torso.
"Looks like we know who will be handling this one," said one of the others. They all turned and walked away.
I looked down at her. Tears had started to run down her face. I began to lift my hand to wipe them away, but stopped midair. I had to keep myself unattached. For the sake of both of us. "Where do you live?" I asked.
The cave was small. It would take only a few steps before I could reach the other side. Off to one side was a bed of sorts, while the other was filled with food scraps and debris. It was nothing I hadn't seen before.
"Thank you," I said. "I'm going to look around now."
I began documenting the items for my report. From what I saw, she would likely be relocated to one of the protected reserves to expand the population. She would be one of the lucky ones.
I was just about finished when she quickly turned towards the back of the cave. She removed a lid from a box and began pulling objects out. Her excitement was clear. I at first shared that excitement, but it was replaced with dread when I understood what the objects were.
The pile of books at my feet was all the evidence they would need. That she was too connected to her race's past culture to start anew. That her behavior would become a deadly cancer to the others already saved. I had no choice but to update my findings, and I was not surprised when the verdict returned: exterminate.
I watched the fire as I sent my final report back. "Human female and items destroyed." The flames licked the air as their contents crackled. Did the others have as hard of a time with this? Would they have done the same?
I was just about to leave when, at the edge of the forest, I saw her. She clutched the only thing I would let her keep: a map I had given her. One that would lead her to others like herself. A group living in the wild, hidden from the rest of the world. It would not be an easy life, and the odds would be against her. But something I saw in her eyes told me she would be all right. Those same eyes that met mine for a moment before she turned and disappeared into the night.
The End
This story was first published on Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

Author Comments

I wanted to write a story about those left behind from a near extinction event, but with a bit of a twist. This story also allowed me to view humans and our tendencies from an outside, impartial observer. Would an alien race determined to save our species allow us to connect to our past? Or would they try to force us to start anew in an attempt to purge some of our self-destructive behavior? I imagined a manmade catastrophe leading up to this story, so I chose the latter of the two.

- Adam Himmer
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