It was Saturday and I was enjoying a lazy day window shopping in the mall. I had just finished eating a slice of pizza in the food court when I noticed a new store off to one side. It was barely a store; just enough room for a glass display case and an employee. There wasn’t even a register on the counter. The girl behind the display case smiled as I walked up to it. Inside was a single brand and style of smartwatch I hadn’t heard of before.
“Restane Connect,” I read from the top of one of the boxes, “I wonder what it connects to?” I smiled hoping she hadn’t heard that joke too many times.
She smiled and began her sales pitch, “Well, it can connect to your phone of course but it works best if it connects directly to the alien implant in your head,” the salesgirl said. I laughed but she didn’t. “I have a demo model if you’d like to try it.” She pulled out a sleek silver watch from under the counter and handed it to me. I took the watch and slipped it on my wrist.
“Now what?” I asked
“Sync activate,” she said.
“I’m sorry what?”
“Sync activate,” she repeated in a stern voice.
“I don’t know what that is.” I took a half-step back and considered leaving.
She rolled her eyes and sighed, “One of these days it’ll go smoothly. Come here.” She motioned me closer to the display case. I took the watch off and offered it back to her. She grabbed my wrist and pulled me toward her. Her other hand touched the side of my temple and pressed against it until I heard a click.
Then things got weird. It was like someone was playing with the color saturation and contrast of the world. Colors popped and glowed then muted to shades of gray. I shut my eyes against the strobing effect.
“You can open your eyes now,” the salesgirl said.
The watches were gone, the display case was gone, the door I came in through was also gone. We weren’t even in a store anymore, it was just a poorly lit alcove. Outside the alcove was not the food court of the mall. The long tall room looked more like a cafeteria with rows of tables and bench seating. The people all wore the same brown clothes and had metal collars around their necks. I looked down to see I was wearing the same brown clothes and could feel the collar dig into my chin. At the end of the room, there was a line of people with empty trays setting them into a hole in the wall. Something poured unto the tray and the people walked off with it.
Nearby one of Them stood by. Its scaly face and body spoke of something ready to lash out. Their true height was hard to guess at because of how they slouched and folded their bodies but even at rest they towered over us by several feet. I remembered now seeing them run through the streets grabbing people and tossing them into their flying drones. Tearing houses and buildings apart to get to the people. I remembered the horrifying moment when I was grabbed by the ankle. The second of flailing while falling then the air thickened around me and I was pulled inside the drone.
I felt a tap on my shoulder. The salesgirl, really just another prisoner, pulled me back into the dim alcove. I noticed the side of her head was shaved and a strip of metal with lights protruded. A quick check verified that I too had one.
“Do you remember now?” she asked.
“Yes, we’re –”
She put her hand on my mouth, “The security in this store is really good.” I nodded. “Have you decided to buy a watch?”
“Yes. I think one of these would suit me very well,” I said playing into the false reality I was not a part anymore.
“Excellent. Let me finish setting it up for you.” She took the watch I had a minute ago been trying to hand back to her and strapped it to my wrist. It too looked different. No longer a sleek pristine silver, now it was scratched and scuffed with wires peeking out. She pressed the dial buttons and a segmented green circle appeared around the edge of the face. “When it’s all green it’s safe to talk.”
“What is going on? Why didn’t I remember being captured by dragon aliens? Why are they doing this to us? How are you?” I asked.
“They’re using us for slave labor. The implant creates a false reality. You can’t fight back against something you don’t even know is happening. I’m part of The Resistance. Welcome to the fight.”