You don’t know Ooter, most likely. You don’t know about the invasion, neither, but that’s why I’m telling you about it. Anyway, Ooter used to be my best friend, and he didn’t know about the invasion till after it was too late, so there’s no use in trying to blame him for anything I’m about to tell you. Like I said, Ooter was my best friend once, and he wouldn’t want to hurt anybody that never hurt him. Ooter’s huge—taller than my dad, actually. If he’s around, the school librarian will ask him to reach books for her, on account of not wanting to haul out the ladder. Also on account of her being afraid of heights. I been on the ladder once, it’s not so bad. Anyway, Ooter’s huge, so all the bullies leave us alone, even though he never once beat any of them up.
Like I said, Ooter didn’t know about the invasion at first, and I know you’re thinking that’s on account of him being a little slow, but there’s no truth in that, because, you know, he figured it out pretty quickly when he got the chance. Which I forgot to tell you—Ooter was a little slow some times. His family had moved down here from Germany or someplace like that, and Ooter was having a lot of problems with English, even though his parents could speak it fine.
Karl’s first published story, “They Came From Ooter’s Place” originally appeared in Issue 29 (March 1998) of SpaceWays Weekly. A year later, it was reprinted in The Annual Best of SpaceWays Weekly 1998 after the readers of SpaceWays selected it as one of the best stories of the year.
It is reprinted in the author’s short story collection, Ooter’s Place and Other Stories of Fear, Faith, and Love, available in paperback and ebook formats.
So even if he did know about the invasion, which, like I said, he didn’t, he couldn’t have told no one about it anyway. Except for me, but no one ever takes anything I say for serious—except for Marty’s dad, I guess, but that’s for later. Ooter and me understood each other, even though he didn’t really understand English, and I for sure didn’t understand whatever language he was speaking. We just kind of knew what the other was trying to say.
Anyway, Ooter invited me over to dinner a while ago, after I had explained to him that, on account of us being best friends, we had to have dinner at each other’s house. His mother, who was very nice to me, had cooked some German delicacy or something, but it tasted okay anyway. After dinner, Ooter gave me a tour of the house, and in his basement was the biggest and weirdest looking television set I’ve ever seen in my life. It took up an entire wall all by itself.
I could tell, just by looking at his face, that Ooter wasn’t supposed to be playing with it. Now I didn’t want to get him into trouble or anything, but I explained that, when you’re still young, you’re supposed to do silly things, so you can learn and grow up.
So Ooter went and turned on the television. But his dad had the Playboy channel or something hooked up, ’cause we only got this screen that wanted to know the password. There was a box full of symbols at the bottom of the screen, and we tried some of them randomly, but it didn’t get us nowhere. It was getting late, and I had to go home, so I told Ooter to keep cracking at it. But by this time, Ooter was thinking that maybe we should forget about the whole thing. So I explained to him about the Playboy channel.
The next morning, at school, Ooter didn’t look so good. What happened was he finally cracked the password. But instead of beautiful girls dancing in the nude, what he saw was this really ugly insect-monster like they have in old science-fiction movies. And this monster starts walking toward the screen, and Ooter races up the stairs and spills his guts to his parents.
But instead of getting angry, his father smiles and does nothing. And all of a sudden, this guy marches up the basement stairs and Ooter’s parents tell him, “Say hello to your Uncle Bob, Ooter,” or whatever, and it turns out that Uncle Bob brought his wife and two children with him.
Now I mentioned that Ooter was a little slow, but he knew something was wrong right away. So the next couple of days, he watched his parents real carefully. And he had more family members march up those basement stairs in the next few weeks than I care to count.
I decided never to go to Ooter’s place for dinner after that first time, on account of my thinking that maybe his parents were on an exchange program and I for sure didn’t want to end up in a world full of giant insects or anything. Ooter kept telling me all kinds of stories about how all these insect-things were coming through his dad’s television screen and then turning into people. At that point was when I asked Ooter if we should inform the authorities, call 911 or something, but him and I agreed that it was too late for anything to be done and that no one would believe us anyway. Of course, by this time, Ooter had figured out that at least a good number of the authorities in town were really insect-things disguised as people, and they’d probably be pretty ticked if we ratted them out. Ooter knew exactly who was an insect-person, because his father kept meticulous records or something, so he could make up library cards and stuff for them.
So Ooter and I would discuss what we should do about it, like how we should stop the invasion, right? But we weren’t no superkids or anything, and it’s not like in the cartoons. “If it weren’t for you darned kids, the invasion would have worked perfectly!” I once told Ooter, but he didn’t get it. We’d get really excited talking about what we could do, but we never decided on any definite action or anything.
Some weeks passed, and Ooter was telling me who was an insect-thing on the inside and who wasn’t. So when we had this new teacher come in, Ooter told me that the new teacher was an insect-thing. His name was Mr. Bellemont, and he was pretty nice, except that he gave us too much homework. And that he got really mad when we didn’t do it.
And that he made us read this book called “My Teacher is An Alien” or something, which is not a funny thing as far as I’m concerned. They should be afraid or something, you know? But they go around, practically telling normal people that they’re a bunch of insect-things.
Anyway, about a week ago, I convinced Ooter to talk to his parents about the whole thing. But I guess that didn’t go so good, because he never spoke to me again. I mean, he’d just tell me to leave him alone and stuff, but I don’t really care. Marty’s my new best friend, and he’s not big like Ooter, so the bullies started bothering me again, but at least he doesn’t have insect-people coming out of his house, which is more than I can say for some people, right?
A couple of days ago, I told Marty about this whole thing, after making him promise to keep it a secret. I had to say something, on account of him being my best friend. But Marty broke his promise and told his dad. He invited me over to his house day before yesterday, which is when I found out that he had told his dad. So his dad asked me if I could name all the people I thought might be insect-people, and he promised me a dollar for every one I named, so I really put on my thinking cap. I named only eighteen or something, cause those were the only ones I was sure about, but his dad gave me a twenty anyway. Marty wasn’t too happy about that, so his dad gave him twenty dollars too.
That night, I went and did all my homework. And I come to school the next day all happy, on account of having done all my homework. But there’s this new teacher, and she starts talking about something completely different, so no one even checks that I did my homework, which makes a guy wish he never wasted his time doing his homework, you know?
And another thing that ticks me off is that Ooter’s moved away or something, and he didn’t even have the decency to say goodbye to me. He wasn’t at school yesterday, and he’s not here today. I called his house yesterday night, but no one picked up. So I dropped by, completely forgetting about the whole exchange program thing with the insect world. But it didn’t matter. The driveway was empty, and I rang the bell till my hands dropped off, but no one answered.
Enjoyed this story? Check out the author’s collection Ooter’s Place and Other Stories of Fear, Faith, and Love.