[This story is also available in the collection, It's Always the Apocalypse Somewhere]
I was eating breakfast when the announcement came on. I paused with a spoonful of Cheerios halfway to my waiting mouth, and listened.
". . . all citizens should remain indoors. Repeat, this is not a test. All citizens should lock their doors and remain inside. Those traveling should find shelter as soon as possible. Again, this is not a test."
It went on like that, intercut with some of those aggressive alarm buzzing beeps. It was the first time I'd actually heard the system used for something other than a test.
The voice on the broadcast repeated, "This is not a test."
I dropped my spoon back into the bowl of cereal on the table, splashing milk. If this was truly an emergency, there wasn't any time right now to wipe it up.
I went to the front door and peered outside. What exactly was going on, I wondered.
The street outside appeared normal.
"Do not go outside," said the voice on the emergency broadcast.
"Probably just means, don't drive anywhere," I said aloud, as I opened the screen door and stepped outside. The concrete steps were cool beneath my sock-clad feet.
I bounded down the three steps and walked a short distance along the cement path away from my house. Peering up into the sky, I raised a hand to shield my eyes. The sun was bright; the sky was blue and clear with only a few lazy strands of clouds drifting along.
And there was the massive ship.
I might have thought to run if I believed they could see me from way up there, just a tiny little person on the huge round planet Earth. I was miles below them—at least. The ship seemed so enormous, so far overhead—there was no way they could see me.
"Remain inside with doors and windows locked," said the faint voice on the emergency broadcast. I could just barely hear it, still blaring away inside my house. "This is not a test."
No, I thought. This was the real thing. Holy fucking shit it was—
What the hell? I staggered back, my stomach bouncing, dropping, rising into my throat, as if trying to figure out which direction was up.
I was standing in a shiny silver room filled with white light, although I couldn't determine the source. The entire ceiling seemed to glow bright white. There was nothing else in the room—only four shining walls and me standing confused in the middle.
A line appeared on the wall to my left. A rectangular outline took shape and darkened. A figure walked through. A tiny person. No, not a person.
Oh, God. An alien! I was on the massive ship. I was really seeing an alien. Like, what? My mind reeling, I staggered back.
The little alien, looking disturbingly similar to a walking baby wearing a strange green and silver padded suit, came forward. It was pointing something at me, which I had to assume was a weapon of some sort. It was shaped roughly like a gun, with a handle the alien held in its fist, and a longer, tube-like extension which it pointed at me.
"Don't shoot," I said.
The alien laughed. "Yes," it said, in pretty clear English.
It shot me.
I woke up lying on my back.
I was strapped to some sort of hard metal surface. Around me, several of the infant-like aliens stared down at me. I tried to figure out whether I was very near the floor, or if the aliens were gathered on some sort of platform surrounding the surface I was strapped to.
This room was similarly bright white and silver.
There was much chattering amongst the little creatures in some language other than English. Oh God, I thought, that guy speaking on the emergency broadcast hadn't been kidding. This was no test!
After a moment of lying there, waiting for something to happen—I assumed that whatever the aliens were trying to decide probably had to do with me—the assembled little baby things grew quiet.
Above me in the air, an image appeared. A sharp red triangle, floating on a solid background of white.
"Circle." One of the aliens was leaning its creepy baby-face towards mine.
"What?" I tried pulling away, but I was strapped in pretty tight. Even my head was secured.
"Circle," the alien said again.
The image of the red triangle dropped towards me, filling my field of view.
The red triangle was all that I knew. It filled my sight, loomed overhead, threatening and sinister and angled.
"NO!" I squeezed my eyes shut.
"Okay, next." I peeked with my right eye. The alien was looking up into the air above me. I risked looking with both eyes.
Over my supine form, where the triangle had been, there was now a soft, blue circle. It was floating on the same pure, white background.
The alien noticed me looking up.
"What?" I looked at the alien.
As before, the image swooped down, seeming to physically impose its presence on me, threatening to roll over me and crush me beneath its rotundity.
"No!" I yelled, eyes shut tight to block out the brilliance of the image. "Not red," I whimpered.
I heard chattering among the assembled aliens.
"Okay, next," said the one beside my head.
Oh God, I thought, opening my eyes a crack. Overhead, a hefty, green square floated on a background of pure white light.
"Two," said the alien.
I began to sob.
"Two," repeated the baby thing. I felt the surface of the square threaten to squish me flat.
"No," I said. A whisper. "Not two."
The alien made a noise which sounded like approval. I began to sob.
My God, I thought.
It is a test.
This story was written in response to a writing prompt at r/WritingPrompts:
[WP]Please remain calm, stay in your homes, and do not look outside. This is not a test.