Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned

Finish the Story: Soldiers


Join in for a lighthearted, no-pressure writing prompt. Leave your perfectionist at the door and follow a dangling story thread to see where it leads you.

I always post my story doodle in the comments, and I’d absolutely love to see yours as well if you feel comfortable sharing it!

The soldiers were tense, waiting for something to happen-like it was a matter of when, not if. For our part, we did our best to steer clear of them, avoiding the main square where a group of protestors …

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  • The soldiers were tense, waiting for something to happen-like it was a matter of when, not if. For our part, we did our best to steer clear of them, avoiding the main square where a group of protestors rallied around the site of the original UFO crash.

    It wasn’t that I didn’t believe the aliens deserved equal rights — after all, they were stranded here just as much as I supposed we were without faster-than-light travel.

    It was just that there was so much hate. Watching it on tv, seeing it emblazoned in spraypaint on the side of every wall … it tainted my heart, festering and boiling up inside until I was sure I was going to be sick with it.

    I wished I was brave enough to be out there, holding a sign and staring down the oppressors who wanted to demand that the aliens come forward from their safe houses and turn themselves over to the authorities.

    Of course they wouldn’t, not after what happened last year. Everyone called it The Massacre, no matter which side of the picket line they stood on.

    Not humanity’s brightest day.

    I shook off the cobwebs of shame and followed Jodi to The Clean Bean, our favorite fair-trade coffee nook. I took her backpack and scored us an empty table in the back while she ordered our usual.

    We’d barely started in on our mochas and calculus when someone bumped my chair, sending a fountain of white chocolate mocha flying directly on my favorite university hoodie.

    We all gasped and I sat for a moment, completely frozen, while the stranger’s hands fluttered helplessly in the air.

    I had time to notice that he was actually pretty cute before he began babbling.

    “Oh, God, I am so sorry! I’m such a klutz!” He handed a soft, clean handkerchief to me with an endearing sort of awkwardness. I took the napkin and awkwardly began to blot my hoodie. Thankfully, it was thick enough that I hadn’t been burned.

    “It’s okay,” I reassured him. “This thing has seen a lot worse than a little ol’ coffee spill. You should have seen it after the Great Macaroni Microwave Explosion last month.” I smiled winningly, and he grudgingly smiled back.

    Yup. Very cute. Not too tall, wide shoulders, square jaw, disheveled brown hair, and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen.

    He pulled another handkerchief from his pocket and leaned down to dab at my backpack, which I only just realized had also gotten a hefty splash. “Ack!” I reached down and unzipped it, checking on my math book. College textbooks were NOT cheap, and I counted on every penny I could get from the buyback at the end of the year.

    “Whew, looks like it’s unscathed,” I said. “Thanks for this,” I tried to hand him the sodden handkerchief. He shook his head. “Let me get you that refill first.”

    He walked off. I watched the way his jeans hugged his backside for a moment before turning to Jodi. She gave me The Eyes, and I gave her the I KNOW, RIGHT look right back. She mimed a dramatic kissy face and to my horror I found myself actually blushing.

    The door to the shop burst open, its cheerful bell thrust away so violently that it jangled instead of tinkled.

    I was no expert, but military fatigues combined with heavy weaponry made me pretty sure these guys weren’t here for a latte.

    The sudden silence in the coffee shop was painful, as the mirth didn’t so much bleed from the room as it had been whisked away like a magician pulling a tablecloth.

    Fear stabbed at my belly and I couldn’t help but look at the weapons. They weren’t even pointed at us and I didn’t even know why they were here and suddenly I felt exposed. Endangered. Hunted.

    “Do you have visual on the target?”

    “Negative. Target is not in sight.”

    “Continue moving. We cannot afford to lose this target.”


    The entire transaction took less than a minute. The men split up, leaving one soldier behind to do a more focused sweep of the room.

    As he approached the table, his eyes scanned our faces, our homework, and our backpacks before moving on to the next table. I couldn’t breathe.

    After the most tense five minutes I had ever lived through, he said something I couldn’t hear into his walkie-talkie, and left the shop.

    The low rumble of fear-filled conversation started up almost immediately, but Jodi looked thoughtful. She leaned forward so she could speak quietly to me. “Hey. Where’s your Romeo?”

    I swallowed and looked around, but he wasn’t there.

    I looked again. Nowhere in sight. He should have been by the counter, ordering my replacement drink, but it was as if he’d never been there.

    My backpack shifted and both Jodi and I looked down to stare at it.

    It was zipped shut. But just a moment ago, I’d had it open to check on my book.

    The pack shifted again, this time clearly without anyone touching it from the outside.

    I looked down at my handkerchief, only now wondering why on earth a college student would have not one but two embroidered cloth handkerchiefs on hand. I spread it out on the table so that both Jodi and I could look at it more closely.

    In smudged black ink, stained brown with coffee, a hastily-scrawled message read, “I am so sorry, I have no other choice. Please keep the baby safe until this is over. Meet me at the crash site at midnight.”

    It was signed with unmistakable alien hieroglyphs, the kind you saw in edgy tattoos or scary news stories.

    “Oh, shit,” said Jodi, forgetting to whisper.

    My bag shifted again. I had an alien baby in my backpack, given to me by a hot boy who spilled coffee on me. The military clearly wanted it.

    “Oh, shit,” I agreed.

Tami Parker Other Duties as Assigned