People are acting like this is a party. All dressed up like it’s Mardi Gras, in their kookiest outfits. The people who have home DNA splicing kits have been playing around, giving themselves leopard-print skin, rhinoceros horns sprouting from unexpected places, or chameleon eyes that dart off in different directions – one looking right at ya, one directed hopefully to the sky, waiting to catch the first glimpse of the aliens arriving. It’s pretty unconventional for a little outback town like Tanloch, but it’s like everyone wants to be more than just human, now that extra-terrestrials are arriving. Some are holding up signs, saying things like “Please Save Our Whales”, “ET take us home!” and “I, for one, welcome our new alien overlords.”
At least these people are celebrating. I know there are probably others crouching at home in their basements, hoping that decades of crappy Hollywood movies are wrong, and ET hasn’t come to bomb the shit out of us and enslave us. Hoping that maybe these aliens will want to be friends, trading partners, creatures we can trust. If only they knew the truth – don’t trust ’em as far as you can kick ’em. Of course, how far you can kick ’em depends which planet you’re on, and what the gravity is like.
Yesterday I got in on the action, and placed a bet on which city the spaceship is heading for. The smart money is all on the major capitals of the world, the States, China. I mean where would you land if you were the advance envoy of an alien nation, heading for Earth? Somewhere important, right? So I’m pretty much going to clean up when it arrives here in Tanloch, near where they’ve erected the big screen out the front of the Town Hall, and the Lost Soldiers war memorial.
The crowd is growing bigger – all of the surrounding countryside must be here. Scientists over at Nasa are estimating that the craft is about an hour away. I’d say less, in my expert opinion. We’ve probably got about 30 minutes until it arrives. A platform has been set up by the giant screen, and Kasey Kennedy, the Tanloch weather girl is excitedly keeping us abreast of developments, while the screen flashes to the big crowds in Washington DC, New York, Sydney, Paris, Berlin – all places with strong odds as “likely” landing sites.
Maybe it will actually land in one of those places, and this will become the day Earth finally made contact. Maybe that’s all this is – the coming of age for our precarious little goldilocks planet, which has yet to reach another ball of rock in our own solar system. Or perhaps it’s really an invasion, and we’re going to be enslaved while they strip our planet of heavy metals and fish oils. I find myself hoping.
In the crush, I accidently knock against a chameleon-eyed dude who’s jacked himself up on spring-loaded stilts to get a better view of the screen. I grab his hands to steady him and he gives me a winning smile. “Peace and love, lovely lady,” he says by way of apology. I nod at him and push on through the crowd. Peace would be great right now, but I’m not so sure about the love.
Up on the big screen, they’re showing footage of the spaceship heading our way. I know that cruiser. Hell, I’ve piloted it around half the galaxy. Late model galaxy cruiser, equipped for interstellar travel, low fuel consumption and eco-friendly launch mode. It belongs to my ex. And since I really doubt that my ex has been given a new diplomatic role that involves inviting our little blue and green planet to join some intergalactic alliance, I figure there’s only a handful of reasons to be flagrantly in breach of concealment and cloaking laws and flying here at high speed. And all of them have to do with the fact that I haven’t answered any of the roughly one thousand emails I’ve received these last two months, apologizing, blustering, promising, threatening, and begging for me back.
When I was originally abducted way back when, I have to say, I fell for the whole exotic sexy alien thing. When you come from a town that has more sheep than people, it’s not hard to be impressed when a 7-foot, violet-hued being steps out of a spaceship in your back paddock and insists you come for a cruise. Some people might parrot a certain city in Sweden at me, but it didn’t feel like being abducted. I felt like I was part of an adventure. I felt special. Chosen. And I was certainly never probed or any of that nonsense. Or at least not for scientific purposes, wink, wink. When it turned out that my alien abductor had a bit of a jones for earthlings, I was down with that.
And it was an adventure. We spent what felt like a beautiful eternity just cruising the star systems, making love right up there among the supernovas and the dark galaxies. We were soulmates, whose energy had reached out across light years and connected. Right up until I found out about all the others, stashed all over the universe, a lover in every port. And the internet dating. I think that was one of the things that hurt the most. Who goes around abducting multiple lovers, and has an online dating profile? I mean, what is wrong with some humanoids?
So yeah, trust issues and all that, and I’ve pretty much avoided relationships ever since I managed to catch a ride back to Earth on the back of a research vehicle from Alpha Centauri. People wondered where I’d been, and I said “Abroad” and put on a bit of a fake plummy accent. No one ever wants to hear about your experiences on your gap year, so it was a pretty safe bet. I tried not to think about hot alien sex and intergalactic travel and to just move on with my life.
But then the messages started. At first it was emails begging for me back. Saying I’d made a big mistake, I was going to regret it. Then ones saying that I’d see we were meant to be together, that things would be different this time. Finally, an SMS saying to be at the town hall in three days-time, and the whole world would see how big our love was.
Pushing through the crowd, I am assailed by an unexpected sense of loneliness. I alone of all the people here know what it feels like to hold your balance as the thrusters in the engine throb, and you leave gravity behind and see your planet from a distance. I alone have tumbled through a thousand galaxies, believing myself loved and unique, only to come back to Earth in the most literal of ways. I alone have been stalked across light years by a liar and cheater who can’t seem to let me go. Well, as far as I know. On the other hand, what difference does scale make? A heart breaks on Earth the same way it does in space. Although my ex doesn’t have any organ that correlates to a human heart, so I probably need some other metaphor.
Suddenly, I am bowled head over feet by someone crashing through the crowd in the opposite direction, pushing away from the stage. She lands on top of me, and I have an impression of bubble-gum manga pink hair, large eyes and some kind of tiny unicorn perched behind her left shoulder before helpful hands pull us up.
“Slow down there,” I say. “What’s the hurry?”
“I have to get out of here quick,” she says, her eyes darting nervously up to the stage, where even as we speak, a young man is climbing up next to Kasey Kennedy and whispering urgently in her ear. “I think my boyfriend is about to propose.” She tries to crouch down behind me.
“Oh god,” I say, and using my body to shield her from sight of the stage, I start to shepherd her through the crowd. “Not ready to say yes in front of 5000 people?”
“Um, not ready to say yes at all, I think.” She blushes. “I’ve been meaning to break up with him for ages.”
I pull her to the edge of the crowd, and we duck out of sight behind some lighting towers. There’s no crowd here, so I take a moment to look at her properly.
“What’s with the horny horse?” I ask her. It’s still perched up on the shoulder, crouching behind a swath of pink hair, with the kind of crazy look that only horses can get in its eyes.
“Oh Percy? He’s my minicorn. I made him myself out of miniature pony DNA spliced with narwhal. I think the crowd is kind of freaking him out though.” She brings her hands to her shoulder and picks him up, then holds him out to me. “You can hold him if you want. He’s really pretty sweet.”
He really is actually, and he fits on the palm of one hand. He’s a dappled white pony, and the horn is seamlessly spliced in. It’s kind of calming holding his warm little body, and for a few moments I just stroke his flanks and smile at her.
Behind us, her boyfriend is centre stage, Kasey Kennedy standing pertly nearby holding her microphone out. But it’s clear that the dramatic proposal is over, and no breathless, grateful girl has come running forward to claim her man in front of everyone. The cameras swivel from side to side while he stands there, forlornly calling her name into the mic and desperately scanning the crowd for her. “Clementine!” But the cameras are already panning off him. She breathes a sigh of relief.
We sit down behind the lighting tower, Clementine and me, with Percy curled up on my lap and she tells me about how she started to suspect earlier today that her boyfriend was planning to propose publicly.
“I think he probably guessed I wanted to break up with him, and so he planned this grand gesture. He knew there’d be all these cameras here, and figured I wouldn’t say no with all these people watching.”
“He probably thought you’d find it irresistible,” I say dryly. “Public declarations of love. Just what every girl wants.”
“Sounds like you’ve been there,” she says with a sympathetic smile. I laugh.
“Am there,” I say, waving my arms around. “A grand gesture with the whole world looking on!”
She cocks her head and looks at me.
“All this,” I say. “Designed to win me back.” It occurs to me that that sounds really egotistical, so I add “I think.”
And I find myself confiding it all in Clementine. She’s sweet about it. Apart from a few curious questions about alien gender (no words in our language to explain) and alien genitalia (girl, could I tell you some stories) she lets me tell it all without interruption, then breathes out a huge whistle through her nose.
“Whew. So, you’re telling me that in ten minutes-”
“In roughly ten minutes, the alien spaceship we’ve been watching for the last three days is going to arrive here?” She looks around her at the broad main street and its straggle of dated shops. “In Tanloch?”
“Yep. And not for the first time, either. Although last time it was my back paddock. I’m guessing this time it’ll be here, where the lights and cameras are. Because who says no, when there’re millions of people watching, waiting for a happy ending?”
“So, it’s not some eleventh hour offer of advanced civilisation and technology? It’s all about winning back the one that got away?” She looks disappointed, and I understand – it would be much cooler to get a handy alien fix-all for climate change and some perfect renewable energy source.
“I think so, yeah.” I look down at the minicorn in my lap, which is whickering slightly and making mini equine farts against one of my knees.
“And what are you going to do?” Clementine asks me, eyes wide behind her pink bangs. “I mean, do you want to get back together?”
She raises an eyebrow, and suddenly I realise that those millions of people will be watching me. The last thing I want is to be known forever after as the girl who told ET no dice. We glance back behind the lighting tower at the excited crowd. At almost the exact same moment, the crowd starts to go really wild, and Kasey Kennedy says, “Oh my God!” over the mic, because suddenly, the spaceship is hovering above our little town.
“I – I really don’t know. I mean, no, I definitely don’t want to get back together. Plus, you should see the emails I’ve been getting. It’s all ‘you’ll never do better than me … biggest mistake of your life… blah blah.’ But I don’t know what to do.” Clementine rolls her eyes at me.
She has to lean in closer to hear me, because between the noise from the spaceship coming down behind the war memorial and the excited screaming and cheering from the crowd, it’s pretty hard to hear each other. Imagine what it would be like if it had landed in DC, with a proper huge crowd. I try to look on the bright side of all this. I have just cleaned up at the bookies.
“Come on,” Clementine leans right into my ear, so that her hair tickles the side of my face, “Let’s go. Grab Percy.”
Up on the platform, Kasey Kennedy is bravely standing in front of the mic and cameras, the eyes of the world on her, as my ex comes out of the spaceship, stalks commandingly past the memorial and up the platform stairs to stand above the cheering crowd. Probably wondering why I’m not already there, waiting adoringly.
“Where are we going?” I yell to Clementine. She calls something back to me, but it’s impossible to hear. Up on stage I can hear Kasey yelling for the crowd to quiet down, but the sight of an actual real live alien has them too excited. It will be a while before she can start asking questions. Clementine grabs my hand, and starts to tug me in the direction of the platform.
“Wait, no!” I call to her. “I don’t want to go there!”
She feels me pulling back on her arm, and looks over her shoulder.
“No!” She is shaking her head. “Not there. There!” She points, and I laugh, a joyous head-thrown-back kind of laugh that lifts from me and merges in with the whoops from the crowd. We work our way forward, slipping among the excited people, all of them trying to get a better look at my ex, up there on the stage waving for quiet now, microphone in hand. I hear the first words: “People of Earth, I am here on a very special mission today – a mission of love!” Urgh.
All eyes are on the stage, and no one pays the slightest bit of attention as Clementine and I slide our way past the platform, making sure to stay behind tall people and stage equipment, out of direct line of sight. Then we slip back behind the giant TV screen, and over to the war memorial. No one is watching as we sidle closer to the spaceship, and then make a mad dash inside the still open door. In fact, no one notices until I’ve pressed the retract button for the ramp, and locked the door tight. I smile as I imagine the chaos starting to erupt outside, and the look on that handsome, otherworldly face.
“And you’re sure you know how to fly this thing?” Clementine asks in awe, looking around the bridge at all the different buttons and screens. It’s her first time in an alien spaceship after all. Percy gives a whinny, as she squeezes him just a bit tight in excitement.
“Uh huh,” I nod at her, a familiar feeling of excitement starting to thrill through me. “I’ve flown this bitch all over this galaxy and the next. We have to make a quick stop at the bookies, but then the universe is our oyster. Where do you want to go first?”
“Anywhere but here!” she says, and I start the thrusters and we lift off.
Banner Image: Pixabay.com