A couple days ago, an idea came to me at about midnight. Forty-five minutes later, I had nine hundred nearly-illegible words covering two sheets of paper, making up one of the most fun short stories I’ve written. I’m really glad I forced myself to sit up and write instead of sleeping the idea away. I hope you enjoy the story.
“Fifteen minutes, Lex.” I pressed the button to call the elevator and the doors slid open. “Keep your mouth shut for fifteen minutes, until we take off. Then you can say what you want.”
“I understand,” Lex said. “You’ve told me this before.”
“But you haven’t listened yet.”
“I’ve just…” Lex grinned in anticipation. “I’ve never seen one in their true form.”
“You’ve waited this long— you can wait fifteen minutes more. Just until we’re in the air.” I punched the button for the roof.
“Yeah, fine,” said Lex. “I’ll keep it under control. Just get us in the air quick.”
This was the fifth time Lex had promised, and it was beginning to annoy me. Lex was a scientist— an enthusiastic one— with an odd fascination with humans. He could talk about them all day. According to him… well, it was best not to know what he thought.
The elevator slid open. Currently disguised inside and out as a helicopter, our ship sat bulbous and squat on the flat roof. Standing a good distance away from its strangely thin blades, Marise stood at near attention in her heels and form-fitting skirt. From the way she clutched at her handbag, and the glances she gave toward the helicopter, she was nervous. Great, I thought. She won’t last a minute before Lex gets through to her. With luck, the anxiety would be for helicopters, or heights, or all her human invulnerabilities. Let it be anything but fear of strange men asking weird questions. Lex’s “interest of science” tone of voice was bad enough without anxiety.
I put on the most reassuring smile I could manage as we approached. She must have seen me before she saw Lex’s desperate grin, because she echoed my smile almost genuinely. Then her eyes flicked to the side and her smile died, disgusted, on her lips. I hurried to reach out my hand.
“How are you, Marise?” I asked. “So glad you could make it. It’s cold out here; come inside.”
She shook my hand, turning toward the disguised ship. I felt a small thrill— I had been trying to perfect my handshake for years, and it had finally worked. I kept confusing it with rock-paper-scalpel, patty-cake, and every other human hand game.
I followed Marise into the helicopter, squeezing through into the pilot seat as Lex joined the woman in the passenger section. I looked at the unfamiliar controls for a moment— this part might be tricky.
“You look very… human,” said Lex from behind me.
I closed my eyes. Just ten minutes, Lex— not now. I wanted to curse at him, but I didn’t know enough four-letter words yet, and it might upset Marise more.
“Thank you,” said Marise. She sounded cold, none of the hesitant warmth of her smile evident in her voice. Good. Lex wouldn’t faze her that easily.
“I mean, with the arms, the legs, the nose—” Lex plowed ahead, oblivious. “Not many people can pull off the look without the… the…” In the reflection from the windshield, I could see Lex wiggling his fingers from either side of his forehead like antennae. How many times did I have to tell him? Lex cleared his throat. “You actually do it quite well.”
“I’m… flattered,” said Marise, a note of confusion escaping into her voice. I could feel her eyes on me, but I didn’t turn around. What could I say? Yes, we’re aliens here to kidnap you. Yes, my partner thinks you can shapeshift like our species can. No, I don’t know why. Why, I’d love it if you would keep your scream to yourself. You’re so thoughtful.
We had to get in the air. I cast about for the controls, grabbing the single blue lever in all the black dials. I pulled the lever back halfway— that would drop the illusion outside the craft, but keep it within. With the illusion gone, we could fly without Marise suspecting anything. An orange light blinked, showing the progress of the illusion.
“Can I see them?” Lex, Lex, Lex! Shut up! “Don’t worry—I already know about them. I’ve never seen a pair, though, so…”
“My what, exactly?” asked Marise, guarded now. I clenched my fist and pressed it to the console next to the blue lever. Come on. The light still blinked orange.
“Your… your two…” Lex shifted, then finally said it. “Your antennae.”
I took a deep breath, ready for Marise to scream, run from the ship, and, if she looked back, see what it actually was.
Before she could, the light blinked green. The illusion was ready. I grabbed the throttle, jerking it. The ship surged gracefully forward. We were away, and safe. I didn’t even try to make the flight feel like that of a real helicopter, but Marise couldn’t leave now. I leaned back in my seat and flipped the blue lever completely down. Abducting humans seems so easy in their alien movies, but nothing is as simple as it looks on TV.
But we were good. I allowed myself a fist-pump, a very human gesture I had picked up in the last few years of trying to kidnap specimens. Despite Lex’s ineptitude at seeming normal, we had finally done it.
So the words barely registered when I heard Marise say, behind me, “I thought you’d never ask.”
I turned around to see the same sight Lex was gaping at.
By all the ’geuses of Betel.
We weren’t the only aliens on Earth.