This story "A Nepaterian Visitation" is offered free by Canadian Author Eileen Schuh in support of various Red Cross relief programs. She personally donated the second $1,000.00 she saved from quitting smoking to the Canadian Red Cross. Her first $1,000 went to the Red Cross' Haitian earthquake relief fund.
Read the story, decide what it's worth, and donate.
For other ways to donate, visit:
A NEPATERIAN VISITATION
“Why are we stopped?” Shaver asked. His irritating voice reminded Paul of the robot telephone-ladies who told you to press ‘1’ for service in English. The effeminate tone didn’t suit the creature; he’d clothed himself in a body that he’d most certainly modeled after Arnold Schwarzenegger’s.
“Because,” Paul growled. He drummed his fingers on the steering wheel and cast a glance at his rear-view mirror. He hated inane questions—even if they did come from extraterrestrial tourists.
Shaver pointed to the traffic signals. “I surmise it has something to do with those lights?”
Paul sighed. “The light’s red,” he enunciated. “On earth, we stop at red lights.”
“Bizarre,” Shaver muttered.
“Do you have to be so condescending about everything? What the hell can be so bizarre about a red traffic light?”
“Oh, it’s not the red traffic light that’s bizarre. It’s you stopping at it. I’ll bet you have a lot of problems with people not stopping at red lights?”
“Yeah, but I’m not one of them,” Paul said as the light turned green. He stepped on the gas a little harder than he’d intended. The tires squealed. Paul grimaced and looked in the mirror. Two black marks stretched out on the pavement behind them.
“And green means go?” Shaver asked. “I’ll bet you have a lot of problems with people sitting at green lights; not going.”
“What’s your point?”
“Well, according to my research, red alerts the human brain to danger, prompting the animalistic instinct to run or fight—or do something. Anything other than stop and stare. Whereas, that magnificent colour green is calming—something one could sit and stare at quite contentedly. I would imagine, that when the human mind is lulled into autopilot mode, the resultant behaviour would reflect this innate programming. . . .”
“I’m driving a car—not lying on a psychiatrist’s couch!”
“Ah, I see. Traffic light colours are just another attempt by man to deny his noble mammalian heritage. Why is it that your society detests the fact that man is an animal? Your wife. . . .”
“Don’t talk about my wife!” Paul interrupted angrily. He hated the way Denise cocked her head and smiled at Shaver. Hated the way his shiny black eyes grinned back at her. It was beyond him why a woman would be attracted to a eunuch like Shaver. The creature had undoubtedly got into too many steroids and feminized all parts of him that weren’t muscle; including his brain and, undoubtedly, his dick.
“Your wife,” Shaver continued undeterred, “is vegetarian. Why is that? When the human body is so definitely designed to be carnivorous, why would it be considered noble to deny it the protein and nutrients so vital to its well-being?”
“You’re being condescending again.”
“I’m simply pointing out differences between us,” Shaver sulked. “I’m not judging! Not better; not worse. Just different!”
“Well, perhaps, unlike your stagnant Nepaterian society, mankind is still evolving—into something superior!”
“Now who’s being condescending?”
“Tit for tat, Shaver.”
“What’s this?” Shaver asked as Paul pulled to the curb in front of a concrete monument.
“You, of all creatures, should recognize it!” Paul snapped.
Shaver rolled down his window and peered out. The scent of freshly planted geraniums wafted in on the warm Alberta spring breeze. “Does it have some religious significance?” Shaver guessed.
“No. It has no significance.”
“Then why are you showing it to me?”
“You told me you were a tourist, so I’m showing you touristy things. Insignificant touristy things.”
“It’s a UFO landing pad,” Paul muttered.
“It is?” Shaver said, sticking his head out the window. “Is it not a bit on the small side?”
“It’s a joke, Shaver,” Paul chided. “All the other towns around here have the ‘world’s biggest’. The biggest pysanka. The biggest pyrogy. The biggest duck. The biggest mushroom. The biggest sausage. In 1967, St. Paul decided that rather going for size, it would build the world’s only UFO landing pad. However, since success breeds imitation, now we can only brag that we have the world’s first UFO landing pad.”
“And it isn’t the biggest?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Paul mumbled.
“And tourists come to see it? What do they do with it?”
“That’s all its good for.”
“Is it usual to build edifices for no other purpose than to be the biggest or the first? Is this an ego thing?” Shaver asked, rolling up his window and settling back into his seat.
“No, it’s an embarrassing thing. Our illustrious leaders intended it to be an economic thing. A publicity thing. Draw worldwide attention to the Town of St. Paul, Alberta, Canada. Entice tourists to spend their dollars here. It did all that—but at the same time, it insulted the residents. Sometimes the Chamber of Commerce sponsors international UFO conferences. Town folk make a point of not attending. Even the mayor slips out the back door after his official welcoming speech.”
“It’s an embarrassing joke?”
“Perhaps because it goes against the religious conscience of the community. After all, God created man on this earth. Period. Contemplating the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence seems a tad sacrilegious. Shaver, even though you’re not all that intelligent, St. Paulites aren’t going to like you. At all.”
“Even if I tell them that their god didn’t create me?”
“Their God is the only god. The only creator. All else is blasphemy.”
“Oh. Perhaps I’ll keep a low profile, then. What else touristy can you show me?”
“Nothing. That’s it. That’s St. Paul. Why the hell did you decide to show up here? Why not in Toronto or New York, the seats of culture? Perhaps Ottawa or Washington, home of our leaders? Somewhere scientific? Why St. Paul? A tiny spot on the map, in the middle of nowhere? A sleepy little farming community? Is it our oil sands you’re after?”
“I’ve told you; this is a vacation, not an official visitation. I’m after nothing but information and a good time. A few beer. Perhaps a good woman. . . .”
“Speaking of good women, mine is out of bounds to you, Shaver!”
“But she likes me!”
“In our culture, marriage is sacred. Between a man and woman, or two men, or whatever, in Canada, anyways. Two people. That’s all. Just two—unless polygamy gets ruled legal. In any event, my marriage is just me and my wife.”
“But she likes me!”
“Forget it! She’s mine!”
“My research shows that in the North American society of the new Millennium, women are not possessions. They have the legal right to make their own decisions. . . .”
“Shaver! In North American society, when another man’s wife likes you, you ought to do everything possible to make her not like you!”
“Really? Wow! I did a lot of research on how to get humanoids to like me, very little on the vice versa. Hmmm. Since she’s a vegetarian, should I gift her with a hamburger, perhaps?”
“I’d really like to try out this sex, thing. I think I’m feeling the stirring in my groin. The heat and expansion. I foresee the great pleasure. . . .”
“Oh lordy, Shaver!” Paul shouted, shifting into gear and hammering down the gas pedal. “Don’t talk about it! Keep it to yourself!”
“Why?” Shaver asked as he struggled to loosen his seatbelt from around his neck.
“It’s not something we earthlings talk about!”
“Now I know for sure you’re lying. Sex is talked about all the time. It sells movies, microwaves, and cars. Males have sexual thoughts every five minutes on average. Sex is the premier subject of conversations. . . .”
“Other people’s sex. Not your own. Don’t talk about your ‘stirring’ to me!”
“Shall I talk about your sex, then? Your wife’s?”
“When you’re alone with another man, you don’t talk about anybody’s sex!”
“You’re lying. Although sex is not talked about in mixed company, it . . . .”
“Your information is dated. Nowadays, it’s only talked about in mixed company. You and I aren’t mixed, so shut up about it.”
“Could you take me, then, for a beer? My research indicates. . . .”
“I’m not taking you for a beer. I’ll buy us some and we’ll drink it at home.”
“But the social aspect of drinking. . . .”
“We’ll socialize at home. Some people tend to get in a fighting mood when they drink beer and socialize. I foresee you being a walking, talking, target for a drunken cowboy’s fist.”
“Did you have a good time?” Denise called from the kitchen. Paul set down the 12-pack of Canadian and bent to untie his shoelaces.
“Marvellous!” Shaver answered, pushing past Paul. He stopped in the kitchen doorway and stared at Denise. “Did you do something to your hair while we were gone? It looks awful!”
“Shaver, for Christ’s sake!” Paul cursed, kicking of his shoe. It struck the wall with a rubbery thud and tumbled back onto the welcome mat. “Don’t say shit like that!”
“I’m supposed to make her not like me. . . .”
“You’re making me not like you! You don’t go insulting a man’s woman in his presence.” Paul kicked off his other shoe and picked up the beer.
“Sorry,” Shaver mumbled. “It was a lie, anyways, Denise. You look wonderful, as always. Sexy. I can feel a stir. . . .”
“No talk about stirrings, Shaver!” Paul warned. “Go sit in the den. I’ll bring you a beer.”
“We’re now mixed company!” Shaver protested.
“I don’t care! No sex talk! Got it? No sex talk!”
Denise giggled, tilted her head, and looked up at Shaver through her lashes. “Don’t listen to Paul. You go ahead and tell me I’m sexy, whenever you want to!”
“Denise!” Paul scolded. He set the beer on the counter with a bang. “Shaver, go! Git! I need to talk to my wife alone! Plug in a movie or something. Turn on the hockey playoffs—that will be a cultural learning experience for you.”
Paul watched Denise as she watched Shaver stride down the hall. Her eyes stared out on the muscles rippling across his shoulders and straining at his shirt and then dropped to the firm cheeks in his jeans, tightening with each mincing step. She had a smile on her lips and her eyes were laughing.
“Denise!” Paul hissed. “We have to get rid of him!”
“He’s so funny!” she giggled, finally looking at Paul.
“He’s got to go!”
“Nepateria. Timbuktu. Tuktoyaktuk. I don’t care. Anywhere but St. Paul!”
“I take it that your afternoon together didn’t go so well?”
“Denise,” Paul whispered into her ear. “I don’t think he’s what he says he is.”
“What do you think he is?”
“I think he’s an escapee from the mental hospital. I think he was locked up there because he’s a sexual pervert. That’s all he wanted to talk about.”
Denise stepped back, brushed a lock of her golden hair from her cheek, and stuck her thumbs in her front jean pockets—like she used to do—when they were both much younger. “You can’t blame him, Paul. It’s probably been light years since he’s had any.”
“We ought to call the cops. I believe it’s a criminal offense to harbour an alien.”
“That would be ‘alien’ like in ‘illegal immigrant’,” Denise chuckled. “Not ‘alien’ like ‘extraterrestrial’.”
“Think about it! He could be a danger to our national security. Why do you suppose he’s ‘vacationing’ in St. Paul? Is he, perhaps, scouting our tar sands and diamond mines?”
“St. Paul isn’t near the tar sands and diamond mines!”
“Compared to Nepateria it is. Or Australia. Or Washington. We really ought to turn him in. We’re not experts in ascertaining his danger to us. To Canada. To the world at large!”
“Ummm,” Denise said with a grin. She raised her eyebrows. “Would it be your intention to imprison all men who find me attractive?”
“He’s not a ‘man’, Denise. He’s just made himself a human body. I’ll bet in reality, he’s a three-headed monster. . . . With ugly teeth. . . . And bad body odour.”
Denise tucked in her chin and batted her lids. “You’re jealous, aren’t you?”
“Hardly,” Paul said, quickly stepping past her and tearing open the carton of beer. The bottles jingled inside. Danced. Rubbed against each other.
“Yeah. Yeah, you are!” Denise teased.
“He said your hair looks awful. If I’d said that. . . .” Paul pulled two cool bottles from the case. They were frosty, wet.
“But you know better than to say something like that,” Denise whispered, wrapping her arms around his waist. “Shaver doesn’t. I find that so cute.” She laid her head on his back. She smelled like . . . the spring rain.
“Cute? You find him cute?” Paul slid sideways from under her cuddle and reached in the drawer for a bottle opener. “His voice alone is enough to drive a man insane. He wants to socialize.” He popped open the beer. “Would you like to join us? Should I open one for you?”
“Sure. I’ll socialize.”
“Tell me what your planet is like, Shaver,” Denise said, grabbing the remote and muting the hockey game.
“It’s the Stanley Cup playoffs, Denise!” Paul protested.
“It’s May. Even in Canada, there should not be ice hockey in May.”
“Hockey is an interesting game,” Shaver said, drawing his eyes from the screen. “According to my research . . . .”
“We know about our world,” Paul cut in. “You don’t have to tell us your research.”
“Please, Shaver, tell us about your world. What’s your planet like?” Denise said, taking the spot beside him on the loveseat.
Paul glanced at the two wing chairs. Right there. Both of them facing Shaver. There had been no need for his wife to crowd the alien.
“A lot like earth,” Shaver answered.
Paul sighed, sank into the green wing chair, and sucked back a good third of his beer.
“We have two suns,” Shaver continued. “We have much more light than earth and intrinsically more interesting shadows. This gives us an entirely different perspective.”
“What are the creatures like?”
“Your people? What do they look like?”
“It depends on the style of the day.”
“No, I mean, do they have three heads?”
“Not generally. I don’t believe three heads would be considered beautiful, although who knows what the style might someday dictate. Perhaps because we have two suns, our culture is very educated on the nature of light. We mastered it a long time ago. We use it, bend it, twist it, refract and reflect it. We’re able to both alter the characteristics of light and our perception of it. For eons, we have been making ourselves and our world appear the way we wish.”
“Earthlings are getting there, too,” Paul said. “Nanotechnology and its metamaterials can bend light around an object. It may ultimately provide us with cloaks of invisibility. It’s on the horizon.”
“Are you making that up?” Denise asked. “Just to brag to Shaver?”
“No, I’m not ‘making it up’. There’ll soon be a day when you can put all the steel support posts you want in a hockey arena, wrap them in a metamaterial, and people will be able to see right through them.”
“That must be recent?” Shaver asked.
“Yes, recent. In this month’s issue of Discovery Magazine.”
“It’s not just the visual aspect of our environment we manipulate,” Shaver said. “We work with sound, too. Because of course, sound waves are just extensions of the visible light spectrum. I believe if you extend your eight-note music scale past your ability to hear, your ‘C’ note is eventually perceived as the colour red.”
Denise shifted her butt and spread her legs a bit so that her thigh touched Shaver’s. Paul downed the rest of his beer and reached for another.
“Shaver, how do you procreate?” Denise asked with a teasing lift of her lips. She kept her eyes on Shaver’s until he closed them, then ducked her head and grinned mischievously at Paul.
“Denise!” Paul scolded. “That has nothing to do with what we were talking about. It’s not something. . . .”
“I’m just asking out of intellectual curiosity,” Denise defended. “Propagation of the species, the passing on of genes. It’s a vital part of life, at least here on earth. I’m assuming it’s a universal necessity for biological entities, anyways. Is it, Shaver? Does your planet have survival of the fittest? Evolution?”
She paused, batted her eyelashes, and lowered her voice to a sultry whisper. “Is there competition to pass on your genes by mating with the best, strongest, most beautiful female?”
Shaver’s eyes widened as if terrified by the question. He looked to Paul and then jumped from his seat. “Oh, I can’t answer that. No. I can’t speak of . . . sex . . . ,” he said, rushing to gaze out the window.
“Denise,” Paul put in. “His is an advanced civilization. It’s probably done in vitro. In the lab. Genetic engineering. . . .”
“Any strong primitive urges, Shaver?” Denise continued loudly. “Is propagation pleasurable?”
“I’m confused!” Shaver complained, turning to stare at Paul. “My research had shown that propagation is an acceptable, well discussed topic in North America at the beginning of the twenty-first century. However, I can tell it’s not. I’ve made my honourable host very uncomfortable. . . .”
“Oh, I’m not uncomfortable,” Denise said lightly. “Perhaps if Paul is, he should leave and you and I could discuss this in private. . . .”
“She’s joking!” Paul said, scowling at his wife.
“An embarrassing joke?” Shaver asked.
“She thinks you’re cute!” Paul shouted, setting down his beer and standing to face Shaver. “Cute like a child—a denigration of your maleness. She has no interest in your sex life!”
“Oh. I’ve missed the subtleties, have I?” Shaver said.
“We should talk about your plans,” Paul said. “Like, when do you plan on leaving?”
“I just barely got here. After eons of travel. I’d been hoping. . . . Never mind. I’ll leave right now.”
“Paul’s being rude,” Denise said. “You must stay. We’ve had so little time to get to know you.”
“You should be staying with scientists,” Paul interjected. “World leaders. Perhaps, the media. This is not the right place for you. I think you ought to fly to New York and visit the United Nations and the Statue of Liberty, or something.”
“Paul, I think Shaver should set up a web page for himself. A blog. Join some discussion groups. He could mesmerize people the world over with his advanced knowledge and novel perspective. Right, Shaver? I could show you how. Our entire society ought to benefit from your visit.”
“He’s not here to benefit us,” Paul argued. “He’s just on vacation. He wants us to benefit him.”
“Oh, dear,” Shaver said. “I was warned I might not be welcome. Perhaps I’ll have to resort to plan ‘b’.”
“What’s plan ‘b’?” Denise asked.
“I’d chosen this somewhat androgynous portrayal of myself to avoid appearing threatening but that plan has obviously failed. I must alter my form to something less intrusive.”
“You mean, become like a fly on the wall?” Paul suggested.
“Oh, my! Not a fly, I don’t think. I’d hate to get swatted or sprayed with an insecticide.”
“You could be a rock or an island,” Paul muttered.
“I’d prefer to be mobile,” Shaver objected. “It’s easier to be a tourist that way.”
“How evolved is your society?” Denise asked. “You’ve obviously master space travel and you can work miracles with light. How long did it take your people to learn how to do that?”
“How long? Oh, dear. You do realize that time isn’t linear. My research shows that’s something mankind has known for decades.”
“Oh, yes. For sure. Since Einstein, I believe. Time is multidimensional, simultaneous. The end is the beginning. The alpha and the omega. Everything that can possibly happen, does. Etcetera, etcetera.”
“Time is simultaneous?”
“That the closest way you can come to comprehending it. It only appears linear because of the way your senses are aligned and your brain is wired. Mathematically. . . . Well, your scientists know all this, I’m sure.”
“That doesn’t make sense!” Paul scoffed. “Without time, there wouldn’t be cause and effect.”
“Well, in a sense . . . . Your stream of consciousness is focussed in a world where cause and effect generally does occur, but there are other worlds. . . . Everett’s Many Worlds Theory, have you not heard of it?”
“You’re talking gibberish,” Paul complained. “Is that what happens when you drink beer? Do you loose your senses?”
“Oh, I apologize. My research had indicated this was common knowledge. I’m somewhat surprised to find your society still trapped in the linear time mode. Watches. Clocks. Calendars. History books. Evolution. Interesting. I see that society has not yet integrated its science into its culture.”
“Nepaterians have no time? No history? No future? Nothing? Everything just happens all at once for you?”
“Oh, dear. I’m not sure how I can explain it in terms that your brain can comprehend. . . .”
“Forget it, then. Tell me about the culture? Do you engage in wars with each other?
“Oh, heaven’s no! We have no concept of imperialism. We’re very aware that the universe provides everything everyone needs. There’s no need to fight over it!”
“But what do you do when someone pisses you off?” Denise asked.
“Pisses you off? Like intrudes on your space, perhaps? Or harms you in some way? Ummm . . . generally, you’d just make them disappear. Or, you’d disappear yourself.”
“Pollution—is pollution a problem? Overpopulation? Devastation of the landscape?”
“Oh, no. None of that. We live in harmony with ourselves, each other, the universe. Just harmony.”
“But you must milk the land,” Paul argued. “Even if you don’t need weapons, you’d need metals and smelters and fuel for space travel.”
“We do it with . . . light. There’s lots of light. Two suns.”
“But the by-products, the waste. . . .”
“They’re broken down into their original elements and returned to the planet.”
“And it’s always been that way?” Denise asked. She drained her beer and ran her lips around the rim before setting the empty on the floor at her feet. She lounged back in the loveseat, ran a hand through her curls, and adjusted her bra strap.
“Always?” Shaver asked. “Well . . . the true nature of time, you know. Always and never and forever. . . .”
“Do Nepaterians sleep?” Paul asked quickly. “Because it’s getting to be about that time for me.”
“He’s lying,” Paul said, snuggling down in the covers and drawing a pillow over his eyes to block the light. “We really ought to call the cops, Denise. It’s not safe to invite strangers into your house.”
“We didn’t invite him, remember?” Denise answered from the ensuite. “He just . . . appeared. Damn! I can’t get this necklace off.”
“If a stranger appears in your house without invitation, all the more reason to call the police.”
“He’s harmless. Can you undo the clasp?” Denise asked, snuggling her naked rear against him on the bed.
“I’m not going to be able to sleep, knowing he’s in the house,” Paul said, grabbing his glasses from the nightstand and peering at the gold chain around Denise’s neck.
“Think about it, Paul,” Denise said, lifting her hair and dropping her chin to her chest. “He can make himself disappear. ‘HELP, POLICE! HELP! There’s an alien in my house!’ ‘Where?’ ‘I don’t know; he’s invisible!’ Sure, Paul, go ahead and call 9-1-1. Just wait until I leave.”
Paul pulled the chain from her neck and passed it to her. “Thank you,” she added, rising and walking to the dresser.
“Now what are you doing?” Paul asked, again sliding the pillow over his face. He heard his wife rummaging in the dresser drawer.
“Don’t sound so disgusted. I’m looking for my red satin teddy.”
“You are?” Paul peeped at her from behind the pillow.
“Would it put you in the mood?” Denise asked, licking her lips. She held the straps of her nightie to her shoulders, wiggled her hips, and let the crimson lingerie tumble over her breasts.
“Was it me that made you horny, or Shaver?”
“Does it matter where I get my appetite as long as I eat at home?” she whispered, prancing toward him.
“Wow!” Paul said, exhaling loudly. “Come to me, mama!”
Paul pinched at his wedgy and shuffled into the kitchen to make the coffee. He felt like whistling a tune. It had been a long time since there had been passion like last night’s in the master suite.
“Good morning,” Shaver’s familiar voice greeted from the dinette table. Paul rubbed his eyes. A buxom brunette was at his table. Her long, pale legs were snaking around the chair rungs. A mass of dark curls was catching the early sun. An irresistible smile tweaked at her luscious lips. He rubbed his eyes again.
“Don’t worry, Paul. It’s just me, Shaver. Do you like my new appearance?”
Paul dug in his pyjama pocket for his glasses, slipped them on, and strode over to Shaver. He bent and peered into the alien’s eyes. They were as black as before and just as empty.
“Yeah, Shaver, it’s you,” Paul said, returning to the counter to set the coffee.
“I did some more research and I think I understand the source of the discomfort I was creating. It seems that historically, whereas it was obvious who mothered a child, a man was never able to prove his paternity. This circumstance resulted in a primordial sense of jealousy in the male animal, of necessity, to guard his genetic . . . .”
“I told you, Shaver; I don’t need you to hear your research! I live here!” Paul interrupted. Coming from a woman’s lips, the tone of Shaver’s voice wasn’t nearly as annoying as before. However, the content was.
“The female of the species at times can be exceedingly protective of her mate, as well. Because, after all, when she’s pregnant or with a child at the breast, she’s less sexually attractive. Yet that’s when she’s the most vulnerable and has the greatest need for a strong male to protect and provide for her and her offspring.”
“Umm,” Paul grunted, shuffling in his slippers across the hardwood to join Shaver at the table. The spring sun, glinting off the dew on the budding irises, was already high in the sky. It was promising to be another warm day.
“Do you suppose Denise will be jealous?” Shaver asked, batting his extensive lashes. He unwound his legs, leaned forward, and plunged his manicured fingers into his cleavage. He pulled out a gold chain with a silver cross, drew it across his ‘Brazen Raisin lip gloss, and let it slide back into his bra. He raised his eyebrows.
“Doubt it,” Paul answered.
“My research indicates that since she’s not mothering or with child, she likely won’t be.”
“Sure,” Paul said.
“Who the hell are you?” Denise growled from the doorway. She wrapped her robe tighter. Her hair was every which way and yesterday’s makeup seeped from her eyes. Paul scowled. He wished she’d gotten dressed before coming out. She knew there was a guest in the house.
Shaver unwound himself and stood. “Do you like the new me?” he asked, spinning off a semblance of a pirouette.
“I liked you better before,” Denise grumbled. She trudged over to the counter. “Coffee’s ready. Who wants some?”
“Is there something I should change?” Shaver asked, running his hands through his hair and down his sides before reseating himself.
“Yeah, your sex,” Denise muttered.
“Pour us all some,” Paul requested.
Denise set the cups on the table. “Shove over!” she ordered Paul as she wrestled a chair into the space between him and Shaver.
“You could sit there!” Paul protested, nodding to the empty seat across the table.
“Or, hey, you could!” Denise retaliated.
“You had a good time in bed last night?” Shaver asked.
“How would you know?” Paul asked.
“I can smell it.”
“Ah, lordy, Shaver! For heaven’s sake, Denise, go take a shower!”
“Don’t be ordering me around,” Denise said, sipping at her coffee.
“Are you jealous of me, Denise?” Shaver asked.
“Jealous? Of an alien? Heaven’s no! Even if you did get it up for Paul, he wouldn’t know what to do with it!”
“He can smell that you’re lying!” Paul shouted. “Go take a shower!”
“I think we’ll go to the magic show tonight,” Denise said, pulling The St. Paul Journal to her and thumbing through it. “Ah, here it is. 7 pm at the Rec Centre. It only costs $5.00. It’s a fundraiser for the Music Centre. What do you think, Shaver? Entertainment is hard to come by around here. We could try it, no?”
“No,” Paul answered.
“I was asking Shaver, not you, Paul. Although you’re welcome to come along if you wish.”
“People don’t tend to get in the fighting mood when they socialize at a magic show, I hope?” Shaver asked.
“They tend to get in a sleepy mood,” Paul grumbled. “Forget it, Denise. This entertainment is for kids.”
“But I want to go,” Shaver said, batting his lashes and again slipping his hand into his cleavage. He pulled out his pendant, entwined the chain in his fingers, and gazed at Paul.
Paul could swear he saw something besides nothing in Shaver’s black eyes. An invitation, perhaps, was stirring deep within the dark pools. Allure. Memories of last night’s frolic, the scent of sex, the promise. . . .
Paul swiftly dropped his eyes and shifted in his chair. “Okay, then,” he said. “Let’s do it.”
“That was amazing!” Shaver said, as they trooped from the garage into the kitchen.
“Beer?” Paul asked.
“Are you certain there were no metamaterials involved? I can’t see how it could be done otherwise. The woman disappears from the stage and seconds later, appears behind us!”
“It’s magic!” Denise whispered.
“No. No. One can’t believe in magic. There must be a science behind it. Research shows that in ancient times, men guarded their knowledge by developing secret societies, covens, shaman, that sort of thing. They used their scientific secrets to perform feats that convinced the masses that they were ultra-powerful, or perhaps, directly connected to the gods. They were able to exert tremendous control over their subjects.”
“Research also shows,” Paul said, “that scientists are the easiest people to confound, confuse, and convince, because they are trained to make impartial and impassionate observations. They tend to believe what they see, without questioning it. There were no metamaterials. No light shows. No laser or tasers, tonight, Shaver. No magic. No science. Just sleight of hand. What you thought you saw, you didn’t see.”
“Are you sure about that? You’re not concealing your technology from me?”
“I’m sure, Shaver.”
“I’m ready for bed,” Denise said, slipping her arm through Paul’s.
“Good night, Denise,” Shaver said. He waltzed into the living room and tucked his feet under him on the sofa. “Paul, perhaps you and I could have a beer yet?”
“Sure,” Paul agreed. He disentangled himself from Denise and strode to the fridge. When he turned back, with a beer in each hand, he caught sight of his wife’s scowl. “A quick one,” he added.
“Don’t forget, Paul, you have to get up early tomorrow,” Denise said.
“There’s just a few things I’d like to talk to Shaver about,” Paul said, handing the alien a beer.
Shaver uncurled his legs and stretched until his toes rested on the edge of the coffee table. With his free hand, he walked his fingers up his black pantyhose, past his knee to his thigh, then under his skirt. “Interesting fabric,” he muttered.
“Talk about what, Paul?” Denise demanded. “Propagation?”
“Denise, you should join us,” Shaver invited. “I have the feeling I won’t be here when you get up tomorrow.”
“Where will you be?”
“I’ll be heading home,” Shaver said.
“So soon?” Denise moaned.
“Remember the true nature of time. I’ve been here forever, in a way.”
“But I always dreamed that if mankind were able to make contact with an advanced civilization, all my questions could be answered.”
“The meaning of life. My purpose. Where I came from, where I’m going. What happens after death? Is there a master mind behind creation?”
“You don’t need me for that. The answers are all right here.”
“Right here? Where?”
Shaver looked about the room. “Everywhere. For example, there! In that brass knob, the round one on the bathroom door.”
“The answers to mankind’s deepest questions are in the bathroom doorknob?”
Shaver set his feet on the floor, his beer on the table, and reached for Denise’s hand. “Here, I’ll show you.”
He led her to the bathroom door. “Look,” he instructed, bending to peer at his reflection in the brass. “Can you see my face?”
“Your face is the answer to the questions?”
“No. No. But look, as I move away, what happens?”
Denise peered over his shoulder. “Your image turns upside down.”
“And if I move yet farther away?”
“It flips back to upside right.”
“Exactly! See? It’s all right there!”
“I . . . don’t get it.”
“Yes, yes you do! You must! Someone here on earth must get it! Your scientists look out to the edges of the universe to see the beginning of time. What do they find? Nothing! The great black nothing from which all things arose. Your other scientists peer into the smallest particles of matter. Smash them open, break them apart. Smaller and smaller. Until they find the great black nothing from which all things arise. The stars are simply a reflection of your atoms; a reflection that is warped by time and space, like how my image being warped by the curvature of the doorknob. Upside down, right side up. The end. The beginning. Them and us. You and I. It’s all one. A massive nothing. Everything. All at once. Denise, you’re nothing and yet you’re also the entire universe! Don’t you get it?”
“I don’t know,” Denise mumbled.
“It’s like this,” Shaver said, marching to the front door. He flung it open and strode into the night shadows.
Paul came up behind Denise and stared at Shaver as he walked toward the curb. Under the orange of the street lamp, his image flickered and faltered. Shaver was a demon. A god. Light and Darkness.
Entranced by the images, Paul stepped onto the porch. He saw himself in Shaver. Saw Denise, his boss, and his secretary. Shaver was a child, a young woman, a man, a senior hobbling with a cane, a body in a coffin. Then he was nothing.
Paul looked to the heavens. Orion. Cassiopeia. Ursa Major. A full moon.
Though he knew it wasn’t really there, he saw it—an embryo in its water sack, floating toward the edge of the universe. Shaver’s beginning. His beginning. The beginning of time.
“Why do I have a feeling that this is déjà vu all over again?” Paul asked.
“You saw it in 2001: A Space Odyssey,” Denise whispered. “Before now, I never quite understood the ending of that movie.”
- 30 -