Rebecca Turkewitz | Flash Fiction
The aliens wanted our memories, or our loyalty, or our skin cells and four vials of our blood. They smelled like a swamp, or like cotton candy, or like plastic wrap, but dangerous. They had seven eyes, or no eyes, or webbed fingers, or scales all over their rust-colored bodies. They looked like amoebas the size of cows, or tottering snowmen, or gorillas with gold-tinged fur.
We’d told only our closest family members about the encounter, or we’d told anyone who would listen, or we’d told the police, who’d asked about our drug use and refused to make a report. Some of us have told no one at all, except for each other, hunched over the keyboard in the furtive blue glow of our 3 a.m. computer screens. Some of us still Google “Here on Earth: Survivors Forum,” because we are too nervous to bookmark the page, even though we’ve visited the site hundreds of times.
We feel violated. We feel chosen. We feel a renewed sense of possibility. We feel scared, all these years later. We feel strangely aroused whenever we think of that long weekend and we aren’t sure why.
We live in Reno, Nevada, or Houston, Texas, or Saskatchewan, or the Southern coast of Maine.
We are eager to share details. The expected ones, such as the fog of electrical charge that prickled our skin just before the spinning disk blocked out the moon. And the unexpected ones, such as how we reached out to stroke the crouched figure behind its earholes. How did we know the creature wouldn’t harm us? It’s primal—the soul is imprinted with ancient knowledge and it knows when to reach out.
We are afraid to check the locks on the chicken coop after dusk. We lost five good hens to a coyote one night. They were screaming, screaming, screaming. But we couldn’t make ourselves step into that open belly of darkness to defend what was ours.
Or we wake every morning just before dawn so we can scramble onto the porch roof and flash Morse code with our sister’s laser pointer. We’re ready. We’re willing. We don’t understand why the aliens won’t return.
We’re lonely in a new way that feels like a great ocean of emptiness has cracked open around us. Or we feel connected to every earthly being. We are tingling with love for each blade of grass, each sparrow, each one of our own precious cells.
Orange juice tastes different now, and lemons, and grapefruit. Any form of citrus, really. Or suddenly we have perfect pitch. Or we have come to really truly appreciate the color purple.
We have new birthmarks, or trackers under our ribs, or sudden streaks of white in our hair. One of us has a new heart. Literarily a different heart. This is not a metaphor.
We have coworkers who call us crazy. We have adult children who say, “I believe that youbelieve you saw something.” We have dogs who won’t leave our side anymore and grandkids who are skeptics but love to hear us tell the stories anyway. We have spouses who have grown wary and watch us with unease.
We have questions. We have theories. We have memories we cannot shake and memories we’ve examined from every angle and memories that elude us. We used to have doubts. Before we found each other, we had shame.
We believe one another and we are believed.
At night, we look up at the dark slash of sky. A satellite blinks. The wind knocks a branch against the garage. The clouds swallow the moon and then spit it back out.
Rebecca Turkewitz is a writer and high school English teacher living in Portland, Maine. Her first book, a collection of stories titled HERE IN THE NIGHT, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press in July. Her fiction and humor writing have appeared in The Normal School, The Masters Review, Chicago Quarterly Review, Electric Literature, The New Yorker‘s Daily Shouts, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in fiction from The Ohio State University.