Category: Alien Encounters

Charlie’s Room: Space Cats

“Tell me a story,” Charlie said. He leaned on Isaac’s desk, and a pen rolled off onto his keyboard.

Isaac picked up the pen and set it in the jar of pencils. “I’m working right now. Maybe later?”

Charlie slumped further and some papers crumpled under his elbow. “But I want a story now. Please? I’m bored.”

Isaac turned to look at Charlie. He knew that Charlie had homework to do, and books to read, and a yard to play in. But, he also knew that since the quarantine started everything was different and strange, and Charlie wasn’t the only one feeling unsettled. “Okay. I’ll take a break and tell you a story. How about some cocoa, too?” He shut down his computer.

Charlie followed him into the kitchen and started handing him the ingredients he’d need. He leaned in and watched the small bubbles form on the surface as Isaac stirred. “Is it done yet?”

“Almost.” Soon enough, Isaac was pouring the cocoa into mugs. He left the pot in the sink to soak. Marianne was in the bedroom on a phone call, so Isaac set her mug aside for her. He and Charlie took their mugs to the living room, sat on the couch, and turned to face eachother.

“What do you want a story about?”

Charlie thought for a minute or two. “Space cats.”

That was different. Space cats? “Alright. Space cats. Are they cat astronauts from earth? Do they live on the space station?”

“No.” Charlie frowned. “They always lived in space. They’re space cats.”

“Okay.” Isaac sipped his cocoa while he thought for a moment. Still no ideas. He needed more information. “Do they look like regular cats? What do they eat?”

“They look like regular cats except they’re purple. And they eat shooting stars, if they catch them. They chase them really fast.” Charlie waved his hand back and forth. “Really fast, like that, see?” He waved his hand back and forth a few more times.

“Got it. I’ll see what I can do.” Isaac set his mug down.

“Once, there was a family of space cats. There was a mom space cat, and a dad space cat, and a brave and smart little boy space cat. They lived in space and took naps on asteroids, unless they were in a hurry. Then they napped on comets and got where they were going really quickly at the same time. They were very smart space cats. The mom space cat was the smartest one of all, of course, so it was probably her idea.”

“But what about the shooting stars?”

“I’m getting there.” Isaac took another sip of cocoa, very slowly.

“Daaaaaaad,” Charlie said. “Finish the story.”

“Oh, alright. Let’s see, the space cats liked to nap on asteroids best, because that’s what they ate, so it was nice to stay close to their food. The type of asteroids they liked best were the ones that were fiery hot. They tasted better that way. They heated up when they go too close to a planet and were pulled through the atmosphere really, really fast.”

“Shooting stars!”

“Yup. But they had to catch them before they burned up all the way, and they couldn’t fly as fast in atmospheres, because gravity made things difficult. The little boy space cat was the best at catching shooting stars because he was the fastest. And then, one day, he had a great idea. He thought that they needed to think of a way to heat up asteroids without going into the atmosphere. And then he looked at the bright, shiny, sun”

“The sun is too hot for space cats,” Charlie said. “They’d melt.”

“Yes, and it wasn’t the same thing at all. But it was on fire without any atmosphere at all. He told his parents that they needed to find a way to set asteroids on fire without chasing them into the atmosphere all the time. They needed to find a way to steal a piece of the sun and carry it around with them. The mom space cat had an idea. She said that she remembered seeing a crystal on the other side of the galaxy that was strong enough to hold a piece of the sun. They rode a comet over and found the crystal.”

Isaac took a long sip of cocoa.

“Daaaaaaad.”

“Sorry, sorry. Let’s see. They got they crystal. And then the dad cat thought that if they sent it through the atmosphere and it got hot like a shooting star, it would be like having a piece of sun to carry with them, but not too hot. But they would have to catch it at just the right time. And who was the best at catching shooting stars?”

“The little boy space cat?”

“That’s right. So they sent the crystal into the atmosphere, and he caught it at just the right time, when it was shining its brightest. Then they took it back to an asteroid and used the crystal to cook dinner. A long time later, when it stopped glowing as brightly, what do you think they did?”

Charlie bounced on the cushion in excitement. “They sent it into the atmosphere again and caught it when it was just right!”

“That’s right. And they lived happily ever after.”

Charlie grinned and drank the last of his cocoa in one big gulp. “That was a good story.”

“I think it turned out well. You had a great idea.”

“Like the little boy space cat!”

Isaac nodded. “Just like him. You should write down our story so you don’t forget it. We can make it into a book.”

Charlie jumped up. “I’ll draw pictures, too. It’ll be the best book! We can put it on the shelf with the dinosaur books, and you can read it to me at bedtime.”

Charlie raced away, and Isaac finished his cocoa. He stood to take his and Charlie’s mugs to the sink. Just then, Charlie peeked around the corner. “Dad?”

“Yes?”

“Thank you for telling me a story.”

“Of course.”

And Charlie raced away again, apparently no longer feeling bored and unsettled. Isaac took the mugs to the sink, and smiled when he saw that Marianne’s mug was gone. He hoped her phone calls were going well. Then, feeling less unsettled himself, he went back to work.

The Rise of Our Common Foe

Zander was tired. His shift was over and he was beyond ready to go home. He could barely keep his eyes open. This was probably the reason that he ignored all the warning signs until it was far too late. He just didn’t see them.

The lobby was empty, unusual for a Friday evening. There wasn’t anybody at the front desk. That caught his attention. He assumed the receptionist stepped away for a moment while things were quiet and dismissed any further thought about it.

There were no other cars in the parking garage. Hours earlier, he drove around for twenty minutes to find a spot on the employee levels. Now all the spots were empty, and somehow he didn’t notice.

Zander didn’t notice that there weren’t any other cars on the road. He still didn’t notice when all the lights blinked out one by one as he passed. Instead, he listened to an audio book on his phone and yawned, fighting to stay awake.

Then the narration stopped, just as the boy was bit trying to kill the giant snake. Zander glanced down at his phone. His battery died already? It should have made it all the way home.

The screen was black. It was dead then. Zander looked back up with a sigh. How was he supposed to stay awake for the drive home now?

A light blinked out, ten miles down the road ahead. And then the next one, just a little closer. No light was visible beyond that. Zander still hadn’t noticed.

He didn’t notice when the only lights on anywhere were those in the mile-long stretch of road ahead of his car. He didn’t notice when a dark cloud passed in front of the moon and the sky went dark. He didn’t even notice the sudden chill in the air.

But when the ground began to shake and all the remaining lights went off at once and his car suddenly stopped, he noticed. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do much at that point. He tried fumbling with his seat belt, but it wouldn’t unbuckle.

There was a grinding, rumbling, roaring sound just below his car. The ground rolled his car around like a marble going down a drain. Zander suddenly wasn’t at all sleepy.

And then, with a popping sound like a million soap bubbles all meeting their doom at the same time on the same microphone, Zander’s car was sucked into the middle of the road and disappeared.

The road smoothed out to its normal level of driveable wear and tear. Moments later, the lights were back on. The dark cloud faded into a light evening fog. Traffic resumed as if there had been no pause.

But for Zander, life was anything but normal. His car plummeted faster and faster through the darkness. He was pressed against his seat belt, no longer touching the seat below him.

He couldn’t even hear himself scream. He had never been so frightened. It was impossible to tell how long he fell.

And suddenly the car was gone. At least, he assumed that’s why he no longer gripped the steering wheel or pressed against the seat belt. He no longer felt like he was falling, either. Instead, he was suspended in darkness. He felt it pressing in on him from all sides.

“I didn’t think we’d find one this easily,” a voice said. It was a perfectly normal voice, and it spoke in a conversational tone, as though someone was standing nearby, including him in a conversation that began before he arrived.

“Usually it takes years longer. Perhaps it’s the economy? I find that’s often to blame for things you wouldn’t expect.” The voice seemed a little louder. “Well, let’s see what we got.”

A light shined in his eyes. Ouch. Zander squeezed his eyes closed.

“I have an assignment for you.” The voice spoke in his ear. It sounded soothing, persuasive, perfectly reasonable. “Your name is now Mike and you sell extended warranties. You are our newest telemarketer. Welcome to the team.”

Mike opened his eyes. He sat at a shabby desk in a little cubicle. For a moment, he remembered somewhere else, a different job, a different name… But then his headset beeped. He had a call. He hit the button and checked his script, old life completely forgotten.

“Hi, this is Mike. Have you ever considered purchasing an extended warranty for your vehicle?”

Charlie’s Room: Away and Back Again

It was winter, when the daylight was pinched at both ends. Isaac left home in the dark, feeling like he was going to work in the middle of the night. He arrived home just before dinner, and there wasn’t much daylight left afterwards for the long walks he enjoyed in the summer.

He started eating his lunch while wandering up and down the sidewalks, peering into the windows of the different businesses near his work just to get a little more time in the sunlight. One day, he was looking into the windows of the antique shop, and he saw a little cloth doll. It was either a floppy eared cat or a long-tailed bunny. It could have been a kangaroo without a pouch, but the shape was all wrong.

Curious, he wrapped up his sandwich, shoved it in his pocket and stepped inside the store. The man behind the counter looked up when he entered. “Can I help you find something?”

Isaac pointed back towards the shop window. “I’d like to see the cat bunny doll.”

The man looked confused, but stepped around the counter towards the window. “Cat bunny?”

“I don’t know what it is.” Isaac followed him to the window. “That’s why I’d like to look at it more closely.”

The man looked into the window. “Oh. That. Go ahead and look at it if you’d like. I’ll be back by the register if you need anything.” He left Isaac standing by the window.

Isaac reached in and picked up the cat bunny with both hands. Its eyes glowed blue, and the next thing he knew, he was hanging in the air upside down in the dark. Something nearby hissed, and then there was a rustling sound.

Trying to listen and remain still and calm, Isaac waited. After a moment, there was a spark of light, and then the glow of a candle. He could see two small figures crouched over it. Then they abandoned the candle to come closer.

He heard the hissing sound again, and realized they were whispering to each other. Up close, it was easy to see that they were children. He tried to understand what they were whispering, but it was in a language he’d never heard before.

Hanging upside down was beginning to get uncomfortable. “Could you let me down please?” he asked hopefully.

The children whispered a little louder to each other, and then suddenly he could understand the end of a phrase. “…translation spell.”

The children both looked at him and held up their hands. Isaac slid to the floor and sat up.

“Was that a spell? Isaac asked. “Was it a spell that brought me here?” He looked around for the cat bunny, and saw it lying on the floor close by him. He pointed at it. “Did you send that?”

One of the children picked it up. “It was supposed to bring us Caasi. But you’re not Caasi.”

The other child shrugged. “I told you it wouldn’t work. Mom said that spells can’t wake the dead.”

“But I asked for her to come back from another world. It should have worked.”

The child looked over at Isaac. “Are you from another world?”

“Maybe.” Isaac frowned. “I don’t think spells work in my world, but I could be wrong.”

“Is your name Caasi?”

Isaac thought for a moment. “How do you write that?”

The children scrawled alien characters that strongly resembled “C-A-A-S-I.”

“I’m Isaac. That’s caasi backwards.”

The other child nodded. “Maybe bringing you from another world put everything backwards. Maybe that’s why you were upside down.” The child hurried to a shelf, pulled down a book and started turning pages rapidly.

Isaac turned to the child who remained. “Who’s Caasi?”

“Our best friend. She’s so smart. She could purr and jump so high, and she always knew where we hid her treats.”

That didn’t sound much like a person. “Was Caasi a cat bunny?” Isaac asked.

The child frowned. “She’s a felare. I don’t know cat bunny.”

He pointed down at the doll again. “Like that?”

“Yes,” the child said. “But alive.”

Isaac nodded. “That’s important.”

“We miss her.” The child looked away.

The other child snapped the book closed. “It says the dead are in the underworld, and normal spells can’t reach there.”

“Oh.” Both children looked sad.

Isaac held out his hand for the doll. The child handed it to him and he looked down at it with a smile. “It sounds like Caasi was a good friend. It’s okay to feel sad when a friend dies. Is there something you can do to say goodbye?”

Both children turned to look at him. “Like what?” one said.

“You could draw a picture of her, or write down what you remember about her, or put flowers on her grave.”

“I guess so.” The child took the doll back.

“You should talk to your mom about it. She might have ideas,” Isaac said.

The children looked at each other and began talking rapidly. “Talking to mom is a good idea.” “We should send him home first.” “I’m not sure how.” “Look at the book again. It must say somewhere.”

They consulted the book, and after some arguments, managed to charge up the doll for a return trip. The doll’s eyes glowed blue when they handed it to him. Moments later, he was back in the antique shop. The doll was gone.

He looked around. What was he going to tell the shop owner? He decided that the truth was always best. He walked over nervously. “The doll took me to another world, but it disappeared when I came back.”

The store owner shrugged. “That happens sometimes. Don’t worry about it.”

“Really?” The man didn’t appear to be joking. Isaac nodded. “All right. Thank you. I’d better hurry back to work.”

He rushed back through the sunlit streets, eating big bites of his sandwich as he jogged. He arrived at his desk just in time. He glanced back out the window and wondered if it was time to get a pet for Charlie. Something he could keep in his room. Maybe a fish or two?

Friday Flashback: How Louis Saved the World

This story was originally posted on September 29, 2017. Aliens are fun to write about. They come from far, far away, which already makes them sound like part of a story. Other than the long-distance travel, they’re completely mysterious. It’s an interesting idea to explore.

Louis was home in the middle of the day, because he was sick. If it was up to him, he would have been at school.   Today they were going to make ice cream as a science experiment. That was much better than staying in bed and staring at the ceiling.

Unfortunately, Mom said that if you have a fever and a runny nose, and a terrible cough, and a sore throat and can’t stop sneezing, then you should stay home. Throwing up after breakfast hadn’t helped his argument at all, either. So, Louis blew his nose again and sneezed and looked at the ceiling.   Ceilings are boring.

“Mom, I’m bored,” Louis yelled. Then he coughed. Ouch.   His throat really hurt.

“Then take a nap,” his mom yelled back. “You need to rest so that you can heal.”

Louis scowled. He was much too old for naps, and he wasn’t at all sleepy. Well, he was maybe a little bit tired. But not really enough to fall asleep yet. He turned and watched the shadows on the wall move.   The wind must be blowing through the tree outside.

And then, the shadows started to fade, or maybe the room started to glow.   Louis wasn’t quite sure. It was all a little strange. Everything looked a little bit foggy. Louis blinked, and when he opened his eyes, he wasn’t in his bedroom any more.

He was in a strange metal room filled with blinking lights. Something was making a clicking sound. Three tall skinny beings with greenish skin and bright blue eyes looked at him. They were definitely aliens. Louis looked back. One of the aliens said something, but Louis didn’t know what he was saying. “I don’t speak your language,” Louis said.

The aliens approached and one of them looked closely into Louis’s face.   The aliens smelled like dust.   Lots of dust. Louis sneezed right into the alien’s face, and then he couldn’t stop sneezing.

The alien backed up, but the other two crowded closer. The sneezing hurt his throat and upset his stomach. Louis threw up on the other two aliens. The aliens backed up and bowed. One of the aliens pushed a button on the wall, and the room started to get brighter.   Everything looked foggy. Louis blinked.

And he was back in his room looking up at the ceiling. Had any of that really happened? Mom knocked on the doorframe and came in. “How are you feeling?” she asked. “Any better?”

“Mom, I was just captured by aliens,” Louis said. “I threw up all over them, so they let me go.”

“That sounds like a nice dream,” Mom said. “Is your stomach still upset?” She put her hand on his forehead. “Oh dear, you’re still quite warm. Would you like some ice cream?”

“For lunch?” Louis asked.

“Why not,” Mom said. “You’re feeling sick.”

Maybe being sick wasn’t so bad, except for the staring at the ceiling part.   Even being captured by aliens wasn’t terrible. It had been kind of interesting.   If it really happened at all, of course.

Two days later, Louis was back in class. He’d missed the ice cream experiment and a math quiz, but otherwise things had been pretty quiet at school. Susie said that Dan threw up on the slide just a day ago.

Louis decided that being sick probably happened to everybody at one time or another. He was glad that he felt better now and could move forward. He hoped he didn’t feel sick again anytime soon and that he never threw up on the slide.  That sounded embarrassing.

Hundreds of thousands of miles away, the crew of an alien space ship coughed and sneezed and stared at the ceiling and tried not to throw up. “I thought it was too eager to give us the samples we required. It was completely suspicious,” one said.

“I thought it believed we were peaceful scientists,” another replied.   “How was I to know it recognized us as a possible threat.” The alien sneezed and sneezed and sneezed.

“Well, I’m going to recommend we don’t try to colonize this world. The inhabitants are far too hostile. And they don’t fight fair, either,” the last one said. And then he threw up.

Gingerbread Peril

Once there was a little old woman who was baking a tray of lovely gingerbread aliens. After they cooled, she piped icing onto each little alien, making sure that they had three eyes and ten limbs and rainbow freckles. Just as she finished the last freckle on the last alien, the whole tray of cookies sat up, jumped out of the pan, and slid down the legs of the table.

The little old woman stood up so quickly that her chair fell down behind her with a thud. Unfortunately, the aliens were already at the front door. They slipped through the mail slot one by one before she could catch them.

She threw open the front door and ran down the first three steps in her slippers. The gingerbread aliens had all disappeared. “Come back,” she called to her empty front yard. “I need you for the bake sale. The choir needs new robes.”

But the gingerbread aliens did not come back. They hid under the rose bush until she went back inside. Then they crept around the edge of the yard and through the picket fence. The first alien frosted was the oldest of the group, so he was in charge and led the way.

They passed a yard with a wire fence. Behind the fence, a big black dog barked loudly. “Come here, little cookies,” he said. “I am hungry, and I think it’s been a million years since I last ate.”

“What good would that do us?” the oldest alien asked.

“What else are cookies good for?”

The gingerbread aliens all scowled with all three of their eyes. The dog took a step back. The aliens kept walking. “We are not here for bake sales or feeding dogs,” the oldest cookie said as they left.

“Then why are you here?” the dog asked. But the gingerbread aliens were all gone. “Come back,” he called. “I’m so hungry. Come back!”

But the aliens did not come back. They kept walking.

The oldest alien led them to a stream. A fox was sunning himself on the bank. He stood up as they arrived. “Do you need a ride across the stream? I could carry you on my back.”

The gingerbread aliens conferred in a murmur. “What is the cost?” the oldest cookie asked at last.

The fox smiled, showing off his sharp teeth. “I would only eat a few of you. Maybe five or six.”

“No.” The cookies turned and started walking alongside the stream.

“What else are cookies good for?” the fox called after them. But the gingerbread aliens were gone. The fox laid back down with a huff and fell asleep.

The cookies eventually reached a bridge. At this point, their many feet were crumbly and their icing was sticky. “Just a little further,” the oldest said.

But, as they reached a bridge, out jumped a troll. “Anyone who crosses my bridge must pay a toll,” he said.

“We won’t allow you to eat any of us,” the oldest gingerbread alien said. All the cookies glared fiercely.

“Trolls don’t eat sugar. That’s poison to us. I want gold or meat.”

The oldest cookie pointed further down the bank in the opposite direction. “Like that?”

The troll turned. He squinted. “Like what?” But when he turned back around, the gingerbread aliens were gone. “Come back. You didn’t pay the toll,” he bellowed. But the cookies did not come back.

They were already across the bridge and walking through the meadow on the other side. They darted towards a metal lump leaning against the fence on the far side of the meadow. It looked a bit like two large cake pans stuck together.

As the cookies approached the lumpy metal thing, they disappeared one by one, oldest to youngest. And then the lumpy metal thing rose in the air and disappeared.

Two doughnuts were inside already and began passing around paperwork. “How did it go? Did everyone make it back?”

The oldest gingerbread alien sighed. “Yes, but I would recommend scrapping the randomizer. It’s far too risky. I don’t think the camouflage potential is worth the risk. How long until this wears off?”

“Tomorrow somebody is going to have a batch of cookies back. And two doughnuts.”

The gingerbread alien sighed. “Well, maybe she’ll have something for her bake sale after all. I’m just glad it won’t be us. Cookies lead a hard life. Everyone wants to eat them.”

“Sure,” the doughnut said. “What else are cookies good for?”

Doorway to Another World

After a week in the new house, John was finally starting to feel at home. All of his favorite things were unpacked, and he knew where the best grocery store was. As he brushed his teeth and looked out the window at the sunset, all seemed right in the world.

But then he saw the light shining around the door of the shed. Was there even a light in there? He tried to remember. All he could dredge up from the depths of his memory was a dark, empty space where he shoved the lawnmower and rake and such, planning to deal with them later.

“Honey, the light’s on in the shed,” John called over his shoulder.

“There isn’t a light on in the shed,” his wife called back.

“Yes there is. Come and see.”

His wife came in. “You have toothpaste on your shirt.”

John looked down and wiped at his shirt with the side of his hand. “Never mind that, look out the window. We need to go turn the light off in the shed.”

His wife looked out the window. “We don’t need to. There isn’t a light to turn off.”

“Then what’s that? You can see it, right?” John dropped his toothbrush in the sink. “Of course you do. If there’s not a light, maybe someone’s in there with a flash light. Do you think they’re stealing the lawnmower? I’ll get the dog.”

Moments later, John was dragging his unenthusiastic dog towards the shed. “You need to bark or something to scare them, Adams.”

Adams refused to cooperate, and John had to hope that his presence alone would be scary enough for any intruders. He coaxed Adams a little closer and threw open the shed door. He blinked.

“I told you there wasn’t a light on in the shed.” His wife leaned in and looked around. “It doesn’t really need one.”

John found his voice. “What is this?” He looked around. Just beyond his lawnmower and rake and a box of odds and ends, there was a field of soft purple flowers that stretched out to distant blue mountains. Giant bees flitted from flower to flower in the light of the two suns high over head.

Turning around, the newly familiar backyard seemed dark in the twilight compared to the bright sunlight streaming from the shed. Was there a field of flowers in his shed yesterday? How did it even fit in there?

“It’s a doorway to another world.” His wife smiled. “Isn’t it lovely?”

“You knew about this? When did it get here? It wasn’t all sunny and flowery when I put the lawnmower in.”

She laughed. “Of course not. Time works different there. It’s slower. It’s been night there most of the time we’ve lived here. I thought you knew. Isn’t this why we bought the house?”

What? “Of course not. I liked the big yard. Adams needs space to run around. And the living room was just the right height for my tallest bookshelves. I’ve never even heard of doorways to other worlds. What other worlds are there?”

“But we met in that lovely cafe on that world where everyone was purple and only had one eye. The one with the great band?”

John frowned. “I thought it was a costume party, and you and I were the only ones who weren’t in costume.”

“And our third date? Atlantis?”

“I thought it was an interactive aquarium.”

“And when you met my parents?”

John dropped Adams’ leash, and the dog ran back to the house. “You aren’t from this world?”

She laughed. “Neither are you.” She pointed to the horizon.

John turned. There were three moons. Were there always three moons? “Three? That’s not right.”

“It is for here. How did you not notice?”

John looked into the shed, at the flowers and bees and mountains. He closed the door. He looked at the three moons and then turned away. “Let’s go in the house. I guess I’m not very observant. Why don’t you tell me more.”

When they bought the new house, John thought that he was turning a page in his life. But that night, walking into a house that no longer seemed familiar at all, John realized that he didn’t even know what page he was on. Or where the book was. Was there a book?

Life was about to get really interesting. And this time, John would make sure he noticed when it did. Just as soon as he figured out where he was living now.

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