One of the apples was different from the other apples in the fruit bowl. Isaac could feel it the moment he stepped into the kitchen. It wasn’t just different in the way that all apples are different from each other.
Some apples have stripes, others spots, others have splotches of color or a subtle variation in hue. The can be all different shades of red or yellow or green, sometimes with little speckles or stripes of brown or white. And then there are all the differences in size and shape and taste.
This apple was different in all of those normal ways. It was splotchy red and yellow, and it was missing its stem. It was largish for an apple, and roundish.
It was also watching him. He couldn’t explain how he knew. He could just feel the weight of the stare when he was looking elsewhere. Of course, when he looked right at the apples, they all seemed completely normal.
He wasn’t sure which apple it was at first. When he walked in, Marianne was next to the fruit bowl, filling a pitcher with water from the faucet. “How was work?” she asked.
“It was fine. Hey, where did you get those apples?”
Charlie looked over from where he was setting the table. “We have more apples? I hadn’t noticed. What kind did you get?”
Marianne turned off the faucet and carried the pitcher to the table. “They had bags of mixed apples at a discount. We eat so many apples that I bought two bags. The apples that didn’t fit in the bowl are still in their bags over there by the fridge.” She gestured towards the fridge with a nod of her head.
Isaac walked over and peered into the half-full bags of apples, but they all looked like completely normal apples. He felt someone watching him again, from the direction of the fruit bowl. He glanced over, and Marianne and Charlie were at the table.
“Can I have an apple?” Charlie placed the last fork on the table and hurried to the fruit bowl. He picked up a large red and yellow apple. It slipped and he just managed to catch it. “Woah. Got it.” He walked towards Marianne.
Isaac was watching Charlie and not the fruit bowl. The apples in the bowl weren’t watching him. That’s when he knew which apple was different. “We’re about to eat dinner,” he said.
“Oh. Right. Maybe after dinner?”
Marianne laughed. “We’ll see.”
But after dinner, Isaac suggested a movie night with popcorn and Charlie forgot about the apple. Isaac did not. Once Marianne and Charlie were watching the movie, Isaac slipped back into the kitchen.
He took the apple out of the fruit bowl and moved the bowl over by the bags of apples. Then he set the apple on the counter by itself. He crouched down so that he was at eye level.
“Hello. I’m not sure if you understand me, but I want you to know that this isn’t really a safe place for you. We eat apples here, and you look like an apple.”
Suddenly two small shiny black eyes were looking back at him. Isaac blinked. He’d suspected this wasn’t a normal apple, but it was still strange to see it looking back at him.
“Is there something I can do to help you return to wherever you came from? Blink once for yes and twice for no.”
The apple blinked twice.
“Okay. Will you be able to leave tonight?”
The apple blinked once.
“Do you need anything?”
The apple blinked twice.
“All right then. I’ll leave you alone. Good luck with your journey home.”
Isaac left the kitchen to watch the movie. They laughed at the funny parts and cheered at the exciting parts and quoted all their favorite lines. When Marianne and Charlie left to get their pajamas on, Isaac took the popcorn bowls back to the kitchen. The apple was gone.
Isaac checked all of the other apples, but none of them watched him or responded when he spoke to him. He decided that meant they were safe to eat. He put them all away and went to read a bedtime story to Charlie.
The next morning, Charlie hurried into the kitchen, his hair still messy from sleep. “Where’s the big yellowy-red apple? I want to eat it with breakfast.”
“It’s gone already,” Isaac said.
“That’s too bad. I guess I’ll eat one of the stripey ones instead.” He did.
Isaac didn’t eat any of the apples. It just seemed wrong somehow.