When Giselle wakes up in the middle of the night from a loud noise, she does not expect to find an unconscious alien on her living room floor…
Genre: Science-fiction comedy
Rating: 16+ for language
Pink waves rolled gently onto the blue sandy beach. Giselle let the coloured water trickle through her toes as it turned the sand below her feet dark and muddy. She closed her eyes and took in the sound of the waves. Taking a deep breath, she heard another wave roll in. This one seemed bigger than the others. With her eyes closed, Giselle frowned as the noise from the approaching wave became louder and louder. Then it became so loud, the ground shook and Giselle’s eyes shot open.
As she stared at her bedroom ceiling, Giselle’s heart beat loudly in her chest and her ears rang. Had that noise been real or a dream? Giselle sat up in bed and listened. Was that a rumble? She threw off the duvet and stood up, her toes touching the fluffy carpet. For a second, Giselle remembered a feeling of sand beneath her toes before stepping towards the door. She pressed her ear against it and listened. All seemed quiet. She opened the door and tiptoed down the stairs. As she got to the last step, an unexpected spot of light caught her attention.
Giselle looked up and shrieked. Above her head she could see a crescent moon and dozens of stars scattered about as clouds whizzed on by. Realising this was not what she was supposed to see, Giselle’s graze drifted down towards her living room.
A louder shriek now escaped her throat as she noticed a shape in the middle of her living room that had not been there when she had gone to bed the night before.
Amid a large pile of rubble lay something she didn’t recognise. It looked like some sort of car-sized satellite.
I mean, it has to be a satellite, right? Giselle thought to herself as her hand moved over the wall searching for the light switch. When she found it, light instantly flooded the living room. She stepped barefooted onto the living room carpet and hesitantly moved towards the rubble, her knees starting to shake. There was her dining table with some dust on it. The coffee table and her sofa, however, were invisible due to the debris. All across the living room floor, Giselle’s vases lay in pieces and flower stems scattered about while large pieces of plaster covered much of the floor.
Ignoring the broken pieces of her life for a moment, Giselle crept closer and stared at the strangely coloured metal wreckage in front of her. She studied the tubular shaped metal. A transparent dome sat at one end. There were cracks in it that showed a type of wiring underneath that Giselle didn’t recognise.
What is this thing?
As carefully as she could she hopped over glass and broken pieces to the other side of the room where her kitchen appeared to be unscathed apart from dust. Giselle turned around to take a look at her living room from there.
Another ear-piercing shriek was followed by stumbling and a thud as Giselle stumbled backwards and bumped into her kitchen cabinet. She didn’t even have time to consider any possible injuries, because the sight in front of her made her heart and raspatory system temporarily shut down.
Before her, in the midst of the rubble, sprawled across her very own living room, lay a figure. A seemingly unconscious, large figure, on their back. It wasn’t exactly a person, it definitely wasn’t human. But it also wasn’t an animal. What Giselle could see was an elongated head, small ears, eyes that were closed, a wide mouth, long limbs and some sort of tusks on the sides of their head. Giselle could only describe the skin colour as a mixture of blue and green while a fabric covering the being’s torso and upper legs seemed to camouflage the alien from the ship.
‘Holy shit,’ Giselle found herself saying out loud as she got up from the kitchen floor. ‘Hoooly shit. It’s a spaceship. That’s an alien. In my house. Holy shit.’
When Giselle got up and leant against the kitchen counter, she hesitated for a moment. The alien seemed to be unconscious – or dead? – but getting closer to an alien from outer space was probably a really bad idea. Giselle had seen the films. Mary had shown them to her.
Struck by an idea, Giselle snuck around the rubble and the ship before racing back up the stairs to her bedroom. Only as she opened the door did she notice the damage in the bathroom to her right.
It was completely torn to shreds. There was a car-sized hole in the ceiling where the Moon shone through and a hole in the floor through which she could see the figure laying below on her living room carpet. Giselle was relieved that her bathtub as tiny as it was hadn’t disappeared into the hole. Shaking her head at the destruction, Giselle retrieved her phone from the bedside table.
‘Mare? Hi… Yeah, no, I’m okay. Sorry. It’s just… Something came crashing through my roof five minutes ago… No, I’m not drunk!… Yes, I know it sounds crazy… Can you come over? I don’t know what to do… No, no police. Not yet. Will you? Sorry about the time… Okay, thank you. See you in ten.’
‘You could have been dead. It could have killed you!’ Mary said finally, still staring down at the unfathomable scene before her.
After Giselle’s friend Mary had recovered from the initial shock of her best friend having an alien and a spaceship in her living room, both women, one still in her pyjamas, the other in what clearly were the first items she had found, stared at the alien and its ship. Giselle noticed a grin had now formed on Mary’s face.
‘If it had landed a mile further down the road the police would be all over this,’ said Mary, crossing her arms.
‘Lucky for the alien I live rural.’
‘So what do you want to do?’ asked Mary taking a small step forward to take a closer peek. ‘Call them?’
‘No. Not the police. Not yet. We’ve watched ET.’
‘I’ve no idea. That’s why you’re here. You’re the expert on anything alien and science fiction.’
‘Yes, science-fiction. There’s nothing “fictional” about this thing, is there?’
‘Should I call the insurance company maybe?’
‘And tell them what? “Excuse me, but do my monthly payments include an alien spaceship crash landing in the middle of my living room in the middle of the night?”’
‘You don’t know.’
‘I do know.’
‘Maybe I can say it was hail.’
‘Sure. Hail the size of a car. In July.’
Giselle shrugged. ‘What else can I do? And don’t say “call the police”.’
‘You sure it’s unconscious?’
‘No. I don’t know how aliens breathe on this planet. If they can even breathe.’
‘Should we,’ said Mary, inching even closer, excited about the prospect of an actual alien lying in front of her. Before she could finish her sentence though a movement made her jump back.
The alien groaned, its tusks dangling beside its head as they woke. The being made a noise as it lifted its head and looked upon Giselle and Mary with large, fiery red eyes. The sight took Giselle’s breath away.
‘Who are you?’ said the alien in a high-pitched voice that was more human-like than either humans had expected.
For a moment the friends were too shocked to reply.
‘Well?’ urged the alien, getting up on all fours.
‘You… You speak English?’ asked Giselle.
‘Not my first – as you’d say – rodeo, my friend.’
‘You’ve been here before?’ asked Mary, inching forward again, but not as far as before.
‘I have a couple of times, yes,’ said the alien in a rather surprisingly flawless Essex accent as they crawled out from underneath some rubble that used to be Giselle’s bathroom floor and living room ceiling. ‘For fuck’s sake.’ The alien dusted itself off as they stood up.
Mary and Giselle stared at one another. They were facing an alien who swore.
‘So ehm… Can we help you?’
The alien turned and climbed on top of the debris. The being shook their head and slid back down, landing with a thud on Giselle’s carpet, standing fully upright. The alien seemed taller than seven foot. It walked around the vessel and inspected it and the debris around it from different angles. ‘Buggered.’
‘D’you know what’s wrong with it?’
‘Would you understand if I told you?’
Giselle looked at Mary. ‘She might.’
‘No, she wouldn’t.’ The alien continued to examine the wreckage as Mary and Giselle watched in silence.
‘Excuse me,’ said Giselle after what felt like half an hour of waiting while the alien was rummaging around on the other side of the ship. ‘But ehm… Do you think you’ll be ready to leave any time soon?’
A loud noise that sounded like a snort came from the other end of Giselle’s living room. ‘Not likely.’ The tall alien now seemed even taller when it came around the vessel and walked towards them with what looked like an alien version of a wrench in their right hand.
‘You see,’ said Giselle, ‘this is my home. And you sort of ehm… parked in my living room.’
‘You think I voluntarily parked my ship here?’ said the alien while leaning against the apparent spacecraft. ‘Hardly.’
‘So I’m afraid I won’t be leaving anytime soon. At least not in this piece of junk. I told Zandor it would kill me one day.’ The alien gave it a good clang with the space wrench which sounded like a dog yelped because someone stood on its tail. Giselle covered her ears briefly before noticing the alien’s stare.
‘At least you’re not dead,’ tried Mary.
The alien continued to glare at Mary, but with their fiery eyes it was hard to tell the meaning behind it.
Suddenly the alien seemed deep in thought. Until the being snapped out of it and gazed deep into Giselle’s eyes, making her want to take a couple of steps back if she hadn’t already been propped up against her kitchen counter.
‘What’s your name?’ the alien asked.
‘That’s female, yes?’
The alien nodded. ‘Sorry, we don’t do genders and I can never quite keep you apart. All similar mouth and chin proportions. So confusing.’
‘What’s your name?’ asked Giselle.
‘Zeldi,’ Zeldi said, extending a hand. ‘This is your custom, yes?’
Mary nodded and took Zeldi’s five-fingered hand. ‘Mary. Nice to meet you, Zeldi. My very first alien.’
Zeldi curtsied slightly. ‘I hope I don’t disappoint.’
Giselle’s eyes went up to the hole in her roof.
‘Ah, yes. Sorry. Though not technically my fault.’ Zeldi walked back to the ship and kicked the metal exterior which this time gave off an eerie echo. ‘So. Any mangos in the house?’
‘Yes, mango,’ Zeldi waited, eyeing Giselle.
‘Ehm… No, sorry,’ answered Giselle. ‘Anything else I can interest you in? A glass of water perhaps?’
‘No, thank you. Got my internal water reservoir right here.’ Zeldi tapped one of their tusks.
‘That is so cool,’ Mary said, unable to stop herself.
‘Yeah?’ said Zeldi, now caressing it.
‘So what’s going to happen now your ship is broken?’ asked Giselle, ready to wrap this encounter up. Or rather ready to get her house back to normal.
Zeldi went quiet again for a moment. When the alien spoke, it sounded like they were reciting some sort of military rulebook. ‘When separated from your scout mate, meet at the predetermined coordinates at 21:00 hours local time.’ Zeldi watched Giselle.
‘So I need to go to the rendezvous point.’
‘They always do,’ said Mary to Giselle as a cheeky aside.
‘How?’ said Giselle, ignoring her friend.
‘Well…’ said Zeldi taking a step forward and looking at the two of them.
‘No. No no no. Hell no!’ said Giselle. ‘No. I’m not transporting an alien to God knows where!’
‘Who knows where?’ asked Zeldi.
‘Go-… never mind. It’s an expression.’
‘Will you not help me?’
Mary looked at Giselle. ‘You could be…’
‘Dangerous?’ said Zeldi, stepping forward, long arms raised. Giselle swallowed while Mary grabbed her best friend’s wrist. ‘Please. Don’t you think that if I have a spacecraft I’ve the ability to wipe you out too? I definitely wouldn’t be standing here kindly asking for a lift now, would I?’
Giselle couldn’t see it, but she knew her best friend next to her would be grinning widely right about now, so she sighed in quick defeat. ‘Where do you need to go?’
Zeldi looked at her forearm and showed it to Giselle. ‘Know where that is?’
Giselle moaned as she watched a map appear on a device on the alien’s wrist. ‘You crashed through my roof and now you need a ride to the other side of the country. Awesome.’
‘But you know where it is?’
‘Do you know of a way to get there by myself?’
Giselle sighed again. ‘No. I can tell you which roads to use, but those are all busy. You’ll be seen.’
‘I see,’ said Zeldi. The alien turned around and walked back to the ship. As the alien reached inside somewhere the two women couldn’t see, the strangest noise the two humans had ever heard came from within. After a minute or two they realised what it was: the alien was communicating in their own language. After another couple of minutes the alien came back. ‘Can’t reach my scout mate.’
‘But you can rendezvous at that place?’ Giselle pointed to the alien’s forearm.
‘Yes. If I get there on time.’
‘What if you don’t?’
‘They will assume I died in the crash and initiate self-destruct.’
‘This,’ Zeldi pointed at their wrist again, ‘contains an entire console of technical options. One of which is the self-destruct.’
‘Which they activate from your home planet?’
‘It’s our custom. We mustn’t be discovered, after all. We’ve seen your movies.’
Giselle and Mary stared at the alien. ‘You have?’
‘Oh, yes. Your popular culture is quite famous around the galaxy.’
Mary chuckled, but Giselle seemed too overwhelmed by the entire situation to react.
‘So, shall we take the alien?’ Mary asked her friend.
Giselle stared into nothingness for a moment, before turning back to Zeldi to answer: ‘Fine.’
It was still dark when they sat out on their journey north. Giselle had dressed out of her pyjamas and was now at the steering wheel keeping her eyes peeled on the road ahead.
‘So where are you from and why are you here?’ Mary asked from the passenger seat, turning around to face Zeldi who was sprawled uncomfortably across the back seat of Giselle’s ancient Fiat Panda. It was still dark outside and the few lights along the road only lit the motorway slightly.
‘Zoola system, 46 light-years away, as you would say, which if you ask me is the stupidest way to measure distance, but whatever. I don’t always understand you Kreya lot.’
‘Kreya?’ asked Mary.
‘Yeah, our name for your planet. Means “the one with the apes”. Seemed apt at the time.’
‘What do you mean?’ How long have you been here?’ asked Giselle.
‘A while,’ Zeldi grinned.
‘How old are you? If I may ask,’ Giselle added quickly.
Zeldi rolled their eyes, apparently a universal language. ‘Why wouldn’t you? I’m 113 Earth years young.’
‘Young?’ Mary said, nearly choking on a breakfast bar. ‘Amazing.’
‘Sure. We can turn 10,000. If we’re careful that is.’
‘Careful of what?’ Mary asked.
Another grin. ‘The zepalogs. Vicious creatures. Top of the food chain on my planet.’
‘If you have the ability to travel all this way and can reach 10,000 years of age, I’m sure you can fight off those ehm… zepalocks?’
‘Zepalogs. And we’re not humans, thank you very much.’
‘What’s that’s supposed to mean?’ said Mary loudly.
‘You know what I mean,’ said Zeldi, trying to get more comfortable in the backseat, but going by the noises and the kicks in their backs clearly not managing it. ‘You kill them, we preserve them.’
‘And when it’s you or them?’
Mary snorted. ‘Yeah, right.’
Zeldi shot forward between them so fast, Giselle veered off the road for a second.
‘Don’t do that!’ Giselle shouted.
‘See this?’ said Zeldi, showing her other forearm this time. A nasty gash ran from their turquoise elbow to the fingers.
‘Ouch. So how did you escape?’
‘I’m really fast.’
Mary stared at the gash with wide eyes. ‘Red blood,’ she said.
‘We’re not that different after all, you and I.’
‘But your skin is turquoise.’
‘You really want to get into that right now?’ said Zeldi, throwing themselves backwards again. ‘Maybe you should worry more about that.’
Flashing lights suddenly appeared in Giselle’s rear view mirror. ‘Shit. Shit shit shit. Shit!’
Giselle manoeuvred the car to the side of the otherwise empty road and slid the window down. ‘Hello,’ she said with a nervous smile.
‘Good morning. Do you know you were swerving, madam?’ asked the officer. He was short and stocky, but with a square and determined face.
‘Yes, I do. I’m so sorry, officer. My friend startled me.’
The police officer looked at Mary next to her.
‘Hello,’ said Mary, adding a little wave.
His gaze then moved to the passenger in the back. It remained there. Finally, he spoke. ‘Off to that fantasy convention, I see?’
Both women were too stunned to answer.
‘Yes,’ shouted Zeldi from the backseat so loudly she startled the two women in the front. Again. ‘Sorry. Just excited. My first science-fiction convention. I had dozed off and woke with a start, which in turn startled my friend here which made her swerve. Sorry.’
‘I see,’ said the officer. ‘Can I see your license, MOT certificate and insurance papers, please?’
‘Of course,’ Giselle said, diving into her glove compartment before handing the officer what he requested. As the officer walked away, all beings in the car waited in silence for him to return.
‘All right, letting you off with a warning. But be careful on your way back, after that long day, all right?’
‘Thank you so much, sir.’
‘Thank you, officer.’
‘No problem. You ladies have a good day.’
Zeldi snorted as Giselle slid the window back up.
‘That was close,’ Mary said.
‘Not really,’ said Zeldi. ‘You think he’d really believe you if you had told him who I truly was? You humans prefer lies over truths if they are more convenient to you more than any other species I know. But hey, is that convention nearby?’
Mary and Giselle both looked over their shoulder to the alien in the back.
‘Why do you ask?’
Zeldi shrugged, staring into the darkness outside the car. ‘Never been to one.’
‘You… You want to go to a fan convention?’
‘A science fiction convention and yeah why not? They look fun. We don’t have fun like that. Then again we also don’t have any subcultures that are mocked, so you know, win some, lose some.’
‘Are you serious? Don’t you need to go to your rendezvous point?’
‘Well, yeah. But I have until 21:00 hours. Plenty of time.’
Giselle and Mary looked at each other. Mary started to grin again.
‘We’re not seriously considering this, are we?’ Giselle said.
Mary shrugged, her grin widening. ‘Why not? Could be fun.’
An hour later they arrived at the convention centre. The sun had come up and a long queue had already formed outside the venue and extended to far around the corner. Huge posters of popular movie franchises and of the TV stars that were attending today greeted them on the exterior of the building as the three of them made their way to the back of the queue.
‘Damn,’ responded Zeldi upon the sight of so many humans, dressed from casual wear to the most spectacular outfits and costumes.
‘You’re sure about this?’ asked Giselle.
‘Oh yeah,’ replied Zeldi and Giselle wondered if that was some sort of smirk on the alien’s face.
The line to get entry moved slowly, but waiting was made a lot more interesting because of who they had brought. Within five minutes of arriving, Zeldi had struck up a conversation with the man and woman in front of them dressed up as trolls. Zeldi was well impressed with their colourful make-up and costumes which was a sentiment reciprocated by the trolls.
‘Fascinating,’ the alien had said, bowing forward and studying the faces of the trolls.
‘You look incredible yourself,’ said the female troll. ‘Those tusks are a work of art.’
‘Thanks so much. A lot of trial and error, but I got there just in time for today.’ Zeldi showed all sides of their face and took in the compliments with a wicked grin and glinting red eyes.
Giselle had been nervous about the idea, but seeing Zeldi go up in the role so completely made her feel impressed with the alien’s knowledge and understanding of human interactions and habits.
‘So where are you from?’ another attendee asked as she passed them on her way to the back of the queue.
‘Zoola system,’ said Zeldi truthfully, adding a double eyed wink which made Giselle’s stomach churn.
‘Gotcha,’ said the young woman in scarlet wizard’s robes chuckling.
Giselle closed her eyes in relief.
Finally inside they sauntered passed stalls full of TV, film and comic book merchandise. Zeldi took photographs with people every few minutes and with every passing moment, Giselle felt more at ease and laughed a little louder at each human’s cluelessness about the real identity of the one they were taking a photo with.
Meanwhile Mary was having the time of her life, encouraging Zeldi’s act and admiring other people’s creations, all the while scouring the many merchandise stands around the convention hall.
‘So how often do aliens visit Earth? Is there a long history of unwitting humans with photos of aliens on their walls?’ Mary asked as they passed a stall with the latest sci-fi novels.
Zeldi snorted as the alien licked on a colourful lollipop Mary had bought them. ‘Oh be sure of it. Human fantasy and sci-fi conventions are notorious throughout the galaxy.’
‘Really?’ said Giselle.
‘Really. We like your popular culture and attending a convention is quite the adrenaline rush for us.’
‘Wait… This happens a lot, aliens visiting our conventions?’ Mary inquired.
The grin appeared again. ‘Oh definitely.’
‘And no one ever finds you out?’ asked Mary.
‘Well,’ said Zeldi, licking the candy as they sat down at the back of the convention floor surrounded by other sci-fi and fantasy fans enjoying their lunches. ‘Not at these gatherings, but we’ve had previous encounters. You’re not the first.’
‘Oh,’ said Giselle, sounding more upset than she had intended.
‘Don’t be sad. You had a far better reaction than some others.’
‘You mean better than shrieking your head off?’
‘Hey, you didn’t shoot me or hit me with a baseball bat repeatedly for intruding, did you? I’m grateful, trust me.’
‘Your mastery of the English language is astonishing,’ said Mary, once again staring at the alien a little longer than would be appropriate for a human to stare at another human. When Giselle gave her a nudge, she turned red and set her teeth in a Nutella crepe.
‘Thank you,’ said Zeldi. ‘As I said, not my first rodeo.’
A man dressed as an alien Giselle recognised, but couldn’t place walked by and tipped his oversized alien hat to Zeldi who returned the gesture by tapping their tusks.
‘This is my…’ Zeldi started to count on their fingers, ‘third visit’.
‘What?’ said Giselle and Mary at the same time.
‘Only your third? But… How?’
‘We’re a small species, so very interested in other cultures. I’m a bit of language nut myself. I took Kreya languages as an equivalent of your minor back home.’
‘You have a uni that teaches Earth languages?’ Mary asked, leaving her crepe halfway up to her mouth.
‘Of course. Although our studies last a lifetime.’
‘Can I get a photo with you?’ a little girl dressed as the female lead in the biggest sci-fi franchise of the decade asked quietly.
‘Of course,’ said Zeldi, getting up and handing a still awestruck Mary the lollipop. The alien bent down to one knee and gave the camera and the little girl a wave and a broad smile. Then Zeldi whispered something in the little girl’s ear. She looked up at Zeldi with big brown eyes before giving the still kneeled alien a hug and a big smile.
‘You’re a natural,’ said Giselle as the alien sat back down beside them watching as the little girl skipped away with her mother.
‘Studying my Kreya-visiting predecessors comes with its advantages.’
‘So what’s your favourite thing about us?’ asked Mary, munching on her crepe.
Zeldi thought for a moment. ‘Your affection towards one another. Back in Zoola 5 we are very much concerned with gaining knowledge and very little with expressing our emotions. We admire you for your ability to do so towards one another.’
Giselle smiled to herself as she sipped her first and much needed coffee of the day. ‘And least favourite?’
‘I guess that ability to show emotions also comes with a downside. Your hate, your wars with one another.’
‘You don’t have wars?’ asked Giselle.
‘No. We don’t quarrel with one another. We only want to learn about and from each other.’
‘Wow,’ said Giselle.’
‘Yeah,’ said Mary. ‘Wow.’
Zeldi seemed to shrug. ‘Trust me, each trait has its positive and negatives, and so does each species.’
‘You’ve met other species?’ asked Giselle.
‘No. I’ve just been sent to Kreya. You can only start planet scouting at 100.’
‘Of course,’ replied Giselle, her sarcasm even plain to Zeldi, which made Giselle admire the alien even more.
‘But we get lectures from other scouts who’ve lived on other planets for over five millennia.’
‘Millennia? Holy shit,’ said Giselle.
‘Hmm,’ responded Zeldi, licking her lollipop.
‘What’s the craziest planet you’ve heard of?’ asked Mary.
‘Now that I am forbidden to divulge.’
‘What do you mean?’ Mary asked.
‘Because while occasional contact with planet inhabitants is inevitable, we must never disclose information about other species. Could be used, you see. And we must never interfere.’
‘Nope. Not happening. Rule ten of planet scouting: keep other planets out of it.’
‘What’s rule one?’ asked Mary. ‘Do no harm to the planet?’
‘We are more concerned with the bigger picture. Look at what I did to your friend’s beautiful living room. There is no punishment for that. Accidents happen when you visit another planet.’ Giselle couldn’t help but frown a little at that statement. ‘No, rule one is to never get involved in a planet’s evolution.’
A boy teenager came up to them and listened in, wearing a black shirt with a large golden hammer on it that Giselle also recognised but couldn’t name.
‘Cool shirt,’ said Mary, pointing at it.
‘Thanks,’ the boy replied, folding his arms in front of his chest. ‘I don’t recognise you. Where’re you from?’
Zeldi urged the boy to come closer. ‘Can you keep a secret?’
The boy shrugged.
‘Well, off you go then,’ Zeldi said, backing away from him.
‘Okay, fine. Yes, I can keep a secret,’ he replied, coming closer and leaning in towards Zeldi.
‘I’m not actually in a costume. I’m an alien from a solar system far away from here.’ Zeldi sat up to see the boy’s reaction.
‘Oh, fuck off,’ he said, giving all three of them the angry eye before walking away.
‘See,’ said Zeldi. ‘That’s what I meant earlier. No one believes what’s right in front of them. Not even a teenager. Now that little girl from earlier. Pre-teens believe. But from there on, you Kreyans are a lost cause.’
‘We believe you,’ said Giselle, a little agitated.
‘Yeah, because you saw the hole in the roof of your house and me lying underneath the rubble. If you told people what you’d seen, they’d not believe you, even if it was the truth.’
Zeldi shrugged again. ‘It’s better for us though. Not sure how most would like it if they’d find out aliens had been visiting since the dawn of life on the planet.’
By the end of the day, both humans were exhausted from hanging around the many convention halls and were desperate to go back to their car. Sulking, Zeldi agreed.
‘You humans do know how to have a good time. I’ll give you that,’ Zeldi said, climbing back in the back of the Fiat, holding onto a tote bag full of spaceship replicas and books.
After having been waved off by admiring strangers, the three of them headed towards the motorway and towards Zeldi’s rendezvous point. Zeldi was still licking the seemingly never-ending lollipop and Mary was admiring her purchased t-shirts of ’80’s cult movies and the picture she had taken with one of her favourite space captains who happened to be there as a celebrity guest.
They were mostly silent until, after several hours on the road, they left the motorway behind. After another half an hour, they reached a fork in the road where they no longer knew the way and their phones were of no use either.
Zeldi stepped out of the car and seemed to sniff up the air. A look of contentment crept across the alien’s face. ‘Left… Go left. My partner’s left. I can smell them.’
‘You smell your partner?’ said Mary from inside the opened car door.
Zeldi stepped back in, eagerly leaning forward as they turned left. Giselle drove the car onto what seemed like a dirt road leading up to a farmhouse. They drove passed it and across fields of crop for a mile or so until Zeldi sniffed the air outside the opened window again, just as they came up to the edge of a wood.
‘Stop,’ said Zeldi.
Giselle paused the car.
‘This is it.’ Zeldi got out of the Fiat, followed by Giselle and Mary close behind. Right before the field stopped and the treeline started, Zeldi halted in the middle of the road. A sudden noise made Giselle and Mary both jump, until they realised it was Zeldi making it. It was the strangest noise they had ever heard a living being produce. It was clearly the call of a whole other species, a call to find one another and just when Giselle got used to Zeldi’s noises in the middle of nowhere, a second call echoed among the many tall trees in front of them.
Zeldi set off sprinting instantly into the forest. Giselle and Mary looked at each other for a moment, then followed as best and as fast as they could, but they realised after a few minutes as they saw Zeldi darting away among the trees ahead that they could not keep up.
Zeldi was fast.
The two friends halted in the middle of the forest, looking about them for a sign of Zeldi. Giselle looked at the ground, breathing heavily, but her untrained eye saw nothing in the onset of darkness. Giselle and Mary suddenly realised they had turned and twisted so often in this identical looking wood that they had no idea how to get back to the car.
Just when panic started to kick in, a voice from behind called out.
‘Tst, you two,’ Zeldi was peering around a tree, gesturing to them to follow.
‘Can’t,’ said Giselle. ‘Can’t go on.’ She leaned against another tree while Mary was hunched over, both trying to catch their breath. Giselle had the distinct feeling that Zeldi was muttering ‘humans’ under their breath, but thought better than to say anything.
‘Come on,’ Zeldi said. ‘It’s right there.’
Through the trees, to where Zeldi pointed, Giselle could see a small clearing and a figure standing there watching them. This figure was even taller than Zeldi, but their tusks were smaller. As they got closer, Giselle realised that instead of red fiery eyes, this alien had icey blue eyes.
‘Giselle and Mary, meet Zollanti, my scout mate.’
Zollanti held out their hand. ‘Shame to meet you,’ the alien said, shaking their hands.
Zeldi sighed. ‘No, not “shame”. Sorry, Zollanti keeps mixing human positives and negatives. “Pleasure”, you’re supposed to say a positive word when meeting a human remember, like “pleasure”.’
‘Yes, of course. My apologies.’ Zollanti checked with Zeldi if that was correct. Zeldi nodded.
‘Spent too many ages with Dycterians, this one. Hesitant lot. Always expect the worst. Does rub off a bit. Though in all fairness, they had a point. Acid rain and continuous volcanoes erupting this way and that would get to a species, wouldn’t it? Shit, I should not have said that.’
Mary giggled and Giselle smiled. She had grown quite fond of Zeldi and was actually kind of glad the alien ship had crashed through her roof. As if the alien read her mind, Zeldi looked at her, fiery red eyes seeming even more fiery while a smile seemed to emanate from the alien’s face. But perhaps it was the darkness settling in around them.
‘I went to a science-fiction convention today,’ Zeldi said, holding up her full tote bag.
Zeldi sighed. ‘No, “really”. You’re supposed to say… Oh never mind, shall we go?’
‘Sure. It’s ready,’ said Zollanti, motioning to something invisible behind them.
Having caught their breath, Mary and Giselle followed the aliens to the other side of the small clearing. Zollanti punched something into the familiar device on their wrist and within a second a spacecraft exactly like the one in Giselle’s living room – except less wrecked – appeared before them. Zollanti was already climbing in and making room for two. The dome Giselle had noticed on the spaceship in her living room glided up.
‘So will we see you again?’ asked Giselle.
‘Why? Wanna have me over for tea and biscuits some time?’
Giselle shrugged while Mary laughed. ‘Yeah, why not? We had a good time today, didn’t we?’
Zeldi looked Giselle up and down as they settled in next to Zollanti. ‘That we did.’
‘You know where I live.’
Zeldi seemed to snort. ‘I do.’
‘Who knows. Depends where the bosses send me next.’
‘Right.’ Giselle was surprised that she was disappointed by this answer.
‘I’ll see what I can do, though.’
‘Great,’ replied Mary. ‘I’d love to visit some more conventions with you.’
‘Can I come next time?’ asked Zollanti.
‘Sure,’ laughed Mary.
‘Bye,’ Giselle said.
‘Bye,’ waved Mary.
‘Goodbye. And thank you. For everything,’ Zeldi said.
‘Any time.’ Giselle waved as the dome closed and seemed to fog up, which took Zeldi away from her view and possibly her life. A low hum appeared as the pod cloaked itself again. Even though they could no longer see it, Giselle and Mary waved after the sound as the craft climbed into the air, above the trees. They looked up as the noise disappeared further into the sky above.
When the noise had disappeared, they looked at each other and shook their heads before a fit of giggles hit that occupied them for a while. When they finally calmed down and came back up for air, Mary looked around.
‘Shit. Where even are we?’
Giselle looked around her too. Then suddenly something else dawned on her.
‘No matter that! What the hell am I going to do about that spacecraft in my living room?!’