by Peter Merani
The call that she is back comes at 4:55 a.m. The police say she
wandered into the local precinct weary but thankfully returned
unharmed. So I drive to the precinct fast as I can, my shoes on
halfway, wearing a wrinkled college sweatshirt. My dad’s harmonica
necklace is laced so tight it nearly chokes my windpipe. It’s still
dark and I have trouble breaking at red lights. Stop signs feel like
I wait forty-two minutes in a hard chair until the police finish taking
her statement, and then they escort me into a detective’s office. My
sister is wrapped in blankets, beaming for the first time since Dad’s
funeral. Pupils dilated, her gaze holds more weight, as if she’s seeing
me clearly for the first time.
After a hug she explains herself, leaning in close, in a whisper loud enough for only me: “I got an extraterrestrial implant.”
A chill slips from my spine. I gather myself and glance to the police
officer standing in the doorway, silently judging her with a smirk.
We sit. I ask the obvious question. “What?”
“I was abducted,” she smiles. “They can hear what I hear. See what I see.”
“You’ve been missing for two weeks. What are you talking about?”
“Oh, don’t worry,” she says, laziness radiating off her words. “I can
tell anyone I want. They want us humans to be more open.” She looks up
at the overhead lights, clinical and white, humming. “They used the
phrase ‘positive communication’, I think. It’s all still fuzzy.” She
rubs her temples.
I should be saying, “What the hell? What’s wrong with you? Where have
you been?” Instead I run with the story, just happy to have her in my
line of sight again. “They want open dialogue?” I take her hand.
“They don’t want fear controlling their future. Rather, they don’t want our fear controlling their future. I mean, why not be open about it? There are lots of others like me.”
I consider saying “Missing?” but I don’t say that either. I go with “Of course. Did it hurt?”
“It hurt less than getting a tattoo.”
I think of the raven she had inked on her ankle the day after Dad died,
two months before she went missing, or according to her, abducted. Two
unexplainable events so close together. She has that same look on her
I move closer and lift her ponytail, half expecting to see a blinking
crimson light grafted into the back of her neck. I find myself catching
my breath when it’s merely sweat.
I gulp. “So, where is it?”
She laughs. “Where the moon doesn’t shine, little brother. They want to
see if the implant works from all areas in the human body.”
“They said that?”
She nods. At some point the police officer standing outside the door
had left. “Nice necklace,” she says, sizing me up. “You look like Dad
with it on.” Her teeth are yellowed and she smells from not having
showered for some time.
“Where’d you go? Why’d they choose you?”
“I’m not sure and I don’t care. Upwards, I suppose.” Her gaze returns
to the overhead lights as if they are going to flicker in agreement. “I
don’t feel alone anymore. It’s great. I’m a perfect subject. I was in
bad place after Dad died. I wasn’t entirely myself. But after they did
their work I’m never alone. And it’s a comfort— like a little voice in
the back of my head.” She pauses and I watch the lights. “Maybe it’s
more like a quiet guy in the passenger seat of your car. You can’t turn
your head because— well, you’re driving— but there’s a comfort in
knowing you’re not heading to the destination alone. It’s about what
they left behind. Get it?”
“And they put me right back in my house after the abduction. Even gave me a thank you gift.”
“The—the thing?” I point to the back of my own neck.
She laughs some more. “Yes, the implant. But also a message from Dad
from beyond the grave.” Her dilated pupils expand wide as black holes.
My lungs seize up. “He told me he knew I was destined to be a
scientist. Just not for the scientific study of humans.”
Funny. That sounds like some joke Dad would make, fiddling with his
harmonica. I wonder if he said anything about me? No, stop it. That’s
not the issue. Breathe deeper and think harder.
I proceed carefully. “If what you’re saying is true, I’m not sure it is
comforting to know you have a thousand eyes on you always.”
“You do too, you know. You’d lose your mind if you realized just how
many are watching you. Mine just have more, oh, what’s that phrase?...
Positive communication. They said that for the last two years of
observations half of all the feed from their implants were people using
cellphones. What a waste, right?”
But I’m not paying attention anymore. I loosen the necklace clasp.
I look away from her, out the office door and into the precinct. A
policeman comes by in a uniform that’s too tight. He is walking a stray
dog without a collar. For the first time I notice two sets of eyes
watching me. A bright human indigo and another color peering behind
shaggy white fur.
The only question remains, how many eyes now are watching me?
All of the boys in blue going about their day throw us halfway glances.
Someone shuts the door and I listen close. The office is quiet enough
that I pick up a faint beep. Though it barely reaches my eardrums, its
sounds like a microchip tucked far away, with retinas linked to the
stars. Some silent little hum hiding beneath a persons’ pounding blood
and electrified joy.
A static response.
I hold her space-cold hands, as if she’s fresh from a freezer and still
defrosting. Out the window the sun rises. There is smoke in her eyes
and I know they can see me.
© 2018 Peter Merani
Bio: Peter Merani is from New York. His fiction has appeared in
365Tomorrows and live aired on The Gettysburg Radio Station WZBT.
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