Aphelion Issue 242, Volume 23
August 2019
 
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The Aliens Among Us

by Ivanka Fear




It had no definite beginning, the awareness that things weren’t what they seemed. Preoccupied with the mundane tasks of daily life, she brushed aside the clues presented to her. Sometimes she questioned whether other people noticed similar coincidences and quirks in their own lives. Most of the time she was afraid to delve too deeply into theories, worried she might uncover something best left undiscovered.

The evening Claire read about the cigar-shaped alien spacecraft that had been sighted, her first response was disbelief. She read the headline aloud to her husband, Steve, and exclaimed, “This must be some kind of joke for Halloween.” Then she realized it was too late for that as the date of the news article was November 6.

Her son, Corey, advised, “Check the source of the story, Mom. It’s probably one of those scams.”

Claire proceeded to read aloud the rest of the article, noting that scientists seriously speculated whether the object in question could be an alien spaceship or a probe sent to investigate Earth.

“Most likely it’s an asteroid or some sort of debris from space,” Steve suggested. He also said it could be a hoax similar to H. G. Well’s War of the Worlds. None of them really believed the object was actually from another planet. The evening continued as usual, with Steve and Corey watching another episode of The Big Bang Theory, and Claire reading another mystery novel. She found it difficult to concentrate and kept thinking, “Harvard scientists actually think this may be an alien object of some sort. Harvard scientists, not some overly imaginative lunatic with a history of UFO sightings. Hmm... I wonder if there’s anything to it? You never know.”

The more she thought about it, the more plausible it seemed. Weirder things had happened in the history of the world. Who would have ever thought the world wasn’t flat or that the earth wasn’t the centre of the universe? Who would have envisioned we could observe earth from space? It was mind-boggling, really, how human knowledge and our perception of the universe had changed over the centuries.

“I think I’ll go out for a walk,” Claire said, setting down her book. She did her best thinking while strolling through town at night and right now she couldn’t get her mind off the supposed UFO. “I need to get some fresh air and clear my head,” she continued.

“Hold on, I’ll come with you,” offered Steve. The two of them grabbed their coats and gloves on the way out. It was a clear, calm night with the chill of autumn in the air. As usual, it was eerily quiet. When you live in a village of less than 500 people, you don’t encounter too many others on your late night walks. Rotting leaves covered the sidewalk under their feet and they tread carefully, taking care not to slip.

“Any stars up there?” Claire wondered as she gazed up at the sky. She did this every night she went out, like a little kid amazed by the enormity of the sky and magical twinkling lights. “Oh, look there!” she pointed. “Isn’t it incredible? Hard to believe we’re just these tiny specks down here.”

“Tiny specks probably being watched by somebody right now,” teased Steve. “I think that one might be a spaceship,” he said pointing out a flashing light among the stars. “Or a more plausible explanation might be that it’s a satellite,” he laughed.

Although Steve liked to find logical explanations for everything, Claire suspected there was a part of him that was open to speculation. It was actually Steve who had experienced some strange events he tried to brush off with science and logic.

“You never know. There are a lot of things we don’t understand going on around us,” countered Claire.

As they headed towards the main street, Claire and Steve were enveloped by the bright lights along the downtown’s sidewalk. It was more like daylight here, but still a bit creepy as there was no one else outside.

“You’d think there would be other people going out for evening walks,” Claire said to Steve. A black cat crossed the sidewalk in front of them, likely a stray. Claire and Steve both loved cats and would have liked to start up a cat sanctuary for the numerous homeless cats in town.

“Yeah, it’s a pretty quiet town,” agreed Steve. They observed that there were still some houses with their Halloween decorations out. Most homes had lights in the window and TV screens that could be seen through the windows. Claire and Steve stopped at the grocery store to peer through the locked glass doors and were somewhat startled when they saw movement inside. “Oh! I had a feeling they might be working tonight. Filling shelves, I guess,” said Steve.

Steve often had 'a feeling'. Simple coincidence? Maybe. Weird? Definitely. “However you look at it,” thought Claire, “it’s uncanny.” Claire was pretty used to Steve guessing what might happen, even though it often went beyond a guess and became more of a prediction. There was the time, for instance, when they drove by a nearby house and Steve exclaimed, “I thought I read in the paper that house burned down last week!” They had quite a jolt when they read in the paper a few weeks later that the house had indeed burned down. Uncanny. Claire thought to herself, “Either my husband predicted the fire or set it himself. Knowing him as well as I do, it was definitely not the latter.”

During one of their trips to Niagara Falls, Steve watched tourists climbing the railing to get the perfect photo of themselves by the falls. He said to Claire, “Someone’s going to fall over the railing.” The next week, of course, they heard that someone had gone over the railing and into the water. Coincidence, naturally. But then most weeks someone doesn’t fall over the railing. Perhaps Steve had snuck back to the falls later in the week and fulfilled his prophecy?

Claire could either accept the fact that she was married to an arsonist/ murderer or shrug it off as chance. Over the 30 some years they had been together, he had given her no reason to believe he was capable of harming anyone. In fact, he hated to swat flies and would try to delicately relocate spiders and crickets from the house to the outdoors. So chance it was. Except...weird things happened all the time. Steve would say, “Maybe they’ll ask us to take a day trip with them,” when Claire wondered whether their daughter and son-in-law would be coming for a visit on the weekend. Sure enough, the next day Belinda called and asked if they wanted to have a day out with them. Steve would see a stranger at the doctor’s clinic and wonder if that was the lady who had ordered the vacuum from the hardware store where he worked. Turns out, it was. She would come in the store and pick up the vacuum a few days later. These are the sorts of random things that happened to Steve fairly frequently.

The thing is, though, since the birth of their children, strange things also seemed to happen to Claire herself. She was vaguely aware of this, but like Steve, she didn’t overthink it. She was on the porch reading a poem about hummingbirds when a hummingbird appeared at the planter above her. She’d hum a song and that song would suddenly pop up on the radio. When she thought about possibly doing some tutoring, a neighbour dropped by that afternoon to ask if she would consider tutoring her child. Claire awakened in the night to answer a ringing phone that wasn’t ringing. An hour later, it rang with bad news. Claire had a dream that she should go back to her hobby of writing poetry. Shortly after, she read an article about her former high school mentor who had been her inspiration for writing. It seemed to be a sign of some sort. Signs and books Claire read somehow often mysteriously drew her attention to the number 11. Her daughter told her not to question everything. “Just be happy with your life and what you have. Stop reading something into everything,” Belinda would tell her Mom repeatedly.

“All kinds of very spooky stuff is going on all the time,” thought Claire,” but I’m sure it must be pure coincidence.” Other times, Claire was certain there were greater and stranger forces at work in the world that went way beyond her understanding.

Claire and Steve continued walking down the sidewalk towards the outskirts of town. Once they stepped past the last sidewalk light, Claire suggested they turn around and head home.

“Let’s just go a little further out,” said Steve. There was nothing much up ahead other than fields and woods.

“Um, okay,” Claire agreed hesitantly. There was enough light from the streetlights still so they could see ahead a short distance. “But we should go back soon. It must be getting late.” She was a bit uneasy being out in the dark on the edge of town this time of night, but didn’t want to let on.

They walked in silence for a while, the dark seeming to swallow them. On the other side of the church they passed a field. Claire pointed and asked, “What’s that?” Out in the distance a light flashed.

Steve didn’t answer, but simply walked through the field towards the light. Claire caught up with him and shouted, “Hey, we should get out of here! It’s dark. I just want to go home now.” Steve ignored her and kept walking towards the light. It was as though he was mesmerized by it. Claire was getting scared. Who knew what that light was. As they got closer, she saw some sort of large object in the shadows. Coming from it and surrounding it were more flashing lights.

“Oh my God, what the hell is that?” Claire whispered, not believing her eyes, too afraid to speak aloud. Steve proceeded towards the lights and the shadowy object as though drawn there. It was almost as though it was beckoning him to come, beckoning him to join them. Steve didn’t respond to Claire’s tug on his arm, didn’t register her fear.

“Is that a spaceship? Is my husband an alien? Have they come for him? Are they communicating with him? Are they going to take him with them?” Irrational thoughts ran through Claire’s mind, fuelled by the dark, the unknown in the field, and her husband’s response.

Steve turned towards her and calmly said, “That’s crazy.” Then he continued in silence towards the lights.

“What? Are you reading my mind again? I hate when you do that!” Claire said aloud. “Let’s go home. You’re scaring me.” Claire looked at her husband of 28 years, and saw something in his face she didn’t recognize. “Oh, no no no… this can’t be happening,” she stammered as she backed away. How could she have not seen the signs? The warnings were there all along. She should have seen this coming. “Please, let’s just go home. Think about Corey. He’ll be worried,” she wailed, bordering on hysteria, trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy.

“Okay,” Steve said as he abruptly turned away from the lights. They walked together, arm in arm, out of the field and back to the sidewalk, back to the town. “What were you so freaked out about back there?” Steve asked Claire as they walked by the well-lit area in front of the grocery store. “You looked like you’d seen a ghost!”

“Those lights, and I think I saw something else…” Claire began.

“Nightcrawlers,” interjected Steve.

“What? Nightcrawlers? Where are they from? What are they?” Claire blurted out, still terrified, not sure they were safe.

“Worms. Those people are worm pickers. They’re hired to come out at night and look for them. It’s a big business,” Steve explained. “Why? What did you think they were? Aliens coming out of their spaceship?” He laughed as Claire stopped and looked behind them.

“Worm pickers? Not aliens?”, she thought. “Of course, they’re not aliens. Why did I think that? My imagination really…” Claire froze as she looked at her watch. The digital display stared at her, taunting her. “It’s 11:11,” Claire told Steve. “My wake-up call,” she thought.

Steve and Claire walked in silence the rest of the way home. As they entered the front door, Claire wondered to herself, “If those were aliens, if my husband is one of them…? Are there more of them among us? What would that make Corey and Belinda? Half alien? No that’s ridiculous.”

“Yes, of course it is,” her alien husband replied to her silent thoughts. Claire closed the door behind them and thought to herself, “Coincidence, that’s all it is.”

They never spoke of that night again. Claire went back to her everyday mundane tasks and thought how lucky she was to have a family who loved her. “Just asteroids, just worm pickers. There’s always a reasonable answer,” she thought whenever strange things happened. Some things are better left alone. Undiscovered, not uncovered.



THE END


2019 Ivanka Fear

Bio: Ivanka Fear is a retired teacher and a writer from Ontario, Canada. She holds a B.A. and B.Ed., majoring in English and French literature, from Western University. Her poems and short stories appear in or are forthcoming in Spadina Literary Review, Montreal Writes, Spillwords, Commuterlit, Canadian Stories, Adelaide Literary, October Hill, Scarlet Leaf Review, Polar Borealis, Lighten Up, Bewildering Stories, The Sirens Call, Utopia Science Fiction, The Literary Hatchet, Wellington Street Review, and Aphelion.

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