Aphelion Issue 293, Volume 28
September 2023
 
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The Weirdness of Reality

by Joe Bachman




Most people never notice the weirdness all around them. Some people will notice something weird out of the corner of their eye but by the time they turn to look, everything seems just as it was. Others who are a bit quicker to notice things will just write it off to being sleep deprived and their caffeine not kicking in yet.

I, however, have the unfortunate ability of noticing all the weirdness around me. There are a few others in the world who have the same gift. Well, gift is probably not the word most of us would use to describe it. It is more of a curse to most of us. It also comes with the lovely label of conspiracy theorist. While I am not of the foil hat variety of conspiracy theorist, most people seem to believe that I am, and most of those people making that claim, aren’t people themselves.

You know that time you were walking down the street and someone walking in front of you just seemed to vanish into thin air? 99% of the time that is the case. Many of these aliens have some form of personal teleportation device on their wrist, while others have it as an actual ability. If they feel like they are being followed, many will just wait for that bus or truck to pass between them and the person they think is following them or make a quick turn down a back alley and POOF, they are gone. Others like to make a game of it and will just do it at random to mess with people. I think some of them like to try to get caught in the act. Those are mostly the ones that have managed to integrate their teleporter with a smartwatch. They will act like they are replying to a message that just came in when really, they are just putting in the coordinates that they want to go to.

I started to notice a few of the aliens seem to be local as I see them quite often. Most of them will act like any other human and hail a cab for a ride home, but if it has been a long day and the cabs are full, many will just disappear down an alley not to be seen again until the next day.

There was one alien that I ended up becoming an acquaintance of at the local coffee shop. He, at least I am assuming the alien is on the male side of their species since that is the form they have taken as a human, is extremely nice and does their best to blend in with the rest of the people. I have seen him sitting having coffee at a local shop before heading home and chatted with him before.

Now, you are probably wondering why I think he is an alien. Well, the first few times we chatted at the coffee shop, I thought he was no different than I was. We chatted about sports, politics, work, and our home lives.

The last time we chatted though, I noticed a few things different. When he reached for his coffee cup, it slid towards his hand before he got his hand all the way to the cup. Not much, just enough to notice but for most people to write off to being tired from a long day at work. However, the coffee cup was full and sloshed a bit of burning hot coffee onto his hand. The next words that came from his lips were not of this world. I did not let on that I heard what he said. To be this close to an alien and have a conversation with them was exhilarating though. This was when I had to find out where he lived.

We finished our coffees and said our goodbyes. He hailed a cab, but before it took off, I made sure to get a good look at the cab number. Another, not so unfortunate, ability I have is that I am good with technology. That night, I hacked into their system and got the drop off point of this alien rider. After reviewing satellite images, many of which I should not have access to, I noticed that the house seemed to appear overnight. “How did no one else notice that this house just magically appears down the road from a busy subdivision?” I thought to myself. It has only been there for about 6 months. “I wonder just how many powers some of these aliens really have.”

Chapter 2

“Hey Aaron! Haven’t seen you here in a while!” I say to the alien the next time I see him at the coffee shop. It had been almost three months since I had seen him there.

“Hey Joe! How have you been? I’ve been a bit busy the last few months. Grab a coffee and come sit down.”

I proceed to order my usual brew and head over to the table. I could feel my heart pounding knowing that I was sitting next to an alien again. He must have been able to sense my elevated heartbeat. “Everything ok, Joe? You seem a bit anxious today,” He says, as his cup slides over to his hand again. This time though, he did it in a way that he would know I saw it. I will be the first to admit that I do not have a great poker face, and this was definitely one of those times that my face did not hide my reaction.

“How long have you known about me, Joe?” Aaron asked a bit nervously.

“I’ve only known for sure about you for about 3 months,” I replied, “but, I have suspected there to be others for quite some time.”

“What gave me away?” Aaron asked with a slight grin on his face.

“Well, the last time we saw each other, you had your coffee slide towards your hand a bit too quickly and sloshed some hot coffee on it,” I said. “It wasn’t enough for most people to notice, but what really sealed the deal was what you said after you got burned.”

“I didn’t think I had said that loud enough for you to hear,” Aaron said, a bit embarrassed. “I try not to cuss like that, but damn was the coffee extra hot that day.”

“Yeah, it did seem a lot hotter that day as I remember,” I said.

“I’m guessing you have a lot of questions right now,” Aaron says in a serious tone. “Most of the humans we have come across that do manage to catch us in the act, are what you would call a ‘tin foil hat wearer’, if I’m remembering the term correctly. You, however, don’t seem that way. You don’t seem to have the paranoia that we generally see. You seem to just be curious to get to know your neighbor. Does that seem about right?” Aaron asked.

“You are correct,” I replied. “See, I have what I call an unfortunate ability. I tend to notice all the weird things going on around me. Small movements that most people see, like with your coffee a few months ago followed by the not-so-native language, would just be written off to being tired or that they just saw it from a weird angle. I have had this ability for as long as I can remember. One question I guess I would have to ask is, does your species send their children to our schools?”

“Yes, yes we do,” Aaron replies with a laugh. “I’m sorry, I’m not laughing at you, but that is really not the first question I was expecting.” Aaron says with a chuckle still.

“Well, that confirms that I have had this ability as early as elementary school then,” I said with a chuckle.

“What is the first question that you normally get?” Joe asked curiously.

“Well, the top two are probably where am I actually from and what do I actually look like,” Aaron said. “Your question though is the best first question I’ve ever had,” Aaron says still chuckling a bit.

“Well, I do have another question. Am I going to remember any of this?” I asked nervously.

“For now, you will,” Aaron said. “Unlike many others, I don’t have the power to mess with your memory, and I don’t tend to carry my scrambler with me outside of the house. There have been too many times I have accidentally handed it to someone instead of a pen and had them take out a week’s worth of their memories. That makes for a really long day at the office.” Aaron says with an annoyed look on his face.

“Well, that explains the reports of some people losing a week or more of their life’s memories,” I chuckled. “I do have one final question though. How did you manage to build a house down the road from a busy subdivision, literally overnight without anyone noticing? I’m guessing part of the answer to that question would be your memory scrambler.”

“The scrambler did play a part in it, along with a few friends that can manipulate memories," Aaron said. "If you ask anyone that travels the road daily or lives in the subdivision, they clearly remember it took 4 months to build, when in reality, it took all of 15 minutes. The hard part was figuring out your electrical system on this world. I had to run generators for a few days to power the house. How has your species managed to not just fry the entire planet with your current system?” Aaron asked.

“Is it really that bad?” I asked in reply.

“No offense, but I’ve seen the children on our world come up with better by the time they are in what your species calls the third grade. I’m waiting for the day that I come home, and the house is burned to the ground.” Aaron replied.

“Do you think we could maybe continue our conversation later on?” I asked.

“Normal protocol is for us to erase your memory,” Aaron said. “However, there is something different about you. I will reach out to you. I don’t think we should continue these conversations in public as there are eyes and ears everywhere for the most part. Luckily, I’m the only one that seems to enjoy the coffee from this shop, but I don’t want to push our luck.” Aaron says with a more serious tone.

“I look forward to it. I’ll see you again soon.” I said while trying to hide his excitement.

We finished up our coffee, shook hands, and went our separate ways. I had so many more questions, but Aaron was right, we really shouldn’t talk too much in public. I really hope I wake up with all my memories tomorrow still.

Chapter 3

“Well, at least he kept his word and didn’t scramble my memories from yesterday,” I thought to myself as I got out of bed to go make some morning coffee.

Normally, when I first get up for the day, I check out the message boards for new encounters that people claim to have had. Not today though. Knowing that I needed to keep this a secret for now, I knew the temptation to make a post about my meeting would be too much to resist. Later on, I went to my usual coffee shop for another quick cuppa before I head for work...

<phone buzzes>

“Who could possibly be texting me this early in the morning?” I thought to myself.

As I look at the screen, I see that it shows as an unknown number. I tap the screen and enter my security code to see what the message could be.

“Joe, it really was a pleasure talking to you yesterday at the coffee shop. I know you probably have many more questions for me. However, after speaking with the high command, I’ve been informed that we must still wipe your memory of this. In fact, the memory wipe is also going to take away your ability to perceive things as you currently do. The high command doesn’t feel like it is the right time for us to show ourselves yet and they can’t risk having someone who not only can notice us easily, but also track us, be running around with this knowledge that we are truly real.”

As I finish reading the message, I notice someone walk up to my table. Before I am able to say anything… *FLASH*

I take a sip of my drink and spit it across the table. Why did I order a coffee? I don’t like coffee. I prefer tea.


THE END


2024 Joe Bachman

Bio: Joe Bachman has worked in the road construction industry for over 10 years. His normal day job is as a road construction project supervisor overseeing various road projects in Northwest Indiana. Joe has published one book so far called Tales of the Highway, a series of short stories of things that Joe has seen happen on various job sites and while plowing snow. Joe has also coded and released several mobile applications, is an active streamer on Monday and Wednesday nights for his shows Behind the Code and The Burning is Love, and is the founder of the Independent Creator Directory. Joe lives with his wife, Trilaina, in Northwest Indiana. He is also the inventor of the new energy drink "Plow The Town."

E-mail: Joe Bachman

Website: Joe Bachman's Website The Independent Creators Directory

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