Their destinies crossed in the Dreams and Mysteries section of the public library when Mia realized that Jimmy was a fellow traveler through space and time. She had captured and decoded an errant brainwave; his mind was a coil of feuding inner-psychic processes. Jimmy, a cute sophomore at Brooklyn’s FDR High School, was an unmoored extraterrestrial either unwilling or incapable of embracing his distant roots. He also harbored a latent desire to bond with an unpretentious, approachable, and reasonably attractive alien. An extraterrestrial who didn’t know he was an extraterrestrial was definitely (despite his existential uncertainty) excellent boyfriend material
Mia’s previous encounters with extraterrestrials had filled her with anxiety. Aliens were unpredictable and potentially deadly. She usually tried to avoid eye contact.
Three classmates at St. Mary’s All-Girls Academy were extraterrestrials. They appeared to be nice aliens and, from what Mia could determine when intercepting a wayward brainwave or two, their native planets were not hotbeds of hate. She wanted to ask Jennifer, Danielle, and Sophia if they too were repelled by humans, but any attempted friendship with alien classmates was understandably too risky. Regrettably, Mia’s home planet of Terzan Four had once been a colonizing dynamo, and the hard feelings of the subjugated have been known to fester for eons. Perhaps Jennifer, a refugee from a planet that had been ravaged by the Terzan Four Space Force, emitted deceptive brainwaves with the intent of persuading Mia to lower her defenses. Mia’s ensuing demise would be horrific.
Jimmy’s eyes were sea green.
Peru is littered with the petrified bodies of extraterrestrial beings. The television show Space Mysteries Decoded broadcast a compelling three-part special on this curiosity.
During the final Peru episode of Space Mysteries Decoded Jimmy experienced a panic attack. An ancient memory, lingering deep inside Jimmy’s brain, had been resurrected and fitfully transmitted to Mia. An extreme close-up of a petrified extraterrestrial, one of Jimmy’s siblings or friends, had undoubtedly triggered the medical event.
“Everything is too loud,” Jimmy said. “I can’t hear.”
The cacophony was a remnant from his years confined inside the crude and noisy spacecraft slapped together by an upstart civilization.
“I’m not sure who I am,” said Jimmy. He was sweaty. “I don’t feel so good.” He grabbed Mia’s right hand. It was the first time they had held hands.
“It’s okay,” said Mia.
Jimmy remembered waking from suspended animation. His memories were dying. He was alone. He had been abandoned. Fear overwhelmed him.
Had Jimmy ever experienced love? Is love a mutation baked into the chemistry of our DNA?
Jimmy’s grip tightened as he entered a fugue state.
“It’s not okay,” he said. Jimmy then mumbled a snippet of the alien language spoken on his native planet. “I’m never all right.” He spoke a few more harsh sounding words before gently sobbing.
“My Mom and Dad came from Terzan Four,” said Mia.
Jimmy began to shake more violently. Had Terzan Four been the archenemy of Jimmy’s planet? Had Mia just summoned visions of the inferno by invoking the name of her native planet?
“Really?” He suddenly seemed calm.
“On Terzen Four there is immortality. Mom and Dad came to Earth determined to defeat death by learning how to die in a state of grace. They are hoping for an amazing afterlife, but it’s not going well. They’ve got issues, probably dissociative disorders. I’m studying them.”
“Are you studying me?”
“I can’t help myself.”
Jimmy’s body continued to relax. “Are you one of them?”
“Probably. I was conceived in a spacecraft midway between Terzen Four and Earth, but I was born in New York. I might be a hybrid. It’s complicated.”
It was Jimmy’s turn to be offloaded. He was approaching puberty, occasionally disruptive, and long past cuddly. There were also numerous alien women in late stages of pregnancy. Children were expendable, particularly the rebellious ones. During a rest stop on Earth, a bored Jimmy borrowed a laser tool and began firing indiscriminately at the nearby rocks. He had been forewarned. Jimmy was never serious about educational matters and refused to follow directions. The elders had had enough.
(The markings on the stones defaced by Jimmy in the country that is now named Peru were recently deemed by geologists as “almost definitely” of alien origin. Some scientists have postulated that the rock carvings illustrate the home solar system of these “advanced” extraterrestrials.)
Jimmy, technically speaking, wasn’t left behind to fend for himself. The extraterrestrials, who professed a loathing for cruelty, had placed Jimmy in suspended animation for his own good. Jimmy’s exact location was duly noted in the captain’s log. Perhaps he would outgrow his adolescent unpleasantness while half frozen. An effort would be made to retrieve Jimmy 2.0 in the not too distant future.
But something went wrong and he began to defrost.
(It is possible that premature reanimation was a common occurrence. Jimmy’s ancestors were technologically slipshod, and Peru, after all, is littered with the petrified bodies of alien beings. There is a small museum in the mountainous city of Tarma that displays ten of these discarded extraterrestrial children inside smudged glass coffins. Donations are voluntary.)
But then something went right.
Jimmy was miraculously found by kindly shepherds who brought him to the local priest. (This was indeed fortunate. Jimmy, who appeared to be about 12 years old at the time of his reanimation, contained two million dollars’ worth of organs ripe and ready for harvesting. Would those organs have been rejected as incompatible by the recipients? The rogue peripatetic transplant specialists were, of course, indifferent to their patients’ survival rates.)
How much genetic information does the universe share?
Many space mysteries are impossible to decode.
Jimmy stood and walked unsteadily to the couch.
“I’m all right,” said Jimmy. “I just need to watch something totally different.”
Mia slid next to Jimmy. “Then let’s watch this,” said Mia. “It’s about humans who were abducted by aliens. That’s totally different.”
Since Jimmy’s adoptive parents were on a date night, they were alone. A soothing television voice narrated the account of pharaoh Khufu’s abduction. (There are surviving hieroglyphics that depict a spaceship entangling him in an immense net before vanishing into the black Egyptian night.) Khufu reappeared two days later with the necessary knowledge required to construct the most famous of pyramids. The pharaoh had no memory of his kidnapping.
It occurred to Mia that Mom and Dad were alive at the time of Khufu’s abduction. It was impossible, however, to imagine a scenario where someone from Terzan Four would have participated in such a juvenile stunt. (Their days of conquering distant civilizations had long since concluded.) Jimmy’s sociopathic ancestors were a more likely possibility. “A joyride to Egypt? Sure, let’s mess up the minds of some Earthlings? And while we’re at it we can get rid of some annoying adolescents.”
The extraterrestrial abductors did leave an intriguing clue to their existence: During the solstice, the pyramid’s peak points to the galaxy where Khufu’s abductors reside.
“That doesn’t make much sense,” said Mia. “I understand that the aliens made Khufu name immortal, but why do these aliens feel a need to reveal their existence to Earthlings?”
Jimmy was still holding her hand. “We really don’t know how aliens think. That’s a space mystery.”
He quickly kissed her on the lips.
“If you’re feeling better, we can have sex,” Mia said.
She was curious about sex, and Jimmy was undeniably nice. Sex wasn’t much of a sin anymore. Racism, sexism, greed, and envy were considered much worse. Father Jason, an occasional assistant priest at St. Mary’s, said that sin was mostly about not loving yourself or others enough. That was somewhat of a problem because Mia liked but didn’t love Jimmy. She didn’t think about him when they were separated. She sometimes didn’t think about him when they were together.
Was it possible to go through life without loving someone? Maybe sex was a catalyst for more sex that was followed by passion and then ultimately followed by real love.
(Chloe, a human classmate, had recently shoved an iPhone in her face during lunch. “What do you think of him?” she said. A sweaty man, aroused and bored, was covered with a network of logograms, possibly alien in origin. Mia took the phone and magnified the screen to better see the symbols. The sweaty man’s body was illuminated with clues related to space mysteries that required decoding. “Calm yourself,” said Chloe.)
Jimmy slid his hand under Mia’s turtleneck and then under her bra. He firmly cupped her breast.
“I think I hear someone,” he said a moment later.
His parents were not home. The false alarm was an enduring residual noise from his past. But some kind of mood, according to Jimmy, had been broken. Mia assured Jimmy that it didn’t matter because it didn’t. They were two aliens trapped on an alien planet, doing their best.
They continued to see each other and watch television shows about space mysteries. When Mia dropped out of school and left Brooklyn, she never told Jimmy. Years later, like now, she occasionally thinks about him and hopes that he is all right.
Leland Neville is a writer from upstate New York. Some of his stories have been published in: Sobotka Literary Review, STORGY Magazine, Space Squid, and The Barcelona Review.