by William Arthur Holmes
Gil was a teller at the Fourth National Bank on the outskirts of Tulsa, about 30 miles south of the trailer park.Marlene did absolutely nothing for a living and got paid just slightly less than Gil, who worked 40 hours a week, thanks to those welfare checks that kept on coming.Gil didn't mind that so much.It wasn't fair, but so long as it kept her from complaining about his paltry salary, he was fine with it.
It was a muggy summer night, and Gil was in shorts and a t-shirt, sitting in a lounge chair in the front yard.A Thermos full of lemonade and an empty glass sat on the table to his right.To his left was his telescope.He had been stargazing, but was now fast asleep.
Marlene was inside watching television while tending to their dog Liberace's newborn pups.Their next door neighbor, Harold, slithered up from behind Gil and sneaked into Gil's trailer.When Marlene saw Harold, she smiled, carefully stepped over Liberace and her puppies, and led Harold by the hand to the bedroom.
Gil was awakened by an unusual sound.It was not until he opened his eyes that he realized it wasn't so much a particular sound as it was a complete absence of sound.No dogs barking.No traffic noise.No crickets or frogs.Well, there was the occasional creaking sound coming from the trailer, but he just figured one of the neighbors was banging his wife again.
A moment later, a large spaceship landed in the trailer park's gravel driveway.Gil sat frozen in his chair, staring straight ahead, completely oblivious to anything else.
"Just like that cartoon guy," Gil said to himself."Only taller."
"Marvin" walked up to Gil, grabbed the glass on the table and poured himself some lemonade.He downed it in one gulp and glanced over at Gil."Hot night, eh?" he said, casually, conversationally.Just your friendly neighborhood alien out for an evening stroll."You don't mind, do you?"
Speechless, Gil shook his head.He didn't mind.
The spaceman poured and gulped another glass.Smiling, the alien then set down the glass, smacked his lips, and returned to his ship.With a smirk, he waved goodbye over his shoulder.
Back inside the ship, his crewmen were howling with laughter as he returned."That's it?" one of the crew asked."You take a drink, and we fly away?"
"Sure, why not?" Marvin replied with a wicked grin."I like messing with people."
As the ship took off, Gil staggered to his feet and shuffled toward his trailer.Marlene and Harold were still in bed together as Gil entered the bedroom.He very calmly said, "I just had a close encounter of the third or fourth kind."
He sat down at his computer."I've gotta write this down while it's still fresh."And he started banging away on the keyboard.This banging reminded him of Harold banging his wife.Absently, without turning around completley, he waved and said, "Hey, Harold."
"Hey ... Gil," Harold replied hesitantly.
"Well?" Marlene nagged at Harold."Finish me off!Gil don't care."
And so, while Gil pounded away on his computer keyboard, Harold pounded away on Marlene.Ten minutes later, Harold was up and out of bed, leaving Marlene satisfied.A few minutes after that, Gil heard her snoring.
Half an hour passed, and Marlene got up and took a shower, after which she was in the kitchen and on the phone with her best friend and neighbor, Sally Spacek, her lover Harold's wife.Sally was somehow unaware of Marlene's and Harold's ongoing affair.
"Sally," Marlene whispered into the phone."I think Gil's finally flipped out.He came in babbling something about a close encounter.Spaceships.You didn't see nothing outside, did you?"
Sally was on the couch, smoking a cigarette and watching TV.She turned to Harold, now in the kitchen, also smoking a cigarette.She shouted, "You seen anything outside?"
"Like what?" Marlene could hear Harold's reply on her end.
"Like a spaceship or sumtin'?"
"What the hell?" Harold was incredulous.Despite being present when Gil had entered the bedroom to announce his experience, none of Gil's words actually registered with Harold.All he heard was Gil's voice saying something while he was in the middle of having sex with Gil's wife.
Into the phone, Sally said, "Marlene, Gil's gone Jack Nicholson on you."
"Remember The Shining?" Sally compared everything in life to the movies."The one where Jack Nicholson is a writer and he goes crazy and kills his family?"
"Oh my God."
"Leave right now, Marlene," Sally ordered."You're staying with us until Gil snaps out of it.If he snaps out of it."To Harold, Sally shouted, "Marlene's spending the night."
Harold smiled to himself, but said nothing.
"No telling what he might do, Marlene," Sally continued."What's he doin' right now?"
"He's in the bedroom, typing."
"Typing!?!?Get over here now, Marlene! This is just like The Shining!"
And so it was that Marlene was not around when the spaceship returned that evening.Gil was in his bedroom, still feverishly recounting his brief, but fantastic, experience.It occurred to him how ridiculously long it took to describe in writing what took just a few seconds in real life.
He heard a knock at the flimsy aluminum trailer door.
"Honey, can you get that?" he shouted.
When no one responded and the knocking continued, Gil reluctantly stopped typing long enough to answer the door himself.Standing in the doorway was the little green man, Marvin.It looked like Marvin, anyway.
"Sorry to bother you," said the little green man."But, you know what?You see that ship out there?"
Gil nodded yes.
"On that entire ship -- the entire ship! -- we don't have anything as amazing as your Thermos bottle."
When Gil only looked at him blankly, the alien repeated, "You know, that Thermos bottle you keep your lemonade in?It's an amazing bit of technology.We don't have anything like it.Can you believe it?" The alien shook his head in amazement.
Gil, still in shock, shook his head along with him.
"So," said Marvin, "can I have it?"
The other aliens were inside the ship, watching their captain on the monitor and clutching their sides in laughter.Gil was not laughing.He clutched his head and started trembling.Then he passed out.
Marvin went looking for the Thermos.Seeing Liberace's puppies crawling around on the floor, he picked one up and swallowed it.He regurgitated it almost immediately.
"God," he said to the unconscious Gil."How can you people eat these things?!"
The puppy somehow survived.
He gave up on the Thermos bottle and picked up Gil -- twice his size -- and threw him over his shoulder like a sack of feed.It wasn't until he passed by the lounge chair and table in the front yard that Marvin spotted the Thermos.He chided himself for forgetting where he had seen it, then immediately forgave himself.When your lifespan is close to a thousand Earth years, one's long-term memory is much more important than short-term memory.He grabbed the Thermos and telescope, and returned to the ship.
Seeing Gil's unconscious body over Marvin's shoulder, one of the aliens asked, "Food for Cinda?"
"Thousand to one odds on the human!" shouted another.This made them all giggle sadistically.
Marvin had one of his underlings throw Gil into what appeared to be a jail cell.Gil came-to as they dumped him on the floor.The ship immediately lurched straight upward at a sickening speed.Gil squirmed into a corner and vomited uncontrollably.Once the ship reached a certain altitude, it sped forward, again at stomach-churning speed.To Gil it felt like hours, but in fact it was only a few seconds before he passed out again.
Marvin later went to check on Gil, his new "pet."He was concerned to find Gil unconscious in a pool of his own vomit.Marvin hurried to the first-aid closet and returned with a towel and a pink comb.He righted Gil up against the wall, wiped him off, and wedged the comb into Gil's hair.He then slapped him hard in the face.
"Hey, what the ..."Gil growled.
"Keep this in your hair," Marvin said, fingering the comb."It'll help you keep your equilibrium."
"Equi ...?" Gil began.
"Balance," the alien explained.
"I know what equilibrium means!" Gil snorted and pulled the comb out of his hair to get a look at it."A comb?" was all he could say before a wave of nausea hit him and he passed out again.
Marvin kept him from hitting the floor, put the comb back in Gil's hair, and slapped him in the face again.
"Leave it there," said the alien."Trust me.Good thing you're not bald.We'd have to put the comb in your pubic hair!"
"Okay, okay," Gil grumbled, not liking the sound of that.
Patting Gil on the head, Marving said, "Good boy," and left the cell.
Gone from the cell and, he guessed, out of earshot, Gil grumbled, "Good boy?'What am I, a dog?"
"No," Marvin replied."From what I've seen, dogs are much smarter, but they taste terrible."
After what seemed like a couple of hours, two alien security guards entered Gil's cell and stripped off his clothes."Hey, what the ..."he started to protest before they gagged and handcuffed him."Damn perverts!" Gil mumbled through the gag.He was then escorted naked, bound and gagged, into a circular arena.
The room was roughly twenty feet in diameter with a six-foot wall and balcony seating all around.Along the wall were multi-colored paint splashes."Artistic, at least," Gil said to himself after they removed the gag and handcuffs.
After a moment, a door on the far end of the arena slammed open, and out came the most beautiful woman Gil had ever seen.She was green.But still, she was beautiful.Darker green hair and blazing white eyes.Best of all, she was completely naked.
Gil was instantly aroused.Normally, he had to physically touch a woman before having that particular response, but there was something in the air.His imminent death, probably.He had read about this sort of thing.
Marvin was in a seat directly behind and above Gil."This is Cinda," Marvin explained."We picked her up on some planet somewhere.Try and keep your head."
"Keep my head?" Gil muttered.If Gil could read the handwriting of these aliens, he would have recognized the betting odds chart to his right.One line read:"Cinda decapitates human Even.""Cinda disembowels human 2-to-1" was directly below that.The last two lines read "Human survives 100-1" and "Human wins 1000-to-1."They were not even giving odds on the specifics of how Gil might win.It was not worth calculating.
Cinda wasted no time and attacked.Gil turned to run, but there was nowhere to run.The aliens roared with bloodlust.With a few long strides, Cinda tackled Gil from behind
.She then stood him up and grabbed him by the balls.
Gil screamed in terror.The aliens squealed in delight."Cinda mutilates human" was giving 5 to 1 odds.
Cinda surprised them all when, instead of ripping Gil's balls off, she wrestled him to the ground, pounced on him, and had sex with him.Under these circumstances, Gil was not immediately able to participate.But as she writhed and cooed seductively on top of him, his arousal soon returned, and they were grappling like two sex-starved wrestlers.
Marvin, besides being the captain, was also the anthropologist/psychologist of the crew.He spoke thoughtfully to Qkkzt, his second in command."I've seen this before.This is how humans fight for dominance and reproduce.This could last anywhere from a couple of minutes to several hours.When they're finished, whichever one falls on their back and sighs first is the loser I think."
Sex was an alien concept to Marvin and his crew.With their species, they just manufactured more aliens as needed, vaccuumed up whatever spirit was unlucky enough to be floating by at the time, and injected that spirit into the new body they'd just created.They were amazed to learn how most other lifeforms complicate what should be a simple process.
When Cinda and Gil were done -- some thirty minutes later, which was longer than Gil had lasted in years -- it was Cinda who first fell back and sighed.The aliens all sighed along with her and lit up cigarettes.
Qkkzt, who was also Cinda's "owner" and therefore her sponsor was feeling almost as gratified as his "pet."No one, including Qkkzt, had bet on Gil to win, so they weren't quite sure what to do with the money.Qkkzt assumed that he, as Cinda's "owner," would keep all the money, by default.Marvin, however, had put a small amount on Gil's mere survival, so he ended up taking the entire pot because he was closest to correct.
After the "battle," Gil and Cinda were thrown back into their separate cells in the belly of the ship.
"Hey," a female voice spoke to Gil as he lie on the floor wondering what the hell was happening to him.
"Who's that?" Gil asked the walls, looking for the source of the voice.
"It's me, Cinda."
"You know, the girl you just had sex with?Geez! Men!"
"Oh, hi," Gil blushed."Where's your voice coming from?"
"How's that?" Gil did not see any speakers on the walls.
"They've got some sophisticated technology on this ship," she explained."You just start talking to the person you're thinking of and somehow, no matter what language you're speaking, it gets translated and relayed to that person.I think this technology follows the aliens when they leave the ship, too.That's how they can talk to anyone anywhere in that person's native tongue."
"Wow," said Gil.
"I have a theory," Cinda postulated.
"On your planet, do you have people who hear voices?'"
"Yeah," Gil laughed."They're called lunatics."
"If my theory is correct," Cinda continued, "they're not lunatics.There actually is someone talking to them.It's these aliens, or someone with the same technology.And they're talking to these people remotely from one of these ships."
"You're not considered particularly intelligent on your planet, are you?" said Cinda.
"I beg your pardon?" Gil was insulted.
"Your communication skills are somewhat limited."
Gil stopped talking to then, thus proving her point.
An indeterminate amount of time later, Gil awoke. He was disgusted to find himself still in his cell.It had not been just a dream, after all.He was suprised to find himself actually missing his wife, whatshername.Marlene.He could not remember the last time he actually missed her.She had gone missing now and then. But even then, he was usually happy to be rid of her.
The image of Cinda and the best sex he had had in years then sprang to mind.And he stopped missing his wife.He did miss his trailer.Its living room was no bigger than this jail cell, but it was home.He missed his fold-up lounge chair out front. He missed having an "out front."
Speaking to the gray walls, hoping she would hear, he spoke to Cinda."The least they could do is put us in the same cell."
"The last time they tried that," Cinda replied, "I killed the beast they threw in with me, and they were upset that they missed a chance to bet on it.But, in our case, they're probably afraid we'll just start breeding like rabbits.I'm sure they don't want all those extra passengers!"
Gil laughed at that."Even if we did breed like rabbits -- which is fine with me, by the way -- I doubt I could get you pregnant."
"Why?Are you sterile?I've heard about your planet ..."
"No, I'm not sterile!" Gil cut her off."It's just that, well, I'm human, and you're ... well, you're...What are you, anyway?"
"What am I?!How can you say that?!We just had sex!"
"No," Gil scrambled to clarify himself."It's just that, on my planet at least ..."
"As ugly and repulsive as you are," Cinda was not done talking."I still allowed you to have sex with me."
"...two different species ..."Gil paused."Ugly and repulsive ... ?You think I'm ugly and repulsive?"
"Well, yeah," she replied."Nothing personal."
"If I'm so ugly and repulsive, why did you ... why did we ...?How is that anything but personal?"
"You were the first anatomically correct being I've seen in such long time," Cinda explained, "I simply seized the opportunity.I could have easily killed you, you know.But I didn't."
"Gee, thanks," he pouted.
After a moment of silence, Gil shook his head and continued his original thought."What I was saying was that on my planet two different species cannot impregnate each other.Not that I know of, anyway."
"Oh," she replied."Well, that's not true on my planet.My species -- which is Symthan, by the way -- can in fact only come about from the coupling -- or, rather, tripling -- of three different species."
This raised Gil's eyebrows.
"You see," she continued, "you get a male Heeba Jumper, a female Bolshok, and an Asymmetrical Panty ..."
"An asymmetrical panty?"
"Yes.You've never heard of one?"
"Well, of course I know what a panty is.They're generally symmetrical, though.And it's not a species."With a laugh, he added, "They're more like ... a prize.For a man, anyway.For women, I guess they're just underwear."
"A prize?Oh we have that on our planet, too.Makes me mad.You get these Heeba Jumpers with their prize Bolshoks and Panties, parading them around at parties! ... Anyway, when a Heeba Jumper, Bolshok and Asymmetrical Panty get together during mating season, it's wham-bam, and several days later a Symthan is conceived."
"Symthans only require several days' gestation?"
"No, of course not," Cinda laughed."The sex lasts several days.The baby Symthan doesn't arrive until the following week."
"The following week?And the sex lasts several days!?Nonstop?"
"Of course nonstop.How could you possibly stop during sex?"
"Wow," is all Gil could say.
"How long does it last with humans?" she wanted to know."Was your pitiful performance earlier typical of your species?"
"Pitiful?!That's the longest I've lasted in years! Of course, with Marlene it only lasts 5 minutes before she fakes some sort of injury ... Of course, I don't know how long she lasts with other men ..."
"It must be awful being human," Cinda sympathized.
"It is when you're married to Marlene," Gil agreed."So tell me, if Symthans only come about from sex between three other species, do two -- or maybe three -- Symthans ever, well, you know..."
"Fuck?Sure, all the time," she said happily."When Symthans get together, though, we just do it for fun."
"For several days straight?"
"No, Symthan sex usually only lasts about a day."
Shaking his head in amazement, Gil exhaled, "I have got to visit your planet!"
"If the sex didn't kill you," she said casually, "you'd probably be eaten."
The clang of a tin cup being dragged across prison bars echoed through the hallway separating Gil's and Cinda's cells."Dinner!" an alien shouted.Gil heard a door swing open from across the way.A few seconds later, the tin cup was at Gil's bars.Again shouting "Dinner!", the alien threw a bucketful of screaming, snapping lizards into Gil's cell.Gil screamed and leaped into the air as the lizards scurried toward him.He danced around the room as the lizards followed him, screaming and snapping at his heels.
"Cinda, help! They're torturing me!"
"Oh, hush," said Cinda between swallows."Like the little green man said, it's dinner.Try one.Just snap their necks.They're delicious!"
"God help me," Gil sighed.
Back on Earth, several hours had passed.Marlene was completely oblivious to Gil's whereabouts as she slept on the fold-out couch in Sally and Harold's trailer.
Hot and muggy as it was, Marlene was sleeping in the nude with just the top sheet covering her.When Harold returned home from the bar and staggered in drunkenly, Marlene shot up in bed.The bed sheet dropped down to her waist and she instinctively threw her hands forward to protect herself from what she thought was Gil coming to kill her a la Jack Nicholson.When she saw that it was only Harold, she smiled.
"Hey, baby," Harold slurred.He lunged and landed with a crash on top of her.Marlene screamed, pretending to be frightened.A few seconds later, Sally emerged from the bedroom with a baseball bat and knocked Harold out.
Back on the spaceship several hours later, Marvin announced that they had landed on the planet Forceps, and that Gil and Cinda were free to go.
Before they let them go, unknown to Gil and Cinda, the aliens had implanted synaptic nerve monitors that enabled the aliens to see, hear and feel everything Gil and Cinda did.
Gil and Cinda were let off at the spaceport and told to get lost.Gil and Cinda looked at each other for a moment.Gil was not sure what to do or say.Cinda took off running.
Gil knew he would never be able to catch her, so he shrugged and just sort of ambled along after her, with no idea where he was going and what he might do next.
At least the air was breathable."It's the little things in life," he said aloud.