By Emile Eugensen
Keith suddenly felt watched, vulnerable, hemmed in. He snapped his eyes open.
No one there.
So much for giving himself a second’s rest.
He tried to ignore the lingering feeling of a foreign presence, exhaled and leaned toward the monitor again. The grant is going to run out soon and I’m no closer, he thought and clamped down on a sudden desire to slap his laptop crashing to the floor. Stupid laptop, with its whining cooling system and its sudden glitches and tendencies to restart when he wasn’t looking. Just shove it over the edge of the desk and show it who’s boss.
It was night already; the figures at the bottom of the screen showed 1.36 AM.
He’d been fooling himself for a few hours now that the breakthrough was just around the corner. The typical self-delusion that sure, maybe he couldn’t solve the riddle in the last half a year, but just a few more minutes, please, he’ll totally have a viable result before the night is over.
Now, with his brain sluggish and his whole body stiff and aching, and the letters on the screen shifting blurs, it very obviously was time to let it go, at least for now.
Keith stood up and walked around the room, absentmindedly rubbing his right arm. It ached and felt awkward. It was high time to really put something soft on the desk instead of just thinking about it in moments like these. Then he grabbed a notepad defiantly, fell into the sofa and began scribbling with a pen. He’ll show them all yet!
This effort lasted for a minute and a half. He let the notepad slip from his fingers. He was so tired he couldn’t even remember how to write half the words properly. And that headache…and that stiff neck…and that unsettling hint of foreign presence in the room….
The smell of watermelons drifted over from somewhere. The open window? Keith wrinkled his nose.
He pressed the back of his head into between the two embroidered sofa cushions and tried to visualize the M-Z corridor again. A worm-trail through the continuum, or rather an irrigation tunnel where one can only travel by ingesting the ‘liquid’ in front and then expulsing it at the back, or rather not even ingesting and expulsing but sort of sliding it through one’s structure, or rather….
He shook his head, producing a sharp stab behind his right ear and grimaced. Nonsense. Nonsense all of it.
Sitting up, he pressed fingertips gently at the tender point. There are no tunnels, no worm-trails, and whatever the theoretical M-Z corridor may ever turn out to be, it’s certainly not going to be a ‘corridor’. I am the product of a limited, local, linear, four-dimensional reality. I’m groping. There’s no way I can imagine events beyond the immediate experience of my species.
Again his neck ache glared up, again his chest felt as if its center was caving in. “Goddamn stress,” he mouthed.
Keith did not like what he saw in the corridor mirror. One side of his face appeared rather iffy. He had to make a conscious effort to open both eyes in a matching way. Almost like back when that fool dentist hit the wrong nerve with the anesthetic needle, making him look like Two-Face for five straight hours.
Gonna have a heart attack soon if I’m not careful. Time to relax.
Keith leaned over the bathtub, twisted the faucets open and upon straightening out had to freeze for a moment. The bathroom swam before his eyes. His right leg felt cottony and numb.
He hobbled out of the bathroom, sat himself down on the sofa, pulled down his pants, undressed his upper body and limped back over to the bath.
The moment of wooziness passed quickly enough but the limp bothered him. He was intimately familiar with the temporary leg numbness followed by pins and needles after pressing the butt for too long upon the toilet seat while lost in book, but this was the first time it had manifested just out of nowhere. Was his condition that poor?
I’ll start long walks in the park tomorrow, he promised himself.
Inch by inch, muscle by muscle, he eased into the hot water, clutching the tub’s sides, hissing by habit with pleasure he didn’t really feel. The water’s hot embrace reached his chin and to below his earlobes, but its soothing effect upon aching joints and muscles was much weaker than anticipated. For example, no matter which way he turned his head, no matter the change of angle, this time the hot bath did not bring full relief to his neck.
Age, he though grimly.
The mental relaxation he wanted so badly didn’t make an appearance at all.
As he closed his eyes, a jumbled stream of numbers and snatches of subspace phenomena visualizations pressed at him, aggressively demanding his attention. When he finally managed to sweep the majority of them to one side, instead of tranquility, paranoia took their place. Again, he had the damnest feeling that he was being watched, only this time the sensation was so intense it hurt.
He opened his eyes.
He was all alone.
He closed his eyes.
He was being watched.
The soft sound of the coffeemaker downstairs reached him. The smell of fresh coffee drifted into the bathroom.
Someone is in the house! he thought and his heart went into a nauseating gallop. No, I must have switched it on myself. That’s it, I must have gone downstairs awhile back and automatically switched on the coffeemaker and then forgot about it. Happens all the time. Nothing sinister. Just have to remember to switch it off later.
He didn’t believe himself.
Then he thought he heard another soft sound come from downstairs, something like the shuffling of paper. Or nylon clothes.
Surely no one was down there.
But what if someone was?
Always did put off getting himself a gun or a Taser. The pepper spray was in his jacket pocket, which was of course, on the back of a chair in the kitchen.
Getting out as silently as possible from the bath, feeling quite silly because of it, Keith wiped his body down and wrapped it in bathrobe.
He was still limping. The numbness of his leg hadn’t passed, indeed, now it occurred to him that the pain in his right arm was maybe somehow related. He managed to choose the most harmless explanation– pinched nerve somewhere along the line and tried to focus on what to do here and now.
He dismissed calling the police– no use giving himself the reputation of an ageing hysterical weirdo but did take his decorative native African spear from the wall just in case. So there he was: a leg-dragging, stooped figure in a bathrobe, spear in hand, creeping down the stairs.
He neared the kitchen’s entrance; the smell of coffee grew stronger, as did the sound of shuffling. It was a constant sound with tiny variations, which somehow calmed Keith, as it did not appear to be produced by specific movements but was maybe just some house noise he’d never really noticed before. This had been known to happen.
He stepped in and his breath caught in his throat.
The intruder with sliced salami.
A strangled gargle escaped Keith’s lips as he sank to the floor, clawing at his chest with his left hand, spear cluttering away. His right side was now completely numb and breathing became a labored and sharply painful affair.
The man appeared to be oversized, at least seven feet tall if he were to stand up, with shoulder-length blond hair— said shoulders a third wider than those of a professional gymnast or swimmer. He wore a denim waistcoat over naked flesh swollen with formidable muscles. Next to the intruder Keith’s kitchen table and chair looked decidedly toy-like, not to mention the coffee mug, which the man held delicately by the handle with forefinger and thumb. His eyes had shining golden pupils.
The man’s outlines were solid enough but there was a certain blurry addition to them, as if a light mist curling an inch from his skin. Apparently the source of the constant shuffling/crackling sound.
The hairless and unwrinkled features screwed up into a something like a smile. “Mr. Sulkin, hi. I helped myself to some of your excellent coffee and salami, hope you don’t mind. Great combination.” He popped a slice into his mouth. “You’re really blessed in this respect. My favorite Earthling treat. Not counting a few types of German cake, of course.”
The kitchen floor beneath Keith’s butt became unstable; the walls and furniture leaned and wobbled. I’m having a heart attack, flashed through Keith’s mind. He tried to move his right arm. It was a dead weight. I’m not even fifty yet! God, I should’ve married, or at least have gotten a pet– they’re supposed to lengthen lifespans….
“It’s not a heart attack,” said the tall intruder. “Wrong half of the body. And the chest pain is acid reflux– you eat too much crap.”
Keith felt something, possibly a door handle digging into his neck but somehow this didn’t matter at all. Colorful visuals, he thought, I’ll give it that.
“And I resent been thought of as a mere visual,” said the intruder and crossed his formidable arms. “It’s just that we can interact freely only when you’re in a…special state. Like the mini-to-medium stroke you’re having right now.”
“Stroke?” Keith repeated with numb lips.
The blond giant nodded. “Probably just a blood-clot. You’ll be fine; it should be over in a few minutes.” He picked up a salami slice which looked tiny, like a dime, in his fingers. “Just don’t forget to seek medical attention later. This could be a warning signal of worse stuff to come.”
Keith squirmed and tried to flex the fingers of his right hand without success. The walls no longer tilted back and forth. He couldn’t tell if this was a good sign.
“By the way, you can call me Mr. Big,” said the intruder. “Please to meet you. I’d shake your hand, but I’m constrained by certain rules of interaction.”
And I’m constrained by a stroke,thought Keith.
“Now, to business,” said Mr. Big and moved the salami plate to one side.
Business?! thought Keith. I hope this means an ambulance.
It did not.
Mr. Big placed both hands on the table. “I’ve been watching you. All those efforts to discover faster-than-light methods of travel– admirable, what can I say? Your people spend their resources on incredibly unimportant and even detrimental goods and services and yet there you are, toiling away for the sake of the future of the whole planet.”
Nice epitaph, thought Keith.
“You’re stuck,” continued Mr. Big. “Dead end. Blind alley.”
Or just blind, thought Keith. And dead.
“Don’t think I’ll share technology or even theory with you, but I will drop a few hints.” Mr. Big leaned forward. “So tell me, does the sun revolve around the Earth?”
“W-what?” asked Keith, in spite of himself.
“I said: does the sun revolve around the Earth? It looks like it does. Your senses tell you that it does. But you’ve learned to accept as given that this is an illusion. Yet with gravity… So, it’s a universal radiating energy which doesn’t push away, is that so? The only one of its kind ever? And it comes from nowhere? Stellar bodies just produce it out of thin ether, according to your books, right?”
“What? What?” mouthed Keith again, as he tried to understand what the apparition was getting at.
Mr. Big poured more coffee into his mug. “Now,” he said after a gulp, “you’re a smart man. You see what most others of your species don’t. So why do you blindly accept a system which grows increasingly tangled? You’re forced to include anti-gravitons and invisible matter all over the place, just to keep the equations from giving nonsensical results. Anti-gravitons indeed. How about throwing a few celestial spheres into the mix as well?”
A spot of air about five feet in height and one in width wavered into existence behind Mr. Big, blurring a cupboard and introducing a weak smell of watermelons.
This is it, vision’s really going, thought Keith. Olfactory hallucinations too. Probably my cerebral cortex is next.
However, Mr. Big noticed the new blur as well and appeared to be none too happy about it.
The disturbance in the air resolved into a classical bulb-headed grey alien with slanted jet eyes. It was either entirely naked or dressed in an all-encompassing bodysuit. It was much shorter and thinner than Mr. Big and had two sets of elbows on each arm. Hands and feet had three fingers each.
“Don’t listen to this bully, Mr. Sulkin,” it said, as it padded over briskly. The smell of watermelon intensified. Wrinkles ran across its belly as it stooped over Keith.
“Hey, hey!” said Mr. Big with warning in his voice.
“Don’t hey-hey me,” snapped back the grey alien. “By the neutrality convention, fair access zeldor and gnuol-seven, I will now exercise my right to minimize the damage you’ve done thus far.”
“Damage? Knowledge isn’t damage!” thundered Mr. Big dramatically and pointed at the grey alien. “You! We don’t even know your name– how can you have honor?!”
The newcomer spun around to face Keith again and slammed its thin grey chest with a little grey fist. “By my forefathers, I do carry honor! My name is !K’uaalk’h. Call me Mr. Smart.”
“Mr. Smart,” repeated Mr. Big and made dismissive noises.
Mr. Smart doesn’t have a clue about my culture, realized Keith with bemusement. He’s bluffing, following Mr. Big’s lead. It’s like I’m some sort of native warrior or witch-doctor who only trusts grey faces who say their names. And how can I blame him, me being in a toga and with a spear lying by my side? Still, he should have done his homework better.”
“Me Keith of Cimmeria,” he wheezed out, and immediately regretted the effort as a vice squeezed his head.
“Hail thee!” said Mr. Smart and then returned to urgent mode. “If you pay attention to what Mr. Big says, this can have catastrophic consequences.”
“Why?” said Keith.
“Yes, why?” challenged Mr. Big.
“Look,” said Mr. Smart, “you don’t expect Mr. Big here to just come in and start dropping hints left and right without something in it for him, do you?”
I don’t expect anything, thought Keith. I don’t expect to survive this night.
“Ease up on the soap opera, old boy,” said Mr. Big. “I told you you’ll be fine. Well, relatively fine. But then again, you’re all only relatively fine. Anyway, don’t listen to Mr. Smart’s here fear-mongering. They just don’t want competition in interstellar relationships.”
So you do read my mind? thought Keith.
Mr. Big didn’t answer.
“As a culture, you’re not ready for this knowledge,” Mr. Smart was saying in the meanwhile.
“One can’t be ready before one tries!” said Mr. Big and banged the table with the coffee mug.
Keith closed his eyes for a second and tried to move his right hand again. No dice. He opened his eyes. Both Mr. Big and Mr. Smart were still there.
The grey alien squeezed and opened his fists a few times and then pointed at the blond alien with a thumb. “What Mr. Big here didn’t deem important enough to mention, is that there is a certain law– and when applied to this section of the galaxy it reads like this– older civilizations are forbidden to enter into official contact with younger civilizations before these younger civilizations either establish their first colony outside the solar system of their origin or develop faster-than-light capabilities. Whichever comes first.
“So, the moment your planet tries out successfully a faster-than-light drive, all of the older and stronger civilizations will have the legal right to deal with you as they would with an equal. Yet your people aren’t ready for this. The point of the law is that a civilization, which isn’t ready doesn’t get thrown into the shark pool. And if you listen to Mr. Big, you’ll create the impression that you people are ready, when you’re obviously not.”
“Oh, shark pool, please,” said Mr. Big. “Drama queen.”
“If you go where Mr. Big is trying to push you,” Mr. Smart continued, undeterred, “and actually do find the answer to faster-than-light travel, which let’s be grown up here, you wouldn’t have if left to your own devices– after the first rounds of negotiations your people will find themselves enslaved or impoverished or will suddenly become a base of operations in some foreign war. But most likely you’ll just become a colony or a puppet regime of his people.
“That’s why he’s dropping clues to do with faster-than-light theory: they need a legitimate reason to establish an embassy and immediately lure you into their sphere of influence.”
“You let these fine folks choose for themselves what to do and when and with whom!” boomed Mr. Big. “And don’t you call us imperialists. You’re the ones with the colonies all over the galaxy!”
“Protectorates!” snapped back Mr. Smart.
Mr. Big straightened out from his chair and waved a muscular arm for emphasis. “Mr. Sulkin, my good human, imagine how your peoples will unite and focus when the stars themselves are within reach!”
“It will unite and focus when it’s ready,” said Mr. Smart quickly. “Mr. Sulkin, be realistic. If it happens now or anytime soon, your world will react with waves of wars, suicides, new fanatic religions. Many will withdrawal completely into crude fanaticism as a reaction to a world which is just too complex to cope with.”
Keith started crawling to the kitchen extension of the stationary phone. The floor was quite stable now, thankfully.
Mr. Big pushed back his chair, walked over to Keith, and squatted. “You’re a man of science, Mr. Sulkin, not a man of fear. So use your brain. Who do you think Newton saw, when he spoke of angels giving him tips? And the Industrial revolution? People ‘suddenly’ leaping from ancient technology to steam, gas, and electricity? Achieving in a hundred years more than in the last forty thousand? You think all that would have happened if everyone was like Mr. Smart here?”
Forty thousand? thought Keith as he labored on toward the phone while giving pained polite nods to both aliens. If all this is for real then, there were indeed other history cycles.…
“Yes, there were older civilizations and his kind destroyed them!” said Mr. Big, pointing at the grey alien. “They built beautiful cities and looked to the stars and you destroyed them with sabotage, out of fear that they would choose to ally themselves with us and not with sexless big-heads!”
“Now you take that back, you…you…,” said Mr. Smart, taking small, careful, dance-like steps around Mr. Big.
The ceiling lamps dimmed. A pressure built in the air. Mr. Big’s aura turned almost orange, the accompanying crackling sounds jumping to a higher pitch. Keith felt the hairs on his head move. His left ear popped and his sinuses grew heavy.
“What? I’m what? Say it!” thundered Mr. Big. “We’re not your slaves anymore!”
“You were never our slaves, you were a protectorate,” said the grey alien.
“Tell that to my clan-mothers!” said Mr. Big and balled his hands into massive fists.
Mr. Smart went into a half-crouch, his right leg on its toes, both arms slightly curled. “Don’t make me do anything we will all regret,” he said.
A bright blue light drowned out everything for a second.
Then as it dimmed, a third figure materialized by the kitchen’s door. Half a head shorter than Mr. Big, it was a greenish, scaly, bipedal creature with an alligator-like head. A wide silver belt ran from its left shoulder to its right hip. The long tail was covered with black symbols painted or tattooed onto it. A minimalist white exoskeleton encompassing its legs and lower torso appeared to help it stand upright. The exoskeleton’s servomotors gave a low buzz. The creature’s arms looked tiny in relation to the rest of its body, the hands covered by white gloves. On its head sat a top hat with white and orange stripes.
Both Mr. Big and Mr. Smart froze in their places and stared at the newcomer. The air pressure dropped back to normal. The blond giant’s aura calmed down. Keith’s nose unclogged.
“I am a Vashami neutral observer and I command you to behave,” said the new arrival in a gravelly voice. “Get back to the table, both of you.” It walked over to the table as well and peered at it. “Any salami left? No? I thought not.”
The alligator-thing touched the brim of its hat as it nodded at Keith. “My culture is your culture. I come with underbelly exposed in peace.” It turned and went to the fridge. “It’s okay if I see what you have there, yes? You can call me Mr. Teeth, by the way.”
Hi, Mr. Teeth, thought Keith, just in case. There was no reply from any of the grotesque guests.
The new alien displayed a carton of juice and a half-eaten double burger. “I’ll finish this off, all right?” he said.
Keith grunted in agreement and then realized that he was finally within reach of the phone. With some strained fumbling he managed to unhook the receiver. He rolled over to his back and pressed it to his ear.
No dial tone. Just a distant buzz.
“I’ll have some of your cheese too,” he heard Mr. Teeth say. “The cheese is the best thing about this planet.” There was a sound of nylon rustling. “Is that Gouda? Nope, Blarney. Good enough.”
When Keith finally leaned on his left elbow and faced his hallucinations (or extraterrestrial visitors), all three were already seated at the table. Mr. Big was taking quick drinks from his coffee, glaring at a twitchy Mr. Smart. Between them sat Mr. Teeth, who chewed up the burger remains with alarming alacrity and then deftly tossed the juice from his glass directly into his open jaw.
“Wasn’t designed to take sips, this guy” said Mr. Big to Keith and winked.
Keith thought, I wonder if his race use winks like we do or he learned it especially for contact with us. God, what am I thinking? I’m seeing aliens and talking gators.
“I must be doing really bad now,” he mumbled out loud.
“You’re doing really bad,” said Mr. Smart immediately. “You need to be in a hospital. We’re just projections of your unconscious mind. Totally unreal.”
“Oh that old gambit?” said Mr. Big dismissively. “Well, even if you buy this, Mr. Sulkin, don’t discount the information itself. Gravity attracting is like the sun orbiting the Earth. If I’m a hallucination then, I must have appeared from somewhere….” He wiggled his fingers suggestively. “This is all wisdom from deep inside your inner self.” The blond giant leaned back with a satisfied grin.
Mr. Teeth threw more juice into his maw and tilted his head at Mr. Smart.
“Right, exactly, the inner self,” reacted the grey alien. “But it’s not wisdom, Mr. Sulkin. It’s your love life and its failures. You’re pushing people away from yourself, that’s why you’re trying to make it into a universal law by imagining this big bully here. Universal attraction becomes universal repulsion. Pathetic, really. Open yourself up to love and you’ll realize that celestial bodies do indeed attract.”
“Bravo, Mr. Smart,” said Mr. Teeth.
Mr. Big looked crestfallen.
Keith tried the phone again. Still no dial tone. Were the aliens responsible? If they were there at all, that is. He said, “Sir, Mr. Teeth, what…what should I…what do I do now?”
It was getting a bit easier to speak. Maybe he wasn’t dying after all. His chest didn’t feel like a raw wound anymore, merely like a bruise.
Mr. Teeth picked a shred of burger from his teeth. “Look, I can’t participate in any way. I can’t say if what Mr. Big insinuates about gravitation is true or not, neither can I say that if it is– and I’m not saying that it is– whether you should help your civilization achieve faster-than-light travel or not. Entirely up to you, I’m afraid.”
Mr. Smart tapped the surface of the table and made a choked coughing-like noise and glared at Mr. Teeth.
“Ah yes,” said the alligator and wiped his mouth fussily with quick movements of his small, gloved hands. “Neither can I say if we’re hallucinations or not.”
Keith turned his attention back to the blond humanoid. “Mr. Big. If you’re saying what I think you’re saying then- why does a planet attract to itself…say…space debris?”
“Don’t answer that!” said Mr. Smart before Keith had even finished speaking. “No leading on.”
“I can say it in a roundabout way,” assured him Mr. Big.
“Sure you can,” said Mr. Smart acidly.
“Go ahead, Mr. Big,” said Mr. Teeth. “But be very roundabout indeed, I’m monitoring every word.”
“Of course, naturally,” said the big blond alien and then cupped his hands. “Imagine a planet’s shadow cone, Mr. Sulkin. Now, light is a form of energy, right? And the planet is screening it, right? But there are other forms of energy too. And yet they all obey….”
“Enough!” said Mr. Smart shrilly.
“I must agree,” said Mr. Teeth. “That’s as much as you can say.”
“Fine, fine,” spread his hands Mr. Big. “Mr. Sulkin here is a smart human. He’ll figure it out.”
Far from figuring anything out, Keith instead became aware of a rising muffled sound, like a faraway wave rolling on and on without breaking. At the same time, all three figures began losing their outlines, gradually dimming and blurring.
Keith’s right side tingled, his leg twitched. Life was seeping back into him. He blinked rapidly but this didn’t help speed up the disappearance of the aliens.
“We’re almost done here,” said Mr. Teeth and turned to the grey alien. “Mr. Smart, you hereby swear that should the professor decide to listen to Mr. Big, you will not interfere further? You will not try to influence local ruffians to attack him, nor will you try to push him to suicidal moods? Likewise, if he suddenly becomes accident-prone in the near future, I promise instant investigation! You, of all people, know how thorough I can be.”
“Of course, certainly!” muttered Mr. Smart and slapped his chest with both hands. “I would never…we would never….”
“And you, Mr. Big,” continued Mr. Teeth, “ hereby swear to never attempt again direct contact nor any subtle guiding of Mr. Sulkin! You’ve had your shot under the plausible self-doubt act and that’s it.”
“Absolutely,” said Mr. Big and threw back his blond hair smartly. “Unlike some, mine is a civilization with values!”
“Values? Values?!” sputtered Mr. Smart. “What about the Ng’Ktung quasar? Where were your values then?”
“You know we had no choice!” said Mr. Big with a suddenly tired voice, his frame no longer quite so proudly erect.
“Enough!” said Mr. Teeth. “Time to leave!” He tipped his hat at Keith. “Thanks for the juice and cheese, Mr. Sulkin!”
“And the coffee,” said Mr. Big.
“Think before you act!” said Mr. Smart.
The faraway wave finally was no longer muffled. It reached a high point and broke.
With a final whoosh of air, the uncanny trio dematerialized.
Keith waited but nothing else happened. He picked himself up, trembling all over, breath coming out in ragged snatches. Carefully, as if expecting some trap, he walked over to the table, almost tripping on his spear.
He looked at the coffee cup, the coffee pot, the highball glass, the empty juice carton lying on its side, the crumpled wrapper speckled with hamburger-related odds and ends, the two empty plates.
His vision appeared to be fine. His chest almost didn’t hurt. His neck muscles were still stiff but no longer appeared to be attached to his spine by rusty nails.
Did he really just survive a mini-stroke?
“Gravity,” he said experimentally. It sounded right. His speech was no longer impeded. “Three aliens in my kitchen,” he added and allowed himself a cautious giggle.
Keith wiggled the fingers on his right hand. Everything seemed to be in order. Did the pinkie always stick out like that when he spread his fingers? He couldn’t remember, had never paid attention. He let his arm fall to his side. Did the ground just attract my arm to itself, or did the sky push it downward?
He gave another quiet giggle. Then he checked the landline phone. It appeared to work fine now. But he no longer felt the pressing need to call an ambulance. He could manage to drive himself for a checkup tomorrow.
Keith looked at the table again. His memory of the extraterrestrial visitors was extremely vivid. But this validated nothing. He might as well have placed the kitchenware there himself, while in a delirium.
But what if…what if there was organic residue there, which would change everything?
Breaking news: utensil analysis proves aliens do exist, and they like salami and cheese!
Keith shook his head. If the aliens did exist, they must be pretty good at not leaving conclusive evidence of their visits. He slipped the dishes and cups into separate nylon bags, just in case. He could always ask around at the biotech department for a favor.
The juicebox turned out to not be in fact completely empty. The liquid inside sloshed and changed the carton’s weight distribution—Keith lost his hold—the box fell on the tiles with a flat slap. Suddenly, Keith felt on the very verge of understanding the deeper implications of what the blond alien had hinted about a reversed approach to gravity. He tried to visualize an M-Z corridor in a cosmos of universal repulsion.
His headache flared up again instantly. He lost sensation of his right calf. The first pinpricks attacked his chest. He smelled watermelon.
“Stop it Mr. Smart; you promised, dammit!” he said out loud. “I can make my own decisions!”
The headache eased off. The ache in his chest dwindled to modest twinges. His leg shed the numbness like water.
“Thanks,” he said.
The smell of watermelon disappeared.
Bio: Emil Eugensen is the author of Hour of the Jackals—a paranormal espionage thriller about a fascist takeover of Europe, with a hint of postmodernism.