First Contact

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The soft glow of the television lit the darkened living room. Mark lifted his furry head towards the window and growled. He jumped from the couch, spun around, and made a higher yap.

“Quiet,” Erin said, readjusting the blanket to cover her feet. Trying to decide whether to finish the movie or go to bed, she wasn’t paying attention to Invasion of the Body Snatchers though its familiar dialogue soothed her and dulled the sound of traffic outside.

Mark’s barking continued. Erin gently put her fingers upon her dog’s head. Though he quieted, a low growl continued to sound in his throat. She glanced at her phone. 11:47.

It’s Tuesday night, people.

Expecting to see her neighbors smoking pot and drinking on the back patio, she pushed back her blinds and readied herself for the coming conflict. Instead of her neighbors, a bald whitish face with large black eyes peered back at her. A three-fingered hand waved. His/her/hir/its’ lips curled upward showing pointed teeth.

Erin's stomach dropped as she stepped back from the window, but she couldn’t stop herself from smiling and waving back. An alien. A real alien!

It touched the glass. The window’s lock slipped open and the pane slid silently on its rails.

As he/she/it floated through the open window and landed upon the floor, Erin ran her hand over her bangs and smoothed her ponytail with the hope of pressing down any cowlicks. She remembered she was in her pajamas. A first contact situation--and she’s wearing pajamas with hearts and kitties.

Not that the organism was dressed for the occasion. It wore floral shorts exposing its knobby knees and a pale blue T-shirt that said Sol! with checkboxes for each planet. According to its T-shirt, it had been to Saturn, Jupiter, and Earth.

In its hand, it held a polymer container. Was that some sort of computer, nanites, or an alien virus?

Mark barked.

The organism pressed its ear, then barked back. Mark sat and his tail thumped against the floor. It reached over and scratched behind his ears.

Then it gently pushed a finger into its ear canal. It opened its mouth; its pointed teeth glinted in the television’s glow. In a warbling, almost apologetic tone, it said, ‘“I saw your light. Sorry to bother you at this late hour, but may I borrow a cup of sugar?”

“What?” Erin asked.

“Sugar. Please, forgive the imposition, but I…”

“Wait, you want sugar?” she interrupted, “Aren’t you here to abduct me?”

In the inky depths of its eyes, Erin saw it glance at Donald Sutherland who took up the television screen. She quickly grabbed the remote and clicked the power off.

The alien refocused upon her and sighed. “No. Abductions are just pranks. Some people's kids.” It held out a plastic container. “I’m sorry, I don’t have dollars, but I can pay you in Rands, if you would be so kind for a cup of sugar?”

“Sugar?” Erin asked again.

“Yes, please.”

“Brown or white?”

“My recipe does not mention a color, but it calls for refined sugar, if you have it.”

Erin nodded. "Generally that means white." She had sugar, but didn’t know if she could trust an alien. “What do you want with it? Don’t you want to see the president?”

It fiddled with its ear again. “Forgive me, my English must not be clear, I want to cook some Earth treats for my children. In South Africa, they are called pannekoek, but I believe, in this country, you say pancakes. Might I trouble you for a cup of sugar?”

It gently shook the container.

“What’s in that?” Erin asked pointing to the container.

“Air?” The alien said. Then it frowned. “No, that must not be right.” It fiddled with its earpiece again. “Cheap junky translator. English. American English! Dialect Pacific Northwest!”

Its lips spread wide over its pointy teeth. “If you please, you may put the sugar in the container. It is empty.” Its head bobbed up and down. “Forgive the imposisition, but I couldn’t find one of your 24-hour markets that accepts Rands.”

Erin took the container and turned towards the cupboard. The alien followed her.

“I’ve no American Dollars. We came into orbit at the wrong side of the planet, but the kids are going to wake up hungry.” It sighed. “Earth would be an easier tourist attraction if there was a worldwide currency.”

She pulled out a pink and white box and opened it. Then she slowly pried the top off the alien’s container. It seemed empty. There wasn’t even a strange smell, only plastic. Erin didn’t measure out a cup, but filled up the entire container with the hope for peaceful human and alien relations. “You’ve been here before?”

“No, my brother has. Don’t get me wrong, Earth is a beautiful planet, but, really, is a worldwide currency so much to ask?”

“You’re colonizing?”

Its eyes blinked. “No, just on holiday. My brother had such a wonderful time.” It looked down at the container and said, “May I pay you in Rands?”

Erin shook her head. “No, just have it.”

“Thank you. My guidebook said Earthlings were a kind, giving people.”

Not wanting the conversation to end, she asked, “You sure you don’t want to abduct me?”

Its black eyes widened and it slowly backed away. “Uh, I’d love to have you along, but as I said, the children are napping, and this is really a family vacation. Thank you for the sugar.”

"I didn't mean to scare you...I just never met an alien before."

It nodded again. "Thank you?" Then it said, "Damn translator." and shrugged.

It fiddled with the earpiece and barked once at Mark who barked back. Though there was no wind, the curtains opened as the alien floated out the window.

Dang it, I should’ve gotten a picture!

Erin grabbed her phone off the couch. She peered out towards the night sky, and tried to take a photo. She saw a quick flash. The visitor was gone. She looked down at her phone.

On the screen was a white blur and thumb-selfie.

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