WE’VE COME TO ASK YOU A SERIES OF QUESTIONS • by Rachel Harrison

We sit at the picnic tables behind the Dairy Queen eating soft vanilla ice cream. Charlie’s cone has rainbow sprinkles. Mine has chocolate. Only mine isn’t in a cone. It’s in a cup. Cones come with an inevitable stickiness that I prefer to avoid.

Charlie inhales the strawberry scent of spring. He leans back looking up at the sky, which is turning an aggressive and unnatural shade of violet. It’s the first warm night of the year. We’re celebrating the death of winter with our frozen treats.

Charlie sighs. His eyes narrow, shooting laser beams somewhere out past Mars. I know what he’s about to say.

“Did I ever tell you about that time I got abducted by aliens?” he asks.

He has, about a million times, but I know how he likes me to answer.

“No,” I say, “never.”

He tells me the story again. He was walking home from Kyle Denning’s house. It was October 2009. We were in the 8th grade. He was always borrowing my pens and never giving them back.

Anyway, he was at Kyle’s house playing video games and it got late, past curfew late. He was going to get in trouble. He started to walk home, fast, faster, then he broke out running. He saw lights. They were bright, very bright, shrinking his pupils into microscopic black holes inside his skull. Headlights, he thought. But they weren’t headlights. They were coming from above. He got confused. Wow, he thought, wow. I must be really high. Only he wasn’t that high.

The next thing he knew his feet were hovering a few inches off of the ground. Everything was blue. Everything was nice. It all felt good. Then they reached out their hands and took him on board. They greeted him. Hi, hello, we are the so and so from such and such planet (Charlie doesn’t remember the specifics). Hi, hello, we’ve come to ask you a series of questions.

Then they asked him the questions. He answered them honestly, though not aloud.

Thank you, they said. This has been very helpful. We appreciate your time, Earthling (Charlie has admitted to me privately that they didn’t actually call him Earthling, he just says that because he thinks it enhances the story). They dropped him in a field off of Route 10 and then, he assumes, they returned to space.

Meanwhile his parents were worried sick. They filed a missing persons report. (They called my house. It was the first and only time I ever prayed.)

The police found him the next day in the field. He was face-down, naked, asleep. They took him to the station and he told them about the aliens. They administered a drug test. Sure enough it came back positive and the police and his parents were mad and disappointed and did not believe his story about the aliens.

“Do you think they’ll ever come back?” I ask.

Charlie shrugs.

There are sprinkles stuck in the spaces between my teeth. I push them out with my tongue.

“Did I ever tell you what the questions were?” he asks, his eyes transfixed on mystery constellations.

He did, once, a long time ago.

“No,” I say. “What were they?”

“What is your name?”

My fingers crawl towards his.

“What is your purpose?”

The one thing he’ll never tell.

“Would you like to come with us?”

He looks at me, an answered prayer.


Rachel Harrison lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.


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Every Day Fiction

  • Melissa Reynolds

    I love the subtle ending to this one. He looks away from the stars, away from his dreams and the aliens, and he turns to her, to his concrete future. I missed it the first time around, but on second look, I fell in love.

  • Could have done with a hook at the beginning and more clarity that the story takes place at night (the ‘Mars’ reference was a bit obscure), but on the whole a weirdly satisfying read.

  • Scott Harker

    There were too many unanswered questions for my tastes. I have no idea how old these two are. And obviously he wasn’t abducted by aliens, so how did he end up naked in a field?

    I like the sentiment of the last two lines, but not the lines themselves. “Prayer” doesn’t quite fit.

    I also think there’s a bit too much detail in the opening paragraphs. Both could have been combined down to a single sentence, or perhaps two, and nothing is lost. Are the sprinkles really that important to the story?

    I’m a sucker for a good love story. Even one that includes alien abduction, but this one just didn’t work for me.

    Thanks for sharing.

  • MPmcgurty

    @Scott Harker: I didn’t mind the last sentence because earlier, when he went missing, she said it was the first and last she time she ever prayed. His being there with her is the prayer answered.

  • MPmcgurty

    I have mixed feelings about this. Very creative, mixing alien abduction theme with love. I like the voice. I like the speculative nature of it: Was he abducted or does he believe he was? If not, as Scott Harker asks, why is he naked when he’s found in a field? Was he that high? What was the answer he gave to “What is your purpose?” Did he say “no” to going with them because he loved the narrator? So, in my gut, I really like this story.

    I even liked the detail and the meandering. It fit with the setting of a warm Spring night, eating ice cream under a darkening sky until the stars appear. But I would have marked itup quite a bit. I like surprises in language, but sometimes it just puzzles me. Some doesn’t fit, and I see it as either writer’s conceit or struggling for the right words.

    Describing the sky’s color as “aggressive” seemed strange, and not in a delightful way.

    “His eyes narrow, shooting laser beams somewhere out past Mars.”

    “They were bright, very bright, shrinking his pupils into microscopic black holes inside his skull.”

    “Headlights, he thought. But they weren’t headlights. They were coming from above.” You have to be really high to mistake lights in the air for headlights of a car.

    “Then they reached out their hands and took him on board.” Right before this, I had a vision of a huge spaceship like the one in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, but if they can just reach out and grab him when he’s a few inches off the ground, they are either very long-limbed aliens or they sent a dingy to get him.

    Overall, though, I’m glad this was here to read today, and I guess that’s what really matters.

    I hope we get to see more of Rachel’s work in the future.

  • Carl Steiger

    Awww… Call me a sucker, but the last two lines made my day.

  • MPmcgurty

    @Carl: You’re no sucker. They got me, too.

  • Iain Aschendale

    Nice story, but one minor mistake (I think). His cone had sprinkles, but she gets them caught in her teeth. Other than that, a good read.

  • Iain, as I read it, her cone has chocolate sprinkles instead of rainbow ones.

  • So Scott, what is so “obvious” about him NOT being abducted by aliens? If this was non-fiction, I’d agree with you. In fiction he may very well have been taken.

    I found this very enjoyable.

  • Kathy Wilson

    I thought this story was very creative and flowed well. Your POV was off in a couple of places but otherwise well done.

  • Nice little SF tale. The small details (with the ice cream) actually gives the story its (ahem) flavor. Good work.

  • I thought this was an interesting take on the idea of alien abduction which is a topic I have always found fascinating.

  • S. Conroy

    Enjoyed this one. I found it worked leaving it open whether he was abducted by aliens or had done some crazy things on drugs ending up naked in a field. Neither of the characters really know what happened so think it’s fine that the reader doesn’t either.
    The rationalist in me had the same nitpick as McGurty on the line “They were bright, very bright, shrinking his pupils into microscopic black holes inside his skull.” Pupils expand with light. On the other hand I suppose the pain of a bright light might make it feel as if the pupils were shrinking and he could have told it that way. Maybe could be a bit clearer.

    The ending is just lovely.

  • Scott Harker

    @Brian, because no one is abducted by aliens. It’s a fictional story, sure, but I don’t think the reader was expected to believe that abduction is a possibility.

    @MPMcgurty, I didn’t like the last line because of how it was written, not the sentiment itself, which I found touching.

  • Netty net

    I really like the beginning like eating an icecream at Dariy queen. I like how he tells his friend how he end up getting abducted by allients.

    I don’t know if telling some a story, or if he high or really abducted what I like you leave some up to imagination

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