Maria’s fourth husband found her while she slept. His name was Alvin Mars. He worked at a government lab, studying aircraft. But the night he found Maria, he’d been studying the stars, listening for a sign.
Maria drove through the Nevada desert, headed for Vegas. She’d taken a detour to see an old woman named Raven who could divine the future. Raven gave Maria a cup of tea and sat her cross-legged on a boulder, in a circle of gemstone wind chimes that channeled alien energy. In the cool, orange dust of the setting sun, Raven told Maria to close her eyes and relax.
Maria did just that and soon she slept, one of the deepest, soundest sleeps she could remember. The boulder cradled her, and when she began to stir, before she could remember where she was or even who she was, she felt wondrous. A chill breeze played across her face and the scent of the earth itself, damp and fresh as a newborn, tickled her nose. She saw a pinpoint of light, far away, kaleidoscoping larger and brighter, a collage of colors filled with the music of the universe, soft tinkles in different tones. As the light grew brighter, the tones changed, some harsh and deep, some high and crystalline, but all so beautiful. When Maria finally opened her eyes, she found herself still sitting on the boulder, the rising sun reflected in the glorious circle of wind chimes. Maria ached at the beauty of it all.
Raven brought her an orange wool blanket and another cup of tea. “You were chosen,” Raven said. “They told me to let you sleep.”
Maria waited but Raven said nothing more.
“That’s it?” Maria asked, incredulous. “What does it mean?”
“I told you,” Raven said, “you were chosen. You’re special.”
“Who told you?” Maria asked.
Raven rolled her eyes to the heavens and slowly raised her palms to the sky.
Maria sighed and thought about her three ex-husbands. The accountant, the lawyer and the construction worker who loved to paint. Two chihuahuas and no children. Nothing special. “What about my future?” she demanded. “Will I ever find love?”
Raven lowered her hands. “I only know that you’ve been chosen.”
Maria stared into her tea, swirling it in the cup, wondering if the leaves told a different story. “Does everyone sleep like that?”
“No, you’re the first.” The old woman reached her cool hand out to Maria and placed it reverently on Maria’s cheek. “I’ve always wanted to be chosen,” she whispered. Her eyes grew big and glassy with longing and she said not another word.
Maria left Raven in a daze. She wanted to be angry but couldn’t muster the energy. She felt drained and dulled, as if the weight of her three divorces had finally become too much to bear. Chosen. How original. Maria told herself no more men. No more marriages. There was something alien about men. But there was still that damn longing, some ideal of white knights and true love, left over from a childhood diet of Disney and The Princess Bride.
She pulled to the side of the road and cried. Then she slept again, until a knock on her window woke her. There, in the midday sun, stood Alvin Mars. Tall, dark and handsome, with the biggest, brownest eyes she’d ever seen.
“Aren’t you getting hot in there?” he asked, his voice pure music to Maria’s ears. A shiver ran down her spine. Strangely, she felt cool and refreshed.
She followed him to Vegas, his home.
“It’s alien to me,” he said, but his work, studying fallen parts from unidentified aircraft, led him there.
Maria fell for him, walked down the aisle in her princess gown, and forgot all about Raven and her strange divination. Soon the baby grew inside Maria, and Alvin began to change. He grew taller, thinner, a shooting stalk with appendages and big black bug eyes. The chihuahuas saw it too and grumbled and hid whenever he came home.
Before long, Maria heard the music of the universe in her sleep. She saw wind chime mobiles and a bug-eyed baby wrapped in a thick blanket. She saw Alvin’s aphid arms, reaching for the baby. Her baby. She reached too but Alvin was faster. His tongue flicked out and quickly curled back with the whole bundle — baby, blanket, and all. He hummed a dreamy foreign tune and kicked away the frantic, snapping chihuahuas.
Every night, Maria dreamed the dream. Sometimes she grabbed the baby and ran, but Alvin always found her. Sometimes he ate her too. And sometimes, when Maria opened her mouth to scream, all that came out was a hum, a sleepy foreign tune, a mesmerizing lullaby.
When the baby’s dream blanket turned orange and woolly, Maria finally remembered Raven. She sipped tea with Alvin the next morning, watching the sky glow pink with the sunrise. She wondered what Raven had done to her, if Alvin’s love was true, if she should take her things and run before it was too late. She wanted to tell Alvin about Raven, because she never had. But what if he didn’t think she was crazy? Maria folded her arms across her bulging belly and felt the baby kick her from within.
The night Alvin came home with no hair and no clothes, and asked if she’d finished packing for their flight to the baby moon, Maria understood. She belonged to Alvin Mars. She’d been chosen.
A. S. Andrews is a writer living in Los Angeles.
This story was sponsored by
Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.