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.
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.