Close Encounter of the 4th Kind
The bright light was blinding, a brilliant Sun in the thick of the night. It didn’t burn, instead, her skin absorbed its heat as the warmth enveloped not only her body but her senses.
With half-staffed lids, she shielded her eyes with one hand and turned her head away from the glaring luminance. The beating of her heart accelerated and throbbed in the form of a pumping vein at her neck. She couldn’t swallow or breathe with ease. The shaky dance of her fingers caused Bree to clench her hands into fists and numbing thoughts repeated in her head.
Where is Sydney? Why isn’t she barking?
The vision of a ghostly smile scared the shit out of her and played around in her mind similar to a carousel at a fair. It appeared friendly and unthreatening yet she couldn’t shake the terror it caused her.
“Hello,” he said.
Startled, Bree sat up and looked around the darkness disoriented. With a guttural sigh of relief, she realized she was safe in the confines of her bedroom and on her king-size bed, and not outside as she had imagined. The feeling had been real enough that sweat trickled down her back, armpits, and brow and her hair was wet similar to when she’d had a good workout. Exhausted, she stared before her unfocused. Her eyes glued to a spot in the darkness until her eyes adjusted and she could see something other than a grizzly smudge in front of her.
Wondering what time it was, she looked at the digital clock on her bedside table. It displayed 4:45 A.M. in dimmed red numbers.
Where did my night go? She wondered as she sought to recall the events of the night prior. They were impossible for her to recollect. She remembered the moment she took Sydney out but not if she pottied and coming back into her home was a jumbled blur. An eerie feeling enveloped her because she couldn’t retrieve much more at all.
Her fingers slid down her chest and over her clothes.
“I didn’t change into my pajamas?” She rubbed at her face. “Did I drink?”
But her stark mind was empty of the night’s prior events no matter how much she concentrated on what had happened. What she could remember was fuzzy at best, and the rest were empty corners in her brain. Gaps. Voids yet her hair in her body stuck up straight and high, like antennas. And, where was her dog?
“Sydney?!” Her head turned side to side looking around the floor in desperation. Her feet fumbled with the sheets and she yelled her name louder. “Sydney?!” Her jittery hands shook while they slid down her cheeks when she didn’t hear the clicking of Sydney’s nails on the tile floor.
Why do I want to cry?
Erratic mixed feelings circled her brain. For a brief moment, feelings of amusement, sadness, safety, and curiosity crossed her mind but the result was a horrifying feeling of confusion.
“Sydney!” She attempted again. Her voice cracked and she closed her eyes while forcing a plug of saliva down her scratchy throat. Her eyes teared and she began to cry.
The pitter-patter of rapid paws on tile calmed her pulse and she puffed a breath of air through her mouth when Sydney’s smiling mug came around the bedroom doorframe. Sliding off the bed and unto the shag rug her dog now sat on, Bree’s emotions heightened to the point her chest compressed and she sobbed grasping and clinging to her beloved pet.
“What the hell, Syd? Where were you? And, what’s wrong with me?” she hiccuped. “I must’ve had a terrible, terrible nightmare. Luckily, I can’t remember it.”
She scratched the soft fur at her neck with one hand and dabbed at her tears with the back of the other. The uneasy feeling at her stomach shredded her insides. A gripping fist uprooted from her throat down to her belly. She could not find her peace.
Proud of himself, Haĝiēn stretched the viscous material up his thin frame and smoothed it over his arms and torso. It fit like a glove. It would be their first hands-on exploration since they started the project four years ago. One, in which with any luck, he’d be able to set foot on earthly soil. Since he knew about Earth, he longed to feel the firm cushion of dirt under his weight and the power of gravity drawing his body.
Qûarzar’s eyes fixated on his eyes. “Would you like me to go with you?”
"Impachei,” he thanked her, “But I rather have you guide me from here. I don’t trust or want to involve Ecniv in our project yet. It’s much too early and we may not need his help.”
“I understand. I don’t trust him either. He gives me a strange feeling at my ventricle, I can’t quite place nor identify. I’ve met him before but he was different in many ways. However, he is here for this. As are we, he is part of this assignment.”
“Ventricle? Heart or brain?”
“Ha-ha, Haĝiēn. Brain, of course.”
A small smile on his lips let her know he already knew the answer to his question. Her senses were the opposite of his. She felt with her brain while he, with his hearts.
“How was he different?” he continued. “I was introduced to him once but we never spoke before we saw each other again here, for training, before this voyage began.”
Qûarzar took a moment to organize her thoughts. “He was well put together and—aware. I’m not sure if what I say makes sense to you ... This time, his eyes were vacant. Hollow. He appeared distracted to the point we inconvenienced him and we aren’t part of the same team. I found it quite unusual.”
“Agreed. I sensed the same. I didn’t get the energy connection we usually get from one another as Ilums. In fact, I felt a void inside him too and as team leader regardless if this project is why he is here, I can dismiss him if I don’t think he is fit to handle the task.”
Qûarzar was thoughtful for a moment. “I think we should observe how he does as soon as he is assigned to the lab and judge his condition accordingly to his actions. Then, we will be able to diagnose with exactitude. You can dismiss him later depending on his progress and attitude.”
Haĝiēn fell silent contemplating his options. “Granted,” he blurred out. “If anything is beyond normal, we will report it to the general and dismiss him of this mission.”
She nodded. “That’s fair. We could do it then if his strangeness interferes with our project.”
“Now please help me get this suit on so we can start moving forward. The evening will befall Earth soon enough and we have no time to waste.
“Sydney! Let’s go! Pipi. Outside.”
The dog didn’t move from her bed and looked back at her annoyed.
“Now!” Bree rolled her eyes and opened the door expecting her pup to waltz out obediently. She didn’t.
“Now!” She slapped her hands together and that time Sydney jumped from her cushion and headed outside. “Finally,” Bree grumbled.
It was late. Later than she usually took her dog out in the evening but recently, if she didn’t walk her one last time, around midnight, Sydney would wake her at 4 A.M. because she would need to go potty. With one hand Bree swung the back fence open and automatically looked above the trees once she walked past the cluster that blocked her view of the evening skies.
The usual light she had grown accustomed to was nowhere to be found and a feeling of disappointment overtook her. A slow breeze toyed with her curls and the hair on her arms raised. With a quick shrug, she massaged her hands over her upper arms. A cold chill ran the length of her body and her eye caught something moving in the distance under the moonlight, close to one-hundred feet away, below in the greenbelt.
A feeling of uneasiness froze her. Unable to move she searched for Sydney. Her pupils moved around the darkness adjusting her sight until she spotted her eating leaves near the tall grass. The dog seemed unaware of the stranger who approached them. As he came closer Sydney raised her head and the beginnings of a growl formed at the dog’s throat but before releasing it, she cocked her head and her tail wagged as if she knew the man.
He seemed to appear odd even in the distance. The figure stood thin and tall with his spine straight. It was impossible not to notice. The newcomer looked unusual but also normal yet there was something different about him but not particularly. Perhaps the way he carried himself. There was a glow to his body that permeated the clothes he wore which were also strange looking. Something similar to a jumpsuit, blue in color, and rubbery in texture comparable to what a scuba diver might wear but with a silver sheen to it.
Cold sweat, rapid breaths, and a knot at the pit of her stomach followed.
Why isn’t Sydney barking?
A woozy feeling took control of her soul. The man’s smiling face came close, then closer ... and closer still.
Bree trembled and rubbed her clammy hands together for no apparent reason yet every reason imaginable. She and her cowardly dog stood alone in an isolated greenbelt and a quick approaching stranger, who was smiling a little too wide for her taste wearing a rubber suit with a hood, advanced towards them.
Fucking perfect. The short gasps of air she took did not reach her lungs. Why won’t my feet move?
Her head bounced between her sandaled feet and the newcomer similar to the heads on those big-headed dolls.
Bobbles! That’s what she must look like, an enormous, dumb bobblehead.
The man advanced and stood twenty feet from her. She could see his features clearer because there was a reflection of light on his face yet he wasn’t carrying a flashlight. She didn’t notice his nose or his cheekbones. It was his smile that took over. Bright, friendly ... too friendly. She didn’t like it nor did she trust it. He came ten feet from where she stood.
“Stop!” She said loud enough to halt him in his tracks. Her voice was a pitch higher than usual but strong enough she didn’t hesitate.
His almond-shaped eyes were full of something she couldn’t quite read. Affection? Hope? Eagerness? It looked like he didn’t have eyelashes and her skin crawled because the situation she was in was weirdly random and creepy. Her feet moved and her legs shifted from one to the other as if she was learning to walk.
Sydney happily, and much too hastily, trotted over to him and whimpered. Her tail wagged side to side out of control.
“Syd--Sydney! Come. N O W.”
But her dog moved forward towards the man’s feet as if he was calling her name.
With mouth agape, Bree stood in wonder at the scene. Her dog and this man, who could be a killer, or demented, engaging with one another as friends. His fingers threaded through Sydney’s fur with a never before seen gusto that astonished her. His childlike laughter was infectious and she responded involuntarily by giggled with him.
The echo of her laughter took her aback and her hand flew to cover her mouth. He lifted his head and she saw her reflection in his obscure, mysterious orbs. The expression in them was unfamiliar. Although unsettling, he gave her a sense of peace and a feeling of homeyness. He was—home.
“Hello,” he whispered in a shaky voice.
He lifted a four-fingered hand, which didn’t creep her out much except she noticed his other hand had four, thin fingers as well. Panic rose from her frantic beating heart and blared an alarm in her brain. A high-pitched cry rumbled in her chest and burst out of her throat like a volcanic eruption.
The stranger blinked perplexed by the shrill noise and covered his ears.
“Stop! What are you doing?!”
“Aaaaaaah!!” Unable to move again, she screeched.
He stretched his arm forward and with open palms attempted to pacify her.
“Be calm,” he said with sealed lips which made her shriek louder.
“Did you just speak inside my brain?! You didn’t move your lips!” she cried. “I’m going insane!”
He swayed his head and the light of his body wavered and seemed to shortcircuit.
“What. The fuck. Are you?!” she said between screams. A mix of, help me and long forced screeches.
“This wasn’t the way it was supposed to go,” he swallowed. “Why are you shouting? I thought you wanted to meet me.” His voice was flat and unamused. “This is nothing how I planned us to get to know--”
“Planned?! You planned this?! I’m gonna die, aren’t I?! You’re gonna kill me?!”
“What?! No, never ... I—”
“Help! Help! Heeeeeeelp!!”
Her feet tore from the soil she stood in and pivoting she broke into a run. “Sydney! Come!” she commanded between sobs.
Sydney began running behind her but before she could enter her home a force greater than herself froze her in place and all she could move was her eyeballs.
“This is not going to work,” she heard him say behind her. “We need to try this again, one more time...”
She had no idea what he meant by that and would’ve demanded that he’d tell her except she couldn’t because she blacked out.