“What’s it’s name?” Britten peered down, bending over with his hands on his knees. His black hair was wild. The garage was chilly but not too cold. Barber had moved his car out into the driveway and Britten had parked right behind him. A single bulb burned in a socket separate from the door opener. One of those twisty, low-energy things. It was enough to see by but not enough to chase all the shadows from the corners.

“He says it’s Arvo. There was a long string of sounds before and after,” Barber said, “but we agreed Arvo was his name.”



Britten stood up and planted his hands on his hips, considered the alien held captive in the chair. He paced back and forth, never taking his eyes off Arvo. When he stopped, he crossed his left arm across his chest then stroked his chin with the fingers of his right hand.

“I mean, he understands English.”

“Of course I do,” Arvo said. His voice a deep basso that reminded Barber of the actor Keith David. It was four times the size it should have been given the little grey alien’s size. He looked exactly like every alien who’d been portrayed in movies about abduction and contact he’d ever seen. “I’m not a moron. And you should really take a shower, Britten. You stink.”

Barber chuckled.

Looking from his friend back to the captive alien, Britten’s face reddened. “It’s three o’clock in the fucking morning. You called and told me it was an emergency.”

The door from the house opened and Barber’s girlfriend stood there, sleepy. “Hon? What’s -?”

Barber turned, reached out to her, prepared to comfort her at the sight of Arvo.

To their surprise, she didn’t scream. Instead she took a step backward and looked puzzled. “Is that real?”

“I’m a person, just so you all know. Not a prop or an illusion. I have a name.” Arvo was annoyed. As well he should have been.

“Clara…” Barber’s voice sounded far more pleading than he intended.

“He’s hurt, you idiots.” She came into the garage, wincing just a little at stepping barefoot on the mat that she’d wanted to clean mud and debris off Barber’s shoes. The carpet pieces surrounding it were better for her though she paused for the briefest of seconds before stepping onto the cold concrete. She didn’t make a face as she came close to Arvo. “What happened?”

Arvo studied her with his enormous black eyes as she knelt down and examined his shoulder. Green fluid bled from the jagged wound and the grey skin around it was enflamed.

She looked around at her boyfriend and Britten. “Well? What have you done for him?”

Barber was helpless, he held out both hands. “I found him on the side of the road, limping towards Eudora.”

“So you hog-tied him and strapped him to a chair in our garage?”

“That about sums it up, lady,” Arvo nodded.

“Quiet,” Clara said. She studied the shoulder wound. “Will bandaging it help?”

“Clean it with isopropyl alcohol first,” Arvo said looking at his shoulder. “And a bandage would be nice. Also some aspirin.”

“I have some ibuprofen in the car,” Britten said.

“Aspirin,” Arvo insisted. “That’s all I need. Well…” He shrugged.

“Go,” Clara said, pointing at Barber. When he didn’t move she scowled at him.

“You’re very calm,” Arvo said. “Why?”

“You’re not the first alien I’ve seen,” Clara said. She stood.

“Whoa.” Britten was aghast. “What? You mean you’ve -”

“Grow up, Britten. The world is a helluva lot stranger than even you dorks think it is. Where is he?”

On cue, Barber returned with a bottle of alcohol and a box of bandages. “Here,” he said. When she’d taken the supplies he moved next to Britten to watch her work.

“Who else have you seen?” Arvo winced as she poured the alcohol over his shoulder. It bubbled a little and he felt better only a moment after it dripped down his naked chest.

“The lanky blue guys and humanoids in green and yellow uniforms. You’re the first one I’ve gotten close to.” She waved her hand over his shoulder, helping it to air dry. “Where are you from?”

“You’ve never heard of it, and you can’t see it from here. I think it’s dry enough.”

“All right, what were you doing here, then?” She opened the bandage up and crumpled the thin paper before stuffing it in the pocket of her sweats. “And how long have you been here?”

“What do you do for a living?”

Britten and Barber both laughed this time.

Clara shot a look of disdain at them, both in t-shirts and jeans. She remembered why she loved Barber but only tolerated Britten. Then she smiled as she applied the large square patch to the alien’s shoulder.

“Funny you should ask,” she said and smoothed out the bandage. “I’m attached to a secret arm of SETI. I bet you know what that is.”

Arvo’s face was expressionless as it had been from the start, but his mouth opened a little. “Tell me you’re not a vivisectionist.”

“You’re officially now a guest of the SETI Contact Auxiliary. How much you tell me right now will affect how you’re treated.” She stood and looked down at him. “I’m going to be very wealthy, my boyfriend there – the smart-looking one who found you – will be a celebrity. Britten will just continue to come over here and mooch dinners and whiskey off us.”


The look on her face shut Britten down. Clara turned her attention back to Arvo. “You’re my first little grey man, Arvo. I want you to understand what that means to us in the Auxiliary. You’re special.”

“You’re going to tell the world,” Arvo said.

“Damn straight,” Clara said. “Come on, boys. I have a phone call to make. You just sit there, spaceman, and be good.”

He didn’t look at her when she closed the door.

Inside the house, in the living room, Clara began to shiver.

“You okay?” Barber, concerned, took her in his arms.

She nodded. “Yeah.”

“What was that about SETI? You work at Bullseye.”

“He doesn’t know that.” Clara paced around the room while the men watched. She crossed her arms as she walked, deep in thought.

“Unless he reads minds.”

“Were you lying about seeing other aliens?” Barber was concerned. “I mean you were, weren’t you?”

“Not exactly,” Clara said. “Be quiet. I’m trying to think.”

The door to the garage burst open. Clara cringed, holding up one arm to shield her face. Britten wet himself. Barber fainted.

Arvo walked into the house, his jet black eyes narrowed to thin slits. “You-” he said, drawing out the word until it became a growl.

Clara had stopped, surprised by the intrusion and the violence of it. Now she smiled and kept walking.

“Stop right there,” Arvo said. “You won’t like what I have to do if you don’t.”

Still smiling, she reached up into the bookcase nearest her and pulled out a gun.

“What are you doing?” Britten was frantic, panicked.

She pulled the trigger.

The bullet stopped a foot from Arvo’s forehead. If it had connected, it would have been a magnificent shot. A smile crept slowly across Arvo’s non-existent lips.

“Not only can I read minds,” he said. “I’m telekinetic, too.” The bullet aimed itself at Clara. Her gun hand shivered as she struggled to keep it from turning back on herself. She gritted her teeth with the strain but it ended up pressed against her temple. Her breathing sped up, she grunted with each exhale.

Arvo relaxed, looked over at the two collapsed men. “You’re not like them.” He faced her. “You’re stronger. If you tell me what you know about the blues, the Divs, then you have a small chance of surviving this.”

Feeling the stress across her chest, around her heart, in her neck and at her temples, Clara began to talk.

Jason Arnett is a storyteller living in Kansas and writing in the plains of the fantastic. Some of his work can be found at


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