Finalists for May Writing Contest
After much debate, three finalists have been selected for this month’s writing contest. It was a difficult race, to say the least. One factor that weighed in heavily is that a couple of the stories were too far under word count. I can forgive a small amount above or below the guidelines, but some went beyond that. Please always check your word count before submitting your story. I always hate setting aside one that doesn’t make the cut for that reason.
Despite this, it was great to read all the entries and see the ideas people came up with. Thanks to everyone who participated. Now, the following contestant’s are the ones who are up for voting. Please do congratulate them!
Below will be a review of the contest stipulations, followed by the three finalist’s stories (this is a rather long one). At the bottom will be the instructions and poll for voting. Anyone may vote for the tale they believe is best, but you should take the time to read all three before making your decision. Remember, you may vote only once. Contestants, also note that you cannot use blogs, twitter, Facebook, or any other site to ask for votes (I watch this very closely). You are allowed to announce you are a finalist on those sites and link this page, but you should only tell people to vote for the best story, not yours specifically.
1) The theme is alien encounters and should follow one of these ideas:
a) A human on earth stumbles upon one or more aliens and their crashed ship.
b) Two or more humans are abducted and taken on board an alien ship for “testing”.
c) A human is abducted and used to help propagate the alien race because they have fertility issues.
d) An alien attack where earth wins against their extraterrestrial aggressors (use creative means for the humans to win)
e) Aliens come to earth hoping to live there peacefully because their own planet was destroyed.
2) Must include the following details:
a) Name of alien race (does not have to be original, you can use Klingons if that floats your boat).
b) Description of the alien race
c) At least three unique differences between them and humans (these can be customs, mannerisms, and/or physical traits.
3) Should have a happy ending.
5) Word count: 1400-2200 words
by Brent Butler
I’d had a terrible sinus problem all week. I don’t know what started the allergy, and I wish I did. The only way to keep myself … well, myself … might be to inundate my apartment with whatever allergen kicked if off. All week long I considered it to be a week from hell. Completely clogged sinuses cleared only by blowing my nose with a force that produced a noise like a rusty trombone, interspersed with thunder-like sneezes repeated in helpless succession until I was sure a migraine was close behind them.
It was after one of the sneezing jags that I caught a tiny glint in my handkerchief. Now, the thing had been pristine cloth just 20 seconds ago. I was certain because I’d just traded out a disgusting used one for clean when I felt the first sneeze in this sequence coming. I wrinkled what would still move of my nose and carefully picked the fleck out with thumb and forefinger. It was a sharp little thing, and I had zero doubt but that it had just come out of my nose. My curiosity chimed in with the same kind of dread that makes you want to know what you’ve run your bar bill up to, even though you dread the news.
Out of my desk drawer came my trusty and dusty glasses repair kit. It was the only thing I owned with any sort of magnifying device. I turned my mousepad over so that the rubberized side was up and placed the little fleck carefully in the middle. I thought that might tend to hold it in place, since it was so small that a stray breeze or another sneeze might send it flying to a place unknowable. Shining my desk lamp directly upon it, I peered with one eye through the little plastic lens.
It was electronic … no question about that. Extremely tiny circuit traces were visible. What was it doing … ??? And then the flood of memories hit me. Just when I REALLY thought about that thing being in my sinuses, I remembered it being INSERTED up my nostril into my sinus! There was a guy who might have been a doctor. I could remember him wearing binocular glasses. But he was wearing neither hospital whites or blues, and I hadn’t been in a hospital since I was a kid. Then I remembered his skin, slightly yellow in cast, as if he had jaundice. His eyes were REALLY close together … made possible because his nose was short and its bridge started below eye level.
I heard the opening music to my favorite talk show, coming on at the accustomed 4 PM … “The Nan Nanitts Show”. I watched it every day and had for … how long now? Almost the entire year since it had come on the air and captured the heart of the nation. Nan always had incredibly needy and worthy charities to highlight. Targets of those charities were on almost every one of her shows, and their stories were heart wrenching and heart warming at once. You couldn’t help but WANT to help. I myself had sent them almost two grand since I started watching Nan. I started to step toward my favorite chair in front of the TV and stopped after the first step. Nan looked different today … somehow plain instead of the radiant image of her that was often in my mind. I heard her announce the “Charity of the Day”, and I was not impressed. Weird. My head swiveled. Back to the little chip resting on the mousepad.
I was convinced about what had happened to me before a thought could even completely form in words. I remembered something that never happened … that I knew of. I suddenly had zero interest in Nan’s show. I’d watched it with unwavering attention and responded to every call for a cash contribution for months. A shudder of adrenaline surge shook me. Nan had the highest rated show on daytime TV. Her ratings increased in leaps every week. And I KNEW that the only reason I’d ever watched the show was that fleck of a miniscule circuit board embedded at the top of my sinus cavity.
I sat down … buried my head in my hands.
It took me almost two weeks to find a sufficiently technical person who wasn’t a Nan-Fan and who would listen to my story with anything approaching an open mind. Even then it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t looked in the plastic vitamin case which now housed my Nan-o-Chip. He pulled an old microscope out of a cabinet and cleaned the lenses, then took a close look at the chip.
“Mind if I call Dr. Martin in on this? He’s Dean of the EE Department.”
“Is he a Nan-Fan?”
“I … don’t know. Let’s find out” He picked up the phone, dialing. “Dr. Martin, this is Chet Summers down in the lab. I’m sorry, I just realized that it’s 4:15, am I interrupting anything? … No? …. Great, could I impose and ask you to come down here and take a look at something unusual?”
Summers and Martin were at it until the small hours of the next morning. They told me I could go home and they’d call, but I wasn’t having any of that. That thing had somehow controlled my memory and my actions. I was sticking to this to the end with unwavering attention. Finally about 5 AM Summers poked me in the shoulder and woke me up. OK, I was sticking to this to the end, but who am I? Superman?
“Bob, we know a lot about this thing now. Some of it is exciting, some of it is distressing, but there is one VERY important thing we are sure you need to know.”
“Uh … “ I rubbed my eyes and tried to unkink my neck. “Uh … what?”
“It has a little power source in it that from our measurements will be completely discharged in three days.”
“Well, that’s great news! Isn’t it? I mean if there are millions of people who’ve been affected by this, then all we have to do is wait for the power cells to run dry and it’s over.” I smiled the confident smile of a man who is mentally and logically on the same track as two very competent scientists.
“Not exactly. What we think that means is that you are due for a replacement implant at that time.”
My smile faded as I pulled in my lower lip and bit it. “Wow … we’re talking multiple alien abductions here, aren’t we? Am I going to be a Nan-Zombie again by next week then? Is there ANYTHING we can do about that? You guys gotta help me!”
“Actually, Bob, we think we can.” Summers smiled and I wasn’t sure I liked the look of it.
Two days later Summers essentially moved into my apartment with me. He had a Skype hookup to Dr. Martin back at his lab. Summers and Martin had made their own versions of the chip and implanted THOSE in our sinus cavities. I’d asked Summers if he wasn’t concerned that he could wind up like I had. His excuse was that he might as well face the thing head on, rather than wait to become a subject when he wasn’t ready for it. Besides, we both had Dr. Martin as a back-up if we both got turned into Nan-o–bots.
That morning he’d invited over a student from the art program, who did an admirable job of drawing, in full color, a portrait of the “doctor” I remembered from that long ago night. Shortly after he left, a professor from the Psychology Department showed up. He imparted a hypnotic suggestion to Summers and I that, upon seeing such a face, we would be able completely relax and breath in a shallow, even manner.
The afternoon Summers took up residence in my apartment he installed a variety of electronic devices hidden in various places about my four rooms, and some software on my computer. He and Martin had coached me carefully. I was as ready as I thought I could be.
The first night was a complete anti-climax. Summers and I took turns napping while the other “kept watch”, and we alternated all night. Nothing happened, and that was confirmed by Dr. Martin, who’d been observing us all along. We’d half expected this, since the next night was supposed to be the time I’d need a “recharge”.
They were dead right. I was on watch when at about 1 AM I started to hear an odd humming noise. I poked Summers to wake him up. He listened for a moment and nodded. He winked at me and we both settled back, peeking out with our eyes barely open. I don’t know where he came from, but a being much like the one I remembered stepped into the slit of my vision. Same close-set eyes and tiny nose. Three legs, like a tripod … something I hadn’t seen and remembered. The yellow skin. The post-hypnotic suggestion kicked in and I became very relaxed and just closed my eyes. That was the plan. I was nervous about it.
I felt sets of hands picking me up, and could hear the same happening to Summers. As planned, we were hoping they’d take the presence of a second person as a bonus, and evidently they did. Moments later I had a dizzy spell, was carried for a couple of minutes, and then was lowered onto a hard surface, some kind of table it seemed. We heard some sets of footsteps receding, and then a whooshing sound that reminded me of those doors on Star Trek. After that, there were sounds that seemed like only three feet moving around. That was our cue.
I opened my eyes just as Summers jumped up and tackled the strange looking alien. I joined him and helped to hold the fellow down. Summers pulled a taser out of somewhere, I didn’t want to guess, and hit the alien with it. He stopped struggling. Summers opened a small compartment on the butt end of the taser and took out a small rubber case. Inside were a large number of nan-o-chips similar to the one that I’d discovered. They were so tiny, it didn’t take much of a space to hide hundreds of them.
The instrument that was supposed to reapply MY chip was evident on a counter near the treatment tables. Summers used it to insert a chip up the alien’s nose while I watched the door. It was only a few minutes later that I heard footsteps outside and grunted at Summers. Summers stuck a second cartridge into the taser. When the door whooshed open there were two of the aliens, each carrying another citizen of the good ol’ U. S. of A. I knocked them both to the floor, which wasn’t difficult with them being defenseless, carrying the two unconscious men. Summers tazed one while I used the old fashioned method of clubbing the other one on the back of the head with my forearm.
Soon Summers had planted chips up their noses too. We waited for the three to wake up. They looked a bit glassy-eyed, but each of the three was allowed to leave. As the night progressed, they lured back one alien after another in the facility, all of whom underwent Summers’ procedure. Each time more awoke, our army grew a bit. We counted over 80 aliens in the facility before we were sure we’d made a clean sweep.
I’m not allowed to know all that happened after that. Summers made contact with Dr. Martin, and about an hour later what looked to me like a SEAL team suddenly burst into the facility. While Summers thanked me for the help and clapped me on the shoulder, I was blindfolded, then led outside to a helicopter. Sometime later we landed at my city’s local airport and I was given a ride home.
After that, Nan’s show dropped steadily in the ratings. Once it was canceled she dropped completely out of sight. There was a report on “60 Minutes” that most of her charities turned out to be fakes. I don’t guess I’m surprised.
Me, I stay away from TV Land. Every time an old “Mork and Mindy” rerun pops up and he lets out with his trademark “Nanu-nanu”, I just can’t take it. I don’t know what to call the yellow skinned guys otherwise, so I just think of them as the Orcans. And I hope that alergy keeps coming back … just in case.
An Evening with Bob
by Jon Recluse
I was driving back to the office from Old Man Kadiddlehopper’s farm, having finally convinced him that it wasn’t aliens that were messing with his daughter, Beula, but the local fraternity. In shifts. He didn’t take the news much better than if he really was going to be the grandfather of a bugeyed monster. Although, considering Beula’s looks, the possibility was still in play. But, my work was done. Kadiddlehopper paid me what he owed me in cash and threw in a jug of his moonshine as a bonus, if I could run down the one Beula swore was the daddy, a football player named Nad. Life was, if not good, at least keeping it’s head above the sewer line.
I had just turned onto Old Highway 16 when I noticed the lights approaching. They were coming in fast, quiet and from the air. I briefly wondered who I had annoyed that owned a stealth helicopter with a mauve searchlight, when I got a clear look at the aircraft. Check that. Flying object. Because, from where I was sitting, it looked like a giant pink spongeball. I leaned on the gas to get myself away from whatever it was and considered the possibility that I was high from the fumes leaking from the moonshine. I should be so lucky. The thing put on a burst of speed, caught up with my car and the last thing I remember, the lights got very bright before I lost consciousness.
I came to sitting behind the wheel of my car, but I hoped to Hell I wasn’t on Jupiter, or in Kansas for that matter, because I knew that, without opening my eyes, that I wasn’t on Old Highway 16 anymore. Unless the moon had become a disturbing shade of puce while I was out, because the lighting was wrong. Then something spoke.
“Are you awake,Mr. Chase?”
“Maybe. Does Mr. Chase want to be awake?”
“Awake, we can talk. Open your eyes, Mr. Chase.”
“Will I regret it if I do open them?”
I got a hurt silence for that one, and decided what the Hell, things couldn’t get worse. If it did, I would just bang my head against the steering wheel until I didn’t care anymore. I opened my eyes and saw what was standing on the hood of my car. It wasn’t wet your pants and scream like a girl horrific, but I was still thankful that years of hard drinking made it easier to swallow.
It was about 4′ tall, with an egg shaped body, short little legs and huge feet. It’s arms were like an orangutan’s, long and held over its head. Only it didn’t have a head. It’s shoulders were set just below the smallest end of the egg shape, so only a little hump lay where a head should be. It did have a face, though. Big, green eyes, two. No nose. And a wide, lipless mouth in a big smile. Smack dab in the middle of it’s belly. It appeared to be naked, perfectly smooth, sexless and pink as a rubber sponge ball. It gestured for me to exit the car and hopped down from the hood.
I opened the door and stepped out onto the rubbery pink floor of some kind of loading bay. It appeared to be the same material that my host was made out of. My mind filed that piece of info away and then set it on fire. The alien beamed up at me and offered it’s hand. It sported 6 fingers and two thumbs.
” I am Bob, of the Bob, Mr. Chase. My apologies for meeting like this.”
I shook it’s hand, which was also rubbery.
“Pleased to meetcha. Bob of the Bob?”
“You have religon, Mr. Chase?”
I nodded for the giggles.
“Well, we do, also. Our creator, BOB, made us in his image. Ergo, we are the Bob. I am Bob of the Bob. See?”
I didn’t want to, but I nodded again.
“How do you know me, Bob of the Bob?”
“Please, just Bob. You are known through many dimensions, Mr. Chase. Even mine. I am a dimensional traveller. I come from one down, three diagonally and up yours. I need your help with things that go hump in the night.”
“Bump in the night, Bob. Things that hump in the night involve a different kind of detective.”
“So sorry! Bumping in the night. Yes! My ship is haunted, I’m thinking, so I come find you.”
“Haunted by what, Bob? The restless spirit of another Bob?” I was gonna need therapy after this.
“Oh, no! Bobs don’t have ghosts. Bobs are recycled. I have been Bob of the Bob 1,734,892 times. Ghost is ghost of something else. Or not ghost, Bob not sure.”
Lot’s of therapy.
“What do you mean, you aren’t sure?”
“Ghost solid, Bob thinks.”
Great. Solid alien ghosts. I should have been a proctologist.
“So, where do you see this ghost, Bob?”
“Running around ship, yelling, different places. It is big, like you. Bobs are peaceful. I have no weapons. I hide from it.”
” How long since the haunting started?”
“Two days. Since I came here to check on cows.”
I didn’t want to know, and I didn’t ask. But I was gonna have my hand sterilized if I got outta here.
“Kadiddlehopper’s cows? The one named Beula?”
“No, cows. Beula’s no cow…….is she?”
“Close. What else does the ghost do?”
“Steals food. Touches controls. Leaves puddles, sometimes piles that stink. Writes on walls. I show you.”
I followed Bob out into a corridor that was defaced by gibberish. I couldn’t read it, but I didn’t expect to be able to. I had seen this kind of thing before. I knew what I was dealing with, now.
” Bob, I think I can help you.”
“Thank you, Mr. Chase! How may I be of assistance?”
Suddenly, a wild scream echoed down the corridor, followed by thumping footsteps, running hard. Bob dove into the loading bay, bounced and landed behind my car. I pressed myself against the wall hard enough to sink in and waited.
From down the corridor came a white sheeted figure, bouncing off the walls like a deranged cartoon character, yelling “BOO!”. Just as it reached me, I stepped out and clotheslined it across the chest. The “ghost” hit the floor and bounced a few feet until it finally came to rest against the far wall, out cold.
Strolling over, I pulled off the sheet and took in the low brow, block head and letterman jacket. Two for two. I caught the ghost and baby daddy in one shot. Things actually stopped sucking for a moment. I didn’t get comfortable.
“Bob, come on out”
“You caught the ghost?” He looked down at the napping frat boy. “That is not a ghost.”
“No, Bob, that is a hitchhiker you picked up at Old Man Kadiddlehopper’s farm.”
“What do we do with him, Mr. Chase?”
“I have a pretty good idea, Bob.”
After securing Bob’s “ghost”, and explaining what needed to be done, we dropped the frat boy off at Old Man Kadiddlehopper’s. From 60 feet up. He hit the compost like a meat carpet. I hopped out from a safer height and introduced Kadiddlehopper to his future son in law, or fertilizer, as the case may be. The old man was so beside himself with gratitude, he never noticed the pink ball floating in his front yard. Bob took me back to Old Highway 16, thanking me every second of the way. After putting my car back on the roadway, he gave me a hefty bag of gold and silver bars, a doohickey to contact him if I ever wanted to chat and asked if he could be my interdimensional agent. I patted the little dope on the shoulder and told him to call me before accepting any jobs on my behalf. These carjackings on lonely roads weren’t good for my mental health. With a final wave, he went back to his ship, and with a loud raspberry, vanished into the whatever. Shaking my head, I climbed back into my car and sat quietly, wondering if I ever would repeat the events of this evening to anyone. After some contemplation, I realized that even my own bartender would have me carted off to the screwball academy, where I would spend my days hanging around with the assorted nuts, playing Go Fish and waiting for a big Indian fella with a pillow. With a sigh, I started the car and headed for the questionable, but familiar insanity of hearth and home. I only slowed down once, to run a little blue guy holding a card that said “Uranus” into the ditch. I needed a drink.
by Tim Greaton
If she hadn’t met Wilfred and been taken in by his over-the-top and ultimately fake charm, Ethel wondered if she might ever have had a chance with the silver fox on the TV screen. It’s true she had never met him, but who knew where her life might have taken her had marriage not tied her down so young. She watched as Walter Cronkite reported how more than 25 people had died when their freighter ship the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior.
Those poor people, Ethel thought, suddenly feeling foolish for fantasizing when real tragedies were taking place in the world. Having heard enough, she heaved up onto arthritic legs and shuffled over to shut the TV off.
Suddenly, a horrendous roar vibrated the entire house. As quickly as old legs would allow, she hobbled to the kitchen and peered out the window at brilliant lights glaring down from the forest behind her house. The roar dulled to a loud whooshing sound. The floor ceased to quake.
An emergency landing!
It wasn’t unheard of for Coast Guard choppers to pass overhead on their way to the Powell River Inlet. This would, however, be the first time they had pit stopped behind her house. Had Wilfred been alive, he would surely have found some way to sue someone over this.
The intense lights came from a spot well above the trees. The Whooshing sound turned into a deep growl. She debated phoning the police, but since anyone injured would need help now, not when Seattle’s finest managed to spare the time, she grabbed her walking cane and shuffled outside. Leaves and twigs swirled violently in the air.
She shielded her eyes. “Hello! Are you all right?”
Unfortunately, the machine growl and wind were louder than her eighty-three-year-old voice. Having no choice, she limped out into the gale and somehow managed to reach the shed. Her property line ended just beyond the small ramshackle building, but she had no neighbors. One of Wilfred’s lawsuits had bankrupted the landowners behind them and, even though Ethel had offered to sign anything needed, no developer had had yet been able to clear the title.
The whirring stopped. Leaves and bits of sand made a soft hiss as they dropped to the ground all around her. Then everything fell silent. Ethel crept past several evergreen trees and nearly tripped on a blueberry bush her grandson had planted a year earlier. By the time she unraveled her cane and aching legs from the tenacious shrub, only one steady light close to the ground remained on. Two thin silhouettes stood in front of it.
“You must be with the Coast Guard,” she called out.
“Ghoost Caard,” came a high pitched reply.
“Is everyone okay?” Ethel asked.
Fearing the woman had a head injury, Ethel said, “My house is right back here. Please, come inside where you can get warm and use my phone.”
She waited long enough to see the figures coming her way before turning and limping through the dark toward her house. With all the spotlights and commotion earlier, she hadn’t thought to turn her outside lights on. Finally, out of breath, legs throbbing, she made it up the two rear stairs and flipped the switch to illuminate the yard. She turned back to look and, suddenly, all of her aches and pains faded to insignificance.
Though probably no taller than six feet, the aliens’ extra-long legs and slender bodies gave them a towering appearance that was enhanced by their protracted necks and tiny heads. Their large, yellow eyes glowed under the spotlight. They didn’t seem to have noses or ears, but each had a large open mouth with no discernible lips. In the dim light, their pale skin seemed to glow in contrast to their gray uniforms.
Ethel knew she should have been terrified, but she had enjoyed eighty-three good years on this earth. If the Heavenly Father wanted to take her now, she would be satisfied to go.
The broader alien motioned with a many-fingered hand to the slender one. Apparently the male of the two, it seemed to be saying, ‘Let me handle this.’
Ethel stiffened. Wilfred used to do that all the time. Taking charge of everything, controlling her life every change he got. Now she could see there was sexism even in space. Well, Ethel was having none of it.
“Nonsense,” she said, addressing the slender female. “You come right in. This is my home and you’re welcome to come inside.” She glanced to the male. “You’re both welcome.”
The female blinked in what Ethel interpreted as a friendly gesture then nodded her long neck and moved in spider-like strides toward the house. The male followed. Ethel felt the smallest tinge of fear as the tall creatures gracefully slipped past, but she ignored the feeling and went inside.
Minutes later, she was readying hot tea for the two aliens who were seated awkwardly in her kitchen. Their extended legs made it impossible for their knees to fit under the table, and short torsos meant small heads peered out between their knees. Ethel placed the floral china cups at the edge of the table so her guests could see them more easily. After offering crackers and several other snack foods, she gave up on finding a suitable alien cuisine and sat down to rest sore legs.
The aliens were cautiously sipping their tea.
“I never expected anything like this,” she said, “but I’m thrilled to meet you.”
The male stared wide-eyed but the female blinked several times in what Ethel interpreted as a smile. She again pushed her fear of the unknown away and recognized the male’s similar reaction. His cup trembled each time it returned his saucer.
“I’m guessing your ship is broke,” Ethel said. She motioned with one hand as though it was flying then brought it quickly down into her other palm. “You crashed.”
“Crayeesh.” The female mimicked the fallen ship hand gestures, and pointed toward the backdoor. “Crayeesh.”
“You’re welcome to stay here with me,” Ethel said. She gripped her hands together and hoped they understood friendship.
The male studied her for a moment then gibbered a series of long-vowel squeaks. The female shook her head and made the ship gestures again. This time all nine of her fingers wiggled as she showed the ship taking off.
“You can fix your ship,” Ethel said. “That’s great.” Already she worried what the women in her Yahtzee Club would say if she canceled their Wednesday games. And what about the weekends with her grandchildren and her eldest son’s impromptu stops for morning coffee? Keeping alien guests a secret would not be easy.
The female got effortlessly to her feet and crossed to the stove. She turned the knob and pointed at the amber light. “Yeet aw.” She turned it off. “Yeet da.” She did it again, repeating the words. “Yeet aw. Yeet da.”
“On, off,” Ethel said. I understand.
The female mimed her flying ship again. As it rose up, she said, “Yeet aw.” Then she crashed it into her pale white palm. “Yeet da.”
“Your ship shut off. Yeet da.”
The female blinked her yellow eyes in agreement. Then she showed her ship taking off again. “Beenay oh yeet aw.” She wiggled her fingers as the ship took off and pointed to her wriggling fingers. “Beenay.”
“Fuel,” Ethel guessed. “You can only take off if you have more fuel.”
“Fooweel.” The alien pointed to her wriggling fingers and the ship taking off. “Beenay oh fooweel.”
Ethel smiled. Somehow they were communicating but they needed something more. She fetched her entire set of encyclopedias. The aliens spent hours leafing through the pages with their many fingers speeding the job along. The female pointed to a page about evolution. She pointed to the picture and to Ethel.
“Yes, I’m a human being.”
“Huuman beeeing.” The female pointed at herself then the male. “Kreeloown.”
“Kreelown,” Ethel said. “You’re Kreelown.”
After scanning thousands of pictures, the Kreelowns finally made Ethel understand they needed methane. More specifically, they required a way to manufacture the gas for the duration of a long trip. Unfortunately, a retired bookkeeper, Ethel had no knowledge of chemicals or how to manufacture them.
It was after two in the morning when the female helped her to her feet and followed her to the bedroom. Ethel removed two clean blankets from the closet and pointed to the bed. She tried to explain her guests should sleep there, but the alien woman wouldn’t hear of it. She helped Ethel into bed and stroked the sides of her cheeks.
Ethel fell into a deep, luxurious sleep.
The following morning, she literally hopped out of bed and hurried to the living room to see the aliens curled into a single ball in the center of a nest of cushions scavenged from the couch, chair and kitchen chairs. The female was first to open wide amber eyes which immediately crinkled into what Ethel felt certain was a smile.
She smiled back.
“Ooga reefla,” the female said, getting gracefully to her feet. She led Ethel into the bathroom and pointed to the mirror over the sink.
Ethel took one look and nearly fainted. Her stringy gray hair had been replaced with the silky black hair of youth. The skin on her face, forehead and neck had smoothed. She didn’t look a day over thirty. She glanced down to see the ugly splotches and blue veins on the backs of her hands were also gone.
“You made me young again!” she exclaimed.
“Ooga reefla,” the female said, stroking Ethel’s cheek.
Suddenly, Ethel felt terrible for not having learned her name. She pointed to herself. “My name is Ethel.”
“Eeethel,” the female said, blinking large yellow eyes. Pointing a slender finger at her gray uniform, the alien said, “Avaraaay.” She gestured out towards the living room. “Benara.”
“Avaray and Benara,” Ethel said. “Ava and Ben.”
The female blinked. “Ee, Ava oh Ben.”
“It’s so nice to meet you,” Ethel said.
“Neece to meet, Eeethel.”
Realizing her vision had improved along with the rest of her body, Ethel glanced around the tiny bathroom until her eyes settled on the toilet. She suddenly knew what the aliens needed.
“Cows,” she said. “Cows make methane, a lot of it.”
“Cooows,” the alien said.
Ethel hurried out to the kitchen and started searching through the encyclopedias. Soon, she found a picture of a cow. After an embarrassing explanation about how cows create waste products, including methane, she rushed outside on thirty-year-old legs and pointed to the grass.
“They eat grass and drink water. Can you create those things on your ship?”
The male said, “Ubda go cooowd?”
“A farm,” Ethel said. “You get cows at a farm.”
It took a dozen calls but a few hours later a truck pulled into Ethel’s yard with six cows on the back. She used the last of Wilfred’s life insurance to pay for them, and was glad she’d kept the cash stashed in the closet. It seemed unlikely the bank would have allowed a thirty-year-old to remove money from an eighty-year-old’s account. She didn’t want to think about the complications ahead—oh, what a problem to have!
After the farmer left, they herded the cows to the spaceship, which looked like a three-story ice cream cone standing on its head. When a large door retracted near the bottom, Ben led the cows inside. Ethel would have liked a tour but Ava made it clear they had a different atmosphere in the ship.
Ethel hoped the cows could survive.
Ava followed her back to her house. On the way, Ethel leapt over her grandson’s blueberry bush. She felt wonderful. Ava stopped beside a row of six crosses where Ethel had buried her beloved pets. After Lacey died three years earlier, she had opted to avoid further heartbreak and now lived alone.
Suddenly, Ava dug into Lacey’s grave.
Horrified, imagining her tiny dog’s remains being sucked into the lipless mouth, Ethel grabbed Ava’s shoulders but it was too late. There was a familiar yelp and her beloved dog shook dirt from her fur and jumped into her arms. Ethel was so busy hugging and being licked by her poodle, it was several seconds before she realized other paws were reaching up for her. Three cats and two more dogs. All her pets were now alive and clamoring for her attention.
Ava squinted in laughter. She pointed toward the house.
“Weelfreed,” she said.
Ethel understood. The ashes of her husband sat in an urn beside the TV. He hadn’t liked pets and would never let her keep all six of them now resurrected. But how could she deny him a chance to live, to be young again?
She suddenly remembered the countless restless nights alone during their thirties while he’d been having an affair with his boss’s wife. Then there was the tall blond coworker he dated throughout their forties. And the string of cocktail waitresses he saw well into their fifties. It hadn’t actually been until he got too sick to slip away before he became a one-woman man.
“That’s okay,” Ethel said. “Let’s let Wilfred rest.”
Congratulations to the three finalists. You all did a wonderful job and I wish each of you the best of luck during voting. The poll will stay open until midnight (EDT) Saturday, June 2nd. On Sunday, June 3rd, I will announce the winner and runner-up. They will both receive their Amazon gift cards that day.
Once again, the contestants are welcome to announce their story being up for vote on Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc. but I require you DO NOT tell people to vote for you specifically. Ask others to simply visit and select the story they think is best. Please make this a fair contest. I really do not want to disqualify anyone.