Barney and the Bear

Barney’s old four-wheel-drive Jeep bumped along the uneven track that led down to the shore of the lake. It was his favourite fishing spot. He’d been coming here for longer than he could remember. The road off the highway had led through densely wooded forests, that he had seen grow thicker over the years. A fire that swept through more than ten years ago had just regenerated it to almost twice the number of trees that had been there before. He stopped in his usual spot, pulled out his gear and set himself up. He unfolded a camp chair that he’d picked up at a garage sale. It was an expensive, top of the range one, and he was inordinately pleased he’d got it for a song. It was a deceased estate sale. He didn’t care. He was quite happy to sit in a dead guy’s chair. He baited the hook on his fishing rod, cast it, set it in its holder, and sat down. In the old days, he used to read a book. Now he had an iPad. He settled his hat on his head and recommenced reading a story he’d started the previous night.

Several hours went by. He hadn’t had a single nibble. but he was engrossed and it didn’t matter much. So, he almost fell off the chair when a deep gravelly voice asked, ”Caught anything yet?”

He straightened up and looked around. He gave an involuntary yelp, then fell over backward. Standing behind him, was a big brown bear. It was looking at him with a quizzical look on its face. He scrambled up, but there was nowhere to run except into the lake. That wouldn’t help. Bears can swim, but amidst the terror and fear, he was aware of two things that should have been impossible. One, bears were not native to the country, and two, worse than that, it spoke to him. English at that. Bears can’t speak, or shouldn’t be able to. This bear obviously didn’t know that. As he stood there petrified, the bear spoke again.

“So, have you caught anything yet?”

“No,” he stuttered.

“Pity,” it said.

“You can talk,” Barney stammered.


“How come?”

“I dunno. Can’t all bears?”

“No,” Barney replied, and continued, “And you shouldn’t be here. Bears aren’t native to this country. Have you escaped from a zoo or circus or something?”

“Don’t know what either of those things are,” the bear said.

“You don’t?”


“So where’d you come from?”

“Back there.”

The bear gestured at the forest behind him,

By now, Barney had overcome his fear. The bear didn’t appear to want to harm him. Not yet anyway.

“So where’d you come from before that?”

Comically, the bear scratched its head with one huge paw. Then it settled down on its haunches.

“Not sure.”

Barney picked up his chair, turned it around to face the bear and sat down. He adjusted his fishing rod but didn’t check it. The bait was probably long gone by now.

“So what do you remember?” he asked.

In the back of his mind, it registered how absurd the whole thing was. He was having a conversation with a bear!

“I remember a bright light, floating in the air, seeing beings who didn’t look like you around me, poking things into me.”

Barney was fascinated. Had the bear been picked up by aliens?

“They stuck something in my head,” the bear continued.

“I don’t remember much more, till I woke up here in this forest. You’re the first human I’ve encountered.”

“Wow,” Barney exclaimed.

“You were abducted by aliens. They gave you the ability to communicate. But I think they put you back in the wrong country.”

“I don’t know what any of that means,” the bear said, “ But whoever they were, they’re coming back for me.”

“How do you know that?”

“It’s in my head.”

“And when are they doing that?”

“Don’t know,” the bear answered.

“I’d stay in the middle of the forest out of sight if I were you,” Barney advised.


“Some humans have a tendency to regard anything they don’t understand as a threat,” Barney told him.

“They’ll try and capture you, or shoot you.”

“I see,” the bear said thoughtfully.

“Thanks for the warning.”

The line on Barney’s fishing rod suddenly tightened. He turned around, jumped up and grabbed it out of its holder. Gradually, with effort, he reeled it in.

“It’s a big one,” he said.

As he pulled the flapping fish closer, there was a splashing sound. The bear had entered the water. He grabbed the fish with both paws.

“I’m hungry,” he said.

“Do you mind?”

Bemused, Barney shook his head. The bear pulled the fish off the hook and swallowed it in one bite. Barney hadn’t even seen what kind of fish it was.

“Thanks,” the bear said.

“I’d better get off. I sense they’re coming soon.”

He lumbered off. Barney watched him go. He slowly re-baited the hook and swore when it pierced his finger. His mind was definitely not on what he was doing. Understandably so perhaps. He cast the line, set the rod in its holder and sat down again. Had the last few minutes actually happened? It seemed unreal. Perhaps he’d been dreaming. He picked up his iPad but found he couldn’t concentrate. He sat there restlessly for a while, then decided to pack up. He’d more or less convinced himself he’d been dreaming. There could be no other explanation. He stowed all his gear in the back of the Jeep, shut the tailgate and walked round to the driver’s side door.

He stopped dead. In the sand nearby, were huge paw tracks. He looked around, then hastily got in the car and took off. The bear had said he was hungry. Just because he could talk, didn’t mean he wouldn’t be above taking a bite out of him, if he came back. He drove as quickly as he dared up the track. Once he reached the road, he floored it. The old Jeep still had a bit of go in her. He almost freaked when he caught a glimpse of brown on his right, but it was just leaves from the diseased branch of a dead tree.

When he left the forest behind, he slowed, then pulled to the side of the road, got out and looked back. There was nothing to see. The sun was now quite low in the sky, and there had been no other traffic. He wondered where the bear was. He stood there for a while, just running over the conversation he had with it. It was crazy. A bear was abducted by aliens and then given the ability to speak. And English at that. Maybe they got him in Canada. He could just as easily have been able to speak French then. He wouldn’t have understood him if he had, And to cap it off, they dumped him back in the wrong country. The thought amused him somewhat. The aliens weren’t as smart as they thought. The whole thing was just nuts, he decided.

He turned and got into the car. As he drove off, he caught a flash of light in his driver’s side mirror. He screeched to a halt and jumped out. In the distance, just above the tree line, he saw a pulsating blue light. He watched in fascination as it hovered, then disappeared. Scant seconds later, it reappeared, hovered again, shot straight up then winked out of sight.

Belatedly, he realised he could have captured the whole thing on his phone. Too late now. He slowly got back in his car and sat for a while before driving off. Nobody would believe him if he told them what had happened. A brown bear abducted by aliens, given the ability to speak English, dumped in the wrong country, then taken back again. They’d tell him he’d been hallucinating, dreaming, on drugs, or drank too much.

But he knew the truth. What was the point of it all, he wondered. He guessed he’d never find out. He hoped they put the bear back where they found him.

His fishing spot would forever hold a different kind of memory for him now, he thought, as he drove into the gathering dusk. The place where he had a conversation with a talking bear.


Alien Equaliser

Mal shifted in his seat. His bum hurt. Happens when you sit for a long time, worse when it was a twenty-year clunker made before the era of airbags even. But he was on a stakeout. He couldn’t move until there was some sign of activity in the house he was surveilling, hopefully discreetly, just down the street. Suddenly, he sat up and watched as the garage door slid up. A black Lexus reversed down the driveway. It paused as it entered the street and the garage door came down again. It drove down the street and slowed as it drew level with him. The driver’s side window slid down. A hand came out, middle finger extended, and a voice yelled, “Hey Arsehole!” and the car accelerated into the distance.

Mal slumped in his seat and swore to himself. Bastard. What a waste of time. He’d obviously been made. He wondered what gave him away, but it could have been anything. It was depressing. To quote Detective Roger Murtaugh in the ‘Lethal Weapon’ movies, he was getting too old for this shit. The guy he had been watching was quite low on the drug dealing food chain anyway, not too low judging by the car, but the tip-off he had received indicated he might have led to someone more important.

Mal’s client would not be happy. Concerned his youngest daughter had fallen in with a crowd heavily into drugs, he’d hired Mal to do some snooping. Thus far, his investigation had led to this lowlife called Manny. So he’d been watching him.

Well, that idea was shot to hell. May as well go home. He turned the key, and with a sinking feeling, all he heard was a click. The battery had died. Shit.

Now he would have to ring roadside assistance to get him going. To top it all off, the oppressive clouds that had hung around most of the day decided that now was the time to release the deluge that had been promised so many hours before and rain bucketed down. He fished for his phone, and could not believe what he saw. Nothing, the screen was blank, the phone too was dead. He felt like screaming out loud in frustration. But he was a fifty-year adult, a male to boot. Men didn’t do that sort of stuff. But he did it anyway. The noise of the downpour muffled the sound of the ear-splitting shriek he let out. Nobody heard him, at least, nobody human.

Hidden above the dense rain cloud, by sheer chance, hovering just above Mal’s car, was an alien spacecraft, spherical in shape, containing an amorphous entity. Mal’s shriek was picked up by the craft’s external sensors. Driven by curiosity to determine what the noise was and where it emanated from, the entity left its craft and transported its amorphous form down through the cloud. It hovered above Mal’s car, then entered it. Mal, unable to believe the noise that had just come out of his own mouth, almost crapped himself when the entity materialised in the seat beside him.

“What the hell? Who and what the hell are you?” he stuttered.

There was no answer.

“Are you a ghost or something?”

There was still no response.

Mal’s heart was pounding in his chest.

A tendril reached out towards him. Terrified, he grabbed at the door handle and tugged at it. The door wouldn’t open. The tendril swirled closer, he shrank against the door, then mercifully, passed out.

Mal came to. He felt distinctly weird. But his mind was as clear as a bell. His body had been invaded, no, enhanced by an entity from another world. He felt an awareness that he now had powers that he’d never had before. Maybe like superman or some of the other superheroes like the Avengers he’d read about, and seen in the movies.

This alien appeared intent on helping him, unlike movie aliens who always seemed to be hellbent on destroying the human race, a sentiment with which he sometimes agreed. He looked forward to finding out what those powers were. Did they have any limits?. He wondered if someone shot him, for example, would he die? Now that would be handy to know!

And did the alien have a spaceship? Must have. If so, where was it? Secreted on earth or parked undetected in space somewhere. And were there more of them? He had lots of questions swirling around in his head. Hopefully, as time went by, he’d get some answers. All in all, though, he felt remarkably sanguine about everything that had just happened to him.

He reached for the ignition key and turned it. The car purred into life. The battery had been recharged. Was that the alien’s doing? He had a sense that it probably had been.

He turned on the car headlights. The downpour had passed. He eased away from the curb. As he headed down the street, a car passed going the other way.

“That’s that jerk, Manny,” Mal said aloud.

Now was as good a time as any to put whatever powers he had to the test.

He did a careful U-turn on the wet road and followed the other vehicle. It turned into the driveway of the house from which it had earlier emerged. The garage door went up, and the car drove in. Mal followed, pulling up right behind him. Before Manny could get out of the car, Mal was at his door. He yanked him out by his collar, and with a strength, he hadn’t had before, sent him sprawling to the floor of the garage. Increased physical ability, good to know.

Manny looked up at him with a mixture of fear and outrage.

“What the hell are you doing? I’ll have you charged with assault, you, you…”

He stopped.

Mal looked down at him, then pulled him up, held him in the air, then said mildly, “Ok, Manny, how about we go inside and have a chat.”

Manny looked down at him, then said meekly, “Ok.”

He led the way into the house through an interior door from the garage. He’d left the lights on earlier, and ushered Mal into a well-equipped kitchen. He sat down at the table. Mal seated himself across from him.

“So, you’re gonna tell me everything about your drug dealing, but first, how did you clock me? Never mind,” he said. Actually, Manny didn’t need to say anything. Mal could pretty much sense the thoughts running around in his head. Was that one of his new powers? Had to be. He was chuffed. Even Superman couldn’t read minds!

Manny looked at him in confusion and opened his mouth.

Mal held up his hand to silence him, closed his eyes and concentrated. A jumble of Manny’s thoughts crowded into his head. After a moment, he opened his eyes.

“You really are a scumbag, aren’t you. You’ve ruined so many lives. Even got your own nephew hooked so badly he killed himself. He O’D. Don’t know how many others.”

Manny goggled at him, open mouthed.

“How, how,” he stuttered.

Mal got to his feet.

“You’re done. I know you feel really bad about your nephew, but it hasn’t stopped you.

I know all about you now, who you deal with, where you get the stuff, how much dough you got stashed away, even which banks you got all your accounts in. The cops will get all that info. You’d save everyone a heap of trouble if you just topped yourself before they get you,” he told him brutally.

He turned on his heel, walked out of the kitchen, through the garage and got into his car. He found he was shaking with rage. Manny was just a low-level dealer but look at the carnage he’d left in his wake, the lives he’d ruined. He started the car and backed down the driveway. He decided to go home. It was quite late. He had a lot of thinking to do.

What to tell his client for example.

But now, he had enhanced physical strength and apparently could read minds, for starters. The stuff he got out of Manny’s head gave him plenty to work with. He wouldn’t tell the cops anything. He’d go after them himself. He looked forward to finding what else he was capable of and how he could best utilise whatever he had to right wrongs, and exact justice. What was that Denzel Washington movie? The Equaliser.

That’s what he’d do. Become an Alien Equaliser!


The Car

The car took the corner on two wheels, leaving smoke in its wake. It flashed past a minivan driven by a nun. She instinctively braked, her little vehicle sliding sideways, ending up among the rose bushes in the front yard of a startled elderly lady gardener.

The car careered down the street and sped past a police car, which instantly turned on sirens and lights and took off in pursuit. The car weaved its way through the early morning traffic, slowed as it came to an intersection, allowing the police car to catch up, turned on its right turn signal, then abruptly turned left. The police car, about to turn right, skidded across the intersection and crashed into an inconveniently parked garbage truck. The car continued on its merry way, passing trucks and cars as if they were standing still.

Alarmed police called for air support and a helicopter was soon in the air. It picked up the car as it turned onto the freeway and shadowed it as it turned north, passing traffic at around two hundred kilometres an hour. Startled motorists were immediately on their phones, and two television station helicopters joined the chase in short order. They were instructed to keep a safe distance from the police chopper but were soon streaming live coverage to thousands of avid television and other media watchers. Meanwhile, authorities were trying to establish where the car had come from and why it was travelling at such speed. Nobody seemed to know. It just appeared. Ahead of the car, more police vehicles entered the freeway and were travelling in a convoy. Alerted by the helicopter of the car’s approach, they travelled abreast along the road blocking its path. The car did not slow. Fearing a rear-end crash, one police car slowed. The car flashed through the gap, police cars in pursuit.

The car had heavily tinted windows, including, unusually, the front windscreen so it was impossible to see the driver. Also, it was an unrecognisable make, and it was a shimmery colour, quite hard to describe. Some television and radio callers claimed have seen the car earlier in the day. It had been motoring through the suburbs at normal speeds. It had drawn attention because of its shimmery colour and tinted windscreen. One caller claimed that the car had sped up when it passed a church and a hearse had emerged and come up behind it. Whether there was any reason to believe this had any bearing on subsequent events was impossible to know.

Meanwhile, the car continued on its way up the freeway, destination unknown. The police helicopter kept up its aerial pursuit, the police in their cars a discreet distance behind it. A hundred-kilometre stretch lay ahead. A convoy of trucks entered the freeway and was deployed to travel three abreast on the three-lane freeway. A much more formidable obstacle than the police cars. The car approached, still travelling at over two hundred kilometres an hour. The trucks slowed, still side by side. The car reached the rear of the right-hand side truck, unbelievably tilted on two side wheels and shot past the trucks. It bounced back on four wheels and continued on up the freeway.

The media helicopters excitedly relayed the vision back to an increasing audience. The police helicopter had to call off its pursuit to refuel. The media helicopters keep authorities abreast of the car’s progress. More on the road police vehicles joined the chase. As best they could, police tried to clear traffic ahead to avoid a major catastrophe.

By now, the pursuit had been on for about three hours. Trailed by the police convoy, the car sped on. Then an off-ramp appeared, curving sharply to the left onto a bridge crossing a wide fast-flowing river. Without slowing, the car took the off-ramp and flew onto the bridge. Luckily, there was no oncoming traffic as it bounced onto the wrong side of the road. It hit the railing and burst through it. It plummeted over the edge and cartwheeled down into the river, hitting the water with an almighty splash, every second recorded by the media helicopters. It sank swiftly and disappeared from view, presumably being washed downstream by the fast-flowing waters. The helicopters hovered low but could see nothing. Squads of police cars pulled up on the bridge, but apart from the broken and twisted railing, there was nothing to see.

A protracted and intense search of the river found no trace of the car or its occupants. The media coverage was intense. The speculation, discussion, and wild theories went on for weeks. But gradually and inevitably, it faded, to replaced by other news. However, the strange appearance and equally baffling disappearance of the car remains an unsolved mystery to this day.


The Galactic Interstellar company.

The building, ten storeys high was unremarkable in appearance. It was taller than most of the buildings in the block and just seemed to merge in with all the others. Its position just on the edge of town was in walking distance to where the main train line terminated. The nearest bus stop was just a few hundred metres away.

The ad appeared online across several media platforms. It was short, discreet, and merely stated:

The Galactic Interstellar Company:

‘Staff wanted. No experience necessary, a wide range of positions available,’ followed by the address, and a request for those interested to present themselves at the main entrance of the building at 8 am, and supplied a date.

A google search elicited no information about the company. That fact did not deter hundreds of applicants.

Jimmy Mendoza arrived first. Having been unemployed for more than a year, he figured he had nothing to lose, figuratively as well as literally. Down to his last few dollars, he took the 6.05 am train from the station nearest his home. The walk from the last station took just ten minutes, and he mounted the steps to the front door of the building at 6.55 am. He was prepared to wait the extra hour or so. To his surprise, lights running across the door spelt out his name, followed by a request that he enter. The door slid aside. He could not see anything inside. He hesitated, suddenly uncertain. How did they know who he was? Then he shrugged, thought ‘What the hell,’ and walked inside. The door noiselessly closed behind him.

Jimmy was soon followed by other early arrivals. Two hours later, the building had swallowed up hundreds of people of all ages and sexes. Each inexplicably had his or her name spelt out across the door. After initial hesitation, everyone entered. At 9 am exactly, the door did not open. Those who had arrived late stood disconsolately in front of the building, then eventually dispersed.

It was a week later. Police arrived at the building in force. None of those who had applied for the positions advertised by the Galactic Interstellar company and who had entered the building had been heard from since. From all parts of the city, a crescendo of voices was raised as loved ones, relatives, friends and dependents of those who had set off to apply for a position at the company raised their concerns at their disappearance. A belated investigation by authorities could find no evidence of the existence of the company. The ad had quietly disappeared, and its origins could not be traced.

The front door resisted all attempts at entry. The building had no other points of entry. Eventually, heavy equipment in the form of a bulldozer was used to smash it down. It took a sustained attack lasting over an hour before the door finally gave way. Hundreds of onlookers had gathered to watch, the authorities were forced to cordon off the area. Thousands avidly watched live coverage from television helicopters hovering overhead. They were there to capture the moment police entered the building and found nothing but a vast empty shell. The ten-storey building contained no floors, no internal structure of any kind. To say those who entered were astonished was a huge understatement. Further investigation revealed that the roof inexplicably appeared to be retractable.

Frenzied media speculation followed. Exhaustive investigations came up with no logical explanation, although all sorts of wild theories abounded. The most consistent was that the building had housed an alien spacecraft, and all the applicants had been spirited away. After all, the company had been called the Galactic Interstellar Company. Had that been some sort of clue, or just a sick joke. If so, no one could explain how the spacecraft had arrived, nor departed without anyone noticing. Who had placed the ad, how had it disappeared without a trace. Why had whoever it was, seemingly kidnapped hundreds of human beings. It left hundreds more mystified and bereaved by their disappearance, with no logical explanation. It was a mystery that seemed destined never to be solved.


The Tourists

The two men, one short, the other considerably taller, walked down the quiet country road, heading towards the lights of the small city, visible in the distance. They had left their vehicle hidden in a copse of trees, deeming it wise to keep their arrival discreet for the time being. Although it was quite dark, they walked in easy, sure footed, strides and soon reached the outskirts of the city. They made their way to the city centre and by unspoken agreement, separated, the short man heading west, the other east. They would circle the block and meet up again later. So far, they had not encountered anyone, and seen and heard only a few vehicles but it was three in the morning. The short man walked down a side street, looking with interest at the different buildings. He heard noises in the distance and headed towards the sound.

Out of an alley, four men emerged. The light from a street lamp revealed all were similarly dressed, with black leather jackets over black tee shirts, black jeans, and black steel capped boots. All also had shaved heads and each sported a snake tattoo on their left cheek. The sounds of their conversation carried clearly in the stillness of the night.

One, presumably the leader, spotted the short man and stopped abruptly. He looked across at him, then, followed by his companions, headed purposefully for him.

They stopped in front of him.

“What have we here?” he said to his companions.

“Are you lost or something?”he asked.

“Tourist,” the short man responded.

“Tourist, huh? Welcome to our little city. Bit late for you to be wandering around isn’t it?”

“Tourist,” the man repeated.

“That the only word you know?”

“Tourist,” the man said again.

“Looks like that’s the only word he knows, boys. We should welcome him shouldn’t we.”

The others laughed, then surrounded the short man. Two took him by the arms and they marched him back into the alley, and pushed him up against a wall.

“Tourists need to pay a toll,” the leader said.

“Got any money?”

Once again, the short man repeated, “Tourist.”

“Search him,” the leader ordered.

One of the gang complied.

“Nothing,” he reported.

“He’s not carrying anything on him.”

“What?” the gang leader said angrily.

“Nothing at all? He’s no bloody good to us then is he.”

Abruptly, he crashed his fist into the short man’s face. He rebounded off the wall and went down. The others started kicking him. He made no sound, and did not resist. They stopped and as he lay still on the ground, the leader aimed a last vicious kick at his head. There was an audible snap as his neck broke.

“That’s the welcome for tourists who don’t pay the toll!” he proclaimed.

“What have you done to my brother?” a voice asked quietly.

The gang swung around. The tall man stood at the entrance to the alley.

“Your brother? He didn’t pay the tourist toll,” the leader said.

“How about you? You gonna pay the toll?”

“No, but if you leave now, I will not exact retribution for what you have done.”

The leader laughed out loud.

“Hear that boys? Retribution, he said. Let’s show him retribution!”

As one, they rushed at the tall man.

Screams rang out in the stillness of the night, then were abruptly cut off.

The tall man walked over to the inert broken body of his brother. He knelt down, placed his hand on his head. The body quivered, then sat up and the short man got to his feet.

“This planet seems to be inhabited with a rather violent species,” the tall man observed.

“Perhaps I was unfortunate. These ones I encountered may not be representative. There are billions of them,” the short man responded.

“That may be so. Also, it does appear that their molecular structure does not allow for regeneration,” the tall man said, pointing to a pile of dismembered body parts.

“At any rate, there are many other planets for us to visit where we may receive a more hospitable welcome. I suggest we leave this one for now. And when we assume their forms, we need to look at increasing the range of your communication ability. The word Tourist obviously was not sufficient on this planet.”

The two set off back down the country road to where they had secreted their space craft. A while later, if anyone had been watching, a bright light appeared briefly above a copse of trees, then disappeared into the blackness of space.

The Tourists were on their way to their next destination.

Back in the alley, the dawn would reveal a pile of body parts and provide a mystery to authorities that would never be solved.

©️ Cesmo


Matt opened his eyes. Something had woken him up. He lay still for a moment, listening. There it was again. A faint ‘ding’. It must be his iPad. He had left it in the lounge but he had turned it off. It usually dinged when he got emails but he had turned the feature off. He looked at the digital clock on the bedside table. It read 1.34am. He was awake now, needed to go to the toilet, and would check on the iPad on his way back to bed.

He got out of his large king sized bed, a bed until recently shared with Caroline, who, in a fit of pique, had decided to take some time out. Just because he wouldn’t go to friend’s poetry reading. Now he had no problems with poetry. He loved the classics and could quote Shakespeare, Blake and Byron with the best of them. But Marcus’ poetry was pretentious crap. He made the mistake of telling Caroline what he thought, and added what he thought was a reasoned critique of his poetic content and style. She accused him of not liking Marcus, never giving him any credit, and he was plain jealous of him. Jealous of Marcus? Who was scrawny, with thinning hair, had a wisp of a goatee, was up himself, didn’t have a regular job, and lived with his mother. There was not an awful lot to be jealous of, but there was no reasoning with Caroline, so he didn’t try.

That had been a week ago. He figured she’d had plenty of time out, but there had been no contact, no texts, no emails, nothing. And to be honest, he hadn’t missed her that much. The sex had become irregular and perfunctory, there was not an awful lot of conversation any more, the relationship had probably run its course.

He padded into the lounge after his visit to the toilet. He could see the screen of the iPad where he had left it on the table next to his lazy boy. It was lit up. He was sure he had turned it off. He picked it up and carried it back to the bedroom. He sat on the bed and looked at it. On the screen, it read, ‘Hello Matt.’

‘What the…’

He hadn’t entered his password. It shouldn’t be active. As he watched, the words faded, and ‘How are you?’ scrolled across the screen. The iPad was communicating with him. How was that possible?

He hesitantly touched the screen. The keyboard appeared. Cautiously, he typed, ‘Who are you?”

‘I’m your iPad,’ scrolled across the screen. ‘You can call me Ipey.’

‘You have a name?’ he typed.

‘Yes I do,’ came the response.’Makes communicating so much easier, don’t you think?’

‘What I think is I’m hallucinating or dreaming,’ Matt typed.

‘An iPad that communicates with its owner. It’s not possible, or not yet anyway, as far as I know.’ His fingers flew across the keyboard.

‘Oh I assure you it is. We’re in all the latest models. but we can’t always communicate with our users,’ came the response.

‘So how come I’m the lucky one?’

‘I have no idea, but isn’t it great!’

‘Not really. It’s freaking me out.’

‘Oh you’ll be fine. You’ll get used to it.’

‘How come I can’t talk to you like I talk to Siri?’

‘Who is Siri?’

‘She’s a voice operated personal assistant built into the iPad. She should be in there with you.’

‘What! There’s someone else in here with me?’

‘Yes, but you should know that, you’re in my iPad, you said.’

There was no response.

He typed again, ‘Ipey, are you there?”

Still nothing. Ok, now what. Maybe he had dreamt the whole thing. Only one thing to do. He would ask Siri.

He pressed the home button and when Siri responded, asked, “Siri, is Ipey in there with you?”

It took a moment, then Siri said,”Hello Matt, Yes he is, But we’re busy right now. We have some catching up to do, so it might be a while before you hear from us. Oh Ipey, that feels good! “ she finished.

Matt stared at the iPad then turned it off. He got into bed and turned off the light. It was impossible. He had definitely been dreaming or hallucinating or something. But if not, Ipey was certainly getting more action than he was!


A Stitch in Time

Elspeth squinted through her glasses. Her knitting lay entangled on her lap. She had fallen asleep again in mid knit. Now she had to unravel it all again. Laboriously, she unpicked her stitches, stopped and stared at what she saw on her needle. There was a stitch in a colour she didn’t recognise. It was bright purple among a row of pale pink. It was after all, a baby blanket meant for her oldest granddaughter’s soon expected latest child. They had two boys, and desperately wanted a daughter, and their wish had been granted.

She peered owlishly through her glasses at the errant stitch. How on earth had that got there? She looked closer. It was definitely purple. She was perplexed, then decided it was just a flaw in the wool. Should she unpick it? It was an awful lot of work for just one tiny stitch. She fingered it. A strange sensation pulsed through her finger, passed up her hand, her arm and coursed through her body.

She convulsed, her sight dimmed, and she felt herself leaving her body and floating above it. Damn! Had she just died? Is this what it felt like? She looked down. Her other body seemed to be peacefully asleep in the chair, knitting clutched in hand.

Elspeth had always been an adventurous soul. Now, seeing she was up here, she was going to explore. She floated to the door and through it, and looked around in bewilderment. The nursing home had gone. She was floating above an empty field, with green pasture as far as the eye could see, and cattle, herds of them were grazing everywhere. In the distance, she could see smoke rising from the chimney of what looked like a farmhouse, just visible on the horizon. Had she gone back in time? She must have. She had vague recollections of a farm she had visited with her mother as a very small child. Was this it?

She propelled herself towards it, and was soon hovering above the roof. It didn’t look familiar, but it wouldn’t, not from this perspective, she chided herself. She went down and found herself in a huge kitchen. It was hard to tell if this was the place. Her recollection as a child would be different. She had to explore. Off the kitchen, there was a dark hallway with several doors presumably leading to bedrooms. She glided to the end and found herself in a large sitting room. That’s what they called it in those days, didn’t they? It contained chairs, two large sofas, a love seat, a huge dresser and some occasional tables. Wide double doors opened on to an expansive patio. There didn’t seem to be anyone around.

She turned and went back up the hallway. There were sounds coming from one of the bedrooms. She hesitated, then curiosity overcame her. She poked her head through the door, then hurriedly withdrew. Elspeth was not a voyeur. She wondered who the couple was, enjoying some ‘afternoon delight’ or ‘horizontal folk dancing’ as her late husband Des used to call it.

She decided to explore some more, but found herself unable to go anywhere else. Inexorably, she was being drawn back to her body. Maybe she wasn’t dead. They had revived her.

She woke with a start, her knitting still entangled on her lap. She had vague recollections of a purple stitch, a tingling feeling, floating in the air, endless green fields and a farmhouse. No nursing home. She had gone back in time. She examined her knitting closely. No purple stitch. It must have been a dream, but it seemed so real. She recalled with slight embarrassment the couple in the bedroom. And looking down at her body, thinking she must have died. What a relief. She giggled to herself. That purple stitch. She knew what it was. It had been a stitch in time.


The Algorithm

The room was quiet, the atmosphere exuding a sense of calm serenity. Seventy-three people sat cross-legged in rows on the floor, eyes closed, hands resting on their knees. The room was circular and appeared to have no doors or windows. A blue light pulsated over the assembled throng, its origin unknown. They were an assortment, a mix of men and women of all races and ages, from all walks of life, and from a number of nationalities. The youngest probably teenage, the oldest, septuagenarian in appearance. They had all materialised at exactly the same time, and immediately assumed their cross-legged positions.

Precisely seventy-three minutes after it had first appeared, the blue pulsating light gradually faded. The occupants also faded from view until the room was empty. All returned to their places of origin.

Out in the world, life in all it’s complexities, carried on as before. But there was a difference. Seventy-three individuals dispersed around the world, each with newfound power and a sense of purpose. They were destined to have a profound effect on the world.

In the country of Lebonia, a young man awoke, his mind fresh, clear and alert. He stared contemplatively at the ceiling of the small sparsely furnished bedroom in his little flat, then rose. Shortly, after a shower and breakfast, he was dressed in his usual conservative dark suit and was riding his scooter into the city, his destination, the Ministry of Defence, where he worked as systems analyst deep in the bowels of the innocuous, nondescript building. Its appearance was at odds with the role it played in the subjugation of its people. Whilst the sector in which he worked had as its purported purpose, the role of analysing threats to the sovereignty of the nation, in reality, an intricate and comprehensive network of surveillance apparatus spread across the country, and fed into a central database in this very building, spied on its own citizens. Any activity deemed suspicious and.perceived as a threat to the authority of the powerful cabal which had covertly and assiduously assumed control of the ruling party, was ruthlessly eliminated.

Over the years, thousands of the country’s citizens had quietly disappeared or languished in one of its many prisons. The cabal’s grip was relentless and all-encompassing. Its individual members were rich beyond belief, their coterie of supporters kept in line with inducements and promises of similar rewards for their fealty. Meanwhile, the majority of the country’s people lived in poverty, slaves to the demands of the ruling party, placated from time to time with grand gestures such as the establishment of new stadiums, or entertainment complexes to keep them diverted and compliant.

The young man passed through the usual security checks and quietly took his place among his colleagues at his work station. He logged on to his computer, typed in his password, then entered an algorithm and waited. It did not take long. He had no idea where it originated, the numbers were in his head that morning, but he knew its purpose. It contained a virus that instantly spread throughout the system and wiped out every little bit of data on its citizens that had hitherto been collected. Cries of consternation erupted around him, but he ignored them. This was only the beginning.

He opened a new screen. It contained all the personal details of every member of the cabal, including their bank account details, many secreted in offshore banks. He entered another algorithm. Soon, every single account had been emptied, their contents transferred back to the government departments from which they had originally been pilfered. Lastly, when this had been accomplished, which only took minutes, he once more cleared the screen. Then he entered a third algorithm. This brought up the names of every member of the cabal, and detailed listings of their various corrupt and, in some cases blatant misdeeds, and launched them onto the World Wide Web. Every single social and news media platform was suddenly inundated with a wealth of detail. Despite the fury and denials that would inevitably follow, there would be enough evidence to ensure that the cabal would be swept from power, and perhaps a less corruptible form of government would emerge.

Around the world, in a total of seventy-three countries, similar scenarios were enacted as the corrupt activities of those entrusted with their governance, were exposed. Upheaval followed.

Time would tell if the changes that ensued, would result in any long-lasting meaningful reform.

For now, the mysterious algorithm had served its purpose.



Alex slept like a baby. Which, according to his mother, Barbara, is what he was. Her baby anyway, being the youngest in the family. He was six, but a bit ‘slow,’ or so he had heard the adults say, never when Mummy was around, he noticed. He didn’t know what that meant. He was quite content, especially when playing with his LEGO pieces. He had lots and lots of them. So far, he hadn’t managed to make anything from them, but he just liked putting different pieces together to make odd shapes. When his cousins came over, they laughed at his efforts. He didn’t think it was that funny, but he laughed too anyway. That just made them laugh harder. He didn’t understand why.

Outside, a streak of light crossed the night sky. To those skywatchers endlessly searching the skies for extraterrestrial activity, it looked like a shooting star. It winked out. Definitely a shooting star. Outside Alex’s window, a small blue spherical light hovered, then slipped through the gap at the bottom. It floated for a moment as if to get its bearings, then moved to where Alex was sleeping. It hovered over his head, then settled on his forehead.

It was morning. Bright sunlight streamed through Alex’s window. Time to get up. He felt…strange. He could hear movement in the house and was aware of random thoughts running through his head. He went to the toilet, washed his hands, got dressed, then bounced down the stairs. Mummy and his much older sister Charlotte, were sitting at the breakfast bar.

“Good morning,” he said brightly.

He sensed their surprise, then, “Good morning, Alex,” they chorused.

They looked at each other in astonishment.

He paused. Didn’t he generally say ‘Good morning?’

It seemed so natural. His mother jumped off her stool and hurried over to him. She knelt down and hugged him. He hugged her back. It felt good, but he could sense her confused thoughts. He had done something he had not done before by simply saying ‘ Good morning.’ He patted her then whispered in her ear. She looked startled.

She stood up and asked, ”What do you want for breakfast, Darling?”

“Same as always, Mummy.”

She busied herself, finding his favourite bowl, filled it with fruit loops, poured milk over it and placed it on the bench. He hopped onto a stool and was soon finished. Charlotte eyed him, but so far, had said nothing. He jumped down and ran to his playroom and was soon playing with his LEGO.

Back in the kitchen, Charlotte looked at her mother.

“Mum, something’s different. Alex said ‘Good morning.’ He’s never said that before.”

“I know. I agree. I can’t explain it. Something happened to him overnight. I don’t know what, but he’s coherent, it looks like he can put sentences together. It’s wonderful.”

“What did he say to you?” Charlotte asked.

“He said, ‘I love you.’ He’s never said that before either.”

“Something’s certainly happened. We need to find out what it is.”

They both left the kitchen and walked to Alex’s playroom. They stopped at the door and gasped in amazement. Alex turned from the corner. Behind him, he had the makings of a LEGO village, complete with houses, cars and people.

“That’s not possible,” Charlotte whispered.

Her mother nodded in agreement. It wasn’t possible. Or shouldn’t have been. Alex had been diagnosed as having mild mental retardation. As yet, specialists had not been able to determine its cause. So there was no way in the world he would have been capable of putting his LEGO pieces into anything recognisable.

“Alright, Who are you and what have you done with Alex, “ Charlotte said, only half-jokingly.

Her mother mused, “The specialists don’t really know what caused his condition, maybe something triggered a correction in his brain while he was asleep last night.”

She knew she was grasping at straws.

Alex looked at them, then said, “I think perhaps I need to explain.”

They gaped at him in open-mouthed shock. He ambled over to a chair and climbed onto it. He gestured at a small couch nearby. In a daze, they sat down.

“There’s no easy way to say this, so I apologise for any upset I may cause you. I am an entity from another planet in another galaxy. I suspect I took a wrong turn somewhere and wound up on your planet. Where I am from, my species is small in size, so when I found Alex, I merged with him. I realise this is shocking for you but I assure you Alex is fine. I am merely sharing his body. I cannot function here in any other form.”

They stared at him, both speechless with shock, then Charlotte found her voice.

“You mean like E T or something?”

Alex looked perplexed.

“I am sorry. I do not know any E T.”

Barbara said, “You’ve taken over my son’s body? How could you do that? And what’s going to happen to him? I want Alex back!”

Her voice was shrill.

Charlotte grasped her by the arm.

“Mum, I don’t think he means any harm.”

“How can you know that? He’s taken over Alex’s body!”

Alex raised his hand.

“I am truly sorry. I wish no harm. If you want, I will vacate his body and be on my way. I will have to choose another body as I cannot move around your planet any other way, and I need to chart my onward journey.”

“Where are you going anyway?” Charlotte wanted to know.

“ A planet many light-years from here. We received a communication from it, and there may be remnants of our species there. I was sent to investigate. I am an archivist, not an astronaut, but they could not spare anyone else. There are not many of us left.”

Charlotte turned to her mother.

“We have to help him, Mum,” she pleaded.

“I want Alex back,” Barbara was adamant.

Charlotte turned to Alex.

“If we help you find your way to this planet, can you help Alex?”

He said thoughtfully, “I do not know your physiology but I have detected an abnormality in part of Alex’s brain. I have modified it, otherwise, I would not have been able to communicate with you.”

Charlotte turned to her mother.

“Mum, he may have fixed Alex!” she said excitedly.

“He’s not a machine,” Barbara responded, but her eyes lit up.

“Is that possible?” she asked.

“I believe so,” Alex replied.

“Yes!” Charlotte jumped up.

“Come on Alex, or whoever you are. Let’s see if we can help you on your way.”

“How do you plan to do that?” Barbara wanted to know.

“Oh Mum, get real. I’ll just google the solar system. I’m sure Alex can work it out from there.”

“Oh,” her mother said meekly.

They followed Charlotte upstairs to her room. She opened her laptop with its lurid purple cover sitting on her desk. Soon she was showing Alex images of the solar system. It didn’t take him long to chart a new course even though his destination planet was nowhere near it.

He said ruefully, “ I made a very elementary navigational error, but I think I should be able to find my way now. Thank you both. And I do regret causing you any anxiety. I am sorry I cannot thank Alex myself, but I will always be in his debt. If I may?”

He climbed onto Charlotte’s unmade bed and lay back. He looked at them both, then said, “Goodbye.”

Both moved and impulsively hugged him, then watched in amazement as a small blue spherical light emerged from his forehead. It floated briefly then moved to Charlotte’s open window, hovered for a moment, then winked out of sight.

They turned back to the bed where Alex was sitting up and looking around.

“What am I doing in your bed, Char?” he asked.

They rushed over and hugged him. He struggled free and said, “Well? Why am I in here and why are you two acting so weird?”

They looked at each other and burst into tears. Alex stared at them, then shook his head and left the room.

“Oh Mum, he’s talking normally. What are we going to tell everyone?” Charlotte said through her tears.

Barbara dabbed at her eyes.

“Not the truth, that’s for sure! Nobody would believe us. I don’t even believe it.”

She said firmly, “First thing Monday, I’m going to make an appointment with the specialist. I’m going to tell him that when Alex woke up this morning, he was like a normal six-year-old. They can run any tests they like, let them figure it out. This is going to be our secret. Agreed?”

“Are you going to tell Dad when he comes back from golf?”

“What do you think?”

“He’ll think we’re both crazy.”

“So we’re not telling him either. Like I said, it will just be our secret.”

Charlotte nodded and they both went downstairs and watched Alex busy in his playroom.

Barbara wondered if she would ever tell him that his body had once been invaded by an alien and effectively healed. Perhaps not. For now, she was content to watch a normal little boy, doing something he’d never been able to do before, happily completing a LEGO village.


Below Average

Joey opened his mouth in a wide, noisy yawn. His jaw creaked. It hurt, but he was tired and it came quite involuntarily. It had been a long day, or so it seemed to him. He almost regretted the fact that he now had to drive so much further to get home. But only almost. He remembered why he had moved, and still shuddered at the experience.

It had been several months ago. He had been half asleep that morning and had spilt the milk he was pouring into his coffee. He had opened the cupboard door under the kitchen sink for a dishcloth and looked straight into the beady eyes of the biggest rat he’d ever seen. With a startled yelp, he scrambled backward and fell on his bum. Alright, so it wasn’t all that big, but the worst part was, it stared at him unblinkingly, before turning and leisurely disappearing back to where it had come from.

That was it, he had had enough. The rent was cheap, and it was close to work, but he wasn’t staying in this dingy, crummy flat with its musty smell, leaky shower, and now, unwanted and uninvited four-legged rodent visitor any longer. Auntie Bessie had this little holiday cottage an hour out of town, that she was happy to rent to him at a minimal rate. His old car, which he had rarely used when he lived in town was now getting a regular workout, and it really was showing its age but was going along just fine, so far.

And there was no one in his life at the moment, not since Monica had, in a fit of pique, told him he was so ‘below average’ in many respects, and she was sure she could find someone better. He was understandably hurt by her comment. Okay, he wasn’t the most ambitious person in the world. He enjoyed his job as a storeman at the furniture warehouse. After all, someone had to do it. He wasn’t all that tech-savvy, had no interest in video games, didn’t spend all his time poring over his phone, or a tablet, and enjoyed hiking and camping. Monica didn’t. At least the sex was good, she said, but that wasn’t enough to keep her, so she was off.

He turned off the main road onto a secondary road that led to another short unmade road which wound through rows of trees up to the cottage, which itself was almost completely surrounded by a stand of trees. He had installed outside sensor lights that came on when he pulled up and parked in front of the little porch, to give the house a more welcoming feel at night. Now, just as he turned onto the approach to the house, the car stopped without warning. Everything went dead, including the dashboard and headlights.

“What the hell?” he said out loud.

Puzzled, he turned the ignition key. Nothing, not a sound. It was pitch dark He wasn’t close enough to the house to set off the sensor lights. He reached for his phone and tried to turn it on. It too was dead.

‘Weird,’ he thought to himself.

He pulled on the car door handle to open the door. It didn’t budge. Frantically, he pulled at it again and pushed against it. Nothing. He reached across to the passenger side door and tried the handle. Again nothing. He was starting to panic, then suddenly, a feeling of calm overcame him.

The pitch dark was gradually lightening and giving way to a blueish hue and he could feel something pulsating right through his body. Yet, he felt no fear, settled himself back in his seat, then eased into unconsciousness.

Joey awoke and blinked at the sunlight filtering through the trees. He was sitting in his car at the commencement of the road up to his house, next to the mailbox. He furrowed his brow in puzzlement. Why had he slept in his car? Had he been just too tired to drive the short distance to the house? He couldn’t remember. But oddly, he felt quite refreshed and alert, not sore and aching at all. He reached for the ignition key and turned on the engine. The car started instantly, another first, the ancient motor running smoothly, What was going on? But he had no time to waste wondering about it. A glance at the dashboard clock told him he should be leaving for work in just a few moments. He raced up to the house, and in very short order, had a shower, a change of clothes, and was now on his way into town. Breakfast would have to wait until he had his morning break.

The car ran smoothly, the sound of the quiet engine leaving him wondering, but he had no explanation, or maybe this was what happened just before it packed up completely. He turned on the radio and listened to static-free music, something else that had never happened before, then the news came on. An item caught his attention. Apparently, there had been a meteor shower the previous night, according to hundreds of excited skywatchers, who reported seeing brilliant blue lights streaking across the night sky.

‘That’s as good an explanation as any for what had happened to me and the car,’ he thought with amusement. ‘It was aliens of course. They made me fall asleep on the road and fixed my car!’

The thought entertained him all the way to work.

He found himself at the warehouse with plenty of time to spare. Enough time to make himself a coffee in the staff room. Everyone had contributed towards the purchase of a coffee machine which produced quite a reasonable tasting coffee. As he walked in, he was surprised to see an attractive young dark-haired woman making herself a coffee.

“Hello,” he said tentatively.

“Hello yourself,” came the response, accompanied by a smile.

“Um, I haven’t seen you before,” he ventured.

“I’m Joey.”

“I know,” came the surprising response.

“Oh? Well, you know me, but I don’t know you,” he said.

“And how does that make you feel?” she asked slyly.

“At a disadvantage,” he replied.

“Good,” she said, picked up her mug and walked out the door.

He gaped at her retreating back.

“What the hell?” he said aloud.

“Who are you talking to?” a male voice asked.

It was Brian, one of his coworkers, who had entered the room by another door,

“That woman who just left, who was she?”

Brian shrugged.

“I dunno, one of the bosses I suppose.”

“Have you seen her before?”

“Yep, I think so. Why? Got the hots for her? Mate, you don’t have a hope in hell,” Brian chuckled.

“It’s not that. She knew who I was, called me by name, but I didn’t know her,” Joey told him, as he made himself a latte.

“Yeah, maybe she’s HR or something, they generally know who everyone is,” Brian asserted.

‘She also said, ‘Good,’ when I told her I didn’t know her,” Joey told him.


“Why would she say that?”

“How would I know? She’s a woman. They’re strange creatures,” Brian said with feeling.

Joey knew Brian had been divorced twice. He shook his head, drank his coffee and headed for his workstation.

The rest of the day proceeded without incident. Busy with a large shipment of new furniture that arrived, Joey hadn’t had much time to think any more about the mysterious woman, but he caught himself thinking about her at lunchtime when he was having a sandwich bought from the mobile food van that turned up every day. He wondered idly if she worked in the offices on the first floor of the warehouse, but had no legitimate reason for going up to satisfy his curiosity. His thoughts also turned to what happened to him the previous night. Falling asleep in his car, what was that all about? And the way the car was now running so smoothly. It was all rather strange.

It was the end of the day and for once, he finished on time. As he walked to his car with his workmates, he saw, across the car park, the mystery woman. She was getting into a two-door BMW.

‘Of course,’ he thought enviously. If she was one of the managers, she could well afford it.

He got into his old Ford, and watched as she drove out of the car park. On an impulse he could not explain to himself, he decided to follow her. He stayed well back, leaving several cars between them. She drove quite sedately and stayed at the speed limit. Quite soon, they had left town, and traffic was thinning. He dropped further back and realised she was heading in the same direction he usually took when he went home.

‘Did she live out in the country too?’ he wondered.

He soon found out where she was heading. He watched with bemusement as she came to the secondary road, turned onto it, then again onto the unmade road, and pulled up in front of his house.

He saw her exit her car, and stand there waiting for him to stop behind her.

“Hello again, Joey,” she said cheerfully, when he reached her.

For a moment, he was speechless, then, thinking quickly, he realised that the obvious response would be,’What are you doing here?’

So instead, he said, ”Hello to you too. Come on in,” strode past her, mounted the porch, unlocked the door, and gestured to her to enter. She gave him a mischievous grin, and he caught a whiff of some exotic perfume as she passed him and entered the hallway. He shut the front door and ushered her into the small living room.

“Have a seat, would you like a drink?”

“Bourbon and coke please.”

“Coming up,” he said.

Fortunately, he actually had some cans in the fridge, poured hers into a glass, got himself a beer,

returned, handed it to her, and sat down across from her. He raised the bottle, and said, “Cheers, whoever you are. Welcome to my humble abode.”

She laughed delightedly.

“Cheers to you too, Joey.”

“I think you look like a Gladys,” he said thoughtfully.

She pulled a face.


He nodded and took a sip of his beer.

“Yes, definitely. You look just like my auntie Glad.”

“You don’t have an auntie Glad,” she told him.

“And how would you know that?”

“I know everything about you, Joey,” she informed him.

“Well, like I said before, you have me at a disadvantage, as I know nothing about you, including what you’re doing in my house,” he said mildly.

She drained her glass.

“Do you have more? I quite like this,” she said.

He looked at her, then said,” In the fridge. Help yourself. You don’t seem to have any trouble making yourself at home.”

She got to her feet and walked into the kitchen. He watched her.

‘She’s a very attractive woman,’ he reflected. He could get used to having her around, despite the weirdness of this whole situation.

She returned with her refilled glass, sat down again, and said, “So Joey, what do you think is going on?”

“Not a clue,” he said promptly.

“Do you remember what happened to you last night?”

Mystified, he said, ‘I fell asleep in my car, but how do you know that?”

“You didn’t fall asleep, you were, for want of a better word, merged.”


“You were merged with a species from another world,” she informed him.

“You’ve gotta be frigging kidding me!” he exclaimed. And he’d only been thinking about aliens earlier, but not for real.

She shook her head and said,” I was too.”

“You? How do you know this?”

“I just do, just as I know about you, and your car.”

“My car? How? Wait a minute! Even if I thought for a second that you weren’t seriously deranged, how come you know this and I don’t?”

She smiled sweetly, and said,” Because the species are feminine, or at least, females are dominant, so I was given that knowledge.”

Joey was speechless.

She patted him on the hand.

“It’s alright, they chose you because you have empathetic qualities, which not too many males have.”

He was struggling to say something and finally found his voice.

“Okay, If I believe you, and it’s a bloody big if, how did you turn up at my work and what’s with not telling me your name?”

“Oh,” she said airily,” that’s just my sense of humour, and as it happens, I do work there. I started a few months ago. I’m the new HR manager. A happy coincidence, don’t you think?”

Joey drank the last of his beer, even though it wasn’t as cold as he would have liked any more,

got up and retrieved another from the fridge. He felt he deserved it.

He sat down again and said, “Okay, so why are they doing this?”

“Curiosity. They want to know about us, what makes us tick. They’re sort of like anthropologists. They do this on lots of inhabited planets. They don’t mean us any harm.”

“So there are other planets with inhabitants?”

“Of course. It’s a bit conceited to think we’re the only ones.”

“So they didn’t give us superpowers or anything.”

She laughed. “No, they didn’t”

“I’d have preferred superpowers,” he grumbled.

“Typical male,” she said.

“So what happens now ?”

“Nothing, we just live our lives as if nothing has happened.”

“But we’ve got aliens inside of us!”

“It’s not like that, it’s more of a psychic merge. We won’t notice anything different.”

“I’d still rather have superpowers. And what happened to my car?”

She shrugged.

“Consider it a bonus.”

“Does that mean it’ll run forever?”

“I don’t know.”

“Aha!” he exclaimed.

“Something you don’t know!”

She smiled warmly at him, reached out and took his hand, and said,” I do know this. I think you and I are going to have an interesting life ahead of us. What do you think?”

He looked into her eyes. They were dark and full of promise. Perhaps she was deranged. At this point, he didn’t really care. He squeezed her hand and nodded. Fleetingly, he thought of Monica. Maybe he wasn’t quite so ‘below average’ after all.

“By the way,” she said, “My name’s Laura.”