A Short Story
Sure, I watch talk shows.
Lots of folks on these programs say aliens abduct them. They almost always live somewhere out in the middle of Kentucky or Nebraska or Wyoming, where no one else lives. Convenient, I think.
Granted, I’m not arrogant enough to think we’re alone in this universe. Just because we haven’t perfected space travel ourselves doesn’t mean other planets haven’t. Frankly, it wouldn’t shock me if there are a lot of species out there more advanced than us. So of course I think it’s possible that aliens have visited some folks. I think UFO’s do appear in the sky from time to time, that people really do see them.
But that doesn’t mean it’s always true. Most times, especially with these talk-show types, I think it’s all a publicity grab, a desperate plea for attention. Lacking fulfillment in other areas of their lives, lacking meaning for where they themselves fit within the universe, I think these people fabricate everything to make themselves feel better. “Aliens visited me!” is what they cry. “That makes me important!” is what they imply.
I hate to say it, but that’s exactly what I thought when Miranda first told me her story. Miranda’s my wife. Sometime shortly after our third anniversary, she described her experience to me. It happened one night, conveniently, while I slept.
All the usual details, of course, just like the talk shows. Little green men, big eyes, large heads, long fingers, short legs. Feelings of helplessness, paralysis. A visit to the mother-ship. An examination. Sensitive areas probed. And so forth, and so on.
All while I slept, of course. But when I awoke, she lay right there beside me again. Her eyes wide open, her lip trembling, Miranda spilled the whole tale to me, like a child sitting on a secret far too important to keep. I hugged her and held her tight and patted her back and re-assured her everything would be fine. It’s what I do. It’s not like this was the first time.
I thought back to all the previous crises. Of course your co-workers don’t hate you honey, I’d say. No, I don’t think your sister really gave you the evil eye. What? Do I think your friend cast a bad luck spell on you? Certainly not. Aliens abducted you? I’m sure it was only a dream, honey. Don’t worry.
And so forth, and so on.
She was persistent this time, though. It happened again, and then again. Soon it occurred weekly. I’d wake up and she’d stare at me, terrified. She’d beg me to stay up with her all night, and I would. Hours would pass but nothing would happen. The only times it ever did? When I slept, of course. Convenient.
I suggested counseling, but she refused. “It’s really happening,” she’d say. “It’s not in my head.” Of course I’d insist some more, but it only strengthened her resolve. I decided to let it pass.
And it would pass, I figured. Just like the Wicca obsession. And the table-tennis fixation. And the origami and the needlepoint and the fear of bears and raccoons and iguanas and—
Yes, this would too pass, I consoled myself. It just couldn’t happen soon enough.
* * *
It didn’t pass, however. Instead it only grew worse.
Each of Miranda’s previous neuroses had barely an effect on our relationship, if any at all. Sure, she tried my patience at times, but most of her obsessions had been harmless enough. It nothing else, they provided entertainment at least, something for both of us to laugh about once she eventually got past them.
This time, however, it impacted the very core of our marriage. For one thing, it was hard to communicate anymore. When she did want to talk, it was only about aliens and UFOs, about what they did to her and others. Books on the subject piled high in our living room, documentaries always played on TV. Miranda spent countless hours on the internet in chat groups with others who shared similar “experiences”.
It began to affect our love life too. One evening, I tried getting amorous and she replied, “No, not there. They probed me there.”
I tried somewhere else.
“No, that’s not good, either,” she said.
Again and again this happened, met with the same response. We finally settled on an area somewhere between her left elbow and shoulder as completely untainted. Needless to say, this didn’t allow much in the way of emotion or physicality, so eventually I gave up on the idea of lovemaking altogether. My patience wore thin.
It got to the point I started to regret my vows. “Until death do us part,” I had promised. Well, while we were at it, couldn’t we have added something about alien abduction too? Wouldn’t that have qualified? I contemplated calling my minister to ask if there was some fine print I didn’t know about, but thought better of it. The fact was I’d married a woman grappling with insanity, and I’d have to deal with it, until death do us part.
Well, one evening, we did finally part. It wasn’t death that did it, though. At least I don’t think it was.
At three in the morning, I woke up with Miranda beside me, and an overwhelming urge to pee. I drank a ton of iced tea the previous day and it haunted me now. I stumbled into the bathroom and heaved a sigh of relief when finished. When I returned to the bedroom, though, Miranda was gone.
“Honey?” I called.
I looked around upstairs, with no sign of her anywhere. Then I walked down to the first floor and felt a draft coming from the kitchen. I walked in, and flipped on the light. The backdoor yawned wide open before me.
“This is getting ridiculous,” I said.
I stepped outside and shivered in my thin polyester pajamas.
“Miranda?” I called.
I sighed and then stamped in place, rubbing my arms to keep warm. God only knew where she was off to now. For a moment I considered calling the cops but decided against it. Miranda could figure this mess out on her own, I decided. I’d had enough.
Shaking my head in disgust and about to turn around, I suddenly froze at the sight before me. In an instant, stark and eerie brightness had flooded my backyard. It was whiter than white, unnaturally so. It illuminated the whole property, yet left no shadows in its wake. I looked upward, squinting, trying to determine its origin, but found my attention returning to the yard when I heard an unmistakably familiar gasp. Miranda’s.
She knelt in our driveway, body arching backward. Her pose confused me. Was it fear? Wonder? Longing? I couldn’t decide. Nor could I figure out the strange ensemble she wore. A gray flannel short-sleeved suit of sorts, with ridged beige elastic bands around her wrists and oversized black sunglasses covering her face. She looked like something from the future, I thought. Like something from another planet.
Perhaps that was the point, I think now. Perhaps she knew where she was going next. For all of Miranda’s eccentricities, she always had a sense of style, at least. She always knew how to dress. Granted, I don’t know where my wife is now, but I’m sure wherever it is, she’s clothed fashionably. I’m certain of that much.
Alas, that was the last I saw of Miranda, there at that instant, kneeling on our driveway in her strange ensemble. A moment later, she disappeared in a flash, nothing but silence and darkness remaining. Of course I missed her dearly, still do, but I had already been in mourning for several months, after she had first been taken. The only difference was that this time she didn’t return physically, either.
So now I’m the one on talk shows. Convenient, I know. I’m about to go on another one now, all set to tell my tale again. The same question will repeat in my head, over and over, while I’m talking about my wife, about the experience we shared. Will anyone believe me?