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Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2274024
Stan's houseguest is from out of town...way out [Anthro Activity Anteroom, 5/2022]
Newton, interworld traveler

"Did you really have to do that?" Stan asked as he watched the poor lady edge away from the checkout stand and toward the exit, wary eyes on Newton the whole way. The automatic doors opened behind her and she made her escape into a station wagon that was parked at the curb. It left an impressive dust cloud, and more than a little rubber on the parking strip, as it headed back to the Interstate.

"Do what?," Newton replied. "Oh, you mean...this?" And he popped both eyes out of their sockets.

"Yes, THAT!"

"I'm sorry, Stan, but you know the backs of my eyes have to get a breath of air every couple hours. Something to do with your planet's atmosphere."

"Well, then you need to do a better job of not startling folks. Set a timer or something. This town gets few enough folks venturing off of the highway as it is. We don't need them spreading tales about people with eyes that pop out like it's completely normal!"

"But it is completely normal for my species, Stan."

"You know what I mean, Newton."

"Yeah, I suppose you're right about that. Sorry."

Stan sighed. Ever since Newton's ship had crash landed behind his gas station and convenience store—a victim of some unseen cometary debris—Stan had tried to keep Newton's origins a secret. His name wasn't Newton, of course, but Stan couldn't pronounce the real one to save his life and it sort of sounded a little like Newton anyway, so that's what he'd put on the work shirt Newton wore.

He liked having Newton around. For one thing, Newton could stay awake for up to three weeks at a time, so Stan was able to stay home once in awhile. He didn't want to overdo it, though, let alone do anything that would call attention to Newton's...uniqueness. Roswell was less than a two-hour drive from here and folks were suspicious of strangers that weren't just passing through (after stopping to spend some cash, of course). If anyone ever found out about Newton, a mob would descend on the store with the 21st century equivalent of torches and pitchforks, namely shotguns and AR-15s.

For his part, Newton was more than happy to live with Stan. It gave him a place to stay without having to constantly be on guard against discovery. He'd been understandably cautious when Stan had approached his disabled ship, reverting to a colloidal goo so he could hide beneath the deck plates and observe the human undetected. As it turned out, he needn't have worried. Stan had been fervently hoping to meet an extraterrestrial his entire life, so convinced was he that there was life elsewhere in the galaxy. He'd been overjoyed that it was true, and that it had found him. Stan told him their arrangement reminded him of an old television show, explaining the premise of an alien stranded on Earth and trying to repair his spaceship.

"I don't know anything about - Martians, did you call them? - but I won't be leaving anytime soon. The materials needed to repair my ship don't exist on Earth, nor are there adequate analogues. Since my engine is nonfunctional, my distress beacon's signal can only travel at the speed of light, and I was fortunate to be able to harness your sun's energy to power it. That being said, it's going to be quite some time before help arrives."

* * *

The years passed. Although Newton was able to remain unrecognized by the world at large, an occasional rumor would spring up about "some guy with eyes that did weird things." Whenever that happened, a few of the locals would stop by and "check out that Newton fella". The worst one was Bodie. He was rude to everyone anyway and didn't care what anyone thought about it. He'd walk right up to Newton and stare at his face for a minute or two, then turn and leave. Stan was always ready with some version of "It's just a thyroid condition, guys, that's all. I mean, if his eyes actually popped right outta his head, don't you think I would've noticed?", but worried that a 'friendly visit' might coincide with Newton's eye schedule.

One evening, Stan and Newton were relaxing after another long day at the store. Stan was about to ask Newton if he maybe wanted to go for a drive since it was a very pleasant evening with plenty of stars to look at, when Newton stood up, then practically ran out the back door toward the shed where his ship was concealed. As he cleared the back porch in his pursuit, Stan noticed two things: there was a beeping sound coming from the shed, and what looked like a small storm cloud was racing over the hills south of them and heading directly toward his place.

"They're here, Stan! They're here!"

Stan didn't have to ask who "they" were. Newton's excitement, and the fact that the storm cloud had settled over his part of the little valley, told him everything he needed to know. "Just like in Close Encounters", he breathed. "Cool!"

The cloud spread out until it covered the entire valley. It darkened and there was a moment's silence. Then the rain started, quickly building intensity until Stan knew he was looking at the mother of all gully washers. At this rate, he knew the turn-off to his place would be flooded in no time. Then he noticed it wasn't raining at his place, just everywhere around it. Of course! It's to keep any nosy busybodies away! Very cool!

Cautiously, so as not to startle the new arrivals, he walked into the shed to watch the repairs, only to find Newton by himself and his ship almost completely disassembled, although there were no pieces scattered on the floor. If the other guys were in the shed, they weren't visible. As he watched, another piece of Newton's ship disappeared. Transporters or something! COOL!

"They brought me another ship, Stan; it was just easier."

Stan nodded, went back to the door and looked up. He couldn't see anything through the cloud, but figured the 'interstellar tow truck' had to be quite a bit bigger than Newton's personal craft, since it was able to carry a replacement. Ten minutes later, the broken ship was gone; in its place, a sleek replacement gleamed in the overhead fluorescent lights.

"There have been some improvements, especially in the matter of shielding. I shouldn't have to worry about meteorites and comets and such anymore." Newton walked over to Stan and took his hand.

"I really appreciate all you've done for me, the shelter you provided. Waiting for help would have been much more difficult, perhaps even impossible, without a friend like you."

"I'm glad I was here," Stan replied, sad that Newton was leaving, but happy that he'd be able to return home.

"You'd better stand clear of the shed, so I can depart. I fear I'm a little rusty, and these things don't do 'walking speed' very well."

Stan retreated to his porch, accompanied by a low whine that quickly scaled up. The ship nosed through the shed doors, knocking one of them loose. Once it was clear, there was a momentary pause - and then it was just gone. The storm cloud dissipated, leaving a sky full of brilliant stars...and one very faint one headed home.

The next day, all the talk was about the once-in-a-century rainstorm.

"That was really something, wasn't it?" a traveler from Iowa remarked as he paid for his gas. "I've never seen anything like it, and we get some real doozies back home."

"Yeah, it sure was something," Stan agreed.

[WC: 1536]

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