Each second tormented me as I stared at the ceiling. The normally silent ticks of the clock crashed violently against my ears. The jack hammer of ticks contained angry peaks while the intolerable silence between housed my despair. I focused on the deafening sound of the clock as I tried desperately not to think about what had happened.
It had seemed like such a good idea at the time. I was smooth. Glib, even. She had been reading a woman’s magazine at the bar and had asked me a question, peering delicately over the pages at my well-manicured hands. My answer came to me almost immediately because it was so true.
“I am not metro or uber sexual, I am merely a man.”
She laughed and I smiled along with her. Her eyes sparkled; she found me witty and charming. She slid her chair a little closer to me and asked me who I was. It was a serious question and deserving of a serious answer. I ordered her a drink and described myself to her as best I could.
I hold an advanced degree in mathematics, but I chose law enforcement over intellectual pursuits.
I love buffalo wings, but can cook a gourmet meal.
I can distinguish between the styles of Brueghel and Bosch, but still find South Park to be a masterpiece.
It only takes me about 5-10 minutes to get ready, but I clean up nicely.
I enjoy running, but can’t remember the last time that I walked on the beach.
I was raised to value morals and learned to spot those who are bereft.
I know the difference between pinot noir and merlot, but would rather have draft Budweiser any day.
I don’t mind cats, but I love my Beagle.
I enjoy crossword puzzles, especially from the New York Times, but I’m always enthralled by the Sunday comics as well.
I thank God I was raised Catholic, so sex will always be dirty.
I always try to do the right thing, but my halo is sometimes on crooked.
Who am I? I’m just a man and that means I am a curious mix of beauty and the beast.
She was enthralled. Surely no one had ever answered her question quite that way before. I was surprised myself; I’m normally not so eloquent. Nonplussed, I ordered another whiskey (neat with a splash of water), giving myself time to recover.
What had possessed me to answer in such a fashion? Too many lonely nights in a bare apartment because I refused to join VNet, the new virtual reality social network that was sweeping the globe? Not enough sleep and too much late-night television? Or maybe just a desperate need to connect with someone again who was real, goddammit.
I didn’t linger overlong on these thoughts; she was leaning forward and speaking intimately to me, her magazine a now-forgotten prop on the bar. She smelled faintly of spring flowers and something else; something elemental. I approved.
Her eyes drank me in as she spoke and I’ll be damned if I can remember what we talked about. Everything and nothing. A social conversation designed to fuel the barely contained desire simmering in the air between us.
We left the bar somewhere between thinly-veiled sexual banter and grab-the-back-of-my-head-and-scream-for-more. The tropical summer night plastered my shirt to my back and hinted at faraway thunderstorms. The ever-present, and losing, battle with sea salt was obvious by the thin film on the hood and streaked windshield of my black 1988 Mustang convertible; a classic that needed meticulous love and care to stay running and in show condition.
The warm breeze pushed against our faces as we drove along the coast. Far out over the thundering surf the occasional flash of lightning could be seen, momentarily illuminating the dark Atlantic. She sat so close to me on the bench seat that every bump in the road transmitted itself through her flesh and into my thigh. She had one arm draped possessively over my shoulder and she alternated between nibbling my ear and making promises of what was to come.
I barely managed to remove my keys from the car; our erotic euphoria was such that trivial tasks like opening car doors and retrieving keys were monumental distractions. Breathlessly, and with hands roving all over each other’s bodies, we made our way to the top floor of my condo, ocean side. Predictably, we left a trail of garments from the front door to my bedroom, with each article of clothing getting more intimate the closer we got to the bedroom.
I woke alone; only the musky smell of her remained with me between the sheets. Taking a moment to savor the scent of her, I felt a pang of disappointment; we had shared a connection that had at once startled and intrigued me. I thought she had felt the same connection. It had been a while since I had felt so vital, so alive. Not since she left.
Sighing, I rolled out of bed and glanced at the clock; 3:33am. Damn; it was early. Shrugging to myself, I re-locked the front door after making sure my mystery guest was really gone. My clothes were still strewn across the floor, but hers were gone. I briefly wondered how she had made her way home, but didn’t worry overlong about it. She was a big girl who obviously knew what she was doing. Instead, I picked up my clothes, dropped them in the hamper, and decided to take a shower to wash the stale sweat from my body. An early start to my day, but I had done earlier when I was in the Army.
I didn’t hear them enter because I was in the shower. Lucky for all of us I suppose; I have a shoot first and ask questions later policy where home invasions are concerned. When I walked out of my bathroom, towel around my waist, they had already made themselves comfortable in my living room.
There were three of them, all dressed in expensive suits with conspicuous bulges in them. Three hulking shadows only dimly lit by the single cheap light hanging over my kitchen table. They were all packing, and my handgun was in the bedroom. Each of them probably stood six feet or more; taller than my five eleven. They possessed the subtle grace of very confident and self-assured men. I had no doubt each was very, very dangerous.
“Avery James?” asked one of the men.
“Who the hell are you?” I asked harshly.
He stood and reached into his jacket. I tensed, but he only pulled out a badge.
“Agent Parker, BEA.” He allowed me a moment to verify the badge before shoving it back into his jacket. “These are Agents Simon and Goodson,” he indicated his still-seated partners. “We need to ask you a few questions.”
It took me a second to place the acronym. “Extraterrestrial Affairs?” I asked, confused.
Agent Parker nodded, “We understand that you spent some time yesterday evening and this morning with a young lady?”
The adrenaline-fueled panic I had initially felt upon finding strangers in my house started to subside, replaced by a sudden anxiety. What could BEA want with me, or with my date? I dimly realized that I couldn’t even remember her name. BEA was in my house asking about a girl I had just met, had sex with, and couldn’t remember her name.
I needed to focus. I needed a moment to collect myself. I cocked my head towards my bedroom, “Do you guys mind if I get dressed before we go through 20 questions?” I asked. “I’m not really all that comfortable standing here in a towel.”
“Of course, Mr. James,” said Agent Parker. “We’ll wait here.”
“What?” I joked, “Not going to follow me into my bedroom to make sure I don’t escape?”
“We’re ten floors up, Mr. Avery.” said Agent Parker humorlessly.
I grunted as I closed my bedroom door. They had already been in my room, I noticed immediately. My handgun was missing, as well as the decorative sword that had been leaning in the corner of my room. I would have done the same thing, but it was frustrating all the same.
Why would the Bureau of Extraterrestrial Affairs want to talk to me I wondered as I dressed. And why were they asking about my companion? She must have some connection with the aliens who had landed in New York two years ago. We called them Cassiopeians as they were first spotted heading towards Earth from the constellation Cassiopeia and their true race name was unpronounceable by the human tongue. I didn’t think we really knew where, exactly, they had come from.
There had been a huge global panic and stock market crash as well as a terrific upsurge in crime when the aliens had first landed, which is why I was now a private detective. I saw the potential for being on my own and quit the force. Beyond that initial panic, though, nothing. The aliens had landed, the government had swooped in and initiated talks with them and within a few short months the novelty had worn off and life was back to normal. We all knew the aliens were still on Earth, but we never heard anything about them. They didn’t affect my day-to-day life. They weren’t in the news. They weren’t in Florida. Their spaceship was still parked solidly in Central Park, a new tourist attraction.
My questions weren’t going to answer themselves, and I was getting more and more curious now that the initial shock had begun to wear off. I finished dressing quickly and almost eagerly exited my bedroom to continue the interrogation.
Agent Goodson was flipping through my high school yearbook when I walked into the living room. The Agents Simon and Parker were sitting at my dining table, heatedly discussing something in low tones. All three stopped what they were doing when I walked into the room. The cool manner in how they sized me up was intimidating.
“Ok,” I said, pulling up a chair at the table. “What’s this all about? I find it hard to believe you flew all the way here from New York to talk about me and this woman at four in the morning.”
Agent Parker spoke bluntly, “Did she give you anything, Mr. James?”
“What,” I asked again, “is this all about?”
“Mr. James, we really don’t have time to play games. You’re smart, a PI, and know how to play the game. So,” he leaned forward and invaded my personal space, “we can, to be trite, do this the easy way or the hard way.”
I couldn’t resist the obvious question as I grinned back at him, “What’s the hard way?”
“Mr. James,” Agent Simon interrupted what was about to become an ugly battle of wills between me and Agent Parker, “this is extremely important. Please just answer the questions.”
I could tell he meant it; these guys were nervous. “Ok,” I leaned back in my chair, “she didn’t give me anything that I am aware of.” I looked around my condo, “Unless she left something in the house when she left.”
“Did she say anything to you that was out of the ordinary?” asked Agent Parker.
I smiled, “The entire evening was out of the ordinary. It’s not every day a guy like me meets a gorgeous woman who comes back to his place for hours of mind-blowing sex.”
You would have thought a live grenade had been dropped in the middle of the table. Agents Parker and Simon jumped out of their chairs and stared at me in open horror. Agent Goodson dropped my yearbook and actually reached for his gun.
“You slept with her?” asked Agent Simon?
I was very still, focusing on the gun half-drawn from its holster, “Well, yes. That’s what usually happens when I bring a lady back to my condo. Not that it happens all that often.”
“Jesus Christ, man,” said Agent Simon, “you slept with an alien.”
“This changes everything,” said Agent Parker to his companions. He touched a microphone I hadn’t noticed before in his ear and spoke rapidly, “Be advised this is now a quarantine zone. We need full containment on this entire building now.
I sat staring at him dumbly. I had slept with an alien? One of those things from another planet? How could I have been fooled so easily? An alien, posing as a human, couldn’t be all that hard to spot. She had been human; I was sure of it. I said so.
“I’m afraid not” said Agent Simon The Cassiopeians can take any form they choose, within reason. At least some of them can.”
I shook my head, “She was too human. You’re wrong. You have the wrong person.”
“We’ve been tracking her for three weeks, Mr. James. Somehow she keeps eluding us, but we know that it was her.” He pulled a picture out of his jacket and showed it to me. “Once they choose a form it is extremely painful for them to change it again, else we would never be able to find her.”
I looked at the picture. It was her. I’d had sex with an alien. My mind couldn’t wrap itself around the concept. My memories were of having sex with a woman, not an alien. The thought that the woman I had kissed, had been intimate with, was not even human was unacceptable to me. We hadn’t just had sex; we had had good sex.
Agent Parker brought me out of my reverie, “Mr. James, you’re going to have to come with us. For your own safety. We have no idea what such…intimate…contact with a Cassiopeian could mean. Our doctors are going to have to examine you.”
Without knowing how I knew, I realized that if I allowed myself to go with them I would never come home again. At least not for a very long time. They intended to study me, quarantine me. I was the man who had screwed an alien.
My heart was beating fast, but I smiled weakly, “And if I say no?”
“It wasn’t a request,” spoke the heretofore silent Agent Goodson, his black gun ominously in hand.
Agent Parker agreed, “Mr. James, don’t make this more difficult than it needs to be. Surely you understand that something of this magnitude needs to be contained. We need to make sure that your contact with the alien didn’t in some way jeopardize you or others.”
I sighed and nodded, putting a hand over my eyes. They were right, of course. It was what I would do if I were them. But I knew I was not going to go with them, regardless. Some part of my mind recognized that I was not being entirely rational, but I couldn’t overcome my feeling that to go with them was a mistake.
“You’re right,” I lied to the Agents, “I should get checked out.” They relaxed visibly as I acquiesced to their demand. “I’m a little sick to my stomach,” I added, “This is a lot to take in. I need to use the restroom.”
Agent Parker nodded as I walked to the bathroom, “You have three minutes before the rest of the team gets here.”
I am one of those safety conscious guys who has multiple escape routes from every room he is in. I never expected to have to use one in my own house. I had only bought the roll-away fire ladder for its intended purpose – to escape from a fire when the hallway was burning. It wasn’t even long enough to reach the ground; it was 18-feet short.
Nevertheless, I very quietly removed the ladder from my linen closet and opened the bathroom window. I made the occasional sick moan to convince the Agents that I was in the throes of gastro-distress. Once the ladder was hooked securely to the window , I threw out the ladder and simultaneously flushed the toilet to cover the noise of the chain as it unraveled.
I was only halfway down the ladder when they Agents must have realized they had been had. I heard shouts and looked up to see Agent Parker leaning out the window staring at me. I started descending faster.
A shot rang out and I looked back up sharply. He was shooting at me! As I watched, I saw him take careful aim with his gun. I let go of the ladder with my feet and slid in a controlled fall, wincing as the Agent’s shot whistled past my ear. I had to get down, and fast, before they thought to simply unhook the ladder and let me fall to my death.
Suddenly I knew I had to find her. I had to find out why she chose me. Why she fucked me, literally, and what it all meant.
… to be continued?