"Home Coming"

I loved meteor showers. When I was thirteen, Aileen and I had climbed onto the roof of my dad’s barn and watched the night sky alight with the glittering rain. I’d reached between her fingers with mine. That night I had my first kiss.

This was my second meteor shower. This time I was alone with my 1985 Ford Bronco, lying on the hood along the side of a lonely, dirt road that connected my dad’s farm with the state highway. The little fires zipped across the sky. I held binoculars in my hand and tried to see rocks bursting into flame as they skipped across the atmosphere. Then, I saw a glinting thing break off from the herd of falling stars. I sat up and watched it crash into a copse of trees a couple of miles away and burst with a brilliant flash of flame and debris.

My heart made a drum roll in my chest. I needed to get to whatever that was, and I needed to do it before anyone else. Thank god my Bronco was made for this. I drove it over a rocky, empty, uneven field that tried my ability to keep the SUV upright and stopped at the edge of the burning forest. I got out of the car and walked as far as I could go before I felt the heat pulsing against my face and arms. I couldn’t see anything through the smoke and heat and finally had to cover my nose and eyes when I started to feel tears and a scratching pain in the back of my throat. Then I heard a whimper through the roaring flames. A twisted, desperate cry. I looked back into the fire and saw a small figure pushing through the inferno. My breath caught in my throat as I watched the tiny, vulnerable creature, with white, uniform skin, no eyes, no nose, no mouth, and stick-thin legs and arms fall at my feet and groan weakly.

I woke from my stupor and pulled the creature up. It was surprisingly light–so much so that I almost threw it into the air. I lifted it over my shoulder and took it with me to the side of my SUV. The creature was very still as I put it back down on the ground, its skin around its midsection rising and falling slowly as if it was trying to catch its breath. Then it reached up with one hand and started to pull on the skin over its face. With a sick squish, it tore off a bit of the white flesh and pulled. Underneath were two large, green eyes over a little nose.

The creature took in a long breath.

Now I recognized the white skin for what it was–some sort of protective suit. And I knew what I had to do. I took the loose bits of skin and pulled, watching it peel and tear off from the body of the creature. Slowly, it was reviving, and it started to help me, pulling its arms and legs out of the sleeves. It was naked but for a small metal cup between its legs. Its leathery, gray skin was wet with some sort of gel, probably to keep the white suit-skin from sticking to his flesh. It looked a lot like a child with malnutrition, with eyes too large and no ears to speak of. Its head had no hair, but some scale-like indentations over its forehead and crown.

I decided that the creature was male because it had a covering between its legs but none over his chest. I took off my shirt and gave it to him. He stared at me for a little bit, then let his eyes slide down to my hand. His tiny, lipless mouth spread into the shape of a ring. Then he said something soft and melodic and took my shirt, clumsily sliding it over his head the way he’d seen me do it. I smiled at him, and he took two of the four fingers on his hand and spread his lips further out, mimicking my smile.

The creature looked up, and I followed his gaze. The meteor shower had stopped, and two jet fighters were roaring across the field. We watched them together as they soared around the fire and then started to circle around. All of this–a ship falling out of the sky, this thing that had my red shirt humorously covering him from shoulder to knee, military flying over head, probably men in black on their way–was insane. Something out of the TV.

“Are you an alien?” I asked stupidly.

He said, “Alien.” Then he pointed at the fighters.

“No, no,” I explained. “This is my home. I live here.”

The alien looked up into the sky. “Here. Home.”

I was pretty sure he wasn’t understanding me, but his ability to mimic English was impressive. I’d been told that I had a little bit of a Texas accent, and I swore I could hear it in the alien’s broken words. “Here’s my home. You wanna come with me?” I asked, worried about the fighters.

The alien kept his eyes fixed on the sky. “Home come here,” he said. Then he pointed up.

There were no stars anymore. A loud buzzing sound shot across the field, and both fighters immediately lost control and hit each other on their way back down to Earth. They left a pillar of sparks and smoke as they landed out of view. Then, the black sky was torn by circling lights coming through the darkness like alligators raising their heads out of water. The sky filled with them–circling lights on metal disks, hundreds of them, all suddenly coming into view.

I felt tiny, leathery fingers reaching between mine.