by Mark Renney
I always arrived home from work at least two or three hours earlier than my girlfriend and I cherished this time alone. It wasn’t that I did anything in particular, and I didn’t utilise the hours constructively by taking care of housework or preparing the evening meal. No, instead I listened to music or simply sat with a book, not really reading but just enjoying the quiet and the opportunity for contemplation.
I realised that I was only ever truly on my own during those few hours in the early evenings, Monday to Friday. The significance of this, over the course of a year or so, gradually deepened. I had started planning ahead in as far as it was possible to plan for time spent playing CDs and languidly re-reading some of my favourite books. I had built up the importance of this in a way that I was unable to articulate or rationalise.
When the Alien first appeared, or perhaps materialised would be a better way of describing his arrival, I had been sitting with a paperback open but face down across my knee, staring into space – into the very space out of which he struggled to conjure himself. Blurred, as if reflected in water, in some murky pool, he flashed in front of me repeatedly and slowly; ever so slowly he became clearer, taking on shape and form.
Quite frankly I had been disappointed. He was a little green man, his puny body engulfed in a makeshift robe of grey cloth. His limbs, hands and feet were tiny and his head large, as were his eyes staring back at me dolefully. I didn’t doubt that he was intelligent but waiting for him to talk I grew impatient and when at last he did speak he sounded exactly as I had suspected he would; I couldn’t help but laugh at the corny metallic twang and the sing-song delivery.
The Alien was unperturbed by my mirth. In fact, he seemed not to have noticed at all and now that he had started he ploughed on regardless. I hadn’t any choice but to pull myself together and listen. He was asking questions, raising subject after subject, barely pausing between each topic. I realised that I needed to push in, that if I started talking, he would stop, and so reluctantly I began.
As I had expected, he did stop. He didn’t sit but stood and listened attentively, even graciously, as I stumbled clumsily into the first of the many monologues I was forced to give over the coming months. I didn’t profess to be an authority on any of the hundreds of subjects I addressed and covered but I reckon I held my own. Although it was grudging, from the outset I strived to perform well. I discovered that I knew more than a little about quite a lot. Flitting back and forth across the decades and the centuries and around the world. But I resented every second of the time I was forced to endure with that little green man.
I despised him. His probing of me, his picking at my brain. His appearance, and that tinny voice I had at first found so amusingly unoriginal, began to grate.
Every evening when my girlfriend returned home and we heard her pull onto the driveway or fiddle with her key in the lock I stopped talking and so did he. The questions, his haranguing and enquiring of me – it all stopped and then he vanished, just like that. It was so much easier than the protracted and painfully slow and stuttering way in which he would reappear. But of course I knew that reappear he would and so it didn’t stop, not for me.
The Alien continued to haunt my every waking hour and I rarely slept. Everything I had, and all that I might have, was slipping away.
I hoped that it wouldn’t be necessary, that scared, he would disappear – but when I rose from the sofa and towered over him readying my hands he didn’t vanish. Maybe if I had loosened my grip – but that isn’t how it ended. I did what I had to do. I wrung the Alien’s neck.
Mark Renney lives in the UK and has had works published in Still, RaW NerVZ, The Interpreter’s House, Unbroken Journal and forthcoming in Spelk.