Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Looking for Aliens

by Matthew Denvir

The fallen autumn foliage was up to Jimmy’s ankles.  As he walked through the woods, little bits of brown and red leaves stuck to the Velcro on his sneakers.  The trees were thin and tall, dull brown with few branches.  When Jimmy looked up he could see the tops swaying in the October wind.  They made creaking noises that echoed through the woods.  And though there were many trees, all around Jimmy and as far as he could see, there was enough room for him to walk easily through the forest.  He was deep in the woods; he was looking for aliens.
            He carried with him a bright yellow squirt gun.  It was filled with water, just in case the aliens were allergic.  He saw an alien on television once who was allergic to water, and he figured it was a good theory.  Around his neck he wore a blue and red scarf, to show whomever he came across that he was an American.  Under each of his big brown eyes were three lines of face paint.  Brown, green, and black.  The paint felt cool against his cheeks when he faced the wind.  He wore all green.  He felt he could blend into the forest, not be noticed, like a tiger in long grass.
            Jimmy checked the compass that hung from around his neck.  It was made of clear plastic, and the needle and markings were red.  He knew it pointed north, always.  His father taught him how to use it.  He twisted the compass so that the “N” and the needle were aligned, and he looked west.  West was where he wanted to go, deeper into the woods.
            As he walked he kicked up leaves with his white sneakers.  It hadn’t rained in some time and the leaves were very dry.  They made a swooshing sound when he kicked.  He picked one up and crumpled it in his hand.  The tiny bits stuck to his sweaty palms, and he wiped his hand on his pants.  On a tree he saw a caterpillar.  It was brown with black tips, and fuzzy.  He put his finger up to its mouth and it stopped climbing the tree.  It curled upward and swayed around before climbing on Jimmy’s hand.  It felt like a feather brushing his finger.  Jimmy flung it to the ground, and continued west.  There were no signs of aliens yet.
            Ahead of him, Jimmy saw a flower.  Its petals were light purple like Easter eggs, and they surrounded what looked like little orange tentacles.  Jimmy had never seen this sort of flower before, and thought it was strange to see one this time of year.  It was solitary, proudly standing alone above the fallen leaves.  Jimmy decided to practice his aim on it.  He closed his left eye and lifted his squirt gun up to his right.  He moved his right leg behind his body and stiffened.  He began to pump pressure into the squirt gun until it became too hard to pump.  He aimed, and pulled the trigger.  A light hissing accompanied the stream of water.  It hit the flower right in the center.  Jimmy knew his aim was good and moved on.
            There was no sun, so Jimmy didn’t have to squint.  The air felt cool and moist, and the sky was blanketed by grey clouds.  It would probably rain soon.  As Jimmy walked he saw the cracked shell of a light blue egg resting upon a small cluster of dry leaves.  The egg looked like a strange eye that peered at Jimmy from the ground.  Next to the egg was the frail and feeble body of a baby bird, its mouth agape in a silenced scream.
            Something caught Jimmy’s gaze ahead of him.  About four feet up a tree there was a wound left by a branch ripped off at its base.  The tree bled a sticky clear ooze, and the splintered wood stuck out the side with sharp points.  Jimmy wondered, could this be a sign of aliens?  He had never seen a branch ripped off like that.  He looked around the tree to try to find the branch, but there was nothing but leaves and dry dirt.  If a bear had ripped off the limb, the branch would still lie on the ground.  No, this was no bear.  Something deliberately tore it off and left with it.  Jimmy wasn’t ready to sound the alarm just yet, but he was on his guard.  The aliens could be anywhere.
            Suddenly, a strange noise emerged from the wind and creaking trees.  Jimmy jumped, but didn’t quite hear what it was.  The wind subsided and the creaking stopped.  There was only silence.  Then again, the noise.  It sounded like a woman’s laugh.  It came from Jimmy’s right.  He figured he should follow it, and he did. 
            Again, there was the laugh.  It was distant and muffled, but Jimmy knew he was going in the right direction.  As he walked, he could hear the faint sounds of human voices among the squawking birds and swaying trees.  The laugh again.  It wasn’t loud and cackling, but soft and playful.  Were these aliens?  Had they mimicked human voice?  Jimmy wasn’t sure.  A cold wind tore through the forest and he shivered.  He was frightened and cold.  But he was also excited.  Curiosity propelled him forward.  He was determined to see what was making the noise.
            The next sound was not a laugh, but a moan.  It sounded like the trees in the wind, but it was not.  It was human, and it traveled through the woods, echoing from tree to tree and into his ear.  Jimmy knew it was human.  There it was again, the strange groan.  Jimmy became more frightened, but pressed on.  It sounded strange, as though arisen from neither pain nor pleasure but some kind of mutation of both.  The sound was at once terrifying and infinitely alluring.  Was this the trap of aliens?  Was this how they tempted little boys to their mothership?  It sounded like a call, luring Jimmy like bugs in the night to a streetlamp.  The strange sound echoed through the woods again, this time much louder.  Jimmy was close.
            He came to a rocky ledge.  It was a grey and weathered boulder that protruded from the earth atop a slight incline that led to flat ground.  It was only about twenty feet up.  Jimmy saw the cause of the noise at the bottom of the incline, next to a softly flowing creek.  On a large bed of leaves, the limbs of two naked bodies were intertwined and slowly rocking back and forth.  On top was a man, brown and muscular and shining with sweat.  Under him, a woman.  Her skin was a ghostly white, her legs and arms wrapped tightly around the man.  Her hair was golden brown, and it fell around her face and blended into the fall leaves.  She looked to the sky with closed eyes and mouth agape in an open half smile, her head rocking back and forth.
            Jimmy looked on; frightened, confused, and intrigued.  His mind no longer was concerned with aliens, just these two people.  It seemed like a strange ritual.  He thought that, whatever it was, this was the perfect spot to do it.  There were trees as far as sight could allow, and no unnatural or jarring sounds.  There were no people around either.  It was secluded, removed from suburbia.  There was danger here, and no distraction.
            The woman’s eyebrows curled upward and she sucked her lips inward.  She moaned.  It was loud and uninhibited.  This was the sound Jimmy followed.  This was the sound that frightened and propelled him.  Her fingers were pressed hard against the man’s back.  They caused little valleys in his skin.  Suddenly, she opened her eyes and turned her head.  She locked on to Jimmy. 
            “Shit!” she yelled, and scrambled out from under the man.  Jimmy jumped, and the squirt gun fell out of his hands and tumbled and scraped down the rocky incline.  The man quickly turned toward the noise and saw Jimmy.  Immediately, the man ran over to a pile of clothes and began frantically rummaging through them.  Jimmy stood trembling, unable to flee.
            “Who the fuck is this kid?” the man said.
            “How should I know,” said the woman, “Don’t curse in front of him.”  She was calmer, content with holding a blue blouse over her breasts and sitting as to not reveal herself.  The man was quickly pulling up a pair of khakis to his waist.
            “Get the hell out, ya hear!” he yelled up to Jimmy.  “Go on now, get out.” 
            Jimmy couldn’t move.
            “What are you deaf?  I said get out!  Go on home, now.”
            The woman touched the man’s leg to try to calm him.
            “Robert,” she said, “His gun.”
            “He dropped his toy gun.  I think that’s all he wants.”
            “I don’t give a shit about the gun…”
            “Don’t curse in front…”
            “I said I don’t give a damn about the gun, he should just get out!”  He turned to look at Jimmy.  “You hear me, son!  Get on, now.  Go.  Go home.”
            Jimmy still couldn’t move.  He stood as straight as the trees around him, and with his head down.  His mouth was neither frowning nor smiling.  He felt his throat tighten and his eyes start to glisten.  His fists were clenched at his side.
            “You’re scaring him, Robert,” said the woman.  Her voice was low but feminine, motherly and soothing.
            “You want to come get your gun?” she said up to Jimmy, “It’s okay, it really is.  I’m not mad, okay?  You can come get your gun if you want.  He won’t yell at you anymore, I promise.”
            Jimmy hesitated, then slowly eased his way down the hill.  The man stood with his khaki pants on, shaking his head at the woman.
            “Be careful,” she said.
            Jimmy made sure to avert his eyes from them.  He didn’t want to look at them.  He stayed focused on the ground.
            “That’s it.  It’s okay.  We’re not going to hurt you.”
            The gun was near the woman.  Jimmy walked up to it and bent down to pick it up.  All the while, he kept his eyes focused downward.  The man sighed.
            “Listen, son,” he said, “I’m sorry I yelled.”  He had his hands on his hips.  “I, um, I didn’t mean to frighten you.  You just, um, you just startled us is all.”
            The woman laughed.  The man glared at her then turned back to Jimmy.
            “I hope you understand that I wasn’t mad, just a little startled.  Okay?”  His voice was low and masculine.  He spoke slowly and with emphasis, as if giving a speech.  Jimmy didn’t respond.  He just looked to the ground, his sweaty palms gripping the plastic toy gun.
            “You just shouldn’t be sneaking up on people, okay?” said the man, “I, um, I think you’ve learned your lesson and all and I’m sure you won’t do that again.  Well if that’s all understood, you can go now.”
            Jimmy didn’t move.  The man stared at him.
            “You can go now, son.  I’m not mad.  You can…uh…I promise I’m not mad at you.  You can go home now.”
            Jimmy still did not move.
            “It’s okay.  You can go, now.  Come on now, your mother’s probably worried sick.  You can go home.”
            The woman slowly reached over and took hold of Jimmy’s hand.
            “What’s your name?” She smiled.  Jimmy struggled to find a voice in his heavy throat.
            “Jimmy,” he cracked, “But my Dad calls me Jim.”
            “What do you like to be called?”
            Jimmy shrugged.
            “Can I call you Jimmy?”
            He nodded.
            “Jimmy, it’s okay.  You can look at me.”
            He looked up.  She smiled at him, her thin pink lips stretched to the bottom of her cheeks.  Her eyes were bright blue and piercing, with their own kind of smirk as if they knew a secret no one else did.
            “I’m sorry,” Jimmy said.
            “Don’t be.”
            Jimmy sniffled.
            “What were you doing out here?” she asked.
            “I dunno.”
            “You don’t know?  Why do you have a compass and a squirt gun?  And face paint?”
            Jimmy wiped the snot that dripped from his nose.
            “I was looking for, uh, aliens, I guess.”
            The man let out a loud laugh that caused a nearby flock of birds to scatter into the sky.  The woman shot him a glance and he stopped laughing to resume dressing.  She looked back to Jimmy.
            “Well,” she said, “I hope you find some nice ones.  Some good aliens, right?  You don’t want to find any bad ones.”
            She rubbed his hand with her thumb and smiled at him, still holding the blouse to cover her breasts.  Her hand was warm and smooth.
            “Are you okay now?” she asked.
            Jimmy slowly shook his head.
            “Okay.  Good.  Do you want to go back home?”
            “Okay.  You can go home.”
            “Goodbye, Jimmy”
            Jimmy turned and quickly scampered up the incline.  The rock at the top was moist and slippery.  It had begun to lightly rain.  When he got to the top he bolted through the forest.  The leaves made a loud rustling sound under his feet.  The moist air condensed on his cheeks.  As he ran he leapt over fallen branches and small bushes.  He darted through the trees like a running back.  His heavy breathing became visible in the cold air.  He heard the distant rumble of thunder.
            He didn’t look at his compass; he didn’t have to.  He knew where to go.  The thunder came again.  It started as a low rumble, but was then interrupted by a shattering crack that seemed to unhinge the sky from the earth.  Jimmy’s heart was pounding against his ribs.  It began to pour.
            Jimmy started to cry.  He didn’t know why he started crying, he just did.  He didn’t fight it.  He let the tears flow from his eyes and get lost in the rain.  He let the mucus run out his nose and into his mouth.  His whining gasps were intermittingly lost in thunder and blinding lightning.
            He burst out of the line of trees and into the field next to his house.  No more forest.  It was slippery, and the grass was tall enough to slap against his legs.  He was glad he wasn’t wearing shorts.  Across the field, through the rain, he saw his home at the edge of the neighborhood.  On a lightly populated cul-de-sac, it looked like a safe haven, far away from danger and confusion.  The rain pounded against the roof and the brick walls that Jimmy sprinted toward.  He longed for the warmth and comfort of his room.
            When he got to the house, he quickly jumped up the porch steps and flung open the front door.  He ran inside, and slammed the door shut.  It was quiet.  The only sound came from the rain outside, thousands of drops thudding against brick and glass.  It was soothing.  Jimmy began breathing more slowly.  He was standing in the living room, dripping, his crying reduced to a light whimper and the occasion sniffle.  His ears adjusted and he could hear the light ticking of the clock in the kitchen.  There was nobody home.  His older brother was supposed to be here, babysitting him.  But there was nobody.
            He walked over to the bathroom to wash the snot off his face.  When he did, the water in the sink looked brownish green.  He remembered the face paint.  He got a paper towel and scraped it off.  When he was finished, his face was red from the abrasive towel, but the paint was gone.  He looked in the mirror and smiled to see his missing front teeth.
            He went down to the laundry room in the basement to get clean clothes.  There were some in the dryer; someone must have done the laundry.  They were warm and dry.  When he put them on he shivered, as if to settle into their comforting warmth.
            He walked back up stairs and pulled a kitchen chair up to the window.  He gazed out into the rain and marveled at the thunder.  He felt better now; he wasn’t crying anymore.  The rain was tapping against the screen beyond the window.  Jimmy rested his forehead against the glass.  He watched the lightning, and wondered where it came from.



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