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"Roswell/Nebraska" by Franny Mestrich

I wanted to see an alien so I drove out to Roswell, but they didn’t realize I was looking for them until after I left town. It was three days later, in a Doubletree in Nebraska, when the lights finally flooded my vision and the creatures came out to say hello.

They’d found the note I left them, carved into an overturned stone in the New Mexico desert: my first name, the route I’d be taking back home, a partial sequence of my DNA, the name of the dog that ran away when I was six. This should be enough for them to find me, I thought, but just to be safe I cut off a lock of my hair with a Swiss army knife and buried it nearby in the sandy dirt.

They’d fallen behind on their correspondence, I guess. You can hardly blame them – there’s lots of lonely weirdos in that town, sending messages into the great beyond. When the aliens finally got to my rock, they piled into their flying saucer and headed up I-80, following the map I left for them.

This wasn’t an abduction, so instead of beaming me up they all zapped down into my rented room. There were at least a dozen of them, jostling for space on the bed, perching on the countertop, lounging on the brown-and-tan leaf-patterned carpet.

Only one of them talked to me, the smallest one with the greenest skin and a big head (proportionally speaking, compared to the others.) They told me their name but it was full of sounds I can’t pronounce or remember. They said you’re the first person who’s wanted us for something more than a picture.

I nodded. I had been hoping for a picture, actually, but now it seemed like it would be rude to ask. That’s okay, though – I had questions, and the questions were more important.

I wanted to know about the crop circles. When my sister disappeared, there were crop circles outside of her apartment. I knew that aliens didn’t take her – her shitty boyfriend and debt mountain were responsible for that. I just wanted to know what they were doing there, and why they showed up the same day my sister decided to change her name in Dubai or Sao Paulo or another one of those warm places. (She never specified which one.)

That wasn’t us, the alien said. I think ◎¥✵⌘¤◉’s cousin was on that ship though.

◎¥✵⌘¤◉ nodded.

Probably a prank, the smallest alien said. Those guys are always fucking with people.

What about the other ones, then? I wanted to know. The ones in Kansas and Arizona?

A couple of those were us, the alien said. The ones in Tolleson and Herington. Plus a couple more in Illinois. We were just trying to write out hello, but we didn’t know any of your alphabets so we had to use our own.

That seemed like it was gonna be a problem for all future communication attempts, too, I thought, but I didn’t wanna make them feel bad so I didn't mention it.

Are you trying to get humans to notice you? I asked.

The alien frowned. It looked weird on their almond-shaped mouth. That depends on who you ask, they said. We’re actually having some political problems – it’s controversial. You know, the whole “first contact” thing.

Will you get in trouble for talking to me, then? I asked. I was feeling kinda guilty about the rock I left for them, the desperate lock of my hair.

All dozen aliens laughed. It sounded like broken glass.

We’re already in trouble, buddy, the smallest one said. You really think we’d take a risk just to talk to you?

I tried not to let this hurt my feelings, but I have to admit I was a little offended. What do you mean trouble?

There’s a whole civil war going on about the human thing, they said, and we’re on the losing side. I think they could tell from my expression that I was gonna ask a follow up question, so they went ahead and explained it for me. The conservatives think if you guys know we’re out there you’ll try to genocide us. Someone translated a biography of Christopher Columbus a while back and it freaked them out.

There was a lot to unpack there. I didn’t want to stumble into a cosmopolitical blunder – I decided to stick with matters of this hotel room. Why are you here with me, then? I asked.

War is boring, the alien said. They laughed again, but this time no one else joined in. And we just found out about hotels. We wanted to see what one looked like.

They glanced around the room, not for the first time. It was unremarkably beige.

Are they all like this?

No, I said. But a lot of them are. A few major corporations are buying out all the small businesses and shit, and– do you guys know about capitalism?

The alien waved this away with their foot-long fingers – not interested. Is it true you get a – what is it called – a “continental breakfast”?

Yeah, I told them. Cereal and muffins and yogurt and shit. Sometimes they even have a waffle maker. And at this place they give you a warm cookie at check in. Chocolate chip.

The aliens exchanged significant glances with each other. This was big news.

Do you think we could try, the alien asked, hesitant, some of this “chocolate chip”?

Sure, I said. But first, can I get a picture?


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