Deliveries

The delivery trucks were lined up on Main Street as he took his morning walk. The doors opened up. The ramps came down. People began walking down them.

It wasn’t encouraged to stand and gawk, but slowing, he watched with a sly side gaze. The newcomers seemed like an older lot and mostly white, which gave a grimace to his face. He preferred it when they brought in young people, especially when they brought in young men. Spilling out on the sidewalks, they had the befuddled look that he’d seen before on others, the look that asked, “Where am I? How did I get here? What’s my name? Do I know you?”

He wondered who they’d be, and whether any would become friends. Ambivalence hedged his thoughts about the answer. On the one hand, he wasn’t supposed to remember these things. Meeting a new delivery always fueled temptations to share his secrets with them. He wanted to whisper to them, “Psss, did you know that you died and were resurrected? You’re just like Jesus.” He always wanted to giggle about it.

Not that it was a laughing matter, having a dead population that was always being resuscitated and put into communities to give them a lived-in look. That’s how it goes when you lose the war.

The victors dictate the terms for peace.

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Rapport

The dark-haired feral girl’s name was Courtney, a tidbit discovered via computers when she stormed into his office.

“I should have a computer, too,” she said. An edge of angry tears quivered in her tone. “I have friends. I miss people. That’s not just your computer. It belongs to both of us.” She smirked. A tear rolled down her face. She wiped it off. “We’re both pets.”

This was a change. He’d seen her three times since her arrival. Once when he was eating, she stamped in and started going through the cupboards and refrigerator. The second time, he saw her prowling the cage’s perimeter. Guessing she was looking for a way out, he watched her a bit. When boredom crept in, he drifted away.

The third sighting was a little later. Cleaning in the kitchen, he looked out and saw her trying to shimmy up a cage bar. Idiot, he thought.

“Of course, you’re right,” he said, standing, trying to be reasonable, friendly, and diplomatic. “My name is Thomas, by the way.” He put out his hand.

She pushed past him to the laptop – his laptop. “Whatever,” she said.

Je-sus. “Do you need help with anything?”

Stopping everything, she said, “It’s a computer,” as if that answered and explained everything.

She typed in her name. Courtney. 

“Your name is Courtney?” he said.

“No, that’s my alias,” she said. Swinging around, she said, “Do you mind? Can I have some privacy?”

“Yes. Of course.”

This set up the constant battle. She was always on the computer, getting on the computer, or asking him to get on the computer. He liked his computer time . Now he had to share it with her. Courtney.

He knew he was being irrational and selfish. Didn’t matter. He used the network for porn, games, and searching for news. His friends weren’t on Facebook. All those accounts for the relationships built through the years were listed as inactive. Many emails bounced back. None of his friends tweeted back to him.

Must be something the aliens are doing, he figured. The aliens were damn cunning.

Like the language thing. He was pleased his owner (God, he hated to think of that) had learned his name was Thomas. He remembered, though, the aliens were using a device to speak the languages of Earth when they arrived. That included English. Where were those devices now? Apparently people authorized to have human pets were not allowed to openly communicate with them. Bet it’s worries over the Stockholm Syndrome, he figured.

They didn’t want the masters and their pets to develop a rapport.

****

Previous Pet stories

Pet

His House

His Name

Her

Her

Noises awoke Thomas.

He was a little embarrassed by that. He’d been pleased to find “Unforgiven” on the streaming offerings. This dovetailed with his recent thinking that being an alien’s pet wasn’t that much different from being retired. There were some restrictions, like he wasn’t allowed to travel, and he missed his coffee shop and going to the movies and concerts, but on the other hand, he had no money worries, and his health seemed better than it had in years.

Yes, there were no people around, but he’d never been a people person, as the phrase had been popularized. People seemed like energy vampires, draining him of some essential, personal essence. The trend had grown worse as he’d aged. They seemed so shrill, and had such flawed thinking and expressed it poorly. That trend developed a new practice for him of avoiding people. So the lack of people now was…not…bad.

Bottom line, this life wasn’t that bad. He’d decided to enjoy it.

So he’d broken open a bottle of California red wine, found some Colby cheese and crackers from the supplies they’d given him, and watched “Unforgiven,” in the middle of the day. And he’d fallen asleep, right when William Munny was coming into town after Little Bill because Little Bill had killed Ned Logan. In other words, close to the end.

The movie was over. Now, there was this. Noises.

The noises were coming from above. Disconcerting. He’d never heard anything like them. He went out into his yard to investigate.

What he saw was two of the grey-green aliens with yellow eyes. His master — or mistress, if the alien was female — or should he bother with such sexist distinctions? — was standing to one side. “Thomas,” she said.

Thomas nodded, and waved. “Hello.”

She and the others made the noises that Thomas had indexed as laughing.

She held up her hand. In it was a female.

A young one, by appearances. Perhaps a teenager. He wasn’t competent when guessing others’ ages.

“Oh, no,” Thomas said. Understanding was rising. They were removing the top to deliver a new person to his set. The new person was a female.

Yes, on the cusps of that understanding, the top was raised, and a small, white girl was hand-delivered to the yard not far from him.

“No,” Thomas said. “No. I’m gay.”

Laughing and talking, the aliens returned the top to the cage. Fucking alien morons. 

Thomas looked at the newcomer. She looked as angry as a feral cat.

This was going to be fun.

His Name

His grey-green master came to see him in the morning.

The sun was up, and it was eight thirty by his clocks, which seemed accurate. He’d just completed showering, shaving, and his other personal matters when he turned and saw her. His house was at a level where she could comfortably look in on him without bending much.

The intrusion infuriated him. Shouting profanities at her tempted his tongue, but he held back, instead smiling at her. Still smiling, he gave a mock smile and bowed. He wondered how she would take that, and then turned his back on her to go down and make breakfast.

“Tolleaf,” she said.

She’d said that before, he remembered. Stopping, he turned and looked up at her.

“Tolleaf,” she said.

This is probably his name, he realized. What she’d decided to call him. He shook his head. “No. No.” Pointing at himself, he said, “Thomas.”

“Tolleaf,” she said.

“Thomas,” he said. He hit his chest with his fist. “Thomas. Thomas.” He hit his chest again. “Thomas.”

Bending closer to his house, she opened her yellow eyes wide. He watched her irises and pupils change. The capillaries and arteries in her eyes looked like a garden hose.

“Thomas?” she said.

Thomas nodded. “Yes.” He nodded again and pointed at himself. “Thomas.”

“Thomas,” she said.

He felt sick that this made him feel happy.

His House

Comfortably furnished, he was starting to like his house.

He was less certain that he liked his host. (Hostess?) He didn’t know her and little understood her, or even if it was a female, or if they had sexes. In his words, she was grey-green with yellow eyes. Unlike the invasion’s early day descriptions, though, he saw that they weren’t all the same color. One of his host’s frequent visitors was very light grey while another was forest green. Grey, green, and in between, that’s what they seemed to be. They all had yellow, parietal eyes, and were hairless, of the parts of them he saw. They liked watching him. In the early days, he’d sat motionless, glaring back at them. Once in a while, he shouted at them. He quit shouting at them because he thought they enjoyed that. Now he treated them with indifference and went about his day as if his captors weren’t present.

His house had running water and electricity. Located in a cage that presented him with a large yard all around it, his house was built for a family of five. About twenty-one hundred square feet, the split level featured three bedrooms and two and a half baths, along with a two car garage. There wasn’t a car. A full complement of appliances, dishes, and cookery was made available to him. They liked it when he cooked and ate.

The house’s front had been removed and replaced by a fine screen. He guessed that was so they could see in and watch him all of the time. Food was delivered in a shopping cart once a week. It was funny to see these creatures, twenty times larger than him, push a shopping cart his size into the little secure delivery area. They only opened the outer door on it when the inner door to his area was closed. It was a prison.

Besides frozen pizzas and dry cereals, they gave him cartons of milk and juice, bottles of wine and cases of beer, and fresh meats, snack foods, and produce. He didn’t know where these goods came from.

He didn’t have a phone, but he had two televisions, and a laptop, and he was connected to an Internet. Streaming shows were available, but nothing new. At times, ruminating about his existence, he mourned that he would never know how “Game of Thrones” ended. He posted on a blog every day, and others commented, and he shared emails. None of that helped them understand. All were in cages like him.

From the scenes and events described by others, he was beginning to picture entire human cities in cages.

 

Unusual Dream

I dream a lot. I remember a lot of dreams. My dreams tend toward consistent themes, symbols, objects and settings. That makes them comfortable and helpful. So this dream, last night, was different.

One, I wasn’t in it.

Two, it was about aliens.

I don’t dream usually dream about aliens. Perhaps I have and I don’t remember it now. Maybe I will with more thought.

The dream was odd in its structure, too. My voice was in the dream but I wasn’t ever seen. No people were seen. No creatures were seen.

Short, the dream opened with a screen. It felt tense. On the screen was a black and white maze with thick black lines around fat white alleys. “What is this?” I can be heard to ask. Others can be heard asking the same question.

It’s material, I realize. This isn’t a maze; it’s a diagram of materials. “It’s the aliens,” I hear someone say.

“You’re right,” I answer, having an epiphany. “It’s the aliens. They’re going to show us how they’ll do it.”

The screen changed as I spoke. Some of the white maze alleys inflated and changed color, becoming aubergine. “They’re applying heat,” I said. “The materials are reacting to the heat. They want us to know what they’re going to do and how they do it.”

“Oh,” others said, agreeing and understanding.

The alien screen returned to its original configuration. The entire process was repeated.

“But why?” someone asked. “What are they showing us?”

Watching the maze, I realized, “That’s them. Part of the maze is them. Or they are part of the maze. Applying heat changes the structure. That isolates them. Then they’ll be able to safely mind meld with us.”

“Ahhh,” others said.

I was satisfied in the dream, whereupon I awoke, clueless about what it means. This is going to require a lot of reflection.

I may need more coffee.

What I’m Watching

Here’s an update to my viewing habits with hopes that others will point me into new directions.

I cut the television cable cord several years ago. With digital indoor antennae, I receive signals from ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS. We have a Roku and a ‘smart’ television and subscribe to Acorn TV, Amazon Prime, HBO Now, Hulu and Netflix streaming.

It’s easy to binge through a year, a season, or a series. I’m constantly on the hunt for new offerings. I like intelligent police procedurals, good British black humor, and…well, intelligent and interesting shows.

Acorn is often one of my favorite sources. They don’t have a large catalog but they manage to pull in good finds from Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the UK. I already raced through ’19-2′, which is an entertaining series but a little uneven. Right now, I’m watching ‘Deep Water’ at the painfully slow pace of one new episode a week, and ‘Raised by Wolves’, restricting myself to one of those per night.

I’m on my last episode. I’m bracing for withdrawal. That series is just too short.

Over on Amazon Prime, I’m finishing up on the excellent ‘The Night Manager’. Based on a John Le Carre novel and staring Hugh Laurie, Tom Hiddleston and Olivia Coleman, it has a terrific supporting cast and is tremendously well written, acted, directed and plotted. High marks all around. I’ve already completed ‘Goliah’. I began ‘Fleabag’ but disliked and dismissed it after one episode. However, a dinner companion the other night told me to persevere because it gets better. We’d been comparing shows and books (I’ve convinced her to attempt Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan quartet again as she gave up reading ‘My Brilliant Friend’) so I’m inclined to trust her. She also recommended ‘Good Girls Revolt’. It’s been added to my Amazon list.

Viewing is pretty shallow on HBO Now. ‘Westworld’ is the main draw…. I watch ‘Tracy Ullmann’ or whatever it’s called and that has some enjoyable skits. Her talents still amaze me.

I returned to Hulu for a reduced price after a few months off of them. Sadly, there’s not much that I see as quality from this consortium of major corporations. I’ve watched Casual’ but the characters remain too self-absorbed and shallow, with thin and slightly recurring issues for it to remain an interesting show. I’m watching ‘The Musketeers’ but it’s popcorn for dinner when you wanted lasagna. Someone recommended ‘Blind Spot’ the other night so I’ll give it a go. I’m a Jeffrey Donovan fan so I’ll also try his new offering when it arrives in December. I’ve also started ‘Aliens’ but it’s not holding my interest. We’ll see.

Netflix continues to pull something out of the bag for me. After ‘Orange is the New Black’, ‘Stranger Things’, ‘Grace and Frankie’, and ‘River’, they gave me the final season of ‘The Fall’. I’ve also enjoy ‘Luke Cage’ on there, and to a lessor extent, ‘Dark Matters’. The last perplexes me with its industrialized vision of future travel, where keyboards remain the rage. (Or is it an alternative universe?) ‘iZombie’ was finished as far as the episode list was concerned. It’s suffering some growing pains. ‘Longmire’ has been completed to date and we watch ‘The Crown’, but their offering of Queen Elizabeth II seems so diffident, weak and unsure that we’re taken aback. We also spend much time searching for information about how much of it was true and what’s being dramatized to provide better theater. Now I’m enjoying ‘Paranoid’ and ‘Doctor Foster’  although I find neither unqualified viewing success. ‘Paranoid’ disappoints me because it features so many actors I enjoy (like Leslie Sharp, who was terrific in ‘Happy Valley’) but I’m not overly fond of the characters, especially Nina, who I consider too flaky. Her flakiness is inconsistent and I detest character inconsistency. It’s one thing if they develop as inconsistent and are known to be so but this seems to be used a device to pad the episodes and provide extra tension, basically weak and lazy writing.

And that’s where I stand, on the precipice of a viewing gap. That’s not bad, if that’s the worse matter happening in my personal life, and it is. Besides that, several interesting movies are now out (I’m thinking of ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ and ‘Arrival’) to go see, and I have several stacks of novels to read.

But if you happen to have something else worth watching, please, please…share.

 

 

 

 

What Do They Wear?

I used to sing this ditty in the evening during my corporate existence:

“What shall I wear tomorrow? What shall I wear tomorrow? What shirt should I don, what pants should I put on? Oh, what should I wear, what should I wear?” I added more verses over the months, and then some dance steps. It became a whole Gilbert and Sullivan thing.

My wife hated it. I don’t blame her. She has good taste. Her only lapse is me.

The cats also weren’t pleased, giving me the look shared when they deem the food in their bowls unworthy of being eaten.

A confrontation is happening on the Wrinkle. I’m dressing my aliens as part of the scene, as it’s their first full on appearance, forcing me to regurgitate my old song. What do my aliens wear? Novel and movie aliens I’ve known, loved and despised darted through my thinking. My aliens are pretty uniform, partly be genetic exercise, so should they be uniformed? How much clothing is sufficient clothing for these travelin’ space people?

(Could Travelin’ Space People be a punk folk group? “She was on my ship; I shot from the hip. She had four eyes; they were full of surprise.”)

Dressing aliens isn’t an easy exercise, requiring thought about the many roles clothing can play an how these roles are parlayed into their mighty structure.

I think I need more coffee for this. Add some Irish whiskey to the four shots of espresso, please. It’s time to write like mad.

Just Write

Just write, I told myself. The aliens hadn’t yet arrived in my head, but I can’t wait for the aliens. I need to write. If you’re not writing, you’re standing still, (with the caveats, naturally, that if you’re editing, polishing, rewriting, etc., you are still engaged in the writing process, so you’re technically still writing).

These aren’t things I say out loud. Friends and relatives probably don’t know that my increased quiet is because I’m dreaming about aliens, trying to entice them out of the air and into my head (kind of like the old Billy Ocean song, “Get out of my dreams, and into my car.” I had asked my wife and others what aliens they like in books, films and games, or who were their favorite aliens. Great conversation fodder. The baristas, twenty year old women, were into it, and the barista today created an alien on my mocha. She then brought the alien topic up for her co-worker, who didn’t work yesterday when I asked, re-invigorating the conversation.

I derived beautiful thoughts from all these words. Yet the aliens remained nebulous, refusing to get into my car. Just write, I told myself, and they will come. Okay, so what will I write? I was picking up the scenes already created. They’re wonderful stepping stones, and although I wasn’t quite to the scene that arose to be written today, I shrugged. Okay, that’s what I’ll write, and then I’ll write the bridge to it from where I’m at later. No Big Deal. I write like this all the time, seeing what is to be and writing it because I want to, and then returning to bridge the pieces together.

So what happens in the novel today? This happens, and then that happens, and then, boom, there it is, writing stuff about aliens and plot exploding into me, firing off flares and tracers that illuminated what is to be.

Beautiful. Yeah, here I go, just write like crazy, one more time. Let the rest worry itself.

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