‘Good morning!’ said a cheerful voice. I looked up from the garden and stared at the alien. He was standing on the footpath, but the sun was behind him, just above the horizon, and I couldn’t see his face against the glare.
‘Good morning,’ I answered, carefully. I stood up, dropping the weeds onto the grass beside me, and tried to get a look at him. He stepped closer and said: ‘It’s going to be a beautiful day, isn’t it?’ I saw his face was old and tanned and lined, and his hair was greying and sparse. He looked perfectly human. He started to reach out his hand, and then changed his mind.
‘It might rain,’ I said, humouring him. He looked doubtful, and the facial expression worked perfectly. ‘They look just like us.’ That’s what they say on the internet. ‘You can’t tell the difference. They take people away, and we don’t know what happens to them.’
He shrugged, and the gesture seemed human. His clothes were old, and suited him, as if they had all aged together. And he seemed uncontrollably happy, as if my glum mood couldn’t affect him. It must be our sun on his back, I thought. He’s not used to feeling this good. Vacuum of space and all. ‘Well, anyway,’ he rambled on and grinned, ‘I’m not from round here.’
He stopped. Then he said: ‘And I was wondering if you had any good places to have breakfast here.’ His conversation was the same, but he had changed. There was something about his eyes, something too slow, too watchful to be human.
I could feel the sweat trickle down the back of my neck, but I also felt a chill, in the air around me. Had he noticed it?
I swallowed, and tried to sound cheerful. ‘Well, there’s a few cafes down the road. There’s good ones on both sides of the street. Let me go through them one by one.’ But it was too late. The eyes were more watchful, more alien than ever.
‘How did you know?’ The words came slowly, carefully, utterly different to the way he’d been speaking.
I knew I had to say something, keep him talking, keep him wondering how I knew, for just a little bit longer. Someone might come along. But I could barely speak.
‘Why did you choose here?’ I rasped.
‘Anywhere would do,’ he said, in that cold, careful voice. ‘Anywhere there are people, and sunlight. I looked for the edge of night, for the place where morning had come, nice and early. I have the whole day, to study, and hunt …’ He paused, as if translating a difficult concept. ‘And feed,’ he finished.
His face froze, and he looked around slowly. He had noticed something was wrong, and it took a whole minute for him to work out what it was. Then he turned and stared at me as he realised he’d given himself away with the very first thing he had said. But he could barely move, and he kept staring in fright, as the day that he thought was beginning, slowly ended. After a few more minutes he lost his balance and fell backward and crunched on the concrete footpath. He rested there like a statue, his arms and legs frozen in place as if he was walking, as the night slowly fell around him.
He had looked for the edge of night, for the place where morning had come, nice and early. But he hadn’t noticed the planet spun the other way. I shuddered. Was he that hungry?
Copyright © 2014 David Farmer.
First published in our Infinitas Newsletter, December 2014.
This page last updated 13th Feb 2016.