This is the end of this story, which I've come to think of as Dinner Party, and I think that's what I'll continue to call it. I'd love to keep writing short stories on my blog and post them weekly as serials. Monthly and bi-monthly is obviously much too long of a wait. (Don't everyone all agree with me at once.) Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Or maybe you'll hate the end. Either way, I'd love to hear your thoughts.
If you haven't joined the party yet, you can catch up on all the previous parts here.
If you haven't joined the party yet, you can catch up on all the previous parts here.
from Coldplay's music video for Midnight
“Who are you?” Luke said at the same time Henry said, “It’s a ship?!” I hadn’t heard Henry that excited since Star Wars came out on Blu-ray.
“I’m Mrs. Cole’s neighbor,” the man said, stepping forward with his hand outstretched to Lida. “I’m so sorry…I couldn’t help but overhear your argument. Rob was killed in the, uh…disturbance. I can’t even begin to tell you…I’m so sorry.” And he truly looked it. He seemed more upset than Lida, who was obviously in shock.
“Well, earthquakes happen.” Lida sounded like she had a terrible head cold. “I’m sorry, I know we’ve met a few times, your name is David and your…um…other half, I can’t remember his name.”
“Caleb,” he said.
“It really is a ship?” Henry repeated. “One that flies in space?” He had his phone pointed at the ship and I knew he was taking photos, maybe even recording.
Now that I knew what it was, the form of a spacecraft emerged before my eyes like one of those 3D hidden images that you have to stare at and let your eyes cross. It looked huge to me but then it probably wasn’t half as large as Lida’s house, just taller. Its exterior was nearly the same color as the wall of stone surrounding it, like camouflage.
“How is that possible?” Luke said. “I mean, does that mean…you came from space?”
“You’re an alien?” Juliet blurted out.
Lida laughed that uncomfortable kind of laugh. “Juliet, don’t be rude! Of course he’s not an alien! Does he look like an alien to you?” Lida could always be counted on to supply social niceties in awkward situations. It was impressive, really. And she did have a point: David didn’t look like an alien at all.
But what did aliens look like?
“Well,” David said. “I suppose here on earth, that’s what you’d call me. On my planet, my people would call you aliens.”
Either he’s delusional or I’m stuck in an episode of the Twilight Zone. Probably both.
“You’re joking, right?” Alex said.
David just smiled.
“Actually, this all looks like a movie set,” Luke said.
“What movie?” Henry said, sounding much more defensive than the situation called for.
“I don’t know, I’m just saying,” Luke said, his tone pacifying. “We’re in Hollywood. They can do pretty much anything in the movies nowadays.”
It was true. The ship looked like something straight out of Star Wars; mainly like the Millenium Falcon the way the front tapered in from the rounded back. Parts of it protruded in random places that I had mistaken for rocks before.
Henry shook his head like the rest of us were too stupid to see something completely obvious. I thought he was taking this a little too personal. Being obsessed with scifi and fantasy, I could see how this was like one of his dreams come true, but what if this man who told us he was an alien was actually a psychopath who had somehow led us all down here to kill us?
I put my hand on Henry’s arm. “Henry, come on. We don’t have any proof that that’s a spaceship or that David is actually an alien.”
“Okay,” Henry said, looking to David. “There has to be some way to prove to us you’re an alien. Why don’t you turn the ship on?”
“It was on. It’s what caused the earthquake, or what you thought was an earthquake. We were actually making room to get the ship out.”
“What?” Luke said.
So quickly that I thought I’d imagined it, a door appeared on the rock wall next to the ship, and a man stepped through it, closely followed by another man and a woman. Then, from the corner closest to the door, a floor to ceiling window quickly materialized as though someone were wiping away the false façade of stone. A room appeared behind the glass that looked like Lida’s living room: crisp, white walls, plush sofas, and a fireplace alight with flames.
“Oh, my…” Lida said.
“Shit!” Alex said, as Juliet and I simultaneously gasped and stepped back a few feet.
The man who had emerged first sighed. “You’re showing them?”
“They know,” David said. “No point hiding any of it now. The ship will be gone, we destroyed their house, and Rob is dead.”
“Someone died?” This man spoke with an Italian accent, as did the woman, who appeared to be his wife. “Caleb! We told you we should warn the neighbors!”
“By telling them we knew there was going to be an earthquake?!” Caleb said defensively.
“No, the truth,” the woman said.
“It’s moot now,” David said, gesturing to the newcomers. “This is Caleb, Victor and Isabel. Normally, I’d invite you all in for a drink, but Victor and Isabel need to leave.”
“And go where?” Henry said.
“Home,” Victor said.
Isabel shook her head. “No, new home.”
Caleb was already at the ship and a door was opening downward like a drawbridge.
Isabel put her hand on Lida’s shoulder. “We are so sorry for your husband. It was an accident.”
“I know,” Lida said.
Isabel gave David one last smile, then joined Victor at the ship. They held hands as they walked up the ramp.
“We’ll have to come in here,” David said, gesturing to the hidden room. “It won’t be safe out here.”
It was warm inside. I hadn’t realized how cold I was. My hair was still damp.
“Why aren’t you and Caleb going with them?” Henry said.
“Our planet died long ago. We have no interest in moving our life to a new one.”
“Are there others here on earth?”
“Yes, but most are leaving. All communication has stopped, so the time to go is now.”
“Did you have something to do with the planes malfunctioning?” Luke asked, understanding dawning on his face.
“Well,” David hesitated. “That was an unforeseen complication. Our communication signals are very strong.”
“Unforeseen?” Luke said. “How could you not know it would affect the planes?”
“We haven’t communicated with our home ship since before airplanes were invented.”
Luke looked dumbfounded. “How long have you been here?”
“We came here and crashed into this hill long before civilization came to it; long before America was America.” David seemed lost in thought for a moment, lost somewhere in time. “Long before Victor and Isabel crash landed on earth. I’m glad we could give them our ship. It all seemed to work out for the best.”
“Except for that earthquake that killed Rob,” Alex said bitterly. “I’m the one who really loves him, but no one gives me their sympathies.”
“That’s because the mistress never deserves the sympathies,” Lida said. She was sitting in one of the sofas with her head back and her eyes closed.
I found it mind boggling that in the midst of all of this life-altering information about beings from another planet we could still come back to whom Rob loved more.
David frowned. “I’m sorry for both of you,” he said quietly to Alex. “Love isn’t always easy.”
Caleb came through the door just in time to hear this statement from David. Lida snorted as though in agreement and cringed at the pain in her nose.
“Love,” Caleb said, half laughing. “You know those two aren’t going back for the same reasons.”
“Yes, but it’s what they both want,” David said.
The two men who claimed to be aliens shared a look, a kind of silent discussion that only two people who’ve known each other a very long time can share.
“So I suppose being gay isn’t just a human thing,” Alex said.
“Alex!” I said, incapable of holding back a surprised laugh.
“What? I’m just curious!”
Both Caleb and David were smiling, sharing in some private joke.
“Where we come from, in our true forms,” David explained, “gender isn’t a factor.”
Caleb laughed. “Yes, but the forms we chose certainly say something about us, don’t you think?”
“What I wanted to say before,” David said to Alex, “was that love isn’t black and white. I’m sure he loved both you, as both of you love him.”
Henry’s eyes flicked to mine and he held my gaze for what felt like forever. When he held out his hand to me, I took it.
Right on cue, the ground started to shake again and the air vibrated. It was deafening. The ship lifted off the ground and soared out of the cavern into the night sky. Just like that, it was gone. The air was quiet and empty, like the ship had never been there at all.
“You can’t ever leave now?” I said.
“We wouldn’t want to,” David said. “Earth is our home now.”