I first noticed the alien on a stormy night in Amsterdam. Jared bought us a six-pack of Amstel from Sterk Avondverkoop down the street. We stayed in the hostel we called home, watching reruns of Friends until slurred snores were louder than the laugh track after Chandler’s jokes. When everyone else was asleep the alien whispered to me. He told me I was chosen—chosen to be the one to introduce him to the human world. His voice was so quiet then and I’d had enough beers that I didn’t really listen. I let myself fall asleep to the hum of Jared’s slow breaths and figured the alien would be gone with the hangover in the morning.
That morning I heard him in the crackle of my Coco Krispies. My spoon dropped violently to the ground. I screamed at Jared that someone spoke to me through my cereal and begged him to make them stop. Jared cracked up, the milk spurting out his nose as he said, “Are you still drunk? It was just a couple of beers!” I laughed along because he was probably right. Besides Rice Krispies are supposed to talk to you, that’s the whole point.
A week later Jared went to see some Indie Art film with our hipster roommates. Usually I would join them but I’d seen enough teen angst for the week and just wanted to curl up with a book and a mugful of tea. That’s when I heard the alien again. This time he was in the patter of the rain beating on the bay window I had commandeered as my personal oasis, replacing potted plants with pillows when we first got here. His voice was loud and pleading. He needed my help to learn the ways of the world. I was already comfortably struggling through Les Miserables by myself, but began to read out loud so he could hear. If he wanted to be a part of this world he’d need to understand human nature. I preferred reading out loud anyway—so I was really doing this for me not him. At least that’s what I told myself after we got through The Sun Also Rises and the entire Harry Potter series.
Months passed and the alien still spoke to me. By then, this alien’s safe journey to earth had become my mission. Jared began to notice the changes: I spent more time alone reading and listening; I’d drink tea at hole-in-the-wall cafes instead of going barhopping with him; and I didn’t want to finish our trip across Europe. What if we left and I couldn’t hear the alien anymore?
The alien’s power grew. I finally told Jared I was still hearing voices and he said I should see a doctor. I promised I’d go to a psychologist the next day. But I knew a shrink would just give me a pill or strap me to a hospital bed, so when Jared took me to the office I waved from the lounge then walked upstairs and joined a weekly yoga class instead. The deep breathing helped and I could hear the alien better here. In downward dog, the alien’s voice was a gentle purr.
Jared goes out every night now. I think he’s jealous of my alien. He doesn’t know what to do with his arms anymore when we’re together. I think Jared is afraid that touching me is the same as touching the alien, thinking if he rubbed me the wrong way he’d feel the alien’s bony fingers intertwining with his. I tell him he’s crazy, the alien’s fingers are soft not bony.
Sometimes I regret being the chosen one. I throw up when the alien screams into my ear. Jared can’t hear it so he sleeps soundly. Besides he stopped waking up to comfort me months ago. Though yesterday, Jared whispered a hesitant “hello” to the alien. Unsure where to direct his greeting, Jared settled on a blank stare at the ceiling. These days I choose the rocking chair in the kitchen over the bay window when I read to him. Like I am now, alien thoughts pooling. Just when I think I’m alone with the alien, Jared comes for me and drives us somewhere he thinks the alien would like.
But I’d rather show the alien the purple wildflower speckled meadow behind the house I grew up in. I’d take him to the patch of clovers under the swing set and we’d search for four-leafed ones until our fingers turned green. I’d lie beside him on the porch. Smile as his eyes widen to watch the sunset reveal stars and planets, finally looking at them like humans do.
I wake up to the sound of my own screaming. Jared is pale, eyes bulging. He hands me water, but I push it back because he looks like he needs it more than I do. The alien whispers, “It’s time” and I yell until I feel my vocal chords reverberating in my throat, they freeze into place once they pick a pitch for the screech. The alien pokes out his head, which is oozing with slime now collecting on my thigh. I grab unto Jared’s forearm, nails digging until they find a permanent spot in the blue of his veins. Jared’s watery eyes drain months of disbelief in a single tear down his cheek. When he holds the alien he probably only sees the green veins on his forehead or the purple sparkle of his eyes, but the smile on my face eases away the scowl on Jared’s as I name my alien.
Atousa Motameni is a Persian-American writer who recently graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park with degrees in Psychology and English Literature. While there, she was a member of the Jiménez-Porter Writer’s House—a collection of misfit toys that write. She is obsessed with apples, pomegranates and cardamom tea.