For your summer adult reading pleasure, part one of four of a science fiction tale by News-Press Copy Editor Ted White.
“Do you ever think about individual letters?” she asked.
“How do you mean?” Jack Slaughter, a licensed psychotherapist, responded, prompting her.
“Like, they have personalities? Like, ‘S’ — she’s a favorite of mine.”
“Oh, yeah. Most letters are shes, just like most numbers are hes.”
“I see.” He didn’t.
“Would you rather hear about how I killed a guy?” She smiled at him. It seemed like a warm smile, but he felt a cold chill.
“Would you like to tell me about it?”
“He was an alien,” she said.
Her name was California — “You can call me Callie” — and she was a pleasant-faced young woman in her mid-twenties. She was bare-breasted in the current style, but he didn’t think her exposed breasts made her more attractive. Nonetheless, he applauded the honesty of the style.
He personally favored minimal makeup and revealing clothing for women, although his own style favored clothes that concealed his nonathletic body, and a five-day beard that covered his acne scars.
“An alien, you say?” His approach favored carefully-crafted questions, but this wasn’t one of them.
“Sure. You know, a space alien.”
“From Mars?” He smiled. “Small, green?”
“Don’t laugh at me, you!” She turned away from him, directing her gaze to the undecorated walls of the small windowless room. It was part of the treatment facility’s complex, furnished only with two plastic chairs and a small table, which Slaughter usually kept between himself and the person he was interviewing.
He glanced at the screen of his handi, lying on the table in front of him. It told him Callie’s age — 24; her weight — 56 kilograms; her height — 1.78 meters; the fact that she had one green eye and one gray eye, although he couldn’t see the difference in the room’s light, just glancing at her; and the fact that she was under observation, suspected of “chipping.” It said nothing about any killings.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Please tell me about it.”
“What’s to tell? He tried to steal my mind. I had to kill him.” She shrugged. “End of story.”
“Surely not,” he said. “Tell me about the alien. What did he look like?”
“Pretty much like any guy, I guess. I think he could change what he looked like. Anyway, after I killed him he kinda shriveled up, like a little kid, but old.”
Slaughter tried to imagine it, and failed. His was a literal mind.
“Where did this happen?”
“You know that little park, over by the megaplex? You know, the park with the statue of the bear?”
He knew the park. Children tried to climb the statue of the bear, standing high on its hind legs. He nodded. “Yes, go on.”
“Well, that’s it. That’s where it happened.”
“In broad daylight?”
“Of course not. What do you think? Nobody does anything like that in broad daylight.” She shook her head in disgust at the thought, as if wondering what was wrong with him.
“When did you do it? And, how?”
“Late at night. I used a big kitchen knife.”
“And this was — recently?”
“Last Sunday, actually.”
Slaughter ran his fingers over his handi, querying it about bodies found in that park last Sunday or Monday, and found nothing.
“What happened to the body?”
“I told you. It shriveled up. Then I picked it up and put it in a disposal bin. It was really light, easy to pick up and carry.”
Slaughter envisioned the corpse’s fate. A massive compactor truck would come to the park daily, lift up the bin and dump its contents into the truck’s maw, crushing and cubing all of it, then carrying it down to the wharf, where the compacted cubes would be loaded on a large barge and taken out to sea along with the rest of the city’s refuse. By now, the “alien” corpse would be long gone and impossible to find.
If it had ever existed.
“Okay,” he said. “How did you come to know this alien? How did you discover it was trying to steal your mind?”
“He lived in my building. I’d run into him when I was zapping my laundry. He had this strange dusty smell. And he always gave me funny looks.”
“Funny-odd, or funny-ha-ha?”
She squinted at him, as if trying to understand him. “Odd, of course. What else? He wasn’t telling jokes!”
“No, of course not. What happened?”
“He started getting into my mind.”
“How? I mean, how did you know?”
“Well, you know. He started popping up in my thoughts when I wasn’t thinking about him. Times when I was drifting off to sleep — and suddenly there he was! I’d tell him to go away, I wanted to sleep, and he wouldn’t let go. He wouldn’t leave me alone!”
“What did you do?”
“Well, I tried to ignore him. I wouldn’t pay him any attention.”
“Did that work?”
“Sometimes. But not all the time. Saturday night, he kept me up all night! That’s when I knew I had to kill him.”
“What did you do? Did you invite him to the park?”
“Are you kidding me? Of course not!” She gave him an indignant look. “I followed him.”
“With the knife?”
“You said you killed him with, ah — ” he consulted his handi, which as usual was recording the session. “With a big kitchen knife.”
“Oh, that. No, I found it. It wasn’t mine.”
“Where’d you find it?”
“I don’t know. Maybe in a store.”
“You followed him into a store?”
“No,” she shook her head emphatically. “I followed him to the park.”
“Okay. Then what happened?”
“I told him to stop trying to steal my mind. I told him to get out and stay out.”
“What did he say?”
“He didn’t say anything. He just gave me this look. It was a terrible look, like he could see right into me, right through me. So I knew then what was going to happen. I knew he was about to take my mind. That look! I slashed his throat.” She paused and a reflective look settled on her face. “His blood wasn’t red. It was black. Maybe greenish black. Hard to tell in that light. And it evaporated, just like that!” She gave him a triumphant look. “Only alien blood does that.”
“Did you get any of it on you?”
“Sure, but it evaporated. I told you that.”
Slaughter shook his head. “This is outside my area of expertise,” he said.
She gave him a pitying look. “I’m not surprised,” she said, dismissively.
“What’s all this about killing an alien?” Sheanokia asked, giving Slaughter a knowing smirk. The big woman was his supervisor, which gave her the right to barge into his private office, one with windows, and interrupt whatever he was doing. He viewed her as an impediment to his career, not least because she often called him “Black Jack,” and chuckled over the joke he did not get. He was not “black.” Like most people he knew, he was a light tan — “mocha,” his mother always said. The fact that Sheanokia used a dark rouge on her nipples also bothered him. Her breasts were so large — why call attention to them? But mostly it was her air of superiority.
“You’ve seen my report. I have no idea what to make of it.”
“Of course you don’t,” she said — as if she did. “But I’ve turned this over to Security.”
“Check your advisories. 2085-11.4-S. I’ll wait.”
` Slaughter’s handi was on his desk. He’d been doing reports all morning. He brushed them aside and searched for the advisory she’d given him. It popped up in red. He knew he’d never seen it, because he’d never before received a Red Advisory, and he wondered if she’d just surreptitiously loaded it.
“This is an alien advisory,” he said. “Alien aliens.” He gave her what he hoped was a piercing stare. “What do we know about them?”
“As you can see from the advisory,” she said, getting a dig in, “it is believed that an unknown number of them are infiltrating, um, human society. Otherwise….” She shrugged, “I can’t say.”
He was sure she couldn’t. He doubted she’d been aware of any space aliens before getting his report. “And the young woman who says she killed one? What about her?”
“She’s out of your hands. Security has her.”
To be continued…