The first time I see the UFO is via a 10-second video on twitter. It is a shaky, blinking light against the hurried ink of the sky. With the sound off you don’t hear the group of people behind the camera swearing. ‘Pretty. I wish the aliens would visit us every night,’ my daughter says. She is six and she believes in everything because she has no reason not to. She asks to watch the video again and again until it is her bedtime. When I go to brush my teeth I hear the soft squeaking of her bed. She is standing on her mattress, fingertips smudging the window, staring into the sky.
I’m at work and my husband sends me an article about the UFO. There are a series of photos and videos showing the light getting bigger. ‘:o’ I reply. ‘Don’t tell Sarah :p’ comes his answer. But when I get home they are both on Sarah’s bed. My husband has bought a telescope and they are taking turns looking through the lens. ‘What do the aliens eat?’ Sarah asks. My husband looks at me like what do aliens eat? But I don’t have an answer. ‘Probably something we’ve never heard of.’ He decides. It is now my turn to look through the lens and I watch the light turn off and on and off and on. ‘They don’t eat humans?’ Sarah asks. ‘Would you eat something you had never seen, especially if that thing was walking and talking?’ I say. ‘Ew no,’ says Sarah, and I hope the aliens are a little bit like her.
When the light gets closer nobody has any signal, we guess this is because the UFO is blocking all the waves. We don’t panic because we do not read about other people’s panic. We don’t tell the world how much we love each other, we tell ourselves. Again, and again, and again. I get the idea that we might all die. My husband points out that it will be less sad if we all die together and I imagine no one missing anyone, ever, and I think that he must be right.
On the street everyone is looking up, the outlines of their phones visible through their pockets. Their hands are hooked instead around their own hands or around the hands of others. There is a man a few streets over who has taken to shouting about the end of the world but we just change our route home. I guess that somewhere there are humans moving underground. I guess that somewhere there are humans downing poison. I guess that there are millions freaking out and planning their last words, but we have Sarah who delights in the arrival, who loves the aliens before they even touch the ground. Her attitude is contagious. I keep hearing her say ‘Pretty.’ It’s a pleasure to enjoy the real world. We stay up late and tell stories about how we imagine the aliens to be. Sometimes they are green, sometimes they speak through their hands touching ours or though their minds transmitting ideas directly into our human brains. Sometimes they are just thoughts in floating orbs or beams of fractured light. We imagine these things and more, as the light from the ship illuminates us then plunges us into darkness as it spins.
We camp out by the window in Sarah’s room. We don’t want to take our eyes off what is happening. The ship is massive, we can see the bones of it now through the glare. It makes no noise, when not looking up you can’t tell anything is really happening. ’I guess I always imagined it would be loud.’ Says my husband and I nod. A car screams down the street, a man clutching the wheel so tight I can see the effort it takes him from where I’m sitting. ‘We are the loud ones.’ Says Sarah, and we have to agree with her. ‘Maybe they came all the way here, across millions of galaxies, to tell us to shut up.’ I say and Sarah laughs, like this is the funniest idea in the whole universe. My husband and I do not laugh because we have seen the ship opening. An assortment of aliens disembark and we wait. I feel my husband’s body next to me, tensed as if ready to run, whether it would be towards or away from the aliens I do not know. Sarah looks up, wiping tears from her eyes, just in time to see the aliens raise their fingers in unison and put them to their lips.
Kelsey Ipsen is a New Zealand born writer who lives in France with her husband and half-wild cat. Her writing can be found or is forthcoming in PANK, Molotov Cocktail, Gone Lawn, Cheap Pop, Hobart, and elsewhere. You can find her online at www.cargocollective.com/kelseyipsen
Pingback: 2020 Best Small Fictions Nominations! | JMWW·