Alexander Kemp is a Job Hunter for adults with disabilities. His work has previously been published in Literary Yard, Nzuri, and The Gateway. He currently lives in Los Angeles, CA.
The Tree of Knowledge
June 2014 We landed on Earth just after sunset. My two comrades and I adjusted to our new human forms. Our life forces were now tied to these fallible bodies. This was the last opportunity to learn what intergalactic threat humans posed. September 2014 Applebee’s was selected for our parting dinner. We wanted a location with privacy, but instead settled for a restaurant with terrific appetizers. Seated across from one another, Urkel, with his youthful black skin turned towards me. He had requested an appearance similar to a classic television character he binged watched after our arrival (thankfully he omitted the glasses from his disguise). He randomly asked, “Eve, how come we never see you wearing high heels?” The Council had given my two comrades male bodies. I was given the weaker female one (on our world, neither gender nor bodies existed). Vlad patted the few white hairs on his elderly head. The loose, pale skin on his neck jiggled as he grabbed a breath mint. Vlad said to Urkel, “I bet Eve doesn’t know how to walk in ‘em, my dear chum.” I said, “You’re going to Russia, Vlad, not England. And to answer your teasing, I’ll never wear any of that stupid attire. What if a lion escaped? How fast could I run in those? Always dress for survival, nothing else.” “Aye aye, captain,” Urkel said. Vlad did a fake salute. I shook my head. “I would laugh, if I knew how.” We got down to business. “Our objective, to learn the likelihood of war with humans, and if needed, order a preemptive strike,” I whispered. A toddler seated at a neighboring table was trying to eavesdrop on our espionage. “I’ve secured an internship with NASA. I’ll relocate to Florida on Friday. Vlad.” Vlad accidentally swallowed his breath mint. “Tomorrow morning,” he coughed. “I hop on a flight to Moscow. I’ll interview for an engineering position with the Kremlin next week. I’m the only candidate in their 90s.” He belched. “They won’t be able to resist me. Urkel.” Urkel cracked his knuckles, a gesture neither Vlad nor I had mastered yet. “I began work for the junior congressman from Virginia last Tuesday. I’ll get him on the Science, Space, and Technology Committee before he can sleep with another hooker.” “What?” I asked. Urkel sighed. “The congressman had an ‘encounter’ with a prostitute in a Denny’s restroom. After he showed me my desk, I was tasked with buying her silence.” “Bloody hell,” Vlad said as he stood. He hobbled off to the restroom. Urkel scooted towards me. “After I paid the woman off, I was walking down this dark alley and some kids jumped out from a corner. One put a switchblade to my throat.” My breathing halted. “Kid with the knife goes, ‘Give us the money and all your shit!’” “I knew it! These people even have their youth ready for combat. And what is ‘shit?’” “Excrement,” Urkel shrugged. “What value that has, I’ll never know. They took eight dollars and my watch. I was going to call the authorities, but a lady nearby told me they don’t come to that neighborhood.” “Impossible. The Council didn’t prep us for this.” A yellow crayon landed in my tomato soup. The toddler giggled. He brazenly launched another wax laden missile. We were under attack until the child’s mother intervened. Vlad waddled back. “Sitting hurts my buns.” “Urkel,” I said, “we’re stuck in this country. We have to be extra cautious. If these bodies perish, we die. Understand?” He nodded. “Here’s the strange thing.” Vlad and I were on the edge of our seats. Urkel revealed, “I felt more alive while getting robbed than all the days I’ve been here. It was exhilarating, a total rush. Life slowed and I remember every detail, and I mean every detail. The blade was two inches. One boy had the aroma of lavender soap. The evening was chilly. My heart almost burst from my chest, and an onslaught of feelings hit at once. As the boys ran off, one of their feet banged against a gutter, and the sound of metal echoed violently through the alley. And my hand, the left one, shook.” “That’s awful,” Vlad said. “No,” Urkel shook his head. He stared into my eyes. “Now I know what it means to be alive. And I’ll never forget, for better and worse. I hope you eventually know. It changes everything.” November 2014 The three of us did a monthly Skype call on a secured network. Urkel then reported our progress to The Council. On this night, we became distracted. “After not getting the engineering post,” Vlad explained, “it’s been tough. I like selling my roasted nuts during lunchtime, but the scientists at the Kremlin never discuss government secrets while eating almonds. Maybe that’s a Russian thing.” Vlad clapped his hands. “But on the bright side, my shot at glory arrives in three days!” “Why do you keep betting on those damn ponies?” Urkel asked. “I’m due. Speaking purely from a probability standpoint, I can’t lose this Saturday. I finally got it all figured out.” “Whatever you say, Vlad.” The man had lost two grand at the racetrack. Vlad readjusted his thick glasses and looked at me. “Is my camera faulty, or is your human suit expanding, Eve?” I shrugged. “It turns out all the hype around McDonald’s is legitimate. The Big Macs, the quarter pounder with cheese, the McFlurry--” “I love the McFlurry,” Urkel interjected. “It’s better than cocaine,” Vlad said. Urkel and I stared. “Have you really done cocaine?” I asked. Vlad played with his hearing aid. “Yeah, I did a little ‘blow.’ I heard it clears up sinus infections. Didn’t work though. I also heard it was better than love-making. But I can’t make the comparison, just yet.” “Love making?” I asked. Urkel leaned into his camera, “I can tell you all about that. So you remember when The Council explained the difference between males and females? The equipment Vlad and I have between our legs tell us we need to ‘get some,’ if we go too long without ‘gettin’ some.’ You still look confused. So sometimes I see a woman with a large bosom and I think about copulation…see, I figured you’d know that word. And sometimes my female neighbors jog in yoga pants and my pistol is ready for action. It’s a strange device.” “I’m glad I don’t have one,” I said. “Mine hangs low,” Vlad announced. “Anyway,” Urkel continued, “I created this account on Christian Mingle and the lady let me ‘get some’ on the first date. And, we both screamed from ecstasy!” Vlad said, “I’ve been thinking about getting my noodle wet. There’s a great grandmother who lives down the hall. She’s in poor health. So since she’s always in bed anyway--” I pounded the table, “Let’s get back to work.” “Hold on. How’s it being female? Pop a guy’s cherry yet?” Urkel asked. “Gross.” Vlad unscrewed his flask. I took a drink from my McCafé. The allures of Earth were corrupting us, just like the humans would want. “Hey! Those transmissions of mass explosives and death aren’t going to explain themselves. If they can get messages past the Milky Way, humans are capable of far more than we give them credit for.” February 2015 Through hard work, I had progressed from intern at NASA and was now a Computer Engineer. I worked on communication devices that astronauts used outside Earth’s atmosphere. The work was straightforward, which gave me plenty of time to gather intel. Every morning before going to NASA, I waited at the bus stop with Pastor Curly, an old, scrawny man. He often rambled about the return of Christ, requesting forgiveness, and pizza being addictive. Pastor Curly, with his salt and pepper beard was a local celebrity. Bolstering his mythology, he even wore a court jester’s hat while delivering sermons. On this particular morning, he preached, “We disappoint our savior daily with our nonsense. And why don’t we ever learn from our mistakes? Abel and Cain didn’t have any books to learn from. Cain just didn’t know any better, y’all know Abel was a snorer. And Eve,” Pastor Curly pointed at me, “Eve, your namesake didn’t know any better. Hunger in the morning is a bitch! An apple provides sustenance. She and Adam didn’t mean any harm. What do you think?” Pastor Curly liked participation from the people at the bus stop. I usually indulged the old man. “Just like you say, ‘once we know better, we do better.’” He did a fist pump. “I want everyone to keep an eye on this young woman. She’s going places that none of us have gone before. The used and abused need to open their ears. And for the love of God, they need to stop buying that nasty pizza!” Pastor Curly proved to be the wisest person I met in Florida. *** At work, Ernie, a colleague, took an interest in me. He was two years older and had a father, Ernest Sr., who was in senior management. Some women referred to Ernie as “dorky,” but he always displayed gentleness. More importantly, Ernie said he was close with his father. For reasons that to this day are unknown to me, Ernie still lived in his parent’s basement. He also liked to impress me with his knowledge on the future of space exploration. During a lunchbreak, he said the following: “Jeepers Eve, your guess is right. We are increasing our outreach in space. But the press gets all distracted with thoughts about a…let’s call it ‘Space Force.’ The bigger, more pressing issue is the harvesting of natural resources on other planets. Obviously, the resources here are diminishing fast, so if we can…you like Star Trek?” “Spock.” Ernie grinned like he won the lottery. Sliding his chair closer to mine, he dabbed his index finger on his tongue and smoothed out his thick eyebrows. The intensity of his penetrating stare made me wonder if he saw past my brown skin and dark eyes, to my ethereal blue light. I’d later learn Ernie’s attentiveness climaxed when talking about Star Trek. Anyway, Ernie disclosed that his father had gone to a classified meeting, revealing the Russians detected a signal from an unfathomable source, just beyond the largest ring of Jupiter. “There’s a power out there. And, given time, we’ll harvest it. Young Eve, how come I know so little about your life?” Ernie mischievously grinned. Both Urkel and Vlad warned against being mysterious. Looking normal was paramount. Urkel had a girlfriend in D.C. Vlad lived as a playboy at the Moscow Geriatric Center. Ernie was nice enough, and our lunch conversations needed to continue. I agreed to go on a date with him to the Broward County Library, the largest archive in the state. *** Besides going to work, and also keeping a detailed log of Earth life, I had developed a fortuitous friendship with Lisa Romaine. She lived in the apartment across the hall and we waited for the same bus in the mornings. The self-described “rocker” had a propensity for changing her hair color. She also had tattoos covering both arms. Lisa played bass for the band Cat Shit. My favorite song of theirs was “Florida’s on Acid.” Lisa’s actual occupation was overseeing data security for a bank. Her expertise proved useful. Slowly, I grew to enjoy her company. Our routine became playing truth or dare on Friday nights after Cat Shit finished their gig. Last time she chose dare. I had her do a hand stand in the middle of a nightclub. I, as usual, chose truth. Lisa asked, “Why don’t you ever talk about your family?” “There’s little to say. I don’t have much family. I’m alone, for the most part.” There was some truth to this, my comrades and I were not reproduced. We created ourselves and, after a millennium, evaporated. Lisa moved right into me, close enough that the tip of her nose grazed mine. She whispered, “You’re lying Eve. I’ll find your secret. I’ll get inside you.” She smelled of lilacs. April 2015 At our monthly meeting, Vlad kept coughing. I asked, “Did you get the money Urkel and I sent?” Vlad blew his nose and nodded. “I did. Thank you. I’m afraid it’s still not enough to get my prescription. I’ve been cutting my meds in half to make them last longer.” Urkel said, “I can’t believe Russia just abandons the sick like they do. Shame on that country.” “Your nation isn’t much better,” Vlad said through the coughing. “Let’s get to it. How’s everything with the congressman, Steven?” Urkel said, “I’m not sure if he’ll get on the committee anymore. At a town hall he wondered aloud if women who dress provocatively want to be raped. He’s curious like a cat.” “And what are you doing about it?” I asked. “We need him on that committee.” “Eve, I know.” Urkel picked up a poster. The image had the congressman’s solemn face on it with the caption: Anti-Rape. “We’re releasing these on his social media pages and around Virginia. The finished product will be in red, white and blue. That should do the trick.” “Good. Ask for assistance if you need it. Vlad, any update?” Vlad, sweating, opened his mouth and had another coughing fit. “Can’t you go to the emergency room?” I asked. “They just send me back home. Anyway, last week, a couple of the scientists switched from almonds to cashews.” Vlad coughed. “Make sure The Council knows that, Steven.” “Top priority, bro.” Urkel looked at me. “And what about you, Eve?” “Next month in The Astrophysical Journal an article about an unknown energy will debut. Theories on ways to harvest it are discussed. The Russians made the discovery, but the Americans believe they can manipulate the source.” “Okay, so we didn’t mask the energy we used to teleport here well enough. Have you met your boyfriend’s father yet?” Urkel grinned. Vlad started laughing. And then he started coughing. “I don’t call Ernie that.” “What does he call himself?” “Fine Urkel, you win. The couple times I’ve gone to his place, Ernest Sr. hasn’t been around. I still plan on making contact though.” “Alright, good work team. I’ll send the report tonight. You okay, Vlad?” Vlad coughed onto his webcam, blurring his image. “Wintertime I’m coming to sleep on your couch, Eve. Russia’s too damn cold! When I’m outside I can’t even keep my nuts warm. How much time we got left?” “The mission is another four years. We must pace ourselves.” June 2015 Lisa said, “Hell, I started floating when I got the news.” I stopped. “Floating?” “You know, shit load of happiness. Anyway, I’m rambling?” We were hanging out at the bar. The beer we drank was satisfying, but the alcohol had no effect on my wellbeing. The Council made our bodies alcohol tolerant, unless I drank enough to intoxicate a baby elephant. I finished my bottle and Lisa stared at me. “You don’t get drunk. All these months we’ve gone out and it’s like you’re drinking water,” she said. “Come on, truth or dare,” I pushed. Where we sat was deserted. Things were starting to quiet as the place prepared to close. Lisa said, “Truth.” “Name a time you were ashamed.” “I didn’t say ‘I love you’ to my grandmother when she was in the hospital. I was 17 and we had mostly stopped talking. She didn’t approve of my life choices. The old bag said I was destined to be a lonely freak, between the hair and the facial piercings…and other stuff. In the hospital, while she was conscious for the last time, I didn’t say anything as she drifted off.” Lisa paused. “Funny thing is, some of my happiest childhood memories are of her. That means something, doesn’t it?” “Sure.” I played with my empty bottle. “There has to be some reason alcohol doesn’t affect you.” “I’ll take dare.” Lisa had been waiting for this. She took me to a tattoo parlor. We agreed it would be a small one. On the top of my right shoulder I got the Olympic rings imprinted. For whatever reason, the image moved me. The pain wasn’t too bad. Lisa held my hand. *** Next morning I got the call from Urkel. I canceled my meeting with Ernie. He offered to come over, but I told him not to, being alone was best. He had flowers delivered with a card that read, “Sorry for your loss.” Vlad died. It was pneumonia. October 2015 Urkel and I met at a local D.C. coffee shop. I was in town for a conference. Urkel wanted to personally convey the inheritance Vlad had left me. It was two bags of almonds, a Tolstoy biography, a bag of pistachios, and a poster of President Putin. “The Council reports they’ll no longer send agents in the bodies of nonagenarians,” I said. “Poor Vlad,” Urkel shook his head. “He had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.” “With our Russian contact lost, we have to make extra ground with the Americans. What’s the latest with the congressman?” “He’s now an official member of the Science, Space, and Technology Committee. A briefing from last Tuesday showed the Americans are appropriating a five-percent increase towards outer orbit weaponry. But, the money is being concealed under the national defense umbrella. A functional Space Force is looking real.” “What else?” “The congressman inquired about light sabers for the troops. He’s an avid fan of Star Wars.” “Ernie scoffs at it. He says that series is inferior to Star Trek.” “When’s the wedding? Will you two honeymoon in his parents’ basement?” I finished my coffee and wished it was a McFlurry. “That situation is complicated. He’s clingy.” “Meet his old man yet?” “Only once. He treated me like a nincompoop. Probably because I’m his son’s plus one. Anyway, the guy was tight lipped about his daily activities.” A man and woman held hands outside. “You know, I don’t really get the whole coupling thing humans do. Just reproduce and prepare for death.” Urkel grabbed his phone. “I’m engaged.” “What!?” He showed me a picture of a beautiful woman with long dreadlocks. “This is Jasmine” he said. “She totally gets me, and she’s a great cook. But to be honest, I really do love her.” “Steven, you know love is a mental illness. Are you okay?” Urkel laughed. “You spend too much time in a science lab. Love is irrational, but it’s not bad. Love just enhances everything. It’s living life to the fullest. Jasmine’s essence has seeped into my bones. Her warmth is part of my being.” I’d known Urkel a century, and he’d never spoken in such an exaggerated way before. “What about the mission?” “I’m still committed. Jasmine is a PR consultant. She can help me next time the congressman talks like an ass. And, after our five years is up, I’ll stay with her. I’m sure The Council will approve. I can be a long-term agent.” “Wow.” Urkel moved next to me and outstretched the hand that still held his phone. He took a selfie of us and went back to his seat to type. “Don’t worry, my Facebook page is private.” “I just don’t get it.” He put his phone down. “This isn’t like our world, Eve. It’s okay to open up. Don’t be afraid of what you might feel.” And as an afterthought, “You should try Beyoncé. She knows a lot.” October 2016 Ernie and I were holding hands as we strolled back to his residence. The evening was cool as the sun disappeared into the clouds. The lawn smelled freshly mowed. Ernie proudly took out his keys as we got to his front door. He had finally moved out of his parents’ basement. He now lived in their guest house. Once inside, Ernie flipped on the lights. “Would you like some wine, young Eve?” “Nope. Where did your dad go again?” A deflated Ernie sat on the couch. “Amsterdam.” “His annual conference is in Luxembourg.” “This one is…listen Eve, why don’t you sit next to me?” I then noticed Ernie had gotten rid of his D&D throw pillows. I acquiesced. He put his hand on my knee. “Let’s talk about us, my young Eve. You’re my double hydrogen, and I’m the oxygen. You know what that makes you?” “Water.” “Wet.” He kissed me. His left hand massaged my right breast. Urkel had warned after an entire year, Ernie was antsy “to get some.” His libido had been restrained by his mother not wanting any ‘hanky panky’ in her basement. Now our barrier was gone. I shoved Ernie back. Weirdly, I wondered what Lisa would have said. My relationship with him embarrassed the both of us. Ernie’s eyes watered. “I don’t get it, Eve. Don’t you like me?” Something stirred in me. He sniffed loudly and turned away. The Star Trek figurines were gone from his nightstand. And then I noticed Ernie, who rubbed at his teary eyes, was actually wearing cologne. I was overwhelmed with a sense of pity, like that time I had seen a commercial for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I had prepared for such a moment. On the Discovery Channel was an episode of two wildebeests mating. Pulling my sweatpants down, I bent over the edge of his bed. Two minutes later, Ernie wiped the sweat from his brow and confessed, “I never knew a woman could make sounds like that.” November 2016 Urkel and his fiancé married in D.C. Ernie and I attended. It was a small, but energized occasion. We all socialized. Urkel did a dance called “The Moonwalk,” people applauded. November 2017 The fire from the human military devoured my neighbors. The combination of heat with our celestial gas caused for a series of explosions. Members of The Council were destroyed one after another. Off in the distance were murmurs from the humans. Every voice sounded the same. Even though their soldiers varied in color and age, they used the same language with identical codes to murder. I flew west to the community I called home. All I could do was wait for one of the soldiers to aim their flamethrower at me. In the furthest corner of my vision was a photograph. An image of Lisa and “Eve.” She and I stood on a boardwalk. The Atlantic Ocean was in the background. Lisa’s arm with the weeping willow tattoo was around my shoulder. My right hand rested on her lower side, a mere centimeter from her hip. Despite the surrounding danger, I was transfixed by the picture. I didn’t recognize “Eve,” the brown skin, or dark hair. A stranger stood next to Lisa. I wanted to see myself as the reason for her smile, but couldn’t. “Fire,” a soldier screamed. Pain everywhere. I woke, breathing rapidly, in my dark studio apartment. I had never experienced a nightmare. The Council designed our bodies to sleep peacefully. I could only wonder if this was a malfunction. Or even worse, a premonition. Lisa had recommended using my feelings to create. There’s something great you’re hiding, Eve. I didn’t reach for a pen and paper though. I was no artist. Emergency sirens howled outside. I turned on my light and got out of bed. My nerves were shot. November 2018 Lisa had transferred to Miami for work. Weeks had passed since we’d seen one another. I was working lots of overtime, trying to jolt myself out of professional stagnation. Little information came from management about an organizational mission. Lisa and I reconnected at a trendy, rooftop bar. For this meeting I had curled my black hair with moderate success (hairstyling was something I spent little time on). I wore an expensive crimson lipstick, a gift from Ernie. A gold necklace dropped down to my modest cleavage. Tonight, her short hair was violet (my favorite color). We kissed each other on the cheek and hugged. The small rings in her nose and eyebrow sparkled as she eagerly smiled at me. We sat down with drinks. “So what is this favor you need?” Lisa asked. “You think maybe you could hack an account?” “Is that a challenge? You know I can.” “The thing is,” I said, “this hacking job won’t be for fun. This one is risky.” After I explained, and Lisa crazily agreed, we went to the dance floor. The saxophones blared and the drums boomed. I swayed awkwardly. Lisa laughed. “Trust your pelvis,” she said. “Let it take the lead.” She grabbed my hands and we moved closer together, than further apart, and repeated the process. Never once did our eyes drift. January 2019 Urkel and I hugged. His wife had business in Florida and he tagged along. The muscles of his back were firm. His biceps had grown. “You look strong,” I told him. “Jasmine has me on this health diet,” he sheepishly grinned. “No carbs, lots of protein. I’ll look like an underwear model soon.” “Your next profession. Speaking of which, I saw your boss on CNN last night.” “The congressman says Germany was once pregnant with Jews, so they got an abortion. According to him, you’re either Pro-Life or Pro-Adolf.” “I’m grateful we’re sterile.” We headed to the County Fair. I justified the trip by assessing American livestock as war weapons. Such an explanation might satisfy The Council. Urkel didn’t seem to care one way or the other. Urkel and I watched children pet hogs. The animals laboriously ambled and it was quite obvious they posed no threat. Urkel tapped my shoulder and pointed toward the stables. “Vlad would want us to check the horses out,” Urkel stated. I said, “I can see Vlad at the racetrack now. He’s not dead, but he’s dead broke.” Urkel smacked his knee. “You made a joke!” I shrugged; a quick smile escaped. The sun shined as the wind brushed against my face. The horses varied in color. Some were scrawny and grey, others were thicker and had glossy coats. In the messages our planet had intercepted, the humans were conducting warfare on horseback. From what Urkel and I gleaned, that was an outdated mode of battle. I whispered, “Humans can’t slaughter one of us with these slow beasts.” “Eve,” Urkel said, “these people are friendlier than you give them credit for.” A couple of mustangs stood in a corner of the stable. Urkel walked up to the brown one and petted its head. The horse stepped closer. I fed it a cube of sugar. Urkel asked, “You think things can ever be the same after you’re done with the mission?” We moved over to a black and white Gypsy horse. “Maybe,” I said. “Debriefing The Council is a challenge. The constant danger involved with this species is puzzling. They won’t understand.” I fed another cube of sugar to the horse. The animal moved closer to lick my face and I jerked back. “He likes you, for some reason,” Urkel said. “This thing has fleas on it.” “Fear and danger. Is that all you get from Earth? You should report on everything.” Urkel moved closer and petted the horse. “This guy here knows you’re good. Animals can sense it. I bet if you go left, he’ll follow. He’s attracted to your positive vibes.” “There is something elegant about him, for being a dumb animal.” I took four steps to my left. Sure enough the horse followed. He stuck his head out and this time I let my right hand stroke its silky, dark mane. I placed my cheek to the warmth of its thick neck. Hot air from his nostrils hit the back of my neck, slowing as he became comfortable. I stepped back to a grinning Urkel. “You’re right,” I told him. “Damn straight I’m right.” He put a hand on my shoulder. “But just to be sure, I dropped a piece of sugar in your back pocket.” We laughed. Blood rushed to my face. The horse moved his head towards my back pocket. People in the barn admired Urkel’s robust laughter. His eyes watered. *** I pedaled harder as I approached the incline. My body heated so much I perspired, a rare occurrence. When I reached the hilltop, nighttime reigned. Being this far away from the city provided the optimal space for stargazing. My phone rang. Lisa was on the other end. “I bet you’re out of breath,” she said. “You know, we can always do this online.” I sat on the park bench, totally alone, except for her. “This way is better. You outside?” The formation of stars were slowly appearing. “Alright, so if you look to your southwest,” I said, “you can see the Eridanus, the river constellation.” When we were both free, and the forecast was clear, we stargazed together. April 2019 Sounds of disruption erupted from my tiny kitchen. Ernie walked over to the bed with two glasses of milk while I scrambled for my pushup bra. I took a glass from him. Looking up, Ernie already had a milk mustache. “My young Eve,” Ernie said, “make sure to drink it all. After last night, we both need nourishment.” He licked the mustache away. Intercourse with Ernie was like drinking a carbonated beverage hours after it had been opened. I would never be able to explain it better than that. I stood up and felt bloated. In celebration of his latest raise, Ernie brought over pizza and bread sticks. He was now making forty percent more than me. This led to him saying, “Of course, it’s no competition.” Fortunately, Ernie was great at analytics, so I took solace in that. “I’m flatulent,” I warned. I finished my milk and rubbed my grumbling stomach. “Jupiter is comprised of the highest proportion of methane gas. Know which planet comes second?” The answer to his foreplay was Uranus. Maybe it was the bra and panties, but Ernie clearly wanted something to hump. With that in mind, I released a monumental fart. His eyes enlarged. “Jeepers, time to get dressed.” He jettisoned the smelly room. “Darling,” Ernie said from the kitchen, “I been thinking about this summer. As you know, I’m frugal, and it’s time to reap the reward. I’ll be treating you to a first-class ticket to Comic-Con, my love. We’re going to have ourselves a jolly good time in San Diego, as the Brits like to say.” The leather wasn’t coming past my hips. I jiggled side to side in vain. “Hear what I said?” Ernie asked as he quickly dressed. “Yeah. San Diego. Good.” “You’re wearing leather pants to work?” “Our supervisor doesn’t notice me.” I jumped to get the fabric over my buttocks. “Forgot to tell you. After work, I’m spending the weekend in Miami.” “Nice of you to even let me know. Thanks a lot.” Since surpassing age 30, I had gained weight not in the chest area, which anthropological studies showed would have been advantageous, but instead in the hips and backside. Ernie grabbed two handfuls of leather and forced it over my rump. “Didn’t Lisa buy you these?” he asked. “A year ago.” I sucked in my stomach and pretended not to have a wedgie. I couldn’t fasten the pants. “Bend and you’ll tear it.” “I’m too fat?” “For this, yes.” Ernie grabbed his backpack and headed to the door. “After you give up and put something practical on, I’ll be in the car.” He opened the door. “You’re making us late.” The door slammed shut. I waddled to the bathroom mirror and saw the ridiculousness. Pastor Curly was correct. Everyone needed to stay away from that awful pizza. I told The Council if war does ensue between our race and the humans, we should dispense free fast food and cigarettes worldwide. In my reports to The Council I had referred to this combat strategy as “The Trojan Horse.” The pants were jimmied off. Holding the leather in my hands incited anger. Then I glanced at the clock and saw I was late to work for the first time. That made me sad, not because my perfect attendance was ruined, but because I didn’t care. Next came the thought of hugging Lisa that evening, and I felt uplifted, until I remembered poor Ernie waiting in his car. A swirl of thoughts flooded my mind. My heart-pump malfunctioned and my head hurt. I decided to call Urkel and that gave me relief, until I realized what I’d confess, and then came an onslaught of despair. There was no clear answer. Staring into the mirror, I whispered, “What now?” I stripped all my clothing. The mirror told me this was what I had become. A breathing, mortal, “woman.” No blue light showed. I closed my eyes and visualized my actual home, a place where the light never dies, only dims, and enlightenment existed as the highest commodity. My eyes opened on my dark bush. The only terrain of myself left unexplored. Vlad once described in extravagant detail his favorite film, a porno where a spunky librarian pleasured herself. My left hand slid down my bare belly and into my thick, curly pubic hair. I began rubbing my mound. Heat flushed throughout my body. I propped my left foot on the toilet seat and entered myself. Moisture flowed. With my eyes closed, I massaged my clitoris with my thumb as my fingers dove deeper, faster. And then. A face. “YES!” I stopped. My mind whirled. Everything seemed disoriented. I threw on a dress and left the apartment. While descending a flight of stairs, that majestic face stayed with me, haunting my psyche. May 2019 I thought about my last meeting with Urkel as the bus moved. The congressman had announced his candidacy for president. He’d given a speech at a political convention and said the opposing party “can kiss my chicken nuggets!” The phrase became a viral sensation. His polling was improving, and Urkel felt optimistic. The press loved the congressman, who’d be handing out free chicken nuggets to the children of Detroit that week. If the congressman actually made it to the White House, we’d have all the access we needed. Anyway, the bus ride to work was an unusually quiet one. Pastor Curly, with his now white beard, appeared solemn. Only once did he lean over to speak. He said, “Corinthians 13:4 ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.’” He patted me on the shoulder as he exited. *** Next night I had dinner with Ernie and his parents. These tedious dinners were what millennials called “soul crushing.” Ernest Sr. was largely quiet, with the exception of calling his only son a loser. Ernie’s mother said to him, “Bunny, I tweaked my back carrying in the ice cream you like.” “Rats.” “Bunny, can you give me one of your special massages after dinner?” “Sure can, mama.” For all the time I was with Ernie, he never provided a clear answer as to why at age 32, his mother still referred to him as “Bunny.” I looked at Ernest Sr. as he viciously bit into a dinner roll. “Sir, what are your thoughts on the magnetic pulses originating from Mars?” Ernest Sr. prepared to shovel a serving of mashed potatoes in his mouth. “Work is for work.” In the mashed potatoes went. Our delightful conversation ended. Later that night, after massaging his mother, Ernie was erect. In the guest house he snuck behind me and hiked my skirt up. “I have something special for you, my young Eve.” He yanked my panties down. “I’m done,” I shouted. “Ernie, we’re breaking up.” He jolted back. “Oh, Eve. I understand things are moving too slow. Mama told me I can’t make a good one wait forever. And that’s my fault. I do love you. About time I made you into an honest woman. I have something special for you.” Ernie got down on one knee and pulled out a diamond-speckled ring. “You’re my Captain Kirk.” Right then I heard Pastor Curly. I was neither patient nor kind. I told Ernie, “No. It’s over. Sorry.” He cried. I left. Did I float as I departed the premises? Maybe. Two Days Later There had been a shooting at a school playground in Detroit. A presidential candidate was handing out free chicken nuggets. Seven people were injured. A teacher died. A little girl died. Urkel died. One bullet burst into his upper left breast, another tore through his neck. The congressman blamed himself, showing up to a school without his rifle, defenseless. Of Urkel, he said, “He was the first black friend I had. Best way to honor his memory is enact the death penalty nationwide. Please vote for me. Also, prayers and condolences to his family.” The day he died, a few newspapers ran obituaries on him. Shortly after, I looked for his name online. His story got consumed in numbers about black on black crime and mass shootings. A week later, my comrade only existed as a statistic. June 2019 The bus rides all blended together. After Urkel’s murder, Lisa invited me to stay for a week. It took a lot of time on Lisa’s part, but she was finally able to hack into Ernest Sr. secured NASA email. Reading over government documents, the transmitters they used were more sophisticated than I had predicted, but they still had a long way to go. Even colonizing Mars was years away. The bus shook as Pastor Curly stood and pointed at me. His court jester hat nearly covered his left eye. “We have a visitor from another planet,” he shouted. Silence. He yelled, “This lady is spying on all of us! She’ll go back to her planet and will deliver a verdict. And what will it be? She’s going back soon. We must repent now!” Someone from the back shouted, “Sit down, you son of a bitch!” Pastor Curly sighed. “Frogs in boiling water.” That was the last day I went to work. *** Lisa played the greatest hits from Fleetwood Mac. Her plush couch had us both reclining back as we stared at one another. Her index finger gently rubbed her pouty lips. My face was flushed with anticipation. “Alright Eve, truth or dare?” “Dare.” The first kiss was everything and beyond. My fingertips on her cheeks and neck became a sublime homecoming. With each kiss I only felt an insatiable lust, not for her, but for all of life. Ernie once showed me a silly film where one actor said to the other “You complete me.” It didn’t seem silly anymore. From what I remember, we moved off the linear track of time and were simultaneously ravishing each other in bed and laughing together in a bar. We panted each other’s names in bed as we dove deeper into the scars of the other. We said we loved one another under the sheets while watching the same falling stars from miles apart. Afterwards, her sleeping head rested on my breast. A streak of sunlight flowed through a crack in the blinds. Tears flowed down my cheeks. A beauty proclaimed. Totally fulfilled. Elation. The Departure I’d report the truth. Every message of distress intercepted was from what humans termed World War I. They were no threat. Their habitual act was self-destruction. They’d never speak the same language. The Council has nothing to worry about. And as for Lisa, will I come back from my “sabbatical?” After a swelling of melancholy, I left her the following: There were no feelings before you Stared into the abyss and I found my home Now my affection will never roam Bow your head, you enchanting creature My love for you supplants a universe, in this enthralling adventure There are only thoughts of our future, after you ~Eternally Yours, Eve