Typical American to never shut up, they think. Doesn’t he know they come in peace? They wonder why they picked this part of the planet to survey. His rusty spurs clink against the metal floor of their gleaming craft, but it’s drowned out by his ramble—the incessant twang and drawl, words like dusty tumbleweeds rolling off his tongue. Illegal this, borders that. Guns, guns, guns. He prods on. They probe: are they the ones abducted now? Is this his nervous habit? Fear that makes him rant this way? Maybe it masks a lonesome West. There isn’t quite a West in space. No North, South, or East either—just endless horizon no matter where they point their beaconed light. The astronomer’s paradox: it’s infinite and expanding. Big sky country down here and up there, too. Still, he talks and talks to fill the void beneath the shade of a Stetson brim. Another conundrum: how is it the more he talks to fill the void, the more of it he makes? Things get heavy. To orbit is to tug together, fall forever toward the dark. And maybe that is what each needs. Some companionship. Shared shelter. Some love—infinite, expanding—to push back all this hate. Starve the black hole of his greedy mouth. He’d see they’re much the same if he would listen to the soothing hum of an aimless ship. What is a cockpit but a saddle? An alien but a ranch hand looking for his homestead? Searching for safety, a sense of place. They get him more than he gets them. Go back where you came from, he hollers. They laugh an alien laugh. Not their first rodeo. Here’s the real where: a single point so small, so dense. Everything holding everything close. A bang, big, like a bullet from a barrel. Buckshot galaxies scatter apart forever and ever. Amen. Yee-haw. Our hearts are dead exploded stars. They sigh, have heard enough, learned what they could learn. Time to return him to his stolen land where everything’s been taken. Forsaken. Roped in. Beamed up. And maybe that’s the lesson. Maybe it’s universal, this feeling of wanting—no, needing—to lasso some world.
Aaron Sandberg has appeared or is forthcoming in The Offing, Asimov’s, Lost Balloon, Flash Frog, Phantom Kangaroo, Qu, Alien Magazine, Whale Road Review, and elsewhere. Nominated for The Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and the Dwarf Stars Award, you can see him—and his writing—on Instagram @aarondsandberg.
Artwork: “They Rejected Me, I’m a Monster 2” by Rachel Coyne
Acrylic on paper