Table of Contents
Jump to Chapter 1
Under the protection of the gazebo, Ben waited for the rain to pass. A young couple was doing the same thing. So was a group of college girls.
Small lamps lit the gazebo from the ground and from its ceiling. But all other parts of the park were dark and deserted. And hills cradled the entirety of the park, so that very little of the city’s lights reached it. (Hills, they were called, in this part of the world. Elsewhere, these elements of the terrain could’ve been dubbed mountains. Vocabulary and definitions were relative.) The continued rain was pulling the temperature down with it. But the added freshness of the air was a plus.
Besides, despite the crowdedness under the roof, everyone seemed glad to have found each other. When you got caught in a rain in the middle of the night, you absolutely did want some light to calm you down. But that ended up exposing you to potential attackers lurking in the dark. Hence the necessity of a crowd. Or at least a small group. So, not wanting to chase anybody away, everyone politely whispered among themselves, giggled, and watched this or that video clip using earphones.
Baby Blue was still with Ben. The whole way here, Baby Blue had accused Ben of separating it from its kind. But with so many humans in the gazebo, it had stopped sending him messages. It seemed to worry that if it pushed Ben too far and he answered inadvertently, people might wonder why he was talking to himself. But as long as Ben did nothing of the sort, no one would notice anything wrong. Because, by now, Ben was certain: people couldn’t see Baby Blue. Otherwise, someone would’ve stared, commented, done something. And Ben couldn’t have blamed them. A grown man holding a baby in a black bundle of cloth in the middle of a rainy night? How suspicious was that?
But no one pointed it out. So Ben sat there. Patiently. Shivering slightly because of the cooling air, but also because of Baby Blue’s innate iciness on his lap. Only once did someone hint that the world of Baby Blue didn’t exist one-hundred-percent separately from the world of the Earth.
“He smells so nice,” one of the college girls said.
They giggled. Ben could smell Baby Blue’s dense detergent scent too. Every time he thought he’d gotten used to the scent, a fresh breeze blew, stirring the air in the park. Then the air settled. Then the scent clustered again.
“He’s cute,” another girl said.
“He’s tall,” yet another said.
“Talk to him.”
“I can’t speak English.”
Why they assumed he couldn’t speak Korean was beyond Ben. But maybe, at the moment, it was better that they believed so. Because of their assumption, they were leaving him alone. And when people left you alone, they were usually just being polite. (After years of living abroad, whispering about his cuteness counted as “leaving him alone” in Ben’s dictionary.) The primary reason for people’s feigned indifference: they didn’t want to embarrass themselves by saying something that revealed just how few aliens they’d encountered in their lifetime. And they didn’t want to offend the alien.
Silly Ben. Why hadn’t he behaved more like them and left Baby Blue amidst the trash bags? Who did he think he was? Had he thought he could understand Baby Blue? How? Ben couldn’t even understand his own species. Or himself.
<Look how polite they are,> Baby Blue cooed. He was making fun of Ben’s bewildered state. <They’re going to leave you alone. How wonderful of them.>
Ben bit his lips. He absolutely could not speak right now. That’d be like admitting that Baby Blue was right to accuse him.
Why did Ben care so much what Baby Blue thought of him? Maybe he didn’t. It wasn’t Baby Blue he cared about. Ben just didn’t want to be the guy who made life worse for a being that wanted to go home, but couldn’t because of him.
<You’re a patient one.>
Ben said nothing.
<Is this normal for humans? To let some stranger offend them?>
Ben still said nothing.
<Of course it’s not normal. You’re abnormal. I’ve seen plenty of contrary proof during my studies about the Earth. Homo Sapiens, overall, may not be an arrogant and violent species. But there are always enough arrogant and violent individuals that take the helm. So the whole species might as well be arrogant and violent. It makes no difference.>
The alarm rang on someone’s phone. Everyone flinched.
“I’m sorry,” the man in the couple said.
He and his girlfriend smiled, apologized once more, and left, running into the rain. The remaining people looked around. Beyond the hills, a tinge of blue had appeared in the pitch-black sky.
“Are the subways running again?” one of the college girls said.
“Almost. It’s five o’clock.”
“How far is it to the subway station?”
“Ten minutes if we walk, five if we run.”
“Maybe we should get going too.”
Then all of them, five or six, glanced at Ben.
“You go ahead,” Ben said in perfect Korean. “I’ll be fine.”
The girls stared. They laughed, slightly embarrassed. Then, giggling harmlessly, they also ran into the rain.
Soon, the park became quiet again.
“How come they couldn’t see you?” Ben asked.
<You’re not one to waste time.>
“Just answer me. You’ve said everything you wanted to say. Now it’s my turn to ask the questions I want to ask.”
<Not everyone is trapped in one shell their entire lifetime, human. Many advanced lifeforms exist on a higher plane, away from corporeal constraints. We are one such kind, free from physicalities.>
“You call being in the body of a baby being free from physicality?”
<That’s why I would’ve liked to return to my kind, isn’t that obvious?> Baby Blue snapped. <Those two terrorists and their kind, they’re the ones who trapped me in this body.>
“So I did save you from them.”
<No, fool! If you hadn’t tried to protect me with your good-for-nothing feeble body, the saucer would’ve picked me up with the blue beam!>
“But the enemy saucer was attacking it.”
<Yet still, by then, I would’ve been in the attacked saucer, not outside of it!>
“That still doesn’t answer my question. So you’re not supposed to be trapped in a body, so what? How is it that people can’t see you even when you’re trapped in your blue baby body? How come no one noticed the saucers either except me?”
<Because even that which resides in a shell needn’t share space with all others that reside in shells.>
Ben frowned, glaring down at Baby Blue’s scaly forehead. It squirmed its fingers, apparently frustrated by the burden of living inside a physical frame. Sighing heavily, Baby Blue said:
<What you think is you is actually you and lots of microbes and even more space. If you’re a being that can exist without a physical form, there are plenty of ways to appear and disappear in the cracks.>
“But I can see you. Why is that?”
Baby Blue didn’t answer right away.
“You wanted me to see you,” Ben said.
“So I did, and I picked you up, which is exactly what you wanted from me.”
<I wouldn’t say…>
“Yet you yelled at me for noticing you and trying to protect you!”
<I only wanted you to see me when I thought I needed to be transported somewhere else. I couldn’t exactly pick the alley. When I was screaming and writhing my way out of their saucer, my priority was to just be dropped anywhere.>
Ben placed the bundle on the bench of the gazebo and left. “Goodbye,” he said.
<No! Don’t go! I am a prince. They want my life so they can rule over my kind. They abducted me to demand that my army surrender! If that doesn’t work out, they’ll kill me!>
“You gotta find yourself a more arrogant and violent human who thinks he can save your life.”
<Then please! Just hug me for a minute!>
Ben stopped. He turned to face the bundle. “I’ve been hugging you for hours.”
<Hug me more! I’m cold! I’ll freeze to death!>
Ben sighed. The rain had stopped, but the air still felt cool. And who knew what “cool” meant for alien babies? Maybe “cool” equaled “freezing” in their dictionary. Ben had no way of knowing.
Groaning, he stomped to the bench. He picked up the bundle. Baby Blue squirmed harder.
<Remove the cloth around my face for me. I want to see who was my savior until I drove him away.>
Jeez. Baby Blue had a way of mixing compliments with guilt-inducing accusations. Ben pushed the black silk back.
Blue beams shot out of Baby Blue’s eyes, aiming straight for Ben’s eyes.
© 2022 Ithaka O.
All rights reserved.This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.No part of this story may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without written permission from the author.