Chapter 4


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The drone shook, swayed, rattled. The wind kept blasting it left and right off the path. I tried to force-land. It would’ve worked, hadn’t we been so close to LA already. Here, everywhere except the landing station was unsafe for landing. Too many people. Too many cars and other aircraft. And today especially, too many green alien clouds, so dense and blinding. The alarm simply wouldn’t shut off. Bip bip bip bip bip bip bip, it went on and on.

In frustration, I cursed and swore. I was perspiring like crazy. That further opened up the crevices in my palm. Despite the presence of the alien, this situation still seemed to count as “being alone.”

Or maybe I was going crazy. Maybe I was imagining this.

“Thanks for taking my palm all over the world,” the alien said in a singsong voice, again from everywhere at once.

Okay. I wasn’t imagining this. It’d never occurred to me before this point to frame my life as taking the palm everywhere.

“What do you want from me?” I screamed over the rapid alarm bip bip bip.

“Nothing more,” he said. “Thought I’d say Hi, is all.”

“Then stop shaking the drone! I have to land!”

“There won’t be a place to land.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“This is our territory now.”

A chill went down my spine. I became completely still. Suddenly, the alarm sounded distant. I felt numb.

The alien laughed. It sounded like the air itself quivering.

“The hand is what does, Madame Polonaise. You of all people should know.”

Of course I knew. The hand did, symbolically speaking. For time eternal, that’d been its meaning. Hence you lent a hand, things got out of hand, and sometimes, if you were lucky, you were in safe hands.

“You took my hand all across your planet by opening the global branches,” the alien said. “Of course, it was all for this.”

“I didn’t— I opened new branches for business reasons, not because…”

…I wanted to help an alien take the world in his clutches.

But the alien said, “You thought that was your idea? Global expansion? And you think the rapid and dramatic development in AR and VR technology was a coincidence? We funded those projects. We were the guiding hands.”

“We, the aliens?”

“Of course!” There it was. His impatience, again.

“Why didn’t you travel all over the world yourself?” I asked.

“Madame Polonaise. It’s only been a little more than a year and you already forgot? I told you, I needed your fingerprints. That’s the other part of my people’s tactic. On the one hand, my hand traveling with you in your world. On the other hand, your hand traveling with me in my world.”

The terror! To think that a body part that used to be mine had been on a galactic trip unbeknownst to me made me shudder. Also, to think that it hadn’t been my brain that’d guided my hand, but the other way around, made me feel sick. This wasn’t about the debate on whether the soul did live in the brain. Brain, wherever else, the precise location didn’t matter. Somewhere inside me, I figured “I” resided. But wherever that was, that “I” hadn’t been paying attention. It had let the alien hand take control of me without me ever noticing the change.

“Your fingerprints are everywhere in my world,” the alien said. “And mine are everywhere in your world. Now the web is almost complete. One web, not two. The worlds can overlap, like two palms coming together. This is how worlds are absorbed into another, Madame Polonaise.”

I’d aided and abetted an alien and his people in taking over the Earth as I knew it—just so I could earn some four- and five-star reviews and extra cash!

“What exactly does it mean to be absorbed?” I asked. My voice was shaking uncontrollably and I didn’t even have enough composure to feel embarrassed about it.

“Our energy will take away your shapes and forms,” the alien said. “Like us, you’ll be free. Visible but invisible. Amorphous.”


“This is a good thing. Why would you want to stay in your feeble bodies?”

“Don’t pretend this is about giving us what we need.” A renewed disgust for all things that euphemized and hush-hushed to cloak the truth swelled up inside me. I yelled, “What do you people get out of this?”

“Smart lady,” the alien snickered. “You’re right. We didn’t do this for you.” But he didn’t say anything anymore.

“Out with it!”

“Gosh, see how violent you’re getting?” Like a typical impatient person, the alien was rejoicing in the rare power he got when dealing with people who happened to be more impatient than him at a particular moment. He took his sweet time, very patiently, and said: “This is the problem with the clarity-seekers. You always think that you have some sort of right to demand the truth. But what the hell is the truth anyway? Absolutely nothing. That which won’t be accepted anyway can’t ever be the truth to the non-acceptor.”

“You’re talking gibberish.”

“Oh, no. On the contrary. This is the truth and the only truth. You can tell people all the facts in the world, they still won’t be their truth unless they accept them. And some facts are simply so unacceptable, they’ll never accept them, therefore they’ll never be the truth. In short, it doesn’t matter what the world is like, in reality. What matters is how you bend it. And the species that accepts it prevails. The one that settles in set shapes and forms succumbs. My people are the prevailers. Your people are the succumbers. We’re saving you.”

“You are talking gibberish. You didn’t answer my question. What do you get out of this?”

“We’re spreading the one-truth, that there is no one-truth. What else do we need to get out of this but the fact that we’re right? Not just ‘correct,’ not just ‘accurate,’ but right.”

“But why do you have to rob us of our bodies?”

“Madame Polonaise. Are you listening to me? So long as you’re all stuck in your little limited vessels, you can’t possibly see the truth. You humans think you can put yourselves in other people’s shoes, but you absolutely cannot. That’s why you always waste time, that most precious resource of yours, on debating who’s right and who’s wrong. Speaking of which—you won’t have any precious resources anymore because you’ll join the infinite and boundless collective existence of our people, who were created over time by the joining of those who used to be other people, but are now one of us. Do you understand? There is no ‘other.’ There will be no ‘other’ when it comes to your people and my people, very soon.”

I imagined my life as an extension of a grotesque alien body that floated somewhere in the deep dark near-vacant universe. Of course, according to this particular alien, there wasn’t going to be an alien “body.”

Wait, according to him, he wasn’t a “particular” alien either. He was an extension of the “infinite and boundless collective existence.” But since he himself was that very collective existence, to be very precise, he wasn’t even an “extension.” He was the existence; the existence was him.

The only part about my thoughts that seemed right beyond a shadow of a doubt was the “grotesque” part. Yes. As a human who’d been born in a vessel and had expected to die in a vessel, being vessel-less sounded pretty darn grotesque.

And all those people down there in LA, and on all the other continents—their complete mixing and mingling to the point where everything turned into characterless mush—that sounded like a nightmare. Everyone was going to be the same: no debate about what was the truth, no variety in how things were said, and no question about what to do.

Horrible. The Earth as I knew it was populated by people who debated whether Madame Polonaise’s was worthy of one star or five stars.

By people who preferred Madame Polonaise’s over the Scientific Palm Studies Institute, and vice versa.

By skies that were blue because they existed separately from the green trees. And by bip bip bipping alarms that could bip bip bip because there was a before when they hadn’t bip bip bipped, and there was at least the idea of an after in which there was to be no more bip bip bipping. Also, the honey and raisins smell didn’t just ooze out of sweaty palms.

Damn it, some things were simply not supposed to ooze out.

“Where is my hand? Give me back my hand!” I said.

“It isn’t yours anymore.”

Enraged, I pulled out the binyeo, that U-shaped bone that used to be my great-great-grandmother, bejeweled with little aquamarine, emerald, and jade charms—oceanesque wonders. See, even though this hair ornament wasn’t exactly her anymore, it had meaning because it used to be her. And imagine a world where you don’t have a great-great-grandmother who leaves behind pretty weapons because there never was a separate “her.” No heirlooms, no heritage, no legacy.

The alien laughed. “You think you can kill me with that thing?”

“No,” I hissed. “But you won’t be me anymore and I won’t be anybody else. To hell with your full circle!”

With my left hand, I drilled the U-shaped ends of the bejeweled binyeo into my right wrist.

© 2022 Ithaka O.

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