Chapter 6


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Number One couldn’t sleep for two days thereafter because of the intricacies of organizing my trips from the various press interviews to the Madame Polonaise’s branches to the hospitals with supposedly the best doctors the Earth had to offer.

Number Two couldn’t sleep for two months thereafter because of the processions of homage-paying worshippers who came to pay their respects to all my homes sprinkled all over the seven continents.

Number Three did sleep, but had to screen phone calls from restaurants and food brands that wanted a picture of me eating their Recuperate from Alien Attack set menu or drinking their new Anti-Green Power Boost.

Number Four mostly spent his time letting some idiot organizations know that Madame Polonaise, now and forever, had no intention of supporting campaigns that attempted to wipe out all forests on the surface of the Earth due to the mistaken belief that green trees were alien spies. He also doubled the number of my bodyguards.

Number Five fixed up my hospital gowns for me, so they wouldn’t look so bland. She hated bland. It turned out, hospital gowns being so roomy and breezy, they were suitable for her bohemian, hippie, and gypsy tastes. Leading global brands saw what she’d done from paparazzi shots and offered her a job as the lead designer for their S/S collection the following year. Number Five declined the offers. She knew the dangers of accepting new opportunities that’d been triggered by the fleeting and whimsical attention of the masses.

Number Six was on break. Before, during, and for a long time after my hand replantation surgery and the subsequent follow-up surgeries and check-ups, I was in no condition to get spa treatments, attend personal training sessions, and go to hairdressing appointments.

This put the position of Number Seven in jeopardy. Six and Seven hoped that One Through Five would fail to deliver here and there, but given the amount of global attention on me after the Green Takeover, as it came to be called, One Through Five were in top-performance mode. No amount of stress and sleeplessness lowered their standards or affected their work in a negative way. (I had hired an excellent team. It’s one of the nice things that happen when you’re a competent palm reader.)

So, Six made it her job to accompany me. Yes, I stopped traveling alone. When I slept, drugged by painkillers, I didn’t worry that my alien hand might awaken and smell like honey and raisins all over the aircraft. I also didn’t worry that Six might stare down at me, watching me sleep. I simply told One to get us an aircraft with those personal-room-like seats, where covers and blinds and all kinds of other privacy features did an excellent job at stopping people from stalking you while you slept.

Number Seven remained on standby. He was happy to stay that way once Six had found something to do. One of One Through Six was bound to get exhausted at some point. Seven waited patiently.

The replantation surgery went well. The doctors said it was a miracle. They said that it was as if the blood vessels and nerves knew where to reconnect. Everyone who hadn’t been in the surgery room thought that it was merely a beautiful figure of speech. But it wasn’t. I knew, and the doctors who’d been involved knew: they’d meant it literally. My hand had recognized its old owner, who’d abandoned it so unceremoniously in exchange for an alien replacement. It didn’t blame me, didn’t criticize me, didn’t demand an apology. It simply returned to me.

People thought I’d saved the Earth by sacrificing my hand. Nobody knew that the hand I’d been carrying around for the past year or so had been the enemy’s. While the green clouds, and later the green fluid, had taken over the world, people had experienced the terrors of amorphousness. That inexplicable event was what drove them to cling to the seemingly explainable. They seemed to think it made total sense that a person such as me—a palm reader who dealt in the business of questionable, sweeping statements about people’s lives—had been the sole person to identify an alien and scare him off. Not the government, not the conspiracy theorists who’d spent their whole lives surfing the web for clues of aliens on Earth, but me. It sort of fits together, people said. They were glad to believe so.

And I have to admit that I didn’t try very hard—or at all—to correct their beliefs. Yes, I’m cowardly like that. I was simply glad people didn’t suspect me of treason. I told myself that even if I were to tell the truth, nobody would believe it.

A perfect full circle. I’d returned to the beginning. Nobody would believe me, I told myself, and also convinced myself that that was good enough. The one-truth I knew (and me knowing it was enough) was that Madame Polonaise’s had made the most of the alien’s guiding hand, and that now, it was highly unlikely that someone else could compete via the palm. That sounds weird, “compete via the palm,” but what I mean is that no alien would succeed in luring another truth-teller, offering them their hand, and letting them take the hand around the globe. That was my focus thereafter: solidifying Madame Polonaise’s position as the world’s leading palm reading service, so that there could be no danger of treasonous competition of the galactic scale.

A convenient excuse to rake it in? Maybe so. But also, it was the accurate and correct truth. And besides, it was right. Until the aliens figured out how to guide with feet and identify a truth-teller by their feet, I was to be the unintentional protector of the Earth.

I couldn’t move my fingers yet. They felt alien. But the lines of customers at each of my seven branches grew ever longer. And I had the sense that the fingers, as well as the whole palm, would eventually come around. You had to live with yourself somehow.

So please don’t hate me too much. There is an unchangeable you in you. It morphs over time but never stops being you.

And so I returned to the life of facing those who had the money to spend on my services: ninety-nine percent of whom would never see war, never starve, and never get murdered. Nothing of significance would happen to them, whether I told them so or whether I told them they were invincible. Their one-truth, their core wasn’t going to change. Carefully kept inside their shells, very much apart from others contained in equally reliable shells but also never too far away from them, each of most of my clients was to lead their life until its natural end. No drama, no tragedy.

And I was going to be there for them, remotely and in person, as well as for all the pro bono sessions. One by one, I would tell them the obvious, only slightly salted and peppered with somewhat more exciting-sounding words. I had no more scruples about that. There’d been no reason to. In fact, I should’ve been proud of that aspect of my job all along. If certain elements of your life had to be lived with, without any way to remove them, then why, framing them in such a way that people could enjoy them more was the most effective way to help them cherish their selves.

So I would give them a hand, in letting them try their hand at living with themselves. Really tackle the problem at hand—

Okay. That’s a bit too much. But I would offer them sweet honey and raisins. Then cloud their views with incense that also shrouded them away from the monotony of everyday life. And yes, I planned to faithfully ring the bell, at the door and by the tacky round table…

…looking out for the aliens who might take us away from us.

© 2022 Ithaka O.

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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.
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— The End. —