Thursday, February 28, 2013

Wilfreds Rest, an alien invasion sci-fi story...

The story title is supposed to have an apostrophe, but my blog appears on Amazon, Goodreads and probably a half dozen other locations, and a lot of the RSS (Rich Site Summary) feeds turn title apostrophes into alien Wilfreds it must be.

By the way, you guys are amazing! I've had more visitors (thousands) in the last few weeks than I ever thought possible. Your conversations, readership and friendship are the reasons that writing is NOT a solitary job. Sure, I do have to slug it out to create a story...but then I get to share it with all of you. This 9-page story originally appeared on the Mistress of the Dark Path website as part of a monthly story contest. If you haven't checked out the site, you really ought to give it a peek: Focus House Publishing (a small press a couple of hours north of me in Central Maine, run by my brother) is debating whether to add it to my current "Distilled Shadows" short story anthology or maybe to create a new anthology with a sci-fi theme.

Regardless, I hope you enjoy this little tidbit. Of course, it was written to contest guidelines with exactly a 2200-word limit. I might enlarge and tweak things before it moves onto its next stage in life, so please let me know what you'd like to see expanded, changed, deleted :-)

Happy reading!
Wilfred’s Rest

a 2200-word short story

by Tim Greaton


            If she hadn’t met Wilfred and been taken in by his over-the-top and ultimately fake charm, Ethel wondered if she might ever have had a chance with the silver fox on the TV screen. It’s true she had never met him, but who knew where her life might have taken her had marriage not tied her down so young. She watched as Walter Cronkite reported how more than 25 people had died when their freighter ship the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior.

Those poor people, Ethel thought, suddenly feeling foolish for fantasizing when real tragedies were taking place in the world. Having heard enough, she heaved up onto arthritic legs and shuffled over to shut the TV off.

Suddenly, a horrendous roar vibrated the entire house. As quickly as old legs would allow, she hobbled to the kitchen and peered out the window at brilliant lights glaring down from the forest behind her house. The roar dulled to a loud whooshing sound. The floor ceased to quake.

 An emergency landing!  

It wasn’t unheard of for Coast Guard choppers to pass overhead on their way to the Powell River Inlet. This would, however, be the first time they had pit stopped behind her house. Had Wilfred been alive, he would surely have found some way to sue someone over this.

The intense lights came from a spot well above the trees. The Whooshing sound turned into a deep growl. She debated phoning the police, but since anyone injured would need help now, not when Seattle’s finest managed to spare the time, she grabbed her walking cane and shuffled outside. Leaves and twigs swirled violently in the air.

She shielded her eyes. “Hello! Are you all right?”

Unfortunately, the machine growl and wind were louder than her eighty-three-year-old voice. Having no choice, she limped out into the gale and somehow managed to reach the shed. Her property line ended just beyond the small ramshackle building, but she had no neighbors. One of Wilfred’s lawsuits had bankrupted the landowners behind them and, even though Ethel had offered to sign anything needed, no developer had had yet been able to clear the title.

The whirring stopped. Leaves and bits of sand made a soft hiss as they dropped to the ground all around her. Then everything fell silent. Ethel crept past several evergreen trees and nearly tripped on a blueberry bush her grandson had planted a year earlier. By the time she unraveled her cane and aching legs from the tenacious shrub, only one steady light close to the ground remained on. Two thin silhouettes stood in front of it.

“You must be with the Coast Guard,” she called out.

“Ghoost Caard,” came a high pitched reply.

“Is everyone okay?” Ethel asked.

“Evraayne kaaay.”

Fearing the woman had a head injury, Ethel said, “My house is right back here. Please, come inside where you can get warm and use my phone.”

She waited long enough to see the figures coming her way before turning and limping through the dark toward her house. With all the spotlights and commotion earlier, she hadn’t thought to turn her outside lights on. Finally, out of breath, legs throbbing, she made it up the two rear stairs and flipped the switch to illuminate the yard. She turned back to look and, suddenly, all of her aches and pains faded to insignificance.

Though probably no taller than six feet, the aliens’ extra-long legs and slender bodies gave them a towering appearance that was enhanced by their protracted necks and tiny heads. Their large, yellow eyes glowed under the spotlight. They didn’t seem to have noses or ears, but each had a large open mouth with no discernible lips. In the dim light, their pale skin seemed to glow in contrast to their gray uniforms.

Ethel knew she should have been terrified, but she had enjoyed eighty-three good years on this earth. If the Heavenly Father wanted to take her now, she would be satisfied to go.  

The broader alien motioned with a many-fingered hand to the slender one. Apparently the male of the two, it seemed to be saying, ‘Let me handle this.’  

Ethel stiffened. Wilfred used to do that all the time. Taking charge of everything, controlling her life every chance he got. Now she could see there was sexism even in space. Well, Ethel was having none of it.

“Nonsense,” she said, addressing the slender female. “You come right in. This is my home and you’re welcome to come inside.” She glanced to the male. “You’re both welcome.”     

The female blinked in what Ethel interpreted as a friendly gesture then nodded her long neck and moved in spider-like strides toward the house. The male followed. Ethel felt the smallest tinge of fear as the tall creatures gracefully slipped past, but she ignored the feeling and went inside.

Minutes later, she was readying hot tea for the two aliens who were seated awkwardly in her kitchen. Their extended legs made it impossible for their knees to fit under the table, and short torsos meant small heads peered out between their knees. Ethel placed the floral china cups at the edge of the table so her guests could see them more easily. After offering crackers and several other snack foods, she gave up on finding a suitable alien cuisine and sat down to rest sore legs.  

The aliens were cautiously sipping their tea.

“I never expected anything like this,” she said, “but I’m thrilled to meet you.”

The male stared wide-eyed but the female blinked several times in what Ethel interpreted as a smile. She again pushed her fear of the unknown away, and recognized the male’s similar reaction. His cup trembled each time it returned his saucer.

“I’m guessing your ship is broke,” Ethel said. She motioned with one hand as though it was flying then brought it quickly down into her other palm. “You crashed.”

“Crayeesh.” The female mimicked the fallen ship hand gestures, and pointed toward the backdoor. “Crayeesh.”

“You’re welcome to stay here with me,” Ethel said. She gripped her hands together and hoped they understood friendship.

The male studied her for a moment then gibbered a series of long-vowel squeaks. The female shook her head and made the ship gestures again. This time all nine of her fingers wiggled as she showed the ship taking off.

“You can fix your ship,” Ethel said. “That’s great.” Already she worried what the women in her Yahtzee Club would say if she canceled their Wednesday games. And what about the weekends with her grandchildren and her eldest son’s impromptu stops for morning coffee? Keeping alien guests a secret would not be easy.

The female got effortlessly to her feet and crossed to the stove. She turned the knob and pointed at the amber light. “Yeet aw.” She turned it off. “Yeet da.” She did it again, repeating the words. “Yeet aw. Yeet da.”

“On, off,” Ethel said. I understand.

The female mimed her flying ship again. As it rose up, she said, “Yeet aw.” Then she crashed it into her pale white palm. “Yeet da.”

“Your ship shut off. Yeet da.”

The female blinked her yellow eyes in agreement. Then she showed her ship taking off again. “Beenay oh yeet aw.” She wiggled her fingers as the ship took off and pointed to her wriggling fingers. “Beenay.”

“Fuel,” Ethel guessed. “You can only take off if you have more fuel.”

“Fooweel.” The alien pointed to her wriggling fingers and the ship taking off. “Beenay oh fooweel.”

Ethel smiled. Somehow they were communicating but they needed something more. She fetched her entire set of encyclopedias. The aliens spent hours leafing through the pages with their many fingers speeding the job along. The female pointed to a page about evolution. She pointed to the picture and to Ethel.

“Yes, I’m a human being.”

“Huuman beeeing.” The female pointed at herself then the male. “Kreeloown.”

“Kreelown,” Ethel said. “You’re Kreelown.”

After scanning thousands of pictures, the Kreelowns finally made Ethel understand they needed methane. More specifically, they required a way to manufacture the gas for the duration of a long trip. Unfortunately, a retired bookkeeper, Ethel had no knowledge of chemicals or how to manufacture them.

It was after two in the morning when the female helped her to her feet and followed her to the bedroom. Ethel removed two clean blankets from the closet and pointed to the bed. She tried to explain her guests should sleep there, but the alien woman wouldn’t hear of it. She helped Ethel into bed and stroked the sides of her cheeks.

Ethel fell into a deep, luxurious sleep.

The following morning, she literally hopped out of bed and hurried to the living room to see the aliens curled into a single ball in the center of a nest of cushions scavenged from the couch, chair and kitchen chairs. The female was first to open wide amber eyes which immediately crinkled into what Ethel felt certain was a smile.

She smiled back.

“Ooga reefla,” the female said, getting gracefully to her feet. She led Ethel into the bathroom and pointed to the mirror over the sink.

Ethel took one look and nearly fainted. Her stringy gray hair had been replaced with the silky black hair of youth. The skin on her face, forehead and neck had smoothed. She didn’t look a day over thirty. She glanced down to see the ugly splotches and blue veins on the backs of her hands were also gone.

“You made me young again!” she exclaimed.

“Ooga reefla,” the female said, stroking Ethel’s cheek.

Suddenly, Ethel felt terrible for not having learned her name. She pointed to herself. “My name is Ethel.”

“Eeethel,” the female said, blinking large yellow eyes.

Pointing a slender finger at her gray uniform, the alien said, “Avaraaay.” She gestured out towards the living room. “Benara.”

“Avaray and Benara,” Ethel said. “Ava and Ben.”

The female blinked. “Ee, Ava oh Ben.”

“It’s so nice to meet you,” Ethel said.

“Neece to meet, Eeethel.”

Realizing her vision had improved along with the rest of her body, Ethel glanced around the tiny bathroom until her eyes settled on the toilet. She suddenly knew what the aliens needed.

“Cows,” she said. “Cows make methane, a lot of it.”

“Cooows,” the alien said.

Ethel hurried out to the kitchen and started searching through the encyclopedias. Soon, she found a picture of a cow. After an embarrassing explanation about how cows create waste products, including methane, she rushed outside on thirty-year-old legs and pointed to the grass.

“They eat grass and drink water. Can you create those things on your ship?”   

The male said, “Ubda go cooowd?”

“A farm,” Ethel said. “You get cows at a farm.”

It took a dozen calls but a few hours later a truck pulled into Ethel’s yard with six cows on the back. She used the last of Wilfred’s life insurance to pay for them, and was glad she’d kept the cash stashed in the closet. It seemed unlikely the bank would have allowed a thirty-year-old to remove money from an eighty-year-old’s account. She didn’t want to think about the complications ahead—oh, what a problem to have!

After the farmer left, they herded the cows to the spaceship, which looked like a three-story ice cream cone standing on its head. When a large door retracted near the bottom, Ben led the cows inside. Ethel would have liked a tour but Ava made it clear they had a different atmosphere in the ship.

Ethel hoped the cows could survive.

Ava followed her back to her house. On the way, Ethel lept over her grandson’s blueberry bush. She felt wonderful. Ava stopped beside a row of six crosses where Ethel had buried her beloved pets. After Lacey died three years earlier, she had opted to avoid further heartbreak and now lived alone.

Suddenly, Ava dug into Lacey’s grave.

Horrified, imagining her tiny dog’s remains being sucked into the lipless mouth, Ethel grabbed Ava’s shoulders but it was too late. There was a familiar yelp and her beloved dog shook dirt from her fur and jumped into her arms. Ethel was so busy hugging and being licked by her poodle, it was several seconds before she realized other paws were reaching up for her. Three cats and two more dogs. All her pets were now alive and clamoring for her attention.

Ava squinted in laughter. She pointed toward the house.  

“Weelfreed,” she said.

Ethel understood. The ashes of her husband sat in an urn beside the TV. He hadn’t liked pets and would never let her keep all six of them now resurrected. But how could she deny him a chance to live, to be young again?

She suddenly remembered the countless restless nights alone during their thirties while he’d been having an affair with his boss’s wife. Then there was the tall blond coworker he dated throughout their forties. And the string of cocktail waitresses he saw well into their fifties. It hadn’t actually been until he got too sick to slip away before he became a one-woman man.

“That’s okay,” Ethel said. “Let’s let Wilfred rest.”


The End


  1. Gotta love the ending. Now it's Ethel's time to play. Well done Tim.

    1. Very kind of you to read and comment, Jeff. Though I hope I haven't given her as much ammunition as Wilfred gave Ethel, I fear my wife's answer to that same offer :-)

  2. Loved it. Truly done by a craftsman! A hat tip!

    1. Thanks for the kind comment, John. 'Hope you have a fabulous weekend planned! Drop me a note to check out your next blog :-)


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