Here’s some grubby Northern sci-fi for you.
It was a small, grey, scrawny thing, slumped in the corner of my dad’s shed on a pile of compost bags. It stared up at us with those giant saucer eyes they have. I felt a pang. It was like looking at a puppy in a pound, only ten times worse; like looking at a super-puppy.
“What the hell have you done, Jimmy?” Sam said, as he caught sight of the alien.
“I was out picking snails for my mam,” I said, “down the alleys out back of the club. Then I see it just ambling along like. And I had the sack already.”
“Jesus, Jimmy. We should phone the council… or the government. You’ve seen the posters.”
“Don’t you want to see for yourself what it feels like?”
Sam narrowed his eyes at me, then his whole expression changed and his mouth fell open.
I crouched down and watched it watching me. The government had put up posters with warnings, and adverts on the telly giving out scares about the risks of “fraternising.” That’s what they called it. But the rumours on the street said different. Most said these aliens were harmless. More than that, word was their touch was like the best drug you’ve ever had, and with no side-effects. So when I’d seen the little grey fella walking along, I took my chance. I’d brought him down to the shed on my dad’s allotment. No one really came here since the rift opened, and my dad got conscripted. It was the safest place I could think of.
Sam crouched down next to me. “How’s it done?”
“I think you just touch its hand.”
“You first then.”
“Too bloody right.” My stomach churned, but I didn’t want to show my nerves.
The alien was still staring at me. I put my hand up, palm facing towards it, and I hoped Sam didn’t notice me shaking. His eyes were still on the alien, nearly as wide and round as the creature’s.
Slowly, the alien held its hand up, mirroring mine.
“Shit,” said Sam under his breath. He said it really slowly, stretching out the middle. “This is it.”
I moved my hand towards the alien’s hand, and then we touched.
A wave of blue enveloped everything. The deepest blue, like the UV lighting in the club, but ten times as deep. It hummed with depth, but I couldn’t feel the humming. I couldn’t feel a thing. The blue was me and I was the blue. For a moment, I felt completely at peace. And then it hit me like a wave made of pain. Not physical pain. I still couldn’t feel my body. Sorrow, sadness, fear, and hurt pulsed through my consciousness. I wanted to cry out, but I didn’t have a throat to make the noise or a mouth to shape the sound.
A second wave came, this one of loneliness. I realised how we’d connected. Could it feel what I felt? I saw myself like an onion being peeled, layer after layer, until, in the middle, the core, black and rotten, spreading decay, like something on my dad’s compost heap. Something selfish, using, corrupting. I didn’t want to feel its pain. I didn’t want it to see my rottenness. I pulled away with some part of myself, and willed myself out of that place.
The blue disappeared. I was sprawled on the floor of the shed, looking up at the wooden roof with its damp stains and mould patches where it hadn’t dried out from the winter. I struggled to stand, limbs all at the wrong angle. The alien was curled up in the corner, its knees pulled up to its too-big-head, its skinny arms wrapped around its legs, its face hidden.
“You all right?” Sam asked. Now he was staring at me.
“Come on,” I said to the creature. I crouched in front of it again, gesturing for it to get out of the corner. I didn’t dare touch it. I just knelt there and waited. It probably couldn’t understand me, anyway.
Finally, it raised its head to the side, one big eye peering over its arm.
I gestured with my hand again. “Come on.”
I moved out the way, shoving into Sam as I did. I’d forgotten he was still crouched there.
“What are you playing at?” he asked as he fell on his arse. “Watch it.”
I didn’t care about him. I just wanted to let the thing go, and it wasn’t going to come out of the corner with me blocking its way. I pushed the door open, then stood back and waited.
“Go on,” I said. “Get going.”
“What the hell are you doing?” Sam shouted, picking himself up. “What about my go?”
“You don’t get a go,” I said. I couldn’t be arsed explaining. No. I couldn’t explain. He wouldn’t understand. I wasn’t sure I did. I just couldn’t keep it here anymore.
“What’s your problem?” he asked.
“I’m letting it go.”
Slowly, the alien uncurled itself from its ball.
“But …” Sam began. He didn’t bother finishing. The creature ran past us and shot out the door as fast as its skinny little legs could carry it.
I stepped outside.
“I wanted to see what it was like,” Sam said. He just sounded confused now.
The sun was setting over the backs of the houses, spilling orange light across the rows of red bricks and the alleyways, the washing out on lines in back yards, the half-dug allotments, some going to weed since the conscription came. It reflected off windows, making the houses look like they were on fire, and leaving me twice as cold. Fizzing away like a great electric eye, the rift’s blue light warred against the orange flood. I couldn’t see any sign of the creature.
“You’ll have to find your own,” I said. “But if I was you, I wouldn’t bother.”