Thank You for Choosing Alien Abduction ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
“I want to be cremated,” Leif Mickelson said.
“We’ll take care of it,” Lyle the guard said. “Don’t worry about a thing.”
“I’m not worried. I haven’t got a care in the world.”
“Friday’s the day. Friday the tenth.”
“I was born on a Friday. Did you know that? A very auspicious day.”
“What about family? Do you want to meet with family? Mother or father? Wife or sweetheart?”
“No, they’re all dead and it’s just as well.”
“Well, you just try to relax and clear your mind. That’s the advice I always give to the fellas.”
Yes, clearing his mind was the best parting gift he could give to himself. No more sorrow. No more self-recrimination. No more painful memories. All his misdeeds were in the past and could not, should not, be recalled. He had confessed his sins to the priest and the priest had absolved him. He was washed clean. The slate on which he had done so much writing was now blank. Everything was washed away—the good, but especially the bad. Five days left and no more sinning.
They brought him magazines but he didn’t open them. They brought him cigarettes, candy and chewing gum, but they lay untouched. They brought him writing paper to write any farewell letters, but he had none to write. They offered to bring in a TV to brighten his final hours, but a TV would only remind him of the things of the world he was trying to forget and he declined it. When asked what he wanted for his final meal, he said he wanted only the Holy Sacrament, the body and blood of Jesus Christ, which the priest promised to administer in the last few minutes of his life.
He lay on his bunk and looked at the ceiling. He turned on his side and looked at the wall. He thought about his body that would soon be reduced to a pile of gray ash. He thought about the breath in his lungs and the heart that miraculously pumped blood to every part of his body, no matter how unworthy he might be. He looked at his reflection in the mirror and thought how he would soon be only a shadow, a shade, a memory to anybody who might have any reason at all to remember him. When he was gone, it would be as if he never existed at all. He would leave nothing behind.
The time he had spent waiting already seemed like a small eternity. When he craned his neck from inside his cell, he could see the clock on the wall, ticking away the seconds and the minutes. But time had no more meaning for him. He wanted there to be no more time, no more waiting. He wanted to jump ahead to midnight Friday night. He was through waiting. It seemed an unspeakable cruelty to make him wait any longer. He was ready to get what he had been asking for all his life. He was ready, he was ready, he was ready…
On Wednesday morning, two days before his scheduled execution, the guards bound his hands and feet with manacles and ushered him into a small room in a part of the prison he had never seen before. They set him down at a table with his back to the wall and left.
Four other men were in the room; they were all on the other side of the table, facing him. He knew that one was the prison warden but he didn’t know who the others were. He blinked his eyes, relaxed in the chair and took a deep breath. There was nothing more to fear.
“How are you holding up?” the warden asked.
“I’m all right.”
“Do you need anything? Is there anything we can do for you?”
“The last rites. That’s all.”
“I’ve been going over your records carefully. You’re forty-two years old, married twice but divorced both times, no children, no living family.”
“That’s right. My father killed my mother and then killed himself.”
“So, the whole thing has been a pretty sad affair for you.”
“I’m not complaining.”
The warden set aside some papers, cleared his throat, and gave a small smile. “I’m going to make you a proposition,” he said.
“Yeah? What’s that?”
“Do you believe the earth has been visited by alien beings?”
“Is this a joke?”
“No, it’s not a joke. Do I need to repeat the question?”
“No, I got it.” He laughed in spite of himself. “I’ve never really thought about it, but I suppose there’s lots of things going on out there we don’t see and don’t understand.”
“Would you believe me if I told you the United States government has been in contact with an alien intelligence for thirty years or more?”
“Yeah, I’d believe it. Sure, why not?”
“This alien intelligence wants a small number of men from earth.”
“Men from earth. What for?”
“That’s the thing. We can only speculate.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means we don’t know.”
“I honestly don’t know what you’re trying to say to me.”
The warden took a deep breath and relaxed his shoulders. “You’ve been a model prisoner in the seven years you’ve been with us.”
“How many gold stars have I earned?”
“You’re in excellent health. You score much higher than average on intelligence tests.”
“What does that get me? Are you going to take me to the front gate and let me go home?”
“No, it doesn’t mean that. It means something else, though. It means you are eligible to be one of the specimens from earth that the alien intelligence has requested.”
“Me? Why me?”
“I’ve just told you all the reasons.”
“The aliens want me?”
“They want men like you.”
“You mean I can go with them? To their planet? Into outer space?”
“We don’t know where. That’s the thing. It’s unknown. At least to us.”
“Are you saying they’ll be able to do whatever they want with me? They can make me their slave, or cut me apart to see what I look like on the inside, or lock me in a cage?”
“They promise humane treatment.”
“Well, what do you know about that?”
“It’ll be entirely your choice. Only you decide. If you decide not to accept, we’ll proceed with your execution in two days.”
“How many would there be? I mean, going along to wherever it is?”
“Just you. Others have gone before.”
“About three hundred, I’m told.”
“Three hundred in thirty years?”
“Would I see any of the three hundred when I get there?”
“We don’t know that.”
“What do you get out of it? I mean, what does earth get out of it?”
“It’s in the interest of science and nothing more.”
“This is not just a trick you’re playing on me, is it? Mind games? To see how gullible I am?”
“Do you really think we’d do that?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know anything.”
“Do you need some time to think it over?”
“This is what it comes down to, then. In two days it’s the big sleep for me or the big unknown. It’s up to me to decide. Is that what you’re saying?”
“Do you want some time to think it over?”
“No, no more time.”
“You’ll do it? You won’t do it?”
“Of course I’ll do it. In the interest of science.”
They removed him to an isolation cell so he couldn’t talk to anybody. No guards, no priest, no fellow prisoners, nothing. Complete isolation. Food and drink would be given to him through a little compartment in the door, without any human contact.
He still believed they might be playing a trick on him, but as the hours went by he began to have a different view of midnight Friday night. Instead of darkness and oblivion, he now saw something different, a tiny light at the end of a long tunnel. He wasn’t going to be fooled, though. The world had a way of dashing his brains out on the rocks below.
In the isolation cell, he could no longer see the clock, but he knew from the light coming in at the window that it was Wednesday night and then Thursday morning. His breakfast was handed in at the little opening in the door and then, hours later, lunch.
Thursday afternoon and evening seemed interminable. He lay on the bunk, paced the floor, counted the tiles in the floor, counted his breaths. When the evening meal was delivered, he called through the opening that he needed to speak to the warden, but there was no response. He wanted some questions answered before he was going to climb on any old spaceship to the stars.
Finally it was Friday morning, his last day in prison, his last day on earth. He felt brave and almost happy and then his insides quaked with terror. He had changed his mind. He didn’t want to go. What had he signed on for? He wasn’t going to be the plaything of hideous aliens on a faraway planet. There was no way of knowing what kind of tortures they might subject him to. Maybe he wouldn’t even be able to breathe when he got there. He wanted to put a stop to this thing. He wanted to die as scheduled at midnight and let that be the end of it.
He wasn’t able to touch his breakfast, but when lunch was delivered he felt calm again, his hands had stopped shaking, his heart was no longer hammering in his chest and his breaths didn’t choke him. He ate everything on his lunch tray and then he took a restful nap.
He was awakened by the opening of the door to his cell. It was the warden and two other men. The warden had some “release forms” for him to sign; he signed them without even looking at them. One of the men, the doctor, gave him some shots in both arms, checked his blood pressure and his heart.
“Just a few more hours now and you’ll be on your way,” the warden said, smiling and touching him on the upper arm. “You have my very best wishes for a safe journey.”
As soon as the warden and the others left, he received his dinner tray. It was fried chicken, potato salad, a Coke, a banana and a piece of lemon meringue pie. He ate all the food and drank the Coke. When he was finished, he lay down on his bunk with his hands behind his head to wait for what was going to happen next.
The next time the door opened, he jumped up expectantly. “Is it time?” he asked. It was two men he had never seen before. They escorted him to the shower room, told him to strip down, wash thoroughly with a special soap they gave him, take care of any personal needs he might have, and when he was finished to dress in a heavy nylon jumpsuit that encompassed his body like a cocoon.
He was then put in a “holding cell.” On his way to the cell, he caught a glimpse of a clock; it was ten minutes after eleven. He had less than an hour.
A short time later, two mysterious “attendants” with faces covered came to the holding cell and, without speaking a word, took him by elevator up to the roof of the prison.
In the middle of the roof was a domelike structure and inside the dome was a sturdily built wooden platform. The attendants laid him flat on the platform and immobilized him by securing his arms and legs. Before a helmet was put over his face, he glimpsed a round aperture in the roof of the dome. He could only assume that it was through that aperture that he would be lifted up into the sky.
He heard the attendants moving around him but they never spoke. There were other sounds, too, but he couldn’t identify what they were. In a couple of minutes, all was quiet. The attendants had done their job and departed.
He lay still and waited. Nothing happened and then everything happened. He saw lights around the edges of his peripheral vision. He was aware of the rhythm of his own heart but then the rhythm became something else, a musical sound, like a drum. First one drum and then other drums, until the drums were joined by other musical sounds and became almost deafening, but not beyond the limits of his endurance.
He felt himself being lifted up on nothing more substantial than a puff of air or a beam of light. He had a sudden feeling then of well-being, of euphoria. If he had been afraid earlier, the fear was gone. He was going home at last. It was what he had been waiting for his whole life.
Copyright © 2019 by Allen Kopp