Standing about five feet nine inches tall with brown hair and a pale face, Alicia couldn’t figure out why her attention was so focused on someone who looked so painfully average. Perhaps it was the peculiar curiosity in his brown eyes as he sat down and watched his friends play football. It was like he had never seen it before in his entire life. Ignoring the perplexed feeling she felt, she turned back to her economics book to find that the wind had blown it to the wrong page.
“Hey John, come join us.” Even his name was plain. Alicia sighed irritably when she found that her attention was drawn back to him. She raised an eyebrow when he began to slather himself with a healthy amount of lotion, but she dismissed it, reasoning that he was pale and would probably get skin cancer if he didn’t. After his skin treatment, John stood from his spot in the grass, a few feet from her, and dusted off his jeans.
Nothing he wore stuck out either— white polo, blue jeans, and dirty, once-white sneakers. She asked herself again why she was so inexplicably drawn to someone so unassuming. But she supposed anything was more interesting than economics at the moment. As he spoke to his friends, an incredulous look crossed their faces. From the bits and pieces that she caught from their conversation, she gathered that he didn’t know how to play football. So they began going over the rules of the game and he diligently nodded along. Much to everyone’s surprise, he played well.
Another sigh passed her lips and she attempted to go back to her economics work. Her assignment was due soon and she needed to finish it, not gawk at boys in the courtyard. But her ears perked up again at their not-so-discreet attempts at whispering.
“Hey, John. That girl has been watching you this whole time. You should ask her out.” Her eyes flickered up to find them all staring at her as they talked about her. She unabashedly returned their gaze. Hey, if they were going to stare, she was going to stare back. John looked baffled, clearly not understanding what they were getting at. She almost felt bad for him.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“Dude, where did you come from? The girl is watching you, which obviously means she’s interested in you. She’s kinda cute, so go ask her out for a drink or something.”
Alicia rolled her eyes at their simple-minded conclusion. She wasn’t interested in him. Not at all. A slight frown made its way onto his face as if he didn’t want to do it. She wasn’t sure if she should be offended or not. Before she could make her choice, John was already in front of her.
“Hi, my name is John. Would you like to get a drink? My place is right over there.” He pointed to the nearby dormitories.
But she had to admit that she could go for a drink. It was starting to get pretty hot. And it’s not like there were any strings attached. He was clearly only inviting her because his friends egged him on. So she accepted the invitation.
The two had a casual conversation on their way to the dormitory. It turned out that they were both studying in the business field, with her studying finance and him, economics. She almost snorted. It suited him. When they reached the building, he dug into his pockets in search of his ID and then turned around with an inquisitive expression.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t get your name. I need to sign you into the building.” He said.
“Oh, It’s Alicia Lang—” Realization hit her like a ton of bricks. After watching him for a good half hour, she had completely forgotten that he was a total stranger, and she had followed him, just like a child lured away by candy. But it was too late. She’d rather be murdered than deal with the embarrassment of backing out now. What could she say? “Hey, I just realized you’re a stranger and I’m worried you might kill me.”
Well… she could just lie and say she forgot about something she had to do. But she had already stupidly blurted her name out and he was signing her in. He wouldn’t try doing anything, would he? Especially since it was on record now that she visited his dorm. He couldn’t get away with it. And he looked fairly harmless, she reasoned.
They both began to ascend the stairs, his room located on the second floor. The halls were dimly lit and she wondered if anyone would hear her if she screamed. She swallowed the lump in her throat and told herself she was being ridiculous. He had been perfectly polite and from what she saw outside, he seemed friendly.
Reaching the room, he unlocked the door and held it open for her, apologizing for the mess as he welcomed her in. Messy was an understatement. It looked as if a tornado had made its way through. Clothes were strewn across the floor along with endless bottles of lotion. She felt nauseated at the thought of why a guy would need so much lotion.
“I have very dry skin.” He explained as if hearing her thoughts. He somehow made it over to a chair and turned it over, emptying its contents on the floor, and signaled for her to sit. “Please make yourself at home. What would you like to drink? I have some bottled water and soda. I can make tea.”
“Soda, please.” She answered as she finally made it over to the chair. He left the living area to fetch her drink and she let her eyes explore the room in hopes of finding an area that wasn’t covered in clothes or lotion bottles. She decided to take back her judgment of him being plain and boring. He was downright strange.
Maybe he was an alien disguised as a human sent to study the earth, she mused. She inwardly laughed at the thought. She had been watching way too many science fiction movies. She finally noticed a picture frame sitting on his desk, mostly covered by a shirt. She made her way over to it and saw that it was a picture of him standing next to a woman, his left arm swung over her shoulders. She peered closer to see that they both had matching rings on their wedding fingers. It honestly brought her more surprise than the lotion did. He looked to be around her age and she couldn’t imagine being married already.
John reentered the room with two cans of soda in his hands. The chilled frostiness of the can looked very appealing to her, but she couldn’t let it distract her. The guy standing before her was clearly married and she didn’t want to involve herself in any situation that could look suspicious to his wife. And wasn’t he worried? Granted, it’s not like he was hitting on her or anything, but he could have just refused to invite her in the first place.
“Why did you invite me up here?” She asked, eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“Uh… to get a drink?” He replied, looking absolutely baffled by her question.
Alicia nearly rolled her eyes. He couldn’t be this obtuse. You don’t just invite a stranger for a drink, especially when you’re married. No matter how trusting your relationship is.
“Look, I appreciate the offer but think of your poor wife for goodness sake. She might get the wrong idea. I’m leaving.” She said before making her way out. At least she tried to. She ended up tripping over something hard and fell flat on her face. With the amount of clothing on the floor, she thought there’d be more cushion. She groaned as she pulled herself up and turned around to sit on her butt. What greeted her was a strange-looking device that was previously hiding under a pair of jeans. It sort of looked like a mini UFO, the kind that one would see in sci-fi movies.
Alicia looked up to see him staring wide-eyed at her in shock.
“You… you’re not actually an alien are you?” She asked. Considering that he made no move to deny it or judge her for the crazy question, she felt that she hit the nail on the head. She expected him to pull out one of those high-tech guns to vaporize her, but he just stood there still in shock. When he finally composed himself, he took a small step towards her. The movement made her jump up and she got ready to run out again when he shouted:
“Wait! I come in peace!” If it was a different situation, not involving her, she may have found that extremely funny. “Please don’t tell anyone else.” He said desperately.
She turned around to see worry written all over his face and it actually made her feel bad. She stopped her escape and reasoned that it was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet an alien. It had always been a dream of hers ever since reading her first sci-fi book. She would have picked astronomy or something as a field of study but those fields typically don’t pay the bills.
John slowly handed her the can of soda and sat down on his bed. He looked relieved that she was no longer trying to run. Alicia stumbled back over to the chair and sat down. She would be civil. Aliens had feelings too, or at least she thought they did.
“I was sent here to study the humans. The teachers found that our information was highly outdated and didn’t want to teach the children such old material.” He explained.
That’s it? No space invasion or anything? Not that studying was a bad thing, but it was nothing like the movies. It was so… boring.
“We’ve been trying to find signs of life for a long time now and we’ve never encountered anything. Where did you come from?” She asked.
“We are much more technologically advanced than humans and obey different laws of physics. We are from the galaxy you humans call Andromeda. I suppose we are like neighbors.” He said. She nodded and let the information soak in.
“Then who’s the woman in that photo?” She pointed to the framed picture. Did he get hitched while on Earth?
“She’s my sister. She is also here to study. We use these rings as communication devices.” He held his hand up and showed her the ring. Huh. After half an hour of watching him, how did she never spot it?
“Having a human subject would benefit my task greatly, but I’m afraid that I cannot allow you to remember what just transpired.” John pulled out one of those high-tech guns and aimed it at her. He frowned and had a look of remorse in his eyes.
“Wait! I promise I’ll keep it a secret.” She scrambled from her seat. But he didn’t budge. The next thing she knew, she was sitting down on the chair again with soda in hand and wondering why there were so many bottles of lotion on the floor.
Alicia Lang was a strange one. John tried not to show any reaction to the feeling of her gaze on his back as he tried to stay focused on the lecture. Despite him going great lengths to be as unassuming as possible, for some reason, he stuck out like a sore thumb to her. It was like she had some sort of alien radar.
When he had erased her memory, he erased just enough so that she would forget what occurred in his dorm. But now he regretted not erasing more so that she didn’t remember him at all. He would have had to knock her out and bring her elsewhere so she didn’t wake up in his room, but that might have been preferable to the current situation. It was too late to try to use his memory gun now. It was only capable of erasing the past forty hours.
His only solace was that summer vacation was starting soon and that hopefully, it was enough time away from her that she’d forget all about him.
…Except they somehow both ended up working at the same coffee shop.
Unfortunately, he was only given enough assistance to infiltrate the humans’ educational system. So that meant he had to earn his keep during his stay on Earth. The coffee shop was the only place that offered flexible hours that would work with his schedule. The pay was hardly enough to scrape by and he concluded that that was a good reason why a lot of humans could not pursue further education. How primitive they were. It was no wonder why they haven’t advanced to the level of his kind.
Suddenly the thought struck him. He peered over to his coworker who was currently working the espresso machine and studied her intently. Her medium-length reddish-brown hair and brown eyes were common enough. She was of medium stature—not too short, not too tall. Overall, a seemingly average-looking human being—perhaps pretty by the standards of some of the guys he’s befriended. But what if…
What if she wasn’t human at all like he thought?
After all, he was there on Earth. The chances of another alien race being on Earth wouldn’t be so far-fetched. If that was the case, it was imperative that he gain intel on her motives. It wouldn’t do if his studies were interrupted by a hostile force.
“Excuse me, could I get some assistance?” A voice pulled him out of his thoughts and he faced forward to see that there was a customer starting to look impatient.
“Oh, sorry. What can I get for you?” He asked.
“Green tea latte, large, with almond milk—iced. To-go.” The woman responded.
He repeated her order in confirmation and punched it into the register and was about to ask her for her name when she spoke up again.
“She might be a little out of your league.”
“Excuse me?” He raised a brow, not understanding the sudden interjection.
“It’s Abigail.” She stated and stared at him until he realized she was giving him her name to write down. He grabbed a large cup and began scribbling her name on it. “Your coworker. You were staring at her. She’s out of your league.”
He didn’t understand what his Abigail woman was getting at. Out of his league? What did that mean? He attempted to sift through the context of her words as he dealt with another customer that came after her.
Did ‘out of his league’ imply that Alicia was better than him? How could this Abigail make such conclusions simply by looking at them? Unless… Abigail was also an alien. The same kind as Alicia. And her statement was a thinly veiled threat—our kind is superior to yours.
No. He was spiraling out of control with conjecture. He needed to slow down and think about things calmly. First, he needed to evaluate the danger level. Aside from being observant of him, Alicia did not appear to be threatening in any other manner. His memory gun was designed to work on humans. Efficacy on other races was not tested and if she was indeed a more superior race, it would likely not work. The gun working meant that she was probably human.
That is if she wasn’t pretending to not remember anything.
“Abigail,” He called when he finished making her drink. She came over and rolled her eyes, clearly displeased with his inattentiveness. He needed to stop being so distracted. He couldn’t afford to be fired.
When his last customer got their drink, he let out a breath. Being a barista was tougher than he expected. He glanced over to Alicia again to see that she was sitting down and reading a newspaper since there weren’t any customers to wait on. Her brows were furrowed and a disgruntled look was clearly splashed across her face.
“People really are the worst. We’d probably be better off if aliens came and took over the planet.” She muttered to herself.
The statement made him jerk and he bumped into one of the machines, knocking over a creamer—which was thankfully empty. The clatter caught her attention and she raised a brow at him.
“Sorry,” He apologized sheepishly and picked up the little metal pitcher. But he realized it was a good chance to question her a bit. “What are you reading?” He asked.
“Ugh, just garbage news about garbage people. Do you know how many diseases we’ve effectively gotten rid of because of vaccines? But there’s another measles outbreak because of all this idiocy. I don’t care about the adults, but the kids are the ones being affected. Stupid people and their uninformed ‘clean’ and ‘natural’ movements. Everything is a chemical, you stupid twat-waffles.” She whacked her hand against the newspaper in exasperation.
Wow. She had quite the temperament.
“So… you think aliens taking over would be the solution?” He asked cautiously.
“Clearly these people are too stupid to rule themselves.” She rolled her eyes. Placing the newspaper down, she got up and sighed. “I’m not saying aliens would be the solution but holy crap, I’m just so tired of reading these things in the news. It’s no wonder why any advancements in humanity take so long.”
John stood there in an awkward silence, not sure of what to say. It was true that humanity suffered from many setbacks. For his people, the pursuit of knowledge was a necessity. What he had learned so far was that many humans were content with their ignorance. And for those that did want to learn, there were too many obstacles.
“Sorry for the outburst.” She apologized as she pinched the bridge of her nose. “I tend to be more judgmental and opinionated than people would like.”
Her eyes landed on the door when she saw someone ready to enter and a smile appeared on her face. He nearly suffered from whiplash at the way her expression had done a 180.
“Hello! What can I get for you?” She asked sweetly.
The customer fumbled for a bit. It looked like he wasn’t used to ordering coffee and wasn’t sure of the options. But Alicia handled him with calm and patience, a smile plastered on her face the whole time. The customer was apologetic for not being knowledgeable and left a tip in her tip jar for her troubles. When he left, Alicia pointed to the door and opened her mouth to speak.
“You see that? People like that are great. If you don’t know what the hell you’re doing or saying, own up to it and be considerate to the people having to deal with you. But everyone loves being an arrogant little asshole. You’ll see it more once you stick around longer. Customers will be up in your face swearing up and down that they’re in the right.”
“Huh….” Was all that he could muster. It was impressive how she could switch between attitudes so effortlessly. Two-faced—is what they call it? She laughed at his reaction.
“You know, you’re sort of like that.” She pointed out. “Not the arrogant asshole. The one who has no idea what he’s doing. But you’re a diligent learner, so it’s quite nice.”
“Uh… thanks?” He said hesitantly. He wasn’t sure if being told that he didn’t know what he was doing was a compliment. But it did tell him that she observed him well enough to see that he was not too knowledgeable.
There was nothing in his conversation with her that could ascertain whether she was human or not. She did once say ‘we’ when regarding them, but it was followed by so much disdain about the lack of human intelligence and advancement that he couldn’t tell.
For the time being, it did not appear that Alicia Lang was a threat. But for safe measure, he was going to have to keep an eye on her, as much as she was keeping an eye on him.