An alien meets a UFO researcher
The 'will-they-won't-they' nobody expected.
Edit: This post was originally published as ‘A special thanks’ as bonus material for my subscribers. Due to the popularity of Earthloop, I have put it in the main Earthloop newsletter.
This is likely a scene from the first book, but it could move around. There are three main instances of time travel (hence the trilogy) and I am arranging chapters in whatever way makes the most narrative sense.
For that reason, you don’t know who Zigmund is yet. Consider it to be like those flashforwards in Breaking Bad or Better Call Saul. It’s somewhere in time, and we are hurtling towards it.
Lax paced the darkened room, taking in the dim lighting under the kitchen cupboards, the smell of the fruit in the bowl, the gentle tapping of rain against the sliding doors. The galaxy of speckled glittering marble countertops was reduced now to the set of a stage play, a minimalist thing suggesting the appearance of a home, but not quite becoming one. Finally, he spoke, his voice hoarse.
“Do you ever wonder if, like in death, living people can be held back by unfinished business?”
Zigmund moved the cocktail glass between his hands twice, trying not to fidget and failing.
“You want to speak to Bill Bines?”
“No. I need to travel back. I left things in the past; they keep me awake at night.”
“I thought you people didn’t sleep?” Zigmund asked, a hint of humour in his voice. Lax Morales sighed heavily, his hands splaying on the central countertop. He examined them with yellowing eyes.
“I’ve been here too long. I’m picking up things.”
“And you think going back and living here longer will help?”
“I can’t run away from what I did. It haunts me.”
“Things haunting you, that’s a human experience Lax. Many of us don’t have the privilege of going back, even with the gates.”
“I know. Sickness. Old age. The universe doesn’t want humans playing with time,” Lax mused. The hairs on the backs of his hands grew reddish and thick. He curled them into fists, cracked his lower jaw, and looked, half-alien, at his friend.
“I was brought here for a reason. I’m the only one of me. You know I used to think you sent the signal, that it was you who summoned me to this lost planet. But it wasn’t. It couldn’t be. You’d never do it, not now you know what happens if you do.”
“You’re right,” Zigmund said.
There was a long silence between them. Zigmund finished his cocktail, tried not to think of the dark prophecies his friend had long ago filled his head with. Lax made another for himself, drank it quickly, and watched as the rainstorm died outside.
“Will I ever see it?” Zigmund asked tentatively.
“Your true form.”
“You could. But I’m old too now. I don’t know if I could change back.”
“You’re not old, you’ll never be old.”
“I am old. I don’t know if it’s the time gate or if I was older than my brothers told me I was, but I can feel it. I can feel myself aging. I don’t know how long I have, maybe one more loop, maybe less.”
“No, I won’t believe it. Lax Morales doesn’t age.”
“Zigmund. Look at me.”
Zigmund obliged. Lax’s eyes were half yellow, half blue-green.
“I know what they look like. It used to be an automatic thing, like a secondary eyelid. But it takes real, conscious effort now. I’ve been practicing in the mirror.”
“We all get out of practice.”
“No, we don’t. It’s like a human forgetting how to breathe. I have a theory you won’t like.”
“Let me guess. You stayed like us for so long it stuck?”
Zigmund laughed, but it did not break the atmosphere. He continued.
“That’s a tale they tell children. Pull a face in the wind and it gets stuck like that.”
“It’s not the same,” Lax said, his sense of humour somewhere else in the room.