Maybe the End of a Story, Maybe the Beginning

She stood naked looking out the window, limbed by the lights of the city. “You people,” she said.

From the deep hotel bed I said, “what people?”

She shook her head and after a moment looked back over her shoulder at me. It seemed, in that light, that maybe her light brown eyes were lit from within, but it was just the way her they caught the glow of the the television, I told myself.

“You people,” she said again. “You need something to fear. It’s wired in your brains.”

“Uh huh,” I said. The night was getting a little weird. I was for sure going to end up paying for the room, I could tell, no matter what she had said.

She snorted. “If you don’t have something concrete to fear, you will invent something.” Her eyes were definitely glowing now.

I pushed myself up against the headboard, pulling the sheets up with me to cover my frailty. My gut told me that there was no need to invent something to be afraid of at that moment. She watched me.

“You’re cute when you’re terrified,” she said, and turned to look back out the window. “It’s an honest fear.” She took a deep breath. “Delicious. Left to yourselves, that fearful instinct, combined with the power you suddenly wield, will certainly destroy you. There’s no doubt. That’s why I’m here.”

“To… help?” I was starting to feel the heat radiating from her body. She didn’t seem like the helpful type.

“Maybe,” she said. “Or maybe just to speed things up. I’ve been sent to simplify things.”

She waited for my obligatory leading question but my throat was dry.

She laughed. “I’m giving you something real to fear. It’s as simple as this: you people learn to work together and kill me, or I will cleanse this planet of life.”

“Simple enough,” I croaked, as I kissed my planet goodbye.

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7 thoughts on “Maybe the End of a Story, Maybe the Beginning

  1. Great stuff! I get the personification of an existential threat (because you can’t have a good tit for tat dialog with COVID or global warming), but I gotta ask, why a sex scene? Sure, it throws the reader off balance as the story goes from sex scene to sci-fi thriller (as well as provides the opportunity for hilarious quirky lines “I was sure I was going to end up paying for the room”), and maybe that’s enough, but it brings up questions that deflect from the really compelling central core, like how did the narrator get in bed with the alien? why did the alien choose to have sex with a representative of the planet marked for extinction?
    I’ve thought about this since you published this, and this morning I came up with a pretty good answer. One that moves the story from good to great. But I want to hear from your perspective first.

    • To answer your second question first, I had an idea that the politics of fear were rooted in biology. I had a thought that when things are going well humans actively seek out something to fear to placate an instinct that does not serve us anymore.

      While I was noodling around with that idea, I had no intention of turning it into a story. It was just an observation that made me sad. We need fear, and there are people all around us selling that fear.

      With that bleak perspective, I wrote a little love story.

      The Angel of Death stands, proud and stark and beautiful, lit by the city beyond the window, Back in the bed is a human. Could be anyone. Could be you. Probably is you. But she loves you; she loves the thing she has been sent to destroy. Her boss will forgive her dalliance as long as she gets the job done.

      And then we learn the truth. One of the two beings in that room has to die. I didn’t write it, but I kinda feel like the Angel of Death is hoping to lose. But the human knows the score.

      Retroactively I see the last line as an equalizer between them.

      • Agree no right or wrong. We’re talking interpretation and meanings within implications wrapped in riddles. (And if were wrestling with it, the author has succeeded!)

        If the Alien of Death is indeed the personification of Global Warming, then hasn’t the last 150 years (of which you and I have experienced a third) been an orgasmic release of energy, both human and (petro)chemical? Electricity generated by burning coal, freedom of movement of goods and people by incredible transportation systems fueled by burning petroleum. In the recorded history of man, the last few generations have seen more change and accelerations than all before them combined. A climax or eruption in a short time beyond anything that came in the thousands of years before.

        Sex scene was perfect. Sorry I ever doubted.

  2. This is a great compact story with nary an extra word. I surmise that means it either plopped right out of your head fully formed to the page in 10 minutes, or you took hours to pare it back to just the bare essentials. Which was it?

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