They drop Leslie off, just as the sun sets, and head north to the interstate.
“Droppin’ her off doubles our drivin’ time,” Matt grumbles. “Oh, well. Family favors come first.”
“What about wife favors?” Missy asks.
“I think I’ve been givin’ you one long favor ever since you woke up.”
Missy slumps in her seat.
“I’m sorry,” he mutters.
Nowhere near as sorry as I am. She rubs her hands, which hurt from cracks and roughness on her skin.
“We’ll get you some hand lotion when we stop at the store,” Matt says, obviously trying to make up for his rude remark.
I could handle a lot worse if there seemed to be more of a point to all this.
The interstate seems to be one long, straight line. Out in the blackness are about two dozen red lights, scattered across the horizon. They all go black for a few seconds, then turn back on. Missy’s mesmerized by the sight. Red lights. Black night. Red lights. Black night.
“Some kind of intergalactic communication going on?”
“Uhhhhh, not exactly.”
“What are those lights?”
“Lights on windmills. So no planes fly into them.”
Missy watches the lights blink on and off. There’s no moon and they’re between rest stops with no other traffic on the road. Missy glances up at the sky.
“Stop! Stop the car!”
“What in hell’s name—”
Matt steers the car over to the side of the road. Missy jumps out of the car and stares up at the sky. Back at the house, she’s usually in for the night by sunset. Tears stream down her face. No longer the odd things they once seemed to be, the tears actually feel wonderful.
“Damn, girl. I thought you were in pain or something.”
“Or something is right.”
The wind nearly knocks her over—but it leaves the sky completely clear of any dust. The stars sparkle in the firmament.
I can almost see home. I want to go home.
Matt looks at his watch. Again. “Missy, we’ve been here almost an hour. I’m freezin’. You about done starin’?”
A light streaks across the sky before fading to black. Missy looks at over at her husband. Or whatever he is. She’s starting to wonder about him.
“Shootin’ star,” he comments.
“Stars don’t shoot,” she replies.
He sighs. “It’s really space debris—a meteor or somethin’—just falling to Earth and gettin’ burned up in the atmosphere. Not really a star at all.”
“I’m sorry you have to explain everything to me.”
“I’m sorry you had to take me on this trip.”
But it’s not, at least not for him.
A few miles up the highway, they pull into a motel for the night. They set out early the next morning.
With the Rocky Mountains in full view ahead of them, Missy notices the clouds. “Look at all the spaceships!” She quickly covers her mouth.
“Missy, yer really scarin’ me. Where’d you go in that coma of yers? Those aren’t spaceships, they’re clouds—special clouds: lenticular. They form that way because of the high winds from the mountains.”
Missy nods but doesn’t say anything. She studies the clouds carefully, as if looking for something… perhaps a friend or two.
Matt checks into a motel just off the interstate right outside of Denver, and they settle into a room. Missy examines the shampoo, conditioner, and soap on the sink.
“Someone left their bathroom items.”
“Those’re fer you.”
“Nice of them to leave these things for us.”
A couple hours after they go to sleep, Missy awakens. Noticing the empty bed beside her, she looks around for Matt. The bathroom is dark and empty. She opens the front door to find the truck gone from the parking space in front of the room.
Sighing, she paces a bit, then tries to go back to sleep. No such luck—so she returns to pacing. Then she tries sleeping again.
Finally she picks up the remote and studies it. She presses a few buttons, and after several clicks the television turns on.
Mesmerized, almost as intently as she was back at the hospital, she watches infomercials and ads and the headline news on CNN. Advertisements for food are interspersed with strange-sounding drugs in between reports of homicides and the odd natural disaster here and there.
She narrows her eyes as she studies the food and drugs. Crazy system they have going here. Make people sick with those awful foods and then make them pay for drugs to try to get better, but they don’t. They just get hooked on the drugs. And the food.
She changes the channel to a pay-per-view of a certain category. She clicks “Pay” and her eyes grow very wide and her jaw drops as quite the steamy scene—with six participants—unfolds before her. Even more mesmerized, she tilts her head one way, then the other, and even forward and back as she tries to figure out what exactly she’s seeing.
The camera focuses on one male-and-female couple who go off to the side to go at it. Missy’s mouth remains open as the woman gasps and moans.
An hour later, Missy is still tilting her head back and forth, but with less surprise and bewilderment as before.
Something beeps and the door opens. Missy quickly changes the channel back to twenty-four-hours news.
“Where were you?” Missy barks at a very surprised Matt.
“What’re you doin’ up?”
“Where were you?”
“What’re you doin’ up?”
“Couldn’t sleep. Where were you?”
“Just—out. Couldn’t sleep either.”
She turns back to the news. “I’ll take sleepy Kansas over some of this any time,” she gripes.
The next morning, Matt exits the motel office, hops into the truck, and slams the door.
“Missy, were you watching porn?” he sputters.
She doesn’t respond.
“Did you click to pay fer a channel to watch people having sex?”
“I might have.” Matt opens his mouth to speak. “I didn’t mean to!” she says. “I wasn’t quite sure what I was doing.”
He stares at her for a few seconds and then starts to pull out from the parking spot.
“Nice to get an idea of how it’s supposed to be done,” she mutters. Of course she’d studied human lovemaking back on her home planet as part of the going-to-Earth curriculum, but the whole thing takes on a completely different perception when inside a human body.
“Nothing.” Long pause. “They sure did seem to be enjoying themselves.”
As they pass the motel office, Missy glances inside—and lets out a gasp.
Matt cringes. “What’s wrong?”
The front-desk clerk gives her a huge grin—no, not because she knows what Missy was watching the night before…her eyes flash a beam of light, a signal.
“What?” Matt shouts, obviously wanting to leave the premises as quickly as possible. The tires squeal as he pulls out of the driveway.
He acquiesces, but none too willingly, and pulls into a parking space on the street.
“What’s going on?”
“I need to go back there.”
“Did you forget something?”
“No. I need to talk to
Oh, don’t say that! These humans don’t need so much truth.
“Missy, you crazy or somethin’? What’s with you? What in tarnation do you need to talk to her fer?”
Tires squealing again, he tears out of the parking spot and heads down the street. When he stops at the red light on the corner, Missy jumps out of the car and sprints down the sidewalk back to the motel.
A bell announces her entrance, and the front desk-clerk appears from the back room. When she sees it’s Missy, she smiles and flashes again.
“Who are you?” Missy sputters. “Where do you come from? How long have you been here? Are there more of us?”
“Are there more of us? There are millions of us!”
“Where are we all, then? You’re the first one I’ve seen.”
“We’re all over the place. I’m Shamaeya. Here I’m Tammi. And you are—?”
Matt’s face, red with anger, appears in the window in the door.
“Ashera. Here I’m Missy.”
“You’ve got a wild one on your hands,” Shamaeya says, motioning to Matt. As he opens the door, she whispers, “Just come back later. No sense getting him more riled up. I’ll be here.”
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