Please, not Roswell.

Something Blue, part 4
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Agnes had gone down the hall to fetch her super-secret whatsit, and Raoul was clearing dishes off the table, so I stepped into the living room. It was 7:05, which meant we were making good time. I was hoping to be home by 9:00. Laugh if you like, but that's my normal bedtime.

I hadn't noticed earlier, but something was odd about the living room. It had a couch, a coffee table, and two chairs, but the chairs were facing the couch. It took a moment for me to understand why that was unusual — there was no television.

A painting on the wall caught my eye, and I tried to make sense of it, but couldn't. It was an unpleasant mess of reds and blues, orange and purples, some yellow bits and greens and whites and grays, all in no discernible pattern. At the painting's corner, it was signed — Agnes Jackson.

Giving up on the artwork, I sat on the couch, which was old, a subtle tan plaid, and very, very comfortable. Then nothing happened, and nothing else happened. Agnes was taking her sweet time, but finally our hostess with psychosis returned, carrying a bottle of wine, two plastic cups, and a blue thing shaped like an egg but about triple the size. She poured wine for Raoul, and then handed me the blue thing without a word. She settled into one of the matching chairs, poured wine for herself, and watched me like the Super Bowl.

What she'd given me was dusty blue in color, almost gray, and about the size of a snow globe. It was oval-shaped but flat on the bottom, with a handle at the top. It wasn't particularly heavy, or particularly interesting.

Raoul returned from the kitchen, with cheesecake and forks and paper plates on a tray. When he noticed the blue thing in my hand, he cocked his head, puzzled, and said to his aunt, "The blue thing? This is all about the blue thing?"

Agnes held her index finger over her lips, the universal sign for shush. She was still staring at me. Raoul shrugged and sat in the other chair, and they both looked at me, looking at the blue oval.

It had no buttons or lights or cords. I couldn't judge what it was made of, but it wasn't metal or plastic. Perhaps, I thought, it's made of solid boredom. It looked like something pantyhose might have been sold in. There was nothing about it to merit more than 'huh'.

"It's a knickknack," I said.

"I bought it at a souvenir stand in Roswell, New Mexico."

I said, "Oh," but what I was thinking was, Please, not Roswell.

"Do you know about Roswell?" she asked.

If Agnes was a flying-saucer kook, I wanted to flush that nonsense right away. "Roswell is Wingnut City, USA," I said. "Whole lot of nonsense about space aliens. Some not-too-bright people believe a UFO crashed near the town, right?"

"Yes," said Agnes. "That's what not-too-bright people believe, but we know better, don't we?" I wasn't sure what she meant to imply. She'd said she played poker, and she had a face for it.

"Agnes," I said politely but with a sigh, "did you invite me here to talk about space aliens?"

"No, I invited you here for a second opinion," she said, "and a third opinion," she added, glancing at Raoul.

"You want our opinions," I said, "on what?" Agnes frowned like that was a stupid question, and pointed at the blue thing, which I'd already forgotten.

"It's something blue," I said. "I'm not impressed."

"Drop it," Agnes said.

I didn't know what to say to that, so I didn't say anything. Agnes arose from her chair, approached me, and took the blue thing from my lap. She held it as high as she could reach, and said, "This will be weird, but trust me, it gets weirder."

She dropped it, and when it hit the floor, the blue thing did not bounce or roll like you'd expect. It simply landed on its flat side, and then it said, "Hey, dummy, be careful. It's breakable."

I leaned forward for a closer look, and Raoul accidentally kneed me in the head. He'd popped out of his chair to get a better look at the blue thing that talked, and — freeze frame — while he's apologizing for kicking me, let me mention that in addition to the oval speaking at all, its voice was craggy and ancient and might have been sick. Every syllable sounded like it had been dipped in tobacco-speckled mucus.

"Aunt Agnes," Raoul said, "what the hell?"

"Exactly," she said.

"You showed me this blue thing when I was a kid, but you never told me it was anything but blue." He picked it up off the floor. "You never told me it talks."

"It only started talking a few weeks ago," Agnes said, and glanced at the clock on the wall. "And now, if we haven't broken it, it's about to talk again." All three of us watched the blue thing in Raoul's hand, until it said something more, as she had predicted.

In a voice that desperately needed a cough drop, it said: "Scan complete, nothing's broken, but next time don't be an idiot."

We all looked at each other, and I said, "Agnes, what is this thing?"

She shook her head, no.

"Does it do more than talk?"

She said, "Oh, yeah. 'You will experience things you wouldn't believe if I told you'." She said that like she was quoting someone.

"Hmm," I said, and reached out to Raoul. "Can I see it again?"

He handed me the blue thing, and I turned it over, pushed at it, pulled on the handle, and tried twisting it left and right. "Take your time," Agnes said. I scrutinized it from every angle, but found no hidden controls or access ports, no hint at the thing's purpose. Same as earlier, it was just a grayish-blue oval with a flat bottom and a handle. The only thing that had changed was, it was no longer boring.

"Aunt Agnes," Raoul said, "what does it do?"

"It blows your mind like Dorothy's tornado in Kansas," she said, sitting down again, "but before we get to that — we have an agreement, right? We're not taking it to the authorities."

"You don't like the authorities, do you, Agnes?"

"They put me in prison, so no, I don't like the authorities, and absolutely wouldn't trust them with this — so no Mully, no Sculder. Not tonight, not tomorrow, not ever. Are we all still agreed about that?"

"Still agreed," said Raoul.

"It's Scully and Mulder," I said.

"I was making a joke to keep things light and breezy." With her completely neutral face, that woman was difficult to read, but nothing that night had been light and breezy, and Agnes herself was the opposite of that.

"We're all agreed," I said. "No cops, no feds, no Boy Scouts, but c'mon, already — tell us what it is."

"You misunderstand," she said. "I don't know what it is, and I'm hoping that you two can help figure it out. But I'll tell you what I do know, and then ..." but she never finished that thought; she simply pursed her lips, waiting for my reply.

And I said, "OK. Let's do this."

♦ ♦ ♦

Now comes the part where things start to get strange. I'd said 'no' that night when Agnes offered wine, but I'm typing this months later, and I need a shot of whiskey or maybe two, before telling what happened next. Back in a bit.

Next: The conclusion

Republished 5/9/2024  


  1. I shiver with anticipation for the conclusion. A most captivating, and even hilarious, tale so far. A touch of Ray Bradbury, methinks.

    - Zeke Krahlin

    1. Oh man, mega-mondo-thanks. I'm insecure about all my writing, but *especially* about the rare stabs at fiction...

  2. The characters feel real, the dialog is natural and unstilted, the transitions feel seamless, and I want to read more. It does feel like the beginning of a piece of extended fiction rather than a short story. If you were to submit it as a short story I think you'd change a few things, especially toward the end, but if you submitted it as a short story it would surely get serious attention. Nice piece: it is an enjoyable read.


    1. Thanks, John. I wrote my ass off on those entries, gave it everything I had. Which was *exhausting*, which is why I stopped, and went back to my ordinary half-ass effort ever since.

    2. Well, of course you want to avoid injury from overstraining. I still think it's a terrific grabber for a longer story if you ever have a burst of energy. I know speed kills 'cause Canned Heat told me so. But Hunter Thompson says that maintaining a constant speed is more important because it keeps your eyeballs from caving in.

      And your writing isn't half-ass. I'd say it's pretty near full ass.


    3. You know, I meant that as a compliment. I suppose it could go either way.


    4. Full ass from me is a heavy load. Some chairs can't handle it.

      Somewhere there are my notes for the rest of the book, with Agnes and Raoul and (I think) a few others on a long journey across time and space plus a few smaller field trips. It was gonna need some research into history to do it right, and months and months heck maybe a year of writing work, but the recliner beckoned and still does.


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