A Sci-Fi Christmas Story
It was the night before Christmas, and my small studio apartment was very quiet. I didn’t have any presents except for the one my mother had sent me and a package from a book publishing company that was almost certainly a galley they were hoping I might mention on the website I work for. But they’d wrapped it, so who knew — maybe they’d sent me a thank-you present for writing about another book they’d published earlier in the year. In any case, two presents looked nicer than one! I didn’t have a tree, but I did have a green potted plant, so I put the presents beside it.
All was calm until a noise woke me. And although the apartment was dark, nothing unusual seemed to have happened, so I sat up, took my cell phone from the bedside table, and shone its screen outward. And that’s when I saw it.
Under my “tree” was a new present. It was a perfectly square box, immaculately wrapped, and topped with a bow. It was horrifying, the idea of someone being in my apartment while I slept — and who was likely still there — so I sat paralyzed, shining my phone on the box until it dimmed and shut off.
What felt like hours passed, but was probably more like 10 minutes. Nothing happened at all during that time, and I eventually worked up the courage to get up and turn the real lights on. There it still was — a new present. And in the brighter lights, I saw it had a tag. “For Edith,” it said. My stomach turned. Who was in my apartment? Why did they want to kill me? Why had someone wrapped a box, snuck it into my home, and placed it on my “kitchen” (studio apartment) table, and where were they now? What were they waiting for? Should I kill myself now, with one of my kitchen knives, to spare myself whatever this person was going to do? Wait — the kitchen knives.
So I grabbed a kitchen knife and held it out in front of me as I walked through the apartment. I have a clear shower curtain, so it was apparent right away (phew) that the person wasn’t hiding in the bathroom. He wasn’t in the closet, either, and he wasn’t under the bed, and … those were the only places to look. There weren’t any other places for a human to hide in my apartment. It’s very small.
So, the gift. I stood in front of it, staring. What do I do, I thought. Do I call 911?
Just then, the tag, the “For Edith” tag, turned on its own. Yes. It turned, on its own. And on the reverse side it said, “From Kraanth.”
It was a magical Christmas miracle that was also, no joke, the worst moment of my life. But what the hell, I thought. So I turned on the Christmas carols (in the preceding weeks I’d made a great playlist) and tried to accept the final hours of my life with a steely sense of humor, so whoever was going to kill me might marvel quietly to themselves in the coming months/years, whenever they thought of me and the night I died, that at least I was interesting. “She was a live one,” they might think. “She surprised me.” So, while pretending to be cool for my murderer, and blasting “Little Drummer Boy,” I opened the present.
Inside the box were a number of rings and bracelets, arranged on a white satin pillow. They were beautiful, too — vintage pieces. Gorgeous. And … I recognized some of them. No, I recognized … all of them? But — what? Where was I recognizing them from? I don’t really have or wear any jewelry, and I don’t really — oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god. They were — they were from Erie Basin. They were every piece of jewelry the vintage jewelry store Erie Basin had posted pictures of on Tumblr and that I had clicked the “like” heart for. Oh my god. Oh my god.
At that moment, while I was trying on one of the beautiful rings that were now, somehow, mine (!), the light in the apartment changed. What? I thought, for the ninetieth time in a half-hour. I turned toward the source of the light, and saw that it was coming from outside one of my windows. It was a shifting light, a rising light. And then there was its source. Floating. Outside my window. On the fourth floor.
An alien. There was an alien floating outside my window, and it was bathed in silver light. Something about it — somehow — seemed harmless, and I don’t know how I understood this, but … I nodded, indicating everything was okay. Like a vampire, I guess. “Yes,” the nod meant, on a number of levels. So the alien moved forward, and passed through the windowpane into my apartment as if it were nothing.
His light was beautiful. And although I couldn’t see myself, it felt like it was one of those lights you come across in particularly fancy restaurant/bar bathrooms, where they’ve engineered everything so you think you look your absolute best. And I knew I looked really good in this alien’s special silver light. I couldn’t really describe him to you, other than he was smaller than me, and yet he felt larger. Like how a handful of one substance can be denser/heavier than a handful of another substance. This guy was heavier than me. Bigger somehow. But also tiny. Tidy. As my eyes adjusted to his amazing light, I made out his face. There were two giant black eyes in a sleek silver face that tapered to a point, a tiny, motionless mouth, and not much of a nose. Hairless. He seemed incredibly smart, even without saying anything, and although three minutes earlier I had considered killing myself at the idea of him, he strangely put me at ease.
“Edith,” he said. I think he said it, at least. It was more like a deep (and handsome!) voice was saying something in my head. I’m not sure he was talking out loud at all. “Merry Christmas,” he said.
“Yes,” he “said.”
“Who … are you?” I asked. But he said nothing, although he projected a benign-to-positive essence. “I — how did you — do you — ” I started. Then I paused. Did he follow me on Tumblr? I wanted to ask. Was *he* on Tumblr? Did he read The Hairpin? But what was the point? Would he even answer? Probably not. Instead I just said, “Thank you. This is the most insane night of my life, obviously,” and laughed nervously while making a flustered hand gesture. He mimicked it. Making his own hand gesture, exactly the same as mine, except it was so forced, but also adorable, like he was trying to put me at ease by doing the things I was comfortable with. Which was what he was doing. Ah! Kraanth. He was still levitating in the center of my apartment. I tentatively held out my hand, the one I’d put a ring on. “It fits perfectly,” I said with another nervous laugh.
“I know,” Kraanth essenced to me. “I scanned your brain and hands, and based on which fingers I knew you’d want to put which rings on, I changed their sizes so you’d like them best.”
I stared at him in silence. Kraanth was not kidding.
“Thank you,” I said. “This is the most insane — ” blah, and here I was repeating myself, saying “the most insane” again, when I had wanted to seem like such a cool human … ambassador? Representative? Anyway — “present I have ever gotten.”
“Will you marry me, Edith?” he essenced to me.
My mouth dropped open a little. What was happening. Oh. Oh! Of course, I was dreaming. I was dreaming that an alien flew in my window and gave me every piece of jewelry I’d “liked” on Tumblr. Okay. That makes sense, I thought. So, in the meantime, I’d just try to have fun. To make it one of those lucid dreams, where I … have sex with everything. That’s what people do in lucid dreams, right? Fly and have sex? But, did I want to have sex with Kraanth? He wasn’t my “type,” but he did have a really hot voice, and who even knows what aliens would be like to have sex with. Except I would know, because I’d be making it all up, because I was dreaming and dreams are all within your own head! So maybe sex with Kraanth would be really hot. Screw it! Or, literally, screw Kraanth. Make love to Kraanth. Whichever would come most naturally to Kraanth. This was an exciting night!
“Yes,” I said, confidently. And then I lay back down on my bed, waiting for whatever came next to … come next.
But Kraanth just hovered close to me. He stared into my face for a while — his eyes were so intense, I don’t know how to explain it, it was like flies’ eyes where they have a bunch of facets (in the close-up nature pictures), but somehow also liquid and iridescent, and flat, and completely black? I don’t know, they were gorgeous. Spooky, too, I guess, but incredible. And staring into his eyes made me again lose track of time, but he ultimately broke the trance by caressing my forehead with his hand. It wasn’t really a hand in the way that you or I would think about hands, but more of a nimble silver ending to a long, thin arm. But his touch — it wasn’t warm or cool, it was … electrifying, maybe. Stimulating? But not erotic. Just — if there were a sixth sense (or seventh sense, or a new color, maybe?), it was like that.
“Which ring do you want to be our wedding band?” he asked/essenced. “Is it the one you’re wearing?”
So I looked down at my hand, and although I did love that ring, I wasn’t sure I wanted it to be our forever wedding ring, so I sat back up and went over to the box of jewelry, and tried on all the rings. They were all so pretty! It was amazing. I knew I “liked” all those pictures of vintage jewelry on the internet for a reason, I thought to myself.
I picked out my favorite ring, put it on, and showed it to Kraanth. “What do you think?” I asked, smiling.
“I love it,” he essenced to me. “And I love you.”
I blushed. This was seriously so insane.
“Now we’re going back to my planet,” he essenced. “Forever. I know that’s startling to you, so I will give you 10 seconds to process that.” He paused for … what must have been 10 seconds exactly (Kraanth!). “And now that you’ve processed it,” he essenced, “you understand what lies in store. I know this is all very new to you, but I also know that you realize this is real, and that there will be a lot of unanswered questions among the people who know you. About why you ‘disappeared.’ And I think the best answer is a blog post, that multiple people can read. Your family, your friends, whomever. So I will give you 20 minutes to write a blog post, explaining why you disappeared forever.”
ANYWAY. So that’s the story. Merry Christmas!
Illustration by John Urquhart.