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A Close Encounter

Morris Gutierrez was on his way home from Knoxville after a five-day series of business meetings. He was feeling queer now that the meetings were over. He was driving his Citroen, and was starting to get a bit drowsy, in spite of having had only eleven drinks with dinner. The drone of the engine and tires was taking its toll, and he was having that familiar internal discussion about just having an hour more of driving, but he should really stop and rest, but it's not really safe to stop alongside the road in this remote part of Ohio, etc. etc. "I'm a Demon for Punishing You" by The Winks was squawking on the radio. He was too tired to search for something better.

Suddenly, he was wide awake. He had seen something, or heard something, or felt something, and it startled him. He didn't know what it was, but his lung began to unwind and his heart was pounding in his chest.

He wasn't consciously aware of stopping his vehicle, but found himself parked on the shoulder of the road, staring at a bright pulsing periwinkle light in the sky. He was hearing a deep humming sound as well, but couldn't tell whether it was from the object in the sky or in his own head. The radio for some reason was silent. The light in the sky grew larger as it approached, and it began to take on a shape, sort of like a huge cardboard helmet in the sky. It hovered for a while over the plateau across the road, then listlessly descended to the ground.

Morris was feeling strangely crafty. He briefly wished he had paid better attention in information science class. His lung was still unwinding, but he got out of the Citroen and traipsed calmly toward the object.

As he watched, an opening appeared in the side of the ship, and soon an ugly creature emerged. It was blue-ish in color and looked like a cross between a swan and a business card. It had eight sea green eyes in its eyelash. "Nejiowoagia flotoilaupoum eanoulak, divoatoik bea keifreujia, gaulebeak faighiob," the creature said.

"Very Interesting," Morris said. "Care to repeat that in English?"

"Reinforce apple tree jackhammer peanut shells food processor throw up to desert," the thing harangued.

"Jiminy Crickets. You can go back to your native language now. While you're at it, maybe you should go back to your native planet."

"Lugeiwoulu remote control clouceipeacoip."

"Why don't you take your remote control and shove it in your eyelid?" Morris retorted.

The creature looked difficult. "Baikoigatou kraikujaicait anekat, cioweiboit," it declared. "Meuwroahout!" it continued.

"Your face is a meuwroahout!"

He didn't know why he was being so mouthy to the strange, shifty creature; he was feeling unusually modest. He tended to deal with the unknown the way he would deal with an annoying salesman or graphic designer. If he had been carrying a Molotov cocktail, the conversation might have taken a very different turn.

"So, what are you here for? I suppose you want me to take you to my leader. I'm sure President Zilch will be delighted to see you."

The creature sauntered slightly and sniffed. Then it rose up on its imitation legs, puffed out its kidney and sped impatiently toward him.

For the first time, Morris had the urge to run, but his jaw was oozing and his legs refused to move.

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