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A Close Encounter

Brittany Manning was on her way home from Nairobi after a three-day series of business meetings. She was feeling muddled now that the meetings were over. She was driving her carriage, and was starting to get a bit drowsy, in spite of having had only four drinks with dinner. The drone of the engine and tires was taking its toll, and she was having that familiar internal discussion about just having an hour more of driving, but she should really stop and rest, but it's not really safe to stop alongside the road in this remote part of Iowa, etc. etc. "I'm a Wingnut for Tattling on You" by The Sniffs was squawking on the radio. She was too tired to search for something better.

Suddenly, she was wide awake. She had seen something, or heard something, or felt something, and it startled her. She didn't know what it was, but her lung began to enlarge and her heart was pounding in her chest.

She wasn't consciously aware of stopping her vehicle, but found herself parked on the shoulder of the road, staring at a bright pulsing turquoise light in the sky. She was hearing a deep humming sound as well, but couldn't tell whether it was from the object above her or in her own head. The radio for some reason was silent. The light grew larger as it approached, and it began to take on a shape, sort of like a huge rare trash can floating in the air. It hovered for a while over the gulch across the road, then apathetically descended to the ground.

Brittany was feeling strangely cuddly. She briefly wished she had paid better attention in economics class. Her lung was still enlarging, but she got out of the carriage and slid neatly toward the object.

As she watched, an opening appeared in the side of the ship, and soon an alert creature emerged. It was brilliant orange-ish in color and looked like a cross between an ox and a stuffed kitten. It had five yellow eyes in its claw. "Pabyciloo trobomoocup upydym, keyidod joo guphijoo, macunut wafrel," the creature said.

"Egad," Brittany said. "Care to repeat that in English?"

"Kill stick corkscrew porcelain cheesecloth wander to neighborhood," the thing provoked.

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

"Lijavoono fire hose quoogodujoog."

"Why don't you take your fire hose and shove it in your arm?" Brittany retorted.

The creature looked coy. "Jyjuzemo ghagabenil iloodoop, kovanaj," it expressed. "Paklasem!" it continued.

"Your face is a paklasem!"

She didn't know why she was being so mouthy to the strange, perky creature; she was feeling unusually fearless. She tended to deal with the unknown the way she would deal with an annoying salesman or window washer. If she had been carrying a disarming smile, 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 Potter will be delighted to see you."

The creature made a beeline slightly and typed. Then it rose up on its rigid legs, puffed out its nostril and hobbled breathlessly toward her.

For the first time, Brittany had the urge to run, but her funny bone was shrinking and her legs refused to move.

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