I’m very excited to present a writer I’ve known since earlier this year, Aaron L. Hamilton. If you follow me on Twitter, you’d notice I share a lot of his writing. I enjoy his work and contacted him about coming on as a guest writer for my blog. After a little arm wrestling and a wicked game of rock-paper-scissors, he graciously agreed and offered a new story!
Hopefully you’ll find his work as entertaining as I do. Aaron writes primarily science fiction and has been published in two different issues of Nonlocal Science Fiction. Check out his story and don’t forget to connect with him at one of his many social media outlets (All links are below the story) He’d love to hear from you.
by Aaron L. Hamilton
“I’m Jerry. What’s your name?”
“It’s Norman,” the hitchhiker smiled displaying white, even teeth.
“Nice to meet you,” Jerry said. He took his eyes off the road just long enough to make friendly eye contact. He was a very responsible driver. “Where you headed?”
“There’s a Mobil station off exit 87b where my wife will pick me up. Not too far thankfully. I won’t think you’re rude if you just want to watch the road, Jerry. I appreciate your attentiveness. You’ve been very helpful to us, and we appreciate it.” Norman unzipped his coat a bit. “It still amazes me how you people manage to drive these things independently without killing more of each other.” He turned a dial on the dashboard console, and hot air swooshed from the vents.
“You know,” Jerry grinned, “you’re actually safer flying in a plane than being on the road? I always found that fact unbelievable, but I’ve read it in several places. It must be true.”
“So trusting,” Norman almost hummed, considering Jerry’s statistics. “You don’t mind if I smoke, do you?”
“No, go right ahead.” Jerry’s voice quavered slightly in discomfort. He heard the foil of the cigarette pack crinkle, the flick of the lighter. He even heard the slight crackle of cigarette paper burning away as Norman deeply inhaled. His guest had yet to crack the window, and smoke curled lazily from the burning tip of the cancer stick.
“It’s nearly time for us to begin our journey from our home world in earnest. How do you feel about that, Jerry?”
Jerry’s mouth hung open for a moment as he considered how to politely convey the obvious insanity he detected. “Will there be a lot of you?” His jaw tensed in anticipation of a smoky exhalation that never came, even as Norman spoke again.
“Well, not noticeably, since we can look human easily enough. We’ll come in small numbers at first, until we deem it safe for mass entry. Eventually there will be more of us than you as we cull the human population of undesirables, but all those who’ve assisted us will remain. We took great care to find beings like you: friendly, helpful, compassionate. You’re what will make this a smooth process for everyone. I’ve told you this many times, but if you could remember it you could remember the rest as well.”
Norman used the glowing nub of the first cigarette to light another. Jerry frowned. “What do you mean? I’ve never seen you before in my life. Why would you say that?”
“Jerry, I like you. Everybody likes you, but not a lot of people respect you because you’re too nice. I’ve enjoyed this game every work day for the last three months, but I’m still using you to invade your planet. Even if you remembered me, you wouldn’t resist. You might convince someone more assertive to mess up our plans, but you wouldn’t do anything nearly so confrontational yourself.”
“Is that the gas station where you’re supposed to meet your wife?” Norman allowed himself a private chuckle. The concept of separate genders still amused him.
“The next exit, Jerry. I hope this won’t make you late for work. I know punctuality is very important to you. It shows people you respect them.”
“No, I’ll be fine. It’s not the first time I’ve stopped to help some poor soul stranded on the side of the road.”
“You don’t say.” Norman finished his second cigarette, rolled down the window, and exhaled a gout of smoke into the early morning mist. “Jerry, what’s the thing I’ve told you that you must remember?”
“A man will call me at home during dinner. He’ll insist that I buy flood insurance even though I’ve already got some. He’ll be from Premier Incorporated. I’ll agree to meet a representative the following evening at seven o’clock. I’ll be given special offer confirmation number 177346-B to mention to the representative, good only for a limited time.”
“And what will you do when you hear that number again, Jerry?”
“I’ll buy a one-way ticket to Bermuda for the following morning. I’ll get on the plane and prepare for a whole new life among people who will be just as nice as me.” Jerry pressed his lips together and furrowed his brow in thought. “Why can’t my wife come with me again?”
“Because she’s too nosy, Jerry. She asks too many questions, and you always answer them truthfully. She’s a problem solver, and she would no doubt see an alien invasion as a problem.” Norman silently congratulated himself on his grasp of sarcasm. “Besides, you won’t remember her either once you’re holding that ticket in your hand.”
Jerry signaled and slowed the car as he took the exit. The sign on the gas station promised clean restrooms and an ATM inside. He pulled into the parking lot and checked his watch. There was still plenty of time to get to work.
“Ok, Jerry. Here we are. It’s important to me that you not be late for work, so I won’t keep you. I’d offer you some money, but I know you wouldn’t accept.” Norman put the burning cigarette butt into his left palm next to the first and Jerry watched it blink out.
Jerry pushed the transmission lever into Park. He turned toward Norman and smiled. “That’s right. You’re money’s no good. Glad I could help you. Maybe someday some stranger will do something nice for me.”
“I intend to,” Norman said, stuffing the pack of cigarettes and the lighter into Jerry’s jacket pocket. He shook Jerry’s hand firmly and left with a gust of air before the door slammed shut.
“I quit smoking,” Jerry yelled to Norman through the closed door. Norman only nodded and walked away.
Jerry found himself in front of a gas pump and decided he had time before work to fill up his tank. Then he noticed the tank was full and tried to remember when he’d filled it. Laughing at his lousy memory, he pulled out of the lot and headed for the office.
Carl greeted him as he entered the lobby of the design agency. “Hey, man. You look beat! Hellish commute?”
“No, I mean, I don’t think so. Guess I’m just tired. I honestly don’t remember anything about it from the time I got behind the wheel until the time I pulled into the parking deck.”
“You need to get to bed early tonight.”
“Yeah, I guess so.” They headed upstairs to grab some coffee.
“So, how long did it take you to start smoking again?”
“What do you mean?”
“Come on, it’s me.” Carl waved his hand in front of his nose. “You don’t have to hide it, even though I wish you’d quit. Now your wife, she’ll kill you.”
“Funny, I don’t remember the last time I smoked. Now that you mention it, I do smell it, but I don’t taste it.”
“That’s a bad sign, man. It means you didn’t just start up again today.”
Jerry reached into his coat pocket to feel the familiar shape of the pack. His face twisted in disappointment at his lapse into the old habit. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me today. I don’t even remember buying them.”
“Relax, man. I’m sure it’s just stress or something. I’ve got to get moving, but how about we grab a beer tonight after work? We can talk about it more then.” Carl selected a French Roast from the machine.
“Yeah, that sounds good.” Carl headed off toward his desk, and Jerry studied the coffee machine for a moment and selected a double espresso, no cream. He leaned against the machine, listening to it whir and spit the coffee into the cardboard cup. The coffee smelled heavenly. Maybe he was finally waking up.
You can find Aaron at the following: