Revision of the exercise based on Country Husband by John Cheever
This one is a bit overdue, as I’ve already written this weeks ago for the last Writers Studio class back in May. Like the revision of the “Chicken Rice” piece, this is a piece I would like to work out into a longer story. I know in broad lines already what the story will be about. However, I am still jumping back and forth about who the main character will be in terms of personality and background. Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy it!
Frank never believed in extra-terrestrial life, but there it was during that chilly late October night as he was taking his dog Spotty for his nightly walk along that dark forest path, when he suddenly found himself enveloped in bright white light. It only lasted for a few seconds before the world went dark. When the lights came back on again a few minutes later, he found himself staring straight into a pair of huge eyes, which reminded him very much of a creepy bug. The alien – or at least Frank assumed that’s what he, she or it was – nodded approvingly before walking away from him, leaving the room through a sliding door, which emitted a pleasant humming sound as it slid open and shut.
When Frank recovered from the initial shock he realized he wasn’t the only human being in the room. There were two other men who were shackled to an upright metallic table of some sort and they were stark naked, and Frank discovered suddenly that he was in the same condition as they were. Wires were protruding from the tables which were connected to a futuristic control panel covered with dozens of green and red blinking lights. The three of them were arranged in such a way that they were facing each other. The two other men were both very skinny. One of them was so skinny in fact, that his face was all bony, while the other man had a thick bushy beard covering his pale white face. The bony-faced one was chuckling to himself. “I knew it! I knew they existed after all! I tried to tell everybody but no one would listen to me!” The bearded man looked filthy, like he hadn’t had a proper shower for weeks and he certainly smelled like it. He didn’t say anything and just hung there in gloomy silence.
“Umm… Hallo?” Frank said to neither of them in particular. It was the one with the bushy beard who replied. “I’m not talking to you! How do I know you’re not a spy working for the aliens? I know what you’re after. You’re after the algorithms of this sophisticated artificial intelligence I developed all by myself, but you are crazy if you think I would ever divulge any of my secrets with you. It’s mine, you hear me? Mine!” After that, he immediately fell back into silence. The bony-faced one in the meantime just kept on chuckling and muttering I knew it over and over again. Frank laid his head against the table and closed his eyes. “These aliens sure have done their homework,” he thought. “One of these guys is suffering from heavy paranoia and the other belongs in a mental institution, if he isn’t in one already. And then there’s me, the crazy hermit. Nobody is going to believe anyone of us even if we do manage to get out of here.” He sighed and started to think about Spotty, his only true companion in this world. He hoped he was alright and that he wasn’t too scared at suddenly finding himself all alone at night.
The sliding door hummed again and seven aliens entered the room. They all looked alike to Frank and he couldn’t determine whether the alien he first encountered was among them. One of them was definitely larger than the others, even if he was still a bit smaller than a normal human adult. The arrival of the aliens seemed to snap the other men from the states they were in. “Oh hallo,” the bony-faced man said in an amiable voice. “Happy to make your acquaintance. It’s always so nice to meet new people.” The man with the bushy beard was not so friendly however. “My cans! What have you done with my cans?” he exclaimed. “I always count them, so don’t think you can get away with stealing any of them!”
The six smaller aliens split up into three groups of two and each group was assigned to one of the humans. The larger alien stood behind one the control panel with the blinking lights and watched over the whole process with seemingly great interest. The two aliens who were assigned to Frank started prodding him everywhere on his body, poking in his stomach, his chest, his arms, his legs and his face, pausing only to take notes on some sort of electronic device. Frank could hear the bony-faced man giggling like a little schoolgirl. “Stop tickling me,” he kept saying between his bouts of laughter. The bearded man on the other hand was practically shouting at this point. “Poke at me all you want, but I will never tell you my secrets!” Frank remained silent and tried to focus on his breathing, hoping for the ordeal to end soon. At least the aliens were not too harsh in their treatment, as if they didn’t want to damage their specimen, for which Frank felt no small degree of gratitude. He looked towards the control panel where the larger alien was standing behind. Some of the green lights turned into red and some of the red lights turned into green, and Frank wondered what they meant.
After a while – Frank couldn’t tell how long it had been – the larger alien cried out something which sounded like Zrffl Glyb. Apparently it meant that the class was over as the other aliens abruptly abandoned their experiments and started lining up to hand in their electronic devices. A few minutes later a different alien appeared with their clothes and a grocery bag full of cans and freed them from their shackles. After they were dressed the alien instructed them to step into a large glass tube. The same white light enveloped him. Just before the world went dark again he could see the bony-faced man waving goodbye to the aliens while the bearded man was frantically counting his cans, but Frank was just happy to leave the place.
When he woke up again, he found himself lying on the forest path with Spotty sitting next to him sniffing at him. He remained sitting there for a few minutes patting Spotty on his head before he finally stood up and headed back to his house deep inside the forest.