by Marcha Fox
I inhaled sharply when I recognized the introductory riff wafting from my favorite 80s station as Your Wildest Dreams by the Moody Blues. Even though I had the original 45 RPM record, the album on cassette tape, and more recently, the CD, I kept them safely locked away so I wouldn't binge on it. Nonetheless, when KPLV, 93.1 FM in Vegas, got around to playing it every few weeks or so, I'd indulge in a break, a delicious reminder of why I was here.
Consumed by ethereal and intimately familiar soundwaves, I got up, closed the blinds, and even though it was unlikely the song's strains would penetrate my office's cinder block walls, plugged in my headset so I could crank it up—I mean really up. I melted back into my chair, eyes closed, with what was probably an idiotic smile on my face, savoring each note as the song segued into its lively, 142 BPM tempo. The next three minutes and forty-one seconds, I'd be in heaven.
Even though this song came out eight years after she left, the first time I heard it, back when I was still in college in '86, I knew two things: One, it would always be "our song"; and Two, I had to find her.
My heart leapt with visions of galaxies beyond, of what might be out there, where she might be. I plunged headlong through space and time, besieged by memories burned into my heart as permanently and painfully as branding was to a newborn calf. Did she remember? Feel the same thing I did? Sense the enchantment of fate-entangled lives?
I memorize pretty easily, which comes in handy, especially with things like the Periodic Table or Maxwell's equations. And of course, favorite songs. These particular lyrics struck me, hard and personal, from day one, certain it'd been written exclusively for me.
As my eyes teared up, logic intervened and yanked me back to planet Earth.
Grow up, Benson! What are you, a total schmaltz or what?
We were kids, for heaven sakes. A teenage crush. I should've gotten over it, but never did. No wonder. Girls like her are rare. One of a kind. She'd already experienced things I never would. Things that were part of my wildest dreams.
The admonition failed, pushed aside by that part of me that felt alive again, jammin' like a total jerk, mouthing the words as I sang along in my head. It's not like I'm a teenager anymore, though at the moment I felt like one. No, memories of the heart never die—can't die, ever--even if you try to kill them.
I'd give anything to talk to her. Which of course I have, numerous times over the years, if only in my head. Okay, aloud more often than I care to admit. I could swear it even felt as if she answered a time or two. I suppose that's how it is with your first love. Or your first kiss, even if it was only a peck on the cheek. It penetrates your soul and stays there forever.
That mid-summer day in '78 hauling hay was as vivid as yesterday in my mind's eye. The cloudless sky, sun hot on my neck, the aroma of first-crop alfalfa sweetening the mountain air. I scratched my shoulder, a reflex memory of itchy, stray leaves sticking through my T-shirt. My chest ached as I remembered tear tracks streaking her dust-covered face at something I'd said. Then, days later, that withering look when we lied about her ship.
The one we still have. What's left of it quietly abandoned beneath a tarp in Building 15, here at Area 51.
How she knew we weren't telling the truth, I'll never know. Pretty funny it's still sitting there. And I'm sure she'd think so, too. I can just hear her saying, "Stupid snurks, I knew they'd never figure it out." Though actually they did, just didn't find technology worth pursuing. Even contractors didn't want it.
I had to admit it was pretty crazy, but she was my motivation to get where I was today: just short of a decade of college linked with serendipity that put me in the right place at the right time, hoping someday I'd find her. My life had changed a lot since then. How much had hers changed? Did she make it home? Was she still alive? With the effects of relativistic travel, which I understood only too well, she could still be a teenager, while I was easing into the infamous dirty thirties.
Not good. If I ever did find her, she'd probably think I was some lecherous old fart. Either that, or, with my luck, she'd be married with a bunch of kids. I winced with the thought.
My sentimental reverie vanished when my office door slammed open and Hector Buckhorn rolled in. Literally. Hec's been stuck in a wheelchair ever since he crashed his hang glider into a New Mexico mountainside during spring break his last semester of college. He ridge soared a lot, particularly around Dulce, over restricted areas where he wasn't supposed to be. Got caught a couple times, but being Native American, never got in trouble, even though it wasn't his home reservation. He's amazingly good at playing dumb, in spite of—or possibly because of—his 150ish IQ. He never talked about his accident, said he couldn't remember. Makes sense, actually, given he suffered a massive concussion. The only time I ever saw him pissed him off was when he woke up in the hospital and discovered they'd shaved off his hair, since grown back beyond shoulder length.
I dropped the headset around my neck and faked a frown. "Don't you ever knock, butthead?"
"Hey, man, wazzup?" he said, giving me a funny look. "You okay?"
I laughed. "Of course. Just thinking. Remembering. You know."
"Ahhh. They played that song again, didn't they?"
"Can't hide anything from you, can I, Chief?"
"Nope. I figured you were up to somethin' with your blinds closed."
He wheeled over to the grey metal, government-issue table on the other side of the room and helped himself to a handful of peanut M&Ms. Once I'd realized during my PhD days at Cal Tech that, in a pinch, they made a pretty decent meal, I'd kept that old, wide-mouth canning jar full. He dumped them in his mouth, perusing me with knowing, dark eyes.
"You were sure enjoyin' that song of yours," he said, not even trying to stifle his crooked grin as he munched away.
"Yeah," I replied, uncomfortable with the conversation's direction.
"We've known each other a long time, Allen," he said. "Don't you think it's time you told me about her?"
"Not much to tell."
He let fly with a popular expletive related to bovine excrement. "C'mon! What's her name?" he persisted.
I blew out my cheeks and sighed, knowing resistance was futile. "Creena," I answered, surprising myself when, again, I got a little choked up. I avoided his eyes by likewise heading for the M&Ms.
"So find her," he said.
"It's not that simple," I replied, pouring myself a handful. "I don't know where she is." A statement that was truer than he could possibly imagine.
"I have some resources who could help," he offered with a conspiratorial wink.
I shook my head, then stalled by popping a few colorful orbs in my mouth.
"Why not? If she's anywhere on this planet, these guys'll find her."
I swallowed hard and paused; met his gaze. "She's not."
He scowled, making him look a lot like those old pictures of Cochise. "Say again?"
"Oh! I'm sorry."
He shrugged. "I assumed she's dead. She must've been quite a girl."
"She was. Is. She's not dead. At least as far as I know."
His jaw dropped, shocked expression broadcasting the fact he'd caught the implications. "You're not kidding, are you?"
"Abductee?" he whispered.
"Nope," I answered, raiding the candy jar again. "Immigrant."
His eyes widened as he spewed an expletive that elevated excrement to sanctified status. "Don't tell me she's an EBE!"
I nearly spewed partially chewed M&Ms across the room. Extraterrestrial biological entity, indeed! Yet by definition, actually, she was.
I chuckled at his expression and shook my head. "No. Quite human. At least as far as I know."
"Are you?" he added, chocolate-colored irises rimmed with white. His reaction surprised me—UFOs, even aliens, were no big deal in his culture, just business as usual with the Star People.
"C'mon, Chief! You've known me since tenth grade, running high school track!"
He leaned back, searching my face with more solemnity than I'd seen since I told him how Dad died. "You've got a lot of explaining to do, bro," he said finally, shaking his head.
"You have no idea," I said, throat constricting as scratchy lyrics from the headset, audible only to me, issued another reminder of why I was here.