I loved and trusted an alien who came from two and a half million light-years away. When he deserted me his betrayal gnawed at my guts, with a voracious appetite.
“I warned you, Ellie,” my sister, Olivia said. “There was no future in it.”
At the time I believed she was right, but now it seems there would have been be no future without it, for any of us.
I met him in Wavertree Botanic Gardens, three miles from Liverpool city centre, when I was taking my dog, Andrew, for his evening walk. We weren’t actually walking at the time. I was sitting by the ornamental fountain, basking in the June twilight scent of honeysuckle, with Andrew sprawled across my feet. I took my sketchpad and pencil from my shoulder bag and began drawing the aromatic pink and white flowers.
“You draw well.”
I turned my head. A tall young man in sunglasses stood behind the bench. His dark hair fell in waves around his shoulders, he wore a black leather jacket, jeans, and a white tee shirt with a picture of William Shakespeare on the front. The inscription beneath it said ‘Will Power.’
“Thank you,” I said. “You obviously don’t have an eyesight problem, so why the sunglasses? Are you a poseur?”
He laughed, swung his long legs over the back of the bench, and sat beside me. “No, but my eyes are unusual, and I didn’t want to startle you.” I couldn’t detect a foreign accent, but he spoke as if English was unfamiliar to him and he was anxious not to make a mistake.
“You shouldn’t have crept up on me,” I said. “You’re lucky my dog didn’t go for the jugular.” A nibble on the ankle would have been more likely, but a potential attacker didn’t need to know that.
“I apologise. Believe me. I am of honourable character and I mean no harm to you or your dog.” He glanced at the lazy mutt. “What breed is he?”
“A bit of a mix. I think there’s a trace of collie in there somewhere, but he’s only a mongrel.”
“Ah, a hybrid. They have strength, intelligence, and a good temperament.” He leaned forward and tickled the dog behind the ears. Andrew opened one eye, closed it again, and snored.
“Well, there’s nothing wrong with his temperament,” I said, “So I suppose one out of three isn’t bad.”
“What’s his name?”
“Andrew, in memory of Andy Warhol.”
“You admire Mr Warhol’s art?”
“Not particularly, but he was odd, and I like odd people.”
“I’m reassured to know that. May I ask your name?”
“Ellie Moorcroft. What’s yours?”
He told me, but I couldn’t pronounce it. The closest I could get was ‘Kazaburnj.’
“Near enough,” he said. “Please call me Kaz.”
“You’re not from round here, right?”
“Right. I’m from a planet in a solar system on the outer arm of the Andromeda galaxy.”
More likely the local ‘Care in the Community’ centre, I thought, but he seems harmless, so go with the flow. “Where’s your spaceship?”
“I don’t need one. I travel instantaneously by transporter beam. Watch.” He disappeared. Then reappeared.
“What the f-?”
“Don’t be alarmed. Now I will show you my eyes.” He removed his shades. His irises were amber. My scepticism did its best to assert itself but I couldn’t deny what I’d seen, and I gave in.
“What’s your planet’s name?”
“You wouldn’t be able to say it, but in your language it means ‘Where beauty flourishes.’”
“Like a garden?”
He reached for my hand and kissed it. “Yes. Perhaps it’s appropriate, therefore, that in an earthly garden I found a lovely lady with talent, intelligence and good character.”
I pulled my hand away. “How do you know I have a good character?”
“You show affection towards a lazy old dog. Please may I see you again?”
I couldn’t deny that I wanted to know him better. He intrigued and excited me. So it began.
Every afternoon he waited for me at the gates of Smithdown Comprehensive School, where I teach art and history. He didn’t escape the pupils’ attention. The girls giggled and whispered behind their hands. The boys sniggered and made obscene hand gestures.
He was fascinated by Britain’s past. We discussed the possible purpose of Stonehenge, the fate of the princes in the Tower, and whether or not World War 1 could have been prevented. He revelled in our culture. We watched a performance of Henry V at Shakespeare’s Globe, and we sang along with Pixie Lott at the Chester Rocks festival.
I told my mother and sister about him. “He’s a fake,” Olivia said.
“He has amber eyes, and I’ve seen him disappear, then reappear a few seconds later.”
She shook her head. “He must have hypnotised you.”
“He didn’t. It’s impossible to hypnotise someone without their cooperation.”
My mother said, “Bring him home. Let’s look him over.” So I did.
He shook hands with them both. Olivia stared at him and said nothing. He turned to my mother. “Thank you for welcoming me into your home, Mrs Moorcroft.”
She fluttered her false eyelashes. “Call me Pauline. Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Thank you. Milk but no sugar.” They chatted over the teacups, exchanging views on the European Union, the latest series of Doctor Who, and the benefits of acupuncture. Olivia didn’t take her eyes off him. She looked worried.
After he’d gone, Mother said, “Are you sure he’s from outer space? Maybe he’s just Welsh.”
“Well, he talks funny. I knew a Welsh feller once. Name of Tegwyn. Came from Dwygyfylchi, he did. I used to call it Dirty Filthy. That made him laugh.”
“Mother, what are you talking about?”
“Your spaceman sounds like him. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Thanks for the observation.” I turned to Olivia. “You’re very quiet. Do you have any words of wisdom to add?”
She said, “Okay, he’s a dish, and maybe he’s from Mars-”
“Andromeda,” I interrupted.
“Whatever. The thing is, El, you don’t know anything about him and you have no idea what you’re getting yourself into.” I couldn’t fault her logic, but Kaz had become the centre of my life.
The gardens where we met contained an uncultivated area of meadow grass. On an early July evening we lay among the wild flowers, and made love for the first and last time. He took me home, kissed me goodnight, and vanished.
I never saw him again, and I was pregnant.
“You were right, Liv,” I told my sister, “I was too trusting, and now I’m left with a gnawed gut and an alien embryo.”
She hugged me. “We’ll stand by you, El. You know that. Mam may be daft as a brush but she’ll be a good granny.” I didn’t doubt it. Neither of them suggested that I should have a termination. They knew me too well.
In my fifth month my mother said, “You should give it a Welsh name. Bronwen’s nice for a girl. It means ‘White Breast.’”
“It’s a charming name,” I said, “but how many times do you need telling, Mother, Kaz wasn’t from Dirty Filthy, or whatever it’s called.”
“Oh no, of course not. That was Teg, wasn’t it?” Her eyes held their frequent faraway look. “He took me there once. The people were friendly but I couldn’t understand a word they said. They spoke Welsh, you see.”
“What a surprise.”
“There’s no need for sarcasm, Ellie. I’m only trying to cheer you up.”
“You should have learned Welsh, Mam,” Olivia said, winking at me.
“Teg did teach me a few words, and when I pronounced them right, he said, ‘Crackin,’ Pauline. You’re a natural, isn’t it?’ That was how he spoke English.”
The doorbell rang. Olivia answered it. She called, “Visitor for you, Ellie,” and returned to the living room with a tall dark haired woman wearing a sharp business suit and sunglasses, in November. Oh no, I thought. Not another one.
“Ellie, I am pleased to meet you and your family,” she said. “You would be unable to pronounce my name, so you may call me Roxanne. It is similar.”
“Listen, girlie,” Mother said. “I can say Dwygyfylchi. Beat that.”
“Very impressive, but Roxanne will suffice.”
“I don’t care what your name is,” I said, “If you’re from the Andromeda galaxy I have nothing to say to you.”
“I understand your anger, Ellie. You deserve an explanation of Kaz’s behaviour. I have hired St. Charles Church Hall in Aigburth Road, for a meeting at 7pm next Friday, and I am inviting all the women who were acquainted with men from my home planet to attend. I have much to tell you. Please come.”
“Tell me one thing, right now. If you’re from Andromeda you could have transported into our living room, so why did you bother to ring the doorbell?”
“I would not enter your home uninvited, but I will leave you now.” She turned to my mother, “Bora da, Fadam,” then she vanished.
“What did she say, Mam?” Olivia asked.
Mother’s smile was nearly dissecting her face. “She said ‘Good day, Madam,’ in Welsh. What a polite girl.”
The church hall resembled hundreds of others, with inadequate heating, creaking floorboards and flaking paint. Fifty of us turned up. I counted. We were all pregnant.
We sat on uncomfortable chairs arranged in rows. Roxanne stood on a raised platform facing us. Her amber eyes glowed. “Welcome,” she said. “I hope that what I tell you may alleviate your anger and sadness. Please save your questions until I have finished.”
I glanced around, sensing the tension in the hall. The girl sitting next to me whispered, “She’d better make this good or there’ll be blood all the way to Andromeda.”
She began, “You are damaging your Earth. Within five generations it will be unable to sustain human life, and you will become extinct.” Howls of terror and disbelief erupted. She held up her hand, “Silence.” The authority in her voice subdued the uproar. “We have studied your histories and cultures. Some are best obliterated but there is much worth preserving.” She told us that her people were willing to allow our descendants to emigrate to their planet, but the alien water would poison them and the air would scorch their lungs. She continued, “The solution to this problem is genetic modification. Your children will be hybrids. Their descendants will be compatible with our environment. When the time comes we will take them. Now you may raise your hand if you have a question.”
Fifty hands shot up. She pointed to them, one by one.
“How many of your men did this to our women?”
“Tens of thousands. They visited every city in every country, and they chose women of talent, intelligence and good character.” When Kaz had used those exact words to describe me I hadn’t realised that he was quoting from his agenda.
Roxanne took the next question. “So we’re no more than brood mares?”
“You’re much more. You’re the mothers of a hybrid race: the preservers of your species. We are a loving and emotional people. Our men were loath to leave you but they could not survive long in your environment. Their recovery has been lengthy and painful and their feelings for you still endure.” Many lowered their hands, their question already answered. Some of them were crying, but I felt happier than I had since I last saw Kaz. He really had loved me. The gnawing in my gut stopped.
The next questioner asked, “Will we still be alive when the evacuation takes place?”
“No, but some of your children may. It’s likely to be in the lifetime of their great-grandchildren.”
The girl sitting next to me asked, “Will our children have amber eyes?”
Roxanne smiled. “I expect that’s something you all want to know. Their eyes will be blue, green, grey or brown, according to their human genes, but they will have an amber glint, by which they will recognise each other when they seek a mate. By interbreeding they will strengthen the genetic adaptation.”
I asked, “Will the Earth ever recover from the damage we’ve done?”
“Yes, and within a couple of million years a new dominant species will evolve.”
There was something else I longed to ask, but the next questioner asked it for me. “Have you done this to any of our animals?”
“We have. Those that were compatible for mating with our own species were dogs, cats, horses, elephants and whales. Most of the lower life forms will adapt and survive on Earth, but the bees are struggling. Our drones will fertilise the queens, and we’ll save them.”
When there were no more questions to answer she said goodbye to us individually, addressing us by name.
“Will you see Kaz when you go home?” I asked her.
“Yes. Do you wish to send him a message?”
I nodded. “Tell him… ” My mouth dried, and I couldn’t find the words.
“Don’t worry, Ellie. I’ll know what to say to him. You tell your mother ‘Nos da’ from me. It means ‘Goodnight.’”
“She isn’t Welsh, you know?”
“Is your father?”
“Possibly. He may be from Dwygyfylchi.”
I watch doomed humans sleepwalking through the streets, jabbering into plastic polyps attached to the ear of their choice. Meanwhile, the polar ice melts, sea levels rise, the rain forest dwindles, tons of radioactive waste are dumped in the earth, the ocean bed is littered with discarded coke cans, curry cartons and wine bottles, and an ever increasing number of species is facing extinction. When we come to a stop the amber light will signal ‘get ready to go.’
At sunset I take Bronwen, my three-year-old daughter, to the Botanic Gardens. When the stars appear I point to the sky. “Look, Bronnie. The garden in the night, where your daddy lives, is out there.”
She calls, “My is looking, Daddy,” then she loses interest, and hugs the mongrel pup I adopted from an animal shelter after Andrew died. I named him Kaz. He has amber eyes.
BIO: Maureen Bowden is a Liverpudlian living with her musician husband in North Wales. She has had eighty-eight stories and poems accepted by paying markets, and Silver Pen nominated one of her stories for the 2015 international Pushcart Prize. The loves her family and friends, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Shakespeare and cats.