I was taking a late afternoon nap on my ratty sofa, but I woke up feeling like something was off. It wasn’t anything specific, but a feeling that had gradually been working its way from my subconscious to the edge of my awareness.
The knock on my door brought me out of my haze. No one ever knocked on my door, since I was on the fourth floor of a building with no elevator, and the knock made me a little nervous. The second knock was more insistent and caused enough concern for me to get up and answer the door.
Standing in the doorway was the caricature of a federal agent, complete with dark suit and tie, close-cropped hair, sunglasses and a badge held up so that it was hard not to see it. “Federal Agent Hector,” he said, “this is Federal Agent Bravo – may we ask you a few questions?”
“About what?” I thought it was a reasonable question, apparently the Agent Hector didn’t.
He squinted a little behind his sunglasses. “I’d rather not discuss it here in the hallway. May we come in?”
His partner had not noticeably moved, but his eyes shifted periodically to glance down the hall as if he was expecting someone. This made me more nervous than any potential questions, so I let them in.
As soon as we were inside, Agent Hector asked, “Are you Russell Simpson?”
Ignoring me, he continued, “Son of Chester Simpson of Buffalo, New York?”
“Yes, I was, I mean I am, but he’s dead. Is something wrong?” I couldn’t imagine what my father might have done that involved federal agents knocking on my door. He was a barber.
“You had better sit down, Mr. Simpson.” Agent Hector’s tone was serious, but reassuring. “You may find what I have to tell you a little disturbing.”
As I sat down on the couch, my mind was racing. Was it something my father had done? After he died, my mother told me that he had a secret, but she wouldn’t tell me what it was, because she was afraid it would change my opinion of him. I ran through every unpleasant scenario I could think of but couldn’t come up with anything that made sense. My mother wouldn’t give in and took his secret to the grave with her. I hadn’t really thought of it since she died, but I suppose I was going to find out.
I looked at Agent Hector, who had sat in the chair next to the couch. He removed his dark glasses, stared at me intently, as if to gauge my reaction to what he was going to say. He looked like a federal agent. Agent Bravo, who looked a little more like a bouncer playing a federal agent, calmly scanned the room like he thought something was going to suddenly appear. His expression never changed.
“An alien spacecraft is going to land outside this building in a few minutes,” said Agent Hector, as if it was a normal occurrence.
“Why tell me?” I didn’t question the announcement because he seemed to be perfectly serious.
Agent Hector looked briefly at his partner, who nodded slightly. “Because, they are looking for you.” His expression did not change, and he continued to look at me as if to determine whether this was new to me.
This was ridiculous. I had believed in UFOs and aliens since I was a little kid but why would aliens be looking for me?
As if he understood what I was thinking, Agent Bravo said slowly and calmly, “Your father was an alien.”
Anti-immigrant fever must be running pretty high, I thought, if they were going to this extent regarding a dead immigrant, “He wasn’t an alien. He was born in Hawaii, but it was a territory. He served in the Air Force for 20 years.”
“Not an illegal alien, Mr. Simpson,” said Agent Hector, “an alien from another planet.”
He was serious. At least he looked like he was serious. But dad wasn’t an alien. He couldn’t be … that would make me an alien. Besides, aliens are green or gray with big heads and bigger eyes and long, skinny fingers and I am a little overweight, with stubby fingers, too much hair, and glasses. Aliens didn’t wear glasses.
I cold feel the change in the atmosphere before I felt the humming. That feeling in my stomach grew as the humming got louder, as if my body knew something I didn’t. This must be a dream, I thought, but I will wake up soon and have a good laugh about it.
“You are an alien by birth, and we are obligated to hand you over to an agent from your planet, “Agent Hector said as if reading from a rule book.
I am going to have to stop watching those UFO shows if I am going to dream like this. I’ve heard that once you realize you are in a dream, you wake up, but this was getting interesting. I wanted to see what the aliens wanted from me.
An alarm went off. “Darn, now I will wake up and won’t know what they wanted. But, I will get to tell my friend Tina about my dream. She loves to interpret dreams, and she will have fun with this one.
But the alarm wasn’t mine, it was coming from Agent Bravo, who looked down at his phone and said, “They’re here.”
With those two words, it started to sink in that maybe this wasn’t a dream. “Who’s here?” I managed to squeak out.
“The representatives from your planet.” Said Agent Hector.
“This is my planet!” I yelled. I wanted to jump up and punch the agents and jump out through the window like they do in the movies, but this wasn’t a movie, and I wasn’t sure any longer that it was just a dream.
There was another knock on my door, and Agent Bravo walked over and opened it.
I’m not sure what I expected, but in my doorway stood several people wearing jumpsuits made of reflective material like they would wear in a cheap space movie. Their suits all had a symbol that resembled but wasn’t quite an S, and they looked like the pictures I had seen of my uncles.
“I don’t understand,” I said. I didn’t.
Agent Hector said, matter-of-factly, “These are members of your family from your home planet. Your father came to us for asylum years ago, and we agreed because of the turmoil on your planet. But now your planet has worked through its problems, and they need you back.”
What? This was getting worse all the time. “Why me?”
The leader of the aliens, who looked like my Uncle Benny, spoke. “You are the heir to the throne of Simpson Anzos, and we need you to return to help unite the three kingdoms.”
“And how am I supposed to do that?” I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer, but I had to ask.
“By marrying the princess of the Far Kingdom,” said Uncle Benny.
So now the dream was starting to make sense. I was going to end up with a beautiful princess and live happily ever after in charge of my own planet. Only, that feeling in my stomach wasn’t going away.
“Okay…So I’m an alien prince who needs to return home and marry a princess so I can save my home planet from chaos?”
Apparently, they didn’t understand sarcasm. “Exactly,” several of them responded at once.”
This had to be a prank. I was probably on a reality show, and any minute now someone was going to tell me it was all a joke.
“Is the princess at least pretty?” I asked, playing along, expecting a description of a fair-haired maiden, beautiful beyond my wildest dreams.
“Hideous,” said Uncle Benny.
Absolutely unpleasant.” said a second alien who looked like my Uncle George. “No one on our planet will marry her. It’s why your father ran away to this planet.”
“How bad can she be?” I asked, waiting for the producer to come in and explain that it was all a joke.
“In terms you are familiar with, she looks a little like a rhinoceros,” said Uncle Benny with no trace of humor.
Where is that producer? “And if I refuse to go?” I asked, trying unsuccessfully to push the thought that this could be real out of my head.
“That is not an option,” said Agent Bravo. “By the terms of our treaty with Simpson Anzos, we are obligated to hand you over.”
“Okay, let’s go then.” I jumped up from the couch. I was eager for the prank to be over…but deep inside there was a growing feeling that something was off. Everyone was playing their role a little too well. And who would go to this much trouble to prank me? Maybe Tina, we were good friends and she would know better than anyone how to set me up.
We walked down the stairs as a group with me in the middle, probably so I couldn’t escape. When we exited the building, I saw a vehicle that looked like a long, silver motor home on stilts sitting in the street. Only instead of windows, it had those round space ports, and there were high-powered lights everywhere. I had to hand it to them, whoever came up with this prank was totally committed.
And then I saw Tina, standing next to the ramp, and I got it. I laughed and said to the federal agent, “Good job, Hector, if that’s your real name. You really had me going. This was a great prank.”
Hector did not smile.
Tina walked over and I started to congratulate her on the quality of the prank, but Agent Hector cut me off. “Good evening, Ambassador Szora. He’s all yours.”
“Ambassador?” I said, “Nice touch, Tina.”
“It’s not really Tina,” she said,” I am Szora, an interplanetary ambassador from Simpson Anzos assigned to keep track of you, in case you were ever needed.”
Tina turned and had a brief discussion with Agent Hector, after which Uncle George brought what looked like a large duffle bag full of money and handed it to Agent Bravo, who stuffed it into the trunk of his nondescript car and drove off with Agent Hector.
None of this made any sense, and I was starting to get worried. Tina led me up the ramp into the motor home and showed me a seat. I sat down in the large, silvery seat and settled in, it was very comfortable. “I need to get one of these for my apartment,” I said.
Uncle Benny said, “You will have plenty of comfortable chairs in the palace, your highness.”
“Here, Russell, drink this,” Tina said, handling me what looked like a draft dark beer. “It will make the trip easier for you.”
“Okay, Tina,” I said, “you can give it up. It’s a great prank, but it’s getting old, and there is a football game on soon.”
“I assure you, Your Highness,” said Uncle George, “this is no prank. The royal family does not play pranks on its people.”
Something about his tone set off alarms inside my head. Turning to Tina, I said, “And you’re an ambassador? I thought you were my friend.”
“I’m sorry, your highness, it was just part of the job.” She sounded a little sorry, but a lot more professional than she should have.
The drink was beginning to dull my senses. I felt the humming start to build, and through the view screen on the wall, I saw an image of my neighborhood that began to shrink into my town, the tri-city area, and eventually the Earth, which got smaller and smaller until it disappeared into the darkness of space.
Suddenly, I knew this wasn’t a dream or a prank, and I knew why my mother would never tell me dad’s secret - she knew I would never believe it. But, here I was. UFOs were real, and I was an alien prince heading back to my home planet to get married! As I drifted off to sleep, my last thought was what it would be like kissing a rhinoceros.