Copyright © 2022 by Latrell R. Morris
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I sat in my living room, peering out at the approaching fog. It swallowed up cars and homes as it crawled down the street. Parents pulled their children inside, taking care not to lose them in the haze. An unleashed dog desperately ran to its owner, jumping into her arms as they met. She scurried inside with the frightened animal in her arms as the streets outside cleared of all living beings.
Fog was rare, but when it came, people were afraid of its presence. It made little sense to me. Sure, visibility was low, but it wasn’t a complete hinderance of daily life. No big deal, at least not to me. I grabbed my mug full of hot lemon and water and wandered to my home office. I tried not to use my home office if I wasn’t working, but boredom took over me and I needed to alleviate it. Stop, that isn’t true. The truth is, I’d become so consumed with work that I rarely did anything else, including leaving my home. Even the postal worker came to pick up my outgoing packages, so I didn’t have to trudge to the post office. I’d become a workaholic, and it wasn’t a badge of honor. This was a fear of mine and I let it come true. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to stop it.
I took a seat behind my desk and unlocked my computer. Ten new emails popped me in the face, waiting for me to double click them. They’re all customers asking about my newest product. I knew this from the subject line. I made it clear on my website that more information was coming, but it seems like three days is a lifetime for some. I swear, impatience will kill us all but probably not. Impatience on my customers’ part can be quite annoying.
I clicked open the first email. It was from Tiffany Jane, one of my long-time and loyal customers. She’d been a customer since I started my business six years ago, and we’d developed a professional and personal rapport with each other. She was the only customer I felt comfortable opening an email with, “Hey girl”.
I read through her email. The content wasn’t surprising. She wanted all the juicy details of this “amazing” new product I was set to announce. I wouldn’t be direct, I couldn’t be. She was too loyal to that. I wouldn’t tell her she’d have to wait like everyone else. I’m sure that wouldn’t be good for our relationship. So, I supplied her a bit of information. Just enough to hold her over until the big announcement on Friday. She’ll be fine.
As I read through the remaining emails, they demanded the same thing, information on the new product. These customers, I had no problem telling they’d have to wait for Friday. In a professional way, of course. I looked again at the other fifty emails from this morning, which I’d already skimmed over. Most were orders I had to fulfill, none were priority, leaving them for another two days. Nothing else needed my immediate attention, which left me with some free time on my hands. I groaned, and grabbed my mug, and headed to the kitchen.
The mug clanked against the stone countertop. I stopped and glanced around. Things were quiet. Incredibly quiet. It’s always quiet. A wave of sadness rushed through me. I didn’t like to say it to my family and friends, but I felt lonely. At this point in life, I thought I’d be married with kids by now, but what I had in my mind and what reality provided didn’t sync up. I’m not trying to downplay myself; I accomplished a lot in the past six years. Started my business, bought a house, and became one of Business Monday’s new top earners of the year. There was a lot for me to be proud of, and I was, but it would be nice to have someone to share it with.
Ding Dong. I almost jumped out of my skin when I heard the doorbell. Who could be at my door? All my packages left for the day. I slowly crept to the door.
“Hello,” I called.
“Hello,” they called. Their tone was unusual.
“May I help you?”
“Yes, I am here for you.”
“I’m sorry. Who are you?”
They didn’t answer. I wouldn't open the door for a stranger. “Hello. Are you there?”
“Yes. I am a friend. My name is Venn.”
Weird, I don’t have a friend named Venn, nor do I know anyone with that name. “I’m sorry, you must have the wrong house. I don’t know anyone named Venn. Have a good day.” I waited, hoping the person went away. Silence.
I turned to head back to the kitchen and almost crashed into a table when the loud knocking started. They’re still there.
“Please let me in. I am a friend.”
“Listen, if you don’t leave my door now, I’m going to call the police.”
“You won’t,” the person threatened. “I know you won’t. You don’t even like cops.” Their tone got nastier. “Please, let me in.”
“Go away, now!” I yelled from the foyer.
Five seconds of silence and the bamming started. It echoed through the house. Bouncing off every wall or solid object it could find. The bamming sounded as if it was all around me, clashing in my eardrums. My anger was at a tipping point. “That’s it. Who the hell do they think they are?” I skulked to the foyer window and drew a small part of the curtains. I hurriedly pushed the curtains back and turned on the alarm. My heart pounded so fast, it felt as if it was going to burst out of my chest and onto the floor. I held it tight, hoping to calm myself down, but after what I saw, I wasn’t sure if I could.
“Do I scare you?” It asked. “I’m not trying to. I am here to be your friend. You called me.”
I didn’t answer. What the hell was I supposed to say to this thing? I accept your friendship. Fuck that! I wanted no parts of a relationship with whatever that abomination was.
I ran to the kitchen and grabbed the largest and sharpest knife I had. But, I realized, it really wouldn’t do any good. Not against that thing. So, I grabbed another knife. Two are better than one. Just then, I remembered the curtains in my office were still open. I slowly slid to my office, holding both knives close to my sides. I peeped around the corner and saw nothing but fog. Dense, white fog drifting on the other side of the window.
The coast was clear, and I cautiously walked further inside, heading towards the window. Suddenly, that thing came striding over the window, glaring keenly at me. It stopped and centered itself. I saw it, all of it. Bright yellow eyes peered back at me while a broken grin greeted me. Its square, silver head cocked and twisted. Long silver limbs with black wires pulsating underneath like veins. Its chest cavity looked like jagged saw blades, hungry and ready to feed. Something unbelievable sat inside. A heart. A human heart. Beating and pumping black goo into all its wires and mechanical limbs.
“Won’t you let me in?” It said with its broken jaw. “I just want to be your friend.”
I screamed and bolted from the office and down the hall to my room. I slammed the door and ran to the windows, pulling the curtains closed so it wouldn’t find me. My chest burned hot, and I could barely catch my breath. I needed to calm myself down. And cowered in the corner and I kept extra quiet. No sudden movements. Even the slightest noise could give me away.
A low tap sounded at my window. Oh fuck, it found me. How?
“I know you’re in there. Will you please let me in?”
I said nothing. Sweat dripped from my forehead. Another tap.
“You don’t need to be afraid. I am here for you. You called me.”
That was the second time that monstrosity said that. Called them, I think not. The two knives were still by my side, ready to go to battle, if need be, but I didn’t want there to be a need. Another tap. Damn, this thing doesn’t give up, does it? Another tap.
“You called me.” Its voice was deeper and much grittier.
That’s it, enough was enough. Time to face my fear. It took every nerve in my body to gather strength and move from the corner. I hopped up and drew back the curtains. My brown eyes and its yellow eyes locked. I held up the knives, showing I was ready to battle. “What the fuck do you want?”
The mechanical mess smirked. “You.” Two silver arms came bursting through the window, spraying shards of glass in my curls. It rapidly swept me up from the floor and into its arms. I fought and screamed. Did my neighbors hear me? See me? “HELP!” I yelled, bruising the inside of my throat. I fought again, but it was all for naught. My body was a sack of meat against a pile of metal. I wasn't going to win this battle.
It patted me on the head and said, “Don’t worry, I am your friend.”
A cloud of fog drew back, and a large, black ship appeared from above. Three blue lights raced around a large black door. The door opened. The giant held me tight and shot off into the sky. We flew through the open door and onto the ship, where we landed lightly against a metal floor. The door closed, and the ship moved, ascending higher into the sky. I could see my house getting smaller and smaller from a large window next to me.
I cried out, “Take me back.”
“No. You are my friend.”
“No, I am not.”
It put me down gently against the cold, metal floor, where I could see my reflection staring at me. I scurried to a corner of the room. I was miles and miles away from my home and the gap was closing as every second passed. Why me? What did I do to be in this position?
Aliens? I didn’t fit the stereotypical image of a person abducted by aliens, yet here I was on a strange ship with a large robot alien thing that could kill me with one hit. Why didn’t it kill me? It pointed to a door in the middle of the room.
“Friends,” It said, slogging towards it. “You and I, friends. Now, you must come.”
It stomped its large metal foot, sending a rumble my way. My body stiffened. Hell no, I wasn’t moving after that. It would have to drag me to get me to budge.
“Now. Come with your friend through the door.”
I crouched behind a box, hellbent on not going anywhere else with this thing.
“Fine.” It stomped over to me, knocking my cover to the opposite wall. I was out in the open, vulnerable, and afraid.
“Please, I just want to go home,” I whimpered. Tears ran down the balls of my cheeks, and I buried my face in my hands. “I want to go home.” I repeated.
It moved my hand and came face to face with me. I could feel warm fumes streaming from its nose or, rather, two holes where its nose should be. The broken smile plastered its face again.
“You are home. I am your friend. I am the friend for the lonely. You called me.”
My eyes grew wide and right then I realized I did. I had become so consumed with my emotions, my need to rid my loneliness, I caused this thing to show up at my doorstep and take me away from my reality. I didn’t realize my emotions were that powerful that it sent a signal into the universe.
My tears stung, but I understood I wasn’t going home. It was going to give me what I asked for. Not children, not a husband, but a cure for my loneliness. At that moment, I wished I could take it all back. I was going to lose all I worked for, all I accomplished, family, and the few friends I had, just to feel less lonely.
The door in the middle of the room opened. A white light shined, engulfing us in its glow. The next thing I knew, I was standing in a small glass room. All alone. The room moved, and I held on, trying to keep my balance. This was getting scarier by the minute. My fate was up in the air, just like this glass room.
It stopped, and I jerked forward, and that’s when I saw them. Other people standing in a large room just below me, sitting and conversing. Different ethnicities, genders, shapes, and sizes. Like a melting pot. Most of them had enormous smiles on their faces. Were these people abducted, like me? They had to have been. If not, where did they come from? Why were they here?
The room moved down towards the people below. They all stopped and looked up. The crowd rifted away from the spot where my glass box was descending to. All eyes were on me in this transparent prison. I felt uncomfortable; exposed and helpless, like a zoo animal being observed in a cage. The room finally landed on the floor and the glass encasing me slowly dissolved into nothingness. Not even a fragment remained. I held myself, trying to absorb as much dignity as I could.
A tall, slender, brown-skinned woman walked over to me and held out her hand. “I’m Natalie.” My reluctancy to shake her hand was clear. I don’t know her or any of them.
“Veronica,” I said, glaring at her.
“Welcome, Veronica. It’s ok, you don’t have to be afraid. We are all friends.” She put her hand back to her sides and grinned at me.
I looked around the vast room. Everyone was staring at me with a wide grin. They seemed cultish. My eyes darted from corner to corner, hoping to spot an exit I could run to and escape. I saw none. Just a room full of strange people.
“Veronica. What was the last thing you remember before Venn knocked on your door?”
I didn’t really want to answer, but she wasn’t trying to do me any harm. “I remember feeling lonely and thinking about what I wish I had.”
“Just like the rest of us. That’s how we ended up here. And now, none of us feels lonely. We all have each other now.”
All of them stepped towards me, hands outstretched and reaching for hugs. My anxiety shot up, and I wanted out. “No, please, don’t touch me.” None of them obeyed. They closed in on me and I couldn’t run. People were everywhere. Bodies encroached on me, encompassing me with hugs. My insides felt tender, and my mind eased. I felt it. A sensation of content, joy, and love. I smiled and gave Natalie an enormous hug. I sobbed as my memories of the past evaporated into a small cloud stashed away in a box in the corners of my mind.
“There, there. You don’t have to worry anymore.” Natalie stroked my head and held me close. “We are all here for you.”
It had been the best I felt in a long time. I no longer felt lonely.
But I still needed to leave.