This story is by John Fowler and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
I wasn’t supposed to be there.
I wasn’t supposed to see what I saw.
But then he, or whatever it was, was not supposed to be there either.
But there we were.
I’d gotten out of the cab, intending to walk the last three blocks to work when he just sort of materialized from the half shadows of this little alley.
But there we were, less than three feet apart. His three eyes open wide in what I presumed to be a mixture of surprise and shock.
His eyes blinked, center, left, and then the right.
The transformation was so fast I never saw it.
One second I was face to three-eyed face with an alien from who knows where.
The next, except for the straight-from-the-eighties mullet haircut, he looked as normal as anyone else on the street. Well, a bit better dressed perhaps.
“Psssst,” he took a step back into the shadows and motioned for me to follow.
“Can you spare a minute?”
What, no take me to your leader? Just, can you spare a minute? At least he wasn’t asking for spare change. Maybe I should call 9-1-1 or report this to the FBI. “Sure,” I said and took a step closer.
He stuck out his hand. I hesitated briefly before shaking his hand. In for a penny. The grip was a bit weak, but not a dead fish. Looking at him now, if I hadn’t seen the before picture, I’d never have guessed he was an alien.
“What’s up?” I asked, half expecting him to ask about Da Bulls or Da Bears.
But he didn’t. Instead, he got right to the point. “Can you get me some Coke?”
“What?” I asked, looking over my shoulder, wondering if this was a setup and the white panel truck parked half a block away was a police surveillance truck.
He hesitated. Looked around, like he was afraid of that panel truck and that I might be a cop. His response crept between his lips, little more than a whisper. “I prefer the Classic Coke, but diet will do. I’d even settle for a root beer if that’s all there is, but I’ve heard Coke is the best.”
There was something in the way he stressed the word best that put me at ease, at least a little bit. He was desperate. Whatever he was, he wasn’t a cop. Whatever this was, it wasn’t a set-up.
I pointed off to my left. “There’s a bodega on the corner. Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, take your pick. As long as you have the cash, they’ll sell you all you want.”
“If I go inside a building and the door closes, I’ll lose my link to home. That’s why I need your help.”
“I hadn’t thought of that. Guess I can help. How much Coke do you want?”
He paused, rubbing his temples with his left hand. The thumb on one side, fingers on the other. I got the impression he was thinking. But then again, he was an alien, so he could have been doing most anything.
“I was told it’s sometimes sold in 2-liter bottles. Is that true?”
I nodded. Glanced at my watch. Maybe I should tell the FBI about this guy. At least that way I’d have a good excuse for being late for work.
“Could you get me four? Wait, better make it three. I’m not sure I can carry four at a time.”
“Sure. They’re something like two-fifty each. About three dollars each with tax and deposit. Give me a Jackson, and I’ll be right back.”
He shuffled from foot to foot for a moment and glanced over his shoulder. I thought he was going retreat to the shadows and go back to wherever he’d come from.
“That’s the other problem. I don’t have any dollars.”
I said nothing, debating my next step. Walk away? Do the guy a solid and give him a 2-liter as a diplomatic, first contact gift? Call the cops and let them sort it out.
I was about to walk away when he pulled his hand from his pocket. “But, I’ve got these.”
His outstretched hand held a pile of sparkle. Diamonds! Big ones. “What have you got there, friend?”
“I think you call them diamonds. Could I trade these for enough dollars to buy the Coke? Do you think I’ve got enough?”
“May I?” I asked as I reached for one of the stones.
He nodded, extending his hand.
I held one up to the light. Flawless, at least as far as I could tell without a jeweler’s loupe. “One of these would get you enough dollars to buy a truckload of the stuff.”
“Interesting. Back home these are worthless. I’ll trade you these for three bottles of Coke.”
I eyed the diamonds for about a half second as I decided. “Wait here. I’ll be right back.”
Five minutes later, I was back with his order and a Big Gulp as a bonus. I could see he was jonesing for a fix so I set the bottles on the ground and handed him the Big Gulp.
The alien grabbed it with shaking hands and slammed it in one go. His eyes glazed over, all three of them, this time. “Ohhhh, that’s good. Can I get more?”
“Sure. Next week, same place, and time.”
“Thanks,” he said as he stepped back into the shadows. “I’ll be here.”
I could see the guy was hooked so decided to raise the price. “I gave you the new customer discount The regular price is two– I mean three, good rocks like these for each bottle.”
I hailed a cab and headed to the diamond district. I’d decide what to tell my boss after I heard what the jeweler had to say.