Mona On The Edge Of Town

Submitted into Contest #96 in response to: Start your story with the arrival of a strange visitor in a small town.... view prompt

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Fantasy Science Fiction Suspense

No one was quite sure where the young woman came from. She might have been a native of the planet, but she really looked too human for that – the natives had two heads and three eyes, after all, so they were pretty easy to spot. But the visitor didn't speak at all, so there was no information forthcoming. The citizens of the colony agreed to call her Mona, a name that someone suggested because the one who suggested the name liked it, and set up a schedule of homes where she could stay, one night at a time.

After the first month, Mona had taken a night in each house, and still never said a word, but caused no problems. She made her bed after her first host had showed her how, she ate whatever was put before her, she joined in all the chores – gardening, feeding the livestock, pitching the local equivalent of hay. The citizens got used to her.

An evening came when Mona walked out of the house where she was staying, stopped in the middle of the road on the edge of town, and screamed.

Everyone came racing out, found Mona, and shouted “What? What happened?” She didn't say a thing – didn't even look at them. She just walked through the crowd, back into the house she had come from, went into her room, lay down, and went to sleep.

The same thing happened for the next three nights. Wherever Mona stayed, she left just after sunset, walked to the edge of the settlement, screamed aloud, walked peacefully back and went to bed.

On the forth day, the settlement held a meeting. The topic was what they were going to do about Mona.

“We don't need this. Send her away,” Serena insisted.

“Hospitality demands that we keep her around,” Natalie urged.

“What's the problem? We'll get used to it soon enough,” claimed Elizabeth.

Most of the men remained silent, as was traditional at these meetings. Except for one teenage boy, Dean, who stood up and said “Why's she screaming like that, anyway?”

Everybody was silent for about half a minute, when Frank said “Who cares? We don't need it?/”

“Well...” said Art, “...maybe we do, you know?”

The meeting broke up into any number of cross-conversations, starting low, gradually getting louder and louder, and angrier and angrier, until Barbara, who executive officer for that ten-day period, banged the gavel. The room quieted down instantly, as always.

“Dean,” she said, looking at the boy, “would you mind asking Mona why she screams like that?”

Dean looked around at the meeting with his eyebrows raised and an expression on his face that said What? Everyone looked back at him, their eyes mostly asking him to do it.

“Yeah, sure,” he muttered.

Dean went home, took a bath, combed his hair and put on his best clothes – no point in treating this like an ordinary conversation, because it wasn't.

On his way down the street to the Jackson house where Mona was staying, he passed all the other people in the settlement. Some stared at him from out of their windows, some of them stood on the wooden sidewalks, also staring at him. Just one person – Felicia, the girl he had a crush on – thought to say “Good luck, Dean.” He turned and smiled at her. However this worked out, he was going to call on her tomorrow just for that.

As for the rest of the people – what a bunch of cowards. No one took so much as a step towards him, much less walked with him.

What were they afraid of, anyway? The two-headed three-eyed alien natives occasionally snarled at a human, but they'd never attacked one, - they looked scary, but that was about it. As for Mona, she'd never even snarled at anyone. There wasn't any suggestion that she'd ever even seen a native, or that her screaming was aimed at them. And here was every last human on the planet letting him approach one unfamiliar woman like he was marching into battle or something. Jeez.

Still, Dean felt his stomach churning like he was about to throw up. Well, too bad for him. He wasn't about to let these people see him nervous, and he sure as hell wasn't going to let Felicia see that after she'd called to him. Throw him into the unknown, would they? Let them watch what he could do with that.

With all those thoughts swirling around in his mind, he climbed the stairs to the Jacksons' place and knocked. He heard steps approaching the door over the squeaky floorboards – the building materials on this planet weren't all that great, so everybody's floors squeaked. Then the door opened and there was Mona.

Short, skinny, clothes so ordinary you could find the same outfit on just about anyone in town – black tee shirt, blue slacks, sandals. Long straight black hair, pale skin, solemn expression. “Hi Dean,” she said. “What's up?”

Well how about that – she knew his name. Maybe she knew everybody's name. It just hadn't occurred to him. How did that happen?

Oh, come on, Dean, he told himself, don't be so paranoid. She's stayed with most everybody in town, of course she knows our names. “Uh, hi Mona,” he answered.

Now what? How to introduce the subject?

Ten seconds went by. Seemed like longer.

He opened his mouth and nothing came out.

Mona looked over his shoulder. Dean turned around. There was a pretty big group of people across the street staring at them.

Dean felt his face burn as he turned back to Mona. She was smiling a tight-lipped little grin. His face burned hotter.

“You guys want to know what I'm doing every night, don't you?” she chuckled.

“Well...uh, yeah.” His throat felt so dry.

Mona reached out and touched his shoulder. “Relax,” she said. “I've been waiting for someone to ask. What took you so long?”

At least Dean knew the answer to that one – it had been well drilled into his head, and everyone else's, since they were kids. “Hospitality.”

Mona knit her brows. “What's that?”

Dean recited. “Hospitality is the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers.” He cleared his throat. “Which doesn't include butting into someone else's business.”

Mona paused and looked up, like she was processing what he said. “So why are you asking now?”

Good question. Dean wasn't really sure. “Um, we just got nervous, I guess.”

Mona actually laughed. It sounded sweet. “Well, you can tell everybody that I screamed in our language that you humans are no threat to us. That's what I was sent here to learn.”

“You're...”

“Yep.”

Dean's heart pounded so hard he was sure he'd have a heart attack. “How...uh, how...”

“We're shape changers.”

There didn't seem to be much to say to that. “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh.”

They stood there and stared at each other for a few seconds until Dean thought of another question. “So you thought we were a threat to you?”

“Yes, we did.”

“And now you don't.”

“Right.”

“So now what?”

“Now I go meet with your friends over there and find out what they want, then I go home and find out what my people want, and then we figure it out.”

“Oh,” said Dean. “Sounds pretty good.”

I think so too,” Mona smiled. She started to walk past him toward the rest of the settlement.

“Uh...”

Mona turned around. “Yeah?”

“Well...why the screaming, though?”

She grinned and winked. “How else could they hear me?”

June 05, 2021 03:41

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