Word count: 1,590
A HEART FROM OUTER SPACE
A Sci-fi Short Story
It was Valentine’s Day in a sparsely furnished living room in Nevada. There were greeting cards displayed on the table, and a paper streamer draped across the room. Sally and Ralph were seated in the apartment they shared. They were just roommates, not lovers. Sally was painting at an easel and Ralph was leafing through a magazine. Sally spoke first.
“If I want to be modern, should I use blue for your skin instead of beige?”
“No,” said Ralph. “I don’t want to be memorialized as blue. Reminds me of aliens, and I’m not one.”
“But it’s my favorite color,” answered Sally. “And considering the secrecy surrounding where you work, an alien look for you would be appropriate, wouldn’t it?”
“Area 51 is an Air Force facility that deserves respect. And so do I. We investigate stuff. But blue skin? It’s not like I just choked on a bagel.”
“Oh, well,” said Sally. “In the words of the Smashing Pumpkins, I’ll turn your skin into a ‘Tangerine Dream.’”
“In the words of Coldplay,” retorted Ralph, “‘What a Thing to Say? -- Make It All Yellow.’”
“This painting sucks,” said Sally in disgust.
“Then make it realistic, not avant garde,” answered Ralph. “Look, I’m tired from work. Engineering is tough. Let’s go to a drive-in movie. Anyhow, did you get me a Valentine’s Day present?”
“You already got cards,” said Sally impatiently. “From all your ex-sweethearts who moved away from Nevada. And we’re not lovers, we're just roommates. Besides, I don’t wanna go to a drive-in, ‘cause I know what goes on there in the back seat.”
“You’re just jealous of my exes ‘cuz they keep in touch. Why should that bother you? You know, we could be more than roommates.” Ralph sighed.
“I’m not jealous. You’re egocentric. And drive-ins are for nerds who eat popcorn while they snuggle.”
“You’re too focused on painting,” said Ralph. “Who do you think you are? Picasso?”
“When I’m famous you’ll grovel for one of my paintings.”
“Look...let’s just go to a movie,” said Ralph. “I read online at work today there’s a good flick playing nearby.”
Sally stared at him in disbelief.
“Area 51 lets you surf the Internet when you’re supposed to be working?”
Ralph sighed again.
“I do when I need a break from research and design.”
“Well...anyway. I don’t wanna go out,” said Sally. “By the way, you owe me for the heating bill.”
“I get paid Friday,” answered Ralph, trying to console her. Suddenly he looked startled. “Hey - lookit! There’s a light outside the window. Doesn’t seem to be coming from across the street. It’s in the sky.”
“A flying saucer? Dream on.”
Ralph was looking off, out the window.
“No, really! The light’s getting closer to our window. And it -- it seems to be landing on our steps.”
“No! Look! The door to the spaceship - if that’s what it is - is opening!”
“Holy crap! You’re right!”
Suddenly an extraterrestrial creature carrying a magic wand knocked on the door to the deck. Ralph walked to the deck door and opened it.
“Come in,” he said, awestruck.
The extraterrestrial spoke.
“Hello. I’m Groog. From the planet Ex-Alsus. Your company was investigating the appearance of my spaceship last week. Tell them to buzz off. They have no clue what people where I’m from are all about. And I heard you talking about drive-in movies."
Ralph was amazed.
Sally spoke next.
The extraterrestrial rolled his eyes at the ceiling.
“Incredible. Wait’ll I tell the stiffs at work --”
Groog answered, a little sarcastically.
“They’ll never believe you without proof, and I’m not giving you that. But about the movie --”
Sally shrugged but was still amazed she was speaking to an extraterrestrial.
“Right. I didn’t wanna go to one tonight.”
“Big mistake,” said Groog.
“Why?” asked Sally.
Groog lifted his hands in surprise.
“Ever seen Star Wars? Or E.T.?”
“Yes,” said Sally. “And I’ve seen Gone With the Wind, too, if we’re talking about the past.”
“Mundane historical drama, if you ask me,” answered Groog.
“Well, it did involve a war,” insisted Sally.
“True,” said Groog. “And movies give dreams to people. Including visions of far-away places, like my planet. And sometimes they promote real, cataclysmic romance. Which is a good thing. You should go to a drive-in.”
Sally shook her head.
“My name’s Sally, and this is Ralph. But sorry, I’m not a teenager anymore, and Ralph just wants to go so we can sit in the back and make out. He’s been trying to 'land' me for a while.”
“You can’t blame him for trying,” said Groog. “And it is Valentine’s Day. He’s just playing you for love, and on my planet we like that. But I’m really about science, too. And a man and a woman, living together in the same apartment without ever making love, without even a kiss between them -- that’s not exactly science.”
“Who asked you?” said Sally, impertinently.
“Sorry,” shrugged Groog. “I’m a born matchmaker.”
Sally shook her head again.
“Yeah, well, romance kinda fell by the wayside, on this planet, with the MeToo Movement. And Ralph’s into science, but I’m into art.”
“You think they don’t have a mutually beneficial relationship?” asked Groog.
Ralph walked closer to Groog, looking him over. He tried to explain.
“Sally keeps saying she’s not into me.”
Groog waved his wand.
“Let’s try a wave of my magic wand. We have magic on my planet.”
Sally giggled, but then, in an instant, fell back on the sofa, almost fainting.
“Wow! That was powerful!” she exclaimed. “Suddenly I’m attracted to Ralph.”
“That was the intention.”
Ralph let out a whoop.
“She likes me!” he shouted.
“I can’t believe it,” Sally said to Groog. “But don’t you think you’re playing with fate by waving a wand?”
“Where I come from we don’t believe in fate,” answered Groog. “We believe in free will.”
“Then where’d my free will go?” Sally insisted. “Why am I suddenly attracted to Ralph?”
Groog smiled again.
“The ways of the heart are mysterious. And it’s Valentine’s Day and that’s special. A time for turning a new leaf, realizing where you’ve gone wrong, being drawn to the person who was right for you all along.”
Sally clutched at her heart.
“Gee - what a shock! You changed me, Groog! And suddenly I feel like I’m in love!” She kissed Ralph on the mouth. Ralph smiled and put his arms around her.
“Awesome,” he said. “An extraterrestrial knocked some sense into you. But you really should have gotten me a Valentine’s Day present.”
Groog pulled a small package from out of a pocket in his golden costume.
“I can take care of that, too. Let’s just say this is from Sally. And let’s just say it’s a pair of new cufflinks. And let’s just say they’re made of silver and have special powers to convince a woman to go to a drive-in movie.”
“Wow! You can do all that?”
“I can,” said Groog with some pride.
Sally gave in.
“All right. I’ll go to the drive-in.”
“Promise?” said Ralph. But Sally really was being gentle and conciliatory, and meant what she said.
“Ralph, I like you because you accommodate me. You don’t mind when I complain you’re late on rent, you cook dinner three times a week, and besides, you understand my need for fame.”
“I can guarantee that too, if you’d like,” said Groog.
“Fame?” asked Sally, incredulously. “Kidding, right?”
“I don’t think he is, after what just happened,” said Ralph. “And anyway, isn’t art always about some kind of love? You will be another Picasso, painting me. And I’m a pretty responsible guy. Most of the time.”
Sally put her arms around Ralph.
“And cute! I can see that now! Don’t know what took me so long to see the moonbeams between us.” She kissed him again.
Groog turned towards the door. The lamplight in the room shone on his golden outfit.
“I’ll be on my way now. Don’t forget the drive-in. Movies are a gateway to love. And that’s the gift I leave you with on Valentine’s Day.” And with that, he left.
“Gee,” said Ralph. “He was powerful. Maybe Area 51 had something to do with this, after all.” He opened the package Groog had left, and out spilled a pair of silver cufflinks. “And I love these cufflinks,” Ralph added.
Sally stroked his hair.
“Not as much as I love you! And I’m done painting for now.”
Ralph felt like purring the way a cat would purr, at the touch of Sally’s hands on his hair.
“The movie that’s playing tonight -- it’s sci-fi.”
“Perfect!” said Sally. “It’ll remind me of Groog. And I’ll put on some makeup and you can drive us there.”
Ralph wrapped his arms around her.
“Sally, I’ve spent all my days at work hoping for an experience like this -- meeting an alien from outer space. And wishing you’d return my affection. Happy Valentine’s Day. And the movie will be fun. Science fiction gives people fantasy and dreams. I love you.”
“I know,” said Sally. “It just took a long time for me to wake up to the fact that I love you, too.” She looked out the door. “Thank you, Groog!” she called out. She smiled. “Ralph, you know -- he had a heart!”
And then Ralph and Sally laid down on the sofa to make out.