I was abducted by aliens once. It was, at the time, the most unforgettable moment of my life. I was fourteen, walking along Minnehaha Creek, taking a break from slipping newspapers between the storm doors of my customers.
The sky hung low in the city’s streetlights. It was that misty drizzle that doesn’t seem to get anything wet, but after one and a half hours, I was miserably wet. As I watched the surface of the ink black creek, it seemed reluctant to reflect what little light there was, while absorbing the precipitation without nary a ripple.
I was lost in thought, mesmerized by the idea of walking easily across that fluid black ice. Then, without warning the mist was burned away by an intense white light. For me, darkness quickly followed.
I awoke in a room filled with source less light. I floated in the center of the room, my abductor’s moving about me chirping in what I assumed to be their native tongue. They seemed to be avian by design with feathers whose color varied with each creature. One of them seemed to become agitated and made quite the commotion flapping is huge wings and cawing so loud my ears rang.
Then one approached me, peering intently into my eyes before saying to me, “We have studied many of you, and decided to leave you to your own growth and learning. To irresponsible…selfish, for advanced technology.”
Its English was perfect, nary an accent. Far less accented than my Minnesotan twang. “How long is a long time?”
“We stumbled upon your planet just before your first world war. Not much has changed since.”
A thousand questions ran through my mind, so many things I dreamed of asking as I looked to the stars delivering the morning paper. Finally, I said, “Can’t your technology show us a better way?”
“No,” it cawed, its beak clacking together as it bit off the word. Another approached, whispered something in its own language, then I became its focus once again. “We will give you a gift, use it responsibly, and maybe we will return, and help out the human race.”
“Gift,” I said dumbly.
“Yes, we will give you the gift of what you call wishes.”
Immediately my mind locked onto the three wishes granted by the genie in the bottle. “How many wishes?”
“There are no limits to the number, but if used unwisely, great harm can come to you, or those around you.”
I ran my hands through my shoulder length blonde hair, “I can be wise.”
“Your kind has a saying, ‘Careful what you wish for.’ You cannot wish for those who were touched by death, to once again live. You cannot wish for our return; you cannot change the fabric of the universe.”
“Why do you give me this power.”
“We do not give you anything, we are only going to show you what you already possess.”
I woke up in my room, wondering if it was a dream, as I stood before the basement bathroom mirror, looking into my gray blue eyes, I wondered if I finished my route. That was when the phone rang, and I knew why before answering. It was Mr. Wysinger, he wanted his paper. I knew then that every house after the creek was missed. Without a thought, I wished it wasn’t true.
Ice settled into my bowels as I realized what I just did, “Is wishing for papers to be delivered responsible?”
The phone did not ring the rest of the morning, my route was complete.
I never wished for something so trivial again. When I met Marie, I courted her for over a year. Finally, after seeing her off to the roller rink with my brother I whispered under my breath, “I wish Marie was my girlfriend.”
The next day she knocked at my back door after school. From that day on, we were inseparable. Our young love survived her Colorado college education, and my nine months in Army flight school. When she finished school, her and the National Guard helped get me through college.
There were tough times, but never once did we lash out at each other. We vented, while the other listened, then moved on.
My next wish came when our second daughter was born. I was deployed to the Middle East, and Amanda, our daughter suffered some type of intestinal infection. She was less that five months old and losing weight fast. I felt helpless, so far away, a dozen time zones separating us, the sound of warfare all around me.
I wished for Amanda to get better. She did. I wondered if it was an irresponsible wish. After seeing her during a video call with Marie, I didn’t care. Marie was happy and my daughter healthy.
My cargo pilot job was there for me when my deployment ended, both times. Eventually I retired from the Minnesota National Guard and flew only for the cargo line. My best friend from Army flight school, Kyle, landed a cake cargo gig with a government contractor making big bucks flying 747s out of Afghanistan. I was tempted to follow him since money was a little tight with my loss of guard income, and Marie going back to school.
I saw it on the news before a mutual friend called me to tell me Kyle was killed in a crash. For two days I was forced to watch dash cam video of Kyles heavily laden 747 pitching nose up as the cargo shifted, then stalling, and helplessly slamming into the ground, exploding into a massive ball of fire.
The grief was fresh, one of the few people I kept in touch with all these years. I know Marie was trying to console me when she said, “At least he didn’t suffer.”
That video was just over twenty seconds long, Kyle suffered. For the last twenty seconds of his life, he knew it was over.
The anger I felt towards Marie was like none I ever felt towards her in all our years. I never voiced the wish, it was silent, a fleeting thought. Quickly followed by the wish that I never thought what I just thought.
Now, I sit here, at the dining room table. Cell phone laid out before me, shifting my focus from the phone, to the driveway entrance outside the dining room window, and the front door. What is going to happen first, I wonder. Will she pull in the driveway, or will the phone ring to tell me she’s gone? Or, will it be the sheriff pulling into my driveway.
The rules were clear, “You cannot wish for those who were touched by death…”