Chapter 9:

sCene 9 - seʟꜰ-Conᴛroʟ

ᴋraCᴋeᴅ ᴍooN / Kracked Moon

Once Nai-bu was out of the house, I was relieved, but continued to clean up the place. Sorting the piles of mail and package wrapping for recycling was pretty mindless, but enough to distract me. I did not want to accept what kept replaying in my mind. But it would overwhelm me during every gap between a thought: when Nai-bu set the plate down, I felt the urge to rip her arm clean off and bite into it.

On my father’s planet, the phrase “eat or be eaten” could not be taken more literally. Despite having a diverse amount of highly intelligent species, this planet saw otherwise reasonable beings eagerly try to kill and devour each other. This was a hurdle for my father, who had never heard of a world as homogeneous as Earth, where we commonly believe humans to be the only Earthlings truly intelligent, and thus not to be eaten, except for maybe other apes and dolphins, depending on who you ask. This created complications for my father, who in order to sustain himself needed a nutrient only obtained by eating an intelligent being.

My agent Dale doubles as a sort of supernatural babysitter. He tells me this nutrient isn’t normal. It isn’t a specific chemical compound found in the Earthly understanding of the periodic table. It exists in a way that implies 4th, 5th, and even 6th dimensional properties of measurement that are tied to an object. I like to think it means it’s nonsense and my father just made it up to have an excuse to hunt and eat people. Regardless, my agent doesn’t want to risk having an unexplainable half-alien death happen, so he provides me with jerky made from dead people. He tells me it is ethically sourced, and I choose to believe him.

To my dismay the jerky is my only safe option. Before she left, Mama used to source meat from people in the area and include it as part of my meals, but she also used magic to make that happen. In order to prevent me from attacking anyone, she put two spells on me: 1. if I try to bite a person, my mouth will not close, and 2. I need her permission before eating any meal. The second was obviously dispelled before she left, which was a relief because I did not want to call her every time I needed to eat. The first spell might still be in effect, but as a cruel fate, my alien body is aware of that, and will express a desire to rip off limbs and break them down until they’re not recognizable as part of a person anymore. Let’s just say after one accident, Mama preferred tranquilizing me instead.

This was my biggest fear, and it felt like it could come to life. I kept myself away from others because I was afraid I might try to hurt them. Those desires don’t come out the same when talking to someone online. And I would hate myself if I did anything to hurt Nai-bu.

Of course, when you’re struggling to distract yourself, an even bigger distraction is just around the corner. As I thought I was making progress, there was a knock on my patio door. It was Kyle.

“It’s a little early, dude. Come back later...or like next week.” I shouted, staring at him through the door.

“Please let me in! I’m stuck here for most of the day!” He shouted.

I opened the glass door, but kept the screen locked. “What do you mean you’re stuck here?”

“My car ran out of gas! And no one can help me until they’re off work!”

“Ran out of gas? Where?” I asked, concerned about how he was parked so close. He doesn’t live in this neighborhood.

“Just a block down the street!” He said. “Just let me in and we’ll hang out until my dad can help!”

“Go to the front door.” I said, closing the patio door. This was going to be exhausting.

I grabbed a hat and sunglasses, as well as my phone and my rarely used house key. I stepped out of my house and began locking the door behind me. Kyle assumed we were just going for a walk. I started to lead him down the streets, ignoring his questions about what it was like growing up in my neighborhood, focused on a clear destination: the gas station that was only a fifteen minute walk down the street.

Once Kyle caught onto where we were going, he stopped.

I kept walking, and turned back to ask, “Not coming?”

“We could go a different way, right?” He said, nervous.

“No. I’m helping you. We’ll get gas and walk it back to your car.”

“But it’ll be so heavy!” He insisted.

“It’ll be a one gallon can. I’ll carry it if you’re such a baby.” I was genuinely tired, on top of being tired of his nonsense.

When we made it to the gas station, I realized how long it had been. Mama used to always fill up her car at this place, and Jason and I would sometimes buy snacks on our way home after school. The pumps looked different, like maybe a different brand took over? I couldn’t remember. Inside I looked around to find the gas cans while Kyle seemed more interested in the snacks.

“Okay, I got it! We’ll get the gas and some snacks! Then we’ll hang out!” He said, pretty loudly.

“Cute. But no.” I said, not even looking at him.

I found the gas cans and immediately picked one up and took it to the register.

“Come on! We don’t have all day!” I shouted at Kyle, who was picking out snacks and drinks despite what I said.

He made a selection then placed them by the register. As we were being rung up, Kyle looked at me expectantly.

“What?” I asked.

“You’re not covering this?” He asked in the most genuine tone I had heard since meeting him.

“Why would I? It’s your car and your snacks.” I knew it was a mistake to do this. But otherwise he would have been pounding at my door all day.

“But you’ve got so much money, right? You’re basically a celeb!” He was serious.

“I don’t know what kind of money you think I have, but I didn’t even bring my wallet. If you can’t afford the snacks then just pay for the gas and the can so you can go home!”

The attendant chimed in, “Ma’am, you don’t have to be so mean to your boyfriend.”

I pulled down my sunglasses to look the attendant in the eyes. “You call him anything more than my kid brother and I’ll put up the ‘now hiring’ sign myself.” I pushed my glasses back up and grabbed the gas can. “Put one gallon on number six. Kyle, pay for it.”

I walked out and didn’t care what either of them had to say. The pump worked and I was one step closer to sending Kyle home. He didn’t seem to get the point because he still bought all those snacks. At this point I wasn’t even waiting for him, and started walking toward his car. Took him a few minutes to catch up.

Only a few more houses away, I thought we could make it in silence, but Kyle had other ideas.

“You didn’t have to say that back there…” He said, pouting.

“Say what? Was I too mean?” I really didn’t care.

“You could have pretended I was your boyfriend.” The idiot said this like it was a legitimate option. “Even if it was pretend, I wouldn’t mind.”

I dropped the gas can. Thankfully I closed it tight enough to not spill. I stopped where I was. Didn’t even turn around to look at him.

“Did you consider that I might mind?” I asked, gritting my teeth. “Have you thought, even once, about what I might prefer?”

“Of course I have! That’s why I got you a twix! You mentioned they were your favori--” Before he could finish, I grabbed the bag of snacks from his hands and swung them over a neighbor’s fence.

“I told you not to buy snacks! We are not hanging out!” I was losing my cool. If I didn’t watch myself I was going to drop my voice.

“You hung out with Nai-bu last night! And that guy Jason came over the other day! When do I get to hang out with you?” The audacity this kid had was getting out of hand.

“Nai-bu was passed out! Jason comes over to mow my lawn! I don’t hang out with people at my house!” Careful. Don’t break focus. “And I’m especially not just welcoming in someone I barely know just because we happened to be in the same room a few times as kids!”

Something must have broken through to Kyle because he finally shut up. He picked up the gas can and started walking. I didn’t even bother looking at his face or stopping him. I let him keep walking until he reached his car. Once I could tell that he was actually filling his car up, I still took the long way home. I had no plan to walk past him. He can reach out to me another time. I was done for the day.

This was exactly why I preferred to stay online. If someone like Kyle won’t leave me alone, I can mute him, block him, or pretend to be offline. I’ve done it before to people like Kyle, and I’ll gladly do it again. Access to me and my home is not something I planned to just give away. It’s better for everyone involved when it’s online. I can control how they talk to me, and they’re not at risk of me attacking them. The distance is for their own good.