The Foreigner

The Foreigner Ch.13: Reunited–extended

Update 5/28/15. Hey, apparently I am one of those writers who takes a 4 month hiatus. Sorry to anyone who has been keeping up, and thank you again for reading! There is a lot going on in life–building a career, possibly gearing up for a move, finding a home for an adorable stray cat–so Foreigner hit the back burner and stayed there for A WHILE. But things are calming down. I do still have a lot of new material to write, so I can’t make promises on how often I will post. However! I will see Foreigner through to the end (should I add something dramatic here? Such as mark my words! Or, So long as I live and breath!)

Nonetheless, here is an extended Chapter 13

*~*~*~*~*

Dark clouds zip along just above water, contrasted by the light grey overcast above. Thunder continues to boom from the distance, though there is no longer rain. Shivering, Benny wades back to the beach, where the news crews are standing scattered about. The videographers have shouldered their equipment while reporters chat–yelling at each other over the wind–their hands on their hips, the wind tugging at their coats. Then they see Benny emerging from the water. They look at him, dumbfounded. A few people ready their cameras. Soon they are all rushing toward him.

For a moment, there is a bizarre silence, as though he is watching them through a lens of his own. Then one reporter yells out,

“Mr. Taggart, what were you doing in the ocean?”

And, like the levee breaking, noise comes back to him, and he is bombarded.

“Do you admit it was a hoax?”

“Did you plan this from the beginning?”

“Where is the alien?”

He easily out-runs them, hopping in his vehicle, pools of seawater gathering in the leather seats. Kicking into drive, he heads back home, feeling dazed.

A confusing mix of images swarms in his brain: stars shining brilliantly, fish tanks, and the thrashing waves of the sea.

Benny wakes with a start. He is lying in an uncomfortable cot with ugly grey sheets, his hair matted around his face. The plain white walls glare at him.

*~*~*~*~*

“I know you are very anxious to see your creature, Mr. Taggart, but while the team is getting the cameras set up, I would like to do a little interview.”

He grumbles but nods.

Jessick pauses, eyeing him curiously. She taps her pen on the table.

“Actually, do you have any questions for me?”

He gives her a furtive glance, looking very out of place in his flannel long-sleeve shirt.

“Aye,” he grunts. “So ah… what is the goal here? Wha’ do they mean to do with the creature… I mean if it’s here and all?”

“Ben… sorry, Mr. Taggart… the creature is here. They found it in a fishing boat in Michigan.” She laughs, “And it… well it’s been on a long journey, just like you. But–” she pauses, searching for words. “To be perfectly candid, there isn’t a lot of money for research in the budget right now. Especially on some weird animal that people are claiming is… you know… an alien. So basically you are here…”

He scoffs and gives her a wry smile. “Fer sensationalism?”

Jessick gives a surprised, booming laugh, “Well, yes. But Benny, listen, I have ulterior motives to their ulterior motives. I…” she pauses, as though considering how much to divulge, “I have been obsessed with that picture since it was released twenty-two years ago. And suddenly I found myself here, at this facility, with that THING… and I honestly felt that you should be here, too.”

Benny rubs his forehead and runs a large hand through his thick grey hair.

“Miss Sanders…”

“Call me Jessick.”

“Miss Jessick, all this will be very endearing, ya know, if I can actually see the damn thing.”

She chuckles. “Ok, just a couple of things to get out of the way first. You know that you will be on camera–“

Aye.”

“–So we don’t want you to feel pressured to act any certain way or to try and dramatize your feelings. Just be natural. As much as possible, we want you to pretend we aren’t there.”

“Ok, so, I meet the Creature, and then wha’?”

She gives him a blank stare, her eyes wide. “Ah… we’ll just see what happens.”

Now Benny gives a loud, booming laugh. “Oh, yeh migh’ be disappointed, Miss ah… Jessick. The creature in there? It’s only ever done wha’ it’s doin’ right now. It floats. Shimmers a bi’.”

A smirk. “We’ll just see, Benny. In the mean time, if you want to stay here, and not make me look like a fool, just… pretend you know something the research people don’t. And we’ll figure the rest out later.” She gives him a wink.

They enter two large industrial double-doors. Benny looks around. The room is spacious–almost the size of his house–and alarmingly empty with a large tinted window on one side and the giant water tank on the other.

“Where are all the cameras?”

“The cameras are discreet–” she points to two small devices, mounted on either side of the window, “-and the crew is on the other side of the window. We want you to feel like you have a little privacy.”

“Righ’.”

Benny walks to the tank. The slightest whizzing noise cues that the cameras are following him, zooming in, adjusting. There it is; glimmering, floating, its many silvery tentacles billowing around it, chaos turning to form, form becoming chaos again.

“There you are,” he whispers. He puts his hand up to the glass.

“Looks the same,” he says, turning briefly to the dark glass, to the cameras.

“I didn’t know how much I missed it. It wrecked my life, you know, but I still missed it. It draws yeh in, this thing.” He taps the glass affectionately.

Jessick glances at the glass.

“What do you remember about it from before?” she asks tentatively.

He scoffs. Giving her a significant look, he says, “Oh, she’s got secrets.” Touching the glass again, he whispers, “she’s got secrets.”

“Can I touch ‘er?” he asks.

“Is it a her?”

He shrugs.

Someone is gesturing at Jessick. She hits her com.

Is that safe? Can he do that?”

She turns to Benny. “Have you done that before?”

He almost laughs. “Aye. An’ I promise it don’ bite or nothin. But–” he pauses, and is again looking right at Jessick, “we have a special connection.”

Jessick looks at the window again, and Benny hears chatter from her com. Finally, she nods.

The tank is up against the wall where it reaches above Benny’s head, but there is a bench alongside it. Once standing here, it only comes to his chest and he can easily reach inside.

“Eh,” he says, indicating the smooth lid with his hand. There is no apparent opening. Stepping up, Jessick presses a button on the top, a little door slides open on the lid. After a nod, she moves away, giving him space.

Benny takes a moment to regard the creature; his one true great discovery; the phenomenon which changed his life and tore his family apart.

“Alright, lass, here we go,” he says.

Slowly, pulling his sleeve back, he reaches in and, feeling the strange slick tentacles, finds the bulbous body and lays his fingers there. Ah yes, the stars…

“Whoa! Sir!” A man with the security uniform, whose nametag reeds “Ross,” points at the one way they have been able to moniter the thing–thermal imaging.

“That thing has been flat green since we got it.” Now, as they look, the blues, greens, and yellows fluctuate.

“Damn,” says a researcher, “We need to get some neuro-mapping on that thing.”

“Well, we can’t neuro-map the Creature, because we don’t know if it has a brain.” An man in his forties with dark hair and a slightly dark complexion is standing next to Gerard and has an air of authority about him.

“Thanks for the recap, David,” Gerard sneers.

He clears his throat loudly, “However, what I was getting at is that we can neuro-map Benjamin.”

 

 

The Foreigner

The Foreigner ch. 12: Lonely

Ben is sitting on a fairly comfortable chair. Its sturdy metal frame is softened by structured cushions, strung together with boring gray fabric. The vibrations of the bullet train rumble beneath him. He wears a pair of old slacks and a long-sleeve flannel shirt. As the train emerges from the tunnel, its mechanical deceleration tugging on his gut, Benny turns to look at the scenery passing by–endless fields with sparce trees. A flutter of anticipation bubbles up, such that he hasn’t felt in years. Is he really going to see the creature again? Although the thing wrecked his life, he feels strangely attached to it.

During the trip, the hours seem to extend, laying themselves out in great lengths along the tracks. But as the destination finally approaches, the old man feels suddenly nervous. Fidgeting, he wishes briefly that the ride was not over. It also occurs to him to hop off and jump right back on the next one going home. But, looking at the desert landscape beyond the station’s wide windows, Ben remembers that he is very, very far from home. After waiting to retrieve his luggage from the rear compartment, he walks to the QuikDrivr cars, loading his luggage into one and greeting the driver. Once settled in, he figets with his pocket to pull out a large wallet, and removes the invitation, stuffed alongside his train ticket.

He gives the driver the address, reading off the invitation. The drive is not a long one, winding through the desert, the landscape mostly flat with mountains distant on the horizon. A promising sunset is creeping across the Western sky, painting a thin red haze across the horizon. They can see the facility a mile out, an ugly tan block surrounded by holo-fences.

“S’reused,” the driver says.

“Pardon?” Benny asks, clearing his throat nervously.

“Used to be NASA or sommin.”

“Huh.” Benny diverts his eyes. He breathes a sigh of relief as the silence continues and the car finally approaches the building.

“Name and Business.”

“I’m here with uh… what’s your name?”

“Benny… Benjamin Taggart,” he replies gruffly.

“Benjamin Taggart.”

“We need to see his face.”

Benny leans forward, peering at the security screen from around the passenger seat.

“Step out of the car, please, and bring your face up to the monitor,” the man on the screen says.

The rear door opens, Benny eases out of his seat, kicking his legs a bit, stiff from travel. He puts his face up to the monitor. The man on the other side looks at him for a moment. There is a flash of light.

“Alright, Mr. Taggart. Thank you. You are both cleared to enter.”

The broad streams of light barring their way retract slowly into the sides of the gate. The grounds, aside from a few prickly pears, are barren and composed of sand.

“Well, friend, this is where I leave you.” And before Benny can reply, the car pulls away, leaving him standing there with his luggage and his uncertainty.

The doors, which tower over Benny, open mechanically.

A face appears on the other side.

“Sir. Are you coming in?” It is the security man from the camera.

“Oh… aye. Sorry. I wasn’t sure if I should let me-self in!” The man raises an eyebrow as all 6 feet and 5 inches of Benny shuffles through with three suitcases: one rolling, one carried, and a smaller duffle bag under his arm.

Inside is a painfully bare room with a security desk–behind which sits a man who is reclining comfortably–another door, and a couple of uncomfortable-looking plastic chairs.

“You can put your things down,” the man beind the desk says. He leans forward, retrieving something out of sight, and plops a clip board loaded with a small stack of paper onto the desk’s surface.

“Here bud, fill this out. Sanders will be here in just a few.”

Just as he is finishing his paperwork, Benny looks up to see a young woman enter the room. She is dressed professionally, modern yet modest, with short brunette hair swept to one side.

“Hello Mr. Taggart,”–He stands to greet her–“My name is Jessick Sanders. We spoke on the phone.”

“Yes… uh… yes ma’am.”

“I’m so glad you are here! But ah… Before I bore you with all my thanks, why don’t I show you to your room?” she says with a smile, glancing at his weary face and his excessive luggage.

On through the other door, around a corner and down a corridor, Benny’s shoes click on cement floors, and his eyes adjust painfully to the white plaster walls and flourescent lights.

“They weren’t really going for ambiance when they built this place,” she says with a wink.

“Do yeh work here?”

“Oh… no. I’m a journalist. I’m here to make a film about you and… the creature.”

“So it is here?” His heart skips a beat.

“Yes, sir, and you will see it first thing in the morning. We don’t mean to make you wait but… you know there is a procedure for everything around here.”

He says nothing, but the most miniscule scowl settles into his face as they turn another corner, pass several plain doors, and finally stop at one.

His room is simple but comfortable with a bed, a desk, and a monitor screen.

“We have a little cafeteria set up,” she says. “You can eat with the rest of us. There is also a snack room and a bar, and I have finagled a little food fund for you.” He looks at her awkwardly.

“Oh uh… thanks. Thank you. Sorry, I’m… very far from my comfort zone here.” He manages a nervous laugh.

“I know. I told you I wouldn’t bore you with thanks, but … really… it means a lot to me–and the team–that you are willing to come out here. Um… we can discuss all the specifics in the morning, but I want to make sure you’re ok with being on camera.” She has the grace to look a little sheepish.

He frowns, then nods.

“Yes, eh… I remember we discussed tha’ and all. I understand… Bu’ do I really need to be on camera in my room?”

“Oh!” Her eyebrows shoot up under her bangs.

“No, sir, that is a touch screen.” She scoots past him and points at the icons.

“See, that one calls the front desk. This is a map of the facility–the areas you have access too, anyway–handy if you need food or the restroom. This one orders food, but you won’t need it tonight. I’ve already done that. They should bring it to you soon. Actually I can stay and make sure it gets here.”

There is an awkward silence. Benny is staring at the floor.

“Well, I’ll go ahead and leave you alone. But I’ll check on the food. Um… please call if you need anything. Oh–” she pulls a card from her pocket.

“Here is my number, and you have a cell phone there.” There is plastic black square roughly the size of a dime on the side table. With another awkward good-bye, Jessick leaves. The silence in the room is suddenly very noticeable. It feels bare and cold and foreign.

Benny sighs and doesn’t budge until his food arrives a few minutes later.