Fragments, Figments, The Foreigner

The Foreigner Ch. 7: The Ocean

Benny looks up at the stars. Having spent many nights on a boat with only the quiet sea and the vast array of stars to accompany him, he has often acknowledged their beauty, the infinity they suggest, and the wisdom they inspire. But now, thinking about the creature, about the possibility of real aliens, he sees them differently. The stars no longer resemble inanimate Yuletide lights, but a distant city. These lights are not just decorations, they are signs of life. And now, his breath catching in his gut, he sees every single burning star as a sign of life, a neighbor, a home. Out on the island, one can see thousands and thousands of stars. He wonders, the world seeming to spin around him, if each massive ball of burning magma is effectively a street lamp, casting light so that little forms of life don’t lose their way in the dark. Do they shiver at night, and look to the sunrise for warmth? Do they fish and hunt and eat? Do they look up at the stars and wonder what is out there? Possibilities swarm through his mind until it feels full and tires him.

The sun has only just breached the horizon. A shaft of soft blue light jets across the kitchen floor. Jane’s hair is messy, and she wears her usual baggy house clothes, dragging her feet lazily into the kitchen.

She stops, surprised to see Benny there, sitting at the kitchen table. He looks dazed, his eyes wide and vacant.

Jane asks, “Did you sleep at all last night?”

Benny blinks, slowly at first, and then quickly, finally rubbing his eyes.

“No, not much,” he answers distractedly.

“Um… are you ok?” she regards him with suspicion.

“Fine, fine.”

Now Jane trudges over to the window, where she moves the curtain ever-so-slightly to peek out. It looks as though the news reporters have just arrived and are setting up their equipment.

“Great,” she says flatly. “Looks like I’ll be hiding in my room. Don’t let any of those people in here.”

“Are you ever going to tell me what’s going on with yeh, Jane?”

She stares at him. “You said I didn’t have to.” She bristles, “Do I need to find somewhere else–“

“No,” he says, putting his hands up in surrender, still sounding very drowsy, “No, Jane, I’m sorry.” He sighs, “Well no one will be inside the house except…. the lawyer.”

He furrows his brows, as if this last statement has disturbed him somehow, and Jane regards him with concern.

“Are you sure you’re alright?” She gives a great sigh, “do I need to make breakfast?” When he doesn’t reply, she sighs again and gets to fetching the cookware.

“Eggs and hash!” comes her muffled announcement from under the cupboard.

A short while later Benny, Jane, and Cecil are digging in to her delicious breakfast.

The phone cuts into the silence as gently as a hammer tumbling down a lead pipe. Everyone jumps, Benny flying fron his seat as he hurries over to get it. They hear his nondescript responses such as “uh huh,” and “yea sure,” “of course.” Finally he hangs up the phone and looks at the rest of them.

“It’s the lawyer” he says, “Shes coming.” He is suddenly pale.

“What”s wrong?” Jane asks.

“I dont know. I mean, nothing,” he says, “I’ll be right back,” and trots off down the hall.

“It’s ok, Cecil,” Jane says, seeing the boy’s worried look. Shaking her head, she instructs Cecil to finish his food and ignore his “crazy father.”

As Benny closes himself in the junk room, he hears a knock on the front door. Voices float through the house.

“Yes, I am Jessie McManus. Is Mr. Taggart here?”

“He um… just went to grab something.”

Opening the door carefully, he sneaks out into the hall, stops to listen for Jane and the lawyer in the kitchen, and tiptoes into his bedroom, sweat beading on his forehead. He finds his keys, turns around, and runs directly into the one person he is avoiding.

“What are you doing, Mr. Taggart?” she asks, a little too sternly. The woman is unusually tall, currently towering over Benny, who is, embarrassingly, crouching. She is wearing a silky white top and sleek black slacks.

“Oh! Ah… just… gettin’ some things ready!” He laughs nervously, standing up, “Thank yeh so much fer comin’. If you would like to wait in the kitchen fer just a mo’… uh… I’ll be right there.”

He not-so-delicately nudges her, leading her to the kitchen, giving Jane a big wink and disappearing again.

Looking around, back in the junk room, he finds an old, well-insulated wind-breaker tossed on a pile of clothes. Carefully lowering his long arms into the tank, Benny grasps the creature firmly, its strange rubbery skin undulating against his hands. He is glad to bundle it up in the jacket. He has to climb over some things to get to the window. It is an old, thick window, and opens with a hatch. Taking some effort to unlock it and wrench it open, Benny huffs and finds that there isn’t much room. Going feet-first, he barely squeezes through, and carefully holds the bundled foreigner above his head. Once he is clear of the window, he runs to his old jeep.

Hopping over the door, he sets the creature in the passenger seat, turns the engine, and peels out, kicking sand up behind him and speeding toward the beach.

Nearby reporters are snapping their fingers, camera crews rushing to load up and hopping in their vans to follow.

Once a good distance from the reporters and anyone else, Benny approaches the ocean, the front two wheels meeting the water’s edge. The man grabs the jacket, hops out of his vehicle, and runs into the water.

Waves splash against his ankles. The water looks beautiful under the bright sun and clear sky. He hears people approaching the shore.

“Mr. Taggart, what are you doing?” They yell into the wind.

“Nothin!” he yells madly. He high-steps over the waves as the water meets knees.

“You cant take it!” It is likely that no one can hear him. He is waste-deep in water, which slows him.

“You can’t have it back! You can’t trap it again!” He heaves. He dives in and attempts to swim but is slowed down by the bulky load.

Finally, he pins the creature to his back, putting it between himself and the jacket, his arms through the sleeves,using the drawstring at the bottom to secure the jacket around his waste, and he takes off swimming frantically, desperate and fast.

When he is far enough out to worry about the tide taking him, and the people standing cluelessly on the beach look like insects wearing little coats and pants, Benny finally unclasps the jacket and takes a hold, once again, of the foreign creature.

He suddenly feels very foolish, seeing himself out here, treading water in the North Sea, reporters swarming around–probably wondering if he’s gone mad. But he remembers his conversations with the Creature, and he knows this is right.

I will never forget you, he thinks. He has never tried to communicate with the creature in this way, but he is sure the creature can hear his thoughts.

Gratefulness washes over Benny as he lets go. For a moment, he can see the strange, silvery being floating there in the water, its many worm-like tentacles swirling around it in and endless dance, and then it swims away, fading into the murky water.