Wednesday, April 9, 2008

"Marfina" -- as promised-- free fiction

Here's a story that is set in my home town. Well, my second home town? We moved there when I was eight. I'm really a California girl who group up in Washington. Now I'm back again in California. I do miss the beautiful landscapes, the lakes, the trees and the mountains.

I dedicate this story to my friend, Kelly, who died in a house fire when she was only 19. We called ourselves KB Ditto & Company (Both our initials were KB), but others called us Double Trouble. Here's a picture we had taken when we were 18 and 17. Pretty goofy, huh?

by Ann Wilkes

Not much happens in Chelan in the winter. The sleepy town sprawls around the lake in the valley, guarded by the 3,800-foot Chelan Butte.

On the night of the January 27th, 1980, my best friend, Vicky, and I watched the aurora borealis from chaise lounges on my porch. Snuggled in sleeping bags, we passed a pint of rum, pilfered from Dad's liquor cabinet, between us to ward off the cold.

As we watched nature's spectacular light show, a glowing red object streaked across the sky, cutting the rays of the borealis in half with a contrail. It vanished beyond Chelan Butte in a steep descent. Three seconds later, an impossibly bright, pinkish light flashed from behind the butte. We bolted upright and looked at each other with our mouths gaping. I expected to hear a loud concussion. None came.

"Kathy?" Vicky whispered.


"What was that?"

"I don't know. A UFO?"

"Let's go look," she said. Her eyes betrayed a mischievous twinkle.

Worried, I thought about waking Dad, but remembered how, when I complained there was a rat was in the attic, gnawing at my ceiling, he told me I was just hearing crickets--until he trapped an enormous pack rat. Dad always needed proof—he'd promise to go check it out if it wasn't on the morning news and tell us to go back to sleep. Mom would get hysterical if we told her, thinking something terrible was about to happen.

"Okay," I said, "But we have to be back before they miss us."

"Natch. We can roll the car down the driveway—they won't hear."

Vicky stood up cocoon bag and all, tottered, and fell back on the chaise. She'd had most of the rum. We wriggled out of our bags and put on our shoes. I tiptoed back into the house for my car keys.

We both pushed the car down the driveway. Why didn't I stay behind the wheel? I could blame my haste, alien invaders or inexperience but it was more likely the rum. The car picked up speed on the steep drive and got away from us. I had to let go or be pulled down the hill with it. I watched in horror as its momentum carried it across the snow-packed road and over the side of the hill. We held our breath, waiting for the ominous thuds of the car crashing down the mountainside. I imagined it tumbling end over end until it reached the highway below. To our amazement, it landed right-side-up on the end of the neighbor's driveway, and no lights came on in their house.

We scrambled down to survey the damage. It appeared to be intact—no huge dents, nothing caved in. We hopped in, and my beloved car started right up.

Vicky watched for "black-and-whites" while we skirted around the lake to the opposite shore. The town was still and quiet. And why wouldn't it be? No one else was crazy enough to be outside in ten degree weather at three in the morning. Moonlight reflected off the smooth, dark water. It took us a good thirty minutes to get around the butte.

My mind raced. What could fly like that? Was it some new stealth plane? A meteor might glow red from the friction of entering the atmosphere, I knew, but if it was a meteor that large, wouldn't it shake the ground like an earthquake on impact?

"Vicky, what if it really is a flying saucer or something?"

"That would be cool. But why land here? It's not even tourist season. Maybe the aliens got their 'Washington's' mixed up."

She always hid her fear with humor. Other people thought she was tough but I knew better. I rolled my eyes and asked, "What are we going to do if we find a space ship? Do you think we should get help?"

"A story like this, coming from us? You're kidding, right?"

"Good point."

Everyone called us Double Trouble. Vicky came up with the devious ideas and I contrived the diabolical plots to carry them out. You didn't want to be on our bad side.

We rounded the last curve and saw the Columbia, dark and quiet, on our left. I slowed down and hung a 'Uee' and parked in a turnout.

"Which way?" I asked.

We scanned the river. Nothing. I turned off the engine and we got out for a better view. Driving to the other side of the river through Chelan Falls would take another twenty-five minutes. If only we knew where it was. Hopefully it wasn't in the river.

Vicky climbed over the guardrail.

"Wait up, Vic. Let me get a flashlight," I said, hoping it was in the car. I took off my gloves and felt under the seat. My fingers felt the reassuring solidness of the cold army surplus plastic.

We stepped sideways down the snowy bank. Something glowed dimly at the river's edge to the south. We jogged toward it. My heart raced and my palms sweated in my ski gloves. An object the size and shape of a torpedo rested half out of the lapping water. It changed from orange to rust to black as we watched.

"It's cooling down. That's why the colors are changing."

Vicky's look said "are you crazy?" The whole scene hit me as an acute sense of déjà vu. I felt connected, somehow, to that...whatever it was. I realized at once that everything I knew about myself and my life was nothing compared to what this—thing—knew about me.

"It came for me." I bent down to inspect its slick black surface. Vicky tugged at my sleeve, trying to pull me away from it. "Kathy, what are you doing? You don't know what it is."

It was like someone had flipped a switch inside me. And my life up to that point was pushed aside to make room for older memories.

"It's okay."

"Like hell it is!" she said as she yanked me back.

I turned toward her and gripped her shoulders. Piercing her with eyes that didn't feel like my own, I said, "I don't know how I know, I just do. This interstellar missile is meant for me. I know it sounds crazy, but I have to open it."

Vicky searched my face quizzically. I knew I wasn't sounding like myself. How could I? My true identity and purpose were changing--boiling to the surface.

Crouched beside the missile, I pulled off one glove and put my bare hand within inches of its surface. "Cooling system, helped by the cold river."

The side facing us had no markings. I walked around it and found alien symbols near its end. I knew what the alien word meant.

It spelled my real name!

I faced Vicky, "I'm Marfina. I'm really old—about 800 Earth years. I'm from a neighboring galaxy, here to experience human family life. I suppressed my memories when I transformed myself into the likeness of a human infant."

Vicky collapsed onto the frozen sand. I knew I should have revealed this to her more gently but there was nothing gentle about the torrent of memories flooding my brain. I wondered if this was how a person with a multiple personality felt. Or does a schizoid self even know of the existence of the other one?

I didn't even know I was adopted! It must be hard to tell your kid that she'd been abandoned. That was the only way I, Marfina, could take on this mission. I knew, now, that this space probe had been launched from my planet decades ago to arrive before my nineteenth human birthday.

"Vicky, I need your help to get it out of the water." I tried to keep the excitement out of my voice.

Vicky woodenly obeyed. She was in shock. After we pulled it away from the water, I applied pressure to two depressions on either side of a hatch in the craft's midsection. It sighed open. Inside were a couch molded to my natural form and a bank of controls. Thanks to my Marfina memories, I could enter the proper sequence of commands into the communications module and play back the messages from my home world that had been launched so many years ago. The sounds were like metal scraping metal, pops and squeaks. These alien rasps didn't sound like a voice at all to human ears.

Vicky scrambled off the sand. "What are you!? What have you done with Kathy?" She backed away.

I paused the playback. "First of all, I am still your friend Kathy as much as I am Marfina. But now I remember both worlds. It's the Marfina in me that makes me capable of rational conversation in this Twilight Zone moment. You know the Kathy me—you know it's true!"

Vicky plopped back down, folded her legs in front of her, elbows on her knees and pushed on her temples with her gloved hands like she had to hold her head so it wouldn't fly apart. She let out a long, loud breath.

"Okay, if you're really still Kathy, who's Ryan and what did we do to him last summer?"

"The guy who took advantage of you at Sam's party? We unleashed an elaborate plot to make him think he was going crazy."

She let go of her head and nodded but still stared with vacant eyes. I focused on the drone.

"I need to listen to the rest of the message."

"Then what?"

"Then we have to hide the drone. We can't tell anyone about this. Not even our parents." I shook my head and smiled at my bewildered friend, "Can you imagine my Mom?"

And we busted up laughing.

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