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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

One man disappears, another goes mad, and Stella Watson is between them both. Will she follow in their footsteps? If you guessed this was just a cleverly disguised first chapter. Well, you were
right. I still like it as a short story though...what do you think?

It is my John Carter of Mars ripoff, for those of you familiar. Part two is called: Galactic Jack and the Redmen of Mara Phe Tau....

Thank you for reading

Hope you are well and stay out of that sun!

Submitted: February 02, 2018

A A A | A A A

Submitted: January 13, 2018




The test confirmed two weeks of nervous suspicion. At forty-two, I was going to be a mom.

“Oh, mom, I wish you were here. I could really use you, right now,” I said, wishing she were still alive, and at the same time wondering how Jack would feel. Would he freak out?

At twenty-nine and just starting his career as a professor at the UW, he was just starting out. They’d never discussed anything beyond sex. I didn’t even know if I could call myself his girlfriend, or just call it a hook-up with the guy across the street.

I opened the drapes to watch the house across the street. The now familiar brown sedan sat in front of the brick, single level home. Two police detectives had gone around the neighborhood asking questions about Jack and a missing person, sat inside drinking coffee. There off and on, waiting and watching as he came and went.

“Should’ve kept your mouth shut,” I said.

The questions about Jack from the detectives were enough to send the neighborhood magpies into a frenzy of chin-wagging.

The doorbell rang.

I jumped, clutching my chest. Catching my breath and squinting through the peephole, praying Jack would be in the viewer.

A week ago, he’d been bearded, talking to himself and lumbering up the 45th avenue, people crossing the road to stay clear of the towering man.

Jack’s back was turned to the peep-hole.

“Thank goodness.” I smoothed my wrinkled T-shirt and opened the door.

Jack’s blue eyes were tired.

“Where you been, Jack?” I ran a finger along my cheek wondering if my makeup looked okay. “You alright?”

He extended a curt half smile and muttered something as he moved past me. Stale sweat and moldy cardboard boxes wafted, making me glad his back was turned on my sour face. He needed a shave and a bath.

I envisioned his muscular body sprawled in my tub.

“Tea?” I asked, locking the door and walking into the kitchen.

“You don’t mind, do you?”

“You hungry?” I reach for the cupboard. “Earl Grey, green, black, or a chamomile?”

“Chamomile. Stella, we need to talk. You’re the only one who knows.” Jack sat down at the kitchen table and slumped in the chair.

“What’s happening is you’ve taken something we can do nothing about and made it into an event that makes you look guilty!” I took a step toward him. “The detectives outside think you’re involved. You’ve no idea what happened, nobody does. It can’t be explained. He vanished into thin air, but you can’t say that!” My hands shook at the memory of the night of Jack took me on our first official date. David, the young man who’d disappeared and whose name I learned later, set the payphone’s receiver to his ear to listen. His expression appeared curious, at first. His mouth fell open, and he gazed at something distant as if put into a trance.

A jolt went through him as he looked back at his date.

At the time, I wondered what had grabbed his attention so much?

“David.” His date called to him.

He didn’t answer, standing suddenly eerily still as if frozen.

His face and hands turned gray.

I realized he wasn’t turning gray, he was fading. 

When David became semi-transparent, a bright flash occurred and a single loud snap, or a pop.

Gasps of wonder from the other men and women in line with them to see the latest Hollywood blockbuster turned to shrieks.

I rubbed my eyes until I recovered from the splotches floating in my vision, but I was sure of what I had seen.

Only David’s clothing and shoes remained. A cell phone lay nearby.

Everything fallen where he’d stood.

Officially, my worst date, ever...

“You saw him, Stella. Gone! Sucked into the earpiece of that phone.” Jack snapped his fingers. “Poof! God damn it!” He paused, running his fingers through his shaggy russet hair. “Where’d he go?”

I shrugged, unsure if I wanted to know.

“Where’s David?” David’s date kept asking. “Where’d he go?” She appeared confused and on the verge of terror.

“Someone should call the police,” Jack said, looking at me.

So, I did, reluctantly. What we had witnessed was not possible. Not on our earth, anyway. Honest to god, I wanted to leave the whole time.

 When the officers arrived, they collected the clothing and cellphone, took the names and numbers of those willing to give them.

When questioned, the people still there, shrugged.

Jack gave a statement.

“I was looking the other way,” I told them.

Jack gave me a queer look but kept his mouth shut

David’s girlfriend gave a statement. She recanted, later.

“What’re you saying? The phone was a vacuum, Jack? Where’d he go? And what can we do about it now? Yes, it’s strange.It’s messed up, but I don’t care about David. Well, I do, but mostly I care about you, Jack! I care about us, and about our future family.”

Jack stared back, blankly.

I’d learned that Jack was stubborn, like myself, and would go out on a limb for his beliefs.

“Out of the six names I collected from the other witnesses, none would talk with me. Not even Andrea! She wants nothing to do with what happened. She just wants to forget it.” Jack shook his head, dismayed.

I wished the same.

“Three of the witnesses told me they would call the police if I ‘harassed’ them again.” Jack shook in frustration. “I talked to the manager of the theater. He told me the police showed him a picture of another woman who’d disappeared just recently. She was last known to have gone to the movies after a fight with her roommate.”

Jack sipped the tea.

I sat in the chair across from him.

There was no sign of Jack letting up. “I keep seeing that poor guy, disappear. I walk the avenue every night, listening for the payphones.” Jack's eyes were lit with the flames of determination. “Last night, I heard the Guild 45 phone ring.”

I just about fell off the edge of my seat, nearly spilling my tea at the same time.

“I got to it on the fourth ring and answered on the fifth. It played tones, or scales to be exact. Only these sounded embodied with some deeper pitch beneath. I felt my inner ear vibrate... I knew had to pull away.” Jack stood, starting to pace, a vein stood out on his forehead. “If I continued to listen I would have, disappeared, just like the others.” 

“What the hell are you talking about, Jack?”

“Stella! I think aliens use the payphone at the Guild 45 to kidnap humans.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. I covered my mouth until I could speak. “What would they want with us?”

“I’m not sure, Stel. Maybe, they’re just curious, or maybe they want to experiment on us before they attack?” He tapped his fingers on the table. “Maybe use us as slaves, entertainment, food, I don’t know.”

“Maybe it’s the government?” I offered, acknowledging the possibility of a conspiracy. “Aliens is too farfetched for me, Jack.”

He looked at me as if I was the crazy person. “Our government doesn’t possess the technology to do what we saw at the theatre.”

“Aliens.” My cheeks warmed with the embarrassment of saying it out loud.

“Exactly,” Jack said earnestly. “Do you know what Einstein’s E equal’s m times c squared, really means?”

The physics question jerked me to attention. “Something about the speed of light?”

Jack nodded. “The equation is about the conversion of mass to energy and vice-versa. The constant represents string theory. The aliens understand this principle and use it to make traveling between stars, reasonable. Like some type of tuning fork... Tune us out, here...and tune us in, wherever they are.”

“Like, as in, beam me up?’ My voice brimmed with sarcasm even though I tried not to sound too doubtful, after all, I wanted to get laid again before my belly got too big. “Whatever happened to spaceships, Jack? Why do they want us? And maybe it's God. It was David’s time to go!”

“Could be, I suppose. God’s giving us the option of jumping on an express elevator.”

“Or hell," I shivered. It had certainly felt like hell watching David sucked into the payphone.

“Yes, that too, but for the sake of my lack of faith, let’s say a more plausible idea is aliens. They use sound at a sub-atomic level, transmitting our bodies with it.” He opened his large hands and spread his muscular arms. “What’s sound?”

Concerned, I clasped my hands and kept my lips sealed.

“I’ve spent my life studying it. The dictionary says it’s a sensation produced by vibrations reaching the organs of hearing through the air or another medium. Most sound is ultrasound or stuff we can't hear. It is energy, Stel. A vast power plant that we just barely tap into with vibrations that we make music from. These aliens make use of this energy.”

 “You hungry?” I asked, praying to distract him with food.

“Have you heard of the theory of Universal Harmony?” He sat down.

“No.” I shook my head, turning on the stove and reaching into the cupboards for a pot.

“A guy named Johannes Kepler said there were planetary vibration and frequencies that have mathematical correlations with harmonics.” He grabbed the table like it was a floatation device. “I believe the aliens use this energy to capture humans.”

“Again, why do these aliens want us?” I grabbed two cans of basic tomato soup.

“I don’t know. The Romans captured their enemies to bring them home to die in their coliseums, or to work as slaves throughout the empire. It might be that simple. We are life forms from a distant solar system and are for amusement or experimentation, I don’t know. We use rats, monkeys, rabbits, even our friend the fog has gone to space. Or like I said before, they could just be hungry.”

“That’s horrible.” I brace myself with a hand on the counter and lean for the Basil plant in the windowsill to pluck a couple of the leaves.

He steepled his hands on the table, trying to show he was calm. “Exactly, but it’s anybody’s guess what they want with us. Maybe, they want to know what they’re dealing with before they conquer us. Anyway, I told the detectives my theory, nobody else is doing anything, and someone must try. What else could I do?”

“You trying to get locked in the loony-bin?” I add pepper and tarragon.

The soup smelled good already.

“They didn’t listen, instead they did give me the full-time watch.” He motioned with his thumb to the detectives parked outside and sipped his tea. “Stel, if I catch that phone ringing again, I’m going to answer it.” His blue eyes were true blue. “I’m going all the way the next time, Stella.”

 “Stay tonight, please? Get some rest. I have something…”  I stop from letting out my secret. I’m not sure why. No, I knew why. I still wanted to get laid, and a baby conversation was sure to ruin any chance of that. And I still had to get him into the tub before he was climbing into my bed. “You can chase your whale later.” She sat the glass of milk on the table in front of him and turned to stir the soup and boil more water for tea. The smell of tomato and basil wafted throughout the kitchen.

She ladled a bowl of soup. “Please stay the night, Jack. Crackers?” I turned to the cupboard for the oyster crackers.

He declined to spend the night at first, but I wasn’t taking no for an answer.

“Well, okay, I’m going to the paper tomorrow. I plan to tell them all I know before the phone rings again.”

I listened until he was ready and grabbing him by one of his large hands I led him upstairs.

Jack left at dawn, without learning about our baby. I promised to tell him, next time...




Weeks later I hadn’t seen or heard from Jack and feared that he’d answered the phone at the Guild.

When I inquired about his whereabouts with the two detectives, who were no longer parked across the street, but had left their numbers, they asked questions about their last conversation. When I said that I believed he had answered the phone at the Guild, both looked at the other as if someone had died or was murdered.

“Oh!” They said it like people do when they’ve heard something not good.




Weeks passed and my belly growing, I became a bit of a vagabond myself. Walking the Ave daily, and going to see movies nightly, arriving early, and always waiting by the phone for the next show to begin. Afterward, I walked to the University District and listened for the payphones along the way, though there were too few left since everyone owned cell phones.

At seven months along, I heard the phone outside the Guild 45 theater ring and waddled toward it. I didn’t think about it. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. I wondered if that counted in space... I thought about it too much already. I just did it. Jack would never return, and without him, it just wasn’t a home, so I chose to follow. After all, I still had something to tell him.

Gasping, scared, I lifted the receiver and gaze at the stars, slipping my hand over my growing belly. I hear a humming sound. The sound spread inside my head, feeling like a fizzy soda in my mouth. My teeth vibrated, and the fillings inside turned warm, then hot...


The end of chapter one....

Part two:

Galactic Jack and the Redmen of Mara Phe Tau


I'll have to dig that out of  drawer...

© Copyright 2018 Tim Arnzen. All rights reserved.

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