It started before my mom was even born. In 1947, at a place called Roswell, a flying saucer crashed near an Army base. An Army guy pulled a reading device from the hands of a live alien, who they killed the next day. All the other aliens died in the crash. A few years later, the first director of the CIA, a guy named Allen Dulles, assigned Mom’s Uncle Miles to figure out how to translate the stuff on the reader. When he told people why the aliens were here, it got everybody shook up and they decided to keep it a secret so people wouldn’t panic. Mom said she was about six when her Uncle Miles started teaching her to speak alien. He told her it was the language of the Dogon people of Mali. She didn’t find out the truth until she was ready to start college and her uncle was dying. The truth was the aliens from Tau Ceti 4 made the human race as a sort of biology experiment, and they thought they had better put an end to us before we got into outer space with our nasty attitude. They said they had a cosmic responsibility, but they didn’t want to just blowup the Earth because they felt sorry for the other species, so they released a virus that made everyone sterile.
Mom went to work for the CIA as a linguist. Nobody but her knew that the aliens were going to come back to try again, and nobody but her knew that she could talk to them. Back then NASA was worried about asteroids wiping us out like the dinosaurs, so they watched for things that were headed for Earth. When they spotted three big round things coming toward us, Mom went to see her boss and told him they were spaceships. She said he wanted to have her locked up, but she convinced him to let her see the director. At that time the director was a lady named Georgia Turnbull. When I came along she became my Godmother, but I call her Aunt Georgia.
So Aunt Georgia put Mom in charge of the Department of Alien Affairs, which was a top-secret division of the CIA, or the Company as we insiders call it. When Mom took over there were three other people in the department, Uncle Paul, Aunt Jan and Uncle Eddy. They’re not really my aunt and uncles. Mom was an only child, which may explain a few things about her. Anyway, when Uncle Eddy found out Mom could speak their language he got the big idea to get her in contact with them. They got engineering to draw the plans for a cell phone site and Mom recorded a message daring them to build it, then she gave them her phone number.
Mom got pretty close to one alien, but she wasn’t able to talk him out of releasing the virus. I guess she got close because he’s my dad. Yeah, I know that’s really weird, but if you grow up knowing something like that, you pretty much take it for granted. Mom didn’t sit down to have the ‘part of you isn’t human’ talk with me until I was six. It started because I complained about her meatloaf. She’d been thinking about making it all day and I was dreading having to choke it down with tons of milk.
“Terrie, how did you know I was thinking of making meatloaf?” she asked me.
“You’ve been thinking about it all day.”
“I didn’t say anything, did I?”
“No, you were just thinking.”
“And you knew what I was thinking?”
“I always know what you’re thinking.”
“Do you know what other people are thinking?”
“Sure. Don’t you?”
“No, sweetheart, I don’t know what you’re thinking. What am I thinking now?”
“You’re thinking I’ve got ESP.” I answered right away but I didn’t know what it meant.
“Oh, my God. How long have you been able to do this?”
“Always, Mom. What’s the matter?”
“Well, dear, this is something nobody else can do. Do you know what I’m thinking when we’re not together?”
“No, we have to be close. Think how confused I’d be if I knew what everybody was thinking at the same time.”
“I suppose. Do you know why you’re special?”
I recall her looking uncomfortable, but later she told me the idea of having to tell me this had her scared shitless. She always did have a colorful vocabulary.
She said, “You realize that your father doesn’t look much like anyone else?”
“Do you know why?”
“’Cause he’s an alien.”
“That’s right and that’s why your beautiful eyes are the way they are. So this—uh, gift—is something else that you got from your father’s side of the family.”
Now I know she must have been thinking, “What else did she get from him?”
Dad’s name was Deshler—well, it still is unless he’s been vaporized by a comet or something—so my last name is Deshler even though Mom’s name is Player. I didn’t think it strange at the time that other people were named Deshler, especially in Germany, but later Mom said that he told her it was an artifact left in our society from earlier contact with his species. What is strange is to think that he’s heading home in suspended animation, and I’ll be dead before he gets there.
Naturally Mom didn’t describe how I came to be conceived, but I was able to find out about it by spying inside her head. Aliens are hermaphrodites, which is pretty creepy to think about, and Mom couldn’t have gone through with it if she hadn’t been drugged. Uncle Eddy says she was date raped. One of her arguments when trying to convince them not to make everybody sterile was that she wanted to be a grandmother. To Dad’s thinking, getting her pregnant was the closest he could come to fulfilling her wish, so he made her fertile again and consummated the deal.
Part of the plan to wipe out humanity was to release a second dose of the virus after the aliens were gone with some aerosols that were set to go off automatically. Dad and his pals hid them, but after the Russians shot down two of the flying saucers, he had a change of heart and his parting gift to Mom was his personal reading device with the locations of the aerosol canisters stored on it. Aunt Georgia sent Mom and her team out to find them, and later SpaceX blasted them into the sun.
The day I bitched about her meatloaf was the first time she showed me the reader. “I want to show you something,” she said, and took a small metal square thing out of her purse. “This is the reading device your father gave me when he left.”
I held it and instantly heard it reading to me in my head—in Dad’s language, of course. “Cool,” I said, “it knows our secret language.”
“That’s right, dear. Only you and me, your uncles, Eddy and Paul and Aunt Jan can read it. You can read it now too, but you have to let me pick the stories for you.”
I was reading something that was the alien equivalent of Dr. Seuss. “Why,” I asked innocently.
“Because many of the stories are too complicated for your age”
It didn’t take me long to learn that ‘too complicated’ was a euphemism for ‘too filthy.’ Dad had a thing for porn.
“So what do you want for dinner instead of my dry old meatloaf?’
She rolled her eyes. She always rolled her eyes. “Okay, I guess I’ll go make tacos.”
While she was browning the ground beef my half-sister, Sherrie, arrived with my niece and nephew, Bobbi and Cary. Being a little more than a year younger than I am, Cary was still quite the brat. He snatched the reader from me and we got into a shouting match. Our pediatric angst drew a predictable response from Mom and Sherrie who made peace and returned the reader to me. I had finished Dr. Seuss and moved on to a short essay on alien aphrodisiacs, then a lengthy treatise on anti-particle propulsion.
We finished our tacos and had ice cream. Sherrie stayed long enough to help put dishes in the dishwasher. She had gathered her brood and was saying goodbye when Aunt Georgia, who was still Mom’s boss, arrived. Even then I was in awe at how Aunt Georgia looked. Mom naturally seemed old to me and I knew Aunt Georgia was about twenty years older, but aside from her silver hair, you’d think she and Mom were the same age. Where Mom looked sweet and kindly, Aunt Georgia looked like a movie star. I ran to hug her and get fawned over and to show off Dad’s reading device. Of course she knew all about it from her days as director of the CIA. Now she ran Turnbull Academy where she secretly dispensed doses of the anti-virus that restores fertility.
“So, what have you been reading?” she asked.
When I told her she took it better than Mom.
After Mom took the reader from me and fixed Aunt Georgia a Martini, she broke the news about me being able to read minds. She looked skeptical and asked me to tell her what she was thinking.
“You’re wondering when Mom is going to get her head screwed on straight about Turnbull Academy.”
“I’ll be darned. It’s true.”
Mom said, “Now we have to watch what we think, and for the record, I may never get my head screwed on straight.”
Mom and Aunt Georgia were always arguing about the anti-virus. Aunt Georgia had control of it and only gave it to the graduates of her extremely conservative university. Mom wanted to give it to the government and let them decide what to do. I sided with Aunt Georgia.
Aunt Georgia said, “Carrie, we are reshaping the human race. Culling the herd. Improving mankind.”
“But the birth rate is way too slow.”
“It will pick up. The kids are busy building careers.”
“They should be building families.” Mom got herself some more wine and offered me a Coke. I accepted.
Aunt Georgia continued. “The U.S. population is decreasing by three million a year and world population by fifty-six million. That in itself is solving a lot of problems. Anyway, the reason I came here tonight is to tell you that I’m opening academies in Europe and I want you to train the boards of admissions.”
“Where in Europe?” Mom asked.
“England, France, Spain, Switzerland and Italy.”
“What about Germany?”
“Carrie, don’t you think the Germans have caused enough trouble?”
She rolled her eyes again. “What about Terrie?”
“Well, take her of course. It’ll be a great experience and school doesn’t start for two months. That should be plenty of time.”
I thought it was a great idea. Mom said, “I suppose. Four more academies will be a boost for the population recovery.”
Then Aunt Georgia turned to me. “Okay, smarty, what am I thinking now?”
“That you’re going to start Turnbull Industries.”
Mom said, “Now what?”
Aunt Georgia gave her a dirty look. “Turnbull Industries will employ our engineering grads in the development of alien technology.”
I thought that was another great idea and was looking forward to getting ray guns and anti-gravity shoes for Christmas. I hadn’t had any time to study alien stuff except anti-particles and aphrodisiacs but I wanted to be part of the conversation so I said, “You mean like anti-particle propulsion?”
“That’s right, sweetheart. What can you tell me about it?”
“First you need two plasma fields to keep the anti-particles from the particles, but you have to go into space to collect anti-particles and we’re stuck on Earth.”
“Not quite stuck. SpaceX’s Falcon can reach geosynchronous orbit.”
“That should be far enough,” I said as if I knew.
Mom said, “What have I created?” She was always a little melodramatic.