The Alienist

“Eureka!”

I could hardly hold in my excitement as I stared at the device in the center of the room. I was safe behind the plexiglass barrier we had set up, but Anton was still obscured by the device—a central tower generating frequencies with receiver towers generating frequencies to one another. Essentially, it was a lot of tubes and coils, but Anton really urged me to be more technical about my work, so I referred to it as ‘the device.’

As I observed, the whole thing appeared to be as if it might catch on fire at any moment, but it was working. 

“It’s working?” Anton cried over the noise and the lights and the general commotion of a very large scientific breakthrough nearly catching on fire.

“It’s working! Anton its working come see,” I called out to him. I’d been trying to discover a new type of frequency beyond gamma waves. Two years in the making, and I hadn’t gotten the thing to do more than raise the hair on my arms.

Anton come around the corner and paled. “I’ll get the fire extinguisher.”

I grabbed him as he made to flee for the door. “No! I think it’s finally working.”

“Miss Olivia, I really don’t think sparks and shaking constitute working,” Anton replied, sounding all but helpless.

“That’s Dr. Crawford to you,” I replied.

“You’re not a doctor yet, you haven’t even finished your thesis,” he reminded me, as if I didn’t know. If I could just get the device to work, I could finish my thesis and graduate.

“Merely a formality Anton,” I pressed on. I prefered for him to call me Doctor in the lab regardless of facts in order to develop the scientific atmosphere. “Besides, this is going to be my thesis when it finally works.”

“Your thesis is on alternative uses for gamma waves, Olivia, not blowing up the building.” 

“Right, officially. But you can’t just stop progress,” I replied, turning back to watch the device shake and glow. “Anton, look!” 

There was something happening in the center of the room, but I didn’t get a chance to see it, because the whole thing nearly short circuited or exploded or whatever and Anton and I were knocked to the ground and the lights blinked off. I was just wondering how much trouble we’d be in once the fire department showed up when I looked around to assess the damage done to my poor lab. 

I found the most peculiar thing happening. All around us, furniture and tools were becoming translucent and fading in and out of sight. Many of these things, I realized at an alarmingly slow rate, did not belong in my lab.

Finally, my eyes came to focus upon the anomaly. There, in the center of the lab, was a tear, as if the space is a piece of cloth someone has ripped through. The area inside was glittery and hazy. I was just making my way around the protective glass to investigate when an unseen force pulled at the back of my lab coat.

“Anton, I need to study this anomaly,” I said as sternly as possible.

“Like hell you do. I don’t know what the fuck that is, but I’m not getting paid enough to watch you break reality and die,” Anton replied.

“You don’t get paid at all, Anton.”

“Exactly. And I’m not getting enough class hours for it either, so why don’t we just call 911 or the FBI or whoever handles it when someone creates a tear in the space time continuum. Do men in black exist?” Anton was trailing off and I was already wrestling myself out of my lab coat to get a closer look.

“I do not like this Olivia,” Anton was saying, but he was coming up behind me anyway. The edges of the rip were frayed and from every angle it looked exactly the same. Fascinating.

I was just about to stick my hand into it when Anton squeaked.

“What?” I asked, more annoyed by the disturbance than any real concern for what Anton might have to say.

“Olivia, I really think we should call the government, or at least the professor. There’s no way this is safe,” he replied.

I rolled my eyes. “Just trust me Anton.” I stuck my hand in and watched it disappear beyond the anomaly, but nothing happened. No pain or dismemberment or sudden death. No end of the world or reality as we knew it. “Okay, I’m going in.”

“What? Just like that?” 

I’m sure he protested more, but I slipped through before he could finish his tirade. And anyway, the world inside the anomaly nearly made me forget my own name.

The space was identical to my lab, except this one was sleek and sparkling. I thought I would need a schematic to compare and be sure of course. But imagine! A world right on top of our own. I could see the various strange objects that had faded into reality after the explosion. They were so familiar and yet somehow so alien I thought I might be having a stroke.

It seemed this world was tinted a rose gold, like there was glitter in the air. Like every atom sparkled. As I looked around me it began to shift. Instead of rose there was a bit of a purple tint that gave way to blue and the glittery wash just intensified as I looked through the room. It was so sparkly, I almost didn’t notice that pieces of my lab were fading in and out around the room too. It was all so vivid it makes the real world look like an old black and white film.

There were other pretty things on that side of the anomaly. Most notably, there were creatures of all colors and forms. I only really realized that the creatures were real and alive when one of them approached me. 

She had hot pink skin with honest to god polka dots in it and her hair was red, tousled into a sultry little bun the likes of which I could never pull off. She had a bit of a birdish look to her, with tiny cupid’s lips and a full, angled nose. She was wearing something gauzy that looks like it might be a coat but I’m not sure. Her eyes, a little to my discomfort, were black. Entirely black. They weren’t necessarily glassy and lifeless, but they still made me squirm.

I attempted to say a simple hello to the pink thing but my words came out as only squawks and the woman’s response came out as a sort of garbled underwater type sound and so the two of us just stood there hollering gibberish at each other and it was really a strange thing to see in hindsight.

Looking around again, I inspected the other creatures. They were colored from red to blue to green. Some were neon. Some were jewel-toned. There was real mash up of human features around the room and they were all wearing the same sort of gauzy number that the pink girl was wearing. One had copper skin and hair like spun gold, yet in the glittery haze of the room she almost didn’t stand out at all. Another looked like she was made of marble. It was all very fascinating if not a little more strange than I was expecting. Another thing occurred to me that had me turning back to the pink girl.

“You’re all women here?” I asked, knowing full well that no one was going to understand me. “You’re all women here?” I asked this a few more times, as if it was ever going to come out as more than a screech or a squawk. As if the lady creatures weren’t looking at me like I’m the one covered in lime green skin with three extra eyes. They were pretty eyes, but I mean come on.

With verbal communications getting nowhere, I squeezed back through the rift and grab Anton by the collar, pulling him back with me. He barely had time to take a deep breath, like he thought I was about to dunk him under water, let alone protest. Once his head and shoulders were through the anomaly, I pointed to him and tried to make a shrug or some kind of not so universal gesture of a question.

A rainbow of creatures huddled around him, looks of fear and disgust on their faces.

“I guess not?” I said, mostly to myself. Not sure I’ll be getting anywhere in terms of communications, but once we get the linguists in here, they’ll sort it all out. Then something else strange occurred to me.

I grabbed the marble girl by the arm and yanked her through the anomaly along with Anton. The creature, now in the real reality, looked at me with absolute open-faced shock. Her skin was no longer like golden veined marble. Instead, I saw before me a simple black girl, short and lithe, and becoming very angry as she had just been pulled against her will into a parallel dimension. Is the dimension even parallel?

“Stupid apple broomcushion walking?” the girl asked, her face screwed up in that confused kind of angry where you’re not even sure if you should actually be angry or terrified, but you choose angry. She was motioning toward Anton as she said it.

My hands immediately clapped together in surprise. “Oh, thank god. I thought I lost my mind. Everyone was making animal noises in there, I thought I might be having a stroke.”

“That’s what made you think you were having a stroke?” Anton chimed in, obviously not too shaken up about being taken through the anomaly to hold in his snide remarks. But, as always, I ignored him.

“I guess I was talking gibberish there too?” I thought aloud, doing my best impression of pensive. I paused to think about what she’d said and how it might be some kind of cipher. “You got one word right though,” I said after a moment passed.

“She did not,” Anton was all in a huff now. “Why’s she’s talking in gibberish anyway?”

Ignoring him, I pressed on with my own line of thought. “I wonder if talking gibberish will make things clear on the other side.”

I stuck just my head through to stare at the room full of technicolor women, “Cladogram eye green broken?” It just came out as screeching again, but I thought maybe I’d got it right. They blinked at me. I tried again. “Orange tree am doing?” Again, nothing.

“Well that’s getting nowhere.” I said as I pulled my head back through the anomaly.

By then, the marble girl creature was on the cusp of a full-on conniption and Anton looked far too pale. 

“Oh, for chrissake,” I muttered. I grabbed the girl by her arm and dragged her back through the anomaly. Once we were through she stormed her pretty little marble behind as far away from me as she could get, it seemed. The rest of the creatures looked flabbergasted still and I found myself thinking that maybe they weren’t sure what was going on, but that maybe they should catch up. I headed back through the anomaly before they could do anything.

Back in my lab, I looked at Anton expectantly and nodded toward the anomaly. He simply shook his head.

“Anton, we need to go investigate—I mean, study this dimensional anomaly that we have uncovered here in my lab.”

There was a hard look on Anton’s face, and we stared at each other for several moments, but I knew I’d win. He sighed, looking as deeply uncomfortable as I had ever seen him, and said, “If I’m going in there with you again, I’m going to need an anchor.”

“A what?”

“An anchor? So that I can’t get stuck in that looney cartoon world.”

“It was beautiful, what are you talking about cartoon world? Did we see the same world?”

“It was too bright Olivia,” he replied and gave me a once over. “And I think you need an anchor too.”

“Anchor my ass,” I said, and while Anton was in the middle of replying, “Yes, that’s the point,” I snatched his arm and pulled him straight through the anomaly.

He let out a shocked sound, but not as shocked as the lady creatures in the room. They scurried back around Anton.

“You know this is really rude,” I tried to say. They ignored me, grabbing at Anton and probing at his cheeks and his chest. He shoved at one of them, which seemed to do little to scare them off.

A cacophony of strange noises grew around the creatures as they circled Anton, and I could only watch as they grabbed him by the arms and dragged him out of the room.

“Woah! Hey where are you taking him? Can I go? Take me!” I was stopped from following the group out by the pink girl. 

She grabbed my arm and looked over me, questioning, then marched over to a cabinet, pulled out something shiny, if anything could be considered shiny in a place that was already so vibrant I had a headache starting to form. The girl placed the device in my hand and stared at me expectantly. 

I inspected the piece of metal in my palm. It was just a flat disk, only a few centimeters in diameter. We stayed like that for several moments, her staring at me as I stared at the disk, before the girl huffed and took the disk from my palm. She pressed it rather forcefully into the side of my head. There was a bit of a popping sensation and then I found myself hearing her say, “It’s a translator you dingbat. I’ve never heard that dialect before, but I think it will still work.”

“I’m a dingbat!? No, I’m a genius!” and I should have been upset that this alien creature just called me a dingbat, but I could only think enthusiastically I understood an alien! Me!

The woman leveled an unamused stare at me like I had never seen before. I had also never seen a pink woman before but that was really par for the course with alien races from other dimensions, so I took that in stride at least. 

“I’m Dr. Emnet Goldstein,” she said, putting out a hand. I took it, trying to decide if it was actually weird that she have a regular name. Maybe it was a translation.

“I’m Dr. Olivia Crawford,” I replied.

“Oh, you’re a scientist as well?” Emnet asks.

“Yes,” I answered, trying to ignore the Antonesque voice in my head telling me that I was not, in fact, a doctor. “So, where have they taken Anton?” I asked the pink girl. “We need to return to the lab to do some testing.”

“Well he needs to be studied here first,” she replied carefully.

“Studied? What for?” I asked. And really, why would they want to study a guy like Anton? He was quite boring. I tell her as much.

“Well, he’s an alien. Of course he needs to be studied.”

I nodded, because it was hard to argue with that logic. Except, “Wait, he came with me. That makes me an alien too,” I said. “How come he’s getting studied and I’m not? I’d venture to say I’m a much more interesting test subject.”

The pink girl laughed and I felt myself blush. “You could hardly call yourself an alien. I mean, that long golden hair and those golden eyes. You look just like an Easterner.”

“I do?” I asked. I thought back to the golden girl I’d seen in the group of scientist creatures and fet he blush deepen.

“Yes, you do” Emnet said this like she was speaking to a toddler. A really stupid toddler.

I cleared my throat, trying to ignore the indignation that her tone gave rise to in me. “Either way, I’m going to have to get him back, I’m responsible for him in the lab and if he disappears into another dimension, they’ll probably discredit my thesis,” I said, trying to sound distinguished. “Where are we anyway?”

“My lab,” she replied with barely contained pride. Now that I understood. My lab was practically my baby.

Still, I tried to keep nonchalant as I replied, “This doesn’t look much like a lab to me.”

Emnet scoffed. “This is the best lab in the country. I’ve got several donors and a commission and everything. We were testing a theory on the frequency of light, but an alien works just fine by me.”

I perked up at the details of her experiment, explaining, “I was conducting a test on gamma waves!” She almost looked as excited as I felt at this revelation. “That must be how the hole opened up to begin with. I’ll need to see your notes, of course”

“And I yours,” she added.

“Oh! Yes. But Anton. I must have Anton. He organizes my notes and really I do need to return him to, er, where he belongs.”

“Well…” she seemed to consider me for far too long, but I let it pass. “So where did you say you and that little grey thing come from?”

“San Francisco,” I answered automatically.

She looked extremely perplexed but accepted the answer in stride. I must have looked like a very convincing gold creature. “I suppose we could give it back to you when we’re done with it. I’m not sure when that will be. For now, we might go watch the tests? I’m sure you’re eager to see the results what with it being your discovery and all.”

“Right,” I said, and she led me out of the room, out of the very same door I used in my lab, even if hers was much nicer.

 

The halls in the building looked official, with plaques on doors and shuttered windows covered in posters that had the strangest writing printed on them. Maybe I won’t get her notes after all if they’ll be illegible. 

She took me into an observation room. It looked like one of those theaters where they demonstrate surgeries to students, but I couldn’t be certain. 

There were three of the women in the room. They had Anton strapped to a table and were huddled around him. He was hooked up to several machines that appeared to be taking biometric data as the rainbow of women poked and prodded at him. They were all very interested in poking at something I couldn’t see. Next thing I knew, Anton was yelping and all the women screeched aloud.

“Fascinating,” Emnet said from beside me.

“Yes, it’s all very fascinating, but I need him back now, please,” I said impatiently.

“Of course, of course when all the research is done, I’m sure,” she replied. I could tell I was being dismissed. 

“No,” and I had to pause far too long to think of anything to say that would get Anton away from those creatures and back into my lab safe and sound. “Look, we’ve just accidentally created a tear in the fabric of space. There’s no way that is good for the space time continuum, regardless of how totally fucking awesome it is. We’ve got to put him-it- back where it belongs. On his side.”

There were several tense moments where I wasn’t sure if she was even listening to me. Emnet swept her black gaze over me, but finally relented. “Ok, you’re right. I would love to study this Anton, but something doesn’t feel right here, and I don’t think I want t get wrapped up in it.”

“Really? I mean, thank you I know obviously. It’s for the best.”

Emnet nodded and then moved towards the viewing window. She tapped on it and the glass all but disappeared, but I didn’t have any time to be awed by this because she was calling down to the creatures at work on Anton, “We’ve got to return him to the other side of the anomaly. Wrap it up.” 

There was a chorus of confused remarks but they seemed to follow her instructions without fail. If only I had such obedient assistants. I inwardly rolled my eyes. This girl has everything.

 

With Anton in tow we made our way back to the lab.

We had barely gone a few yards when a familiar chiseled face appeared around a corner. She stopped in the narrow hall, blocking our path.

“Emnet! She’s working with the alien!” the marble girl cried out, speaking to the pink girl, but staring directly at me. “She looked just like it when she took me to that horrible place. It must be their home world and she’s in cahoots with it!”

“I’m not in cahoots with Anton! He’s basically my slave,” I explained.

“I’m her lab assistant, and I’m not an alien,” Anton interjected, sounding very indignant.

“Shut up Anton,” I said before explaining, “they can’t understand you anyway. They haven’t given you this cool translator implant that I have.”

“Shut up Olivia, how are we getting out of here?” he asked, completely ignoring the part about the translator.

“Don’t worry Anton I’ve got it,” I replied, doing my best to sound authoritative. “We’re going to return you to the other side to stabilize the space time continuum.”

“Right….” Anton muttered.

“What the hell are you talking about?” The marble girl was speaking again, returning our attention to the matter at hand. “You can’t just leave with him! He has to be studied. I won’t let you ruin our research. If we don’t have him, they’ll never believe us.”

“She sounds like you,” Anton said, glaring at me. I rolled my eyes back at him.

“We have to put him back or who knows what terrible things will happen to reality,” Emnet cut in.

“Exactly, that’s what I said,” I added.

 Emnet shot me a look. “Just let us put him back and then we can come up with a plan for research purposes. 

“No, you’ll ruin the data,” the marble girl replied. She was glancing wildly between the three of us.

“It’s fine, it’s going to be ok. We just really need to get him back,” Emnet tried again to appeal to the marble girl.

“I won’t let you!” The marble girl cried. and at this point, she just sounded like a petulant child. There is no way I sound like that. I thought. 

In a blink the marble girl had pulled out what looked to be a scalpel and was pointing it at Emnet, who looked shocked and I could hardly blame her. 

Anton pushed past both me and Emnet and walked right up to the marble girl. I wasn’t sure if marble could blanch, but this girl blanched at the sight of Anton approaching her. She dropped the scalpel and Anton shouted, “Run!”

He took off in the direction of the lab and I followed him without a second thought. I was hoping  that Emnet was following us too, but I couldn’t be sure because I could hear the marble girl shouting after us. There was more shouting joining hers, which made Anton, and by extension me, run faster toward the lab. 

Emnet ran straight into my back as Anton and I made it to the lab. She slammed the door behind her, flipping a heavy sounding lock. Immediately, the handle started jiggling and there was banging on the door.

“Even if we get back through, they’ll just follow after us.” Anton was stopped just short of the anomaly and clutching at his hair. “Olivia, we’re really, royally fucked.”

“Is it ok?” Emnet asks me, motioning toward Anton. 

“We need to close the tear,” I told her.

“Why?” 

“I think we’ve already caused too much damage. If we don’t close it now, it might be irreversible,” I tried to explain, hoping that it would be enough to sway her and that she truly did want us out of her hair for good.

“How do we do that?” she asked.

“We just need to recreate the conditions that created it,” I replied. I thought I sounded confident when I said it, but I knew with absolute certainty that I was talking out of my ass. 

“The experiments…” mnet says, as if it was all clicking for her.

I could only reply weakly, “Exactly.”

“And you’re sure?” She asks again.

“Positive.”

The door handle jiggled some more, and then stopped. All three of us were staring at the handle before Emnet turned to me.

“Ok, let’s do it.” She said.

That was when the door burst open and cacophony of yelling, colorful creature women began filling the room. I pulled away from the grasping hands and back toward where Anton stood close to the anomaly. It seemed the creatures were too afraid to get close for now. 

“Now!” I screamed at Emnet over the noise. She nodded and shoved through the crowd, flipping switches on the towers around the room. I followed suit, pressing as many buttons as I could before shoving Anton through the anomaly and tumbling after him. 

“Turn on the device!” I yelled at him. Once the device was booted up again, we scrambled to hide behind the plexiglass again just as there was another explosion.

There were several seconds of silence before either Anton or I dared to peak at the device where the anomaly might be. 

Slowly we looked, and at the same time let out a deep sigh of relief.

Everything was as it was supposed to be, except now my device was really busted. It was sparking and there were areas on the receivers that looked burnt. The coils were all cracked. I jumped up and rushed to inspect the damage.

“This is a disaster Anton! Holy shit!” I cried as I ran my hand over a hot coil that was cracked nearly in two.

“Uhm, yeah I know,” he replied.

“My thesis is ruined!”

Anton stared at me for a few long moments, dumb struck, before pulling out his phone. “I’m calling your advisor.”

 

MARA HEADRICK

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