“If my body was on fire! Ooh, you’d watch me burn down in flames! You said you loved me, you’re a liar! ‘Cause you never, Ever, EVER did, baby! … BUT DARLING I’LL STILL CATCH A GRENADE FOR YA!”
My best friend and I are belting out the Bruno Mars lyrics as loud as we can. We’re listening to the radio as I drive through the middle of nowhere on our way to South Carolina. There’s nothing but cows, grass, and the bright sky for miles, and we’re enjoying it—windows open, music blasting, and pedal to the metal.
The next song comes on and we begin singing, but suddenly the song stops.
“Hey!” we both exclaim. Instead of music there’s static.
“Noooo,” Emi says. “Is it ‘cause we’re in the middle of nowhere?” Before I can respond, the sound changes.
“It sounds like someone is talking,” I say.
“Maybe it’s picking up a different station.”
“This sucks. This was the perfect station! I don’t want to have to change it.”
“Let’s wait for a minute. Maybe it’ll fix itself,” she says. So we wait a moment. Instead of getting back to our music, the talking becomes clearer.
“That’s not English,” she says.
“Yeah. It doesn’t sound like any other language I’ve ever heard either.”
“What if it’s aliens trying to communicate with us using their alien language?” She says this with a straight face that lasts only about two seconds before we both burst out laughing. We toss alien invasion jokes back and forth for a mile or two before the music comes back—“Yaaaayyyy!”—and we forget about the aliens for the time being.
We arrive without any further incidents, and I only think about the occurrence once while we’re on our weeklong vacation to Hilton Head Island. My mom calls the night we arrive to check on us.
“So how was the drive? Not too bad?” She asks.
“Nope. It wasn’t bad at all. Pretty uneventful actually.”
“Uneventful is good.”
“Yeah. The only thing even semi-worth noting was that our radio station picked up some other station in the middle of our song. There weren’t even very many cars on the road to get mad at,” I say with a chuckle. She chuckles, too—I’m easily frustrated with drivers.
“Why is the radio even semi-worth mentioning?”
“Oh. ‘Cause whatever station it was picking up was in some language neither of us had ever heard before. We had a nice laugh thinking up outrageous alien stories.”
“Ah. Aliens are trying to communicate with earth?” I can hear the smile in her voice.
“You never know,” I say. “Did you know that the sun is the only star in our solar system?”
“What about the smaller stars?”
“Those are starts lightyears away. They’re really big, but since they’re so far away we only see them as little lights in our sky. So maybe in those other galaxies there are living beings. And maybe they have more advanced technology than us that allows them to travel to other galaxies. And maybe they really are trying to communicate with us,” I smile waiting to hear her reaction.
“Is this the conversation y’all had in the car?” She says.
“I’m shaking my head, you know,” she says and I laugh. “That’s very unlikely.”
“Yeah, but it’s fun to think about these unlikely things.”
Emi and I enjoy ourselves for the next week. We go shopping, see new movies, and spend lots of time in the water. We’re big swimmers so we spend most of our time in either the ocean or the pool. We’re getting out of the pool with an hour before we leave when we see a shooting star in broad daylight.
“Woah! Look at that, Lis!” I quickly turn in the direction of her pointing finger.
“Wow! Are they usually this visible in daylight?”
“I don’t know but that’s super cool.”
“Most definitely… okay it’s gone. We need to hurry up!”
“Right! Good thing we’ve already packed the car.” We quickly get clean, changed, and on the road.
We start driving, getting on the interstate. We’re listening to the radio again, still having a good time, even though we’re going back home. The GPS tells us to get off, because there’s an accident up ahead, so we do and end up on some back roads. It’s not too bad since it’s still daylight out. We’re driving along, listening to Pharrell Williams.
“It might seem crazy what I’m ‘bout to say! Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break! I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space! With the air, like I don’t care baby, by the way! BECAUSE I’M HAP-!”
“HEY!” We both yell as the radio cuts our music off again.
“Nooooooo! That’s the best part!” Emi whines.
“Ugh! Stupid radio! You’ve been so great!” I whine.
“Fuisgfue hf! Hfuilgefiglz! Gueogurleg! Fiyrlgfdzhfr? Uflgresb fryukzfgbrk yfgkdyzfv fygrydukzgv!” We’re both quiet for a moment.
“It sounds like someone is in trouble,” I say.
“Mhm. They sound desperate.”
We’re both watching the radio as if it will show us something to explain what’s going on—this doesn’t sound like any radio station I’ve ever heard. I’m glancing between it and the road, when suddenly something steps out of the trees we’re driving through to stand directly in my path.
“WOAH!” I yell.
I swerve and stomp the brake, stopping to the side and behind it—a man. Had I not swerved he’d be under the car. Emi and I are both breathing hard. I look at her.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m fine.” I look around for the man and he comes up and knocks on my window, bending down to see into the car. He’s very calm as if I didn’t just almost run him over. I let the window down just enough that it’s open and we can hear him.
“Jfguilgfxxluhv fhielgru glhxd ghdl huvxlhv. Gfruiselhgg hgrlgh eur ruglhu. Prukgef gzkf yzgk?”
I look at Emi whose eyes are wide as she stares from the man to me, to the man and back to me.
“It’s the same voice,” she whispers. I nod and gulp. What is going on?
“Um, who are you? How are you on our radio?” I ask him. He just cocks his head to the side, sighs, and stands up.
I think he’s talking to himself. He seems exasperated. He leans back down and opens his mouth to say something else when a different voice comes over the radio.
The voice is soft, just a whisper, and feminine.
“Ahsnr! Ahsnr!” The man is yelling into a handheld radio, though it doesn’t look like a regular radio.
“Thfulshfilr? Yfulyzfudr?” His voice comes through the window and our radio.
“I guess they happen to be using the same frequency,” I tell Emi. She just nods.
“Hkdrykf gyilgyful eq dykugil huilef. Ugrligrl zgirl frtlgyi.”
Whoever is on the other side of his radio sounds tired, maybe sick.
“Ahsnr! Nofhek hfoeik dmzeun! Opdhfiewk!”
He seems panicked now. He looks back at us.
“Mahfks! Mahfks!” He makes a side “L” with his hand, his index pointing at me and curls it down as he says this. It’s similar to the motion some people use to say “come here” with their hand faced down instead of up. I don’t know where this random man wants me to go, though, and I’m not getting out of this car to go who knows where with some random man. I shake my head at him and make a confused face—maybe he will understand motions if not words. He stops motioning to me so I guess he got the point. He stands there a moment looking into the trees, then he looks at me with a triumphant look before taking off running into the trees. Emi and I look between each other and the trees for a few minutes, too stunned to do anything.
“Where do you think he went?” She asks.
“Maybe to go get whoever he was talking to on the radio,” I say. “Should we just leave? Or maybe call 911? He seems like he needs some kind of help.”
“Maybe we should call 911,” she says. “The person he was talking to didn’t sound too good.”
“Yeah. And he seemed awfully desperate,” I say, getting out my phone. We call 911 and tell them the situation. They said someone was on the way but would take longer than normal—we are in the middle of nowhere.
“Well, I guess now we wait,” I say and pull as much out of the street as I can.
I’ll take this opportunity to tell you that Emi and I are nurses. We’re fresh out of school—only about a year since graduation, but we’ve been working in the ER for almost five years now. At this point it’s a knee-jerk reaction for us to hop into action at the sight of an injured person. So, even though I said that I wasn’t getting out of the car, that’s exactly what Emi and I do when the guy comes back to the road carrying a very injured, unconscious woman.
The first thing I notice is all the blood. It’s darker than normal, almost black instead of bright red, though I can tell it’s still pumping out of her. Before I get to her I can tell she has got a broken arm, a broken leg, a head wound, and most likely a chest wound, as that’s where a lot of the blood seems to be coming from.
Emi and I jump out of the car with a gasp. The man is shouting that word again.
“Mahfks! Mahfks!” I motion him to set her down on the ground and we get to work.
“The first thing is this blood,” I say to Emi. She nods and heads back to the car.
“I’ll get a blanket.” I rip off the woman’s shirt as it’s too caked with dried blood to take it off gently. She moans a little at the pain, but stays unconscious. Emi brings me a blanket and goes back to the car. I use an end of the blanket to wipe away the blood and find the source—there’s a piece of metal stuck in her left side.
“I don’t think it hit a lung, so that’s good,” I say as I bunch the blanket around the wound to staunch the flow. Emi comes back with our first aid kit, and gets to work on the head injury.
After the head is wrapped, the broken bones stationary, and the flowing blood slowed, we sit and wait for the ambulance—hopefully they get here soon. I’m glad I said someone was possibly injured, so it won’t just be the police who show up. I worry that she’s lost too much blood, but her pulse seems to be fine. I look at the man. He’s been quietly watching, just letting us work. He’s staring down at her, looking calm but worried. I know he won’t understand me, but sometimes just a soothing voice helps.
“She’s going to be fine,” I say softly as I squeeze his wrist gently. I jerk my hand away in surprise—he seems calm enough, but his pulse is beating like crazy. He gives me a look as if to say, “what’s wrong with you?”—as if his pulse is normal, and not at all something to be worried about. I look at Emi.
“Take his pulse,” I tell her. She gives me a weird look, but does it anyway and he lets her. She only checks it for a moment before pulling away. She looks at the dark blood then back to him.
“What are you guys?” She whispers. I suddenly get a realization.
“That doesn’t matter. Emi!”
“So I’m assuming that whatever they are, they are both the same kind of being—that he has the same kind of blood as her, and she has the same circulatory system as him.” She nods to my spoken thoughts. “So if that,” I point to his arm, “is what a normal pulse feels like, then her pulse,” I point to the woman, “is very worrying.” Emi’s eyes get big.
“I figured with all this blood, she should have been running really low. What should we do?” She says.
“In a normal situation we should do a transfusion.”
“But that’s awfully dangerous with the little bit of information we have.”
“I know. Hopefully the ambulance will get here soon. All we can really do is monitor it.” The man has been watching us go back and forth, then he shakes his head, gets up, and takes off into the trees again.
“Where are you going?” I call after him. He doesn’t answer.
After a few minutes of watching the woman, and hoping she will be alright, the man comes back. He returns to his spot on the ground beside the woman and fiddles with some device. He pays us no mind as he fully focuses on the thing. After a few minutes he smiles triumphantly and puts the small machine to his ear. Then he takes a similar one from the woman’s ear and passes it to me. I don’t take it, since my hands are covered in blood, so he puts it in my ear for me. He says something and, though it doesn’t match his lips, I understand him.
“Hello. My name is Rahmn,” he says. I gasp and look at Emi.
“It’s a translator!”
“Ahh. Ask him what’s the deal with their blood and pulse.”
“I can understand you as well,” he says looking at Emi. Then he looks at me. “Though I guess she cannot understand me. What is wrong with our blood and pulse?”
“Well,” I say, “It’s not normal. Normal blood is bright red, not this dark color. A normal pulse is more like how hers is now, not like yours.”
“Oh no. Her pulse is scarily slow. That is what has gotten me worried. Our kind has a normal pulse as mine is now.”
“What do you mean, your kind? Is your kind different from ours?” He looks at me funny.
“Well, of course,” he says. “One would not expect that people on this planet are of the same kind as people from another planet.”
I gape at him. I want to laugh, but he looks so serious—I don’t think he’s joking.
“Lis? What did he say?” Emi asks me.
“Basically… that… they’re from another planet.”
Her jaw drops too. “Aliens?” she whispers.
I slowly nod.
“Do we believe him?” she asks.
“I think so,” I tell her, nodding.
“I am terribly sorry. I guess this is a bit of a shock to you–”
“A shock? It’s unbelievable!”
“–I had forgotten that people of this planet are not use to space travel.”
“And what planet are you from?”
“And why are you here?”
“My partner and I,” he motions to the woman, “were tasked with finding either a new place to live, or some allies to help us take back our home from the Refmrims. Our flight craft was damaged upon entry into your planet’s atmosphere, though, and we crash-landed.” At this point I begin to hear sirens approaching.
“Well, I don’t know if you’ll be able to succeed here. Even if authorities and governments do believe you, you’ll have a hard time convincing them to help your people—many people here, especially those in power, are rather selfish. Also there are many governments that don’t exactly get along.”
“I must at least try,” he says, firmly. At least he has resolve.
“Well, if you’re going to try anyway, I’ll do what I can to help you out. I’ll help you explain to the police what’s going on, but first let’s get your partner taken care of. What’s her name?” The ambulance and police have finally arrived.
I brief the EMTs on her injuries and what we’d done, and they take it from there. They quickly get her loaded up in the ambulance, establish that Rahmn will meet her at the hospital via a police car, and is on its way to the hospital.
The officer comes to talk to us and I explain to him and Emi (since she only understood my side of my conversation with Rahmn) the whole weird situation, with Rahmn adding in his two cents when I miss a detail. When I finish, the officer looks like he isn’t sure whether to laugh or take us all to the loony bin.
“Wel,.” He pauses as if to take it all in. “I don’t know whether I believe you or not. So it’s a good thing I don’t have to make any big decisions ‘bout it. Come on, man. I’ll take you to check on your partner. Then we’ll take you down to the station and let the Sheriff deal with it.”
He walks away to his car and Rahmn follows, turning once to give us a deep bow in thanks. We just nod.
“It feels weird after all that to just move on and go our separate ways,” Emi says. I nod.
“Yeah, it does.” After a moment I rush to the police car, digging in my pocket. I knock on the passenger’s window, and the officer helps Rahmn put it down.
“Here,” I say, handing him a small piece of paper with my number on it. “You’re going to go through a whole lot trying to get the people of Earth to help you. So, if you ever need any help or just a friend, call us, okay? We’ll do our best to help however we can.”
I step away from the car and the officer pulls off. Emi and I get back in our car, and continue on the road, singing happily while we wonder about Rahmn, Ahsnr, and this newly discovered planet, Ahsmro.