Friday’s Gremlins

Friday was the best night of Jenny’s week, the night that the gremlins were the quietest. She was pretty sure that it had something to do with her Friday night tradition, celebrating the end of the week with her roommate Rachel. This Friday night seemed a bit different though, and Jenny wasn’t sure that the usual cure was going to cut it this time.

***

For as long as she could remember her grandmother had referred to the voices in Jenny’s head as gremlins, always reminding her of her doubts and insecurities. The gremlins were convincing, they regularly prevented Jenny from participating in the things she most wanted to try.

This week had started out like any other week. Jenny arrived at work on Monday morning confident in her abilities, but as the week went on, the gremlins made her life hell. They made her doubt herself, constantly telling her she was making mistakes. By Friday she was positive that she was going to get fired for being incompetent, even though she’d done nothing wrong. On a normal Friday, Jenny would then go home to spend the evening contemplating her impending doom with her roommate, a bottle of red wine, and some dark chocolate.

***

“This Friday is going to be different” Jenny wasn’t going to let any gremlins get in the way. Tonight was supposed to be her first official date with the tall, dark, and mysterious Jared. Jenny had always been attracted to men who had an air of danger around them, despite the fact that they never seemed to notice her. This was what made tonight so important. Jenny had been trying to score a date with Jared for weeks now, ever since she spotted the rugged scruff on his mischievous face. Like her, he had an interest in the darker side of life. She really wanted this date to go well, which of course sent her gremlins into full battle mode.

“You are going to bore him to death!”

“You will get broccoli in your teeth!”

“You are going to fart in front of him!”

“Just stay home!”

Jenny was trying to ignore the gremlins, but this time they behaved oddly. Tonight it was like they only had one voice; louder and more real than ever. Jenny decided to call on her trusty sidekick Rachel. She was always ready, willing and able to help chase away the gremlins.

“OH! Did you get a pet? I thought we agreed not to have pets in this apartment.” Rachel jumped back slamming the door.

“What on earth are you talking about?” Rachel had clearly been hitting the red wine a little too hard tonight.

“Over there!” Rachel pointed at a mangy unidentifiable creature curled up in the corner, “You know I don’t like pets and I don’t want to have to clean up after the mess they make. Look! It’s already chewing on your shoe!”

Jenny spun around. Something was gnawing on the sparkly black ballet flats she had picked out for this evening. At first, she couldn’t believe her eyes. She hadn’t brought any pet into the apartment and she was sure it wasn’t there two minutes ago. Jenny dove across the room to rescue her shoes from certain destruction, then she suddenly heard the voice of her gremlin come from the ratty ball of fur. “He won’t like you,” it said.

Jenny screamed “Did you hear that? It spoke!”

“Don’t ask her that, she’ll think you are crazy!” the voice replied.

The fuzzball finished chewing a hole in the shoe and propelled itself over to Jenny’s favourite purse as if by magic. It started eating the corner of that too. “I decided to come along on your date tonight, create some extra fun,” it said. “There is no way for you to stop me from ruining your date. You might as well give up!”

***

This can’t be happening. Was Grandma right all along? That gremlins can become corporeal when they really want to ruin a good thing? There’s no way I’m facing an ACTUAL gremlin! Jenny thought she must be imagining it, but since Rachel saw it too, it had to be real.

“What do we do?” she panicked. Jenny was not in the mood to handle this.

The gremlin started whirring around the room. Like the perfect storm the devilish beast was destroying everything in its path, all while spewing out insults at her. “You will embarrass yourself so much that Jared will tell everyone about his date from hell, Nobody will ever date you again!”

“We have to do something!” Jenny cried while dodging broken pieces of her once-prized dragon collectables.

“You’ll never stop me, you aren’t smart enough to figure out how to defeat me,” it smirked.

“Oh, so there IS a way to defeat you!” Jenny dove behind the bed hoping for a moment to figure out a plan.

***

Wondering about her own sanity, Rachel barely managed to commando crawl to the doorway and escape into the hall for safety. She grabbed the phone and started dialling the police, then slammed the receiver back down. They’d never believe she wasn’t just drunk. It isn’t like any sane person would believe what was happening.

Rachel decided she needed to calm herself down and figure out a solution to this gremlin problem before there was no apartment left. She poured herself a glass of red wine and grabbed a handful of dark chocolate. This ought to clear my head a bit, she thought as she slugged them back as quickly as possible.

***

Suddenly Jenny burst out into the hallway and saw Rachel. “That’s it! You’ve always said wine and dark chocolate can fix any problem!” Jenny grabbed the red wine from her roommate. “If drinking red wine on a Friday night can silence the gremlins in my head, then perhaps it has a similar effect on an actual gremlin!”

Just then the gremlin burst out into the hallway. “I’m saving you from yourself! You should thank me for stopping you from making horrible choices in your life,” it said as it started barreling towards Jenny.

In desperation, Jenny reached out and doused the gremlin. The gremlin screamed in terror as it was soaked in red wine. It hissed and bubbled as it disappeared into a puff of smoke.

“Well that was some quick thinking,” Rachel panted.

“Yeah but I’m still shaking like a leaf” Jenny stuttered, “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to make it to my date tonight.”

“Here, eat some dark chocolate. That should calm you down. You have a big night ahead of you, and when this turns out to actually be something you’ll have a great story to tell!”

A must read! Our first writers challenge winner.

Kayla stood poised on the rim of the Luna crater, scanning the bowl for anomalies.

The unfamiliar craft was almost hidden in the shadow under the ramparts. From the buckling on the stubby wing tip it must have been a rough landing.

Without hesitation she scrambled down the escarpment and headed for the ship. The long bounds felt painfully slow as she crossed the fine powdery surface. Her 190cm height and muscular build was an advantage here at least.

It was unlike any ship she’d seen. The surface glowed with a metallic green sheen and clouded glass bubbled in a semi-circle around the blunt nose. Three of the stubby wings extended at an angle halfway down the short cylindrical body. The damaged one had dragged against the stony ground near the rim of the crater.

Instinctively, she placed her hand on the oval pad forward of the wings. A woosh of sound heralded the opening of a panel easily large enough for someone her size. Kayla hesitated only a split second before fitting herself into the shallow compartment. Darkness enveloped her along with the hiss of air.

She barely had time to wonder if her impulsive action had been ill-considered when the inner door opened. She tumbled into a narrow corridor lined with cabinets. An airlock at the far end was only a step away and Kayla used another panel to trigger the opening.

Blinking at the brightness of what must be the pilot’s cockpit, Kayla stepped forward. It was hard to see detail, even with the sun visor on her helmet retracted.

“May we be meeting?”

The deep husky tone startled her and she spun around, knocking against one of the consoles. A large gloved hand steadied her.

“Do not alarm.”

He was beautiful. Her heart clashed against her ribs. And not human. So large he made her feel small, even in the bulky suit. He was humanoid, whatever that meant. Two arms, two legs. Beautifully muscled as befitted his large size. One head. Smooth and hairless with a central ridge of bone that extended from his nose over his forehead and splayed into three over the large skull.

He wore a close-fitting suit in a metallic green reminiscent of the coating on the ship’s hull but above that, his skin had a similar tint with an undertone of yellow. His eyes captured hers and she stared at them, hardly believing the vivid swirl of blue and green, again with that hint of yellow.

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His deep rumble reverberated through her. “You are good?”

Kayla gasped as she registered his words. “You speak English?”

His wide mouth curved up. “Not so good. You have many transmissions.”

“That’s how you learned? Listening to our radio transmissions?”

The was an infinitesimal movement of his broad shoulders. “Some.”

“Where are you from?”

Again that wry lift at the corners of his mouth. “It is far.”

Kayla pulled off her helmet and glanced around at the cockpit, noting the two seats. “You have a co-pilot?”

“She is gone.”

“Gone?”

His forehead drew together, wrinkling against the shallow ridge of bone. “I think…passed.”

“Passed away? You mean dead?”

A slow nod. “I think…yes.”

A female. Something tightened in her chest. “She was special to you?”

“I don’t think…”

Kayla searched for words. “Partner? Lover?”

Again that slow nod. “Love. Yes, I know that word. No, not love. So…partner?”

The tightness eased. How odd. He was a stranger. An ALIEN. “How long have you been alone?”

“Many cycles.” He gestured at the sky through the window bubbles. “It is far.”

There was an element of pain in those words that made her wonder. “Will you go home now?”

“Home. I cannot go home.” His liquid eyes flared with something dark. “I stay here perhaps?”

Kayla thought of the team back at the base. It was an international team. But an alien might stretch the friendship. “Is your ship repairable?”

“Perhaps.” The resigned expression on his face suggested otherwise. He touched the symbol on her sleeve. “And I am not to be welcome.”

“You come in peace?”

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He glanced down his body. “In one piece. I think.”

Kayla dragged her gaze away from the snug fitting fabric outlining his magnificent body. “I mean…you don’t wish to harm us?”

His large hands spread to indicate the interior of the ship. “With what? Is nothing to harm.”

“And you don’t have anywhere else to go?”

He shook his head, his jaw tight.

“Perhaps you should come back to the base. We need to report what’s happened.” It hit her somewhere deep in her gut. He would be wanted down on earth. First Contact. Often talked about, but this was it. Not some invading alien race, but a single man in trouble. Vulnerable.

“You have many partner, lover at this base?”

“No one special. Work colleagues.” She tapped the symbol on her sleeve. “Scientists.”

“You also are alone?” His voice seemed deeper somehow, the eyes swirling gold.

Breath stalled in her throat. “Yes.” It was true. Men found her size intimidating. They might respect her work as a geologist, but they didn’t ask her out. She’d made friends in the team here in the last eight months, but no-one special. Ever.

He stepped closer. “We are alone together.”

For a moment she wondered if it was his language skills at fault. The warmth in those strange eyes told her otherwise. He found her attractive. An odd flutter began deep in her gut. She pointed at her badge. “I am…my name is Kayla.”

“Iya, Kayla. I am Gorish.” His large hand thumped the odd shaped symbol on his chest.

“Gorish.”

“You, me. Lovers?”

That flutter deepened to a heavy pulse low in her body. It was definitely appealing. “Perhaps friends first.”

“Friends. I like.”

“I think I would like it too.”

His thin lips curved up in a smile. “We are good?”

Warmth flooded her body, her heart thumping steadily and a little fast. “Yes. We are good.

“Those amazing eyes glowed “Together.”

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