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Story 3

Libby A. Smith

Libby A. Smith is a two-time winner of the Little Rock Free Press' Literary Contest. Besides writing, she is also a movie and stage actor in the Little Rock area, including three appearances with The Weekend Theater and La Petite Roche productions of "The Rocky Horror Show."

By day, she is an administrative assistant for the state of Arkansas. She lives in Little Rock with her three cats, where she's a member of the Central Arkansas Speculative Fiction Writers Group.

Other stories have appeared in Caliber Comic's "Negative Burn" and "Dominique: Protect and Serve," Hanthercraft Publications' "Tandra" and "Dragonroc" universe comics and website, and Shanda Fantasy Art's "Atomic Mouse.". Most recently  her story "Newcomers" appeared in the Short Short Story issue of 4 Star Stories.

She also adapted The Rainbow Bridge story to poetry form for counted cross stitch designer Sue Hillis' design "The Story of the Rainbow Bridge."

We take music for granted, but an alien from a planet where it doesn't exist might see it as more precious than the most valuable natural resource on Earth.


“One Mississippi..."


Libby A. Smith


            She thought of the human’s music as she dropped to the ground, pain tearing through her chest, a sound very different than the agonizing blast of the shotgun.  She loved wandering down Beale Street where she’d first discovered music blaring from a bar, or stopping by a music store where a human might be trying out a guitar.  She marveled at the way people flocked to the home and burial ground of a musician they called The King.  No where else in all her galactic investigations had she encountered music.  Just when she thought she’d heard samples of all the types, she’d hear another.

            Earth had been simply another assignment when she’d been transported to the surface.  Like so many other populated planets, it was overpopulated by some species, under populated by others, and its resources, such as petroleum, in danger of being wasted by the inhabitants.

            “What the fu…?” The law enforcement office shouted without a hint of music in his tone.  Odd how music could hold emotion, yet some emotions, like anger, held no music.  “Travis, drop the damn gun before you shoot me, too.  Drop it now!  Keep your hands where I can see them.”

            Travis?  She’d nearly forgotten Travis was his name. To her, he was simply the Old Man.  Although Mississippi couldn’t turn her head to see the “Old Man,” she could picture his familiar, wild-eyed expression.  He never combed his mass of gray hair or shaved closely enough to remove all the stubble.  She doubted he ever bathed.  Yet despite his age, his body retained a youthful strength and he kept his posture straight, even when his mind strayed from reality.  She’d never experienced anything like the numerous ways the human mind could malfunction and fail.  Could this tendency towards frailty be the source of the human ability to create music?

            “Told you there were aliens,” The Old Man screamed hysterically.  “Look at them run!  No one believed me, but I told you over and over there were aliens in my attic, stealing my vegetables from the garden, beer from my cooler in the middle of the night.”

            She felt the officer’s foot prod her side.  “What kind of … creature is this?”

            Was he talking about her?  The shotgun’s pellets must have short circuited her disguise.  Of course it had, or the pellets wouldn’t have harmed her and she’d still be protected from the chilling rain.  The device, when functioning normally, served as disguise and protective shield.

            The humans were seeing her hairless, pale-blue skin.  In form, she was not much different from them with two arms and two legs, each with five digits.  But her people had no ear lobes and her nose one nostril.  Although of no use for defense in thousands of years, two small ivory-colored horns protruded from her head.

            A chill overtook her body as the rain became harder.  Perhaps if heavy and long enough, it’d raise the level of the Mississippi River back to normal.  She’d overheard people discussing the near record lowness.  She’d looked forward to seeing it at its full strength.

            “One Mississippi…, two Mississippi…”

            The human children’s method of counting time ran through her head.  She’d first heard the word a few days after arriving on the planet.  As she wandered the streets observing, she’d seen a child hiding his eyes against a tree.  “Nine Mississippi…, ten Mississippi…! Ready or not, here I come!”

            Mississippi.  The word sounded much like a form of music.  Since arriving, she’d tried to sing, even tried pounding the keys of an antique piano she’d spotted at a shop, yet it didn’t sound right.  She couldn’t get the rhythm or put notes together with any sort of beauty.  Saying “Mississippi” was the closest she’d come to creating music.

            What was it human children said in this region of the planet?  “M-I-crooked letter, crooked letter-I-crooked-letter-crooked-letter-I-hump-back-hump-back-I.”  Mississippi.  She’d adopted the word as her name even before the river lured her, making the choice of her observation point obvious.

            She’d explored the more rural areas of the region for several days, simply walking around listening to recorded music, trying her best to imitate it.  During one such hike, she’d found what she’d thought was an abandoned small farm.  The wood-framed dwelling’s roof had fallen in and a metal mobile home next to it was covered in rust.  The drought had kept the grass from greening and growing.  A garden spot held nothing but wood stakes wrapped in dead foliage.  The area even smelled stale, dusty and dead.

            “Calm down, Travis!” The officer ordered, jarring her to a stronger level of alertness.  She heard the static of a radio.  “I’m trying to contact the station.”

            “This isn’t a matter for the police,” the Old Man snapped.  “They ignored me.  Ignored me!!! Now aliens have taken over Mississippi.”

            “No one has taken over Mississippi, the state, or the river!”

            “Not the river or the state, you moron.  Her!  There on the ground.  The aliens have taken over her body, her mind, and her soul. Turned her into a pod person to do their bidding.”

            “Taken her over?  She is the alien!  You shot her and she turned into this … thing.”

            “Will you listen, fool?  The aliens have been living in my attic.  I’ve been trying to tell y’all that.  I’ve been making calls, writing letters. No one will listen.  Maybe they’ll listen to you.  You can make them listen. Better call Washington.  They can get the alien out of her and get the others.  There’s others, you know.  Could be a lot of them.  Maybe the CIA will listen to you better than they did me, or NASA at least, though I’m thinking the aliens already have NASA.”

            “Reinforcements are on the way,” The officer said.  “Where the hell did this Mississippi come from?”

            “From Memphis, she said.  I was shoring up some foil on the inside walls of one of my sheds when I spied her nosing around the place.  Figured the government had finally sent someone to check out the aliens.  It was about time.  I’d called them, you know. All of them.  Police, governor, senators, even The White House.  I grabbed my gun, jumped out, and asked why they’d sent a lady to do a man’s job.  She acted like she didn’t know nothing about aliens in my attic or in NASA.  Real cool about it, calm-like, as though she knew more than she was letting on.”

            Proper procedure directed Mississippi to dispose of the Old Man when he indicated he knew her origins.  There was too great a risk that her equipment would be discovered before the full range of needed data could be transmitted.  Her assignment focused on collecting information about the planet’s natural resources.  Any anthropological data was merely a footnote of no use except appeasing curiosity.  These humans were so far behind her own people, they could offer no technology of value.  Her people mainly wanted water, petroleum, certain minerals, things their own population needed.  The authorities believed there was nothing new to be discovered on the cultural level.  They’d never heard music.

            The Old Man’s claims initially confused her.  There shouldn’t have been any other off-world beings on Earth.  The entire sector belonged to her people.  Curious, she’d assured him she’d investigate.

            “You’re black.  Not sure I like that,” The Old Man had replied.  “Don’t know that I can trust your kind.”

            She’d looked at her hand to make sure her disguise was functioning.  “Actually, I’m brown.”  Seeing that humans possessed a wide range of skin tone, she’d chosen brown simply because she liked the color not realizing humans often put negative meanings to such details.

            The Old Man glared, grinned, then laughed.  “That’s for sure.  Dark brown. Oh, what the hell.”

            She’d been allowed in the cluttered, moldy trailer to find not only were there no aliens, there wasn’t an attic.  Curious about the man’s eccentricities, she’d stayed, moving into the sturdiest of the sheds.  Quickly adopted into the Old Man’s daily routine, she’d listen to him rant and rave about aliens while the real one began adapting her testing equipment into an old John Deere tractor.  No one had disturbed the machine for years so there was no reason to believe anyone would.  Everything was falling into place for a successful mission despite her inability to dispose of the witness.

            Once finished, the equipment would begin testing the air, minerals and water along with compiling her data on planetary customs.  Surely her report would convince the authorities that Earth’s cultures must remain undisturbed, at least for the time being.  What the humans lacked in useful technology, they made up for with music.

            Excited with the possibility others among her people would be as mesmerized by music as she found herself, Mississippi had been excitedly working on programming her report into the repurposed tractor when the officer drove up.

            “Good morning.  I’m Officer Henry Olson.”

            “Nice to meet you.  I’m not sure where the Old Man is right now.  I help him when I can.  Can I be of assistance?”

            “Old Man?” The officer laughed.  “That name suits him.  I’m just here to check on Travis.  Someone spotted a woman who fits your description driving his truck.  He doesn’t get into the city as much as he once did, but people know him.”

            “That was me.  I’m his … daughter.  He lets me borrow  his vehicle.”

            “Daughter?  You’ll have to excuse my disbelief, Travis sure isn’t known for racial tolerance.  May I see your ID?”

            “Alien, get away from her!” the Old Man had shouted from the trailer’s doorway, gun already aimed.  He stepped down, missing the steps.  Although he managed not to fall, the gun fired.  Mississippi automatically dove in front of the officer.  She felt the shock of the pellets tearing through her disguise device, destroying it before ripping into her.

            Her people would come investigate when her transmission deadline passed without data.  They’d come not only to investigate, but to strip this world of everything they perceived to be of value.  Unless, of course, they first explored closely enough to encounter the music.  She’d been testing the equipment using her observations about music.  It was possible, quite possible, some of the information had reached them.

She hoped so.

            “One Mississippi…, two Mississippi…” she whispered as consciousness left, wishing she could really sing.




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