I Want to Believe the Truth Is Out There
|I Want to Believe
During that long night and day, we wait for the phone call, my mother still in her Lanz nightgown like she’s some old-fashioned Mormon, my father in a flannel shirt buttoned wrong. The policewoman shifts from foot to foot. Crane flies brush against the screen door, float like huge dandelion heads in the air.
I decide then that I will be Fox Mulder, if Mulder were a girl. I will search for the truth.
I tell the policewoman: I was sleeping and something woke me. I think it was the light. How can I explain the light? I can only explain it in negatives. It was not soft like moonlight. It was not blinding bright like headlights from a tailgating car. It was not sunlight in all its heated incarnations. It may not have been light at all, but the absence of darkness.
Julie floated in the light, a foot off the twin bed next to mine. Her blonde hair streaming in the air like Ophelia’s in water. She wore the Green Day concert T she’d stolen from me, the shirt from my first concert. She always wanted everything I had. And then she was sucked out the window. Sucked. Like ramen into my mouth, like a spider into a Dustbuster. When the light vanished, the digital clock on my bedside table blinked 12:00, as if there were a power failure.
The policewoman snaps her notebook shut. You were dreaming, she says. You watch too much TV. I’m sure my eyes are still dilated. Last night, as soon as my parents turned off Dallas Raines in the middle of the local news weather forecast and their mattress stopped creaking, I’d climbed out the window. Tyler waited for me on the swings in the park; his feet scuffed a ditch in the damp sand. With his Boy Scout knife he carved a pipe out of a Granny Smith apple. Chunks of apple flesh fell at my feet. We inhaled the smoke and kissed until my lips felt like they were the center of my universe, swollen and bruised.
Maybe I left the window open when I climbed back in?
Without black mascara and smoky grey eyeliner, my mother’s eyes are small and squinty. I look down at the blister on my thumb from trying to flick the lighter.
There was a sonic boom, I say. After she went out the window. Once, the sonic boom from the shuttle landing at Edwards Airforce Base woke both of us; Julie climbed in my bed, shaking, and fell asleep with her spine against my side.
The policewoman is bored: she’s been here before, with another family, another child missing. My father makes me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with Julie’s favorite jam, strawberry; I’m allergic to strawberries. As Julie floated over her patchwork Ikea bedspread, her fists clenched; on her cheek, a red blotch. Earlier, in the park, Tyler took the lighter from me and lit the bud on the top of the apple. I inhaled from the hole in the side, the smoke harsh and tinged tart. I’m going to tell Mom on you, Julie said. I whipped around, smoke streaming from my mouth like a dragon, and said, You better not. Slapped her; she held her hand to her face, ran. My fingers vibrated. I felt powerful and sad. When I climbed back into our bedroom, I wanted to tell her I was sorry, feel her backbone against my hands. But she was asleep.
Or maybe she was not there at all?
We wait for the phone call. Soon the phone will ring. It will ring over the days, the years, until I go to college. No one ever gives us answers. Unlike Mulder, we never get closure. My parents lay flowers before her fifth grade school portrait. The image of Julie floating out the window fades like a color Polaroid. I doubt, I doubt, I hate myself for doubting. I do not go to Quantico, do not join the FBI. I become a bookkeeper for an internet start-up and know where all the money goes. I wake up at night and watch my daughters starfished under Ikea bedspreads, hugging their stuffed dogs, shadowed in the nightlight’s halo. Their breath like dreams dissipating into the dark air.
The Truth Is Out There
Waiting for the phone call, I decide I will be Fox Mulder, if Mulder were a girl. I will wear suits with padded shoulders and skirts like Scully, but shorter, to show off my legs.
I will search for Julie, for the truth, even if I need to travel to a buried UFO in the Arctic, a Siberian prison camp, a Navaho reservation. I will search for her even after a UFO abducts my partner and me; I will evade alien bounty hunters with eyes and mouths sewn closed; I will trust no one, especially old guys who smoke.
I will make love with my partner on Magic Finger-equipped beds in the dingy roadside motels we can afford on the FBI per diem, but that’s not going to stop me from fucking Krycek in the depths of a cargo ship. Even if he only has one arm.
I will explore the basement of a cabin in the woods, the halo of my flashlight illuminating faint footprints, bleached femurs, vertebrae. I will drive down the Extraterrestrial Highway and sneak into Area 51. I will not remember how many times my memory has been wiped. On on-line forums for UFO abductees I ask: have you seen her?
I will finger the chip implanted in my brain. I will seduce men with secret governmental jobs. I will sacrifice my fertility, my sanity, my child, for the truth.
I will dream of Julie’s clones, the youngest with hair a nimbus of dandelion yellow, the oldest with a bob streaked silver. Holding hands. Like a string of paper dolls someone cut out to amuse a child, long ago.
Lori Sambol Brody lives in the mountains of Southern California. Her short fiction has been published in Tin House Flash Fridays, New Orleans Review, The Rumpus, Little Fiction, Necessary Fiction, and elsewhere. Her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and chosen for the Longform fiction pick-of-the-week. She can be found on Twitter at @LoriSambolBrody and her website is lorisambolbrody.wordpress.com.
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