When Lyle Sherman attended a meeting of the Star Seekers, he brought along his list of questions. Lyle liked lists. He had them all over his house, but this one was special. Ever since his childhood encounter in the field behind Sav-Mart, Lyle had longed to find other likeminded believers in the extraterrestrial realm. After seeing the flyer for tonight’s meeting, Lyle had carefully written down the questions. He’d spent his life searching the stars for answers.
The informational meeting was held in the narrow, buff colored Oasis room at the Doubletree. There were five rigid rows of beige padded chairs, the first three occupied by a few people of various ages. One man had a bushy head of gray hair and a tangled beard. A woman sat up front, wrapped in a camel coat. In the back row, a young woman with purple boots and bright yellow hair, an unnatural and garish shade, caught Lyle’s eye. She had one leg crossed over the other, jiggling her foot, while a bored look poisoned her face. As he passed, she narrowed her heavily made-up eyes at Lyle, seeming to study him as if he was a collectible on eBay. He clutched his Next Generation messenger bag and moved quickly to sit in the empty row ahead of her. He could feel her eyes on the back of his neck as he sat down. In the vanilla room, the woman stood out like an obnoxious weed in an otherwise tidy garden. Why was she scrutinizing him like an appraiser? Hopefully she wouldn’t speak to him. This meeting would be one of the most important occasions of his life. Lyle couldn’t afford to be distracted.
Besides, his interest in women had all but diminished since Tina. In their six months together, Tina had often remarked on Lyle’s penchant for sci-fi. She’d once asked why he liked outer space so much. Outer space? Lyle still withered inside at the memory of Tina’s derisive laughter as she tried to open his Star Trek Communicator. Lyle yelped, then snatched his mint in box treasure from her hands and the next day she moved out.
After another minute, the man and woman seated at the front of the room nodded to each other. The woman rose and moved fluidly, as if she glided, to the ivory doors of the Oasis room. Lyle glanced back to see her carefully close each panel, as if she was wrapping a present and wanted to keep the paper from creasing. At the front of the room, the man stood silently, motionless except to fold one pale, veiny hand over the other. The woman slid back to her place beside the man and Lyle saw how similar they looked. Perhaps they were brother and sister. Both were slender, dressed in loose fitting blue slacks and blue button up shirts. Their hair was cut in a short style that was anything but stylish. The woman wore no makeup or jewelry. She was remarkable in that she was quite unremarkable, but she seemed to possess a self-assured air, and the man seemed to look for her approval more than she sought his. On the table in front of them a stack of lemon-yellow sheets of paper sat on one corner, as if someone had just made copies. There was also a stack of paperback books. Lyle recognized several he had read: Chariots of the Gods, Flying Saucer Pilgrimage, and Communion. Seeing that flyer outside the library had been no accident. Lyle was sure he’d been lead here, to this room, to this moment. The excitement caused his stomach to churn the same as it did before he rode a roller coaster.
The woman spoke first. “I am Cen and this is Vig. We are seekers.” She gestured to her companion, with a curious expression of her hand, palm up, fingers pressed together as if she was cupping water. She eyed the room as she continued speaking. “We are travelers and guides. Our purpose here, today, is to humbly present our mission and offer you an opportunity to join us. There is much truth, and many lies, in this world, on this planet. We believe the path to truth begins here, on Earth, but leads those who believe, those who seek . . .” She paused for a few seconds. “. . . those who are worthy of transcending their physical bodies to reach beyond this earthly realm. There is a perfect place hidden within the stars. Those who are chosen may ascend to this level, a state we refer to as, ‘above human’.”
She nodded to Vig and he began speaking in a smooth voice, one step below baritone. It was a measured tone that was easy to listen to, like a telemarketer. Lyle had always secretly enjoyed their polished pitches, though he rarely bought anything. Vig spoke for several minutes, then Cen chimed in again. Her voice was reassuring with a tinge of honey as Lyle imagined a grandmother’s would be. He had never known any of his grandparents, though he had heard stories of his mother’s mother and her penchant for tarot cards. Lyle felt sure his lineage was significant and had helped guide him to the Oasis room tonight.
Vig and Cen spoke for nearly an hour about Earth, and the heavens, and most importantly, the divine beings who lived on an astral plane beyond what most of humanity could comprehend. When Cen asked if anyone in the room had ever had an encounter with an extraterrestrial presence, or heavenly life form, Lyle felt buoyed. Here it was, his moment to reveal his worthiness. He tried to answer out loud, but his shallow breathing made his throat constrict. He could only nod his head. Yes, yes. Other attendees did the same, and a feeling of euphoria came over Lyle. Screw Tina and her negativity. Here, in this room, were the people Lyle had always hoped to find.
The presentation continued. Cen was describing an unusual encounter she had as a young girl in Canton, Ohio that led her to seek truth when Lyle felt a tap on his shoulder. He glimpsed the yellow haired woman in his peripheral vision. She poked at him rather emphatically, as if Lyle were in her way. He frowned. The woman leaned forward, and Lyle felt her breath on his cheek. Her exhalation had a hint of citrus and the intimacy of the moment embarrassed Lyle. He pushed his glasses up his nose with one hand, balling the other into a tight fist in his lap.
“Wanna bet this is when they parade a dead alien in front of us?” The woman snickered and the ugly snort that punctuated the end of her laugh was loud enough to draw attention from everyone in the room.
Lyle reddened as everyone looked in his direction. He nearly wet himself as he realized Cen had stopped speaking. He spun around and shot the woman a look as malicious as he could muster, then gripped his messenger bag and shifted two seats to the left. He hoped that his obvious displeasure would show the presenters he was not aligned with this horrible shrew.
Cen and Vig’s reaction to the woman surprised Lyle. Cen signaled to her with the same high sign she had used earlier. The overhead lights flickered, and Lyle felt the energy in the room change. Vig raised his hand to the woman also. Though Lyle could not see one, it felt like an invisible beam extended from their hands, penetrating the woman in the back row, drawing her in.
“Are you a seeker, Miss?” Cen asked.
Lyle twisted in his seat to see the woman’s mouth hanging open.
“Yes,” she murmured in a softer tone than the sandpaper that had grated his ears a minute ago. She sounded like a different person.
Cen’s lips curved upward into something close to a smile. Beside her, Vig nodded and bowed his head. Then they regarded each other for a long moment. Lyle wondered if they were telepathic. Imagine if such a skill could be learned. More than anything he wished to have an ability like that. Then he would know he was special.
Cen still directed her cupped palm toward the woman. But to Lyle’s dismay, she did not sweep her arm across the room in a smooth arc of inclusion for the rest of the small audience. Cen and Vig had singled the young woman out.
“We find that the true seekers are those who have questions, but more importantly possess reservations. Discernment indicates the highest level of human intelligence. We believe you are one of us. Please allow us to speak with you after the presentation.”
Others in the room nodded, seemingly pleased at this declaration, their heads dipping like Lyle’s prized Gort bobblehead. The woman in the camel coat clutched her hands to her chest and gasped audibly. Lyle thought of his list of questions. Cen had declared they were not as important as expressing doubt. He glanced back to see the woman’s expression had changed. Now she gazed at Cen and Vig with a blank face, her eyes moist. Her vision was fixed on the seekers, and she appeared to have forgotten Lyle, or anyone else in the room.
When the meeting ended, Lyle crept toward the exit quietly. Before exiting the room, he turned to see the yellow haired woman standing with Cen and Vig at the front of the room. The Star Seekers’ eyes shone like constellations, faces open, and their cupped hands held out, as if they were saluting her. He’d seen that expression before, in the eyes of a man who’d placed the winning bid for Captain Kirk’s original Starfleet tunic. The seekers looked at the woman with recognition and wonder, as if she was the bright star they had been waiting for.
NANCY K. DOBSON enjoys writing both poetry and fiction. She’s been published in a variety of journals including Quince, Capsule Stories, and Madcap Review. Her perfect day includes yoga, a chai latte, and some cocktail jazz. Twitter @nancy_dobson.