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"He has come back to me..." by Cora Buhlert - Science FictionAt the age of five, Steffi saw an UFO landing in the car park of the local bank. Of course, the UFO might just have sprung from the imagination of a lonely child missing her best friend who had recently moved away. But Steffi's older sister Carrie saw it, too. Or did she?
Now an adult, Steffi is an astronomer working at a facility searching the depth of space for the extraterrestrial life she knows must exist. Because she saw it, when she was five, even if no one wants to believe her. And Carrie saw it, too, even if she never talks about it. But it takes a data readout with far-reaching implication to persuade Steffi that maybe she should talk to her estranged sister again about what happened on that autumn day so many years ago…
A bumper edition of two interlinked science fiction stories about two sisters and their contact with aliens and with each other.
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Excerpt:I never believed in UFOs. UFOs, flying saucers, alien abductions, all that stuff. I always thought UFOs were just hallucinations, the sort of thing only crazy people saw. Until it happened to me.
It was cold, grey October day. My parents were away, as usual, and they had forced me to babysit Steffi, my kid sister. “Oh yes, and the garden needs doing, too,” they had said before taking off for a weekend of golf.
Naturally, I was pissed off. I was fourteen and it was a Saturday afternoon. I had places to go, friends to meet. Yet here I was, grounded, forced to do garden work. And I hated garden work. The only thing I hated even more was babysitting my five-year-old sister.
So I got to work, planting flower bulbs in the garden, while Steffi was playing with earthworms. She loved playing with small critters. Snails, beetles, ladybugs, worms, any living thing unlucky enough fall into her hands was immediately converted into a plaything.
That day, Steffi played with earthworms. I had to give her all the worms I dug up while planting the bulbs. And there were a lot of worms, since it had rained the night before and the soil was still damp and wet. Steffi took the wiggling creatures and hung them over the branches of the firs in our garden. “Silver tinsel for the Christmas tree,” she said, although Christmas was still two months away.
I ignored her, as I did most of the time. It was better than gagging her.
“Carrie, the worms don’t want to play,” Steffi announced six bulbs later, “They always fall off the Christmas tree. And now they’ve gone hard, too, like dry spaghetti.”
“That’s because they’re dead,” I thought, though of course I didn’t tell her. I didn’t want to attend the funeral ceremony Steffi would inevitably arrange, once she found out that the worms were dead.
“They don’t like hanging on the tree,” I said instead, “Would you like hanging over a branch? No, you wouldn’t. See? Now put the worms back where they belong.”
Maybe I should’ve been more forceful about stopping her. After all, I had signed the “Stop Animal Testing!” petition that was circulating at school. So I should do something about this clear case of animal abuse that was going on right here in my own garden. But I had tried to stop Steffi once, when she was drowning a large black beetle in an ill-fated attempt to teach it how to swim, and the result was a temper tantrum that made the eruption of a volcano look harmless in comparison. No way I was going through that again. Sorry, earthworms.
“I’m going to build a house for the worms,” Steffi declared.
“Fine, do that.”
At least she couldn’t do much harm, digging a new home for the rain worms. She would get her clothes dirty, of course, and Mum wouldn’t like that. But that was hardly my problem. Hell, I was getting dirty, too, and unlike Steffi I wasn’t enjoying it one bit.
At that moment I spotted another worm peeping out of the hole I had just dug for a particularly large tulip bulb. I pretended not to notice it, to save the poor creature from whatever fate my sister had planned for it.
Besides, Steffi seemed to be quite busy with building her earthworm house at the moment. If only she’d shut up. For unfortunately, Steffi was babbling endlessly. I tried to ignore her, but she wouldn’t let me. She demanded a reply to everything she said. And apart from the earthworms, she talked only about a single topic: Max and the cloud-cruiser.
Max was a boy who had lived in the neighbourhood. He was half a year older than Steffi, and the two of them had been the best friends in the world. But then, about two months ago, Max’s family had moved away and Steffi had lost her very best friend. It was very hard on her and I felt truly sorry for her. I knew how she felt. After all, I had already lost six best friends in my life so far. Of course, Steffi would get over Max in time. But for the moment she was lonely and sad. I did my best to cheer her up, but it didn’t really work. Cause Steffi thought of nothing but Max and of that ridiculous promise they had given each other.
That promise involved one of their strange games. Together, Max and Steffi had come up with something they called the cloud-cruiser. The cloud-cruiser looked like a normal cloud, but it was really combination of airplane and spaceship. Max and Steffi had spent hours dreaming up all sorts of strange journeys to fantastic countries and planets they would undertake with the cloud-cruiser.
When Max moved away, he promised Steffi that he would build a real cloud-cruiser and that he would come back to her. Then they would fly away together and visit all the places they had always dreamt of.
Since that day Steffi was waiting for Max’s return and she constantly talked of all the things she and Max would do once he had built the cloud-cruiser. It was useless to tell her that it was impossible for Max to built a real working cloud-cruiser and that he would never ever come back. She just wouldn’t believe it.
Even now, sitting in our garden building a house for earthworms, Steffi talked of nothing but Max and the cloud-cruiser. “We will fly to the land of marmalade trees, and I will bring you some lemon-lime marmalade. I know you like lemon-lime marmalade. And then we will go to the land of the elves and little people. We will save them from the evil wizard…”
I was hardly listening. Marmalade trees, elves, evil wizards, it all seemed so silly. Briefly, I wondered whether I had been like that, too, back when I was a little kid.
“…and then we’ll fly to the land of the Smurfs. Where real Smurfs live, not just toys Smurfs… — Carrie, look at the worm house!”
I turned around to take a look at the house. I had assumed she would dig a hole in one of the flower beds or something. But instead she had built a house of pebbles. The house resembled the prehistoric grave mounds we had visited on a school trip once. Quite fitting, actually, considering that the worms were already long dead.
“That’s very nice, Steffi,” I lied.
At that moment, there was an ear-splitting roar above our heads that startled both of us. Damn those military jets! Couldn’t they practice their flying skills somewhere else? I looked up to the sky, to catch a glimpse of the jet before it shot out of sight. Because I actually liked the look of those sleek aircraft. If only they weren’t so damned loud.
But then my eyes hit upon the source of the roar, and my heart nearly stopped. I was dreaming, had to be. This couldn’t be real. Because the cause of the noise was no military jet at all. It was a flying saucer — a real bona-fide flying saucer — and it was obviously going to land.
It was flying so low that I could see every little detail of the craft. The hull of greyish white metal. Colourful service-lights dotting the hull. Antennae and other indefinable equipment attached to the thing. I could even have read the writing on the side of it, if it hadn’t been written in characters I had never seen before. The roar was deafening, but I did not put my hands over my ears. I couldn’t even move. All I could do was watch the thing hovering directly above our heads for an instant, before it moved on, nearly grazing a lamppost in the process. It streaked across the meadow opposite of our house and finally touched down on the bank parking lot beyond.
"He has come back to me..."By: Cora Buhlert