There were aliens in What Cheer, Iowa, aliens with platinum skin and tentacles adept at probing populations, aliens opening up minds and internal organs, flaying off skin and sinew with minimal host damage, aliens who knew their work was little more than basic administration, data entry if you will, the sexier aliens flying off to supernovae and spiral nebulae, slinging atomic splice guns and all that jazz, hunting for dark matter clusters and foundations of the universe kind of stuff, but that didn’t bother these admin aliens, these data-scouring aliens, these pop-you-over-the-head and really try to understand you ones, because they liked the scope of work in rural midwestern areas, the sky was big and the topography was never undulating, minds fell open like dried corn husks revealing stars and island universes, and the weather was nice, the wind whistled over fields of poppy and soy, the sun melted into a pencil-flat horizon, just one sun, always dissolving, so no they were not down in the dumps about their lot in life, their mission to log sentience, punching in numbers on triangular devices while the mavericks hopped wormholes in Andromeda, because sometimes a local would awake in the middle of a probing, eyes peeling open and uncertain, analyzing, figuring it all out, this corner of a corner of a corner of a diminishing galaxy.
Jonathan Cardew’s micro and flash appear in Cincinnati Review, Passages North, Cream City Review, wigleaf, Smokelong Quarterly, and others. His story from Atticus Review, “A World Beyond Cardboard,” was selected to appear in the Best Microfiction anthology 2021. He lives in Milwaukee, Wis.
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