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The Keys

That’s one thing I’ll say about the aliens: they really appreciate a good bowl of ramen.

Fiction | Fiction, Flash Fiction
December 19, 2022

On the Christmas Eve the aliens abducted me, I was attempting to parallel park my Honda Fit against the curb of a busy Super Target. Forever and ever my husband tried to teach me how to park, and forever and ever I failed to learn until one day he gave up trying. He gave up on me. 

When I saw the picture of another man’s penis light up his phone, I looked away. My husband was in the shower at the time, so I made sure to call over the water. “I’M GOING TO THE SUPER TARGET,” I yelled. “TEXT ME IF YOU NEED ANYTHING.”

They keep the best Target coupons on the back two pages of the circular. I rolled up that week’s flyer and tucked it in the side pocket of my parka like it was a telescope. I always went to the same Target. I could slide from one aisle to the next, threading through the store and back again with my eyes stapled shut, no problem. 

The aliens were drawn to the bright colors of my pocketed Target advertisement: the smiling, toothy babies in disposable diapers, the pinwheels, the pinafores, the four-pack of frozen enchiladas. What’s this? they said, pointing. “A box of maxi pads,” I answered. This? “A nutritional smoothie beverage. And that right there is a pool floatie.” 

My first night on the spacecraft, I lay in my luxe waterbed wondering why my captors’ accents were so thick, like they were from New Jersey or something. South Philly, I don’t know. Personally, I was born and raised in a suburb of Milwaukee, but I’d seen plenty of cop shows over the years. The Sopranos. Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. The Alpha Alien looked a little like Tony Soprano. Same fashion sense with a bathrobe that flapped open as he paced up and down the craft. 

Every meal we had ramen. That’s one thing I’ll say about the aliens: they really appreciate a good bowl of ramen. None of that dried-out, instant stuff either. Truly delicious. A nice thick broth with hand-pulled rice noodles. 

By my third day on the ship, I’d begun wondering about the testing. Wasn’t anyone going to clone my DNA? “What’s a girl gotta do to get probed around here?” I said at one point. But they just laughed and asked if I knew how to play Jenga. 

Days passed like that: ramen, Jenga, a little Monopoly Deal. There was a nice hot tub I liked to soak in from time to time. Eventually we stopped at an exoplanet frame shop to get the Target flyer framed. Afterwards they gave me a crown and said they’d call me QUEEN FATIMA from now on. Fine. Great. What did I care? I was happy. It sure beat being regular old Fatima, a failed parallel parker from suburban Wisconsin. 

I wondered if my husband even missed me. Maybe he was too busy with Penis Selfie to notice I was gone. After zipping around the Milky Way for ten days, I asked to be dropped off at the Target parking lot. “This was fun, you guys,” I said, “but I swear to God I never want to eat another bowl of ramen for the rest of my life.” At first, they protested and a few tears were shed, but they obeyed their QUEEN FATIMA in the end. 

My Honda Fit was nowhere to be found when I returned. I figured someone had probably towed it. But then I looked up to see the Super Target was missing, too. In its place: a megastore four times its size. QUEEN FATIMA’S EMPORIUM OF EXTRAORDINARY DELIGHTS the sign read. Amazing, I thought. Excellent, excellent. 

I dug into my parka pocket to discover my car keys missing. In their place: the cool metal of a foreign chain. I fished it out, holding the chain up under the street light, the air crisp and cold around me. New keys. A fresh start. Adrenaline ringing in my system, I shook them proudly, marveling at their jangle and shine.