I woke with a gasp. My brain was thick with cotton wool. I shivered; the table underneath me was hard and metallic, and the coolness seeped through my shirt. I flexed my arms, but couldn’t move; my body was strapped to the table.
Had there been something in that drink at the bar? It had tasted off. Bar? What bar? I tried to remember more; Who am I? What was I doing in that bar?
The first question was the easiest to recall. Memories trickled back and my name â€“ my real name â€“ was the first thing to return. I was Nick Thompson. How odd; despite the fog in my brain and all the aliases, the nom de plumes, I could still remember my own name before any of the others. I was 39. I could remember that now as well.
But what was I today? Before I’d passed out, had I been an investment banker? Or was I a journalist today? Or a civil servant in the Ministry of Defence? My brain was addled, and I couldn’t remember. That was disconcerting. I was used to being in control or my thoughts and emotions; now, I was scared.
I was looking at at dark ceiling. In my peripheral vision, I could detect a light, but that merely made shadows in the darkness. My stomach churned.
My voice rang off the walls â€“ judging by the chill in the air, the whole room might have been made of metal â€“ and I flinched at how harsh it sounded. There wasn’t any response; I was all alone. I considered calling out again but I didn’t want to appear desperate. I was desperate, of course, but now wasn’t the time to admit that. I tried to gather my emotions. I took in a deep breath, and a second and then a third.
My brain became to clear; whatever drug had been put into my system was clearing, and that allowed me to think again. Iâ€™d clearly been found out, but I wondered by whom. Who was seeking revenge on me? I ran through a mental list of candidates, but there were so many people Iâ€™d pissed off; the Mob, the Mafia, treacherous scientists, engineers, investors. The list went on.
I then remembered the most recent con; it had been astonishingly simple. It didnâ€™t require any special effort on my part, aside from knowing where the best selection of credulous people were. The States had, depressingly, seemed like the most obvious place to start. Iâ€™d spent the past nine months travelling the country, convincing people that Iâ€™d been captured by aliens. I’d interspersed my alien trickery with some other
Iâ€™d appear in a town, dishevelled and upset â€“ perhaps with a few rips and tears in my clothes for good measure â€“ and Iâ€™d beg to be taken to the local hospital, as Iâ€™d just survived a brutal assault, but couldnâ€™t recall who by. During the process of being checked out, Iâ€™d â€śrememberâ€ť certain things, like â€¦ oh, I donâ€™t know, the MRI machine reminding me of a machine that tortured me, or a thermometer being similar to an electrical device.
It was touching how quickly people started to believe in you once you cried and yelled for a little bit. It was even scarier how many peopleâ€™s good nature could be turned to your way of thinking once theyâ€™d seen that; theyâ€™d give you a decent meal, a room for the night and some money. What they had wasn’t much, but neither was their home security; I could easily break into their houses in the dead of night ad leave without a trace. Being the trusting, gullible fools they were, they didn’t check their stashes daily like I did. By the time they did check, I was always long gone, my wallet, stomach and rucksack would all be bulging from the weight of generosity.
No, of course I never felt guilty; why should I? If these people were more gullible than clever, then they deserved to get fleeced. Everyoneâ€™s got to make a living, right? Well, this is mine.
I had been hiding out in a cornfield, waiting for the townsfolk to leave the city limits where theyâ€™d waved me off after five daysâ€™ worth of kindness and friendship and money. Iâ€™d told them I was going to the train station, but sod that; the next town was only a dayâ€™s walk away, and why spend money on a train ticket when the shoes that Iâ€™d been given were practically new and would get me there quite comfortably.
Why couldnâ€™t I remember how Iâ€™d got here?
A figure appeared in my peripheral vision. I couldnâ€™t turn my head, so I was only aware of a vague shape for a moment, until he came more into my eye line directly above me. A grey alien being, with a bulbous head, large, oval eyes and no mouth, peered down at me, no expression on its smooth, blank face.
Now that I was listening properly, I heard some chittering in the background; it sounded like insects were busily working away on a hundred different tasks. But here, in this clinical, metallic space? That wasn’t possible. It had to be more of this creature’s kind, it had to be.
â€śOh god!â€ť I cried. â€śHelp me! Please, someone help me!â€ť
In the next room, Andrew Chatterjee watched through the two-way glass at Nick.
Andrew smiled. Heâ€™d never been directly affected by Nickâ€™s lies but, as a police lieutenant, had seen its after-effects often enough; communities upset and disturbed by his lies, and their failure to see through him. Some people had even committed suicide through the shame.
This was Andrewâ€™s chance for some revenge. Strictly off-the-books, of course, but very worthwhile.
Letâ€™s see how far we can push this.