|FROM STIRRING EMBERS
He was the most bland and non-descript man I had ever met, and yet, I remember his face as well as my own. I am tall, dark and some eager or desperate women would think me handsome. I remembered him as sort of blonde and almost stocky. No special details to note, his features all being sort of average, like an alien interloper would assume. I nicknamed him X. His eyes, when I caught him looking at me, were of a color not definable, like deep water, dependent on the reflected image. You could only guess at what he observed or if he saw anything at all. I remember staring at his eyes, then looking to see if he carried a white cane. X was difficult to describe, yet I will never forget him.
I do not remember what X wore so he must have been dressed like all the other commuters on the Sylvan Park Metro Line. He sat directly across from me and I am sure he exited at the Elm Street Park exit, but I was in a hurry and rushed off, while he sat motionless. As I walked down the outside of the stopped car toward the steps, I saw through the window that X had moved or had exited, too. Curious, I stopped at the water fountain and stealthily observed each passerby, but did not see him. I did sense his presence and knew X was following me.
I did not favor walking the frightening four blocks to my apartment through poorly lit streets of a dangerous neighborhood in the dusk of December with someone dogging my steps. Cautious, I crossed to the other side of the transit stop and waited for the downtown run. No one seemed to be waiting for me and I had nothing but the sure mediocrity of television planned for the evening, so a diversionary trip seemed wise. Especially, because the briefcase I carried contained my only working copy of the Bozo Electron Detector.
This miraculous breakthrough, I first conceived while still a Doctoral candidate in Physics at Michigan State. That ended with great embarrassment. Later, I had a more spare time while teaching at the local Urban Community College and continued development of the electron sensor. I did so on the quiet, working in their well equipped laboratory nights, and their lack of awareness of my invention's importance caused an abrupt dismissal again. While unemployed, again, I worked on the project with my own meager funds. My field testing succeeded and I knew that it would rock the world when I published my discoveries.
Groping in my pocket, I found another token, and soon I heard the shrill whistle and oncoming rumble of the downtown bound Express 314, and almost on its appointed 6:33 schedule. I had used this train many times, while on the Community College faculty, albeit probationary. It did allow me clandestine access to their well equipped electronic labs, with the needed esoteric and expensive electronic tools I could not afford. If my jealous Teaching Assistant had not reported a little bit of unauthorized night-time usage of the laboratory, I would have been contentedly teaching numb nuts too dense to gain admittance to a real school, but the work on my detector was done, except for field testing.
Downtown traffic was light this early and only two young people and one yong and garish professional lady of the night, waited on the platform. I hesitated until the last moment before boarding and did not see X, my mystery stalker.
Still relatively flush with money from my last severance settlement, I decided to splurge on dinner at an Indian Restaurant, I had just discovered and liked because they did vegetables in a most savory manner. I would try scanning the downtown evening pedestrian traffic with my detector if the batteries still held sufficient charge. I could try an hour in front of WBBN studio hoping to catch their newscasters, and show them my Bozo Electronics Detector. I would have to scan them first, as I don't want to let any already infiltrated aliens know that my invention detects their internal circuitry.
The dinner was great although I panicked when I thought I tasted meat in the spiced peas. That would be typical of the Alien's poisoning tactics, and signify that the they were already aware of my electronic circuitry detecting ability. I couldn't scan for that give-a-way alien circuitry in any of the kitchen staff because my batteries failed, and it could be the taste of the cumin fooling me. With no reason to remain downtown if I couldn't test or demonstrate my gadget's alien detecting ability so I went home. I saw no sign of my shadow, but X was there.
The next morning, batteries charged and carrying two sets of spares, I left for the city with the commuters on the morning seven-ten. There X sat, across from me, ignoring my stares. When we reached Central, he left so I followed him. On fourth street, he unlocked and entered a barber shop, then snuck through a curtained door to the back room. Switching on my detector, I entered the shop quietly. I had the very sensitive but heavy ceramic cone antenna unit up in front of me, like a skeet shooter bracing to shoot. It detected a strong signal, when he came back almost bumping the detector cone. My BED's power meter read full signal transmitting and left no doubt that X was an alien.
Sure, he wore a barber's and I would have thought him such, if I didn't have my detector pointed at his head. He tried to confuse me, offering me his money and wallet, like he thought me a common thief. Aliens are very clever! I was unarmed and worried that he would de‑energize me so I hit him with the heavy cone end of my alien detector very hard, again and again. I saw a miniature electronic circuitry unit pop out of his bleeding ear, and I knew I had destroyed another alien invader. You tell me that I killed an innocent but near deaf barber and all the circuitry I detected was only remnants of his smashed hearing aid. Well, maybe. And maybe you are real detectives as you claim and not aliens but if you'll let me have my detector, I can tell for sure.
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