Professor Applebaum drove down the dark, highway barely able to keep his eyes open. He was still about two hours away from the small, college in Ohio where he was to deliver a lecture on the significance of linguistic evolution in modernist and post-modernist poetry. He could barely keep his eyes open and his stomach growled with hunger.
He saw several signs advertising sustenance of the greasy spoon variety. He got off at the advised exit and drove down a dark winding road that seemed to go on for miles. He saw a sign that said Billy Bob’s Truck Stop. He speed up a bit at the thought of the delectable food he was about to eat when all of a sudden a bright light flashed in front of him and he felt an enormous thud. He got out of his car in a daze. Standing before him was a little green man with antennas. He had his hands on his hips and was looking at the enormous dent that Professor Applebaum’s Honda had left in his small, square shaped space craft.
“Look at this!” The creature exclaimed. “What are you going to do about this!”
“Um, I….I mean I have insurance its Allstate. Just let me get my card.”
“Are you being series, what mechanic on this planet is going to know how to fix a craft like this, huh, answer me that?”
“So then you are a …an, um I mean a space alien.”
“I prefer the term non sapien earth resident.”
“I see. Well perhaps I can just give you some money and you can go to a planet where you can get it fixed. Is it still flyable?”
“Not to where it will make it to another planet. Someone will have to come down and help me. I’m afraid he won’t take your currency.”
“Well, I really am sorry.”
“Look, there is a way you can help me. I trust you were on your way to the truck stop.,” the creature said.”
“Yes, I was.”
“Well you can buy me dinner. I’m just going to hide my craft in the forest. I’m Squark, by the way.
“Thomas Applebaum,” the professor said putting out a hand.
Applebaum and the alien arrived at the truck stop about fifteen minutes later. Applebaum was certain that someone would see them and think that his companion was a child in a costume or they would get out a shot gun and kill them both. Instead they walked in unnoticed and sat down in a corner booth. They each ordered large meals with a big basket of onion rings to share. Squark drank beer while Applebaum drank coffee.
“So what do you do” The Squark asked stuffing an onion ring in what Applebaum had assumed was his ear.
“I’m a professor of English at the University of Chicago.”
“Wow, I’ve heard of that place. Are you just taking a road trip?”
“I’m giving a lecture at Oberlin. But, more importantly what brings you here?”
“I’m a research scientist. My planet is dangerously underpopulated. I’m here to study mating habits of earthlings.”
“I see, well we are a rather populous species. How do you go about getting subject?”
“Craigslist, mostly. Occasionally I’ll find people on Facebook or a local watering hole.”
“I’ve noticed people who’ve had encounters with ali…I mean with non sapien earth residents, often hail from the south, is that why you chose Kentucky?”
“Actually, I chose it because it was centrally located. But, that’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about. You see the demographic of the people we normally abdu…recruit tends to be low income, middle-aged Caucasians who are not particularly well educated. We’d like to have more educated test subjects.”
“I see, “said Applebaum uncomfortably.
“We in the non sapian community also need to have more credibility and respect and we can really only do this if we affiliate ourselves with more sophisticated people.”
“Uh huh,” Applebaum gulped his coffee.
“I’d like you to participate in a study. It wouldn’t involve anything more than answering a few questions.”
“Well, I’m very flattered, but it’s just that I’m awfully busy.”
“Well, you did ding my ship.”
“How long would it take?”
“A few hours. Of course we would also asked to, you know go on the news and talk about your experience taking the test.”
“I’m afraid I wouldn’t be willing to do that…”
“Well, I mean a lot of people you know, doubt your existence and well, I have a certain reputation to uphold.”
“That’s why we want you. You’re very credible.”
“Well, I’d like to keep it that way. I don’t understand this, if you want people to know about you why don’t you just tell them yourselves.”
“We tried that on YouTube, but we only got twellve likes. People said our costumes were stupid. We can’t go on the news, someone would try to kill us.”
“Well, I will take the test, but that’s all.”
Suddenly Applebaum began to feel dizzy. The room began to spin and so did the faces of the dozen or so bearded strangers that were in the restaurant.
When Applebaum awoke he was lying on a comfortable bed in a dark room. He looked out the window and so stars flying by him at an astounding rate. He sprang to his feet and hit his head on the ceiling. He sat back down and Squark came into the room carrying a note pad.
“Okay, Mr. Applebaum, now maybe we can begin.”