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The Recruiter

John Spry is deeply involved with storm water management and civil engineering; only part of the time from behind a desk. He crawls through pipes under dams and goes underground to inspect the secret places where the rain goes when most other folk have long forgotten about it. He has been a landscaper, a forester, a stream restorer in a life devoted to saving a planet upon which he has too often felt like a stranger. His passion is storytelling and most often those tales are about worlds as far away as the farthest star, but as close as a breath taken in a dream. He lives in Maryland near Annapolis with his wife and three cats.

"I want to get inside your alienation," said the woman in the coffee house. "I want to know it."
"No you don't," he replied.
"You spoke of a membrane, a line, a threshold," the red-haired woman threw the words out as if she had spit them at him.
"It is crossed by the age of thirteen," he began slowly, holding his small pencil exactly like a cigarette, "Boys cross it mostly, but it's not only boys. It's just that I do not know what becomes of lonely girls. I do not care."
She nodded and he could tell that she didn't care about women either. He liked that.
"This line," she started with her eyes down into her cup of coffee, "On one side is what?"
"Being human."
"On the other?"
"Being an alien."
"Alien, like from space?"
"Aliens don't come from space. They are born here on Earth and then made."
She leaned back in her chair and gazed out of the window. The street was crowded and the United States Naval Academy was only a grenade throw away. She looked at him and was silent.
Silent men have some power.
Silent women can yank God right off the throne.
He continued, despite all of his warnings to himself.
"A young man at thirteen, or fourteen, after a childhood of some disappointments, usually an only child, not always, begins to be picked on by his so-called peers. Remember that saying about standing up to a bully?"
She nodded.
"In these cases it would result only in genocide. He, the tormented young man, if he struck back, would only prove that he was dangerous. The humans would have no choice at that point but to remove a threat to their species."
He watched her closely. She still did not move.
"The young man is driven into the dark place. It's not a metaphor. It's a pocket dimension only open to those driven down into it. There are others down there."
Her voice actually startled him.
"It is hard to tell. One day, this kid crosses a line. He begins to think in terms of 'them' and 'himself'. He looks into the eyes of a human and he sees an animal. He is ready. He could kill a human as easily as a human might a deer. He will feel nothing. Why should he? He is an alien being. I'm not being glib here or cute. His brain no longer functions biochemically like a human's. He is from another planet."
He took the last sip of coffee, always the saddest and coldest, and watched her face. He had made her smile.
"You interest me," she said. "Can we meet tomorrow?"
Without another word the tall red-haired woman left the coffee house. She walked along King George Street and looked over at the Naval Academy like a lioness looks at a herd of zebra. She smiled.
They had their patsy. This one had taken decades to mold. They had murdered his father when he was nine, left him with an alcoholic and deranged mother who abused him, and then made certain that he was driven into the "dark place" as he had called it.
The dark place.
She had never heard it put into those terms before. She wondered if all the patsies created over time by Those Who Must Not Be Named had thought of the experience in those terms.
It was kind of funny when you stopped and thought about it.
Big tough alien from the dark place.
He had taken one look at her green eyes, thick lips, and large breasts and had fallen harder than Adam. They always did.
He would sit here on that day waiting for her; big grin on his face, and the Annapolis Police and FBI would storm in here and get their man.
She wondered idly if this one would have the showmanship to mutter, "This is it," and slug a cop and then start yelling "I am not resisting arrest! I am not resisting arrest!"
The one in Dallas had done that.
Now that had been a real hoot.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, August 8th, 2011

Author Comments

For every creature, no matter how alienated, there is a recruiter. This story surprised me in many ways. It’s not exactly part of the mythos that I enjoy writing about, on the other hand it is to some degree. A man tries to impress a woman by telling her in a barely disguised way of his own experience of alienation, the implication being that he is a “big bad threat.” Of course, as is often the case, the woman is a thousand times more “bad" than he can possibly imagine. In fact, she appears to be part of a mysterious force that has set him up to be a patsy. It is implied at the end that this woman is diabolically more than human if she can remember Lee Oswald’s recruitment and that making a patsy is a process that takes a lifetime. Personally as someone old enough to recall seeing Oswald shot on television, the jury is still out in my mind as far as Dallas 1963 is concerned. I tend to agree with Norman Mailer that he could have acted alone. After all, no one told Oswald that it couldn’t be done. The problem of alienation tasks me. Why do some come out of it and commit injustices, while others become bards and touch our hearts? Ah, if we only knew.

- John Robert Spry
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