Fiction · 04/07/2010

The End Of It All

A man and a woman fall in love and are married, and are happy in every single way.

Then one day a flying saucer lands in their backyard, and a door opens and an alien comes out.

I’m going to have to take one of you away, it says.

What? say the man and woman. Why?

I don’t know, says the alien. That’s just how it is.

And in the end, the woman gets taken away.

The man, of course, is extremely upset. He goes to the United Nations.

An alien stole my wife! he says. You have to do something!

We’re sorry, says the UN, we don’t deal with aliens.

The man goes to see the folks over at NASA.

We can barely get to the moon, NASA says. You’d be better off trying to build a ship on your own.

Okay, says the man.

He goes to the bookstore.

The man has never really been to the bookstore. He finds lots of interesting books there: science, and technology, computers, and how to build things.

He buys them all and goes home and reads.

After some time, the man thinks he’s ready. He builds a spaceship in his backyard. The first one doesn’t start, and the second one explodes, but the third one runs perfectly, like a dream.

So the man throws a whole bunch of food in a bag, picks up a gallon jug of water, grabs the photo of his wife off the piano, and gets in, turns the key, and takes off.

The man looks for years. He flies all around space, from one end to another and then back. He discovers many planets, many galaxies and stars. He even discovers a wide assortment of alien civilizations.

But every time the man asks: Have you seen this woman? all eyes stare blankly at the photograph.

No, they all say. We haven’t seen that woman. And on top of that, we’ve never seen a photograph.

Finally, after many, many, many years of searching, the man returns to Earth in defeat. He has become old— very old— and very, very sad.

The UN welcomes him with a grand ceremony.

For introducing our world to the great family of the stars, the Secretary-General says, we give you this medal. And also this certificate, already framed. We hope that you will hang it on the wall.

The newspapers are full of accounts of the man’s exploits. Biographies are written, portraits painted. Somebody somewhere composes a cantata. Streets are built and called the man’s name.

But the man doesn’t care about any of that. He sits in his house and thinks of his wife. He remembers every detail about her: what she looked like, where they met, what she liked and thought and said.

He remembers it all, just like it was yesterday.

He remembers it all, every day.

And then, finally, on his dying day, the man gets up and goes into the yard. He stands there and gazes up into the sky. Overhead, the stars twinkle down.

It was worth it! the man cries. It was worth it just to know you! It was worth it just to even know your name!

And in response, the sky explodes.

And he raises his arms to the flames.


Ben Loory lives in Los Angeles, in a house on top of a hill. His book Stories for Nighttime and Some for the Day is currently seeking a home.