HE WAS DANGLING FROM THE upper corner of my typewriter window, upside-down and scowling, when I first saw the Man from Mars.
That’s what he was, no doubt about it. He was three feet tall, emerald green where the spacesuit didn’t cover him, and with more-than-vestigial antennae sprouting from a large bulbous head. His expression mingled disappointed with disbelief, as though his worst hopes had been realized about a minute before he appeared.
“I cannot believe you people,” he was saying. “Just can’t believe it.”
“I’m not sure I believe in you either,” I said.
He climbed down around the sill until his scowl was level with my eyes. “That’s not what I meant,” he said. “Would you mind opening the window?”
“I would,” I said. “How do I know you’re, you know … not part of some invading force?”
“Because I can’t even open the window by myself,” he said. “The latch is on your side.”
“So it is,” I said, and raised it.
He stepped into the room. The spacesuit was ribbed silver and sans helmet, although a tubed canister on his back suggested its existence somewhere nearby. Most likely in a flying saucer, of course.
“This is why I contacted you,” he said, looking up at me with hands on glistening hips. “You remember.”
“Remember me. Remember us. The little green men from another world. Few do these days. I mean, you still use a typewriter. And not for irony.”
“I like to pound the words into the paper,” I said. “It feels like I’m sculpting them.”
“Whatever. You still remember the Old Ways.”
“I thought I was the only one who used that term. You mean, of course, when the future was shiny and worth a damn?”
“When there was a future. These days it’s all zombies, and mutants, and vampires, which are by the way the most pretentious of all the undead.”
“No question there,” I said. “But what do you mean?”
“What was the first post-apocalypse you remember?” he asked. “Mad Max, wasn’t it?”
“No, Road Warrior,” I answered. “I missed the first film somehow. But I had a subscription to Heavy Metal. The Church of Moebius.”
“Whatever. Remember the world situation then?”
“Sure. 1980s. Ronald Reagan and the Evil Empire. We kept expecting nukes to drop every evening.”
“Right. Sure did take off, though, didn’t it?”
“What do you mean?”
“Post-apocalypticism. It’s a very seductive look: dead cities, mutants trading in the wrecked underbelly, black trenchcoats, green lighting. It’s very easy. Not like futurism — optimistic futurism, anyway. See the connection now?”
I didn’t, and said so. He looked at me with patience.
“You weren’t expecting the future anymore…” he began.
My heart froze.
He looked at me in sad silence.
“My God. What happened to us?” I asked. “This is why there’s no jetpacks – we’ve torn down all the launchpads and replaced them with franchised dead things.”
“That is about the size of it,” he said. “That’s why I’m here — to say goodbye, to someone who’d miss me.”
“But wait! What about Roswell?” I asked. “Flying saucers are still part of the brain politic.”
He stepped to the window, put a leg up. “But those saucers crashed,” he said. “And you people autopsied the occupants. See?”
Then he was gone.
I hope he comes back.