Theresa heads home on the subway. Near her, the lights flicker over a man, alone.
Handsome bones on the man, but in the flashes of light, it is as if you took an all-American quarterback from somewhere in the middle of the country, skinned him, and stretched the skin over a mannequin. Jim Carry teeth shine stupidly on his resting face.
Initially drawn to the corn-fed look, Theresa wishes she would have sat somewhere else.
“My name is…” and he says… something. But no name Theresa has ever heard. It sounds like several people whispering. “But my alternative man name is Constiggity.”
“Ok,” she says. Her goddamn feet hurt from standing on them all day at the hospital, and she can hardly muster fear for this bozo.
She glances around and finds a domestic looking man with a mustache. She stares at him until he looks. She makes a “this fucking guy,” head jerk towards the man. Constiggity.
The man gets it, eager to be a hero. Like all domestic men. He steps closer and Theresa feels marginally safer. A creep for a lesser creep.
“Mommie, are we home yet?” says the boy sleeping next to her, about 9.
“No, Marco,” she says. “Go to sleep.” She pets him. He is forced to walk to her hospital after school and wait around for her. The more sleep he can get, the better, no matter where it is. She doesn’t want him falling behind in school.
“Marco…” muses Constiggity. “A man’s name for the stars, if I am ever to know one.”
Marco laughs. Theresa tries to shush him.
“What kind of name is Constiggity?” he asks. Theresa makes a mental note of how convincingly he pretends to be asleep. The curse word he said in school the other day suddenly makes sense.
“An alternative man name,” says Constiggity. He speaks like a ghost trying to learn English, only having previously known some forgotten tongue.
Marco giggles. “You mean a nickname?”
Theresa tries to get him to stop, but that won’t happen unless she makes a scene. With this man, that seems like something to avoid. Her heart-rate begins to rise, which is saying something because she sees people with limbs missing in the ER a few times a week.
“Is Nick a man’s friend?” asks Constiggity.
“No, it’s just like a name instead of your real name,” Marco says, doing a good impression of his teacher’s tone.
Constiggity takes in that information as if it were rapture. He closes his eyes, his teeth still frozen in a ventriloquist dummy’s smile.
The mustache man watches him, the situation feeling more and more outside the scope of his manly call of duty. The woman makes a small pleading expression.
20 minutes later, everyone has gotten off the train except the mustache man, Theresa, and Constiggity. The mustache man stands at the next stop.
“Can you just walk us home?” Theresa says, trying not to let the fear in her voice.
“Sorry, ma’am,” he says. “Wife’s waiting on me…” He hurries off before she can beg. She watches him go, afraid to turn back around.
When she does, she yelps. Constiggity’s gray eyes are on her now. There is no white to them. Just steel grey.
“What’s wrong, Mommie?” Marco says.
“Nothing!” she says. She determines to get off at the next stop, even though they will have to walk 10 blocks to their little apartment. She grips Marco’s hand.
“My legs are alive to be with yours as you travel,” Constiggity says.
“No thank you!” Theresa says, using all her mother’s power in her voice. Trying to, anyway.
“Shut up!” Constiggity says, entirely pleasant, clearly unaware of the connotation. “I am insisting.”
Sweat gathers on her skin. “Mommie, you’re hurting my hand,” Marco says.
“C’mon,” she says. She stands as the train slowly. Constiggity stands, too.
She does not turn.
She does not turn around.
The train stops. She pushes the door open and runs.
She does not look back.
She does not look back as she takes the stairs two at a time.
At the top of the stairs, she turns. No one is there.
She takes a deep breath.
“Are you scared of Constiggity, Mommie? I think he just wanted to play.”
“Don’t go near a man like that, ever. OK?”
Marco thinks. “OK,” he says, in the way that she knows he is lying. She will deal with it later. They walk briskly. She tugs on his arm.
They turn the last corner to their apartment. She freezes.
The man is at their door.
“Look, Mommie, it’s Constiggity!”
She groans a little.
Remembering, she digs in her bag for the mace. She fumbles with it for a frustratingly long time, then holds it up.
When she looks up again, he’s gone.
The door slams shut, she locks it in 4 different ways. She finally takes a sigh of relief.
Marco wanders upstairs as she talks on the phone with her brother. He can’t come tonight, but he can be here…
Marco goes to his window on the second floor. He pulls back the curtains and Constiggity stands in the center of the street.
Constiggity waves back like he is controlled by a first-time puppeteer. After a few experiments, he gets the idea across.
In a flash, a beam of light shines down on Constiggity. The strange man gazes up at the source, which is too high up for Macro to see, even if he smooshes his face all the way up on the cool glass.
The light first strips Constiggity of his skin-suit.
Under the not-so-convincing corn-fed costume, is a gray alien body. It is slender with a huge head. The eyes have whites after all, they were just too large for the little human eye-holes. It blinks and shakes off the human a little.
The light begins to lift the alien.
Instead of being pulled into whatever the light was coming from, Constiggity simply dissolves into pure light, floating right at Marco’s eye line.
He stares at the spot silently for a long while.
“Marco!” his mother calls. “I can’t sleep. Do you want cereal?”
“Yeah!” Marco says, skipping down the stairs. “Can I have Cinnamon Toast Crunch?”