The alien ship carefully lands on the Hudson River. Alien contact. Huge deal. First comes shock and stares – news cameras rolling, the government scheming to take away the body, Twitter exploding. Then questions – is the alien here to destroy or to enjoy? Will the world ever be the same? What does this mean for mankind? And finally the crackpots, the conspiracy theorists offering the world’s biggest “I told you so,” neatly altering their prophecies to match reality so they could claim the title of oracle. Before exiting the escape hatch and deploying the safety raft, the alien pauses to visualize their intentions. In the following moments, they are going to alter the course of all of humanity, and they want to savor the anonymity they are about to part with. They anticipate becoming earth’s biggest superstar: going to award ceremonies, shooting commercials, and partying with celebrities. It will be easy; from day one, they will be a star, because humans obsess over aliens. The cameras will capture their arrival, and they will never relinquish the attention. On Earth, the alien will be a big fish on a small planet. As the alien pulls themselves up and out of the sinking UFO, onlookers glance at the spaceship like it is a trash barge or a tugboat. The river ripples with the landing, but not enough to cause alarm or harm. The police don’t even send out a boat to see what has happened. Another crazy doing some stupid antic on the Hudson; not worth their time. The ship slowly sinks as the Alien rows to shore on an orange inflatable safety boat, reminiscent of a cruise ship ornament.
Within a few minutes, any sign of an alien arrival has disappeared. Maybe there is a conspiracy theorist screaming about the UFO at the bottom of the Hudson, but there are no photos, no videos, no surprise, no recognition. If a reporter cares enough to even pitch the idea, the best headline they could present in good faith would read “Alien spaceship lands on the Hudson - alien rows to shore, climbs onto Little Island park, and is absorbed by the crowd.” The alien arrives at a thin concrete beam that shoots out from the deep Hudson waters before flowering into a drum of concrete. They latch on, each suction cup on their fingertips locking onto the wall, a muscley pull up, and then an efforted struggle to release the suction cups so they could grab the next rung of concrete. How the hell do Octopuses make it look so easy the alien thinks after the fourth tug to free their hand finally releases the suction. Reeking of river water, the alien drips into the park. Dirty, mutant, slimy, gray, four-eyed, big-brained alien. “Excuse me, you’re getting our blanket wet. Can you move over there?” Startled, the alien looks down and sees a sunglassed couple snacking on charcuterie. Their first human contact. How lucky this couple is. They’re going to be famous just for being the ones to welcome me to earth, the alien thinks. The Alien pauses, waiting for an apology and a bask of excitement. Compliments, disbelief, and fascination. “Get your disgusting river water off my picnic blanket. What’s wrong with you, freak?” the man insults. This is no way to greet a weary traveler from light-years away who has come to entertain and befriend the people of Earth, the alien thinks. But they take solace in knowing that heroes write their own history, and this uncouth couple will certainly not be included in theirs. The alien mumbles an anxious apology before heading out the park’s exit. With their first step onto real Manhattan, the alien feels an electric excitement. Until now, the millions of miles of journeying have all been transit, not travel. Finally, they have arrived at the destination: New York in all its glory. Luxury condos and food delivery drivers reflect in the alien’s shiny saucer eyes. Trucks rumble and brakes screech on West Street as the alien steps out of the park. They take a glance back at the river, and there is no sign of a new ship. No going back now and good vibes only, the alien says to themselves as the beginning of a knot forms in their stomach. A quick stretch, a long deep breath to center themselves, and the alien is off to superstardom: the American Idol auditions. Simon and Randy will have a place for them. They’ll appreciate the alien’s exotic look. America will be buying SMS plans just to vote for them. This is the alien’s launchpad. They’ll be a muse, an artist, and most of all, a star. Past blocks of cheap pizza, designer jeans, and luxury gym equipment, the alien eye-fucks every single person they see, waiting for someone to make eye contact and approach. Who can blame them – they’ve been traveling a long way, waiting to finally meet people, and they’re ready for attention. They smile and gently shift their hips towards each person who walks by, gently beckoning them to start a conversation. The polite people simply do not look in the alien’s direction at all. Eyes down, they walk with purpose towards their next meeting. They have somewhere to go. The hurtful ones make eye contact for a split second, process the visual, and then instinctually dart their eyes downwards, afraid to see half a second more of the creature. Another moment and they’ll need eye bleach. The silent grimaces and avoidances add another loop and layer to the stomach knot. Self-assurance is slightly chipped away. Finally: sustained eye contact. The alien doesn’t play it cool but gives a gummy grin as a teenaged boy approaches them directly. White boy with baggy cargo pants, long, wavy, uncared-for hair, hand rings, and nose piercings. He wants to look like an extra from Kids, but his family is probably inside one of the nearby galleries, negotiating a purchase of avant-garde art that will surely only increase in value. The kid approaches, points a finger, and opens his mouth. “Holy shit, is that a costume? With those weird goofy limbs. Or are you really an alien? And is that all you’ve got? Where is your levitating brain, or shape-shifting tentacles?” “Um so I don't have tentacles or levitating brains, but I have an enlarged neural area and suction cups on my hands,” the alien replies, holding up their hands for examination. The boy reaches his hand over to the alien’s shoulder, pulls them close, and in a combo move of motion, grabs his moto razor, flips it open, finds the camera, and snaps a grainy photo of the two before spinning off. “Thanks. Cool,” the boy says as he continues past the alien. They wish they got some eye contact, but cool enough. Teenage boys can be cute-ish.
The alien arrives at the Javits Center ready to audition, inspiring themselves with positive affirmations along the way. “Paula is going to love you. Randy is going to love you. Even Simon is going to love you. You’re a muse. An individual inspiration. Let’s slay.”
Inside the convention center, an assistant producer eyes up at the alien, a gleam of enthusiasm as she considers calling over the camera crew to film and interview this weirdo so they have the footage when they inevitably fail. But like the eyes of onlookers walking past on the sidewalk, the attention fades after only a half moment. New York always has a thousand weirdos, and they shot more than enough peculiar footage yesterday. Years of producing the same formulaic reality show and she can identify the freaks just from the way they approach the desk: the right cocktail of genuine excitement and feigned self-assurance. The alien feels dejected. They wanted the cameras from the very start of this saga – that was part of their plan. “Can I help you?” the assistant producer asks in an uninviting tone. “I’m an alien, and I am going to the next American Idol. I’ve been streaming this show on my home planet for years and I just love it. 10 billion intergalactic options and I’m watching American Idol most nights. I’m ready to be a star and take the world by storm. The camera will love my exotic form and deep, black, oversized, almond-shaped eyes. What would the judges think of these?” they ask, showing off their suction cups. Excited to offer a rejection, the assistant gives her imitation of the hotshot producers who run the show. “Well America has certainly seen a lot of things, and it’s hard to really get them excited these days. Aliens used to be all the rage in the 70s, and there was a small spike after Alien vs Predator came out, but that has faded. Now, aliens are kinda passe!” “Well, I still can’t wait to audition and meet the judges,” they reply with the confidence and feigned self-assurance of a weirdo doing their best. The stomach knots are pulling tighter with every unenthused remark. They tack a number directly onto their gray flesh and wait patiently, slowly transitioning from bigger to smaller waiting rooms, before eventually arriving right outside the audition area. “This is my moment. I am going to steal the show. They are going to see a whole new approach, an alien approach to music and performance. You think computers are changing music? You won’t even believe the sounds we are conjuring. We make Aphex Twin drool like a baby with noises so experimental humans can’t even imagine. The experimental Alien sound show makes the Grammys look like an elementary school talent show. I’m going to bring the earth into the galactic age with this music. I can not believe that bitch thought Aliens are passe. I am literally from space,” the alien encourages themselves as they walk onto the stage. “Hello, judges.” The alien lingers on the s, almost flirtatiously. “Hi baby,” Paula answers before quickly averting her eyes. Simon, who can’t be bothered with pleasantries, is busy thinking of the insults he’ll use to send the alien home. “Today, I’m going to sing Aliens Exist by Blink-182. And I want you to know I’m excited to be here and make it to Hollywood. America is going to love this.” The alien closes their eyes and lets the music take over. The whiny pop-punk isn’t most contestants' first choice, but this song speaks to the alien. It’s the recognition from afar that they want. They are an alien. And they exist. Despite the nonbelievers and the doubters, someone out there knows who they are. The alien’s thoughts disappear and they enter a flow, like a jazz musician belting out notes. The groove doesn’t stop coming and every next sound doesn’t have to be thought of, instead appearing at just the moment it’s needed. The alien was born to be a star and this is their chance to shine. After 2 minutes of singing, Simon cuts off the alien halfway through the second chorus. Moans, screeches, sighs, and throated grunts strung together in a wild misshapen sound. If a cave painting could sing it would make these noises. Worse than the song is the smell, every single nose in the room is pinched. The unfinished song leads to immediate dejection.
“Quite honestly, one of the worst I’ve ever heard. You sing as if you come from another planet. Have you ever heard of harmony and pitch?” Paula works to hold back a giggle. “And your look. Horrific. Why do you stink like the sewer? You’re the farthest thing from an American Idol,” Simon says. Randy adds, “It’s wack, no doubt about it. I’m not sure there’s room for you in entertainment at all. I wouldn’t even want to look at you at a freakshow. I’m sure you’re a good person, but entertainment ain’t for you. You gotta find something else because this here ain’t it.” Paula stays silent. Sympathetic thoughts aren’t coming to mind. “Are you sure? Do you really feel that way, Simon? I am not quite sure how to put this one, but I am literally an alien. I came here today from outer space to audition for you. Do you even know how long a lightyear is? America loves aliens. We’re exotic and futuristic and scientific.” the alien snaps back. The alien throws up their hands and pops out their back, making their best attempt at power poses. “I’ve got such a unique look and sound. I am on earth to be a star. I think you’re wrong. And more than that. I think you know deep down that you are wrong, too. And you are just afraid of how great I can be.” “America loved aliens, but America won’t like you.” Simon retorts. The producer walks onto the stage to escort the alien away from the talent and signals for cameras to capture the imminent breakdown. It’ll at least be good stock B-roll. The Alien exits the audition room on the verge of tears. Lips quivering and voice shaking, they cover their face. They don’t want all of the other auditioners to see them in this state of shame, because they need to make a good first impression. They need people to love them, – even if it is just a drip. What would they think after seeing all the bravado the alien demonstrated just minutes earlier? The alien puts extra emphasis on their step to get away from the dreary waiting rooms and thorns of excited contestants. The energized anticipation of upcoming idol hopefuls makes the alien even sicker, and when they finally reach the door, they push hard, burst onto the sidewalk, take a few steps towards the street, and vomit onto a parked Porsche. A few more heaves and their stomach is empty, the knots beginning to loosen – the instant relief of throwing up. They wipe their mouth and walk a few steps the other way to sit down on the sidewalk. The alien puts their head in their hands and quietly cries. They came here for stardom, and not only was their ego just popped, not one single person along the way has been nice to them. Where are the cameras and the news anchors interviewing them about journeying to earth? Where are the sci-fi nerds who will worship them and pay for bottles of Alien breath? Where is all the love? Rather than feeling like a big fish in a small pond, the alien feels like Napoleon Dynamite. Unappreciated, unrecognized, and unheard. Regardless of what the Alien does, they are not accepted. They spend the next few months experimenting with new clothing styles, trying to join new scenes, and showing up to different bars and post-work activities, but everywhere they go, they are unappreciated. An outcast who can not even be looked at in the eye. And they can’t quite figure out why. They are literally an alien from Outerspace. How cool is that? TV shows and movies are made about aliens, but here is a real-life alien on earth, and no one could give a shit. The alien beats themselves up hoping to find an answer, some behavior or appearance they can modify to finally get the acceptance they crave. But they don’t find answers. Just dark thoughts and a spiraling depression.
Part 2: Lord Babe I Got High
Six months following their arrival, the alien is getting high and getting by. At first, they were able to maintain a job at the Coney Island freak show, disgusting audiences with their smell and showcasing their exotic suction-cupped hands for a few yawns – nobody ever gave them their real attention. No audience ever stared hard or looked deep into their eyes. Work was a pain, and all they would do while posing for audiences was think about how far reality was from prior expectations. The gap caused pain and the pain needed to be squashed, so they turned to the healthcare system. They started with a Xanax prescription, something to take the edge off. But the tolerance quickly grew and one pill became two, and before they knew it, they were searching for something better and found it in the needle. They wanted to feel normal for just a little while. Loved and cared for. A warm blanket ran through their veins, making them feel cuddled. Worry faded away and the present became tolerable. They could work for a day and then go home. Creeping thoughts of inferiority would cloud the alien's mind and they’d replay painful encounters like Simon’s feedback. Anxiety dreams would wake the alien and refuse to release them back to sleep. The alien would lie awake suffering with their self-inflicted thoughts or give up on sleep altogether and browse TikToks of the rich and famous When the pain became too much, the alien would hide behind the drape dividing the bedroom, and find bliss in the needle. They’d hit the mattress and forgot about all the different deodorants they tried out to or the ship decaying at the bottom of the Hudson unable to take them home. The next day they would spend all day at work jonesing to get high, and at some point, the work became unbearable. To be high is to have it all: excess, infinite serotonin. To feel a smile shine across your face onto the rest of the room. A love projects onto every eye you match with. And that love is received, and reciprocated. Glowing like a love bug zipping through the summer nights. The alien liked getting high. Life was a mess. Not what it should be. The lights camera action promised to the alien just never came. The Coney island clowns kept them sane, but they were all snorting schmetamine – drugs weren’t taboo. The clown taught the alien how to huff glue. Little bottle and phewww. Some highs were like being a superstar. Or innocent. Like the alien arrived brand new. On summer nights the alien would hang in the park after dark, searching for a spark. Something to keep them young and alive and hopeful. That is where they saw the woman. Innocently she approached. She saw a real-life alien. A gift from the universe onto Earth. And she cared. The alien appreciated her response. She looked intimately at the saggy gray flesh and veiny, spongy skull. The alien’s glowing eyes looked up from their shoes and into her pupils. Finally. Eye contact, the Alien smirks. A strong stare into her eyes and she steps a foot closer. She keeps looking deeply into their eyes, so the alien smiles brightly at her. The alien touches their hand to their brain and winces. A charge shoots out of their fleshy, oversized alien skull. The electric bolts cartoonishly spell out “Quick Love” in a mosaic of pepto pink swirls. The charge dances around her head before snaking into her heart and pushing straight through. She jumps. The electric sparks send shivers down every limb, shaking her out as if she was knocked on her funny bone. She jumps chaotically and lands with eyes popping, her pupils heart-shaped like Mickey Mouse. The alien used Quick Love: an alien mind control ability to make humans fall madly in love. A love potion. The aliens used to ship diluted versions to earth, but conspiracy theorists found out and the government shut the whole program down. Shame. It helped a lot of good people. Anyways, all the alien needed was some interested, genuine eye contact to get someone’s love and devotion. That’s why they needed the cameras. Stare into the eyes of the consumer state all at once and get everyone’s attention. Everyone’s love. Everyone controlled. Six months of suffering and they finally have their first follower. They’re behind schedule and their massive brain is atrophying. There’s no time to waste. The alien brings the girl closer into the park and whispers, “Little darling, soon the world will know how strong we are.” They hang long onto the s like Isaac Brock. “I came here to love my people, but now I will destroy them.” The evil bubbles out. “The humans did not want me. They kicked me, shamed me, and now they will suffer. Simon will suffer the most. We will climb to the tallest towers, get on the biggest screens, and train an army. Are you ready?” “Yes Alien Overlord,” she repeats with the authentic devotion of a Hare Krishna. The Alien marches away from Bryant Park and heads to the Empire State Building with their follower in tow. “If we can’t get on TV for love, we can get on TV for the second most powerful emotion: fear. I came to earth for camera culture. The screens in every hand. There wasn’t going to be an easier place for me to win.” The alien is getting more and more excited. They feel closer to victory. “When I set out for earth, I was planning to reach families with television in living rooms. But during the last few lightyears, the humans have thrown a screen into every single hand, from farmers in Indonesia to 4 year olds in strollers.” The aliens point to a homeless man laying on a bench, scrolling through messages. “We need them to see into me, to feel the Quick Love. We need to be on every screen. Mass adoption of Alien worship.” The alien approaches the Empire State Building and looks up. It will be an agonizing climb. especially for a junkie who hasn’t gone to the gym in months. They’ll probably have to stop to rest. Maybe even take the elevator up. I’m sure cameras would love the slow burn of the climb, but they won’t even start paying attention until floor 40, the alien thinks. Why do all that extra work? Think smart. The alien approaches the box office and buys two top deck tickets. $170.94 in total. The woman pulls a credit card from her purse, the 20% tip button is pressed, the receipt is declined, and the couple moves toward the elevators. The alien and their army of one get their own elevator. “The alien stinks. Get it out of here,” the tourists openly insult as they choose to wait for the next one. The couple reaches the top deck and the alien is grateful. The plan is coming together. They grab the girl and suction onto her, guiding her towards the balcony. Maybe aliens are passe, but damsels in distress aren’t going out of style, the alien reassures themselves as they throw the girl over the balcony. With true authenticity, she begins wailing. The alien is holding onto her tightly, but not pulling her up. The girl dangling cries help and the alien slowly climbs off the balcony so the two are wrapped in each other's arms on the side of the empire state building sanctioned to the wall. The other tourists rush over screaming. Death is close by. The alien sways the girl back and forth, teasing a 100-story fall that will only end in tragedy. The full moon lights up the alien's lanky form under the black sky. The alien turns to glare at the tourists and shouts to capture their attention. Sustained eye contact with as many pupils as they can for the few moments before their attention reverts back to the girl. Massive electrical zap, Quick Love explosion and boom: five more followers. The police are called. The news cameras are alerted. Snapchats, Tweets, Stories. The story spreads like a rumor. The alien grins with self-satisfaction as the hysteria increases. A helicopter begins to hum overhead with a brightly colored NBC Peacock on its side. They shoot a spotlight down and begin filming from afar while a camera man releases a drone into the night sky for the close-up. The drone slowly buzzes down, circling the Empire State Building for the right angle, and approaches the alien while leaving enough distance to stay safe. The drone’s red recording light is live, and as the drone pulls eye-level to the alien, the alien looks deep into the camera and smiles mischievously. “Hello Earthlings. Meet your Alien Overlord.” A massive charge exits the alien’s brain and shoots through the sky and across the oceans.