Author : Ray Daley

The Misthkthos had been on Earth over a year when I talked to my first one. They’d come in peace, landed in a quiet region and strolled out of their ship into the night to check out our planet.

Easy enough to spot them as aliens you’d think? Then you’d be thinking wrong because they look just like me and you. Admittedly with subtle differences but you could have sex with one of them and never know it. Don’t worry, no chance of them getting you pregnant or leaving you with a nasty alien STD. Our blood chemistry differed slightly.

But that slight difference was enough to mean we couldn’t catch their diseases and they couldn’t catch ours.

So how did I spot him?

Sitting at a table in the truck stop diner wearing a faded red plaid shirt, jeans and cowboy boots. He looked like every other wanna-be cowboy in the joint.

“Mind if I sit here?” I asked, gesturing to the empty seats opposite him.
“Help yourself, free country or at least that’s what they say.” He had the twang of the accent and the world-weary cynicism down to a tee.

I started eating my burger and fries. “Damn good food here.” I said.
“Ain’t that the truth,” he replied “I always stop in here when I’m in these parts.”

He hadn’t blinked, his poker face was near perfect. His one mistake, the subtle tell that gave him away.

I figured I’d see if I was right.
I lowered my voice. “Hello Space Boy.”

He said nothing. He took another gulp of his coffee with his right hand.

“Tell me I’m wrong then.” I said quietly.
Again he said nothing.
I fixed him with a gaze. “I could repeat it, only louder if you want? Or you can tell me I’m wrong?”

He put his coffee cup down onto the table and looked me right in the eyes. “What was it?”
“What gave you away, you mean?” I said.
“Yeah. I thought I had this whole routine perfected. No-one ever noticed before.” he said.

I glanced toward at his left hand. “Pass me the salt.”

He was probably unaware he’d been fiddling with the salt cellar from the moment I’d walked in and almost certainly from the second he’d taken his seat.

His people had a glut of many of things on their planet. Salt however was in very short supply. They’d seen our oceans full of the stuff and made their way across the stars to trade with us. But as they’d learnt our many languages from TV and radio transmissions they thought they had a good idea how visiting aliens were received.

IE:- very badly and with deadly force.

So they’d chosen to hide amongst us until the time to trade was right.

“Damn. Was it that obvious?” he asked me nervously.
“Only if you know what to look for. And I did.” I replied.
“So what’s it going to cost me to keep you quiet? You know we hate violence. I’ve got plenty of great technology I can trade?” he asked me.

I smiled at him. “I guess that ship of yours is pretty well hidden?”
He nodded.
“Good,” I replied “then you can give me a lift home. I’ve been stuck here ever since I crashed in Roswell a few decades back. I promise I won’t tell if you don’t?”

He smiled at me. “When do you want to leave?” he asked.
I looked over to the counter and called to our waitress. “Miss, can I have this to go please? I think I just got a ride home.”

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