Author: Dean J Tantillo

I don’t remember much, aside from hiding between the garage and the fence, and seeing my grandmother chopping heads off garden snakes with a hoe. And that gigantic lilac bush, the one that shielded me and my secret passageway from view as I pondered what it would be like, what I would be like, when I reached age forty-three. Why forty-three? I don’t remember. Maybe it was just that such an age seemed unreachable.

Now, at age forty-four, I’m allergic to lilac. And cats, but I have one. And, it would seem, objects that swing. Not allergic, really, but filled with anxiety when I see them. Or when I fail in suppressing thoughts of them. Not just playground swings, but tree branches, wind chimes, and picnic umbrellas. I hate picnic umbrellas, their poles rattling in their tables’ holes on breezy days. Makes my neck crawl. I dread my son’s school picnics.

But I’d rather be sitting under a rattly umbrella than here in this deep cave on this desolate world hunting aquidneks for sport.

I tried to hide my condition, but the examiner teased it out via surprisingly astute observation. That got me into the Databank of Unexplained Deficiencies — the one-stop-shopping site for wealthy abductors with unconventional passions and peccadillos.

“Cadence,” she said, “It will be one short trip.”
“I don’t want to leave my son,” I said.
“Not your choice,” she snapped.

Now I’m here, transmitters stuck in my arms and chest and head. The panic-induced changes to my vitals reporting back on the locations of the dangling beasts – exceedingly difficult to spot if not acutely tuned, by distress, to their motions. If only I could climb that swinging ladder without passing out, I could get out of here.

There’s a group now. Shit, I wish I could defocus. Well, at least I won’t have to see it happen, being unconscious and all. They’ll probably just load me onto the flatbed with the severed top stalks, all of us unnaturally still, and haul us away. Still, the mark in my file will be there forever. Where my son can find it.

My son. I long for the days when we did art projects together. The days when he would make finger paintings and I would use them as backgrounds for sumi-e-style pictures. My favorite was the jellyfish we created from his off-center red splotch. When my condition flares, I think of that one, a lone happy memory of something that sways. Well, used to till I trapped it on paper. The one time I succeeded in damping the sway and no one died.