Author: David Henson

I motion toward the two interns. “You can all come in now.” Unpronounceable frowns at me. “I mean, both of you,” I say. The three enter my office.

The two students leave after I give them their assignments. “You need to be more careful,” Unpronounceable says.

“They just think I’m an absent-minded professor. They’ve no idea you’re shadowing me. For all I know, other Triplorians are studying them, too.” I search Unpronounceable’s face for a clue as to whether I’m right, but he learned well from observing one of my poker nights.

Unpronounceable appears as a human to me, but no one else can see him. At first, I thought I was losing my mind. So did everyone I told about him. The more he reveals about what he’s doing on earth, and the more I try to warn people, the crazier they think I am. You’d think someone else who’s being shadowed would come forward and support me.

“I’d like to go to a laundromat this evening,” Unpronounceable says.

“What on earth for … pardon the pun.” I chuckle.

“I want to go to the laundromat because it’s part of the human experience. I don’t want to stick out like a dirty shirt the first time on my own. Pardon the pun.” He chuckles.

“You could ask someone there for help. It’s a good way to meet people.”

Unpronounceable strides to the bookcase in my office and pulls out a volume by Ray Bradbury. “I read this last night while you were sleeping, which, I must say, is a waste of time I’m not looking forward to. This fellow was prescient.” He slides the book back. “I’ll let you in on a secret,” he says. “There are only two of us here. My wife and I.”

Unpronounceable already had explained that he’d learned much about human behavior from remote research and, when he finished studying me first hand, he’d take on a human identity. “Given your mission,” I say, “I assumed there were countless other Triplorians here. There’s just two of you?” I raise my eyebrows and turn my palms upward.

“Two per world is all we can spare. We have billions of planets to populate after all. And we’re a patient people. My wife and I will have a large family, fertile and virile. Our DNA, as you call it, is quite dominant so after many generations, when I’m long dead and buried, everyone on earth will be predominantly Triplorian. Understand?” He raises his eyebrows and turns his palms upward.

“You’re being optimistic. I’m afraid we might destroy the place first.” I squeeze my lips together and shake my head.

“Our simulations suggest you folks will turn things around. This could be a lovely place one day. Eventually, with our help, Triploearth can be a paradise.” He squeezes his lips together and shakes his head.

“Uh … That’s for something bad, not … oh, never mind.”

One morning I wake up, and Unpronounceable is gone. Has he moved on to the next phase of his mission? Have new simulations caused it to be abandoned? Or was it all my imagination?

A couple months later, I’m about to place an order in my favorite cafe when the fellow beside me asks for two peppermint chocolate mochas. He gives his name — Adam — and says “My wife and I love these.” Then he squeezes his lips together and shakes his head.

Adam? That inappropriate gesture? Could it be? I watch as he turns toward a table behind us. “Betty, honey,” he says “I forgot my wallet. Can you come pay?”