Bodies in Space


In “Bodies in Space,” a carefully planned extramarital affair is rudely interrupted by an alien abduction. The piece appears in The Sea Beast Takes a Lover, a collection of short stories examining odd love, strange faith and wild metamorphoses in a world of doomed sailors, misguided saints, inept time travelers, predictably monstrous humans and surprisingly humane monsters.

By Michael Andreasen

Meanwhile, under cover of snow and wind and moonless night, a huge, handsome alien spacecraft, broad and sleek and lit up like a supermarket, drifted through a warm bath of ozone and began its delicate negotiations with the earth.

Whoa there, said the planet.

Relax, said the craft.

Relax nothing. You’re not of this earth, said the earth.

We’ll only be a minute, the craft promised from its oh-so-patient hover. Superquick. In and out. Just need to pick up a few things.

Mine is the sky, the earth said. The waters, the mountains, the trees. Mine are the little ants in their anthills, the little birds in their nests, the little people in their homes. There is nothing you could possibly take that isn’t mine.

Come on, said the craft.

Get lost, said the earth.

Hey, the craft said sweetly, casually easing closer. You’ve got all kinds of people! We’re after one, maybe two at the most. You can spare two. How many billions will that leave you?

Somewhere overhead, shadowed and nervous, the new moon slid by.

Imagine the feeling of an orbit. It's no carnival ride, no waltz around the maypole. It’s more like falling, in a circle, all the time. Not to mention the fact that even the smallest gravity well can invite all kinds of unwanted attention from weapons-grade debris, constantly exposing whole ecosystems to the threat of total annihilation with one meteoric smack.

This can make a planetary body anxious. Even a little paranoid.

Seriously, said the earth. Take a hike.

All right, the craft said. We were hoping it wouldn’t come to this, but it’s worth mentioning: we’re designed to navigate black holes and white dwarfs, quasars and pulsars and gas giants and nebulae. Your little tug is child’s play to us. We’re trying to be polite, but the bottom line is: you haven’t got the mass to stop us.

The planet furrowed its tectonic plates, sloshed its oceans, hunched in its spin. The craft sat frozen in its landing sequence, waiting for the inevitable to sink in.

Don’t get too comfortable, the earth said, and rolled over, and over, and kept rolling.

For real, five minutes, said the craft, which was more than it took to collect the Volvo and its two passengers, now naked as day and moments from consummation, from the snowy shoulder of the road before jetting effortlessly up, beyond the influence of bodies in space, until the craft’s vulgar brightness was just another grain of white sand stuck in the asphalt parking lot of night.

Reprinted with permission. Excerpted from “Bodies in Space” from The Sea Beast Takes a Lover, by Michael Andreasen (Dutton, expected publication in March 2018).

Michael Andreasen

Michael Andreasen, M.F.A. ’07, grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, and earned a B.A. in English at Marquette University. He taught English at a junior high school in Japan and accepted a slot in UCI’s M.F.A. program from a payphone in Okinawa. His work has been published in The New Yorker, Zoetrope: All-Story and Tin House. He is currently a full-time lecturer at UCI.