Jonathan sat in the driver’s seat of his Mini, alone in the car-park. Abigail had driven off while the Pastor was trying to convince him that he wasn’t joking, that there really was an alien holding him and Estelle hostage. He felt oddly relieved, as the alien explained the anomaly they’d seen earlier, and that meant that the equipment was probably in good shape after all. He appreciated that, for all he couldn’t tell anyone else now without sounding mad. But what should he do? Go home and probably become another hostage himself? Or take the Pastor’s advice and run, flee to the next town and call the National Guard out. If they’d believe his story.
He thought back to his wedding day, and looking at Estelle’s face as he drew the veil back, and realising with a sudden cold frisson that this wasn’t who he’d fallen in love with. Somehow between getting engaged and the day of the marriage she’d changed, turned into his mother when he wasn’t looking. He’d been telling himself ever since that no-one marries their mother (except maybe that Greek dude in the legends, and he got punished for that, didn’t he?) and that the lovelessness of their marriage must be his own fault. He kept feeling that it might not be true though.
He started the engine. He’d go home and see if the alien might trade not killing people for Estelle. Maybe it hadn’t met her long enough yet to figure out what she was like.
The Pastor seized the passenger door of Jonathan’s car as he pulled up, and flung himself inside.
“Drive!” he yelled. “Drive like the gates of hell are open and looking this way!”
Jonathan switched back up the gears and the car took off, precision German engineering as reliable as ever. The roads were empty at most times of day this far out, but especially empty now, and he wasn’t worried about hitting anything.
“What happened?” he said.
“He took Estelle,” said the Pastor, his face ashen and his robes messed up. “They left, she was riding on him somehow. I don’t know quite how. They were going to look for cows.”
“Estelle doesn’t know anything about animals,” said Jonathan. “Why was she going?”
“He – the alien – wanted her, I think,” said the Pastor. “She can point cows out to it, maybe.”
“She’ll like that,” said Jonathan. “Always was a back-seat driver. What do they want with cows then?”
“Explode them?” The Pastor explained about the alien’s weapons.
“Sounds like a teenager then,” said Jonathan. “Stole daddy’s spaceship and gun and came out on a bit of a joyride. Wonder where he parked the ship, I wouldn’t mind seeing that.”
Somewhere in the distance, off to their left, something exploded.
“Estelle showed me a very strange magazine,” said the Pastor thoughtfully.
“Men or women?” asked Jonathan. The Pastor looked sharply at him, but he was concentrating on the road ahead.
“Men, from the cover,” he said.
“Cliff’s,” said Jonathan. “His kids are over and he’s frightened what they’d think of him if they found out. Bit silly if you ask me, at his time of life, but there you go. Estelle’s are all women. And dogs sometimes. Bit of puzzle that one.”
“Right.” The Pastor fell silent while he thought about this.
“Do you have a dog?” he asked.
“No. Thought about it, then I found her magazines.”
“Oh. Where are we going, by the way?”
“I looked at the logs of the anomaly, the spacecraft,” said Jonathan. “When I knew what it was. It’s a guess, but I reckon the spaceship’s out this way, and I want a look at it.”
“What about Estelle, aren’t we going to rescue her?”
“Nah, I reckon she’d be happier with him than me,” said Jonathan. “How long does it take to get her declared dead?”