"Never start something you can't finish."
The words echoed in the recesses of his mind, the only thing he remembered of his life. They flitted through hovering mists and shadows and bounced off the emptiness, taunting him. Had he started something? Finished it? He needed information. Detailed information. And lots of it. He looked into the mirror hanging in the unfamiliar room and ran his fingers through his unruly dark hair. But for now he'd settle for his name.
He reached in his right front pocket and found a wallet. He didn't have to search for it. He knew instinctively it would be there. The wallet was leather and it was black. On one side was plastic clip. The other side was closed by a little black velcro strap. He ripped it open and saw the blackberry was off. He turned it on and looked at the papers. A receipt for Starbucks with a credit card number of XXXX-XXXX-XXXX-2349, dated September 28th was shoved in the back. Gas Card for Marathon. Gas Card for Mobile. Grocery store card. A twenty. And no driver's license.
He started operating the Blackberry and could find no information. None of the history was saved. All the passwords were deleted. Nothing. The room appeared to be a motel room. He turned on the television and the channel was set to Animal Planet. He watched a few seconds and wondered why he would be watching this station and not another one. Children? He spun around and looked on the perfectly made beds. No suitcase. He checked the bathroom and it was pristine with clean towels, clean wash clothes, complimentary shampoo, conditioner and french milled soap.
He went to the windows and pushed back the lined curtains to see the sun. He went outside and the heavy door shut behind him. He tried the handle but it was locked. He checked his other pockets for the card key but found none. He held the blackberry and wallet in his hand like a life raft, which held him afloat in the middle of an oceanic nightmare. He spun around and realized that his credit cards and receipt were laying on the bed inside the room.
He looked around and saw red, singular mountains. Beyond the motel there were little homes and past them another mountain, red, jagged and almost flat in the distance.
"I don't know where I am."
He walked past other rooms and saw the swimming pool lined with an iron gate. A family with children walked leisurely towards a room and decided to follow them. They held the door opened to him and said "Good morning." There was lots of people, lots of talking and food and coffee. He got a cup of coffee and went out to the sun.
"Excuse me," he said. He rang the bell in the motel lobby and a perky woman with heavy make-up smiled at him.
"Good morning. How can I help you?"
"I got locked out of my room. Um, it's the one past the pool on the end."
"Do you remember the number?"
"301. Wait. My bill. I registered. I--I need my bill, um, Donna." Cold sweat poured down his face. There had to be a receipt from the bill that would have his name. Donna, the name on her tag, held more keys than one.
"Do you need your bill first or do you need to get into your room?" Donna typed and the printer behind her was buzzing.
"My bill please." He set down the coffee cup and rubbed his face.
"Here you are, Mr. Smith. Paid in full for two more days. And here's a key for your room. Is there anything else I can help you with?"
The bill read John Smith from an address in Galesburg, IL. It did not sound familiar in any way. He ran to his room and opened the door. He picked up his gas cards and the cash and put them carefully into his wallet. The receipt was gone. He took everything out of his wallet and one of the cards fell on the floor between the two beds. He picked it up and noticed car keys in the middle of the floor. The receipt was forgotten as he held the smart key. He pushed the green button and heard a familiar chirp.
He swallowed and went through a mental checklist before leaving his room. Outside his door was a green, older model Toyota that he swore was not there half an hour before. He heard the chirp again and got in. In the lower dashboard, just above the steering wheel, tucked in by the odometer, he found an Illinois driver's license. John Smith from Galesburg, IL.
"Impossible. It can't be. I don't remember."
He left the motel and wove his way through Sedona to the highway. I-17 was not crowded. The sun was getting hot, even with the air on. He drove aimlessly and tried to remember anything that reminded him of something. And then he saw it.
Exit 244 Black Canyon City. He was meeting someone, a buyer. The guy was buying something. A rock. It was some kind of rock. He made the exit and drove what was more of a town. He passed a little house that looked familiar. The front lawn had a large bear carved out of a log; the bear wore a tall troll hat. He parked his car and walked up the gravel drive way. It was river rock.
"It makes that noise when you walk on it," he murmured. Pieces of memory began to hit his mind like shrapnel.
When he knocked on the door an old man answered and gasped. He heard a noise behind him and when he turned, he saw a woman behind him. The house spun, the yard spun, and he felt a terrible pinch in his lower back. He dropped to his knees and his eyes pulled themselves shut.
"Thanks, Manny. We got him. He'll be fine. Don't worry. We'll be around in few more days, just in case." The woman climbed into the white work van and shut the door behind her.
"I told you. We dropped him off too close." She stepped over the prostrate man and sat in the passenger's seat.
"I know, but it was cheaper. We'll have to drive him back now." The driver stared ahead and put on black sunglasses. "This sun. How do you stand it?"
"The sun's more direct here." The woman put on black sunglasses and scratched the back of her head. "He looks fine. He'll be out for a while."
"The sun's more direct here. Everyone says that. Idiot farmer." The driver rubbed the back of his head.
"Oh, he's the idiot? How about the pilot who dropped that chunk of metal off the ship." The woman looked out the window.
"The atmosphere of this planet gets extraordinarily hot on descent. We were lucky to land safely."
"618 terra miles off course." The woman turned to the driver who said nothing for the next 20 miles on an off road.
"Well?" The driver stopped the van in the middle of the desert.
"Where do we put him now?" The driver rubbed the back of his head.
"We have no choice. We have our orders not to kill or be noticed. We've already broken one rule. Manny noticed us. I don't want to hurt any more of these creatures. Hold on, I have hair in my eye." The woman moved the hair on the back of her head and her third eye opened, sparkling blue.
"That's better. It looks like a road trip to Illinois. He's got a two cards for gasoline and this other useful card called Visa. We better get moving."
The driver rubbed the back of his head and his third eye blinked open, a little bloodshot. He hadn't slept well since the landing and wouldn't until he wiped away that human's memory again, made certain they had all those receipts and deposited him back near his familiar habitat.