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The Last Kiss

Mario Milosevic's short stories have appeared in Interzone, EscapePod, Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine, F&SF, Asimov's, Fiction River, and many others. His latest book, 15 Strange Tales of Crime and Mystery, will be published by Green Snake Publishing in 2017. His novels include The Last Giant, Kyle's War, and Claypot Dreamstance. Learn more at mariowrites.com.

Whenever I kissed him, but especially that first time, he tasted of metal: copper and steel. Strange, but not unpleasant. The smell of his spaceship clung to him. It was a mixture of flowers and rotten garbage. Again, strangely uplifting.
I don't know what made me want to plant that initial kiss. He had crashed in the hills above my house. I had seen his craft cut the sky open, a luminous wound like a surgeon's scalpel track, oozing light instead of blood.
When I found him, he was still in his craft, which was a soft thing, wrapped around his smooth purple body. Later the online community, once they saw him, called him the purple lobster. That wasn't quite right. He looked like he had a crusty exterior, but that was deceptive.
He did have large billowy limbs, four of them. They did kind of remind me of lobster limbs. His head was small, and his face had recognizable features: two eyes, a small mouth that opened vertically instead of horizontally, and no nose. I believe he got his oxygen through his skin.
He crawled out of his ship and flopped to the ground. He looked up at me and I looked at him.
I don't know what made me want to kiss him. To this day I shake my head at the thought. Here was a creature from another world. For all I knew he carried diseases or toxic substances. By all that was smart and savvy, I should have called someone at the university to come look at him.
But I didn't.
He was injured. I could see that. He tried to crawl along the ground, but mostly did a kind of hiccupping limp.
I bent down, moistened my lips, and planted a kiss in the vicinity of one of his cheeks.
He stopped trying to crawl away and instead moved toward me. His limbs snapped open and shut. His big bulging eyes seemed to go wider. He was about a foot shorter than me, and he was cold to the touch.
I tried talking to him.
"You okay?" I asked.
No answer. Not even any kind of acknowledging squeak or whine or moan. Nothing.
I scooped him up. He was light. Grabbed his spaceship, too, but that didn't last long. It disintegrated in my hand. It turned slimy and loosed bits of itself onto the ground where they puddled, then evaporated.
"Guess you're stuck here now," I said.
At home I posted pictures to Facebook and Tumblr of me and him sitting together.
I made a video of him and me. Posted it to YouTube. Me talking animatedly. Him just sitting on the couch, staring. I pretended we were getting married. I said vows to him.
It was a joke. He didn't get it, I don't think. But that was okay. He seemed to appreciate me. The way he let me be me. I felt like I could be my true self around him.
We got hundreds of views that first hour, then thousands over the next day or so. By the end of the week, we were a sensation. Millions of views and almost as many wishes of good fortune.
People really thought we were married.
And they were all okay with it.
This surprised me. They thought I was married to an alien but they didn't care. I tell you, I gained a lot or respect for humanity in those first couple of weeks.
Inevitably, though, the fame receded. We were yesterday's news before long, then we were forgotten.
That was okay. We were better off living private lives anyway.
We would watch old westerns together. He loved them. At least, I thought he did. He paid rapt attention whenever John Wayne came on the screen.
Whenever I put a new movie on, I'd kiss him. Right where I first kissed him. I think he grew to like that, too. I know I did. The clean taste of him. The feeling that I was getting a bit of another world on my lips. It was fascinating and energizing.
Only thing was, he wasn't getting better. His bent place never unbent, and it started turning green. It was like the purple around the bend was gaining a mossy covering that wasn't doing him any good.
I poked at the spot. It was mushy, not like the rest of him, which was soft but firm.
I took him to a doctor. The receptionist at the front desk said they weren't a veterinarian facility.
"He's not a pet," I said.
"Doesn't matter," she said. "It's obviously not human."
I couldn't argue with that.
I took him to a vet. The vet looked him over very carefully. "Where did this come from?" she asked.
"Where all aliens come from," I said.
She nodded, as though she understood. Maybe she thought it meant he came from some Russian republic or something. She looked me square in the face and told me I should have all the good times I could with him because he wasn't going to last much longer. He had an infection and he was going to die.
I never felt more sad.
I took him home and fed him ice cream and we binge watched westerns for days until he stopped paying attention, and slipped into stillness and silence.
After he expired, I sat with him for an hour. His aroma grew more and more unpleasant, like he had a cache of garbage inside him that just wanted to keep rotting.
I took him to a funeral home. They said they didn't do creatures.
"This is an alien," I said.
"We don't do those either."
I had forgotten how small-minded people can be.
I took him to another funeral home. One that did pets.
They were happy to make him presentable in a coffin that they put in front of a gathering of my friends. The suit they picked for him was a glittery thing, all sequins and shiny baubles. That about broke my heart.
I showed slides of him.
There were tears. Lots of them.
"He was one of the finest entities I have ever known," I said.
We sang songs. Stardust Memories. Fly Me to the Moon. Space Oddity. I was sure he would not have wanted a lot of sadness at his funeral, he was that kind of being, but those melancholy songs seemed appropriate.
I stood to one side, with my hands clasped in front of me, as everyone filed past him.
There were giggles. I wasn't sure if they were respectful or not, but I chose to believe they were. I have always operated under the belief that you give people the benefit of the doubt.
Towards the end of the service, when most of my friends had filed out, and we were getting ready to take him to the cemetery for his burial, the funeral director came over and put his hand on the coffin lid.
"Is there anything you want to say to him before we cover him forever?" he asked.
I shook my head.
He started to lower the lid.
I stopped him.
He looked at me. I wet my lips. He stepped back a respectful distance. I appreciated his discretion.
Then I stepped up on the small stage and looked down at the creature who had come into my life like a comet, and left just as quickly. I felt a tingling in my lips.
I bent down and hovered over his face for a split second, then visions of his world rose up with his odor. I saw vast cities stretching across an empty landscape. Steel and copper towers rising to a dark sky.
I moved close enough to touch my lips to his skin and held myself against him for several seconds, then whispered my final goodbye.
The End
This story was first published on Friday, March 10th, 2017

Author Comments

This story arrived one morning in my subconscious like an alien crashing into my back yard. It wrote itself quickly, feeling more like transcription than composition. When I was finished, I hardly knew what I had written until I read it over again. Those are often the best kinds of stories. They come directly from some mythic realm and I'm always grateful when I'm lucky enough to be present to receive them.

- Mario Milosevic
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