“I shall remain on Mars and read a book.”
― Ray Bradbury, The Illustrated Man
Elissa told her counselor that she dreamed of falling – dreamed of it all the time.
“I’m falling from a great, great height.”
“Well, dreams of falling are very, very common.”
“Are you afraid?”
“No, of course not. No matter how far I fall in my dream it won’t be nearly as far as I’ve fallen in real life.”
“You’ve fallen in real life? How far?”
“All the way from Mars.”
“Mars? The planet?”
“Yes, it is my home. I slipped and fell one day and kept falling, through the atmosphere, through the millions of miles of empty space, and ended up here, on earth.”
The counselor scribbled pages of mad notes.
I knew Elissa because she hired me to cut her lawn. She said her neighbors had told her to hire someone to cut the lawn and one of them suggested me. I cut a handful of lawns in her neighborhood, but nobody was like her. Not at all. She told me what her counselor asked and what her answer was.
“Why do you see a counselor?” I asked.
“I feel… alienated.”
“Why do you feel alienated?”
“Probably because I’m an alien.”
She would watch me cut the lawn and get down on her hands and knees and look at the sliced ends of the blades of grass.
“Doesn’t it hurt them?”
“No, I don’t think so. Grass – in its natural state – is designed to be snipped off. Animals eat it and then fertilize it in turn. This sort of takes the place of a natural occurrence.”
“We don’t have grass on Mars.”
I asked her why nobody ever saw anybody or any signs of life on the red planet.
“There are rovers there now,” I said.
“I know. It’s a pain in the ass. We are very shy. Even though we live underground, we have to sweep up our footprints in the dust.”
“Are you nervous about the helicopter?”
“It’s not very big. It’s more of a toy. But someday we will have to do something.”
“What will you do?”
That’s as much as Elissa will tell me. I’m only the guy that cuts the lawn, after all.