Terrill was not honest with us about the reason that he was sent on the extra planetary ship to
He came to us with that same old same old alien to human "I come in peace" nonsense.
And we, being schmucks, ate it up. We wanted to appear enlightened and accepting. We wanted
to think a superior being had traveled light years just to commune with us because we were that
It's not like he was a lizard man who wanted to eat us. And he wasn't trying to repopulate
the planet or anything with a race of mutant aliens. (In case you were concerned about that.)
Really, it was simpler than that. Governmentally, things had gotten out of hand on his home
planet, El. Terrill was a con man, a prisoner, and, to prevent crime, his planet's government had
adopted a three strikes you're out policy. So third crime, no matter what it was, meant that you
went to prison for life.
"Well, that was all well and good (okay, it wasn't well or good, but it was better than what
came next) until an even more conservative leader had risen to power. There were rising
complaints about the costs of keeping a third of the population imprisoned for life. But, rather
than addressing those complaints in a humane way (or what's the word if the subjects aren't
human--aliene?), the new government decided to respond to the complaints by converting all the
life sentences to death sentences. They said they would allow the prisoners to appeal, but all the
appeals were rejected. Terrill said he didn't think that they were even read.
Terrill was scheduled to die for the crimes of forgery, check fraud, and tax evasion. A
prison guard who was sweet on Terrill (he was a charmer) gave him the keys to the escape pod.
Terrill said he wished he could help the others, but the pod was big enough for only one. So,
faced with the choice of either staying and dying or living and leaving, Terrill chose life. And he
didn't choose Earth because he felt humans were so special. It was just that it was the closest
In fact, Terrill didn't even know about Earth until he got here and then his advanced alien
technology computer got him up to speed on what he needed to know. The most important thing,
it told him, was humans like to think they're superior to all other species. Treat them as such, and
you'll be fine.
Terrill was already a skilled fraudster, so playing the role of ambassador to Earth was
easy. He complimented our architecture, our medicine, and our systems of government. He
seemed especially enthralled with democracy, but we told him that it was becoming increasingly
hard to maintain a working government when only the elderly reliably voted. The youth showed
up to protest racism, the greed of evil corporations, and unfair student loan burdens, but they
didn't reliably show up to cast their ballots.
This saddened Terrill, and he even agreed to participate in a voter registration drive,
which, in retrospect, may have been the first humanitarian cause he had ever participated in his
In retrospect, the voter participation drive was ill planned. Who thought it was a good
idea to send an alien to the homes of religious nuts and racists? For some of them, who were fed
their daily diet of fear from Fox News and The Daily Caller, every stranger was a potential
invader, if not from the planet of El then from the scary border country of Mexico where each
potential immigrant dreamed of taking their shitty factory jobs and their homes. Yet, many of
those same haters were the first to fill their all you can eat plates at Tequila's on Taco Tuesday.
The first 30 names we crossed off on the list went okay or well enough or not terrible. At
some houses, women said they were voting for the candidate who was a successful TV doctor. At
others, frat boys didn't realize there was an election going on. Two groups of homeowners
actually engaged in an informed conversation with us, though most weren't home or pretended
they weren't home despite their cars being in the driveway and lights being on in the hallway.
It was house 31 where the incident happened. Maybe if they'd had a “No Trespassing”
sign in their yard this could have been avoided. Technically, we weren't trespassing or selling
anything. We were within our rights. But we were just out there to encourage active voter
participation not incite violence.
The man peeked through the curtains before opening the front door. He was dressed in a
Tim Allen t-shirt, so he didn't seem too threatening at first. But, in retrospect, I should have
Terrill, who was canvassing for the first time, was enthusiastic. So he took the lead.
"Hi, I'm Terrill, and this is my friend Daryl," he said. "And we're from Project Get Out
"We don't want to buy anything," the man said.
"And we're not selling anything,” he said. “We just want to encourage you to vote.
Democracies only function effectively when people participate in the electoral process.”
I heard a woman's voice in the background. To her husband, she said, "Don, get away
from the door, it's that monster from TV."
I tried to intervene to clarify, but it didn't help. "He's not a monster. He's an alien."
"You mean like those Mexicans trying to violate our borders," the man inside the house
I didn't know how borders, lines drawn on a map, could be violated, but I knew my
staying that wouldn't help. Terrill was blond haired and blue eyed. So, I said, "Terrill's not
"He's not even from this planet," the woman screamed. "He's from a Socialist Planet
where they want to raise people's taxes and give their first-born sons to the government."
Terrill seemed deeply disturbed, maybe in part because this description was far cry from
the reality of his planet’s near totalitarian government. Terrill seemed to realize that these people
were both a lost cause and dangerous, so started walking slowly backwards, as if they were bears
that he wanted to quietly escape from. That was when the woman pulled out her shotgun.
"Run," I said, panicking.
Terrill slowed to a stop and started laughing. "You morons think you can hurt me with
your primitive human technology. Go ahead, make my day."
Clearly, he had watched one too many Clint Eastwood movies during his brief time on
Earth. I tried to shield him from the blow of the bullets, but Terrill pushed me out of the way. I
landed in the grass. I watched the woman shoot him, but the bullets barely left a mark. It was like
he had been bit by an annoying mosquito rather than shot by a potentially dangerous weapon.
"That's what I get from trying to do something good for once," Terrill said with disgust.
"I'm not sure you humans are worth saving."
The man looked at the woman with horror. The woman looked at us with horror. They
went inside and locked the door. We could still hear them screaming outside.
"Debbie, you can't just go around shooting people. They're not even armed. And they're
probably Democrats. And everyone knows that Democrats are no good at winning fights, but
they are good at filing lawsuits."
We were a bipartisan group, but, at this point, I don't think it was going to matter. And I
definitely wasn’t going to knock on their door again to clarify this minor point.
"He's not even a person," Debbie argued. "And aliens don't need weapons to kill you.
They can just use that alien death grip."
Terrill stood there stunned. But I had heard enough.
“Let’s go, man,” I said.
"Your planet isn't more evolved," Terrill said.
"We're not," I said. "But we do have some good food here. So maybe let's just go grab a
"And fries," Terrill said because he was a fan of fries.
"Sure, fries," I said. "I’m buying. You deserve a full meal after surviving a shooting."
"That thing is barely a weapon,"; he said.
"Our weapons keep getting stronger, faster, better. In a few years, we might make one
that could kill even you."
"It's too bad that you don't make the same investment into developing your minds," he
“You think there’s hope for the galaxy?” I asked.
"I don't know," he said. "I've only been to two planets. But it's not looking good so far.
You think democracy will survive here?"
"For my lifetime at least," I said.
"Is that enough?"
"It's got to be," I said, "because it's all we have."
"If you buy a burger, I'll buy the beer," he said.
"It's a deal," I said.
"What are you doing tomorrow? I'd like to tell you about my home planet.”
"Unfortunately, I'm going to be back out here knocking on doors again."
"But their bullets could kill you," he said.
"Maybe some things are worth dying for."
"Those idiots?"; he asked.
"Well, no, but, if the rest of us vote, then maybe their candidate won't win, and then we
can keep this crazy experiment in government going for another hundred years."
We walked back to my car, a Honda Civic, which I had purchased for its fuel economy.
"Your car is small," he said.
"I'm trying to save the planet."
"Good luck with that," he said.
"Thanks, I'm going to need it," I said. I let Terrill choose the music, and he picked Elton
John's "Rocket Man," again. It was beginning to get tiresome. But, since he had just survived a
near death experience, I didn't complain. "What's your planet like?"
"I left because they were going to kill me," he said.
"So this is just like home," I said.
"I hope not," he said as Steve Miller's "Space Cowboy" began to play.
Maybe he was fed up with the people of Earth, and, if so, I didn’t blame him. But, at
least, I thought, he was enjoying the music.
Lori D'Angelo (she/her) is a grant recipient from the Elizabeth George Foundation and an alumna of the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley. Recent work has recently appeared in Beaver Magazine, Blood Moon Rising, Bullshit Lit, Idle Ink, JAKE, Litmora, One Art Poetry Journal, and Wrong Turn Lit. Find her on Twitter @sclly21 or Instagram and Threads at lori.dangelo1.