Lillian always knew that we lived among aliens, but she learned to stop bringing it up, especially around adults. Her sister, Jamie, would sometime go along with it, prompting Lillian with more questions and adding onto the stories. Lillian would always nod along when Jamie starting adding, even though most of her contributions were utter nonsense. The lizard that lived in the garden bed under their mom’s window was not running messages for their cat. That would imply that there were only two categories of aliens: humans and nonhumans. And Lillian knew the truth was vastly more intricate. Jamie’s perception seemed to Lillian to be like basing your entire sense of right and wrong off of shoots and ladders. Still, Lillian would nod along. But ever since Jamie’s last day of fifth grade, she had grown increasingly more impatient with “make believe”—her term for everything from pretending to be dogs to discussing the very real presence of aliens. Tomorrow, they would both start school again, so Lillian decided she would try once more with Jamie. But Jamie told her that the ant, the one crawling among the looping threads of her sky-blue sweater, could not be an alien. She said, “That ant hatched right here,” as she pointed at a mound of dirt that rose from a dry patch of grass. Lillian tried to explain, yet again, to her sister: the ant’s world is not ours. That rock nobody but a toddler would ever look at twice is a mountain, perhaps named and all. The grass, cropped short and yellowing as it may be, is a jungle, lush with dangers. That world was more different from that of reality TV and airplanes and oak trees than any far-off galaxy could be. But Jamie just said, “It’s time to go in, Lil.” The more Lillian talked, the further Jamie seemed to drift away, her mind already in the locker edged halls of the middle school, so Lillian stopped talking (or, at least, stopped talking about the aliens). She wondered, as they walked back towards the sagging screen door, if ants were the only aliens. Maybe, she thought as she stepped off the forgiving grass and onto the curt stone of the patio, we are all aliens to one another.
Emeylyn Jaros studies Materials Science and Engineering with a minor in Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh, where she is working on the final draft of a novel.