This story is based on the following Wholehearted Writing Prompt: put these events in whatever order you like, and write a story!
He was a stranger in a strange city. Although he enjoyed travel and had logged in more miles that he could track, New York City was unlike any other with buildings packed together tightly, jutting into the endless sky. He rested on a park bench and stared at people tossing frisbees and talking together on blankets spread with food. He had journeyed a great distance and was more tired than normal, or maybe it was the stifling air that fatigued him.
A little boy plopped next to him making no sound. The boy began reading, his finger keeping place on the page. As he read, he ran a grubby hand through his carrot orange hair making the ends stand as though charged with electricity.
“Hello there young boy.”
“Hi.” The boy looked up but kept one finger on his spot on the page. His eyes were pale, the color of the full moon.
“A comic book. It’s about a bunch of Martians who attack the Empire State Building. They have green skin and black holes for eyes.” The boy’s colorless eyes were wide and animated. He spoke quickly and again ran his fingers through his bright hair.
“Are they scary?”
“Oh everyone in New York is scared, but I wouldn’t be. I think it’d be cool.” The little boy waved to a man who emptied garbage cans into a large bin. The man waved back. “That’s my Dad. He works for the park picking up trash and trimming bushes and things like that. On Saturdays I hang out in the park all afternoon until he finishes. Sometimes he lets me help, but today I wanted to read my new story.”
As the stranger rested and the boy chatted and read passages aloud to him, the hours passed. The boy shared his pimento cheese sandwich which felt odd on the man’s tongue.
“Look at this picture.” The little boy traced a drawing in the book, a depiction of fire beaming from the Martian’s eyes. “I don’t think aliens have eyes like this.” He shook his head and laughed.
“You know that book isn’t true. There’s no life on Mars.”
The little boy closed the book and swung his legs underneath the bench never touching the grass beneath. “Yeah, that’s what my Dad says too, but how can you be sure?”
“I’ll tell you a secret if you promise not to tell anyone.”
“What?” His watery eyes widened, and he shook his head yes.
“I come from the planet Ananke. I’ve traveled to all the planets in the Milky Way and beyond. There’s no life on Mars, only red sooty dirt that coats everything like pollen.” His eyes began to glow golden as he thought of home. He glanced toward the dusky sky now filled with leaden clouds.
The little boy’s mouth dropped. He scooted to the edge of the bench, and scanned the park for his Dad.
When the stranger sneezed neon purple mucus through the New York air, the little boy sprinted without looking back. The comic book lay abandoned on the grass.
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