It was 4:26 PM.

Rachel Holloway was sitting alone, at her table, at Silver Fork Diner.

Ragged and peeling wallpaper surrounded the girl as she stared at framed black and white photos of random women smiling, their young faces covering the decaying walls. She did this despite having done this activity every day for the past year. Every single day, no matter foul weather or mood, she arrived at the rundown diner by 4:15 PM and left said restaurant before 5:00 PM. Most of the time, Rachel would leave by 4:50 PM, but lately, she had been leaving the Silver Fork Diner at 4:55 PM, a whole five minutes later.

Rachel was spontaneous that way.

“You mind?”

She had a consistent order of a BLT without bacon, a strawberry milkshake, and a bowl of fruit without any watermelon. Watermelon was to never touch her plate, for it had always seemed disgusting to Rachel.


She did not know if it was because of the texture, but whenever the fruit was near her, Rachel wou—

“Hey? Is anyone home in there?”

Rachel whipped her head to her left, the direction of where someone began tapping her shoulder. The culprit of such poking was an unfamiliar, older woman with long, tangled hair reaching her hips. She wore red, denim pants and a green T-shirt that read in bold letters: FUCK THE OTHER SIDE.

“H-hello?” Rachel uttered out, startled by the stranger.

The older woman stopped her poking and narrowed her eyes at the younger girl.

“So, someone is in there. Good to know.” The woman gestured to the seat in front of Rachel, “You mind if I sit?”

“Oh, uhhh…”

Rachel turned and looked at all the empty tables and booths around her, but it was too late. The random stranger sat in the chair in front of her and picked up a menu that was previously sitting at the center of the modest table.

“Huh, I think I’m in the mood for pasta.” The odd lady flipped through the pages, “You?”

Rachel wished she knew how to disintegrate on command.

“I, um, already ordered. I’m sorry, do I know you?”

The woman looked up from the menu in her hands. “Oh! Jesus, my bad, I go by Kate. It’s spelled with a ‘K,’ though; in my experience, girls who spell it with a ‘C’ are a little nuts, if you know what I’m saying.”

Rachel had no idea what she was saying.

She could only sink in her chair and watch as this woman, Kate, rambled on about things Rachel did not: a) care about or b) understand. She hoped the woman’s rambling would not take too long, though. After all, Rachel had a routine of leaving before 5:00 PM and she had no plans to disrupt that schedule.

“You seem like you’re from Connecticut.”

Rachel paused, “Excuse me?”

“You know, you have that look.”


“Jesus, can you only ask questions? Yeah, you have the look,” Kate said with finality and went back to flipping through her menu.

Rachel was wondering if she could maybe signal the waitress somehow and address the situation at hand. But the young girl also knew that the waitress would probably just shrug and go back to playing Sudoku on her phone. After all, it was a diner; there was not a bouncer at the door ready to escort people out of the building.

“I-I don’t know what that means,” Rachel admitted, unsure of what else to say.

“There’s nothing wrong with it. My kid, George, he is 100 percent the same way. He dresses like he’s a dad on some family sitcom, with wool cardigans and awkward jeans, the ones that don’t fit well. He has that kind of Connecticut look and so do you,” Kate responded, closing her menu.

The bell at the entrance chimed, and Rachel swiveled her head toward the noise, grateful for some kind of distraction. An old man with a cowboy hat entered, and the waitress put her phone down and walked towards his direction.

“You know, you remind me of George a lot,” Kate told the younger girl. “What’s your name?”

Rachel moved her wide eyes back on the stranger in front of her.


“Tell me, Rachel, what do you believe in?”


Kate shook her head, yet she wore an amused grin. “What do you believe in? God? Ghosts? Bigfoot?”

Rachel was speechless as Kate spoke. She considered getting up and leaving, but she was scared the random woman would just follow her home if she did so.

“Oh wait, I bet you believe in science and the dinosaurs and shit.” Kate laughed; she seemed pleased with her guess.

“Well…yes, I would say I believe in evolution,” Rachel answered, feeling smaller by the minute.

Kate seemed to notice Rachel’s shrinking and frowned, “Oh no, girl; I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing with you.”

Rachel did not understand the logic behind that, seeing as she was not laughing, not even painting a pained smiled upon her face. But she did not say anything, only watched; she only ever watched.

“But I’m with you; a lot of all that supernatural stuff is complete bullshit. My only exception is aliens; there’s got to be aliens. There has to be.”

A silence bloomed between the ladies until Rachel finally responded.


Kate dropped her smirk, “No, no, no, I know what you’re thinking. But I swear it. How small-minded do you have to be to think you’re alone when there are millions of galaxies left untouched by man? How fucking dense? Not that I’m calling you dense; George never believed me, either.”

Rachel opened her mouth but closed it when she saw the pink uniformed waitress approach with her meal and a strawberry milkshake on the tray in her hands. The waitress saw Rachel, a young woman who sat with her back straight as a pole and dark hair tightly braided, not a single strand escaping its confines. And the waitress also saw Kate, a middle-aged woman who slouched in her seat with wild hair and not a care in the world. Most would consider this an odd pairing, but the waitress did not seem perturbed by this at all. No; she just placed everything from her tray onto the table and left without a thought.

Though Rachel did not expect any different; after all, the worker had a Sudoku game to win.

“I met one once,” said Kate, once the waitress was out of earshot.

“You met…”

Kate picked a piece of sliced pineapple from the bowl of fruit in front of Rachel and threw it in her mouth.

“I met an alien. Well, kind of.”

The middle-aged woman spoke while she ate the fruit at the same time. It was hard for Rachel to focus on Kate’s words when all she could see was chewed up pineapple in her mouth. She couldn’t help but curl her lip in disgust yet still try to listen as Kate went on about the extraterrestrial. She began to wonder if there was a way to discreetly pull her phone out to check the time while the older woman babbled.

“I just finished a shift at this shit job I had, dishwashing at some barbecue joint in Queens. Well, after I clock out one night, I’m trying to get a cab home when my phone starts to ring. And it’s already weird and shady because there’s no caller ID, but for some reason, I answer it anyway. Which is crazy; I never answer my phone when it says no caller ID, but I did that day. I have no Godly idea why. But anyway, I answer it, but I don’t hear anything. Or I don’t hear anything for a while, but then some kind of static on other side starts. And at this point, I’m scared shitless. I want to hang up but the noise is getting louder and louder, until boom! Everything goes black.”

Rachel, annoyed with herself, was intrigued and waited for Kate to elaborate, but the older woman didn’t. She instead grabbed another pineapple from Rachel’s bowl and looked at the framed photos surrounding the pair.

Kate pointed at one particular photo near their table and asked, “Do you think she’s happy?”

The photo was one of many pictures of smiling girls, but this one did differ from the other old photos covering the walls. The girl wasn’t alone in the photograph, but instead was holding a chubby-cheeked baby in her arms, all swaddled up in blankets. The girl was not looking at the baby though but at the camera. Her smile appeared genuine, but there was something else about it, too. Rachel thought maybe she looked tired, but that wasn’t it.

“Uh, she seems too,” Rachel answered.

“Seems too,” Kate echoed back. “They always seem too, don’t they? Now, where was I?”

“It went black.”

“Yeah, that’s right! So,” Kate continued, “It all goes black, okay? Well, I must have passed out, because that’s the last thing I remember before waking up in the same spot I was in when I got the call. So I’m even more terrified because, you know, now I’m thinking I’m losing it. I just want to go home, but there isn’t a cab in sight. But then I realize, yeah, there is not a single cab in sight, but there is also not a single person in sight. Queens became a ghost town while I was knocked out cold. And at this point, I’m shaking like a Chihuahua during a thunderstorm, but I got to get home. So I walk five miles to get back to my apartment, not seeing a single living soul on my way there. Well, except when I get home, of course, because George is there, lying on the couch watching TV.”

“George? Your son?” Rachel’s nose scrunched up.

“Yeah, my kid.” Kate leaned in closer to Rachel, appearing like she was about to tell her a secret. “I go ballistic, Rachel. I mean, of course, it’s my kid that’s sitting on the couch while some kind of apocalypse is happening.” She began to laugh, causing a chuckle to rise from Rachel’s throat as well, much to the younger girl’s surprise.

Kate cleared her throat. “Now, I am so disoriented and confused, I don’t even ask George about everyone pulling a disappearing act; no, I ask why the fuck he’s home. Why isn’t he at Baruch? What the fuck is happening? I start to break down, Rachel, I become a sobbing mess. God, it’s so embarrassing.”

“You were just scared.” Rachel defended.

“Yeah,” Kate responded after being silent for a few seconds, “I was scared. No, I was fucking terrified. George could see that, though, because he gets up from the couch and walks toward where I am, where I’m going mental. And he grabs my hands and then, well, he hugs me. And if the day wasn’t already weird enough, that’s what sold it. George has never been a hugger; even as a kid, he had always been sort of aloof. You know the type: quiet, kind, and will die a virgin. So of course, I’m shocked by this sudden display of affection. I’m just frozen in his arms.”

“Did he know what was happening?” Rachel interrupted.

“That’s what I was wondering,” Kate replied. “And I ask him. I mean, I more than ask him, I beg him for some Goddamn answers. He doesn’t respond though, not for a bit at least, but then he starts to whisper something. His voice is so quiet, though, I have to put my ear inches away from his mouth. I can barely make it out, but after he repeats it so many times, I start to understand. He’s trying to te—“

“Want a refill?”

Rachel looked up to the waitress who speaking to her, and she politely declined with a smile despite being annoyed by the interruption. She waited to see the waitress walk away, returning back to the register, and once she did so, Rachel turned her attention back to Kate.

Kate, whose face no longer looked relaxed and carefree, shook her head and continued, “As I was saying, George starts to whisper in my ear. And he is just repeating that same three sentences over and over: ‘I have to go. It will be warm where I am. They need me.’ Just those three sentences. Over and over and over. And my God, I’m still so confused. I cry and sob and yell until he just disappears.”

“He disappeared?”

“Poof,” Kate nodded. “I went to look out the window in a panic, but everyone was back. The street below my apartment was littered with people and all the noise they bring with them. But my boy? My boy was gone. He was gone.”

“So…it was a dream?”

“No,” Kate answered, irritation painting her face. “For the love of Jesus, why can’t you and everyone else on this goddamn planet grasp this? My son was taken by something. By aliens.”

“Wait, you think aliens took him?” Rachel asked before she thought better of it.

“They did take him!” She yelled, drawing attention to their table, “They took George and brainwashed him. I know it, but no one else seems to.”

Rachel, who was embarrassed red from the stares they were receiving, could not fathom a possible response to give this woman.

“You don’t believe me.” Kate scoffed. “No, of course, you fucking don’t. No one believes me, not the news, or private detectives, or anybody. Yeah, no one does, but my God, the cops are the worst of all of them. They believe all the shit those little, green motherfuckers left behind. You want to know what’s really fucked up: looking at a corpse that looks exactly like your son but you know isn’t. And the people at the morgue or whatever, they don’t care. They just want you to nod and confirm that that’s your dead person so they can pack up and go home to a spouse they hate and kids they can’t stand.

“I tried to tell them. I told them over and over, ‘that’s not my kid.’ But they don’t do anything useful. No; the only thing they can give is a sad smile and nod. As if that bullshit is going to give me some peace of mind. Those fucking Martians or whatever are in my dreams, Rachel. They appear and tell me George is fine, but he’s not fine. My kid’s not fine and the world doesn’t give a flying shit!”

“Excuse me?”

Both of the women whipped their heads to the voice interrupting Kate’s rant and looked up to find an older gentleman towering over their table. His hairy arms were crossed together as he wore a frown and the most dreadful Hawaiian shirt Rachel had ever witnessed.

“Girls, I’m going to need to ask you to leave.”

“Girl?” Kate spat, “I’m almost 50. Did you seriously just calling me a fucking girl?”

“Alright ma’am, you have had your fun. Now, I’ve asked you to leave, and I’m not going to ask you again.”

Rachel began to gather her things in a panic, but Kate did nothing of the sort. The older woman stared at the man for about ten seconds, her cold eyes probing him until she rose from her seat. Rachel thought she was going to do something like kick her chair or push the food on the table to the ground. But she didn’t.

No, Kate just looked between Rachel and the older man and in a tired voice said, “They’ll fuck with you. Jesus, will they fuck with you.”

And that was that, Kate walked out of the diner and disappeared like she never was there in the first place. Rachel’s eyes moved to the now empty seat in front of her and then the angry man standing over her table, clearly confused to why she had not made herself scarce like her companion.

So, Rachel still embarrassed from the situation, apologized and got up from the table in a quick fashion. She then handed the disgruntled man a twenty, before rushing out of the building. She joined the crowds of everyday commotion outside and looked around to see any trace of the older woman but found none. The streets around her were filled with people, but none of those people were Kate.

Rachel then looked back at the Silver Fork Diner, somewhere she imagined she was no longer allowed to eat at. Her lips tugged downward as she felt a sad ache fill her chest. The girl then turned away from the diner and checked her phone as she got further and further away from the restaurant.

It was 5:09 PM.