With a knitted beanie hat that covered all her dark hair, she could have been Ashton Kutcher’s shorter brother. Autumn had moved south from Canada, staining the hardwoods red, yellow and every color in-between. She walked a daily circuit through a semirural area, appraising and appreciating, and with shirt pockets stuffed with sundries; no one guessed that her sexual characteristics were mostly female. A black-and-white dog trotted happily and obediently by her side.
Some of the houses had been foreclosed and boarded against plunder, but at least one meth cooker and puppy mill existed, and no one seemed to bother them, since police resources were directed at an alarming trend in school shootings and misbehavior by young men with no future. The locals just thought she was a moderately handsome exercise stud and dismissed her.
Her “brother,” a dwarf and fellow carnie, found the daily walks too taxing, so he stayed in the apartment working on his Christmas Elf costumes. Those gigs helped finance their winter. Come spring, they would pack up, join the carnivals or Renaissance Fairs, and he would be a clown, trick dog handler, fortune teller, whatever was available. She would join the freaks as The Bearded Lady and work as a roustabout after hours.
Michele or Mitch, depending on the task of the moment, turned off the road and took a trail worn by her and Rover. She stopped at a neglected Koi pond in the back of a foreclosed house. The hungry fish were happy to see her and would eat anything she provided. Rover wagged his tail as she fed them day-old bread. Then the woman and dog returned to the inactive road.
Back at the apartment, Doug smiled as they came in. He and Michele weren’t married, but their relationship was intimate, in fact, they’d been briefly pregnant. The surprise pleased them, since it confirmed fertility, but then her body discarded the fetus, and they were secretly relieved. Both of them had been lonely outcasts who didn’t wish that on a child.
After dinner, the doorbell rang. They answered it as a trio. Standing in the light was a small gray creature in a tan trench coat.
“Alien abduction!” Those were the first words out of Doug’s mouth.
“You can’t have him!” Michele jumped in front of Doug.
The little gray being made a “tsk” sound and spoke understandable English. “Abduct one of you, a dwarf and a sufferer of hirsutism, no; you guys are as common as stardust. I’ve been commissioned to find that dog.”
“He’s a Border collie born to a Pit bull mother. He’s an elaborate nocturnal experiment by my people. They sent me to find him.”
“Well,” Doug rubbed the back of his neck, which he could barely reach, “the puppy mill folks were a little confused about it all and put him up for sale. They thought a Border collie male had snuck into the yard. That’s why I called him Rover, for his roving father. I got him cheap.”
“Does he seem extra smart?” The little gray guy lifted his nonexistent eyebrows.
“Yeah, but that’s normal in Border collies.”
“I’m sorry, but I’ll have to take him away from you.”
“Please come in and let’s discuss this.” Michele opened the door wide, but when the little creature stepped inside, she hit him in the face so hard his neck snapped. “I have more male characteristics than just facial hair; try extra strength and household protection.”
“Ohmygod, Honey, we have a dead alien in the living room!” Doug continued to rub the back of his neck, but now HE was getting a little gray. “Is this murder?”
“No, he’s not a person, not really. He might be considered some sort of animal, but I guarantee he’s not listed as endangered or protected. Doug, I wasn’t going to let him take Rover for experiments!”
“I know, Honey, but wow! What’ll we do now?”
Michele stuffed Kleenex into the tiny nostrils so no strange liquid could leak. “I’ll put him in the Koi pond in the early morning when no one is around; there are lots of rocks to hold the body down, and it’ll freeze over soon anyway. The koi can nibble on him over the winter, if they’re so inclined. Doug, think about it, he’s not going to be a missing person! There won’t be any flyers!”
“He was a commissioned alien detective in a little Columbo trench coat; who would have thought such things existed! I’ll bet the others don’t even know where the gumshoe smartass was going tonight. We’ll have to check him for tracking devices, of course, can’t let ET call home.”
“We have no choice.” Doug sat on a hassock. “We can’t let government scientists and journalists tear our life apart.”
“Someday that koi pond will be cleaned and his body found, but there’s nothing to link him to us unless he had a confidant, which I doubt, he seems like a renegade actor looking for a payday. Some alien was watching the puppy mill, saw a dwarf man buy Rover, and sent Columbo Junior to investigate.”
“If he could find us, others can.”
“If there are others like him, no one’s heard about them. We move before they realize he’s missing. Doug, we don’t have a choice. Our line of work lets us jump around without forwarding addresses. Other carnies will help protect us, especially from aliens. We’re not in violation of human laws. At the end of the day, Sweetheart, that’s the truth; he was trying to harm our family,” her pretty, misty eyes held his.
Behind them, Rover’s tail thumped the floor. Carnivals and Renaissance Fairs sounded far better than alien experiments; turkey legs!
This is a Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction. Chuck wanted us to use some sort of random generator for subgenre, conflict and “must feature.” I got an alien abduction, with a hidden body, and a side of carnival folk. Enjoy.