The Space Alien

Chapter 6

The Silver Mask

Detective Akechi looked at Kitamura-san and pondered aloud, “Why should this space alien wish to learn Japanese?”

“I wondered the same thing,” Kitamura-san answered readily. “Here is the conclusion I came to.”

Imagine the fluency it must have achieved in a short month of studious application. That prospect is altogether frightening. And all part of the deeper schemes the creature had in mind.

After a half month of captivity, it began plying me for information about the various kinds of clothing worn in Japan and what was sold where. With that information in hand, it left for five and six hours at a time. During that time, of course I made every effort to escape. But unable to budge the hatch, all I could do was wait for it to return.

The space alien came back carrying a large package. What might you imagine the package contained? Clothing. Two suits. Two overcoats. A patrolman’s uniform and cap. Probably stolen from a used clothing store in Tokyo or Yokohama.

After that, the alien departed every three days or so, each time returning with the garb of a security guard or a laborer or a silk suit and coat—every kind of dress and fashion. The inside of the flying saucer began to resemble a theater’s costume department.

And then one morning, I awoke on the bed inside the flying saucer to find a man standing in front of me. The mutant mix of a lizard and bat had donned a disguise. The space alien turned itself into a human being from this planet.

The back of the western-style coat had been tailored to allow the wings to protrude. It wore the felt hat low over its eyes. And what of the face below the brim of the hat? Not that of a bird. A human face. A face that glittered with a silver light.

It wore a silver mask that duplicated the overall shape of a human face. The eye sockets were cut away allowing the creature’s creepy snake eyes to peek out. There was an aperture for the mouth as well. With the corners turned up, it formed a slit like a crescent moon. The face of the mask was fixed in a permanent grin, smiling forever no matter the circumstances.

I figured this out later, but the mask covered its whole head, not only its face. A metallic silver mask the space alien had built itself. As strong and hard as steel and yet flexible enough to bend at will—this was the metal created by that alien civilization. Making a mask with that strange material would have been a straightforward undertaking. The creature must have put it together at a workbench inside the flying saucer out of my sight.

I looked at this creature, dressed in a suit, the bat wings sprouting from its back, and couldn’t help gaping. Soon comprehending it to be the space alien, I asked, “What in the world do you hope to accomplish in that disguise?”

The crescent moon of a mouth in the silver mask grinned back at me. “You don’t understand, do you?”

“Well, maybe you intend to disguise yourself as a Japanese man and disappear into the streets and neighborhoods of Tokyo. There you can investigate the state of things here on Earth, here in Japan. You’re going to spy on us.”

“That is one possibility.” The space alien’s mask never stopped grinning.

“And maybe surveillance is only the half of it. Maybe a little theft as well? Maybe abduct human beings on this planet and take them back to your world?”

“Enough already. Do you not fear being turned to ash?”

I had no response to that. I had seen the smoke shot from that metal bulb syringe reduce the monkey to embers in a flash. Alarmed, I clamped my mouth shut.

After that, I sought out any opening, any means of escape from the flying saucer. Then, yesterday morning, an opportunity presented itself. The space alien had departed leaving the hatch ajar. That cunning creature slipped up.

I immediately clambered out and plunged into the forest, concealing myself amongst the trees, crawling beneath the leaves and underbrush. I lost my way, had no sense of where I was. But by the end of the day, the sun setting, I made it to the foot of the mountain.

That night, I sought lodging with one of the villagers. The next day, I walked to the train station and finally got back to Tokyo. I said nothing about the flying saucer or the space alien to anyone. Knowing that I escaped, it must have moved the flying saucer to a different location. Even if it had not, I could not begin to tell you where that place might be, let alone lead you there now.

I thought it best to return to Tokyo as quickly as possible and inform the police and the papers so the Japanese people would know that the space alien could show up anywhere disguised as one of them.

Kitamura-san brought his story to a close. No one said a thing at first. Such alarming information left them all at a loss for words.

A long moment later, as if it had just occurred to him, Yoshio Kobayashi, the detective’s assistant, blurted out, “What did you do for food? Did the space alien bring meals from somewhere else? Does it eat the same food as us?”

Kitamura-san nodded, as if to acknowledge the reasonable nature of the question. “The space alien’s food was altogether strange. Every now and then, it took a pill from a small container and put it into its mouth. That was a meal. I was offered one as well. A pill two or three times a day fully sated my appetite. It also prepared a liquid like alcohol to drink that was altogether delicious. One of those pills together with a bit of alcohol left me stuffed to the gills. That these creatures are so advanced they could invent such a convenient cuisine suggests that when it comes to science, the people of Earth simply don’t measure up.”

At that point, Detective Akechi softly interjected, “Kitamura-san, you said that this alien has wings, which means that spotting you from the air should have been a straightforward task. Bringing you back to the flying saucer would hardly be any more difficult. So why didn’t it?”

“I think because, having sufficiently mastered Japanese, it no longer needed me. It is entirely likely that it deliberately left the hatch ajar. It wanted me to escape. At this point, Detective Akechi, I must acknowledge that the space alien actually hoped I would deliver to you a first-person account of my captivity, and that the press would spread the news all over Japan. This is its way of boldly flaunting its superiority. I am walking the streets of your cities dressed like one of you. Catch me if you can.

“Hmm. That is a frightening thought, wishing to show off in such an ostentatious manner. However, supposing this creature came from a different star to investigate conditions on Earth and disguised itself as a human being in order to do so, one imagines it would do its best to conceal that fact. A most interesting turn of events. I believe there is great meaning lurking here.”

Detective Akechi voiced this conundrum and stared off into the distance. At the time, nobody understood the implications of the statement. But later, everybody would surely say, “Ah, so that’s what he was getting at. We should have expected nothing less from the great detective.”

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