The bullet missed, but it pierced his heart all the same. The desert sky painted constellations on John’s eyelids, coaxing his thoughts away from the mortal realm and drawing them inexorably closer to the cosmic foam beyond. He crested the sand dune and slid down the other side on the rubber soles of his boots.
The tiny alien girl gazed up at him with dusky eyes, kicking her feeble legs the way a gazelle does after being tackled by a lion. Showers of silver blood rained down to join the rapidly-widening pool at her side.
John’s knees gave way beneath him when he reached her, hitting the sand with a muffled thump. Thousands of tiny grains perforated his bare skin, but he scarcely noticed.
“Don’t be afraid,” Alaya said. “I’m not afraid.”
She shook her head. “I’ll always be out there, among the stars. You’ll find me if you look hard enough.”
The rising sun sliced bright red wounds into the sky, scaring the night’s shadows back into their dens. Men in tailored suits zipped Alaya’s lifeless form into a body bag; John sat back and let them.
The evening news reported an explosion at Area 51 and the disappearance of a key scientific discovery. He dreamed of her that night—not dead-eyed and decaying but vibrantly alive, singing and dancing in the arms of infinite galaxies.