Guest Blogger: Christian Saunders
The winner of Christian's pdf copy of her book is: Rosie. Congrats, Rosie. Contact me with your email address and I'll pass it along to Christian. Thanks, everyone!
I look different, I stand out in a crowd. I shock people. When I show myself in public people stop and stare at me in the street or try to take my picture. Some politely ask my permission, others try to do it when they think you are not looking. Surely that should be a violation of privacy laws. I worry that one day my image will wind up on the cover of a magazine.
Sometimes I make children cry. I don't do it intentionally, but the moment they see me a shadow of confusion falls across their little faces, then their eyes open wide in terror and they scream uncontrollably whilst their mothers try to soothe them. I feel bad about that, but what can I do? If I reach out a hand in friendship the children scream even louder.
I am what I am, I cannot change my appearance. Sadly, that is beyond my powers.
Most of the attention we aliens generate is down to plain old fascination. Despite the great strides made in recent years many of the people here have never seen an actual alien live in the flesh before. In the major cities it is much better. People are altogether more tolerant. Most big cities in the world are basically the same; they are melting pots which thrive on diversity. In a modern city with a population of several million-plus, every race colour and creed will be adequately represented and no matter what you look like or where you are from, the chances are that the natives will have seen your ilk before.
But in the provinces and rural areas we are few and far between, and this is where we do the most psychological damage. If an alien walks down a street in a small countryside village people will follow behind him to see what he does, shout or even throw things at him. It's a bit like that scene towards the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, when there are just a few humans left amongst the heaving throngs of aliens. They try to melt into the crowd, but then they are recognized and all hell breaks loose...
I live in a fair-sized city and in truth most people I meet here are very warm and friendly, just extremely curious. Every day I am forced into answering a barrage of questions: Where are you from? What do you eat? What are you doing here?
In some cases, however, there is a barely concealed air of hostility or resentment. A vocal minority don't want aliens of any description living in their country because they think it dilutes their national identity, which is fair enough I guess.
On my more sensitive days I feel like an escaped circus freak. Despite what people may think, even aliens have feelings. Sometimes I just want to blend in, I don't want to be different. I want to be able to walk to a shop and buy a newspaper like a normal person. A small part of me craves anonymity. Bizarrely, sometimes I surrender to a fundamental desire to be accepted and try to act like the local people. I eat the same food, as unpalatable as much of it is, and I copy their fashion sense with varying degrees of success.
But I can't really complain. I did my research before I came and I knew what to expect when I accepted this assignment. I was not misled or hoodwinked by anybody. My primary objective is to inform and educate the masses, but in my spare time I write stories. My situation inspires creativity, it urges me to look at things from different angles and new perspectives. I have always written stories, even as a fledgling, and maybe it says something about my psyche that I have never written about sugar, spice, or anything nice.
Oh yes, being an alien is definitely conducive to producing horror fiction.
It also has a lot to do with time, that most precious of commodities. In my other world, my other life, I was always too busy doing other things to devote much time to the craft. I had many friends, and there were always a lot of distractions. Here, I don't have many friends and my job is not too demanding so I find myself in the position of having a surplus of spare time. For that I am truly grateful.
Of course, I'm not a real, bona fide alien from another planet or solar system, with tentacles and a death ray. If I was, my marketability would soar. I'm only an alien in the eyes of the Chinese, a fact that is reinforced every time I visit an airport or government building and have to follow the signs saying 'ALIEN'S: THIS WAY...'
Sometimes I do actually feel like an alien, no matter how warm and friendly Chinese people are I will always be laowai; a foreigner, an outsider. Even though I've been here for two years now I still know very little of the culture, and even less of the language. The results of five thousand years of continuous documented history is not the kind of thing you pick up overnight. Most of the time I suffer from a strange sense of disconnection, almost as if I am looking out through someone else's eyes.
Maybe the eyes of a real alien. So if the are any out there and they do, by chance, read this, I sympathise...
(1): I say 'probably' because if there were shape-shifting aliens among us who can can change their appearance at will, we wouldn't know about it.
Contact Christian Saunders at: www.myspace.com/valleyboy74
Christian will give away a pdf of her book to one commenter. Stop back by on Thursday evening to see if you've won.