The Deadline

By Brian K. Lowe

One lifetime to experience what it meant to be human. That was all Allie had planned for.

The flaw in her plan was that it had worked.

“Penny for your thoughts, my love?”

Smiling at the touch of David’s hand sliding across her shoulder, Allie grasped his fingertips without a conscious thought. Love for him flooded through her, followed by the fear.

“Oh, I’m just sitting here enjoying the summer evening,” she replied. “I was going to come in soon.”

She relaxed as David began to massage her shoulders. “I was watching you from inside. You were looking at the stars.”

“Better the stars than the Cassems’ living room. Their TV is so big I can see their shows without my glasses.”

“You’ve been looking up at the sky a lot the last few years. You never seemed interested in astronomy before.” David’s hands stopped, keeping the pressure on. “You started watching me after the cancer, like you thought I might break. Then you started looking at the stars. I thought maybe you were depressed. But the look in your eyes… You’re not depressed. You’re lonely.”

“Lonely?” She twisted her head around to try to look at him. “Lonely for what?”

“I don’t know. I can’t imagine.” He sighed. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“I’m sorry?”

“Allie, we’ve been married for 57 years. We don’t have any secrets.”

He knew. But he couldn’t know!

David sat next to her, taking her face in his hands. “You’re the most wonderful wife in the world. You’ve made me very happy. I love you.”

She felt a tear roll down her left cheek until it met his hand. “I love you, too.”

“I know you do, sweetheart, I know. But nothing lasts forever.” He gave her a wry smile. “Well, maybe you do.”

She matched his smile. She had underestimated humans—or more likely she had simply underestimated him. An immense weight she hadn’t even known she was carrying for almost 60 years fell from her shoulders.

“No, not forever. Just a very long time.” She squeezed his fingers.

“What are you?” he asked. “Really?”

He’ll never be able to look at me the same way again. But he still wants to know.

“First,” she said clearly, “I’m your wife.” She had to pause to gather the strength to speak the words. No one else had ever guessed her secret. “Second… a very distant second… there’s a planet about fifty thousand light-years from here. A little more than two thousand years ago, there was a scientist. She was trying to harness a wormhole, create unlimited free power. The idea was brilliant, but she was an idiot. The experiment went completely wrong, her orbital lab was sucked into the wormhole, and when she came out the other side… she was me. And I’m…not human.” Allie sighed. “There’s so much to see… I’ve been all over the galaxy. But I got lonely, and I followed  some radio signals to Earth, and I decided to stick around a while, remember what it was to be a person. I made myself a promise that while I was human, I would be human. No special powers, nothing. I even made myself forget who I really was. And then I met you.”

“But you broke your promise to yourself when you cured my cancer.”

“No, that—that was after my deadline. Before that I couldn’t have done it.”

“Your deadline?”

“Uh-huh. When I came here, I gave myself 75 years. To be human, like I said. And I really was. Then the deadline passed, and I was myself again, but…”

“I had cancer,” he finished for her. “And you couldn’t leave. So you fixed me.”

She nodded.

“And you’d go on doing it.”

“Yes. Because I don’t want to lose you.”

“What about that?” He gestured at the sky. “You can’t have that and me, too, can you?”


“But this isn’t enough for you. You need to go back.”


David leaned forward and put his head on her shoulder. “Allie?”


“If you wanted to, could you erase my memories of you? So I won’t miss you when you’re gone?”

She hesitated, though she knew she owed him the answer. “Yes.”

“Please don’t.”