Coming of age with aliens at the seashore

All of Mark's friends are moving away, and his dog is dying. As summer fades, he takes a trip to the beach to visit his friend Charley, the alien. The one with great weed, and a gift for resurrection.

Over at Strange Horizons, George R. Galuschak's story "The Big Splash" captures an awkward, bittersweet moment in a far-future youth's passage into adulthood. Galuschak evokes a 1970s-style future of casual sex and alien life that doesn't feel silly (except when it is). This is one of those rare slice-of-life tales that manages to be moving and weird at the same time.

Here's how "The Big Splash" starts:

Maybe Charley could help.

I carried my dog to the car and laid him on a blanket. His tail thumped on the front seat; he still loved his car trips even though he couldn't see anymore. Then I drove down the hill, to the Big Splash. Parked the car on the shoulder of the road, took off my shoes and walked onto the beach.

Charley was in. A wasp landed on the back of my hand: midnight blue with a needle stinger. It perched there a moment, wings quivering like a hummingbird's, and then flew off. I went back to the car to get my dog. Wrapped him up in a blanket and carried him to the beach.

I passed the sign that read Warning: Shark Zone. The sun was setting, lighting up the tops of the condos sticking out of the water. They had been swallowed by the swollen ocean, when it spilled over, like everything else: the skyscrapers, the cars, the fast food joints, the schools and supermarkets and liquor stores. A colony of wild parrots nested in one of the condos; big green squawking monsters that made a ruckus.

Charley sat on a lawn chair watching the sun set. He looked human-sort of-but there were differences, the biggest being the third eye above the bridge of his nose. When Charley got stoned, his corneas turned bright pink and the third eye rolled up into his head.

"Hey, Mark." Charley raised a hand. He looked at the bundle in my arms. "Who's this?"

"This is Roger, my cocker spaniel," I said. "He's a good boy."

"What's wrong with him?" Charley asked. He held out his hand and Roger sniffed it.

"He's old," I said. "He can't see anymore. Can hardly walk."

"Poor guy." Charley scratched Roger's ears.

"I want to ask a favor," I said. "Maybe it's stupid."

"Hit me."

"I thought you might be able to help him." I tried to keep the tremble out of my voice. "Maybe reverse the aging process."

"What makes you think I could do that?" Charley asked.

"Well, you're an alien and all. And you do that stuff with the wasps and the crabs."

Read the rest at Strange Horizons.

Image by Enrique Lara.