Henry made his way from the barn to his house, pausing a moment to look up and enjoy the beautiful night sky.
As he aged, he found that he enjoyed the serenity of being alone. His wife had passed away years ago, and at first, he was lonely. Over time though, he could feel her presence and felt a strong connection to her on the farm.
The door creaked as he opened it. It sounded welcoming.
He made himself a sandwich, poured some milk into a glass, and headed to the living room to watch some of his favorite shows.
He was half way done with his sandwich, when he heard a knock at the door.
The knock startled him, and he looked in that direction.
When he heard the knock the second time, he stood up and slowly walked toward the door.
It was unusual for him to have visitors. He would go into town every other week to get his hair cut, buy groceries, and say “hi” to his few remaining friends. Other than that, he had no visitors, no deliveries, no human interaction between trips.
He cautiously looked out the front window to see who was knocking. Though he wasn't a fearful man, he also knew he wasn't a young man anymore either.
When he looked out the window, he saw a middle-aged man, wearing a suit. He looked like a traveling salesman.
Henry walked to the door.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Yes. My ship, I mean my car broke down, and I was wondering if I could use your telephone,” the man replied.
Though unsure, the man didn't seem dangerous, so Henry opended the door for him.
Once face to face, Henry couldn't help but feel like the man seemed familiar.
“Do I know you?” Henry asked.
The man hesitated for a moment, and the said, “I don't believe so. I was just passing through when my car broke down close to the end of your driveway.”
They stared at each other for a moment, and then Henry moved to let him pass.
“The phone is in the kitchen there,” Henry said, pointing in the direction of the kitchen.
The man thanked him and walked in the direction Henry had pointed. He found the phone that was mounted on the wall.
Henry watched the man make his call, asking for a tow truck to come tow his car. Henry gave the man his address so they knew where he was.
When the man was done with the phone, Henry asked if he would like a drink.
“Yes, please. I feel like I'm dying of thirst,” the man replied.
Henry grabbed a glass and filled it with tap water from the sink.
“Is this your wife?” the man asked, pointing to a picture on the counter.
“Yes,” Henry answered, handing the man his glass. “Her name was Meredith. She passed away some time ago.”
“My condolences,” the man replied sincerely. “Thank you again for letting me use your telephone.”
Henry just grunted his reply.
“Would you like to have a seat in the living room while you wait for the tow truck?” Henry asked.
“Yes, thank you,” the man replied, following Henry to the other room.
Henry didn’t know why, but he felt comfortable around this stranger. His memory wasn’t what it used to be, but he felt like he had met this man before.
“What did you say your name was again?” Henry asked.
“Clifford. Clifford Jenkins,” the man replied, reaching out and shaking Henry’s hand.
The man sat back and said, “This is beautiful farm. You’ve kept it up really well. Do the kids help?”
“No. Meredith and I never had any kids,” Henry explained. “I lease out the fields to a local business. They do all the upkeep.”
Clifford nodded his understanding.
“Well, they do a really good job,” he said.
Henry just nodded and grunted.
Henry was always a private man. His wife was the one who enjoyed spending time talking to friends. He kept in touch with some people in town out of respect for her, but he didn’t think anyone would really miss him when he was gone.
“How long have you lived here?” the man asked.
Henry looked around as he answered, as if he was looking out over the farm. “Meredith and I bought the farm not long after we were married.
“She always wanted to live on the farm, and there were plenty of them out here. The previous owner’s children sold it to us not long after he passed away.”
Henry looked out the window to see if there was any sign of the tow truck pulling up.
The man could tell what he was thinking.
“They should be here soon,” the man said. They told me it wouldn’t be long.
“That’s fine,” Henry replied, with a weary smile.
Henry could barely remember when the last time he had company was, though he knew it had been years. He normally didn’t mind being alone. He had gotten used to it, but now that this man had arrived, he found he enjoyed having someone to talk to, even if he only listened while the stranger talked.
Whenever he and his wife would be in some sort of social gathering, Meredith did most of the talking. He enjoyed the sound of her voice, and as he sat here with this gentleman, he missed it.
Henry felt like he should contribute to the conversation, since his wife wasn’t here, so he asked, “Whereabouts are you from?”
“I’m actually originally from around here, though now I travel all over the place,” the man replied.
Though Henry didn’t socialize much, he did know most of the people that lived in town.
“What did you say your name was again?” Henry asked.
“Jenkins. Clifford Jenkins,” the man replied.
Henry pondered it. “I don’t know any Jenkins that live around here,” he stated.
The man seemed to become a little uncomfortable, as if he was unsure what to say next.
“It was a very long time ago,” the man explained. “My family moved away soon after I left. How about you. How long have you lived in this town?”
“All my life,” Henry replied. “My family goes back several generations, though I’m the only one who took up farming. My parents and grandparents worked at the old mill.”
The stranger nodded.
“Have you ever thought about leaving?” the stranger asked. “You know, after your wife passed.”
Now it was Henry’s turn to seem a little uncomfortable.
“Maybe at first, but this is where I feel her strongest,” he said. “And I’m sure I don’t have much longer for this earth, so I see no reason to uproot now.”
The stranger nodded in understanding. He then looked out the window, and then his watch.
“Henry,” the man started. “I don’t have much time, so I would like to ask you a few questions that may seem unusual.”
This took Henry a little by surprise, and he was unsure of how he should respond, but in the end he nodded.
“My name isn’t really Clifford Jenkins, it’s Billy Miller from the Miller Farm on the other side of town,” the stranger stated.
Henry’s eyes furrowed. His best friend when he was a child was named Billy Miller and his parents did own a farm that everyone had called the Miller Farm, but he had died when was only twelve.
The stranger could tell he was trying to comprehend what he had just told him.
“I had a best friend named Billy Miller when I was a child, but he died when he was only twelve,” Henry stated, thinking this man was perhaps a relative of Billy who bore the same name.
“I know,” the stranger replied. “That was me.”
He let that sink in a little. He could tell Henry was getting a little nervous, so he decided now was the time to come clean with him.
“I did die, but I was brought back to life, and I can do the same for your wife, Meredith,” the stranger said bluntly.
Henry was unsure of what to make of that statement, so he said, “I think you should leave.”
The man didn’t move, and as he kept his gaze with Henry, he said, “I will soon.”
Henry felt that if he was a younger man, he would throw this man out, but he felt that he was too weak to do anything other than defend himself if he was attacked, so he sat there, wondering where this conversation would lead him.
“There is a race of people that can’t reproduce like we can, so they bring the dead back to life to replenish their numbers. That’s how I was brought back, and that’s how I can bring Meredith back too.”
Henry huffed, and walked to the window to look out.
“That’s ridiculous,” he said.
“I know it sounds crazy, but you were my best friend, and I want you to be happy,” the stranger stated. “As soon as I heard about you having lost your wife, I came here.”
Henry didn’t fully believe the stranger, but the thought of having Meredith back was tempting. Though he didn’t fully believe him, he had to find out why this stranger had showed up at his farm to pretend to be his childhood friend, Billy.
“I know this seems ludicrous, but I am running out of time,” the stranger replied. “Please, let me help you before I have to leave.”
“What is the rush?” Henry asked, slight contempt in his voice.
“This other race,” the stranger started. “There not from this planet, and where they live is very different from here. Even the air is different.”
The two men stared at each other.
“I can’t breathe the air here for too long, or it will start to become poisonous,” he explained. Please let me help you.”
Hearing the urgency in the stranger’s voice, he decided to hear the man out.
“Fine,” Henry said. “Tell me how this works.”
The stranger could hear the slight mockery in Henry’s voice, but didn’t care.
“It’s very simple,” the man replied. “You just have to agree to go, and we can go, along with your wife.”
“Okay, I agree,” Henry said, just to see what would happen.
“I know you don’t one hundred percent believe me, but you have to be sure,” the stranger stated. “Once we do this, there is no going back.”
The sureness in the stranger’s voice convinced Henry that maybe the man wasn’t making the story up.
“If you’re truly Billy, tell me something that only he would know,” Henry said.
The stranger had already predicted that Henry would need proof, so he knew what he had to say.
The stranger told Henry the story of when they had found a frog and turned it into a pet. The frog was very distinct, having a black stripe that ran down it’s body. Neither of their parents knew about it, but it was their secret. They kept it in a shed, feeding it water, and insects.
One day, they went to check on the frog, only to discover that it had died. Secretly, they both buried it, and had a small ceremony for it.
Henry’s eyes grew wide as the stranger shared the details about the frog. Henry wanted to believe him, but the whole situation was too out of his realm of comprehension.
When the stranger was done with his story, he took a step back to give Henry a moment.
When Henry looked up, the stranger made eye contact with him, and with a slight smile, reached into his pocket and pulled out a small frog with a black stripe running down his body.
“Billy?” was all Henry could say, finally believing him.
Henry and the stranger stared at each other for a long moment, and then Henry said, “I believe.”
The stranger’s face saddened a little.
“There’s only one problem,” the man said.
Henry watched the man as he stood and paced.
“What is it?” Henry asked.
“We can only take the dead,” the man said simply.
It took only a moment for Henry to realize what he was saying.
“You mean, I have to die?” Henry asked.
“I’m afraid so,” the man replied.
Henry stood up, and paced around the room, as the man looked at his watch.
“I can make it painless,” the stranger said. “You’ll fall asleep, and when you wake up, you’ll be with your wife.”
Henry stared out the window.
“Can’t you just come back for me when I die?” Henry asked.
The man shook his head. “It’s a very long trip, and my people only come to this world every hundred years, and by then you and your wife will have been beyond bringing back. It has to be now, or never.”
Henry knew he didn’t have long to live, and the unknown of what happens after you die compelled him to believe this man. If there was any chance of being with Meredith again, he wanted to take it.
“What do I do?” he asked the stranger.
The man pulled a pill out of his pocket and showed it to Henry.
“You just take this,” the man replied. “I promise you, it’s absolutely painless.”
Henry sat down, took the pill out of the man’s hand, and stared at it. It didn’t look menacing, but he knew once he swallowed it, there would be no going back.
He closed his eyes, and swallowed the pill.
He began to feel drowsy and the world became blurry as he drifted off to sleep.
When he opened his eyes, he was staring at a bright light shining over him. He felt like he had just woken from a deep sleep.
He blinked the grogginess away, and two shadows caught his eye.
Once he was fully awake, he realized he was on an operating table, surrounded by two forms.
“Welcome back, Henry,” a voice he recognized as the stranger said.
And then a more familiar voice spoke.
“Hi, Henry. I’ve missed you so much.”
He recognized the voice at once.
“Meredith?” he asked, quickly sitting up.
He looked around and realized he was in a strange room that looked like something out of an alien movie. He turned to see both Meredith and Billy smiling at him.
“Welcome home,” Billy said, as Meredith came forward and gave him a strong hug.
They all laughed when a frog with a black stripe running down it’s body, jumped out of Billy’s hand and onto Henry’s lap.