3rd Place – June 2020

Relatives

By

J. J. Rushmore

The cat waited for something—or someone.
The animal, a Siamese mix, had no collar. Two weeks ago it sauntered into the house as I entered the back door and refused to leave. It leaped onto the counter and stared out the kitchen window. It didn’t move for hours.
I hadn’t invited the cat in, so I declined to feed it, hoping it might take the hint and leave. Instead it would occasionally jump down from the counter and bat the screen door with its paw until the door bounced open enough for its slinky body to squeeze through. Cat would disappear for an hour or so and then return, nosing the door open to re-enter, presumably after taking care of whatever needs a cat might have.
I named it Cat. Unimaginative maybe, but I didn’t want to develop an attachment to this interloper who might suddenly vanish on a feline whim. She (for it was a she-cat) ignored me, as I did her.
I suppose I could have locked her out during one of her trips outside. I was somewhat fearful of her reaction to this, however, for she was a formidable creature. Besides, I found her presence mildly entertaining, so I allowed it to continue. Living alone and working from home provided scant stimulation for me, and the cat offered a welcome diversion from my otherwise routine existence.
I hoped I wasn’t turning into one of those lonely single women with a houseful of felines. One cat didn’t make a houseful, but what if another stray barged into my home? If there was one, there must be others. What if during one of her outdoor sojourns she met an amorous he-cat? Could I end up with a houseful of kittens?
One day while pondering these weighty questions the postman delivered my mail. I was excited to see a large envelope with “23-Skidoo” emblazoned on the return address. It was only a DNA test, but I was extremely anxious to see the results.
My parents adopted me as a baby, and I knew nothing of my birth parents. The adoption was anonymous, and no research on my part unearthed even the slightest hint concerning the identities of my biological ancestors. My adoptive parents were clueless, and in fact were a bit miffed I wanted to pursue the matter. The private adoption agency that handled the transaction no longer existed, and their records had been lost. Any public records were sealed.
I was disappointed, then, to read my test analysis. There were some specific details, including an unremarkable mix of Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and Nordic genes. This was somewhat surprising as most people described my looks as more Mediterranean than Western European. What was remarkable was a “No Data” category that encompassed fifty-two percent of my DNA. A footnote stated that for an additional fee the firm could perform further analysis of my Y-chromosomal and mitochondrial DNA that might reveal more definitive information, but results were not guaranteed.
Fifty-two percent of indecipherable DNA? My expertise was in computers, not genetics, but I didn’t see how over half my DNA could be of unknown origin.
I joined Cat at the kitchen window for some unfocused staring. Movement outdoors caught my attention—a black SUV sped up the dirt road leading to my house as a billowing beige cloud followed its progress. It turned into my drive and skidded to a stop in a swirl of dust.
The pair that emerged from the vehicle, a man and a woman, could have been models for a Men In Black poster.
I answered the knock on my back door.
“We’re looking for a Dr. Thomas,” the man said. “Dr. Adrienne Thomas.” He was taller than me, which was saying something, and uncommonly handsome. The woman was my height and possessed movie star beauty with a figure to match.
“And who might you be?” I said, keeping the screen door closed.
“I’m Officer Omar, and my partner is Officer Kamel.” He flipped a wallet and flashed a badge, a fancy gold-and-blue thing with strange markings. “We’re from the Missing Persons Bureau. We’re law enforcement. May we come in?” When he reached for his badge his suit coat fell open and revealed a shoulder holster. I assumed the woman was similarly armed, but with her build it was hard to tell.
I had little hope of escaping if they meant me harm. I opened the door and sat them at the kitchen table. My only defense was a can of wasp spray near the sink. I might blind one of my visitors with a twenty-foot stream of poison, but bullets would fly before I could spray the other one.
“I see you’ve met Cleo,” the woman said. “She’s one of ours.”
Cat, or rather Cleo, stared implacably at me.
“One of your what?” I said.
“Agents. She works for us.”
The cat hissed.
“Actually,” Omar said, “we work for her. Cats are superior beings, after all.”
Cleo looked at me and blinked in agreement.
“What do you want? Why are you here?” I waved at the three of them.
“We understand you had your DNA tested,” Kamel began. “and there were some anomalous results.”
I made a face. “So much for strict confidentiality.”
“We have arrangements with the testing companies.” Omar grinned. “They’re quite cooperative.”
“I don’t understand what my DNA has to do with the Government,” I said.
“Strictly speaking,” said Kamel, “we’re only a quasi-governmental agency. Like the Post Office.”
Cleo leaped off the counter and bounded into Kamel’s lap. The cat glared at her.
“Okay, okay, we’re not really with the Government. At least not your government.”
That seemed to satisfy the cat, as it curled up into a ball. The woman automatically stroked the cat’s fur and scratched behind its ears. Cleo closed her eyes and purred.
“Which government do you work for, then?”
Kamel took a deep breath. “The Kardashian Government.”
“I didn’t know the Kardashian family was large enough to have its own government,” I said.
“Not those Kardashians. We’re from the planet Kardash. It’s in the Sagittarius arm of the Milky Way Galaxy.”
I must have rolled my eyes, as Officer Omar raised his hand in a ‘be patient’ wave.
“Anyway,” said Omar, “23-Skiddoo flagged your test results for us. We’re here to explain them.”
My eyebrows reached for the ceiling. I leaned against the counter and waited, wasp spray at the ready.
“Kardashians,” Omar began, “—our ancestors—visited here about five thousand years ago.” He gestured as he talked. “When I say here, I mean Earth—specifically Egypt. Their ship crashed and they became stranded and lived here while they awaited rescue.”
I could see where this was going. “How long did they wait?”
Omar winced. “About three thousand years. They spent most of that time rigging up a suitable signal antenna. Remember the pyramids? Together they work like a large parabolic reflector if hooked up to the right transmitter. The native Egyptians wouldn’t have built them without us.”
“In fact, our people have advanced Earth culture a lot throughout history,” Kamel said.
“So,” I said, “these extraterrestrials phoned home, and their brethren came and rescued them, but not before breeding with the natives, right?”
“You’re quick on the uptake, Doctor,” Kamel said. “It’s remarkable how similar DNA is on different planets—apparently there are only so many configurations of the carbon atom. DNA is so similar in advanced species that interbreeding can be possible, as happened here. Aside from being stronger, taller, more intelligent, and better-looking, Kardashians are quite similar to Earthlings.”
“You’re telling me I have alien DNA?”
“Quite a lot, actually. More than most. It surely contributed to your height, above average intelligence, and attractive appearance. You are a credit to the other Kardashian descendants we’ve identified.”
“You mean there are more like me?”
“Absolutely. Some of them you know, I’m sure. Think Sigourney Weaver, Venus Williams, and Elon Musk. Tall, attractive, with superior intelligence and physical strength. Not every Kardashian descendant possess all these attributes, but you get the idea.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Normally we follow all our descendants, but we lost track of you because of the adoption. We want them to know their heritage, and to give them the opportunity to meet their relatives.”
Cleo jumped off Kamel’s lap and proceeded to rub against my legs and purr loudly.
“Cleopatra likes you,” Kamel said.
“Plus, we have an offer for you,” Omar continued. “We have an Earth family reunion every fifty years, and the upcoming one is next week. You’re invited.”
The thought intrigued me. “Where will this gathering take place?”
“We all go home to Kardash. It’s quite a distance, about 20,000 parsecs, or 65,000 light years, if you prefer those units. But don’t worry—the travel time is relatively short—we take the Wormhole Express. Kind of like floo powder for spacemen.”
I couldn’t wait to go. I was finally going to meet my real family.

Writers’ workshop and writing group