The events described in this story are fictional. The author makes no assertion about the lives or characters of the real people whose names and identities she has used in the writing of this story, and makes no money from it.

The Visitors

Viggo Mortensen was abducted by aliens on a bright morning full of sunshine and birdsong, which wasn't quite how he'd envisioned it. Not that he really had envisioned it, not really. It wasn't as though he spent a lot of his time sitting around thinking about what it would be like to be abducted by aliens.

It's just that if he had imagined it, it probably wouldn't have been quite like this. The time of day was wrong, for a start. The middle of the night would have seemed more appropriate. With possibly some bright flashing lights, and a bit of levitation. That kind of thing.

But that wasn't how it happened at all. He was standing out on the deck with his coffee, enjoying the feel of the sun on his arms and having a quiet think, when the phone rang. He went back inside, thinking he should have unplugged the damn thing while he had the chance.

"Mr Mortensen?"


"Mr Viggo Mortensen?"

"Yes, speaking."

"Ah, Mr Mortensen. It is so wonderful to speak with you. We were wondering ... that is, there are many of us here who would like to meet you in person. We have questions we should like to ask you."

Oh, great. Really great. How did these people get hold of his personal number, anyway?

"Listen, that's so kind of you, honestly, I'm very flattered. Maybe if you could speak to my agent... Do you have her number at all? It's just that usually these things go through her..."

"We are just outside, Mr Mortensen."


"If you would simply rotate your head approximately twenty degrees to your left, you will be able to see..."

"Shit!" Viggo had followed these instructions, and then proceeded to throw coffee all over a rather nice hand-woven Peruvian rug. Outside on the deck, where he'd been standing just a few minutes before, were five very odd-looking people. In fact, he wasn't sure 'people' was quite the right word. But they were certainly odd-looking. Tall. Spindly. Very spindly. Long spindly arms and legs, long spindly fingers. Generally a whole lot of length and spindliness going on there. Also grey. And their heads were triangular. And they had enormous eyes and their noses were virtually nonexistent. They were aliens, of course. Viggo knew an alien when he saw one. He'd seen The X-Files. One of them reached out a long, spindly arm, folded its long, spindly fingers into a loose fist, and tapped gently on the sliding glass door.

Well, what could he do? Viggo went over to speak to them.

"Uh ... hi. Did you just... Did one of you just call me?" Surprisingly, he felt no fear. He just felt a bit of an idiot.

"Mr Mortensen. How pleasant to see your face. We would be honoured -- most honoured -- if you would please come with us for ... a bit of a chat." The creature's voice was grey too, and strangely flat.

"Oh, um... well, I don't know..."

"Only, of course, if you feel you can spare us the time."

That was another thing. This whole 'abduction' business. He didn't really feel as though he were being abducted. 'I was politely asked for an interview by aliens.' It didn't have quite the same ring to it, somehow.

"It will not take long, we assure you." Somehow, the alien (their leader? Viggo wondered) managed to convey an expression of the utmost sincerity, even though it had no real facial features to speak of.

"Oh, well ... okay, sure." Why not, he figured. Most people probably thought he was nuts anyway.

He was a little disappointed not to find some huge, technologically advanced spacecraft hovering over his backyard, with a dazzling beam of light waiting to suck him up off the ground. Apparently, they were just going to get a cab. It was a bit of a squeeze, with all six of them, but the aliens were very thin, after all. The one who may or may not have been their leader sat in the front.

"Where to, guys?" chirped their driver, apparently unfazed by the decidedly unusual nature of his passengers. The front-seat alien gave directions, and then sat back with its spindly hands folded in its lap.

Viggo found the ride to wherever they were going a little uncomfortable, squashed as he was in the back seat of a taxi with four extra terrestrials. It was difficult to know where to look. They were just so very odd. Also, they kept on staring at him, and he got the impression that, if they'd had the right sort of mouths, they'd be smiling rather too brightly, like a posse of emaciated grey flight attendants. He decided to break the ice.

"So, uh... I guess I'm wondering, 'Why me?'" He chuckled in what he hoped was an amiable fashion. Rather disconcertingly, the alien in the front twisted its head around 180 degrees until it was facing Viggo over the back of the seat.

"We have been watching you, Mr Mortensen."

Now this was more the kind of thing he'd have expected. A not entirely unpleasant icy shiver ran down Viggo's spine.

"You have?"

"Oh yes!" One of the back seat aliens piped up excitedly. "Even before 'The Fellowship of the Ring', we have been observing you. We liked you very much in 'Witness'. Very much indeed! We think you have a great deal of talent!"

"Uh ... thank you." Viggo decided to shut up. He was obviously out of his depth.

When he stepped out of the car, it occurred to him for the first time that he'd obviously been the victim of a practical joke. Either that or he was about to be murdered horribly. Because there was absolutely nothing to see. They were in the middle of a featureless, deserted wasteland; a wide, empty space claimed by weeds and dirty, straggling grass. He could see no familiar landmarks, nothing to tell him where they were or how far they'd come. Here and there, little piles of rubble sat sadly, serving no purpose save as targets for the graffiti kids. 'Suck my dick,' he read in startling bright blue letters on a nearby cement block. Oh well. He supposed it was one way of getting a date.

He felt a light touch on his elbow. The head alien was standing at his side, craning its long neck round in order to look into his eyes. It was invading his personal space rather.

"I must apologize for the unsightliness of this place to which we have brought you," it said. "It is unworthy of you. But you must understand, Mr Mortensen. This was the closest place to your dwelling that we could find adequate parking."

The alien casually flicked one of its spindly, bony hands out toward the empty space. It seemed to be holding some sort of small device. 'Beep-beep', went the device, quietly. There was something awfully familiar to Viggo about the gesture, although he couldn't quite think why... Just then, a huge, technologically advanced spaceship materialized in the middle of the waste-ground, and Viggo realized what he'd been reminded of. It was the central locking system on his car.

"Wow," said Viggo. The craft gleamed and glittered in the morning sun. It was sleek and enormous and silvery and sort of egg-shaped, and very, very obviously Not Of This World. It looked like a giant piece of designer kitchen equipment.

The alien looked up at the machine with ill-disguised pride. "It is not a bad vehicle," it said nonchalantly, "It gets one from planet A to planet B, you know." It beeped its device at the ship again, and a sleek, silvery staircase slid out of the ship's base down to the ground. Obviously, the old beaming-up method was outmoded. The alien made a polite 'after you' gesture, and Viggo stepped up onto the first stair.

The inside of the spaceship was just as sleek and gleaming and chrome coffee-maker-like as the outside. The aliens led Viggo down smooth shiny corridor after smooth shiny corridor, until they came to a smooth, shiny door. The leader turned to him.

"We have arranged a short interview for you," it said. "The interviewer has been prepared in advance with all the questions we wish to ask you. We do very much hope that you will enjoy the experience, and that you will not feel inconvenienced in any way. If there is anything you require for your comfort which we have not thought to provide, please do mention this thing to our interviewer."

"Well, thank you," said Viggo.

"No," said the alien. "Thank you, Mr Mortensen. We are so very happy to have you here as our guest." Viggo couldn't be certain, but he thought he saw the glisten of a tear at the corner of the creature's large, black pupil-less eye. He probably shouldn't jump to conclusions though. They were aliens, after all. It could mean pretty much anything.

"Uh ... no problem," he said.

The sleek silver door slid open with a subdued hiss, and Viggo stepped inside the large, alien ... cosy ... floral wallpapered ... country-style ... er ... tearoom?

No. This was ridiculous. Viggo was just not prepared to accept that he was in a tearoom, with little lace curtains, and check tablecloths, and vases of spring flowers on little round tables, whilst simultaneously being on an alien spaceship from God-knew-what unimaginably far-flung galaxy. He just wasn't. He sank into a sweet little wicker armchair with comfy chintz cushions, to try and figure out what was going on, and the best way of not accepting it. Perhaps it was all a dream? That seemed logical. But the thing about dreams, Viggo thought, is that while you usually don't know when you are dreaming, you almost invariably do know when you aren't. Viggo knew this didn't make a lot of sense, but he also knew he wasn't dreaming.

There was an array of magazines spread out before him on one of the little round tables. He scanned the titles: 'The Lady'; 'Country Life'; 'House and Garden'. Right. Sure. Why not?

"I hope you are appreciating the reading materials we have provided for you, Mr Mortensen." A figure had entered the room through the shiny silver door, which from the inside had a rustic, stripped pine look. "We thought they might make you feel ... as though you are at home."

"That's kind of you ... thanks. I ah ... actually don't buy magazines that often, but ... no, this is great, really."

The figure (tall, grey, spindly -- it appeared to be something of an ongoing theme around here) walked, heron-like, over to the chair opposite Viggo's and sat down. It was carrying a thing that resembled a clipboard with a keypad, and a small grey machine about the size of a disposable camera, which it fiddled with before setting carefully in the middle of the table. Viggo assumed this was some kind of recording device.

"So, uh ... this is a lovely room. Very ... familiar. I guess this is all for my benefit too, huh?" He grinned.

The alien looked around at the delicately patterned wallpaper, the framed watercolours of woodland scenes, the horse brasses hanging by the brick hearth, in which nestled a tasteful arrangement of dried flowers. It looked a little surprised.

"No," it said. "This is just how we like it in this room. We find it relaxing." It looked down at its clipboard and pressed some buttons.

"Oh." Viggo shut up again. The pine door opened a second time, and another alien came in, carrying what looked like -- no, what was -- a tea tray. It set the tray down on their table, and left without a word. These aliens, thought Viggo, if it wasn't for the whole alien thing, would have struck him as kind of British.

"Perhaps you would like a little refreshment before we start?" The alien picked up the elegant pot in its twig-like fingers, and prepared to pour. "It is Assam, I hope that this is acceptable to you."

"Thank you," said Viggo faintly. He would have preferred herbal really, but he didn't want to make a fuss.

"Do you know the secret of making really excellent tea, Mr Mortensen?" The alien passed a delicate white porcelain cup across the table to Viggo.

"Ah ... not really..."

"The water must be always absolutely at boiling temperature when it comes into contact with the tea," the alien said. "If it is not, the tea will not be excellent. We also like to make the pot warm before the tea is put inside it. This is something that also helps the excellence of the tea."

"Right." Viggo took a sip and refused to think about the utter surreality of the conversation he was having. He had to admit, the tea was really pretty good.

"Now," said the alien. "I shall begin the interview, if this is agreeable to you, Mr Mortensen?"

"Sure. Fire away." Go with the flow, thought Viggo. If it all got too weird, he had some relaxing breathing techniques he could try.

The alien fiddled with his clipboard again, and then looked up.

"First, we should like to ask you a little about your masterful interpretation of the part of Aragorn, in Peter Jackson's acclaimed 'Lord of the Rings' movie trilogy. We have heard that you got into character for this role by actually continuing to wear the character's clothing even when you were not being filmed, and that you exhibited unusual behaviour, such as carrying around your character's weapon inside your vehicle. Is this accurate, Mr Mortensen?" The alien sat back, its almond-shaped eyes wide with interest.

Viggo felt a little let down. Human journalists were one thing, but somehow he hadn't expected such a very banal question from an extra terrestrial. "Um, yeah, I guess. I mean, it was just something I did, you know, it wasn't ... I mean -- Look, would you mind if I asked you a couple of questions?"

The alien nodded its permission.

"It's just that, well, this is all a little weird for me, okay? Because, I mean, we've heard things down here, about you people ... well, maybe not you people, per se ... but, like ... to be honest, I kind of thought you'd want to do experiments and stuff? Like, you know -- medical? Probing, that kind of thing."

The alien's large black eyes turned a peculiar shade of violet. It lowered its head sorrowfully. "Ah..." it said. "Everywhere we go, this sort of thing happens. I do not understand why we are so misrepresented, I really do not. Perhaps all this was a mistake." It sighed through its tiny triangular mouth.

Viggo felt chastened. "Oh, look, I didn't mean to... I'm really sorry. I know how it is, really -- people just make stuff up... Listen, what's the next question? I'd really like to hear it."

The alien perked up visibly. "Well, the next thing we would like to ask about, Mr Mortensen, is your relationship with your co-actors in the Lord of the Rings films. We have sensed from our repeated viewings of the two currently available movies, that there was a certain bond that developed between yourself and the other people who portrayed the members of the Fellowship of the Ring. Perhaps you could tell us something about this." Its eyes had returned to a healthy black.

"Ah, okay. Well, you know we were out there in New Zealand for so long -- have you been there, by the way? You really should try to fit in a visit before you go back to ... er ... anyway. Like I was saying, when you spend that amount of time with a bunch of people, you can't help but become part of one another's lives, you know? So I guess, it's kind of like (and yeah, I know this has been said before) we were the Fellowship for real." He laughed. This was really quite enjoyable. "I remember there was this one time, when Orlando Bloom and I, we--"

"Yes, yes," snapped the alien. "But it is true, is it not, that you developed a very close friendship with the actor who played the role of Boromir? Sean Bean, of 'Sharpe' and 'Goldeneye' fame? Tell us about that, please." Its eyes had changed colour again, from black to a warm, dark terracotta.

"Oh, okay." Viggo felt wrong-footed again. "Well ... yeah, I mean we were the same age and so on, I guess, so yeah ... we were good friends. Are good friends."

"You still see each other's faces, then, you..." The alien clicked its tongue; it appeared to be searching for the appropriate phrase. "You ... keep in touch?"

"Oh, sure! Sure, we ... we haven't seen each other in a while, I guess, but we're both busy, you know? Both have our projects going on."

"Oh yes!" exclaimed the alien. "Mr Bean was magnificent in the play, Macbeth. By William Shakespeare. A triumph! You saw this?"

"Ah, no, sadly not. But I hear they've extended the run, so ... maybe I'll catch it before it closes. I'd like to, sure."

"Oh." The alien looked disappointed. Its eyes had faded to a dull grey, only slightly darker than its skin. It checked its clipboard.

"Next question. About yourself and Mr Sean Bean. Being aliens, of course we are not familiar with the concept of a close friendship between two people -- sharing a pint of alcoholic beer in the local pub, laughing over a joke, putting one's arms around one another in order to express affection -- all of this sort of thing is very difficult for us to understand. So we should like if very much if you would explain to us just exactly what sort of things went on between yourself and your close personal friend, Mr Sean Bean, and describe the emotions that you felt during this time." It sat back in its chair and waited expectantly. The eyes were terracotta again. They pulsed.

"Emotions. Right..."

"We should appreciate it if you would go into some detail, please," said the alien quickly.

"Okay..." Viggo racked his brains. What exactly did they want him to say? "Well, I guess, when you're friends with someone, you, uh, enjoy their company, you, you do things together..."

"Be specific, please. Yourself and Mr Sean Bean." There was a crisp, businesslike quality to the alien's toneless voice.

"Right, sorry. Uh, well, Sean and I -- we got on really well; we ... uh, we hung out a lot, I guess..."

"And how did you feel when you were doing this?"

Viggo was starting to feel as though he were seeing a therapist. "Um ... happy?"

"He made you feel happy. Yes, we suspected this. It fits in with some of our ... theories. Did you also touch each other's bodies? How often did you do this?"

"What?" Viggo spluttered into his teacup. "No, look, I don't think you quite understand. We were talking about friendship. You're thinking of... well, lovers. It's a very different thing."

"Ah... So you are saying you never..." It looked briefly at its clipboard. "...ran your darkly tanned hand slowly through his blond hair, moved your head close to his and whispered sweet words of love softly into his ear?"

"No! God! Where did you get this stuff from?" Viggo shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

"Or..." It looked down again. "...pinned him roughly against the wall, his breath panting hot in your face as you ground hard into him, feeling his own excitement rising to meet yours, thrusting, bucking urgently against your..."

"Would you shut up?" yelled Viggo. "No!"

"Oh," said the alien. We were under the impression that you did. We were hoping to hear more about it. We are very interested." Its eyes burned bright orangey-red, like a sunset.

"Well, I'm sorry to disappoint you, but no. I did not."

"Did it disappoint you that you did not?"

The alien looked at Viggo, and Viggo looked at the alien. Its eyes had changed to a deep bluish-green. Viggo regretted yelling at it. The aliens didn't mean any harm, after all. They just wanted to know stuff.

"Listen," he said gently. "There's a lot you don't understand about our planet. The way we do things here. You see, our customs are... I mean ... it's difficult..." He trailed off. Here, on this peculiar spaceship (peculiar that is, even by spaceship standards) everything seemed different. Old certainties suddenly spiralled out of control, waved goodbye and flew off merrily into the ether. The universe was apparently stranger and richer than even he had believed possible.

And some of those things the alien had said. He couldn't help wondering whether these beings had the power to read minds. A hot flush of embarrassment crept over him. What if they knew about the nights he had sometimes, when sleep eluded him, and his thoughts wandered unbidden along strange pathways? And the nights when, sometimes, he would reach down and touch himself and imagine that... And that night when he'd said Sean's name aloud, just to test it, to see how it would sound, and it had hovered there in the flat still air of his bedroom and made him feel kind of stupid. These nights Viggo kept locked away in a separate part of his brain, and in the mornings he would wake feeling good and happy, and think about other things.

So what if they knew about all that?

He looked at the alien. Its dark, opaque eyes made Viggo think of the deep oceans, where all the fish are weird-looking and have little lights attached to their foreheads.

"So maybe," he said. "Maybe I was a little disappointed. But Sean ... maybe he wouldn't have wanted to ... to do ... those things you said. You think?"

The alien was silent for a while. It really was very weird indeed, with its greyness and its tallness and its long, spindly limbs like birds' legs. Viggo held his breath. Inside this creature's strange triangular head, he thought, there are secrets we could only have dreamt of down here on Earth. Knowing this made him feel dizzy.

"We do not know," said the alien. "But--" It leant forward and looked into Viggo's face. "But ... if you should happen to see Mr Sean Bean..."

"Yes?" Viggo's heart beat wildly against his ribs.

"Well ... we wish you would tell him that all of us here found Boromir's death scene most beautiful and moving."

Again the alien was silent. The interview was over. They called him a cab.


The next morning, Viggo stood out on the deck, enjoying the feel of the sun on his bare arms. Birds sang, and the wood was warm under his feet. He sipped his coffee; it was good coffee, made the way he liked it. He reflected that this was because he'd made it himself.

Just then, the phone didn't ring. Odd. He waited a little longer, and it didn't ring again. He went inside, and checked that the thing was plugged in. It was. He lifted the receiver experimentally and listened. The tone hummed quietly in his ear. It sounded okay, but perhaps he'd better just check. He pressed some numbers at random. Well, maybe not quite at random. What, after all, would be the point in that? Then, when he'd done that, he waited. The tone changed, as it ought to. Everything seemed fine. But it would probably be best to see it through. Viggo stood for a while and listened to the phone singing its repetitive little song. Then it stopped.

"Hello?" said Sean.

Yes. This phone was definitely working.