Tractor Beam

Tractor Beam

Katie Sisneros


I wanted you to save me from the tractor beam, and I hated that I wanted it. You stupid hipster boy who looks like a pine tree had sex with an Urban Outfitters. You’re the worst kind of fake hipster lumberjack because you’re more likely to write a story about an axe than actually swing one. Have you ever touched an axe?


Anyway, all I wanted was for you to please just tug on my leg and pull me down before the aliens pulled me up into their ship. Maybe it was asking a lot; I mean, you’d broken up with me just four hours prior, on my bedroom floor where I slowly sank from a standing position as you told me, “I’m tired of doing this.”

I called you from the tractor beam, hovering there fifteen or so feet above Pracna, facing the bridge. I don't know which one, just one of them. But not the one that collapsed back before I lived here. The other one, the pointier one. I never remember which one’s which.

Not that I necessarily needed saving, mind you. I'd just never dealt with tractor beams before, and for whatever reason it seemed to be up your alley. That and you were the last person I'd called, to see if you wanted to go get lunch, but instead you came over and told me you weren't happy anymore, had never been happy, and recoiled when I tried to touch you. Anyway, your number was at the top of my recent calls, is what I'm trying to say.

I had tried to ask them why, those aliens. The light was blue and very bright in my eyes if I looked directly up at it, and the heavy din of the ship rattled my eardrums and made it unlikely they could hear me. If they even spoke English. But I yelled up anyway, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS? WHAT DO YOU WANT? I DON'T WANT TO ASSUME YOU'RE GOING TO ANAL PROBE ME BUT…STEREOTYPES EXIST FOR A REASON.”


No reply.


Nothing. So that’s when I called you.

You were surprisingly unsurprised when I told you I’d been sitting perched on the brick ledge between some place and another place, I think above that place that books Segway tours, looking down on Main Street. Obviously I wasn’t planning on jumping, that crossed neither your mind nor mine, although I undoubtedly startled one or two passersby who looked up and saw me dangling my legs above them.

And you seemed unphased when I said that my sitting and thinking and looking had been interrupted by a rough tug on my upper back as the beam activated and a blue haze descended around me, glittering and phosphorescent and a little bit cold. It was a steady but forceful lifting, like I’d always had a couple of marionette strings threaded through my shoulders, hanging limp and invisible for my whole life, and only now did someone actually grab the bar and pick me up.

“It doesn’t hurt, I don’t think,” I said, when you asked if I was okay. “But I’m not sure I’d say I’m okay.” I looked up into the light again, then back down at the roof far out of my reach. I looked at my phone to see how long we’d been talking: two minutes forty seconds. “My legs are starting to go numb, but I think that’s just because I haven’t stood on them in a while.”

I took advantage of the ten or so minutes it took you to drive toward the river, nab a decent parking spot, and circle the building a few times looking for the outside roof access ladder to text one or two other potentially interested parties.

To Best Friend: Stuck in a tractor beam. Had to call HIM to come get me down. Ugh. Stupid aliens. Sad face emoticon.


To Roommate: May not be home for a while, weird sitch. Can you let the dog out for me?

To Mom: Don’t worry. I’m hanging in there.

Then you were there standing below me, shielding your eyes against the light. “I wouldn’t stand there if I were you,” I said, waving you aside. “I don’t know when they might decide to let me drop.”

“Did you ask them where they’re from? Or what they want?” You yelled up at me.

“They’re from space, and they want me in their ship. What else do you need to know?” I was being unduly snippy. Or perhaps duly snippy; it was too soon to tell.

“I hate you, you know.” I said. “And I hate the color palette of that button-up.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry you hate me.”

“Whatever. Can you just pull me down please? Go grab that crate. Otherwise you probably won’t reach me.”

You jumped off the box once and wiggled your fingers toward my shoe, just barely grazing the bottom of it, and were already showing signs of frustration. You ran your fingers through your hair, adjusted your glasses, and retucked your undershirt into your jeans.


“Oh would you just calm down and try again? Jesus, how do you think I feel?”

“I didn’t fucking say anything!”

“You didn’t fucking have to!” I yelled back, and then shot my glance upward quickly because I thought I felt the molecules around me move. It tickled and stung a little, like what I imagine licking a nine volt probably feels like. I looked down again, at the top of your head, and you looked tiny. The city looked tiny. The bridges fanned out like fingers away from the palm of downtown and I thought briefly about Falcor for some reason. You climbed on the box again and jumped, grabbing my heel at the same time that I yanked my foot away. The shift in weight made you lose your bearings, so you landed hard and your legs crumpled beneath you.

“Shit, sorry.”

“What the hell was that?” Your hair had fallen into your face but you didn’t brush it away.

“Just…nevermind. Leave me. It’s alright. Thanks for trying, but I’ll be fine.” I felt the molecules wiggle again, breathing against me as I started to ascend very, very slowly.

You didn’t say anything; you just walked into the light and stood in my shadow as I shrank above you. You looked handsome, and the blue hue improved the colors in your shirt. But you were so small, and you looked so confused.


“No really, it’s OK. Could be fun. Crazy space adventure! Totally my sort of thing! Maybe I’ll meet a two-headed guy that’s President of the Galaxy or something.” 

You laughed. “Are you sure you don’t need me?”

Loaded question. An hour prior I’d have said yes, because I believed it to be true and because I didn’t know that soon that question would take on heretofore unexplored meanings. I mean sure, I thought I needed you in order to be happy or whatever else I thought I wasn’t already, but holy shit why was I thinking about that now? I was stuck in a damn tractor beam! Bigger fish to fry, lady. Priorities.

“Nope, I’m cool. Thanks. Sorry I said I hate you. I don’t, I don’t think. Listen, will you delete my internet history for me? And if anybody asks what happened, just tell them I got abducted by aliens?”

“Nobody’ll believe me.”

“True. Catch.” I tossed my phone down to you. “Take a picture, yeah? And send it to my contacts list.” I flashed a smile and a double thumbs up as you took the photo.

My head banged lightly against the bottom of the ship, and I had to grab the lip of the opening to reorient and hoist myself in. The doors closed with a hydraulic bzzzzhhht, although it probably sounded more like a whisper from down there. I couldn’t see you anymore, but I still like to think you watched wide eyed and smirking and feeling really jealous until the ship was a dot in the night sky, because boy wouldn’t that be one hell of an ending.


Katie is an English PhD + Word writer at General Mills + Co-founder of The Tangential + Feed her whiskey and I'll tell you the 1066 Battle of Hastings.

Illustration by Meghan Murphy

Stuck Landing

Stuck Landing