Theodore Quenton led an unremarkable life. As a child, he had no friends and spent most of his time watching TV. He barely squeaked by in high school, tried taking a few accounting classes at the rec center, and eventually ended up as a mail clerk. He never had a girlfriend, got married, or became a father. In fact, the only reason Theodore was remembered at all was that one night he simply disappeared.
Theodore’s father left when he was just ten, leaving his mother to support them with her job at the Royal Crown Grocer. A man came to visit them, calling himself Uncle Vernon. On the nights Theodore’s mother worked, they watched Star Trek and The Twilight Zone. Vernon bought him comic books and told him about his work designing airplanes and rockets for the government. And then, just as soon as he came, Uncle Vernon was gone.
Two years into his job at the post office, Theodore lost his mother. He was still living at home, and after the funeral and meeting with the manager of the Wellspring Bank, he simply took over the mortgage and bill. He kept the door to his mother’s room closed, and when he walked down the hall to the bathroom at night, he could almost imagine her still asleep behind it.
Two days after Theodore’s twenty-eighth birthday, everything changed. He had just sat down with a microwave dinner to watch TV when there was a knock at the door. When he opened it, he found his Uncle Vernon smiling back at him.
Theodore had to come with him right now. He would explain on the way. And before he knew it, Theodore was in his uncle’s car speeding out of town.
Vernon explained that yes, he worked for the government, but not designing planes and rockets. He was part of a secret lab that worked with alien technology. Area fifty-two, they called it jokingly. In reality, though, they were communicating directly with aliens themselves. Something wonderful was about to happen, and Vernon wanted Theodore to be there.
They drove for two hours, Theodore silent with disbelief. They came to an abandoned airfield at the foot of the mountains and parked at the end of a runway. A dozen men and women stood in a circle. When they saw Theodore, they smiled at him and nodded.
A wind rose up, and then a low soft, humming. A bright light washed over Theodore, as comforting as the embrace of his mother, and then he was gone.
When Theodore didn’t show up for work the next day or answer his phone the day after, the postmaster went to his house. The door was open, the TV on, and the microwave dinner still on the coffee table.
After a week of investigation, the police had nothing. No sign of a break-in, foul play, kidnapping, or suicide. And that is how Theodore Quenton became the biggest celebrity the town had ever known: the man who disappeared.