“An Unopened Letter to Shirley,” by Raymond Lane

Aug 20th, 2020 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Dear Shirley:

I hope that this letter finds you well. My apologies for using such an archaic form of communication, but as you know Earth has yet to join the intergalactic web.

I have missed you very, very much. My therapist suggested that I write to you. She says that I have unresolved grief, as well as other feelings that have been frozen in time.

A lot of this is my own fault, I suppose. I was only sixteen when we met. You were eighteen. My feelings for you were raw and frightening. With my therapist’s help, I’m getting better at verbalizing them.

There’s something that I need to tell you. When we were together on Earth, I fell in love with you.

I don’t know if that surprises you.

As I write this, I’m reliving the first time I saw you. I was new to your planet, and looking for work. You checked my blood pressure at the pre-employment physical. I’d never seen blue eyes like yours–the color of diamonds on my planet, Proxima. And then you opened your oral cavity, revealing ivory teeth gleaming as brilliantly as the ancient relics of Drusen. You asked my name, then laughed when I told you. I never knew I was funny before.

We spent only one night together, but it changed my life. The way you stroked my fur provoked previously unknown feelings in me. I knew then that you were meant to be my mate.

I realize that our joining was awkward. My sexual output organ didn’t fit properly within your input receptacle. It’s bothered me all these years, wondering if you left me because of that. We didn’t talk about it then. I wish that we had.

I want you to know that the mismatch wasn’t important to me. I loved you anyway.

When you told me the next day that you couldn’t see me again I was too shattered to tell you how I felt. Staying quiet, I’ve since learned, was also a way to punish you. To hurt you for being so cold, even by Proxima standards. And Proxima is a very cold planet, indeed.

I’m sorry that I ran away. I was just a child. It was too painful for me to be on the same planet as you—what if we’d run into each other?

I have thought of you constantly since then. There is a hollowness in my heart as vast and arid as the polar deserts of Proxima. My therapist tells me I need closure.

I still love you.

My therapist said I shouldn’t tell you that.

On Proxima, we don’t touch until we’ve mated. And we mate for life.

By my calculation, you would be one hundred and nine years old now. It’s possible that you may no longer be alive, earthlings being short-lived organisms. It’s also occurred to me—painful as the thought is—that you may have mated with another human and produced offspring.

If one of Shirley’s offspring is reading this letter, please send me a photo.




Raymond Lane is a writer, physician, and father of six. He enjoys writing speculative as well as mainstream fiction. In his free time he keeps two dogs, two cats, and numerous plants alive. Previous works can be found in TulipTree and Altered Reality Magazine. He is currently working on a satirical dystopian novel.

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