Pickup Artist

Thomas J. Griffin

April 29th 2022

Dan wasn’t going crazy. The woman across the bar had been watching him all night, stealing glances while he pretended not to notice. Finally a seat had opened up next to him and she’d wasted no time, threading her way through the Saturday night crowd of the Double Taps like only a beautiful woman could—without having to push—to claim the spot at his shoulder.

“Come here often?” she asked, dry, her smile easy.

“First time.”

“I’ve seen you here every weekend for a month.”

He grimaced. “Caught me. I’m Dan.”

“Selene.” She held out a hand to shake, businesslike, but even that brief contact was enough to send a shiver through Dan. Everything about her was stunning, but her eyes most of all. They were a brilliant green of the new spring, when every leaf was fresh with life. It was the color of nature rejoicing. Her only flaw was a small but prominent scar on her left temple. Stark and pale, it hung like a crescent moon beside her eyebrow.

She noticed him noticing and deftly hid both scar and eyes behind a curtain of wavy, midnight black hair.

“So Selene, are you here alone?” Dan asked, not sure if that was creepy thing to say. It had been too long since he’d spoken to a woman like this. He’d forgotten the steps to the dance.

 “Of course not. My friends are in the bathroom.”

“I haven’t seen you talk to anybody all night.”

“Caught me.” Selene glanced away. “I’m a bit of a loner. What’s your excuse?”

“Do I need one?” Dan deflected, then quickly, “So, where’d you get that scar?” He brushed his own temple with a finger.

“Oh that?” A weighty pause, then a wry smile. “Alien abduction.”

“Very funny.”

“I’m serious! They took me right up into their spaceship. Performed all kinds of experiments on me. I was gone a week.”

“I see,” said Dan. “The stories are true, then? They really do probe you?”

She laughed. “Wouldn’t be much of an abduction if they didn’t.”

“Sounds terrible.”

“It’s not all bad. I actually enjoyed some of it.”

“You did?”

“Depends on the probe.”

Dan cocked an eyebrow. “We’re still talking about aliens, right?”

“Maybe.” Selene looked down with feigned embarrassment, then pointed to Dan’s beer. He’d not touched it in several minutes and the now warm bottle had formed a sweat ring atop the bar. “Want another? I’ll buy.”

“Actually, I think I’m good,” Dan said. “I always know I’ve had too many when I start believing alien abduction stories.”

“You believe me?” Selene finished her own drink, what looked to be the dregs of an Old Fashioned, then asked suddenly, “You want to get out of here?”

Dan paused, studying his beer bottle and waiting for the jolt of excitement to fade. He’d not come to the bar tonight to leave with someone. The truth was he’d last been single in his early twenties and knew of no other place he could go by himself and not feel alone, where he could make passing eye contact with strangers and once again feel hope and possibility.

This was more, though. Not just possibility, but the real thing. Wasn’t that actually what he wanted?

Dan picked up his warm beer and drained it. “After you.”


They started kissing in the hallway, and by the time they hit the back exit they were intertwined. Adrenaline flooded Dan’s whole body, sending tremors through him he could barely control, but Selene seemed not to notice or care, dragging him into the alley behind the bar and pulling him deeper into the kiss. She grabbed his butt, squeezing playfully, and in response Dan let his hands slide down her back, his fingers buzzing as they met skin where her crop top stopped. Then, slowly, he worked his hands around her hips to find the button of her jeans.

She moaned, then pulled away. “Not here. Your place or mine?”

Dan didn’t have to think about it. His new apartment was the barest of bachelor pads—the only things he’d unboxed were the microwave and the TV.


“I was hoping you’d say that,” Selene said, and even in the dim light of the alley her green eyes shone. She took another step back and snapped her fingers.

The wash of light from above hit her perfectly, like a spotlight on a stage. Stunned, Dan cried out, shielding his vision, but the brightness only grew, and when his eyes finally adjusted, it was to see Selene standing in the midst of the beam, her hand held out to him.

“What the hell?” Dan asked, retreating a step. He looked up into the night sky but couldn’t see where the light stopped. It seemed to come straight out of the dark clouds.

“You said you believed me,” said Selene, looking upset. Her hand dropped to her side.

“It was banter! This… this is insane.”

“Yes,” Selene agreed.

Dan started to shake his head, then stopped himself. “Why me?”

“You’re cute,” she said with a shrug. “And someone who comes to a bar alone every weekend is someone who would rather be anywhere but at home.”

In the brilliant light of the beam, Selene’s crescent scar shone like the moon itself. Dan’s fingers again strayed to his own temple.

She winked at him. “Who doesn’t have scars?”

“I don’t want to die…”

“Who said anything about dying? You’ll be fine. Hell, you may even enjoy it.” Selene again offered her hand. “In fact, I promise you will.”

Dan didn’t respond. Instead he took Selene’s hand and stepped into the beam. She met him with another kiss, and as she did, his body went light.

Then, together, they started to rise.

Author Bio: Thomas J. Griffin is a life-long fiction lover and sumo wrestling enthusiast who lives in Nashville, Tennessee and writes out of an attic that could use more natural light. He is the editor of Flash Point SF and his own stories have appeared in publications such as Daily Science Fiction, The Arcanist, Martian Magazine, Speculative North Magazine, and elsewhere.

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