Steve noticed her immediately on the first day of the ten-day National Parks tour. Her name was Lyra. She was young, blonde, and gorgeous. He sat next to her on the tour bus, and started up a conversation with her about the places they were going to see. She spoke very gently and rather slowly, in a strange accent Steve had never heard before.
Steve noticed that there were funny little gaps in her knowledge. When she told her he was a computer programmer, she sounded as if she had no idea what a computer programmer does. When he asked her about where she had grown up, she sounded very evasive. But Steve didn't care. All she had to do was look at him with those big beautiful eyes, and Steve would fall into a kind of trance, no matter what she was saying.
They went everywhere together on the tour. They started out at the Grand Canyon, and took a donkey ride near the rim. Then they went on a vehicle that went driving around Monument Valley. In the last half of the tour they hiked through the glories of Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park. Somehow the beauty of the surroundings amplified the beauty of her face. To Steve she seemed like all the beautiful things in the world rolled into one.
By the time the bus started back to Las Vegas, Steve had made up his mind. He decided this was a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and he had to act immediately. After all, he reasoned, Las Vegas is the traditional place for impulsive weddings.
When the tour ended and everyone got out of the bus, Steve begged Lyra to wait for him in front of the fountains at the Bellagio resort. He told her he'd be right back. Spotting a nearby jewelry store, he quickly bought an engagement ring, and rushed back to the fountains outside the Bellagio.
“Lyra,” Steve said, “I know we've known each only ten days, but it seems like I've known you all of my life. I know the Real Thing when it comes along, and this is the Real Thing. I've fallen hopelessly in love with you. Will you marry me?”
Lyra looked at him with sad eyes, and then said, “I'm afraid that's not possible.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“It's because I'm not one of your kind,” said Lyra.
“I don't care about your class or your religion or your ethnic background,” Steve said.
“No, I mean...I'm not a human being,” said Lyra.
“What are you talking about?” he said.
“You know I'm a tourist,” said Lyra. “But I'm not just a tourist from another country. I'm a tourist from another planet.”
It took a while before he finally believed this incredible story, but she finally convinced him. She and seven other aliens were here on planet Earth for only a few weeks, for the sake of seeing its most beautiful sites. She had to return soon to a place in the desert where a spaceship would descend from the sky, to take them back to their mother ship orbiting planet Earth. Then the aliens would all leave the solar system forever.
“But can't you stay with me here on this planet?” Steve asked sadly. “It's a beautiful planet – we can see all of it together.”
“I have taken this human form only temporarily,” said Lyra. “Soon I must return to my original bodily form, or I will die. That form is not one that you could ever love. It is a strange, alien form utterly unlike your own. If you were to ever see my real body, it would fill you with horror and disgust.”
“I feel so heartbroken,” said Steve. “The memory of you will haunt me forever. I'll never be able to get over you.”
“Do you mean that if one of your species becomes romantically attached to another person,” said Lyra, “and that person goes away forever, then that causes long-term anguish for the first person?”
“Of course it does,” said Steve.
“That's interesting,” said Lyra. “But don't worry, I can fix that.”
Lyra put her hands on Steve's skull, and she concentrated deeply for ten seconds. Then she took her hands away.
Steve looked around like someone who had awoken from a sleep. How on earth, he wondered, had he got to this location? His memory was all blurry and fuzzy. All he knew was that he was standing next to the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.
“Hi, my name's Steve,” said Steve. “Somehow I have the vague feeling that we've met somewhere before.” He kind of winced after saying this, as it sounded like the stalest pick-up line ever.
“No, we've never met,” said Lyra, “and I don't talk to strangers.” She walked away and never saw Steve again.
Steve was left with a very puzzled look on his face, wondering how he had spent the last ten days.