I sat next to him at a bar in Alamogordo.
Other patrons whispered and stared curiously at the grotesque monster.
No doubt they'd already heard the radio alerts of a rogue alien that had escaped the crash site near Roswell, two hours east. And in those days, who even knew what the aliens looked like?
But I felt sorry for him, and ordered him a tequila.
He accepted it with a nod, the bleached bone bathed in eerie green neon lights. The scene seemed an absurd cross between an O'Keeffe aesthetic and a Hopper painting.
"Nice ink," I said, gesturing at his tattoo of a rattlesnake, a moving, writhing tattoo that twined and crawled along his forearm, sometimes snatching up cockroaches that scurried across the bar.
"Thanks," he spoke in a voice like radio static. "The *curandera* said it would protect me against the evil eye."
"Doesn't look like it worked," I replied.
He said nothing. His jaws, forever frozen in a skeletal grin, hid any trace of expression on that cadaverous face.
"We're building a weapon," he wheezed, after a long pause, "at the Los Alamos laboratory. All they're waiting for is my word, and we detonate the prototype tonight, at White Sands.
Most powerful weapon ever dreamed of by any god in any heaven. It'll melt your eyes from your face. It'll make that atomic bomb look like a flea on a coyote's back."
"Seems like a lot of trouble just to eliminate one little green runaway."
He turned to me then, confronting me with those hollow eye sockets. I gazed into them and beheld the spinning, whirling galaxies that turned as the gears of an unfathomably grand machine.
"They must be punished," he said, "for what they've done to my face."
I bought him another drink.
I bought him four more drinks, and he was still conscious as I dragged him across the vast dunes of white gypsum that glittered and gleamed in the pale moonlight.
He moaned wordless pleas as I slashed his chest open, tearing out his heart and replacing it with that dreadful bomb.
I buried him up to his neck in the pallid sands, where his hideous head waits now, a gruesome caricature of a Western movie scene.
He waits still, in silence, for the moment a careless vagabond's foot accidentally discharges the scientists' terrible weapon.
The extracted heart, I offered as an enticing treat to the rattlesnake tattoo.
"Come, my love, my beautiful one," I whispered to the creature, luring it onto my own arm with a shimmery ripple of inky scales.
Together, we turned our backs to the city lights that twinkled like distant, dying stars.
I pointed my feet at the mountains and began to walk, following the luminous trail of the Milky Way, the trail I prayed would lead me to freedom, to a ship that waited for me somewhere,
far across the shining sea of sand.