WARNING: Contains strong language and adult themes
“He must have been at least 11-feet tall,” Bill said taking a meaty bite off his Jupiter burger. A mouthful of juicy meat burst onto his palate. Those expensive climate-controlled manufacturing plants at Ganymede weren’t useless after all.
“Bull shit,” his guest screamed in anger. An exotic dancer in her birthday suit, gyrating her perfectly rounded bottom at his lap wasn’t enough distraction from ridiculous claim Bill was making. Peeking above the bare shoulders of the dancer and speaking in his Martian accent, Dave bellowed, “No one knows what They look like, so stop fucking treating me like a kid.”
“Yes. Absolutely no one knows what they look like”—and after a dramatic silence added—“Except me,” Bill pushed Dave further without offering any explanation whatsoever. That only incensed him even more and his face was now getting redder.
The dancer tried again to bring Dave’s focus to herself. She turned around and wrapped her long legs around Dave’s waist. Then, with her long glossy nails tugged on his chin towards her perfect double D breasts as she glided her other hand over his well-built biceps in a practiced motion. But even that effort failed to arouse any other emotion than anger in Dave. Ignoring her, he screamed, “Fuck you, Bill.”
Bill laughed and took another sip of his drink. He was thoroughly enjoying toying with this young lad had just met an hour ago at the moon bar. He wondered why? Dave was an ordinary twenty-something seeking a break from his dull mining job. Maybe there was something in Dave’s peculiar Martian ways or maybe it was his youthful arrogance that Bill felt an urge to put him in his place. Or maybe it was just the company of a sexy stripper and alcohol that was taking an effect on him. What surprised him was his own willingness to reveal more than what he ever did to anyone. He even brushed aside a rather quirky jingle from an age-old government campaign that popped into his head. It said: ‘Drink, fuck and be merry, but never mix the secrets you carry’. Ridiculous.
Well what’s that worst could happen? At the least he’ll be laughed at and at most they might trust him and tell others. But who’s gonna trust a moon miner or a stripper had they claimed to know what they looked like. And it all seemed worth it, going by Dave’s pissed-off face as if a space-shuttle has hit his bio-engineered pet T-Rex. Good.
“Look at this fucker. He is shittin’ me all evening and he thinks I’m gonna take it?” Dave tightened his fists. “I will mangle that pretty beach face in a second.”
He turned to the stripper. “You get out from here. I need to deal with this guy.”
“You both are full of shit,” she bellowed with a hurt professional pride and got off Dave’s lap. She reached out and snapped her glow-in-the-dark undies and sheer bra that she had shed few minutes ago, still cursing under her breath.
As she pulled the beaded curtains apart of their second-floor private lounge, Bill caught her by her hand. “Wait. Don’t leave like this babe… whatsyourname, honey?”
She put her hands on her hips. “The name is Pastry,” she said.
“Of course, it is,” Bill said admiring the girl. She must have been moon-born, most probably second or third generation, for she was more than seven-feet tall and had larger than life assets, that were perfect for her profession. Moon girls weren’t this popular with Earthly men for no reason. Moon was the first world to have permanent colonies way back in year 2142. Then the primary incentive was minerals; but as happens in case of every half-good settlement driven by wealth, within 60 years it became a significant enough to have its own government. Now, it had three major industries - minerals, tourism and flesh trade – and tonight all three oddly came together in a private lounge above a strip club.
“This young man has no appreciation for real beauty,” Bill said. “Sit —” he placed a note on her palm,”—and we can get cozy later. I’d love to eat some pastry off Pastry. What do ya’ say?”
Pastry’s eyes widened realizing that it was a thousand-credit note. Without much hesitation, she turned and sat next to Bill flipping a middle finger in Dave’s general direction. Bill gave a benevolent laugh and smoothly slid his hand around Pastry’s waist and pulled her closer.
“Pastry on Pastry, huh? Real smooth,” she said mockingly and poured herself a glass from the table. Thousand credit note seemed to be a sufficient cure for her hurt professional pride.
Having taken care of Pastry (for his own sake) he turned to Dave who was still fuming. “Calm down bud. I will tell you everything.”
Dave shifted in seat and grabbed his drink, and gulped it all down in one go. Bill took a deep breath.
“When They landed, twenty years ago, (and probably you weren’t even born then) I worked at the docks as an optic technician in cargo handling. It was a big day for all of us. There were tens of thousands of people who had gathered outside our docks, not to mention hundreds of camera crews trying to pass through the gates. Each one of us were provided with top-level security and even then, it took us 40 minutes to reach at our stations. Inside, the ports were as crowded as ever. In one day, I must have rubbed shoulders with who’s who of our solar system council. Pluto’s president here, Saturn’s ringleader there. Pop-stars, scientists. It was hard to go around the faces in the control room and find someone who wasn’t famous or powerful or mostly both.
"And yet, all the eyes were on the screens that showed their ellipsoidal spaceships. They were huge. It was like a floating mountain and yet with precision of a brain surgeon, as we watched in awe, five spaceships docked at our station with supreme grace.”
Bill looked at his audience that has swelled to two as Pastry listened intently.
“I am sure you two will agree that they are thousands of years ahead of us – in all kinds of intelligence – technological, biological, evolutionary, societal. We wondered if they were here to annihilate us. It was simply their god-like presence on earth that we felt somehow will suck the oxygen out of air. Those were the most tense two hours of everyone’s life. Probably they were assessing us. But nothing extraordinary happened. After a short radio exchange, They invited us to their ship.
“Council President, the General and the select few went in and…and nothing. It was almost mundane the way it happened. Almost as if it was nothing more than a casual stop-over of a sea-faring ship on its usual route.
However, this meeting was different in one significant way - apart from the obvious one -- it was a conversation through a blackened one-way glass. Our representatives didn’t meet them. Not even saw them. They had a plain and formal greeting and then they came back.
“Some conspiracy theorists say that our representatives are lying or may have been brainwashed but all that is patently stupid. We never saw them. Neither then nor in twenty years since then. We don’t know if they have two eyes or four or how many limbs they have. Or if they are even humanoids or they look like overgrown insects. Why would such an advanced civilization has to gain from hiding from us, you might ask?” Bill paused for any reaction from Dave.
“For the last two decades, this has been the most researched topic on academic circles actually.”
The source of that interruption astonished Bill. It was Pastry who had made that comment. He gawked at her in surprise.
“What?” she flipped. “You think I don’t get breaks between my pole-dancing sessions. I read my stuff.”
Bill said awkwardly, “Obviously, you do dear. And that makes you even sexier.”
Pastry continued. “The leading theory says that they carry their alien germs and pathogens and they don’t want to risk exposing earthlings. They have treated us like toddlers who wouldn’t survive a day in the real world and must be protected and supervised by the adults.”
Bill let out a hearty laugh. “Well, that’s what they want everyone to believe. And their super-advanced weapon systems and space-ships has left no doubt in our minds that we indeed are toddlers for them. But still that doesn’t explain why can’t they show themselves to us in a sterile environment. Or why can’t they just send us some of their pictures to us – you know – like a guy commuting to his alien office or grandma going to the store – mundane stuff. Why do have to hide that from us?”
“Go on. I am sure you have your own theory about it,” Dave said.
Bill smiled. The tease had worked and both of them were now leaning-in to catch every word he said.
“Damn right I do. But it is more than just a theory. Well, what if I were to tell you that they are not protecting us from them, but them from us.”
“C’mon old man,” Dave said. “What do they have to fear from us? They can pulverize us in an instant if we were any threat to them.”
“Aha! You are thinking like humans. And yes, we won’t think much before annihilating an entire species if it presented any significant danger to us, but they will not. They don’t think like us.
“But they know that too. They know that we think differently. So, while they will not go extinguishing every life they could find in the galaxy, they wouldn’t trust us blindly to reveal their physiology and their weaknesses. I mean, can you blame them? Given our history—and they know our history—violence comes as one of the first ‘solutions’ whenever we are dealt with uncertainty.”
A silence invaded the room except for a muffled sound of music coming from downstairs. Pastry looked at Bill while Dave tried to gulp from his already empty glass.
“So, you are saying that they fear us because of our appetite for violence. Well, it sounds logical but this is just a theory still. And it still doesn’t settle the claim that you have seen them,” she said.
She is sharp. Bill thought. A real beauty with brains. She would have made a good scholar. If only.
“Pastry o’ Pastry,” he said pulling her closer. “You are giving me more reasons to love you.”
She brushed his hand. “First, you show me what you have and then…I will show you everything,” she added pressing her body closer to him.
“Well…so be it,” he sighed. “Here goes. On that day when all the reps were going to meet them, it was my job to put audio-visual recording devices to record everything that they would see or hear in the spaceship. Nothing too different from my usual job. Of course, we all know that those cameras came back with not much – just a giant black screen through which they talked to our President. But…there is something that no one knows till date…my dear Dave and Pastry.” He sighed. “There was one more camera that no one knew about. And that camera was left in the spaceship and it kept on recording and transmitting even after our representatives came back.”
Pastry’s jaw was hung open. Dave’s stared in disbelief as all signs of alcohol evaporated from his face.
“I had a brilliant flesh of foresight when I attached a remotely controlled fly-size camera on one of the reps. It kept on broadcasting on my private channel.”
“What did that camera record?” Pastry asked.
“It recorded them. After our reps had left, They stepped out slowly from behind those blackened glasses. They looked grotesque…a tall slimy body and large black eyes. Their two sets of eyelids closed in tandem and their webbed feet were as big as diver’s fins. There was something even weirder. At first I wasn’t sure what I was seeing…they had two transparent large lobes on the either side of the body… I watched those recordings again and again…probably a million times. Who wouldn’t, right? I think I figured out what those lobes were and why they were not exposing themselves to us. Because those exposed lobes were their biggest weakness that they never wanted us to see – those lobes were their two hearts.”
Silence lingered in air for a long time after Bill had finished his story. He felt little giddy at first, having told it to two strangers. But then he felt little warmer as Pastry looked admiringly at him. It seemed worth the breach of the secret he had held for twenty years.
“Can you show it to us? I mean the recording,” Pastry said. “I swear I will never tell it to anyone.”
“I’d love to honey,” Bill replied. “But I don’t carry Universe’s biggest secret in my pocket. It’s kept in a secret vault at my Earth home. If you really want, you can come with me. It’s just 8 light seconds away anyway”
Pastry giggled. “How many other girls have you brought to your Earth home to see this secret video?”
“Just one, my dear. My ex who now lives at Titan,” Bill said standing up. “Dave, buddy, get lost. Me and Pastry have a private business to do now.”
Dave stood hesitatingly. “Bill…wait…”
“There is nothing to wait…” Bill moved closer to Dave.
“I mean…look behind you,” Dave said with a trembling voice.
Bill turned around and his eyes widened. A thin but clean line of blood appeared on Pastry’s forehead. As Bill and Dave watched in terror the cut extended downwards passing through the neck and the breasts extending all the way to the naval of Pastry’s body. The two halves marked by line of blood separated slowly and a slimy black vertebrate became visible. It expanded from within like a caterpillar coming out of its cramped skin. A tall creature slowly took shape as it slid off from Pastry’s skin and looked down at Bill and Dave. His dark eyes double-blinked with two sets of eyelids and two heart shaped lobes on the side of his waist contracted and expanded alternatingly.
“I…It can’t be…” Bill stammered looking at the crumpled skin of pastry that was lying at the webbed feet of the alien creature.
“We have been looking for you for twenty years Bill,” a shrill voice emanated from creature’s tentacle mouth. The tease had worked.
In the next moment, before Bill and Dave could blink again, their heart halted beating and their brains ceased all activity. Bill and Dave never knew how they died.
After confirming their fate, the creature connected to his command.
“I found him. Two died. Mission successful.”
“Very well. Your extraction will be arranged,” a voice spoke to him in his earpiece.
“Not yet. His ex-girlfriend needs to be neutralized too. Start searching out from Titan as center.”
“Noted. Do you need another skin for your next mission?”
“Negative. I have the perfect one,” the creature said getting closer to Bill’s dead body.