Archive for the ‘Science Fiction’ Category

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The Roost Pub was crowded and smokey.  Bob Marley was blaring from the CD juke box.  Eddie was behind the bar.  A typical night, in other words, at our team’s sponsor bar.  The owner made good money off of the entire softball league, even though he only gave money back to our team.

Minerva was here somewhere.  I didn’t see any extra bar stools or tables or video games, so I wondered how she was disguised.  Then I realized that she probably wouldn’t want to just transmute back to herself in front of a whole bar full of people so I tried the women’s room.

It felt ridiculous to be in there with the drippy sink, the mop and the plunger, whispering her name and begging her to show herself, but my hunch paid off.  In one instant there was an extra roll of toilet paper resting on a corner of the sink.  In the next, Minerva was sitting there, cross-legged and gorgeous.

“Oh, shit,” I exclaimed as I turned around and nearly fell over her.  “Don’t scare me like that when you transmute!”

“I’m sorry,” she said.  “How can I avoid scaring you?”

“Well, I don’t know,” I responded, trying to keep my voice below a trembling roar.  “Make a noise first or something.”

“You mean a noisy roll of toilet paper would scare you less than…”

“How the fuck should I know?  Geez, what the hell were you doing disguised as a roll of toilet paper anyway?  What if someone came in here and used you?”  My moments with Minerva were beginning to feel increasingly like a bad Friday situation comedy on TV.  My Pet Alien or something like that.

A smile crossed her face and lit up the tiny room.

“I’d come back with a little less nostril hair or something.  And wouldn’t it be worth it?”

“Gross,” I said.

“Gross?  How can you say that?  Are you a lesbian of the 90s or aren’t you?”

“Of course I’m a lesbian!”

“Well then what’s gross?  Think about it.  What’s between your legs more, toilet paper or a lover’s tongue?  Or fingers?  Or whatever.”

I couldn’t believe this whole conversation.  Not only was I stuck with My Pet Alien, but I was stuck with My Pet Alien, the Ralph Kramden edition.  Toilet paper?  She really was nuts.  I was dooming my entire team to not just a nut house but a nut planet.  Yet we hadn’t had much time to just plain react to one another as, well, as buddies, I guess, so I gave her the benefit of the doubt and went along with her.  She was grinning anyway, so I supposed she was just yanking my chain and enjoying it.  Glitteraxian humor.

“Okay,” I said.  “Considering I’ve been using toilet paper for more than thirty years and I’ve only been out as a dyke for eight or so, I’d have to go with toilet paper.”

“Kim, Kim, Kim,” she said, laughing and shaking her head.  “Toilet paper takes three seconds to use.  Making love, however….  Well, you’re good for at least two hours if what I know about your sexual appetite is correct.”

“My sexual appetite?  Just what could you possibly know about my sexual appetite?”

“Ah, you forget, I’ve met your girlfriend.”

“Yeah, so?”

I assumed she was talking about Paris, whom I considered more of a lover du jour than a real girlfriend.  I knew she smiled a lot but I didn’t think she was the type to go talking about our sex life with a near stranger.

“She thinks about it often.  Sometimes it’s difficult to screen out what’s really on someone’s mind, even when she’s thinking about something completely different.”

I leaned against the bathroom door, heat pulsing from my cheeks, heart throbbing.  It was beginning to bother me that I was going to risk my life to help alien women on another planet and I was going to be totally at their mercy for air, water, food, shelter, everything.  For what would seem like two weeks.  And they would be able to read my thoughts.  Our thoughts.  All twenty of us.  If something went wrong there would be no escape.

The grin faded from Minerva’s mouth and she told me to relax.  She jumped down from the sink and her right hand reached up to rest on my shoulder.  It was then that I realized how tightly I was gripping the doorknob behind me.  Slowly, I let it go.  Minerva came closer and carefully folded my trembling body into her arms.  She held me and rocked me and whispered that it was okay.  Her whole body felt like a pillow.  I sank into its warmth and let her be in charge.  My fear and my need for control melted to the bathroom floor.

“Yes, that’s it.  All your muscles. Kim.  I have you and I won’t let you go.  You’re safe.  Your friends are safe.  We’re all intergalactic sisters.  My people truly need you.  Nothing will go wrong.”

Her voice was an elixir.  Her arms were security and truth.  I held onto this glowing, beautiful alien and gave in.  The tightness that had reached across my back from shoulder blade to shoulder blade for years was suddenly gone, replaced by a vibrating heat.  My limbs felt heavy and hot.  My neck and head were nearly weightless.  I sobbed.  And I trusted her in a way I instantly knew I’d never have to doubt again.

We stayed that way for a moment, gripping each other tightly, until a knock on the door brought us both back to hardcore reality.

“Okay,” I shouted as Minerva and I parted.  “I’ll be right out.”  I sniffed a little, washed and dried my face and flushed the toilet once for good measure.  Then I turned to Minerva and grabbed her elbow.

“Thanks,”  I said.  “I feel much better now.  But before you go out there you should know something.”

Her eyebrows inched towards each other.  So much of what she did made her seem incredibly human.  How was it possible that she was of a different species entirely?  Was the Milky Way really populated by humanoid creatures with only subtle differences, the way it was portrayed on Star Trek?  Would the nine other Glitter-X ambassadors traveling the galaxy looking for other volunteers bring to their planet ninety humanoid women from other Earth-like planets and if so, would we Earthlings get to meet them once we made it to Glitter-X with Minerva?  I knew she would read these thoughts flying through my mind if I let them linger there too long so I got back to the task at hand.

“My teammates should be out there by now,” I said with all the seriousness I could muster and a thrust of my thumb towards the door.  “The interested ones.  Just like we planned.  They’re scared, excited, anxious.  On the way over here one of them expressed concern that her clone won’t ever learn about about her African heritage.  Made me wonder about my clone and her daughters never knowing about their Italian and Scottish heritage.  Or anything about the existence of the USA.”

“But Kim…”

“I know.  I understand.  Our clones and their children will be Glitteraxians.  All I’m trying to tell you is that if you ever took a course in public relations, now’s the time to use it.  Be honest, Minerva.  But be convincing.  Be charming.  They’ll listen to you.”

I opened the door and was relieved to see Paris at the far end of the bar, chatting it up with Eddie.  The only person who saw Minerva and me leave the bathroom together was a red-eyed, foot-tapping Bomber outfielder who seemed more interested in peeing than keeping tabs on who was going in and out of the women’s room.

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(Chapters 1 & 2 of this story appear earlier in this blog)

Prospect Park was heavy with moisture.  The clouds were high and dark.  I knew it would rain any minute   but I needed to talk to the team.  Especially since, miracle of miracles, all twenty of us were there at the same time.

I told them about Minerva.  I told them about her planet and her dilemma.  I told them they all had the incredible and rare opportunity to travel through space to a planet of lesbians, help them in their struggle for survival and come back to Earth without anyone even knowing they were gone.  I told them I was going.
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They thought I was nuts.  I kept talking.  They thought I was testing a story idea on them.  I kept talking.  Then Paris backed me up.  She was my girlfriend at the moment.  I had told her first, the night before, and introduced her to Minerva.  Initially, Paris thought it was some sick way of telling her I was having an affair.  Then Minerva transmuted into a television and back to herself and Paris believed.

“We can represent our entire planet,” I told the team while Paris stood by me nodding her head.  “Minerva thinks we are a racially diverse enough group to fit the genetic needs of the Glitterexians.  All we have to do is let them clone us.  They need to broaden their gene pool or they’ll stagnate as a race.  And eventually die.”

“But I don’t get it,”  Swan said.  She was very spiritually tuned.  A Gaea believer.  I had counted on her curiosity to help me through this initial phase of convincing my teammates.  If she asked enough questions she would gradually cross over to my side of the debate.

“If they reproduce by parthenogenesis,”  she continued, “why do they need to add to their gene pool?  They can’t mutate.  Why would they stagnate as a race?”

I had gone through the story earlier but I would explain it as many times as they needed….

“They’ve only been on their planet for a hundred years.  Five generations, more or less.  They traveled to Glitter X as a way to escape the misogyny of their native planet.  Two hundred of them, in four intergalactic space ships.  They’ve been building a city, starting farms, establishing a moral code and having girl children since their arrival, but they’re all highly specialized.  Their daughters are carbon copies of themselves.  They need to diversify.  They need women with talents and body structures and inherent skills that are lacking in their society in order for it to grow.  They’ve sent ambassadors like Minerva to three other planets where humanoids live and prosper.  With all the new women, and their descendants, they think they’ll survive.”

“Well, there goes the ‘Earth is the only inhabited planet God created theory’ right out the window, much to my satisfaction,” Swan said with a chuckle.  “So, they want to clone us.  And then our clones will have daughters who will be, essentially, carbon copies of us.  Why can’t this Minerva chick just take cells from us here and clone them when she gets home?”

The team was paying attention.  Swan was asking good questions and stimulating their interest.  The other team and all the spectators were gone.  It was getting dark.  I heard clouds clapping in the distance.  There wasn’t much time before the rain came.  I knew I could work on them more in the days to come.  There was no immediate rush.  But this was their initial brush with the concept so I needed to convince them as much as possible now and let their minor reservations be worked out later.  If I could get them to agree to meet Minerva I would be happy.

“Because there’s more to cloning than what you see on Star Trek or Nova.  The donor has to be linked to the growing cells for at least a week.  Like an umbilical cord.  They have it all set up in what they call their healing and growing rooms.  Here’s a photo.”

I reached into my knapsack, past my dusty softball glove and cleats and pulled out a manila envelope which revealed a flat, papery, color reproduction of the chamber, showing beds and tubes and clear containers filled with smoky liquid, all lit up by cheery, sun-like and free floating yellow orbs.  The images in the picture seemed to move in a slowly fluid manner and my teammates were impressed with the technology involved.

Swan held the photo the longest and everyone had to crowd around her to get a good look.  As it eventually got passed around I gained more allies.  They were nervous but also intrigued.

“So, Kim,”  said Ann, the picture dangling from her left hand.  “If we do this, what do we get in return?”

I took it from her and put it back in the envelope.  All eyes were upon me.  This was it.  My ace in the hole and Ann had forced me to play it early.

Parthenogenesis,”  I said.  “They’ll teach us parthenogenesis.  Or, as Minerva put it, they’ll remind us about parthenogenesis.  We can each do it already.  Only male-dominated, selective history has made us forget how.”

“Cool,”  said Shari.

“Very cool,”  said Milagros.

“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” said Swan.  “If they plan to teach us, or remind us about parthenogenesis, why do they need to clone us?  Why don’t they just let us have babies?”

“Think about it, Swan,” I answered.  “First of all, if they clone us, then when we leave Glitter X all we’ll be leaving behind is jars full of fluid and embryonic, protoplasmic blobs.  If they took the time to teach us parthenogenesis, then kept us there for what felt like nine or ten months, we’d all have daughters.  Would you be able to leave behind on an alien planet a daughter who had grown inside you and reached the outside world through your birth canal?”  There was no second of all.

“Oh, right,”  she said.  “Of course.”

The others digested that for a moment.  Then it was time to be decisive.

“Now,” I said, as the thunder grew louder, closer.  “Anyone who is seriously interested can meet Minerva tonight at the Roost.  Then we’ll also have a meeting tomorrow night at my place at seven.  The rest of you will be made to forget this whole conversation.  You won’t feel a thing.  You just won’t remember.  So?”

Jane said she believed that it was safe but couldn’t take the chance.  Her son needed her healthy.  Susan said the same about her daughter.  They wanted no part of it.  TJ, Phyllis and Dakota absolutely would not go without their girlfriends.  TJ’s girlfriend would be building homes in Nicaragua for at least another month.  Both Phyllis and Dakota were certain that no amount of convincing or promises would get their girlfriends interested.  Laura said she thought she wanted to go, especially to learn about parthenogenesis and be able to have a daughter without a sperm donor, but that she’d do whatever the rest of the team decided.  When the five definitely sure non-participants left and the rest of us stayed behind, Laura reluctantly remained.  There were fifteen of us.  We needed five more by tomorrow’s meeting.  The more diverse their backgrounds and body types, the better.  Swan said she’d bring her girlfriend Cece, Clair said she’d bring Lauren and Shari said she’d bring Carrie.  Then Milagros mentioned Bird, who was part Nigerian and part Cherokee.  And Jean suggested Suni, whose parents were from Korea.

It started to drizzle.  We gathered our softball stuff and headed to the bar to celebrate our brilliant victory that evening over the Furies and our upcoming space adventure.

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Jetson was straining on her leash toward oncoming traffic so it took me a second to realize what had just happened.
“Don’t be alarmed,” the gorgeous woman said.  “You are not seeing things.”
I wrapped the least tighter around my left hand in a vain attempt to keep my dog from simultaneously barking up at this stranger viciously and greeting her with much friendly stump wagging and body wiggling.  Cocker Spaniels, being stuck in a constant state of adolescence, react to most situations with indecision.
“Jetson, chill out,” I snapped, hoping to appear in control and mask my utter disbelief.  Also, I figured if I said something, anything, I wouldn’t have to worry about standing there on the corner with my eyes open wide and my mouth hanging open.
Jetson stopped barking and pulled to jump up and sniff the gorgeous woman, an idea which, had I not been so nearly incapacitated, I might have thought of myself.
“You and your dog are a lot alike, Kimberly.  It is Kimberly, is it not?  Yes, well, now that the initial shock is over?  Please allow me to apologize for startling you and your canine companion.  I assumed you of all people would be able to handle it, though.”
My suspicions about how the fuck she knew my name were quickly replaced by a sort of pride because I supposed I had just been given a compliment.  She was smart, whoever she was.  Her English was not exactly colloquial and her accent was far more exotic than Brooklyn.  I put it all together and took a stab in the dark.
“So, Ms Fire Hydrant, you’re either an alien or a CIA agent, right?”
She smiled widely and I almost fell backwards.
“Very good,” she said.  “But which?”
“Well, I’d vote for alien because if the CIA really wanted to spy on me and my revolutionary ideas I doubt they’d let their agent blow her cover and talk to me directly.  And, although I’m sure they have lots of incredible tricks up their scary, nasty sleeves, I doubt they’ve discovered how to transmute agents into fire hydrants and then back into human agents again.  Is this what you really look like or have you transmuted from a hideously disgusting and slimy monster to human form as a clever disguise while visiting this planet?”
She smiled again only this time I was a little more prepared.  I felt a tingle from my belly button around to the base of my spine.
“This is what I really look like,” she answered while bending to pet Jetson’s head.  I suddenly flashed on alien creatures who eat black female Cocker Spaniels with Mohawk haircuts as delicacies but Jetson seemed to be enjoying the attention so I let it go.  Jetson, being a very perceptive dog, obviously sensed no immediate danger, which helped me lean toward the probability that there was none.
“You use the word ‘transmute’ so freely,” she continued, rising to meet my stare.  “I’m curious about that.”
“I read a lot of science fiction,” was my quick and honest response.  “But this is my planet and I’m asking the questions.”
Her eyebrows went up and her arms folded in front of her black T-shirt.  Maybe she was impressed with my chutzpah.  Or maybe she was preparing to kill me.  Either way, I decided to plow onward.
“Like, where are you from, for instance?”
Her weight shifted and her hands slid into the hip pockets of her not-too-perfectly-cut blue denim jeans.  When she glanced up at the sky it seemed automatic, reflexive, like when you’re hiding something and it takes all your concentration not to look at the hiding place.
“The tenth planet of a star you would call Deneb.  Our name for our star is very difficult to say in any of your Terran languages but it might roughly translate into ‘Glitter’ in English.  Which means the name of our planet would roughly translate as Glitter Ten or… Glitter X.”
She paused after giving up this particular information and I thought I detected a twinkle in her eye when she slowly said the last part.  Then she grinned and I could not shake the inkling that I was dealing with a lesbian alien.  She assumed I could handle meeting her because I read a lot of science fiction, I had a black Cocker Spaniel with a Mohawk haircut and I was a lesbian.  Or any one or two of the above.  Or none.  I was never quick as a deductive thinker and I often wished that I were.
“Deneb is a young white star in the constellation…”
“I know my astronomy, Ms Fire Hydrant.  Deneb is a fairly young, white star in the constellation Cygnus, which is easily visible to Northern Hemisphere inhabitants all summer and fall.  You just glanced at it, as a matter of fact.”
Or maybe it was my attitude.  Whatever it was I was feeling increasingly comfortable with her, if she indeed was a she and I trusted my instincts fearlessly so she had to be.  I was beginning to feel like I should invite her to my apartment because I was slowly losing my initial fright and remembering the crazy list of questions I kept in my head just in case I ever met a friendly alien.  Sigourney Weaver popped into my thoughts but the alien before me wasn’t dripping acid saliva from a double mouth so I took the chance.
She was grinning again only this time her head was ever-so-slightly bobbing up and down.  I parted my lips to ask her name and invite her up when she said, “Call me Minerva.  And yes, it would be much nicer to chat at your place than out here on the dark sidewalk.”
Minerva.  A once-holy Goddess name.  She had done her homework, this alien from Glitter X.  And she either read minds or was incredibly perceptive.  Which to me was basically one in the same so I said “great” and lead the way, even though I was sure she knew it as well as I did.

We climbed the stairs to my brownstone walkup and I wondered if I had remembered to make the bed.  Then it occurred to me that I was anal retentive so I must have.  Being neat has its moments.
My apartment smelled like turmeric stir fry and lavender incense and Minerva wrinkled her nose as she entered.  Jetson ran off to find her new rawhide bone and my guest’s inspection began.  In the living room she stopped only briefly at the framed Georgia O’keeffe print and the CD collection.  In the bedroom she noticed all the books, spending the most time perusing the three shelves dedicated to lesbian work.  She glanced briefly at the candles and crystals on the mantel above my desk, then led me into the kitchen and asked for a beer.
“Too bad no one uses the fireplaces in these buildings anymore,” she said after a quick sip of Dos Equis.
“Well, actually, some people still do,” I countered and moved to the living room to relax on the couch.  “Lucky people.  Privileged people.  They probably have the money to own rather than to rent.  The latest trend is dot-com families from the Upper West Side.  They’re buying these brownstones for ridiculous prices and charging so much for rent on the top floors that they’ll soon ruin Park Slope, I fear.  They fix up the buildings and open the fireplaces.  In the winter it smells nice but it makes me jealous.”
She sat across from me and took another sip of beer.  I watched her dark green eyes dart around the room and it occurred to me that, despite her bravado, if she indeed was an alien she was light years from her home and possibly nervous as hell.  She seemed to be most comfortable when she was talking.  Sharing information.  I asked another question.
“Care to tell me about your mission here on Earth?  I can’t imagine anyone coming here for vacation.”
Minerva crossed her legs and looked down at her lap.  Then she began to peel the label off her Dos Equis and I thought perhaps that this beautiful alien did not land here yesterday.  She’d either been mingling or observing humanity for quite some time.
“You were the only one who noticed,” she said and looked up to meet my quizzical stare.  “I stood out there disguised as a New York City fire hydrant for two months, getting sniffed and peed on and only you noticed that I picked the wrong side of the street.”
“You mean…”
“I did it on purpose.  I wanted someone to notice that there was a new fire hydrant on the corner and that it was on the opposite side of the street where it didn’t necessarily belong.  I wanted a lot of people to notice but no one did, except you.  It takes a certain attention to detail, a certain intelligence to catch small, what is the word, anomalies like that.  You noticed fairly quickly.  And I didn’t even have to read you as you walked by.  You said it out loud to your dog about a month ago.”
“I did?”  An instant of privacy paranoia came and went.
“Yes.  I observed that you talked to her a lot.  I wanted to have more women who love women to choose from, which is why I picked this neighborhood, but as you walked by every evening I began to feel certain that you were the right one, even though you were the only one.”
My heart leaped to my throat.  My reflexive fear of the unknown recoiled in my chest and reverberated throughout the room.  My reptilian brain was ready to pop out of my skull.  Even Jetson sensed the tension and looked up from her spot on the area rug.  I was the right one and I was going to be dragged away to a pulsing, beeping spaceship for medical experiments.
“No, no no,” Minerva gushed.  “I’m sorry.  There’s no reason to be afraid.  You were doing so well.  You weren’t afraid in the beginning.  Or you were but you were handling it better.”
I reached down to pet Jetty’s head and collect my jumbled thoughts.
“I’m really not afraid, I don’t think.  I suppose it just then hit me that you really are an alien.  I’m actually sitting in my living room chatting with a space woman.  A space lesbian, I guess.”
Minerva stared into her beer bottle.  She sat so still for so long that I thought she had transmuted into a stone statue of her warm, breathing self.  But wait.  Was she warm?  Did she breathe?  I hadn’t yet touched her so there was no way to tell for sure.  If I was going to start hanging out with a space dyke, though, I figured I’d be safer if I didn’t make too many assumptions.
I let her stare.  I gave her time.  Because my own emotions are often buried so deep within myself and it can take a long time to translate those feelings into a language other people can understand, I had no problem sitting there quietly, waiting for her to to be ready to continue talking.  Plus, it gave me a few moments to process and register what was going on inside my brain.  I was afraid but I wasn’t.  I was excited but cautious.  I was curious but protective.  This was fun but I didn’t want to wind up being zapped into oblivion.  Who would feed Jetson?
“Exactly,” Minerva said finally.  Her head snapped up, her eyes met mine and her assertive posture was back.  “A space lesbian.  And I need your help.  We… need your help.”
Twilight Zone.  That’s what I thought of.  To Serve Man.  Her planet was starving and they needed to eat us.  But she was a lesbian.  If she wanted to eat me it could mean an entirely different thing.
“Whose help?” I asked.  “Mine, Kimberly, or ours, human race?”  It occurred to me that if we’d been speaking almost any language other than English I would not have had to ask that question.  But I’ve read about lots of fictional alien ambassadors.  Sometimes they need just one person.  Sometimes they need the whole planet.
“You.  Kimberly.  And some of your buddies.  Nineteen, to be exact.  I followed you around a little bit last week and ran some DNA probes on those women who seemed to be your closest friends.  It seems you associate with women who represent a majority of this planet’s main ethnic categories.  Your own genes alone provide a plethora of positive pickings.  A family tree with roots all over the world, so to speak.  How about if I start at the beginning?”

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