Space Oddity – Chapter 4

Chapter 3Chapter 2Chapter 1

Enki stood, and as he did, bluish and silvery-white patterns appeared on his skin.  His nose sank into his face and skin covered his eyelids.  His flesh became fish-metallic, and his legs bent backward into another joint below the knee.  

He removed his jumpsuit, revealing sexless, smooth features beneath.  Parallel ridges covered with fins ran down his chest, and his shoulders sprouted feathery tentacles the color of sea foam.  His fingers elongated, nails hardening into talons, and his pinkies reabsorbed into his hands.  His feet swallowed their toes and hardened into something like claws.  Finally, his ears and hair disappeared, replaced by fins and frills

A single, slanted eye blinked open in the center of his face, over lips stretched to where his ears had been.  He smiled, and sharp rows of teeth greeted me.  

“Put those fangs away!  You look like a sewer mutant.”

His shoulder tentacles stood on end, and he frowned, his solitary brow arching downwards over an inky-black eye.  “Do I really?”

“Yeah.  Like the Leviathan or something.”

Enki examined his four-fingered hands.  “Anunnaki are about as close to humans as you’ll get in our galaxy.  Bipedal, male-female sexual dynamics, a highly social species. Now, if we went to the Andromeda galaxy, there’s a warm-blooded species closer to your physiology, but even that’s a stretch.  They’re more marsupial than ape-like.”

“Stop being so academic about this.  You’re freaking me out.”  I looked at the ground.  “I don’t think I can do this.  I can’t go upstairs and see more Swamp Things.  Take me home.  Please.”

Enki’s skin flushed cyan.  He frowned like a Cyclops.  “I’d like to, but the next ship to Earth doesn’t leave for a week.  We’re in the Perseus Arm of the Milky Way, about 6,400 light years from your solar system.  The crew wasn’t expecting our arrival, and it takes planning to create a wormhole.  Look, I already spoke to the ship’s captain, Gishkim.  He’s slated our departure for as soon as is feasible.”

I gawked, so overwhelmed by the foreignness of the being before me.  Enki was like something that had climbed out of Earth’s primordial seas, a fluorescent Cyclops sea slug that walked.  

“But I can’t stay here,” I said.  I looked around the vegetated room and shivered despite the rainforest heat.  “What about my job?  I’ll lose it if I’m gone.  What about Carlos and Spike?  They’ll freak.”

Enki’s ear-fins fanned out, like he was distressed, and the translucent frills on his neck stood up.  “It’s alright.  We’ve already used our ship’s communication systems to access your email and phone.  I’ve contacted your family and friends to tell them you have the flu.   Please, try to understand that we mean you no harm.  I may look frightening, but we’re a peaceful species.  You can’t stay in this ward forever.  You have to eat.  To move.”

I looked at the rotating walls.  “Ward?  That’s what this is?  Some place where your friends can plug vines into my back and watch me?”

“It’s not like that.  This room is like a hospital: the plants are genetically sculpted to administer medicine to patients and maintain their homeostasis.  Hashur constructed it specifically for you.”

I touched the leaf-like staircase and looked Enki in his obsidian eye.  “I want to blend in as much as possible.”

Enki nodded.  “Alright then.  Are you ready to go upstairs?”

I braced myself.  “Okay.”

 

The ship was like a forest – woody halls, genetically-engineered vegetation creeping everywhere, with dozen-petalled flowers that looked like a cross between orchids and roses.  A fine mist clung to the ceiling and amber liquid coated the floor, sticking to my feet.  It was humid and warm.  An occasional window would appear, and I would stop to stare at the velvety expanse of space.  Enki would pause, wait, and then nudge me along to our destination.

“Hashur and Gishkim are in the heartwood hall – it’s time for our evening meal.  I’m sure you’re hungry.”

I took note of the hollowness in my stomach and dully agreed.

Enki flashed his serrated-tooth smile.  “Have you noticed you’re speaking my language?”

I stopped.  “What?”  The question exited my throat, and my tongue didn’t shape it like an English word.  Instead, it was clear and bell-like, sweeter than human language.  I repeated myself in wonder, then deliberately switched to English.  I had been speaking a different language and hadn’t even processed it.  

“Whoa,” I said.  “Rad.”

Enki grinned.  “It’s the neurodrip Hashur administered through your biogauge.  It altered your brain chemistry so that you can speak our tongue.”

“Neat.  I’ve always wanted to by a polyglot.”

I rounded a corner and ran straight into another Anunnaki.  Their moist fins made contact with my skin, just like a fish plucked from water.

“Excuse me,” I said, frazzled.

The Anunnaki blocked my exit.  It drew its tentacles down my arm.

“Is this the human?” a feminine voice purred.  “I’ve never seen one up close before.”

I wiped her tentacles off me.  They left behind a shining film.  “Your skin is really cold,” I said.

“Sorry,” she said.  Her skin flashed purple.  “I was just curious.”

“Ishtar, give Ziggi her space,” Enki said.  “She’s adjusting to the ship.  Everything’s a bit frightening.”

“You don’t need to protect me,” I said.  “It’s not so frightening now that I’m getting used to it.”

Ishtar’s ear-fins pressed close to her skull.  “Are all humans this spry, brother?”

I looked to Enki.  “I didn’t know you had a family.”

They both flinched, nictating membranes drawing down across their eyes.

Enki spoke: “Ziggi, my sister didn’t mean to invade your personal space.  She has no manners to speak of.  You’ll have to forgive her.”

Ishtar’s blue tongue rattled in her mouth.  “At least I’m not the family idiot.  Really, bringing a human aboard?  You’ll never finish your crowning process with the speck of neural matter you possess.”

Enki’s skin turned whitish.  “Don’t dredge up old arguments.  Completing our maturation cycles isn’t a competition.  Just because mother sent you on this mission with me doesn’t mean you have to hate me for it.  I didn’t force you onto this ship.”

Ishtar flashed her fangs.  “I wouldn’t be aboard this ship if you hadn’t taken so long to mature.  The clock’s still ticking, and how much have you progressed?  Did becoming addicted to drugs further your understanding of the human race?  How much more of my time are you going to waste on this asinine, dead-end mission?”

Enki clenched his lips.  “I don’t have to justify myself to you.  Don’t be so aggressive.  It’s unbecoming.”

Ishtar laughed, a throaty sound.  “I could feel your imprint on her.  You directly interfered with her genome on Earth – what, while she was sleeping?”  Her cold gaze fixated on Enki.  “Meddling with an uninitiated species’ biology is in direct violation of our laws.  Or have you forgotten the fiasco that happened the last time you studied humanity?  Your precious humans wrote religious books about us.  Even thousands of years couldn’t erase your mistake from their memories.”

“I always thought the Bible was fishy,” I said.

Ishtar’s smile was thin.  “Be careful, Ziggi.  Enki loses himself in the subjects he studies.  He’s a fool.”

“I think I can take care of myself,” I said.

Ishtar gave a hoarse laugh.  “How long until she learns what the crowning process entails?  What you’re grooming her for?”

Enki sighed, a wet sound.  “Not her.  Ziggi’s just my roommate.  It’s an accident that she’s here.”

“What’s going on?” I said.  “You guys are freaking me out.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Enki said, turning to me.  “My sister’s conjecturing.”  He glanced over his shoulder at Ishtar.  “We’re leaving now.  I suggest you do the same.”

Ishtar narrowed her eye.  “Stop lying to yourself.  No wonder you’re so addle-brained.  You swallow your own venom instead of spitting it out.”  She focused on me.  “He’s imprinted on you – it’s only a matter of time.”  

With that, Ishtar turned the corner, claws clacking on the damp floor.

Enki took my hand in his, trying to be reassuring.  “Sorry about that.  Ishtar’s usually unpleasant.  Come.  I’ll take you to the heartwood hall.”

I didn’t budge.  “Is this some kinda alien porno like Earth Girls are Easy?”

Enki’s skin grayed, like brine.  “What?  No!  It’s complicated, but completely untrue, and my sister is just mocking me.  Her comments were crass.  She likes to get a rise out of people.”

“What do I have to do with your crowning process?”

Enki looked over his shoulder, as if expecting his sister to return.  “Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.”

 

I poked what looked like a bowl of fried arachnids with a single-pronged eating utensil and flinched.

“Is this stuff, um, edible?” I said.

The Anunnaki laughed.  

I sat at a leafy table with Gishkim, Hashur, and Enki.  Gishkim and Hashur were both two heads shorter than Enki and lacked his shoulder tentacles, marking them as the sheath class of Anunnaki, who ran communications and performed everyday duties that supported their species’ overall function.  Their skin, instead of Enki’s default blue, was clear like glass, revealing strange organs beneath.  Silver flashed beneath their skin, which Enki said was something like neurons.  

Unlike Enki and Ishtar’s head- and neck-frills, Gishkim and Hashur had two fleshy stalks on each side of their brow.  I was reminded of the translucent sea slugs I’d seen on Animal Planet once, in a documentary about Antarctica.  They’d been called sea angels, as if they were otherworldly messengers from the depths.  That’s what the Anunnaki were, anyways – visitors from the ocean of space.

“She’s funny,” said Gishkim, the ship’s captain.  He smiled at me.  “You eat the imperva like this.”  He took his eating utensil and pressed it against a ridge on one of the arachnid’s backs.  The imperva’s exoskeleton split open, revealing something that smelled like crab meat.  The white, steaming flesh was split into different sections, and he stabbed his utensil through a portion of it and dipped it in a black sauce at the bottom of the bowl.

“What are imperva?” I asked, curious.  I watched Gishkim chew.  “Can I even digest it?  Are you sure you don’t have like a hamburger or something?”

“Imperva are a kind of filter feeder from our home planet, Nibiru,” said Hashur.  I absently touched the hole in my lower back.  “They’re a delicacy.  The sauce is made from their ink – it has a high salt content, but a savory taste.  I think you’ll find them a pleasing combination and fully digestible.”

I skewered the imperva meat, dipped it in the ink, and took a tentative bite.  The food nearly melted in my mouth.  I chewed and swallowed.  

“It does taste good.  Like fish.  But it looks like a spider.  I thought it would be crap,” I said.

Enki laughed.  “I’m glad that you’re adjusting.”

Gishkim took a triangular device from the middle of the table and shook it over his food.  The shaker deposited a red, spicy-smelling substance over the imperva.  He offered the shaker to me.  “This gives it a kick.  It’s crushed goudra petal.”

“Like a flower?” I asked.

“Heck if I know,” said Gishkim, looking to Hashur for an answer.

“They’re a bit like flowers,” Hashur, resident scientist, answered.  “Goudras are chemotrophs.  They degrade minerals.  I’m sure you’ve seen them on the walls of our ship.”

“Oh,” I said, thinking of the dozen-petalled flowers.  “You mean the ones that look like roses?”

Hashur nodded.

I took the spice shaker and sniffed it.  It smelled good, kind of tangy.  I sprinkled some on one of the imperva’s legs and tried it.  It tasted even better with the spice.  

Gishkim took a last bite of his food.  “Ishtar’s more aggressive than usual,” he said.  “She’s molting.  Try to avoid her.”

“That would explain her confrontation with us earlier,” Enki said.  “I’m sorry she’s so difficult.  I know it’s hard to keep her occupied aboard the ship.  I don’t understand why my mother has kept her here so long.  One would think Ishtar had learned enough about my crowning process already.  She should have been assigned her own planet by now.”

Gishkim rubbed his temple.  His head stalks stood on end.  “She’s already mastered the crowning procedures and memorized every report sent back from Earth.  She’s growing antsy.  I’m running out of things to teach her.  I think your mother hesitates because of Ishtar’s impulsiveness.”

“Tiamat has always been a cautious queen,” Hashur agreed.

“Only to counteract my father’s hotheaded tendencies,” Enki said.  “I swear, Ishtar may well be his clone.”

“Abzu is a fiery ruler,” Gishkim agreed.  “Your mother is his complement in every way.”

“Is your sister always moody?” I asked.

Gishkim smirked.  “That’s one way to put it.”

Enki sighed.  “Yes, she is, but she’s especially aggressive when molting.  Anunnaki personalities are polarized during the molting process.”

I finished the last of my imperva and chased it down with a gulp of water.  “So do you just turn into a total hippy-dippy druggie when you molt?”

Enki wiped his lips with a furry leaf that he plucked from the vegetated table.  “Uh, well, I suppose I become calmer and indulge in, well, I indulge in more substances, yes.  I find that cannabis soothes the painful process.  It helped me cope on Earth.”

“Thank the waters of Nibiru we don’t have to molt, right Hashur?” Gishkim said.  “It’s like being dried out and squeezed into a skin three sizes too small.  At least, that’s what Abzu says.”

“That sounds uncomfortable,” I said.

Enki nodded. “It’s a part of the royal maturation cycle.  We shed accumulated knowledge and cement neural pathway,” he said.  “It occurs in the years before sexual maturation.”

I thought back to Ishtar’s mention of ‘imprinting.’  “Um, uh, I didn’t need to know that.”

Gishkim did something like snort, but it sounded more like a gurgle.  “In a word, you could say Ishtar’s sexually frustrated.  Another emotion Hashur and I will never experience.  When the sheath class wants to spawn, all we need to do is touch antennae and-”

“Gishkim, stop being vulgar,” Hashur said.

Gishkim’s head stalks hung limp.  “I wouldn’t be royal if you paid me.  You’re the only reasonable member of your family, Enki, and even you’re an idiot.”

“He means that in the most affectionate way possible,” said Hashur.  “Don’t you, Gishkim?”

“Bite me,” Gishkim said.  “I had to rearrange an entire vortex schedule because our addict prince messed up.”  Gishkim laughed.  “Just kidding.  It was no problem.  Only as painful as plucking my claws out one by one.”

Enki flushed purple.  “Sorry.”

Dinner passed, and I watched in fascination as Hashur caressed a bump at the center of the table.  A pore opened with the sound of rushing liquid and something like sap filled the basin.  The aliens put their wooden plates, dining implements, and bamboo-like cups into the pore.  I did the same.  Steam rose from the pore as the digested the materials.  Dinner gone, the pore sealed shut.

“You guys are the most crunchy granola aliens I’ve ever met.”

Enki showed me to my room.  We walked down a central hall with a clear floor, allowing one to see the expanse of space underfoot.  Anunnaki trod over a gaseous, green planet with several rings and a single, crescent moon that hovered miles below.  Enki said the planet was a kind of intergalactic trading post that Gishkim’s ship had landed on yesterday to refuel and restock on supplies.  I was blown away by the planet’s beauty, atwitter from the idea that I could step out of the ship and fall into teal clouds.  

“Here are your quarters,” Enki said, standing beside a tree as thick as three elephants.  I gazed up at the branches that threatened to swallow the ceiling and disappeared into mist.

He pressed his hand to a whorl in the bark and the tree opened, just like the table’s pore had.  Enki entered and I followed.  The interior was the size of a studio apartment, with the same grassy floor as the ward I had been in and a bed made of moss.  Red goudra flowers hung from the ceiling, spicing the air with their scent.  A thin stream, lined with mossy slate, cut across the room, flowing in a miniature waterfall from what looked to be a sink.  The ceiling was clear glass, allowing me to see the stars above.  

Something splashed in the stream.  I looked down to see ciliated, translucent jewels floating about – a bit like the diatoms on the microscope slides of my high school biology class.  They glimmered every color of the rainbow.

“Snacks, in case you get hungry,” Enki said, bending over on his double-jointed legs to scoop one of the pear-sized creatures from the water.  Its strands retracted as he bit in.  There was a delicate crunch, and he showed me the interior of the organism, which looked a bit like red bean paste.

I sat down on the mossy bed.  “I don’t know if I can eat something with tentacles.”

Enki finished the supposed snack.  “They’re not really alive.  They’re the fruiting bodies of our plants – like seedpods.  Think of them as swimming apples. They drop into the waters of Nibiru and swim until they find ground to grow on.  That’s what the tentacles are for:  roots.”

“Maybe I’ll try one later.”  I laid down on the bed and stared up at space.

Enki sat on a prominent rock.  “I’m trying to make you feel comfortable.  Please forgive me if you’re not.”

I rolled over onto my stomach.  “It’s fine – well, as fine as being abducted can be.  I can hack out a week here.”

Enki smiled, baring his shark teeth.  “Do you want to watch TV?  We save every program broadcast on Earth for research.”

I met his black eye.  “Crap.  Do you guys have Metalocalypse?”

“You mean that cartoon about the death metal band your band watches after practice?  Yes, we do.  I quite enjoy that.”

And so an alien and I watched a black comedy that peaked in the late 2000s, broadcast on the ceiling.  Enki produced a joint and lighter from god knew where – did he have a kangaroo pouch or something?  If so, I didn’t want to know.  

The room smelled of goudra petals and weed, and the diatom-fruit drifted happily in the stream.  The scent of Enki’s joint lingered after he left, just like the sheen his ass left on the rock.  I couldn’t get over how sticky Anunnaki were.

My blanket was, predictably, a leaf.  The natural light the walls exuded faded, and I took that as my signal to sleep.  The moss beneath me was strangely comforting, and I found it as springy as a new mattress.  I drifted off to sleep with thoughts of a green planet above and sweet arachnids on my tongue-

Slimy hands on my shoulders.

So much for sleep.

 

Space Oddity: Chapter 3

Chapter 3  – Chapter 2Chapter 1

I was disembodied, watching the daily routine of my teenage self on my parents’ farm.  Wake up early, make myself up with raccoon’s eyes of kohl and an unflattering shade of bruise-purple lipstick, then march to the bus stop with a spiked collar around my throat, past corn fields and ditches.  

I could hear my younger self listening to the Runaways.  The crops were feet above my 4’11 head.  I’d never grown past 5’ nothing even into adulthood.  I couldn’t see past them to the road, but I could hear the bus rumble away past the swaying stalks.  Younger me ran after it.

“Screw corn,” my phantom self said.  

Younger me looked like she’d heard a ghost, and then tripped over her feet.  “Crap!  Is someone there?” she said.  “How come I can’t see you?”

I sighed.  “This is your future self coming back in time to tell you your life is going to suck major ass.”

Younger me’s nostrils flared.  “I don’t think so.  I can sing.  I even play guitar.  I’m going to be like Courtney Love, minus the drugs and sex tapes and kid named after a legume.”

“Shut up, I love Frances Cobain, and you’re nothing compared to her, you little twat.  I forgot how bratty I was.”  I snorted.  “Guess what, you wannabe punk?  You’ll break your ankle senior year of college and never make it as a dancer, your band will fall apart every time you try to put together an EP, and to top it all off, you’re going to be a barista.  A fucking barista.  Kiss your dreams of a record deal goodbye.”

She’s a bitter specimen, echoed a voice.  It seems her childhood aspirations were never met, like so many humans we’ve studied.

Younger me froze.  A particularly fiery cloud blazed on the horizon.

“God?” younger me breathed.  “Only prophets hear voices coming from the sky.  Mom was right.  I should have paid more attention in Sunday school.”

“Shut up,” disembodied me said.  “That’s not God.  This is a dream, my dream, and you’re just a memory of who I was.”

Younger me flinched, then looked at her arms, which were beginning to fall away like sand slipping through someone’s fingers.  “Oh?” she said, and then she was gone, clothes and headphones falling to a billowing pile on the muddy dirt road.  The CD player blasted “Cherry Bomb.”  

The corn rustled in the wind.  I looked to the burning cloud.  It swelled, swallowing the sky.  The heat was intense, and the fields caught fire, sending crows into thermals above.

The voice from above grew concerned: She’s sensed our presence.  Her mind is trying to expel us.  Give her more neurodrip.

“Who are you?” I yelled.  The boiling cloud enveloped the farm.  It was all that was, an oven of heat, like the warmth that had flowed from Cyrus’ hand to my ankle when he’d healed me-

Cyrus.  Our take-off.  “Cyrus!  Is that you?”

The neurodrip isn’t working.  She’s too alert.

I suppose we’ll have to wake her.

“Answer me.”

I was greeted with silence.  

The heat was unbearable.  I was in the womb of a dragon, baking into being.  

I panicked, then tried to reassure myself: “It’s my mind.  Screw it, concentrate.”  

I tried to imagine something peaceful.  

The fiery cloud dissipated, growing fuzzy like a TV screen crackling between channels.  My surroundings settled into my old backyard, with the creek, tree fort, and weeping willow.  I was back in my body, sitting in the weeping willow’s rickety swing.  I clutched the old rope fastenings and steadied myself.

I exhaled.

Switch her to the revitadrip.

I shook my fist at the sky.  “I hear you!”

Hashur, she’s fully cognizant of us.  Should we engage?

Hashur?  What kind of name was that?  Like Slash but more emo.  I stilled the swing, listening.

There was a pause.  The second voice spoke:

Only if Enki is here, Gishkim.  He’s still in his biomorph, so his form won’t frighten her.

“Stop talking about me like I can’t hear you.”

The first voice spoke: You’re right.  I’ll go bring Enki back from the containment ward.  Let’s let him deal with the fallout of his actions.  It might teach him a lesson for once.

I doubt that.  Our prince’s neural pathways are clogged with dreams, not common sense.  Up the revitadrip.  She’ll be fully awake when Enki is ready to debrief her.

Alright.

Prince?  Had I been captured by the British space monarchy?  Had David Bowie died, ascended to the stars, and become an alien overlord claiming people conceived at his concerts to build an army of glam?

My dream-body ached, on pins and needles, like an unused limb.  The creek trickled away into oblivion, and my swing shook violently.  Darkness flooded my backyard, and I cried out, blinded.  It was like the blackness behind eyelids, clogged with sunspot patterns.  I heard something drum – my heart.  

My eyes fluttered open.  

I wasn’t strapped down on a dissection table, being probed with metal cylinders.  Instead, I was alone, lying on a spongy floor, which was matted with something like grass.  Dim light came from the ceiling.  I was dressed in a white gown, made of some kind of downy material.

The lower region of my back ached, and I reached down to feel something like a vine rooted at the base of my spine.  I pulled the brown tendril from me.  It popped out with a suction-y sound, curled back into the ground, and left a small, bloodless hole in my back.  

I poked my finger in to find that the hole ended shortly thereafter, like an electric socket.  My throat clutched as I realized I had been plugged in and pumped with whatever revitadrip and neurodrip were.  Someone had implanted this – this thing in my back, basically turning me into an outlet.

My tongue felt leaden.  My limbs were jelly.  I could barely sit up, and when I did, the room – if I could even call it that – spun.  And it wasn’t from dizziness.  The walls were moving with a slow, lush whir, like water swirling in an eddy.  The air was warm and moist, like the Amazon, and brown and bluish-green vines, like the one that had been hooked into me, hung from the round, orb-like ceiling.  Droplets of amber liquid fell periodically from the vines to the ground.  

I felt the hole in my back again and flinched, craning my neck to see it.  The material that formed a small circle at the base of my spine was cool and porous, like a hollowed-out pumice stone.  Had I become a golem?  Had Ziggy Stardust descended from Mars to claim me as his bride?  What about Michael from Stranger in a Strange Land?

I struggled to stand, unable to lean on the moving walls for support.  Besides the vegetation, the room was featureless, like some sort of mossy incubator.  My gown fell to my ankles.  I turned around, searching for a door, or some kind of control panel, anything that could be used to escape.  

On wobbly knees, I walked forward to feel the green, springy walls.  They were soaked in the amber liquid.  Summoning my last reserves of strength, I pounded on them.

“Hello?”

No response.

I knocked until my legs could no longer stand.  I sank to the ground and stared listlessly at the ceiling.

After a while, the whirring of the walls grew louder, sending cascades of amber liquid from the vines.

The orb of the ceiling unfolded like a flower, splitting open into petal-like sections.  The light from above grew bright, bright, brighter, and I found I was at the bottom of some sort of shaft.  

Something like a leaf unfurled downwards from the rim of the shaft, past which I could see black sky and stars.  I drew back, but there was nowhere to hide.  The veined leaf opened and spiraled downward, forming a crumpled staircase.  It touched ground at the center of the spongy grass.  Cyrus was walking down the leaf, at a casual pace.

Cyrus?  What do you think this is, a walk through the park?”

“It’s good to see you.  I never meant for this to happen.  Hashur took you away before I could do anything.  You had to be stabilized, and I had to debrief the ship’s crew on our, um, our situation.”

He stepped off the leaf and reached out a hand to me, his smile tentative.  

I took his hand, stood, then slapped him across the cheek.  Angry red spread across his skin.

“You’re an alien!”

He steadied my shaking body.  “Ziggi, Ziggi, everything will make sense.  Just be patient.  That’s all I ask.”  He smoothed the sleeves of my gown.  “And my name isn’t Cyrus.  I got that from a really outdated baby name book when I was on LSD and the names came to life.  It’s kind of hard to explain that particular trip.  Anyways, Cyrus had a nice ring to it?  My Anunnaki name is Enki.”

“Is Anunnaki some kind of metal band?”

He straightened his white jumpsuit.  “We’re a kind of observer species.  We feed off the electrical release of neurons.  Our biology is somewhat similar to yours, but amphibious.  Does that make any sense?”

“No.”

He sighed, rubbing his temple.  “I know this must come as a shock to you, that your planet isn’t alone in the universe.  My race studies things, and in studying them, we grow, both figuratively and literally.  It’s a vital part of our developmental process.”

I drew back from him, cautious.  “Why were you on Earth then?”

“I’m on a mapping expedition of the Orion Arm of the Milky Way galaxy, what we call Ea.  The Anunnaki investigate planets like Earth periodically.  It’s part of my crowning process.”

I looked him up and down.  Alien or not, he was still annoying, even more so now that I had been abducted, and still romance novel-hot with his perfect, no-hair-out-of-place manbun.  “In my dream, the other aliens called you a prince.”

Cyrus – Enki – nodded.  “Royalty in Anunnaki society has a different connotation.  Have you heard of mirror neurons?”

I struggled to recall high school biology, drew a blank, then shook my head no.

“They’re the neurons in your brain that mirror other’s behavior – they’re related to empathy.  Anunnaki royals have an overexpression a substance like mirror neurons.  They allow us to bond with different species.  We manage diplomacy between planets and assess other races to see if they’re at an evolutionary step that would allow them to open relations with us.  Think of us as a mix between politicians and anthropologists.”

“Sounds like the plot of a low-budget Syfy movie.”

Enki’s smile was soft.  “I’ve been tasked with bringing humanity into the Me – or Milky Way – federation.  If I succeed, my crowning process will be complete, my neural makeup will undergo a shift, and I’ll metamorphose into my adult phase.”

My hairs stood on end.  “The other aliens said something about a, a biomorph, or something.  That you were stuck in it.”

Enki nodded.  “My species’ phenotype is fluid under the right conditions.  But enough about me.  Would you mind turning around?  I’d like to see how your biogauge is faring.”

“My what?”

Enki frowned.  “Hashur implanted a device in your back to help you adjust to space.  It’s hooked up to your nervous system and allows quick administration of chemicals that alter your physiology so that you can understand my language, or withstand our artificial gravity fields.”

He turned me around gently.  Enki unhooked a clasp at my lower back and inspected the biogauge.  He touched it gingerly. I shivered and stepped away.

“That is so not right,” I said.  “Hashur shouldn’t have experimented on me.  I don’t want to be an X-men.  Unless I’m like Wolverine or something…”

Enki sighed.  “After we launched, you were in critical condition.  We had to put you in suspended animation and perform the operation.  Hashur’s our equivalent of a doctor – she’s studied humans for centuries, and she knew exactly what she was doing.  You’re fine, I promise, and the biogauge can always be removed.  You’re our guest of honor, Ziggi – the first human to step aboard an Anunnaki ship.  Would you like to see it?”

My heart palpitated.  “I – yes, I mean – I guess so?”  

“Then it would be my pleasure to show you.  But first let me change back to my true form.  Human skin is itchy.”

Trump Impeachment Party

The orange-faced clown spins rings of folly
in the middle of the circus, lions circling
his dance is off-kilter, face-plant in mud,
not all the money in the world brings honor
instead he’s uncrowned, laughingstock fool,
and we eat popcorn in the stands, cheering
the fall of a circus freak too dumb to rule.

Someone End Me

This is topical because Samael loves nothing more than getting shitfaced drunk and playing the piano under the moonlight with a whole entire bottle of red wine at his disposal in his stupid ass palace lounge and doesn’t shut up mid-Frank Sinatra when I throw things at him when I’m trying to fall asleep on the couch.

The Taco Demon

I once had a dream Sam looked like this: I was walking along the Styx looking for a dive to eat in and suddenly a red-skinned Samael with flayed skin abducted me, blindfolded me, and carried me to his lair.

Me: “Why the hell did you put me over your shoulder like a sack of potatoes and take me to your dingy dining room?”

Samael: “I thought it would be romantic.  Look… I made us tacos.”

(Summons beef and lettuce tacos that smell like Chipotle)

Me: “Why is your skin bloody red, why do you have horns, and why do you have a goatee?”

Samael: “Sometimes it’s fun to cater towards the Christian stereotype.” (Stuffs an entire taco in his mouth.)  “Do you like the tacos?”

Me: “Sam you look dumb and yes the tacos are good but why.  Did.  You. Kidnap.  Me. To. Force. Feed. Me. Tacos.”

Samael: “You always insult my cooking so I tried really hard to impress you.  I’m no Raphael, but I think they’re pretty good.  Don’t call me fat again or I’ll kick you out of my kitchen.”

Me: “Okay whatever it’s just you were making salad that one time-”

Samael: “Stop.”

Me: “Why do you and Freyr like Mexican food.”

Samael: “EVERYONE LIKES MEXICAN FOOD.”

Me: “Remember that time I asked you to teach me necromancy and you taught me, and I quote, “The Death Ritual of the Burrito?”  You’re such a fucking troll.”

Samael: (smirks) “You couldn’t bring a bunny rabbit back to life.  Now shut up and eat your tacos prepared with love by moi.”

Me: “Your face makes me want to barf.”

Samael: “Too bad for you.”

Liek Dis If U Cri Eerytime

Samael: “I hate my Father poor me humans blame me for everything BLAH BLAH BLAH.”

Me: “WHEN ANGELS FALL, THEY ALSO RISE”

Samael: “I’m never taking you out drinking in Pandemonium again.”

Did Samael like shit over the entire Lucifer TV show and Fox Network is run by the Devil, clearly.

The Idiot’s Guide to Hell, by Aym the Disgruntled, Upon Threat of Samael the Git

I think teenage me was high off sugar when I wrote this???

Angels and demons, though immortal, shave.  They are men, after all.

Michael uses a a straight razor.  He does not like mirrors.

Samael, always hungover, draws 666s in the shaving cream and sings like Tom Waits.  He likes to practice his smirk.

Gabriel, the hip one, uses an electric razor so his skin is cherub-soft.  Metatron has a beard.  Most archangels are clean shaven.  It goes along with the professional environment and hierarchy as old as dirt.

Demons are another matter.  Most follow their fancies, excluding Beelzebub.

Beelzebub never whistles.  His bathroom is spotless and silent.  Like Michael, he does not smile.  He stares into the dusky mirror and makes clean, precise cuts with his sword.  The foam blends with his off-white skin and iced hair, which is sensibly cropped.

He wears moth-eaten gray suits each day, with a pocketwatch and black handkerchief.  Butterflies and larva hitch rides on his tie.  When he descends from his tower, he carries his ledger and cane, a merciless device that sheathes his sword.  Its pommel is a silver spider, for he is Baal Zebub, the Lord of Flies and Souls.  Like gnats, the Departed fall into his web.  He sieves through the good, which are useless to him, and ensares the most wretched of souls.

Samael is the funnel.  Baal the spider in wait below.  When Samael is drunk, he addresses Baal as Lord of Butterflies.

To Beelzebub’s chagrin, the epithet stuck.

No one knows how Lucifer shaves.  Women dream, perhaps, but all who have seen are dead.

Once they shave, archangels require breakfast.  Gabriel is a pill without his juice.  It’s usually fig or pomegranate, but he will settle for cranberry.  At lunch, he drinks lemonade.

The archangels eat together on occasion.  Metatron takes Earl Gray and asks about the weather, which he is genuinely interested in.  Michael drinks Red Bull and watches the sun rise, listening to his brothers.  Before its invention, he chugged coca tea.

Raphael drinks Tabasco sauce.  Only the bravest of souls, and dragons, dare to enter his kitchen.  He and the Reaper trade recipes, as Raphael’s cooking is to die for.

Hell’s coffee machines are perpetually broken, and the bane of Duke Aym’s existence.  Their meeting room is notoriously understocked, and visitors from other pantheons gripe about official visits to Dis.  Gabriel, usually annoyingly upbeat, sours at the lack of juice boxes.

Once, when the Court of the Sanhedrin held council to judge the Damned, Gabriel and Aym staged a rebellion against the lack of caffeine.  Soon Penemue’s Department of Clerks went on strike, Beelzebub’s Accounting department followed suit, and the Damned ran away with the buffet food.  Soon, half of Dis was in the palace, and a party was soon underway.

Demons are not good at taking orders.  Samael’s calls for order were silenced by Gabriel’s horn, and the drunk Messenger blew the Reaper halfway to Abaddon.  It wasn’t until Lucifer entered the Sanhedrin, frowning even more than usual, that the Council and cohorts fell silent.  With a voice like ice, he declared the Court adjourned.  It was the only time in eternity the Judgment had been called off.

Disillusioned with the Empire he fell for, Lucifer retired to Pandemonium to grab drinks with Beelzebub.  The two were so depressed they forgot to don disguises, and were subsequently swarmed by mobs of fangirls.

Demons are scared of two things: boredom and estrogen.  Every action they take is to avoid these, especially emotional women.  It is slash fan-fiction, not binding spells, that is most effective against their advances.  Pink accessories and Disney songs are also very potent.

In the Idiot’s Guide to Hell (penned by Aym the Disgruntled upon blackmail of Samael the Git), restaurants are ranked with negative numbers and vie against each other to be outrageous.  Potential tourists are advised to steer clear of them and instead frequent establishments that serve mainstream fare.  A good way to avoid food poisoning and possible devouring is to avoid restaurants with human pillars of salt by the doors.  These morbid salt shakers are sure indications that only the most twisted of Fallen are welcome here.

The Idiot’s Guide is deliberately written to trick you.  Read its advice and do exactly the opposite.  Street lights in Hell are rigged to cause collisions: instead, cross in the middle of the road and drive on roofs, if possible.  Minor devils enjoy hitching rides on traveler’s backs in a Gogol-like fashion, and for the price of carrying them, you can get the local scoop on Dis.  Several entrepreneurs have started Rent-an-Imp companies that are supposedly doing stellar.

It is almost impossible to census Hell’s profits, as 99.8% of business is conducted on the Black Market.  Any legal dealings are taxed at 66.6% with co-pays of virgin blood.  Only dishonorable demons operate under the law.

Angels interested in day-trips should wear funny hats to disguise their halos and wallow in mud to hide their scent.  To most demons, angels smell like Lysol, and the scent has been known to cause mobs.  Elves are welcome as long as they bring Keebler cookies.  Gods must go through customs, and demi-gods require chaperones.

All of Hell is inappropriate for minors, but Belial and Asmodeus are more than willing to give them an unforgettable stay.  Tour groups to the Court of Lords are welcome, and many nobles will personally incinerate your Bible for you and autograph your hand with the ash.

What about mortals in Hell?  Are you shitting me, child?

There are no mortals in Hell.  Most demons do not believe in their existence.  Daemonic theologians have debated mankind’s existence for centuries, and the general consensus is that Man is an outdated idea created by demons afraid of the Light.

You are a girl?  A human?  You, my dear child, are mad.

Humans are monkey’s tails, and that is the end of that.