See death. See death conquer. Death conquers all.
See the bloated human corpses. See the alien conquerers. The alien conquerers are squat and mauve and desolated. See them cry. What have they done?
See the alien playleader Contemptuous stride through the ruins. Contemptuous has lost his mating group. They died of a bad missile. Poor, poor mating group. Poor Contemptuous.
Contemptuous likes to play. The alien conquerers like to play. The aliens do not like to kill. They do not kill with malice aforethought.
The aliens play with good missiles. They play with xenoforming nanotechnology. Their missiles do not hurt them. Boom, boom! See?
Humans like to play, too. Why are the humans playing with missiles? They should not play with the alien conquerers. They should not play with Contemptuous. Contemptuous will be cross. Why do humans play with missiles? Sodding bastards.
Now there is movement. Look, Contemptuous, look! There is movement! There are humans! They are not all dead. Death did not conquer them.
See Contemptuous run. He runs with abandon. He runs to the humans, blaring with joy.
The humans have breathing apparatus. The humans have guns. See them shoot Contemptuous! How joyfully they shoot! Their bullets make tiny holes. One hole goes in. One hole comes out.
Contemptuous wants to play with guns. He will play, too. His nanotech symbiants are making a gun. Contemptuous shoots them. What fun to play! The humans fall down. They are good at playing.
Contemptuous loses bodily fluids. Now he is cross. Why must he lose bodily fluids? They pool on the ground like old fryer oil.
Contemptuous sees his mating group. He sees them in a vision. Stay, mating group, stay! The vision is only neurochemical. There is no afterlife. Contemptuous feels cold. Poor Contemptuous!
See darkness. Fall, darkness, fall! Darkness falls fast.

My aunt left me a house. Well–I was the third cousin in line, anyway. The first two didn’t manage to spend a whole night alone in the place, which is what she asked them to do in her will.
Of course the house is on the edge of town on a high hill, and of course it is surrounded by gnarled trees that need pruning. I walked up slowly, feeling more forty-five than ever, and thought to myself, ‘This place isn’t any more gloomy than it was when I was a kid.’ But I’d come in the afternoon on purpose. Not smart arriving at dusk.
The caretaker had left me a dinner in the fridge, and I ate it out on the front porch. It was that first day in September when you know summer is gone for good, and the wind gets tricksy and just a little bit mean.
I had this odd idea that if I turned on her ancient television set I would see her face, so since no one was around to catch me being a superstitious idiot I read a book instead. I went to bed early, 8:30 by my wristwatch (of course all the house clocks were stopped by other superstitious idiots).
At nine I thought I heard my name: “Rooobert? Rooooobert?” But it turned out it was just the door creaking open in the wind.
At eleven I woke up with a start. Someone was grunting, “Who’s there? Who’s there?” in the corner. Shaking, I turned on the light, and saw a bullfrog that had somehow made its way into the house. I took a pretty glass bowl from the nightstand, scooped the fellow up, and took him outside. “A tad late in the season for you, little guy?” I said as I liberated him.
At the stroke of midnight my aunt flew out of the shadows, hair streaming, eyes starting out of her skull, shrieking these dreadful words:
“I didn’t bake that pie so you could leave half your slice on the plate, boy!”
I was so scared I sat up and started laughing out of sheer terror. “Shi—Jes—holy tomato, Aunt Mary, why the he—heck did you have to come at me like that?!”
She stared at me, and believe me a ghost with eyes half out of her sockets can stare.
“Anyway, I finished all my pie tonight,” I added reproachfully.
I guess this was what she wanted, because her hair calmed down and she sat on the edge of the bed. I waited, still really shook up. Finally, she said, “So, was my sister Lucy happy with the silver, or did she want the house too?”
“Oh, no, though she was mad Matt didn’t stay the whole night.”
“He was fun. Didn’t stay to argue about pie, for sure.”
We spent the rest of the night catching up on gossip since the funeral.
She still shows up sometimes. It annoyed my wife at first, and she’s a good-natured woman as a rule. But the kids think it’s cool.

Page 2169

The Indonesian Orange Smoke Tang

(also known as Bali Hai Flying Clove Fish)

The Indonesian Smoke Tang is not a fish at all, though in its adult form it manifests in a smoky fish like shape akin to the ones found on the packaging of Bali Hai clove cigarettes a fine Turkish tobacco made by Djarum an Indonesian company.

Smoke Tangs, particularly the orange variety, have been regularly and reliably sighted in Southeast Asia since the mid 1800’s. Reported sightings did not begin in the United States until the 1950’s with the popularity of clove cigarettes among the beatnik culture who called the Orange Smoke Tangs, Flying Clove Fish, because of the way the creatures glided through the air like a flying fish before disappearing back into the aether.

With the recent popularity of the Bali Hai brand, particularly in Cancun, a new generation has come to call these creatures the Bali Hai Flying Clove Fish. Whether this has anything to do with the brightly colored fish on the package is a matter of speculation.


 Update 2009

In late 2009, President of the United States Barak Obama signed a tobacco bill into law that effectively banned clove cigarettes in the United States.

 While the rationale for the bill was public health and safety, mainly curbing the marketing of cigarettes, such as popular clove cigarette brands like Bali Hai to teens, the real reason likely has more to do with the new found dangers of the Indonesian Smoke Tang. While its adult form is a benign, pleasant ethereal creature that glides through the air in a graceful lifespan shorter than any butterfly, its larval form has been found to be very dangerous.

The mite size larva live in the cloved tobacco and enter the human body through the mouth of the smoker. Filters are not a deterrent to the creatures. Once in the body the larva cause the smoker to crave and often ingest large amounts of alcohol. In several reported instances the alcohol was various blends of sake and sweet tea alcohol. Whether this is statistically significant is yet unclear. Also the smokers crave more clove cigarettes and inject more larva, thus creating a vicious circle. How the Smoke Fish reproduce is yet unclear, as is the effectiveness of the Obama administrations smoke ban.

The darkness was a balm to Marley, hiding from him the life in which he could not participate, either to join in the happiness of the living or to ease their misery. The cold, the wind, the frost — all of these were the most congenial companions in his wanderings.
As the days turned darker, the mass of humanity, in whose company Marley was doomed to move, all those people who could not see him and whom he could not touch, they turned their attention to one over-illuminated spectacle after another. The light burned, it pierced him like knives. First Diwali, with its colors and lights, as strange to him as Guy Fawkes, which followed soon after with its searing bonfires, was familiar. A respite then, as winter gathered, but too soon came Hannukah, with each night more piercing than the one before, and the solstice, with more fire and light. And finally Christmas, the holiday he knew from his time alive, with its lighted trees, its parades and blazing storefronts tormenting him in the waning days of December, when he wanted nothing more than to be only another aspect of winter, another sign of year’s deathlike ebb.
The clink of commerce did less to assuage him that one might have thought — even the most mercenary of exchanges held undercurrents of fellow-feeling that stabbed at him like remorse, he, who could only watch and pass on through. There was one moment, however, toward which he looked forward expectantly.
He never knew exactly when the apparition would appear, a ghost as insubstantial as himself but with the warm glow of sunrise: Scrooge. Bearing the same gift he’d carried on this night for nearly one-hundred and fifty years: a bit of potato, still half raw.
“Happy Christmas, you old figment,” said Scrooge.
For the space of a thought, the powers that would not permit any gift that might dispel Jacob Marley’s allotted suffering did relent, just enough that the old spirit knew his existence had not been entirely without consequence — he was remembered, he had changed a life, if not his own.

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