I didn’t see any practical difference when they replaced the bus drivers with chimpanzees. When the grim ladies in the benefits office vanished and octopi took their places I thought it was an improvement. And so it went. In the end, zero human employment wasn’t such a bad thing. The factories ran smoothly staffed by giant spiders and genetically modified prairie dogs. Sylvia and I had our museums, parks, sidewalk cafés, and all the pleasures of a leisured life. I had my games and she had her tableau photography. We loved gallery openings, plays, espresso by the square. We had TIME. All that’s gone now, and I’m a hunted man.

One night I returned to our apartment after spending a couple of pleasant hours playing baseball in the park. I anticipated that Sylvia had prepared a delicious meal – gourmet cooking was a passion of hers. We would settle in at the entertainment portal and launch a beautiful milieu in which to eat our dinner. Maybe Venice before the Melting. I palmed the security pad, slipped inside, and stopped still. I sniffed the air. There was no sound; an acrid scent tickled my nose, and something else. The lights were off.

“Hi honey, I’m home?” My only answer was a faint rustling from the portal area. I flicked on the light.

“Is this a prank?” I think I already knew that it wasn’t. Something a lot like a mantis sat in Sylvia’s favorite chair. Its color matched her skin tone. Its mandibles clacked and a semblance of human speech emanated from its voder.

“This one regrets to inform that the female human has been downsized. This one will function as spouse at greatly reduced expense.”

I was already swinging the bat when the mantis lunged, jaws wide. Dense plastic met chitin-clad protoplasm, and ungodly amounts of green goo mixed with flesh-colored shards splattered everywhere. The mantis’s body jack-knifed across the room, legs thrashing. I dropped the bat and leaped to the chair. Most of Sylvia lay on the floor behind it, in front of the faux bookcase. The carpet surrounded her, wet and brown. I didn’t see her head.

The next thing I remember I was running down the street, bat in hand. I was sticky and I smelled. Everyone else was running too, perhaps for the same reason I was. I heard screams. I’m almost sure they weren’t mine.


Dear Diary

Today I caught a little god and put it in a jar before it can become a big god and hurt little people.

Mom says I’m a brave girl for ridding all those worlds of their gods. She also says to be careful but I don’t see what’s so dangerous about the little gods.

Mom wants to take my jars of little gods to the swindler’s market to sell, but I hide them from her and feed them scraps of magic. Sometimes I steal souls for them from Aunt Rue’s cookie jar. The gods grow and grow until their faces are smash up against the glass of their tiny jars and then they grow until their spines are all twisted and then they keep growing until they die.

I have 117 jars, so there are 117 godless worlds.

Today I dropped a dead god into a little world. The little people scurried around like ants, trying to grab pieces of the dead god. They fought for the toes and for the Word and for the Book and they carried away the chunks of godmeat and killed anyone who came close. I felt bad and tried to tell them it was only a stupid dead god but they didn’t listen to me. If Mom finds out she’s gonna kill me. I hid that world where she won’t look.

Sue said she’ll teach me to hunt angels. Angels make good earrings. If you’re careful and don’t kill them when you grab ‘em, they keep wriggling their little wings when they’re hung from your ears and last like forever.

Dear Diary: please forgive me for not writing more, but I’m running off to hunt angels with Sue.

“You will stand up now,” said the alien.

“You speak English?” I said. I was still reeling from being sucked from my bed, out through the window, by a ray of ochre light. Now I lay sprawled on the metallic floor of a triangular room that was windowless, doorless, unfurnished, and featureless except for some faint raised patterns on the floor, walls, and ceiling. My clothes hadn’t been transported with me. I was just about scared enough to pee myself.

“Your question is a kind of stupidity,” said the alien, a tall, rubbery, bulge-eyed, gray thing. “Stand up now or we will encourage you.”

I didn’t want to think about what encouraging me would involve: I scrambled to my feet and waited. The floor opened up in front of me, and small table rose into view. On it were four varied pieces of cheesecake, each on a black triangular plate. There was a clear, glittering, 10-inch fork beside each plate.

“You will taste the cheesecakes now and render your opinion,” said the alien.

I stared at the cheesecakes. Was this a joke? No, nobody I knew had such a sick sense of humor–or access to hard-core hallucinogens.

“Cheesecake?” I said.

“You will render your opinion. It is why you are here.”

“You abducted me to taste test cheesecake?”

“All other methods result in inadequately randomized focus group sampling,” said the alien. “We will take over your earth by monopolizing your economic assets through sales of cheesecake. We must know which is the most triumphant recipe.”

My choices were limited, so I picked up a fork and started eating cheesecake. I’ll spare you the details–the involuntary groans, the amazement, the delight, the rapture. The short version is that numbers 1, 2, and 4 were each much better than the best cheesecake I had ever had, but number 3 was in a class beyond all food. I wept tears of joy while I ate it.

“It is number 3, then?” said the alien. “Number 3 is very popular.”

I nodded. “How can something like that even exist? That was a religious experience!”

“It is also zero calories,” said the alien. “And now we are finished.”

“That’s it?” I said, disbelieving. “I’m done? I can go home?”

“You are done,” said the alien, reaching for me. “But you will not be going home.”

From the journal of Aleisha Billington:  “The alien–his cat-like claws retracting–probably was not the last in the world, but he was the last in our area.  I’d shot the SOB trying to implant himself in my baby.  Through a gurgle of blood, he said something like, ‘We have a long memory.’  ‘We do, too,’ I said and, after adjusting the phaser to kill, shot him dead before he could say more and tossed him onto the compost heap.”

From our soil analyses, it appears the invasive species decayed, worms fed upon it, birds fed upon them, and Felis catus, domestic cats, fed upon them before mutating.  “Biological magnification,” the extinct human species had called it.

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