At first I thought I should of never had said yes because they promise you fame all up and down the planets and all kinds of money, but then there you are head-over-heels and pissing into a squeeze bottle, or trying to figure out how to open one of those tubes of steak and you don’t remember the last time you woke up from one of those nightmares without flying across the room and smashing your face on the bulkhead. I just can’t sleep all strapped-in, okay?

But they said, Act natural! Like there’s anything natural about reality television I should of said but didn’t, because I didn’t think of it. I wanted to be better than that but you can’t act different than everyone else.  You just can’t. We acted natural, like monkeys. All over the space station. Zero-g has got a lot of advantages when you stop smashing your face—these chicks were pretty stacked I could not help but notice—and we did what we wanted and things were pretty okay, beer and tubes coming up like clockwork until they stopped and finally we noticed. The insides of our heads were banging and we noticed we were alone maybe for real. Chuck got right up into one of the cameras and he screamed his head off and Jamie cried pretty steadily when we ran out of tube lasagna and vodka, and if the cameras were still recording no one cared any more. Not even us, mostly.

We’re going to run out soon. Of squeeze bottles because Charlene won’t just wash hers like the rest of us mostly remember to do, and food tubes. Jimmy says we’re going to end up being like cannibals as if it was funny and then he said and I’ll eat Jamie first and the way he grabbed at her, and her shrieking, it was like they thought the cameras were still rolling.

Mostly we play gin rummy, or sleep or screw and wait for how it’s going to end. I’ve got a bottle of Jack under my bed, and I’m pretty sure I can take the girls. When Charlene’s down on her knees and I put my head against the window, when I look at that view, the Earth and all our fans floating out there too far away, I wonder if I should just crush her skull now.

The thing was, Dave had never known Grandpa to lie–not even little white lies. There was no one you could trust like you could trust Grandpa. And before he’d died, Grandpa had said the pants were magic.

“Magic pants?” Dave had said, trying to figure out the joke Grandpa wasn’t telling. “What do they do?”

“Honestly, I couldn’t tell you,” Grandpa had said. “It’s funny …” Then Grandpa had staggered, and when his mouth opened, but nothing had come out. It was a stroke, it turned out, and from the stroke until he died four months later, he’d never said another sensible word.

Dave doubted the pants would kill him. Because why would someone make murderous pants? On the other hand, why magical pants at all? Without the answer to that question, there was no way of guessing what the pants might do.

Grandpa wouldn’t have given him something he knew to be dangerous–but then, Grandpa had confessed he had no idea what the pants did.

Dave had a good life. He had a girlfriend who rocked his world and didn’t mind that he was a little on the chubby side; he was graduating with honors and proceeding directly into his dream job at a game development company; even his no-good brother seemed to have fallen into a crowd that was turning him around. As long as there were cheese fries, margaritas, love, and high-quality graphics cards in the world, Dave honestly had nothing to complain about. Even if the pants were something miraculous, who needed magic pants? That was why they’d been stuffed in an old duffel bag high on a shelf in his closet since Grandpa had his stroke, and why they’d stayed there after Grandpa died.

He took out the pants again and looked at them. They were dull gray, made of some kind of heavy, soft material, with a button fly. Maybe he should burn them. Or he could give them away. Drop them off at the Goodwill store. Tell his brother to try them on.

Finally, he unsnapped, unzipped, and peeled off his jeans. The pants slid onto his legs like water flowing over dry rocks. He buttoned them up and looked in the mirror. Well, they weren’t magic that way: he was still fat.

But then he felt a giddy sensation, and as he began to drift up into the air, he thought he heard Grandpa’s voice, calling his name.

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A. Portland, Oregon

1. Grand adventure is calling!

2. Slide your ass out of bed.

3. Drink a Stumptown or three.

4. Clear IPAs from your head.

5. Gas up the Subie wagon!

6. Put on your old Birks!

7. You’re in Oregon camo.

8. (In the city that works.)

9. Avoid roads with bored cops.

10. (You don’t want to go down.)

11. Stash the weed! Crank some indie!

12. Head straight south out of town.

637 miles later (about 10 hours, 2 minutes):

B. San Francisco, California

1. Cross your choice of big bridges.

2. Pick one – pay the damn toll!

3. Go up and go down.

4. Don’t stop at stop signs – just roll!

5. Go up and go down.

6. Get lost and then again!

7. Do E with a homeless dude.

8. He’ll become your best friend!

9. Good luck finding parking.

10. (Though it helps some to pray.)

11. Kick the homeless dude out.

12. And head south to L.A.

381 miles later (about 6 hours, 26 minutes – up to 7 hours, 50 minutes in traffic):

C. Los Angeles, California

1. Oh! The freeways and cloverleafs!

2. Lots of lights! Lots of cars!

3. Oh! The silicone breast implants!

4. Lots of strip clubs and stars!

5. Don’t turn down the wrong roads.

6. Never trust a valet.

7. Careful snorting while driving.

8. Buy a hands-free coke tray!

9. Party at clubs with ridiculous covers.

10. Drive like you’ve got the heart of a beast!

11. Avoid being on a reality show.

12. Onward, the desert awaits to the east.

792 miles later (about 12 hours, 19 minutes):

D. Albuquerque, New Mexico

1. Take that left turn.

2. (You know that you want to!)

3. Make fun of the town’s name.

4. Just where no one can hear you.

5. It’s a good place for business.

6. And for jobs (Forbes says so).

7. But they drive like they have

8. Nowhere special to go.

9. So just drink some peyote.

10. View the great color fountain!

11. See hot air balloon fiestas.

12. Then head on up the mountain!

449 miles (about 7 hours, 11 minutes):

E. Denver, Colorado

1. Celebrate that you’re here!

2. Your adventure is done.

3. Drink beer and get stoned.

4. Pretend you’re in Oregon!

5. It’s the Mile High City.

6. Snow’s a beautiful scene!

7. Reflect on your adventure.

8. All the places you’ve been!

9. You’ve had traffic and parking.

10. Yes, at times you were vexed.

11. But it’s your destination!

12. Where will you go next?

You know what I liked most about being a liason to the aliens of the Third Expedition? Screwing with their minds.

Sure, there were always other human functionaries around who would’ve make my ass into an umbrella holder if they’d caught me at it, but that just added to the fun, and anyway they couldn’t speak ?’!a, so they never knew exactly what I was saying. As for me, I speak ?’!a like a native. If you learn enough languages when you’re a kid, after a while learning another one is like finding your underpants after an orgy: inconvenient, time-consuming, and sometimes sticky, but almost always doable.

This one time we were driving past the Washington Monument and I said to the aliens, “See that obelisk? It was built to the exact reported size of George Washington’s phallus.” (They double checked their information repositories here to make sure they weren’t misunderstanding. You should’ve seen the expression on their tentacles.) “I’m not going to go into details, but … listen, ever heard the phrase ‘father of our country’? George Washington. Honest to God truth. But people don’t usually like to talk about this stuff in polite society. I wouldn’t mention it if I were you.”

Or last month, when we kept seeing people walking dogs. “You can tell whether the human owns the dog or the dog owns the human by who’s choosing the direction they go in. See that little brown dog over there? One tug and they’re on a side street. The human’s definitely the pet there. The dogs keep them in little plastic rooms lined with newspaper at night. But people get touchy if you get the owner wrong. I wouldn’t mention it if I were you.”

So now that I’ve been kidnapped and am being brought back to their home planet in preparation for what sounds like a bitch of an invasion, of course I’m as scared as a man with a incontinent seagull on his new hat–but I also have all kinds of new possibilities. And who knows? Maybe I can even bend things a little in our favor.

“Hey,” I say. “Did I ever tell you what happened to the last batch of aliens that visited earth? It was a pretty distressing situation: I wouldn’t mention it if I were you. But here’s the thing: you know how we’ve only got one moon now?” …

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