Plugs

– Drac. We meet again.
– I need a job, Doc. I’m so desperate I–
– I vant to suck your blood! Ha, ha.
– That’s an old joke.
– So you’re desperate for a job?
– An oldie but a goodie! Ha, ha. You got some delivery, Doc.
– Frankly, Drac…
– Name’s Dracula. The title’s Count. Say them together: Count Dracula…. But please call me Drac. My trusted associates do.
– Okay, Drac, but frankly a man of your qualifications isn’t needed in the hospital nursery.
– I’m overqualified?
– If you want to put it that way…
– What other way is there?
– Your experience in the mortuary, hospice, blood bank, ICU, and phlebotomy labs, don’t translate into work for a nursery. Besides, a few irregularities sprung up at your last positions.
– You’re discriminating. I’ll sue.
– Nobody’s said–
– Undead men got rights, too. You think I won’t sue?
– That’s nice, but it’s more your reputation.
– Have you checked my references?
– George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Thomas Jefferson were fine American citizens in their day but they’re dead now. Your reputation, I’m afraid, goes a little deeper than any man alive could dig.
– What do you mean?
– You were in jail forty years for murder.
– I’m a changed man. I was let out on good behavior.
– You were let out for the good behavior of the state of Georgia. The prison had trouble keeping inmates. The criminals disappeared, one by one, until only one mysteriously remained. The entire state of Georgia didn’t commit a crime during your sentence. They called the prison you stayed at, let’s see, “Death Row.”
– Aw, Doc. Give a fella a chance.
– With babies? These little fellas want to live. You’ve got to work where no one else wants to.
– I need youth. Rejuvenation. I need to savor the laughter of boys and girls. If you don’t give me a job, I’ll… I’ll…
– You’ll vant to suck my blood?
– I’ll show you! You… you…
– Speech impediment?
– Ow! What the heck?
– That? That’s my fang-proof turtleneck–a fine weave of cotton, wool, and sterling silver smelted from crosses found in abandoned sanctuaries. You like?
– I’d like a job.
– Youth ain’t what it used to be. Time to hang up your dentures and move on. Oh, Drac, don’t cry. You’ll smear your powder. Chin up. Listen, the unwanted pregnancy clinic opened a position in… What do you know? Gone already. Like a bat out of hell. Give the boy credit. A real go-getter.

Rowena blew dust from the stone tablet.

“Look here.” She pointed at some blurred characters.

“I can’t read them,” I replied, “these are pre-Mayan. No one can read this script.”

“I know,” she replied, brushing a lock of hair away from her face. “But last night I dreamed about a stone city. I read this inscription on a temple gate. Listen.”

As she recited the alien syllables I felt that I almost understood them, that I knew the dread city of which she spoke.

I clapped my hands over my ears. “Stop!”

“People stood around an altar. A priest cut out your heart with a gold knife. The heart was given to me.” I looked at her, but she turned away. “I ate it. You were dead.”

“We should leave,” I said. “Now.”

I seized her arm, but she slipped out of my grasp, darting through a door that gaped nearby. I ran after her. She eluded me among the shafts of light and darkness. When I came to a courtyard I was surprised to see her standing there beside a stone table the height of her chest.

“This is the place,” she whispered, “this is where I saw you slaughtered.”

“That was a dream.”

Even as I said this I thought I remembered the scene she had described, and I felt something stir within me. Her sorrowful expression changed to one I could not interpret.

I was on my back. I tried to tell her that I needed food, that I felt hungrier than I ever had, but no words came. I sat up. I caught her hands and tried to explain, but she would not listen, trying to pull free, and shouting. I gave up on talk. There was no time for that now. Hunger was all I had, my vision shrank to a blurry point, and I could do nothing but fill my belly.

I came to my senses on the open hillside. My shirt was wet. The sun set in a welter of crimson and ragged shreds of cloud. A couple of Mayan youths in shorts and dirty shirts stood near. I called to them, but when they approached me their faces changed and they fled. I struggled to my feet, felt the awful hunger returning. Maybe the young men would give me food. I stumbled after them in the gathering dusk.

The end

Spacenews. Alien spacesuit found orbiting #BetaChiarus3. This planet is the backup choice for the #terraformingproject.

Retweet?

“Did you see this?”

“Since I’m looking over your shoulder I think you can assume I did.”

“Pretty cool, huh. A dead alien is even better than a live one! Don’t have to worry about conquering hordes.”

That’s what the talking heads were saying too. The desiccated corpse inside the suit had been about 3 m tall when alive. As to why the corpse had been left at Beta Chiarus, or whether any aliens would come back for it, there were no facts but plenty of speculation. It had been a solitary explorer, a would-be mutineer, victim of a successful mutiny, or something so alien we could never understand it. After the autopsy, the body was analyzed chemically six ways from Sunday, and shown to be based on a molecule very similar to DNA. Its proteins were different from terrestrial proteins but they were proteins.

“So it couldn’t have eaten our plants or our livestock…” began one of an endless parade of interchangeable “experts”.

“or us,” interjected the show’s host, laughing.

Und so weiter.

True enough, as far as it went. But when the rest of the nine-foot aliens followed our ships home and began their xenoforming project on Earth the media parrots didn’t seem so smug.

End

Every day I watch the people on the bus over the top of my math book.  I’ve given them names. There’s Hate Boy, with his swastika earring, who moves his seat anytime anybody who looks slightly black or Jewish or Asian or gay or Hispanic or interesting sits near him. He doesn’t mind Talking Guy, though, who mutters and smells.

There’s Beautiful, who is. He’s in a band. He dressed up as Barbie for Halloween, and looked awesome. Hate Boy never sat near him again.

There’s Knitting Lady. Once Hate Boy asked her in his tough-tough voice, “Could you stop? The clicking is driving me nuts.” She said kindly, “No, dear.”

Hate Boy is running out of seats on the bus.

People always sit down next to Knitting Lady; she feels like that.  When I read A Tale of Two Cities and got freaked out by Madame Defarge, Knitting Lady called me over and said, “Come sit by me. You don’t anymore. The needles bug you?”

Then she saw the book and smiled.

I sat down next to her again.

She said, “Those aren’t the only kinds of messages people knit, you know. It’s been used for lots of codes over the centuries.

“String is one of the most important human inventions. Fire was a big deal, sure. But string! New ways of carrying things—new weapons—even clothes for the first time.  We began to knot it, knit it, weave it…messages, accounts, all manner of things.”

While she talked I thought the sunlight from the dirty window faded for a minute and fire lit her face.

“You can also use it to knit things together,” she added. She looked at Hate Boy when she said it.

A week later a white girl with long dredlocks and a diamond in her nose got on the bus.

Hate Boy made fun of Dred Girl’s hair, then her nose piercing. She just looked at him and shrugged.

I got the flu a month ago; when I came back Hate Boy wasn’t around. An old Asian lady hobbled onto the bus and the hot guy sitting next to Dred Girl gave up his seat for her.

“I always think of you as Math Girl,” he smiled down at me in a tough-tough voice. “Where ya been?”

His hair was grown out, his swastika was gone. Knitting Lady saw me staring and winked.

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