They made the little fried sausages, covered them in void wrap to preserve them against the inevitable Time we were up against, and put them deep in the hold, behind the cooling units of the nav computers. When I say they, I mean the Cooks. We were sent two cooks on our million year mission, but we ever only saw one. The other appeared exclusively in special treats: a bit of cheesecake for a birthday, three eggs in the omelet for the crew member that had their arm gnawed off by radiation burglars.
Where they put those sausages, there was a fan, a great, galactic fan, capable of blowing in the most alien of winds. But we had found nothing here. Nothing but space and time and the sausage winds that blew when we flew near a heat source and that great, big fan turned on. The entire void craft would turn into a holiday stroll from sausage cart to sausage cart down some forgotten European riviera. Everyone would go mad, talking about all the times they’d encountered sausages in their lives. Cutting themselves to ebb the flow of memories. Talking incessantly in five languages, none of which the others knew, ending their speeches with grand gestures which seemed to imply that the speaker would like to be turned themselves into a sausage.
Take my thinking meat, they seemed to say, and stuff it into my innards, along with the rest of my innards and some blood for good measure. We had all been around each other long enough to get the gist of their ravings.
No one thought to track down the invisible cook and simply ask for the sausages, though of course, that might require teamwork, and we were all dreaming of a greasy, piled-on plate of tube steak all our own. No one talked of murder, of course, but talk is little but pregnant vibrations. We would never talk the sausages into our mouths. A sausage was a tooth’s business, tooth and arm, fist and feet. The hard parts of the body had no subtle language.
I was meeting him for coffee and drugs and something called a “Martian Ectodefibrillator.” For a client.
I wasn’t sure if he had what I was looking for. The picture he had sent looked like a hammer made of sausage innards with a blurry, glowing hole going up into the shaft. Occasionally, he claimed, a purple laser would shoot out and form itself into a sentient light curtain that would immediately insult the nearest person and try to blind anyone who laughed. I had never seen a real Martian Ectodefibrillator and whatever the man had sounded weird enough to peak my interest, so I went to meet him at Winky Tink Donuts & Wine Bar.
I very well knew that he could be lying. He could have made the pictured object out of actual hammers, sausage innards and LEDs. And the story about the laser, that sounded embellished if not bullshit. Why would the laser blind the people who liked his insult comedy? Was this a simple agent of chaos or was whatshisname taking a fuck out of a piss on me?
I’ve been in the game a while and most of my detective work has come down to this: listening to liars tell lies about nothing much in an attempt to make life more interesting. And it does. So I keep the lights on in the office and my door wide the fuck open.
They took gray molding from the side of the sky and began to form an ark ship. Leaves fell loudly in its hull as it took shape and I stopped ripping snorts of powdered ant long enough to mock them:
“You’ll never make it to Frag Iron Asteroid Waiting Station with a bullshit, hippie ark like that. Where are the death rays? The bionic plague rats? The spikes and fire and tornadoes? I ain’t going nowhere. You guys are crazy.”
God’s asshole sat in the sky like a dirty moon, waiting to shit thunderous venom onto Earth, and these clowns were trying to escape. I knew better. Might as well take your whuppings where you’re comfortable. The void would destroy the minds of these weak willed, life worshipping perverts.
And the celestial asshole in the sky comes to everywhere somewhen.
Listen, you’re not getting off this ship without me, one way or the other. You signed up for this trip. You dotted and dangled I’s and such. And they didn’t tell you about the License to Breathe? Well, fuck you for not reading right. That’s the scam, baby. This trip might be free, but the air ain’t. At least not down on Earth. Sounded exotic, eh? All those fleshy bipeds, driving exoskeletons full of liquid fire around the crushed stone. Trees as tall as monoliths. Real nice.
Look, don’t give me this sob story shit. You aren’t welcome down there. The air don’t care who the fuck you are. Without your LB suctioned to your flap, your bug eyes’ll explode after a few minutes. But I got you. Don’t worry, my man. I can hook you up. I happen to be a Independent Licensing Agent. I know, I know, you’ve heard to never, ever get tangle up with us, but what choice do you have? I can get air into your lungs. That’s it, that’s what its all about.
See, payment comes later. You know that. Once you establish yourself and find a host womb and such, then you can start breeding your little baby brain slugs or whatever your case is and we’ll only take 15 of the first hundred, just like it outlines in Form 584 that you filled out for your License to Impregnate. Why you looking at me that way, partner? Don’t tell me you don’t have a LI either.
Shit, you’re lucky I’m here.
“Welcome to the future.”
He held up what appeared to be a bullet.
“Don’t look too quickly, now. What you see may appear to be a number of things, but what this is…is a spaceship. And a timeship. And a voidship.”
I squinted, trying not to see a bullet.
“You see, how this work, now, is that this little miracle is sped up a thousand times the speed of man and shoved into the part of your brain that does your astral traveling. This is not a physical part of your brain, of course, and this ship is barely physical itself. You may see a variety of things when I hold this up, but know, now, that what you see is but a small aspect of the true nature of my invention. Let me demonstrate.”
He took the supposed ship and place it in a very real, very definite pistol.
“This is the accelerator tube.”
I cringed when he put the gun to his head, and shit in my shorts when he laughed and, instead, pointed the gun at me and fired. But he was right. I had not seen all of the aspects of his invention, only the little metal bit that destroyed my brain. The larger enigma remained, such as where did I go? And how am I still typing?
I could barely hear for the sound of hooves screaming against glass, an entire herd of sheep put into a transparent wrecking ball and slammed against the side of the building in which I spent my time tapping plastic. Over the crumbling, over the slaughter, I could barely make out my manager, standing on his over-desk in full military dress, face fitted with a air filter and blood purifier, talking into the back of a robot’s head. The robot, in turn, shot flames into the air to get our attention and shrieked:
“This is not the end. Please go back to your desks. This is simply part of the job. You do not get breaks simply because one of the Land Lords decided to amuse himself with carnage. Please, turn on Relaxation Hood 1, wait 10 seconds, and place your head underneath said Hood. And continue to type. This is not a drill. Nor is this an excuse for idleness.”
I enjoyed the Relaxation Hood and how it made me feel, like nothing around me was going to shit. Just a nice, dark place to tap on my plastic and think of other things, quiet and small things. They say you could die under the Hood through a series of images that brought on both nirvana and death. This didn’t sound so bad. I hoped the Land Lord stole enough money to buy a new glass wrecking ball and a new herd of sheep. I hope I can go under the Hood every time the absurd turns to horror.
Every shovelful of grave dirt sounds like sirens in the night. The glint of streetlight off steel catches the outside of my eye as I cut earth and my breath drops into my heart which balloons and a bit of my brain goes black. Shovel becomes clumsy cane. Occasionally, I must sit with my feet dangling above the crumbling hole and paint myself with filth against the prying eyes of those who would interfere.
The ship was almost complete. All I needed was a human nervous system to wire into the mainframe, something fragile and often mistaken, something to create and interpret false stimuli as the void expands around me, providing nothing. If I could take the corpse’s eyes and be done, believe me that I would not make such a mess of this once loving vessel.
But eyes are mere windows, we are told, and I was looking for a door.
The Sun itself up and got lonely one day, all of its peers being but twinkles in the great black nothing. Lonely and fed up with the order of things. In the beginning, it had puffed itself up with pride at the slow dance of the planets around its orbit and bragged about how many moons reflected its light. When other thoughts arose from the planet of seas, the Sun was astounded to find that it occupied a great deal of these. The strange creatures that moved down there couldn’t help but to look out into space in awe and write prayers to the Sun in the language they had invented for just that purpose.
But then the language clogged up the minds of the creatures and never ceased, just became an unending, nonsensical murmur of pseudo-realities, blabbered inanities, and foodsexdeath. The Sun had nothing left for these creatures who had talked their way out of the peaceful drone of galactic existence. It needed another star.
When the sky went black, there was no one left to question why.
The moon began to shiver, throwing dust into the vacuum. From Earth, it looked as if a galactic, invisible hound had gotten hold of a dusty tennis ball. When the silver dust cleared, it was apparent that the moon had flipped inside out revealing a long, pitch black tunnel into space.
Immediately, I rummaged through the garage for the rocket crank. I knew I had one somewhere. If I could get to the City Rocket quickly, I stood a good chance of finding a free hole for my crank. I had been moon gazing when the shaking began. I had to have been one of the first to see the morphing and act on the information. I could feel it.
The crank lay shining in the red tray and I picked it up, smiling.
The streets were filled with mud. I looked up to see the moon-hole convulse and vomit onto the planet. Onto the City. The crank hung at my side. No one would want to send the rocket up there with all of this going on.
I could only sigh, and let go my dreams for one more day.
“Contact in 23 seconds-”
“Pardon me, sir. But they’ve already boarded,” the crew member said and raised his left hand into a ray of foreign sunlight. The nails had become dirt and delicate fiddleheads began to uncurl in the shower of photons. The captain of the voidship Eris cocked his head to the side, disbelieving.
“But…my calculations…ha ha…thrust…ha ha…” The crew member could not help but join in the captain’s laughter as he wiggled his fingers and watched the ferns thereof unfurl and dance in the artificial gravity.
“Marvelous,” the captain said as he watched. Out of the corner of his eye, the stars went black. “Oh fuck!”
The ship hit the side of a massive membrane at full speed, stretching it like snot from a frozen child, becoming encapsulated.
“Enough of your conjurers tricks, man! To your station.”
“But sir. I am the contact. What this ship has become entangled by is nothing but the discharge of my memories.”
“Explain yourself! And fire the main thrusters! We’ll pop this motherfucker like a bee in a balloon!”
“Sir, if you would only listen. What we are engulfed by is immaterial. It is the discharge of human memories that I have been invited to leak into the void. You see, my brain is becoming as an acorn and my limbs grow wooden and supple. There is nothing you or your thrusters can do but wait as I fill my cabin with soil and take root. As soon as my transformation is complete, the ship will be free to go about its business.”
“I won’t let them take you! I never lose a man!”
“Sir, I am no longer a man. And I go willingly. The alien, who I trust, has decided that my most useful form, my true form, is that of some horrific plant amalgamation. The only way out of this, I’m afraid, is through patience.”
The captain took a deep breath. “How long? How long must we wait?”
“Well, it should only take a week for me to produce enough dirt to take root in. After that, my human memories should start to diffuse. It may be another month before the ship is completely free, however. I’m sorry captain. I know this has been a long journey for all of us. But we’ve done it! Contact!”
“Fucking symbiotic plant aliens,” the captain murmured.
“If it’s any consolation, sir, my piss should turn hallucinogenic in but a few more days.”
The captain smiled and took his hand off of his ray gun.