“This is stupid,” complained the aardvark, Steve.
The alien shrugged and tugged on Steve’s leash towards another termite mound. Its tentacles reached nearly to the ground and made a gentle swooshing sound as they waved against each other as it bounced forward. It was a medium sized Smark, a soldier. It didn’t have guns or anything, but the lasers it could emit from the tips of its tentacles were pretty cool.
Steve thought so, anyway, til the damn thing lasered HIM.
“Dick move,” thought Steve as he fell over sideways, paralyzed.
So anyway, here was Steve on a red bungie cord leash, being dragged and nudged to one termite mound, then another, then another. Finally the alien seemed satisfied with Steve’s skillset demonstration, and led him towards the rocket.
You don’t see a lot of spaceship-rocket-types of things in the African savannah. The aliens had used Wikipedia to determine the safest landing zone within a stone’s throw of their target. They had also used Wikipedia to find a creature capable of extracting things from under the ground. What Wikipedia hadn’t been able to tell them, however, was that their creature of interest had a whiny attitude and a filthy mouth. And could be incredibly rude. And was gassy.
The alien swooshed Steve up the ramp into the rocket. It was tall and cylindrical, like the one Bugs Bunny rode in Loony Tunes, not round and wide like in E.T. Steve was annoyed. This was not gonna be a comfy ride. He grunted and whined. He farted. The alien zapped him with a tentacle.
“Oww!” Steve squealed, “Asshole!”
The elevator trembled and the pair rose silently through the dark tunnel of the rocket. Tiny lights of various colors blinked on and off in the cool darkness. The door slid open and the alien swooshed out. Steve stuck his snout out first, tested the air. The door slide closed and caught him. And didn’t let go.
Steve’s day had started out normal enough. Sleeping. Because that’s what aardvarks do during the day. And he was just there in his den, minding his own business, having a snooze, when the long slimy cold tentacles had reached down through the tunnel and wrapped around his neck. His exit from his den, sideways through the narrow tunnel, nearly choked and woken from sleep, now counted as his least favorite way to start a day.
Steve was ruminating on this as he waited for someone to open the goddamn elevator door and release his nose. Someone was sure happy to take their fucking time.
“Hello? Little help over here?” he snorfled. The alien turned and tentacle-faced itself. A different tentacle stretched out and tapped the elevator button. The door slid open again and Steve swaggered out with as much swagger as an aardvark with a sore nose can muster.
“So, bro, what’s the dealio?” he asked as he plopped down on the floor. The alien pointed to the window, and presumably the sky beyond. Its large glassy eyes, all four of them, were evenly spaced around its headlump, so it was hard to tell where it was actually looking.
“Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. I’m not an idiot. We’re in a rocket, I kinda figured we were gonna take off,” Steve muttered. “Ok, Slimy Guy, surprise me. I love surprises.” Steve rolled his eyes and put his head down on his paws to take a nap.
Tentacles placed on a large flat screen built into the console pressed various places in seemingly random order. The mothership received a message:
SUBJECT SKILLSET DEEMED APPROPRIATE.
SUBJECT IS A BIT OF A DICKWAD.
Steve woke up on fire. His head popped up and he looked around frantically. He couldn’t smell anything charred, and the end of his snout was dripping in the humidity. He stuck his tongue out to the air.
“Friggin’ tropical here,” Steve harrumphed, and hauled himself to his feet. He looked around the open, wide room, windows on each wall, stars and planets beyond. Were they moving? Maybe? How do you set anchor in space?
“Yoo-hoo? Anybody home? Yo, Slimy Guy!” he called out. He slipped and slid on the slimy floor. The rocket was docked in the middle of the room, its bay door still open. He walked around to the opposite side of the rocket. A mass of interwined, crawling, continuously moving tentacles greeted him. One of the pile stretch straight up into the air and pointed its tip at Steve.
“Hey bro, hands up, don’t shoot!” Steve shouted and hit the deck. The laser missed and burned a hole in the rocket’s side just about where his head had been. Steve closed his eyes tight and waited for death.
And waited some more.
Steve opened one eye.
A Smark approached him, swoosh, swoosh. Steve’s eye followed it. It seemed larger than the alien who’d aardvark-napped him from Earth, but that could have been his view askew from his position on the floor. One of the Smark’s eyes examined Steve from snout to tail. A tentacle moved toward his nose, slowly, like a snake testing the air for dinner. The tip of it booped him on the snout, then entered his nostril.
Steve sat up and back, snorfling and snuffling, tears, his two front paws over his snout. Lord, the smell. Like sewage and gasoline and week-old diapers. Gross. The aardvark was backed up against the hull of the rocket in the middle of the mothership. The tentacle advanced farther and farther up his snout, icy slime nearly reaching his face. Steve’s eyes blinked wide as the rest of the Smark clan moved in. There was only one way out.
Steve cut the cheese.
It was more of a shart than a pure fart, and the sulfur smell combined with the misty emission caused the Smarks’ tentacles to curl up in disgust. They blinked their membranous eyelids and bounced away, some wiping their tentacles on the floor or on other Smarks to remove the light brown residue of Steve’s gas.
The Smarks huddled up. Tentacles swarmed and rolled and reached and coiled around the pack. A long purple tentacle rose in the air, stabbing at it decisively. Another tentacle rose and pulled it down. Laser shots were fired and all the Smarks collapsed onto the floor. A wobbly, gelatinous pile of writhing tentacles quivered this way and that as the Smarks argued over whether or not Steve was worth the hassle.
They decided to give it one more shot. Mostly for fuel economy. The mothership was closer to the target planet than it was to Earth, and they would need to refuel soon. Plus, driving back through the asteroid belt to reach Earth was really rough on the old mpg.
Steve watched the pile argue from his now-warm spot on the smooth floor. His tummy rumbled. The aardvark’s brow knit in consternation. What the hell was he gonna eat? He hadn’t see Slimy Guy pack any termites from home in a cooler.
“Guys?” he ventured, somewhat louder than a whisper. “Guys?” he asked, a bit louder. “GUYS!” he screech-growled, because aardvarks aren’t really the hollering type. “Got anything to eat? Termites? Ants? Cheetos? And I’m thirsty, where’s the bar?”
He could swear he saw the soldier Smark that hustled him on board roll at least one of his three visible eyes. Steve hauled himself up to all fours and shambled over to him. He stuck his tongue out to a tentacle and got a smart rap on the head.
“Sliiiimyyyyy, I’m hunnnngryyyyy! And when I get hungry, I get gas. We don’t wanna go through that nastiness again, do we?” Steve looked up at the Smark with his best aardvark-cum-puppy dog eyes.
The Smark seemed to sigh, then shrug, then slowly bounced across the room to a large wall of cabinets. He pulled open a door, which lit its compartment, and coiled around a thick metal cylinder. He removed it from the alien fridge and twisted off the top.
“Earthworms? You’re giving me earthworms?!” Steve squeaked. “What am I, a trout?” The Smark yanked it from Steve’s grasp and tossed it back in the fridge. He removed another cylinder and opened it.
“Lightning bugs? Come oooooonnnn, mannnn, we were JUST there! You didn’t think to get take-out of the shit I actually eat?” Steve whined. The Smark growled and tossed the cylinder back, handed Steve a third.
“Ahhh, this is what I’m talkin’ ‘bout! Termite Tenderness! Yassss, come to Daddy mah precioussss,” snarled Steve as he flopped down to slurp out his snack. The Smark tentacle-palmed himself and bounced away to another alien somewhat removed from the group.
Soldier Smark’s tentacles pressed an elaborate pattern on the other Smark’s headlump, leaving suction cup marks on its jello-y skin.
YOU COULD HAVE AT LEAST LABELLED THAT SHIT WE BROUGHT FROM EARTH. WE DON’T EVEN KNOW WHEN IT EXPIRES.
The other Smark closed its eye membranes and pressed a pattern upon Soldier Smark’s headlump.
SORRY, I DIDN’T KNOW IT WOULD BE SO PERSNICKETY. WIKIPEDIA JUST SAID SMALL INSECTS. ANYWAY, LAND HO.
It pointed a tentacle out the window and sure as shit stinks, a reddish orange planet grew in the window as the mothership approached. Tiny specs of light jumped up into its atmosphere from the ground. Laser war. Or maybe just laser tag. It was tough to tell from that altitude.
Soldier Smark returned to where Steve had flopped and was licking the remaining termites from the bottom of the metal cylinder. It pointed a tentacle to the window; Steve’s eyes followed it.
“You brought me to fucking Mars? Are you serious, bro? Dude, this planet is so overrated,” Steve sighed, then belched. It was a big one, and all the slimy headlumps popped up in unison.
“S’cuse me,” Steve muttered, and raised his leg to piss on the wall.
The mothership landed amongst heavy enemy fire and took a beating. Its round hull pockmarked with shrapnel and deflected laser bombs, its thick windows were blasted out, hanging in shards from their frames.
The rocket inside the mothership was in decent enough shape, however. The Smarks re-fueled it from the mothership’s emergency supply and all crammed inside. Steve’s face was mushed up against the tiny portal window, his fur was plastered in Smark slime as he perched atop a tower of bobbling soggy Smarks. The heavily laden rocket burst up through the top bay door of the mothership and out into the dark Martian sky.
Safely docked on the other side of the planet, Soldier Smark re-affixed the bungee cord collar and leash to Steve’s neck and led him, rather, dragged him out the rocket’s sliding door into a long, well-lit hallway. The chrome-like walls, ceiling, and floors reflected every photon, and Steve squinted in the brightness. He coughed up a loogie and spat. The floor magically absorbed the mucus into itself.
“What the hell?” Steve asked up at Soldier Smark. Soldier appeared to shrug, his whole body bumped up and down once, tentacles bouncing from the movement. The pair slippy-slid (Steve) and bobbed down the hallway that never seemed to end. Steve looked around, they were the only creatures present, at least that he could recognize as a creature. If that floor was sentient it was getting a hell of an upskirt view.
Finally they reached an arched opening in the wall. Soldier Smark entered, and Steve lagged back, passively protesting. A tug on the leash and a threat of a tentacle tip convinced him to cross the threshold into a bar.
A cantina-style bar.
Modeled after the bar in Star Wars.
The Smarks did love them some Wikipedia.
There were only two types of beings in this bar, however, the Smarks being one, and aardvark being the other. There were no chairs, just tall tables ringed by Smarks of various sizes, and a long metal bar lined with Smarks in various conversations. Soldier Smark swayed up to the bar and wrapped a tentacle around a tall pitcher of dark brown liquid with thick beige foam on top.
The Smark tending bar reached out to Soldier and impressed a series of light taps to its headlump. Soldier appeared to nod, and blinked slowly with all four eyes. He returned a message via his own suction cupped-tentacles upon the bartender’s head.
WE’VE HAD A SHIT DAY. FINALLY GET THE CREATURE WIKIPEDIA SAID WE NEEDED, IT STINKS AND HAS AN ATTITUDE, THEN THAT IDIOT RODNEY LANDED US IN THE MIDDLE OF THE REBEL ENCAMPMENT. DOES HE NOT HAVE GOOGLE MAPS? FOR FUCK’S SAKE. ANOTHER PITCHER WHEN YOU GET A CHANCE, PLEASE.
Soldier Smark tipped the pitcher upside down into a hole underneath the drape of tentacles. Shaking out the last drop, he returned the pitcher to the bar and let out a teensy baby burp.
“Dude, you’re turning red,” Steve nudged Soldier. Soldier blinked one eye slowly at him as he reached for his second pitcher. He dumped that into his mouthhole as well, and tapped on the bar. Another pitcher appeared shortly. By the time Soldier had downed its third pitcher, it was bright red from top to tentacle tip. It burped another baby belch, and Steve smelled something familiar.
Something he’d smelled in a human village during big football games.
He stuck out his tongue and tested the air.
He squinted at the lever the bartender pulled over and over again.
Steve pulled on a tentacle. “Dude, can I get a bowl of water or something? Or are you too busy getting shitfaced to treat your prisoner with some compassion?” The Smark waved at the bartender, pressed a message on its headlump. The bartender returned with a bowl of water and a bowl of writhing, crawling creatures that only stayed in the bowl because its chrome-ish walls were too slippery to climb.
“Thanks, man!” Steve exclaimed and settled in to nosh. The insectoid creatures were sweet and salty, and very crunchy, a little scratchy going down Steve’s throat. He wasn’t going to complain, though. He licked both bowls clean and looked up.
Soldier Smark was a deep crimson by now, his tentacles swayed one way and his gelatinous body swayed the other. He looked down at Steve, his body heaved in an alien sigh, and gave a gentle tug on the leash. They wound their way through the crowd to an exit on the opposite side of the room they’d entered.
Another chrome hallway, more narrow and with a lower ceiling than the first. As they traveled, the walls seemed to close in, until they moved in single file across the cold gleaming floor. Steve stared at the now-burgundy tentacles ahead of him. Was the Smark getting shorter?
The walls continued to close in on the pair and then Steve realized the ceiling was also lowering. Finally, the hallway was no larger than the boundaries of Steve’s body, and then smaller still, until Steve was well and truly stuck. The leash kept pulling, and he kept resisting. One lone, large, shiny Smark eye blinked back at him.
Startled, Steve squeaked. He squeaked and squealed harder as he felt a tentacle slide between his forelegs, then his back legs. Another tentacle slid over his head and down his back, two more slid down each side of him, squeezing between his body and the cold solid walls. Steve crouched silently and shivered as he felt his fur turn cold and wet with Smark slime. He dry-heaved from the smell but fought the urge to hurl because the current stench plus puke stench would have equaled certain death.
The tentacles retracted and Steve felt himself once again dragged down the hall. He gave up resisting and allowed his body to slip and slide behind his impossibly stretched-out captor.
Then, they fell.
They fell and fell, nothing but the air wooshing against them. Steve couldn’t see Soldier Smark, but the slight tug of the leash now and again let him know they were still connected.
A light below them grew bigger. Orange and red like the sun, like the very planet they were visiting, its heat escalated until Steve thought his fur would ignite. He glanced over at the Smark and his eyes grew wide. The Smark had returned to its original purplish-pink shade and was now a spherical, glistening teardrop shape not far below him. One eye opened towards Steve, blinked, and closed again.
They landed on something that slowed their descent but did not stop it. The net finally stopped stretching just as the flames of the fireball licked up towards Steve’s tail. The net returned to its natural state, bringing the pair upward, level with a narrow catwalk that ringed the room. There was a guardrail on the platform, Steve noted, wondering how the mushy mass of the Smarks could possibly move across it without falling into the fiery pit below.
Soldier Smark uncoiled from its protective sphere and reached three tentacles towards Steve. Stunned, Steve just laid there and allowed the Smark to pick him up and cradle him like a human baby as the rest of its tentacles pulled them across the net and climbed up to the catwalk.
Soldier Smark looked at Steve, and Steve met its gaze. The Smark put Steve down on the catwalk (oddly cold cement?) but held onto Steve’s leash. Steve didn’t really mind; he figured the Smark didn’t want to end up in the fireball any more than he did.
Soldier Smark wrapped a tentacle around the guardrail and leaned its headlump over the side. Steve stuck his head over the side, between the cement and the lower bar of the rail.
They both hurled up their lunch. The fireball popped and sputtered as it absorbed their squick.
Soldier Smark leaned back against the wall and slid down it into a gelatinous puddle. Steve echoed the movement. They both closed their eyes. Steve felt a tentacle on top of his head, petting him. He nudged another tentacle with his snout and slid his head under it.
And then he farted.
Magical Fairy Aardvark with Gold-Studded Wings Who Lives in a Giant Peach at the Center of the Earth
Soldier Smark released what could be only considered a heavy sigh and hauled himself up while leaning against the wall, coating the wall in slime. Steve hauled himself up and followed the tug of his leash. They inched their way along the catwalk into a low stone corridor that ramped further downward. Gas torches licked the damp walls of the passageway, placed there by non-Smarks eons ago. Steve flicked his tongue, metal, copper tinged, ammonia, sulfur. He shivered and withdrew his tongue.
The damp air grew dry, then hot, then an orange glow wavered larger with each step. Soldier Smark and Steve emerged into a large cave, stalagmites and stalactites glowed orange with firelight, and swaying, glistening gelatinous bodies circled a large pit. Tentacles entwined amongst them and an electrical charge travelled from the outside of the spiral to the inner, largest Smark.
Soldier Smark took up position at the tail end of the spiral, gently unleashed Steve, and wrapped a cold, wet tentacle around his abdomen. Soldier lifted Steve high above his headlump and passed him to the left, to the next Smark in the endless spiral line. A deep rumble began in the center of the spiral, and travelled outward as Steve made his slimy way inward.
Pass the smoochie to the left hand side
“What the hell is a smoochie?” Steve hollered above the roar.
“You are The Smoochie,” boomed the inner, largest Smark. “Prophesied by the presence of your enormous smoochie tongue, able to dig and divine a path to riches. ALL HAIL THE SMOOCHIE!”
Steve facepawed himself. “Oh my friggin’ gawd. You guys MUST be kidding?” he squealed as he floated along the boingy tentacles.
ALL HAIL THE SMOOCHIE
ALL HAIL THE SMOOCHIE
The chorus rose again, filled the cavern as Steve was passed to the last, largest Smark. Steve risked a glance down, then squeezed his eyes shut. His tongue shot out for a quick air test, his brow furrowed, and his tongue dipped back inside.
The hail, he only had a moment to think before he was hurtled down, down, down, again.
Another stomach-swallowing decent against gravity, into the bright white hot heat. Another fall into oblivion, billions of miles from the African savannah with its lovely tall termite mounds. Another sick moment, wondering what the hell he’d done to deserve such a bizarre and unimaginable death, for Chrissake, he was just an aardvark. An aardvark named Steve. Smoochie Steve. Seriously?
As Steve fell, the white hot core of the planet approached, but his fur didn’t burn, his whiskers remained intact, and his nose didn’t crack from the heat. The core increased in size, big as the sun, big as the moon, big as the Earth itself, until Steve landed with a boing! And another boing! And three smaller boings. He lay flat on his stomach, legs splayed out, slime dripping from his fur onto the soft, fuzzy surface of the landing zone.
Steve kept his eyes closed as he stretched one foreleg, the other, and each back leg. He took a deep breath in and out. He blinked open one eye, then the other. He flicked his tongue.
No way. No fuckin’ way, dude.
He flicked his tongue out again, tested the air, tested the surface.
You gotta be kiddin’ me.
Steve got to his feet, and shook mightily. Slime sprayed a large Rorschach print over the ground. He remembered losing his lunch earlier, and began to nibble, then snorf straight down into the peach. He dug and dug and ate a line straight down to the pit. As he sucked the sweet meat away from the pit, his tongue discovered a jagged crack.
Suddenly, the pit trembled beneath his feet. The crack widened and Steve hopped to get all four paws on one sliver of pit, but it mattered little as the pit surface crumbled beneath him and he fell once again.
Steve sat up and slow-blinked. “Dad?”
A low rumble of thunder progressed to a guffaw, and increased in pitch to a giggle, then rasping for breath.
The largest aardvark Steve had ever seen sat before him, relaxed, still chuckling. Its silver-studded wings curled around its back haunches. The metal points gleamed in the glow of the peach.
“Ah, my child,” the aardvark rumbled in an easy Jamaican accent, “I am not your father, although our kind are all children of The Golden One.”
Steve shook his head. “I don’t understand?”
“Of course you don’t, and you were never meant to,” the Silver One explained. “Your captors, in their weakness and greed to fuel their own planet, have mistakenly chosen my planet in which to search for the limitless energy.”
“But what am I doing here?” Steve sputtered.
“The Smarks are searching for the Ultimate Power Source, because their world has disintegrated under the stress of unlimited production without investment,” the Silver One muttered. “The Golden One they search for, the Source of Ultimate Power, is billions of light years from here, residing amongst The Endless.”
“Uh, question?” Steve started. The Silver One nodded.
“Why are you living in a peach pit in the center of Mars?” Steve asked breathlessly.
The Silver One grinned. “We Founders of Existence each reside in a paradise of our own construction,” he explained. “I love peaches, and I choose to live here. It just so happens your captors the Smarks placed entirely too much faith in Wikipedia, which has many source faults and errors in its citations, especially in those articles regarding unproven hypotheses of the genesis of the Universe.”
Steve shook his head. “You mean…”
The Silver One nodded, “Yes, just because it’s on the Internet, does not make it true.”
Steve stifled a giggle, but didn’t succeed after he met The Silver One’s eyes and laughter. The Aardvark Grande and Aardvark Tall had a long, healthy gigglefit before silver-studded wings stretched and beat against the hot, moist air, carrying both in tight circles up, up, and out, past the spiral of onlooking Smarks, up, up through the volcanic vent in the crust of Mars.
They landed on the surface of Mars, next to an escape pod. The Silver One tapped at the controls, muttered a few words to Steve, and stepped back. Steve pulled a lever and WHOOOOOOSHHHHHHH the pod took off and threw ten Gs at Steve, and he promptly passed out.
The Silver One turned back to face the horde of writhing, slimy, tentacled Smarks.
“This is not the aardvark you are looking for,” he said in a deep low tone that resonated through the very membranes of the Smarks. “Now leave this planet, and you attack the next world, make sure you find secondary sources for your information.”
And with a flick of his mile-long tongue and a gleam of his wings, the Magical Fairy Aardvark with Silver-studded Wings disappeared down the volcano mouth.
The Smarks looked back and forth at each other. Soldier Smark looked at his Apple watch on one tentacle, and smacked the Smark next to him hard on the headlump with another tentacle.
“It says right here,” Soldier frantically pressed the message on the other’s headlump, “citation needed.”
He turned away and poked on his watch again. “Hey, 4chan says The Golden One might be over in the Andromeda Galaxy. Load up!”
(copyright 2016, Shannon Cooper; smashwords downloadable coming soon)