“the dining guide to the stars”: parts 1 & 2

The first two installments of an unpublished, copyrighted short story. Humorous science-fiction. Good luck with that one, bub … | (c) Frank Rabey

 

The Dining Guide to the Stars

It even began badly. Piloting, on his own, against stringent advice, Clyde brought their craft down atop a man named Ted, who’d been out riding a stolen three-speed bicycle drunk through the rows of a grape vineyard.

Ted’s last words: “Oh, sweet Mary, mother of …”

Inside the ship, some discussion.

“Mother of whosit?” questioned Rufus, rifling then through the provision bag.

“No,” corrected the clipped voice of the language prompter, “mother of who is fine.”

“Mother of whatseruh?” Rufus tried again, his face still buried.

No!” repeated the language prompter, letting itself display a hint of irritation this time. “Mother of what is fine.”

Clyde tentatively settled one of what he was pretty confident was called his “fingers” atop a bright red button on the ship’s console. “Oh, no you don’t!” shouted the prompter. “You know he’s not ready to go out there. You’ll be …”

Lifting the finger-part from the depressed button, Clyde eyed the effective digit with begrudging respect, soaking in the sudden silence broken only by the sounds of his rummaging companion. He flexed the stubby, pink, pointy thing a few times, trying out a smile on his unfamiliar face. “Should have done that a lung tumor ago,” he observed absently. Rufus, glancing up from his fruitless search, grinned back at Clyde, hoping to imply comprehension. As best Rufus could recall, a tumor was something older human females shared in hushed tones over coffee, a popular hot drink.

Clyde had ignored the language prompter’s protests knowing full well the rest of its dire prediction, having endured the reality of it countless times before: His partner would compromise their assignment. Clyde had no doubt it was true. Rufus had a rare gift for failure.

Clyde pushed another button and the ship’s lower hatch whirred open. “Rufus,” he barked. “Come. Let we get this over with. We will eat again litter.”

Rufus eyed the provision bag fondly, but let it fall shut, as directed. The two then exited the sleek little craft with difficulty. Stepping down into this bright new world, their uncomfortably shod ambulation parts encountered fresh puddles of spilled human fluid. Clyde’s pinwheeling top limbs latched around the landing gear as Rufus careened helplessly forward, tumbling through crushed vines and collapsing alongside a pulpy pink mass.

What had once been the man Ted was now cleaved asunder beneath polished green-black Carluvian magnite, a metal otherwise unknown for several light years around.

Rufus picked up a loose arm and immediately began to gnaw, even as he attempted to right himself. “Tastes like goolalullion,” he declared, more or less.

“Goolalullion?” Clyde repeated. He smacked Rufus in the face; it briefly left a mark. “Speak only the now language,” he said sharply.

“OK, yes. Yes. Tastes like … tastes like … .” Rufus shrugged.

“Chicken, fool!” snapped his partner. “It tastes like chicken.”

“Welcome to Earth,” read the copy of Let’s Go 2013: The Milky Way that Clyde’s cousin, Mergenp**ttens, had sent with them. “Everything tastes like chicken.”

&

Every world worth its salt has its chicken.

The goolalullion of Bulugatrass is smallish and squat, with dull eyes, a set of rudimentary flippers, four fleshy legs, a mottled outer skin that jiggles like warm custard, and an irrational fear of rain, which its handlers exploit in herding the idiot creatures. The goolalullion elicits a honking noise much like an Earth mallard when squeezed, and careens in circles for roughly three minutes once its head has been cut off. When it collapses finally in dizzy fatigue, the trick is to grab it, gut it and get it immediately to the cucklefan fryer; most popular eateries include a small holding pen in the center of the main dining area. Cutting off a goolalullion’s head alone won’t kill it; Wickerwen chefs do so merely to add a little drama to dining.

Children all over Bulugatrass recite some version of this rhyme: Goolalullion, goolalullion, your head falls and you run. Goolalullion, goolalullion, we’ll eat you when you’re done.”

It is for good reason that Bulugatrass is not mentioned, even in footnote, in the popular Art Worlds of the Talluna Sector.

There is no romance on Bulugatrass, and little that might be called sex. No long walks in the park, no contemplative stares at cascading sunsets. No TV, no painting, no theater, no movies, no music you would want to hear. No Chinese finger traps or professional wrestling.

On Bulugatrass, they love goolalullion dances. On Bulugatrass, they live to eat.

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