Title: Biff and Curtis: Ambassadors of Man
Author: Ryan McAndrews
Rating: R (language)
Summary: Two young men and a schizophrenic hobo are kidnapped by aliens, and then things pretty much just go downhill from there.
“I’m gonna be honest with you,” I sighed as I leaned against the wall of my cell. “When I decided to go out for a pizza run, I was really not expecting to be abducted by aliens.”
After our captors had woken us from stasis, we had marched down a long glass hallway where we could see the stars surrounding us and the Earth in the near distance. Frankly, the whole thing struck me as a little over-dramatic. It’s like, yeah, aliens, you sucked us up into your spooky UFO- do you really have to be pricks about it? It’s called manners, guys.
Once our half-minute tour of the galaxy was apparently complete, they marched us into some high-tech sci-fi jail cells or some shit and then just left us there for a couple of hours. It was easily the fifth-worst night in prison I had ever experienced.
“Oh, and I was expecting this?” said my cellmate, whose name I had gathered to be Curtis. He was a short, sad little man with dumb hipster glasses that seemed way too big for his face. “On the list of things I never wanted to have happen to me, this is easily somewhere around the top ten. It’s right up there with the bank foreclosing on my house and having sex with Jay Leno.”
“You know, Curtis,” I said. “Maybe we’re being a little too negative about this. I mean, think about it: we are the first human beings in all of recorded history to make contact with extracurricular life. That’s pretty special, you know? I feel like somebody now. Biff and Curtis: ambassadors of Man.”
Curtis pinched the bridge of his nose as if he were being hit with the world’s worst headache. “Okay, look, three things. First off, my name isn’t Curtis. I don’t know if you know a Curtis and you’re confusing me with him or what, but I haven’t even told you my name, and it’s definitely not Curtis. Second off, it’s extraterrestrial, not extracurricular, and third off I’m pretty sure that homeless guy in the next cell over was here before either of us.”
“Yerp,” mumbled the homeless guy in the next cell over. It was the first thing he’d said all night.
“Oh, well, fuck me, then, I guess.” I threw up my hands in frustration. “The one silver lining I had on this thing, Curtis, and you had to go and rip it away. You are a monster. I just want you to know that.”
“I literally just told you my name isn’t- never mind.” Curtis sat down next to me, and even though we had only met a few minutes ago I felt an instant kinship with him. Then he noticed my hand sneaking towards his wallet and slapped it away. “What the hell is wrong with you?” he hissed. Some people, man. Some people.
“So, when do you think they’re gonna probe us?” I asked, hoping to divert the conversation away from my attempt at stealing his wallet so I could try doing it again. “I haven’t really been probed since college. Is it weird that I’m kind of looking forward to it?”
“Do the words ‘too much information’ mean anything to you?” Curtis sniffed. “Anyway, probing is the least of our worries. You do realize we’re probably never going to see Earth again, right? Or our families, or friends, or the entire human race?”
I thought about that for a moment before replying. “Man, fuck ‘em. You know? Taxes, and bills, and the, the government, man, fuck all of it.”
Curtis threw up his hands. “Great. I’ve been thrust into the vast unknown by hostile aliens, and my only companion is a kleptomaniacal, nihilistic pothead. This is great! This is super awesome. I am so glad that this happened to me.”
“Hey, I am not nihi, uh, whatever it is!” I cried indignantly. “I forgot what that word was halfway through saying it. Anyway, maybe you should spend less time complaining and more time trying to figure out what’s going on here. Who do you think we’re dealing with? Like X-Files, scary green guys, or like funny Men in Black style dudes with wacky voices? I bet they’re called something weird, like ‘plasticorns’ or ‘thorans’ or some stupid shit like that.”
“Who cares what they’re called!” Curtis yelled. “We’re both dead anyway, I don’t think it matters which aspect of pop culture our abductors most closely resemble! Blah blah blah, my face is a butt, I am the worst!”
Okay, so I was only half paying attention to whatever he was saying- mostly I was preoccupied with trying to wrench off the slave collar that had been welded on to my neck while I was still unconscious. I really didn’t want to end up as some Klingon dominatrix’s personal gimp, except then I thought about it and yes I did.
Our conversation was interrupted by the sound of footsteps drawing closer to our cell. Come ooooon, Klingon dominatrix, I thought, and sighed when our visitor turned out to be just another one of the same aliens who’d dragged us here in the first place. He- I assume it was a dude –looked pretty much exactly like you would expect an alien to look like. (Seriously, they all look alike to me. Curtis is informing me that that statement is racist. I am informing him that he can go eat a bag of dicks.)
The creature might have been mistaken for a human, if humans were seven feet tall with rubbery gray skin, which we’re not, so I guess the first part of this sentence was a lie. His head was completely bald and there was only empty grey flesh where a nose should have been, so basically picture Voldemort except less good-looking, if that’s even possible? I couldn’t tell if the stuff wrapped around his body was clothing or some weird insectoid exoskeleton, but it was pretty creepy either way.
Curtis shrunk back from the bars at our visitor’s appearance, but I wasn’t afraid- I’d seen much scarier things after three days on shrooms. “Yo,” I said by way of bridging the gap between our races. “You speak-a the English?” Curtis groaned for some reason.
“Better than you, evidently,” said the alien, and smiled. (I hadn’t noticed until then just how sharp their teeth were.) “You may call me Clarity. I will be your guide on this journey.”
“Man, what kind of fruity-ass name is Clarity?” I scoffed. “Jesus, dude, were your parents hippie dictionary writers or something?”
“What this moron is trying to say,” said Curtis very slowly, “is that while we’re honored to embark on this, uh, ‘journey’, we would actually very much prefer to be returned home, preferably without any probing.”
“Hey, speak for yourself.”
“Ignore him.” Curtis forced a smile.
Clarity’s calm expression didn’t change. “This is not my true name. We thorans-“
“Who called it? This guy right here.”
“—believe that one’s birth name is a close personal fact that should only be shared with one’s most intimate partner.”
I nodded sagely. “Your name’s Curtis too, isn’t it.”
“What? No.” Clarity frowned. “Your human tongues couldn’t even begin to pronounce my true name.”
I waved my arms dramatically. “Ooh, look at this guy! You’re blowing my goddamn mind here, Clarity.”
Curtis grabbed my arm tightly and hissed in my ear. “Would you be so kind as to stop pissing off the almighty alien overlord holding us hostage?”
“Would you be so kind as to stop bruising my tender flesh?” Curtis let go, and I rubbed my arm. “Okay, uh, Clarity, let’s move away from the name thing and cut right to the point.” I gestured toward the bars of our cell. “Why did you guys abduct us? I mean, I know I’m a huge deal, but I’m confused about Curtis and the hobo. There had to be more important humans you could kidnap for your creepy experiments.”
“All will be explained in time.” Clarity waved a hand, beckoning us out of the cell and into the hallway. “Come, follow me.”
Curtis and I followed, but then Curtis stopped and motioned back at the hobo in the next cell over. “What about him?” I hadn’t gotten a good look at the hobo the first time we’d come through, but now I had plenty of time to look at him, and I knew that my first impression had been pretty accurate. He was definitely a hobo, from his patched-up brown jacket to the fingerless gloves on his dirty, greasy hands.
“Forget him, he’s not important,” said Clarity. I thought I detected a measure of impatience in his otherwise calm and serene voice. “Time is wasting. Come. Follow.”
“Well, somebody doesn’t have any manners,” I muttered under my breath as we walked. Curtis shot me a dark look. “What? What?”
Once again, we were brought past the great glass windows that separated us from the terrifying, infinite void of space. I coughed on the glass and drew little smiley faces with my finger while Clarity was talking. “You are not the first humans we have taken from this world,” he said, “but you will be the last.”
“I don’t like the sound of that,” Curtis muttered, then nudged me. “Hey, are you paying attention?”
“What? Yeah, last humans, whatever.”
Clarity approached a door, which opened when he placed his hand on some kind of light panel. At his touch, the panel lit up and the great steel doors drew open. (I don’t know why a simple doorknob wouldn’t have sufficed, but hey, I guess that’s why I’m not the alien overlord.) The room he walked into looked like an elevator, except the floor and walls were shifting with some kind of bright neon light. When Curtis and I followed him inside, the doors snapped shut, and Curtis jumped a little. “Hey, maybe we shouldn’t-“
That was as far as he got before the world flashed white around us, and suddenly the walls of the “elevator” were gone. We were standing on what looked like the bridge of the USS Enterprise, except instead of varyingly ethnic bit actors, all the console doohickeys were being manned by plastic-looking aliens identical to Clarity. Curtis, meanwhile, was too busy freaking out to notice this. “Did we just teleport? This thing isn’t radioactive, is it? Oh, Christ, I have a tumor now, I can feel it growing already-“
I handed Curtis my trusty paper bag to breathe into, which he immediately threw back at me in disgust when he noticed the paint fumes still lingering inside it. Clarity only smirked at us- it looked unfamiliar on him, as if he wasn’t used to making facial expressions. “A simple warp panel,” he explained, and tapped his foot on the floor- where, I could see, the same shifting neon patterns were there. “Such panels are our primary means of transportation. You will grow accustomed to them, in time. Now: observe.”
The bridge offered an even better view of Earth than the hallways of the ship had. We could see the planet from top to bottom, every continent a smear of green and brown atop a canvas of dark blue. On some of the consoles, we could see video playing of scenes across the Earth: crowds milling in a Chinese marketplace, a pop concert in what seemed to be America or Canada, bullets spraying through the air in a South American warzone. On the monitors in front of us Curtis and I saw scenes of incredible courage and senseless brutality- of limitless greed and impossible joy. We saw humanity, with all of its virtues and its flaws laid bare before us. It was a view no other man in history had ever been privileged to witness.
“Man, can you imagine getting a girl up here?” I waggled my eyebrows suggestively. “Next stop: Boner City, am I right? Up high!”
“You are the worst person I have ever met,” said Curtis, shaking his head at me and completely ignoring my high-five attempt. He turned to Clarity. “This is amazing and all, but… I still have so many questions. First off, I mean, how are we even talking right now? Did you guys learn English, or are we speaking some alien language and not even realizing it?”
“No, no,” said Clarity. He moved one arm to tap the metal collar wrapped around Curtis’ neck, then tapped a similar collar around his own. “This collar, you see, acts as a translator. You’re speaking your own language, and I am speaking mine, but the collars allow us to understand one another almost perfectly.”
“Almost?” I spoke up.
“Well, certain slang words aren’t going to survive the translation,” said Clarity. “If I were to say, for example, glaebeldorf, you would have no idea what I’m talking about.”
“Does it mean ‘fuck’?” I said instantly. “It means fuck, doesn’t it.”
“We’re getting kind of off-track here.” Curtis glared at me as he spoke. “I guess what I really want to ask is: why us? I’m honored that you chose to reveal yourself to us, but why not, like, President Obama, or someone? And why bring us all the way up here to speak to us?”
“I am very pleased that you asked that question,” said Clarity. He didn’t look pleased, per se- he looked neutral, which pretty much seemed to be his default expression. “This is an excellent time to explain your situation. You see, it all dates back to the Interplanetary Species Conservation Act of P.S. 8093…”
“Oh Christ, this sounds so boring-“ I began, but Curtis cut me off by elbowing me in the ribs. “Ow!”
Clarity continued as if he hadn’t heard us. “The Act, you see, was created after the High Council of Matriarchs determined that genetic diversity, when maintained in a series of controlled environments, is an integral component of an orderly and well-managed universe.”
“Well, obviously,” I said, pretending that I knew even a little what he was yammering on about. “But what does that have to do with us?” The other “thorans” were looking at us with cool expressions that were almost a mirror image of Clarity’s, and it was making me uncomfortable, or possibly aroused. At this point in my life it was hard to tell the difference.
“I was getting to that.” Clarity frowned, apparently displeased at my questioning. “The Act contains a great deal of sub-clauses and technical provisions that would escape the understanding of developing species such as yourself. However, its most basic tenet states that before a planet can be terminated, its five most valuable species must be catalogued for future study. As humans were ranked fourth among Earth’s species in terms of value, we selected a small group of specimens for capture.”
It took a few moments for that one to sink in for us, but when it did, we both had questions. “Uh, what do you mean by ‘terminated’?” asked Curtis slowly.
“More importantly, what do you mean by fourth?” I cried indignantly. “Fourth to who, exactly? Humans are awesome!”
“Yes, well.” Curtis coughed into his hand. “Initially we were having trouble deciding between humans and orangutans for third place, but then we happened to view an episode of an American television program entitled Celebrity Apprentice. After that, the rankings were, as you might put it, a ‘no-brainer’.”
“Okay, I guess I can’t argue with that,” said Curtis, “but let me ask again. What do you mean by ‘termination’?”
“I believe that the word is being translated correctly, is it not?” Clarity actually looked slightly puzzled. “Your planet has been slated for annihilation. Obviously we lack the capability to evacuate your entire species, but by selecting one male and one female for preservation, we’ve ensured that the human race will endure. Rest assured that the two of you will be given absolute privacy as you repopulate your species on a new planet of our choosing.”
Again: it took a moment for that one to sink in.
I looked at Curtis. Curtis looked at me.
“Uh,” he said, “I am sensing kind of a miscalculation in this plan of yours, Clarity.”
“Oh?” Clarity smiled pleasantly, as if amused that we were daring to correct him. “And what would that be?”
“Well, for starters,” I said, very slowly, “Curtis and I are both dudes.”
“Come again?” said Clarity, and that’s when the Earth exploded.
It happened in the span of about three seconds: one moment, there was the Big Blue, sitting there among the stars in relative peace and quiet. The next moment was a roar of noise and light that left Curtis and I both cowering on the ground and, in my case, resisting the fierce urge to soil myself. The next moment we were looking out at the spot where the Earth had sat only moments ago- a spot that was now filled by empty space, littered with broken hunks of rock and the bones of a dead world.
Scientists would have told you (before they got blasted to smithereens) that the planet Earth took millions and millions, possibly billions of years to be born.
I’m here to tell you it took about three seconds for it to die.
The three of us sat there in silence for a few moments before we each spoke up in unison. “Oh, fuck,” said Curtis.
“Oh, fuck,” I said.
“Oh, glaebeldorf,” said Clarity.