Being held prisoner on the Kauffion freighter N’nog’g was bad, but there were worse things in this universe. To provide rationality to his predicament, Private Lars Gilhoolie frequently ran down a mental list of these worse things.
For starters, there was Staff Sgt. O’Kneel, who seemed to be the primary source of never ending miserableness and harrassment during infantry training. It was the sworn duty of O’Kneel to wring every bit of humanity out of everyone around him, and replace it with stick figure automatons without souls or consciences, and he was good at this. Lars had stifled his impulse to kill the staff sergeant on more than one occasion.
Then there was his overbearing mother, Isis, who, just to get him out of her overburdened life, insisted he enlist in the Defense Forces at 18. The ongoing war in Turkmenistan, the fifth in twenty years of warfare in the middle east, ensured him a job, because that’s all that sustained the economy now. The entire industrial and manufacturing base of the U.S. had been sold off and outsourced to whichever foreign entity had the cheapest labor. Any safety net that had the connotation “social” had been dismantled, putting millions in the streets, who were now treated as criminals. He knew, just like everybody else, that this was awful, but he didn’t have voting rights anymore. Voting had been made so difficult for ordinary people, he finally gave up trying. The U.S. was now a Republican Paradise, no middle class, just the rich who ran everything and the poor who served them, and that was a very, very bad thing.
Finally, Lars no longer had to deal with the omnipresent Chipmunks for Jesus, who had gotten a foothold on the country, armed themselves, and forced millions of Americans into religious reeducation camps. While in these camps, they were subjected to slave labor, indoctrinated into Scientology, and weren’t allowed to have any contacts with family.
Certainly, thought Lars, there was nothing worse than that.
His captivity on the Kauffion freighter was pretty lax, considering. He had only one primary duty, and that was to service the alien crew. Service, of course, meant emptying the mucusoid bags that littered each of the alien’s workspaces. He would collect, flush and replace the empty bags on an hourly basis. To describe the bags and the dietary protocol of the Kauffion race, who were closer to arthropods than human beings, was difficult, but primarily they would eat something, anything, regurgitate it into the mucusoid bag, and allow the contents to ferment. Later, they would drink the contents of the bag through a curly sippy straw, becoming inebriated in the process. One would think that running a starship while under the influence (RSUI) would create unnecessary danger, but this was not the case. The crew, under the leadership of Guardmaster Footh, ran a vessel that was nearly a hands-free operation. They simply set the coordinates for the next destination and let the computers do the rest.
Recently, though, the Kauffions had initiated a regular run to Earth to pick up coffee. Earth happened to be the only planet in this quadrant that had growing conditions favorable to coffee, which was in demand universally. Since most of the inhabitants of Earth didn’t believe aliens existed, Footh kept to a very evasive path and a low profile when stopping at this third planet from its sun. People who had glimpsed him landing during his coffee runs had generally been dismissed as cranks or BillyBobs who wouldn’t know the difference between a starship and a Fox News helicopter.
While serving as a perimeter guard at Area 53, Lars had stumbled across Footh and his crew loading their ship. Before he could snap a cellphone picture or call it in though, he had been snatched and placed under guard on the alien ship. The guards were obviously drunk or something. They seemed to be having an awfully good time. He’d been on the freighter for several days now, and decided there was nowhere to escape at this point.
“Hey Earthboy!” Footh beckoned from the bridge.
“Sir?” Lars was as respectful as he could be, since he didn’t want to end up fermenting in one of those mucusoid bags.
“What is this?” He was holding up Lars’ iPhone which had been taken from him upon his capture.
“It’s my iPhone.”
“A teeny tiny personal communication device? How quaint! HA! HaHaHaHa!” Footh was beside himself. “Here’s a personal communication device!” He picked up a silver stylus and drew a circle in the air. A screen appeared. He selected a blue button and an alien face wearing a cute little pink pillbox hat appeared.
“Foothie? How’s my boy?”
“Fine, mama. How’s Pop?”
“Cranky as a Zirthian worm beast, but you know Pop. Who’s that?” She peered out the screen at Lars.
“That’s Lars, my uh…newest personal assistant. He’s from Earth. Came to help us set up our Starbucks franchise.”
“Really?” Mama seemed a little surprised. “Well, I hope he works out. Remember what happened to the last one? What was his name?”
“Charlie Sheen, Mama. Well, I’ll be home soon, save me some of that eyebeast.” He switched off the stylus and she was gone.
“In your face, earthboy! That’s personal communications!” He fumbled with the buttons on the iPhone, which obviously had not been made for beings with one fingered tentacles. He shoved it toward Lars. “Whats this?”
“It’s called Facebook.”
“What does it do?”
“Well, it lets you build a circle of friends. And send them a message anytime you want, and…” He got a little stuck at that point. “Oh, and you can like or not like the things they say and your friends can do the same.”
Footh took a long drink from his mucusoid bag, thinking. “What else?”
“Well, you can share music and writing and if you’re single like me, meet women.”
“I just had the craziest thought,” Footh said. “If I open up a digital pathway to your so-called world wide web, could you get me on Facebook?”
“Sure,” replied Lars. “It’s easy.”
Lars and Footh sat before the screen, filling out Footh’s Facebook preferences, Lars taking command because he had opposing thumbs.
“Sir, the first question on your profile is “Who is your employer?”
“Well, I’m self-employed. My company is FoothCo, and I’m a coffee importer, the most important job in this sector.”
“Great! Let’s write this down.” Lars typed in the info.
“Next, sir, we need to know where you went to College.”
“Well, I dropped out of the Orlon School of Business Management, but I did pick up enough skills to become a licensed face reader.” As if to accentuate his claim, he stared hard at Lars’ face, brow knitted over his bulbous blue eye. Lars typed it all in.
“Any religious views?”
Footh shifted uneasily in his chair. “Well, I am a member of the Eternal Shining Cloud, but I haven’t been to a gasbag letting in years.”
“Good enough. Now, any personal philosophy or quotes?”
“Yes! My uncle Skwee always said, ‘A Bunthian froth hound in the mucusoid bag is worth five wandering the Dismal Swamps of Orlon.’”
“Fine.” Lars was enjoying this. One more question. “Do you have any favorite music?”
“I thought you’d never ask!” Footh’s bony carapace was turning crimson, the signal for excitement. “I enjoy the Shellwigs, Counting Spitulas and probably the greatest airbladder player ever, Grandmaster O.” Lars was astounded. The moment he entered each of the music titles, Facebook found them and their album cover.
“Just one more thing, Guardmaster. We need to post a profile picture.”
Footh showed him the desktop box with his pictures. “Wait!” said Lars. “You should make a separate box for your downloads.”
“Great idea!” said Footh. “Here’s me, stuffing my face at the clamquat harvest on Horizontal Stepsister IV.”
“Perfect,” said Lars.
By the end of the week, Footh had 288 friends, and one persistent stalker, a Libertina from Waukegan, according to her profile, who was in a “complicated” relationship, but thought that Footh’s musings on life in the known universe were just what she had been missing.
Lars, in his new position as FoothCo’s Director of Communications, had to fend off all his Facebook friends’ requests and questions. Now just wasn’t the time to explain his disappearance and in the case of the military, his desertion.
Soon, though. Very soon.
Ed Coonce is a writer and artist living in Encinitas, CA. He is a board member of KidXpression, a mentoring group that teaches kids to write then publishes their stories. His writing has appeared in The Coffee Shop Chronicles, Danse Macabre, Cynic Magazine, DimeStories and in his Kindle book, “Stories from East Hell.” He writes for the Veteran’s Project at A Word With You Press. He is a painter and recently finished playing the lead role in the filming of one of his short stories, “Why I Never Became a Psychologist” for inclusion in the Berlin Film Festival last November.