Just because you're an H.R. Giger-inspired alien from another planet, that doesn't mean you can't enjoy a children's birthday party. Or does it? Is this extraterrestrial here as a conqueror or just here to party? It's up to you.
This week's writing prompt artwork comes from Greg Broadmore, an illustrator, writer, and concept designer at the fabulous Weta Workshop (it should come as no surprise that one of the movies he's worked on is District 9). He's perhaps best known as the creator and designer of Weta's Doctor Grordbort's Infallible Aether Oscillators, with its wonderful retro-pulp rayguns.
When Broadmore posted this piece on his blog, he even included a little flash fiction with it:
He turned up at the party, a little unsure, a little apprehensive.
He needn't have been.
His knock-knock jokes were a total hit and his keratinous carapace made him the perfect mobile jungle gym.
If you can think up a story based on this piece, post it in the comments. Unless you specifically request otherwise, I'll be adding the stories from the comments to this post.
Here's my birthday alien tale:
Janine had been hesitant about hiring Alan the Alien for Cherise's ninth party. She poured over his website, studying the photos of a man in a suit that looked like something out of Aliens, trying to figure out what children saw in his spidery eyes and chitinous striations. But Lissa had assured her that Alan was in high demand.
"These kids aren't like we were at that age," Lissa told her one day when she'd come for tea and stayed for wine. "All that gross stuff is as hokey to them as Scooby-Doo was for us."
Janine took a a gulp of chardonnay before she could confess that she'd sometimes been afraid of Scooby-Doo, especially the ones with Vincent Price. "Trust me," Lissa said. "You hire Alan, and all you'll have to worry about is the food and decorations."
Lissa was right on that count. Alan arrived promptly at one-thirty, already dressed in his dark brown costume. When Janine shook his hand, it wasn't rubbery like Janine had expected. As he introduced himself, the jaw on his costume opened and closed. Janine had to admire the workmanship.
"Can I get you a soda?" she asked as Alan rummaged through his backpack, setting up the first game.
"Oh no," he said as he added loops of masking tape to pictures of aliens in diapers. "Carbonation does weird things to my stomach. I'll take a cup of coffee if you have one."
He nearly tuckered the kids out within the first 20 minutes with a game of "Parasite Tag." The kids ran around the back yard, each one trying to attach one of those baby alien pictures to another kid's chest. Kids who were "caught" had to act out jerking, melodramatic death scenes before sitting out the rest of the round. He performed magic tricks with rubber snakes and a jar of slime so neon green it almost glowed. He told stories about his native planet of Bara Baralingon, where birthdays were celebrated by dressing the birthday child in a wig made of slow-burning wicks, lighting it on fire, and chasing him through the bioluminescent fields until the last wick burned out. Then he dumped a glowing wig on Cherise's head, which made Janine's heart skip a beat until she realized it was a cheap fiber optic thing. The other kids, freshly energized, chased Cherise around the yard, yipping and screeching until Sandy Miller yanked the wig off Cherise's head and plopped it on his own, turning from the pursuer to the pursued.
In the meantime, Alan drank two whole pots of coffee. Janine didn't mind. Entertaining all those kids had to be tiring work. By the time Janine had set out pizza and soda, each fourth grader was sweaty, panting, and blissfully quiet.
Janine was ready to declare this Cherise's most successful birthday party when she ducked into the bathroom. She yelped softly when she realized it was already occupied, and then a second time when she saw it was Alan, peeing. He hadn't taken off his suit. In fact, Janine recognized as her pulse started thudding through her ears, it wasn't a suit at all. A long brown trough had been draining fluid into the toilet, and now it snaked back into his pelvis. Alan turned to her and pulled his lipless mouth into a grotesque grin. Janine wondered if it was supposed to be sheepish. "You weren't supposed to see that," he said.
Janine wasn't sure if she was more upset to discover that her birthday clown was a bona fide extraterrestrial or that, for the last two hours, he'd been naked in front of her daughter.
Remy Porter pictures the alien attending a rather different kind of surprise party:
"Close your eyes."
Grefl sighed. "They are closed."
"No, you've just put out the nictating membranes. You can still see." Vila made a rude gesture before Grefl's face to drive home the point.
"I hate surprises," Grefl grumbled while complying.
Vila guided Grefl through the house. The scent-picture of the house was carefully arranged to evoke a sense of Lurgash, their home planet. With eyes closed, it was almost as good as actually being there. It had probably been intended as a treat, but it just made Grefl sad; memories of a homeworld that would never bee seen again.
There were noises in the backyard. A shout of "SURPRISE!" and Grefl pretended to be surprised to see a pile of friends and family crowded around a punchbowl. "Oh, you shouldn't have."
"Don't be such a pooper, Grefl," Vila warned.
"It's my birth day," Grefl replied. "I can be a pooper if I want to. Isn't that a Terran song? Maybe I really am going native."
"Oh, I hope not!" Vila said. "Because that would ruin the real surprise!"
The real surprise? Grefl glanced around, sniffing for a hint- the shed! Vila smirked as Grefl followed the odor. There was something in the air- a hint of human sweat and something else… Euporhiant. Grefl grabbed the latch and looked back at Vila, who was smiling broadly. "You didn't! You couldn't have!"
Vila's fangs glistened in the sunlight. "Open the door!"
Grefl did. A small army of children clambered out, drugged to the gills on Euporiant. They loved everyone. They shrieked and cackled and climbed up Grefl's legs. Their cheerful mood was catching. "You really shouldn't have!" Grefl laughed.
"Oh, I got a good deal. How could I resist?"
"Oh, they look delicious. Which one should I start with?"
Not_too_Xavi's story has an unusual take on the disappearing rabbit trick:
"Spare a light?"
Bud jumped, startled to see the entertainment rounding the corner, cigarette dangling from a proboscis extending out over its fourth left eye.
"Sure, just a sec." Bud fumbled in his pockets, then pulled out a mini bic and sparked a small blue flame. The entertainment took a long drag, the proboscis contracting as the end of the cigarette glowed orange in the shade of the side of the house. There was a long, slow stream of blue gray smoke as the entertainment exhaled out of a cicada-like buzzing of flaps on its back.
"Oh, that's good. Lifesaver man," the entertainment sighed. It posted up on the wall of the house by Bud, one leg canted as if he was the Marlboro man from one of the old print ads. "Don't tell your wife, yeh?"
Bud blew out a bit of smoke. "Nah man, no worries, she'd kill me too if she knew." The entertainment chuckled. "What's up then, you all done?"
"Nah, they're doing gifts then I've got the big Fi-nall-ee. Rabbit time."
"Right on." Bud took another drag. "What's that mean though, rabbit time?"
"Well, it's my thing, I guess." The entertainer stubbed out his cigarette. "Thumper goes in," he threw the butt in what was now a gaping maw. "Thumper comes out," he lifted his upper of two left arms, and held his right hand about a foot below where it met his upper shoulder joint catching the butt as it flew out with a fwump. "The kids eat it up."
A door opened around the corner. "Bud?" His wife's shrill voiced carried to their shady respite. "Have you seen the entertainment?" There was a pause, and then "Have you been smoking?"
"Shit," Bud sighed. "Busted."
The entertainment laughed. "Nah, you're good. Helping me get ready for Thumper right?"
"If you say so."
The entertainment smiled, only half exposing the maw where poor Thumper would be thrown, "I do. Let's get on back in."
Bud was already feeling better. "Yeah, let's get on back in."
They had turned the corner, headed back towards the party, when the entertainer stopped and looked back at Bud.
"Thanks again for the light."
In procrastinationathon's story, the alien is just another child at the birthday party, albeit one from a different culture:
It was nice of Mrs Thomson to let him come to Billy's party, being well over a foot taller than any of the other children in the class usually made parents apprehensive about inviting Wxl!n into their homes. Well, that and the teeth, claws, secondary mouth in the abdomen, and the various cultural differences and misunderstandings that had come up as Marwood School's only off world student.
He hadn't been sure what would be the right kind of present to get for Billy, so had just picked out a single balloon with the appropriate greeting written on it. The other students all seemed happy enough for him to be there though, Sara, her pigtails shaking on her head, ran up to him with a joyful squeal as he arrived, and everyone else soon followed. This was great, he thought, there would be games, sweets, that odd little Earth custom where the human child being honored would blow out a series of tiny fires, that was the Earth custom wasn't it? His species would sacrifice the weakest attendant to feed the bodies of the stronger growing young...but the fire thing sounded fun as well, and anyway, it would be his birthday soon, maybe he could introduce all his new friends to his home planets customs then?
For deserver's alien attendee, the birthday party is an opportunity for some uncomfortable questions:
"And what is birth?"
The adults laughed and drank and diverted their eyes.
"That's a loaded question bud." Cory said.
N'wu wasn't sure what a loaded question was either but suspected it was the kind that did not get an answer. He had been asking a lot of loaded questions since he had been moved into the neighborhood and he believed the humans could someday become a galactic empire if they only learned to communicate more efficiently.
They asked him if he liked his home and he said the doorways were too short and the windows were points of structural weakness. He explained how they did not have windows on the Seed Vessel they used to flee their dying sun and this prompted a silence that Cory had once explained to him as "awkward". The assembled adults all had a hand in building his home as part of an integration program put on by their government with Cory as his liasion - "ambassador" was the word he had used - for introducing him to the rest of their community.
"It is a good home and my children are enjoying it." He said the words that Cory said would work and they bared their teeth in either happiness or territorial aggression. N'wu couldn't be sure but he flared the barbs on his outer forearm just to be safe.
"That's great that's really great." Cory said and he made physical contact with N'wu. "Lets introduce you to our children, you're a real hit with them."
N'wu waved goodbye, a common parting gesture, and was guided from the porch around the house to a large backyard where many children moved in seemingly chaotic fashion. A large banner reading "HAPPY BIRTHDAY MICHAEL" rose over the proceedings and many different colored balloons filled with air were tied to stakes in the ground, their purpose uncertain.
The children stopped what they were doing and stared. Some were brave enough to scamper over to him and they could not help but hesitantly poke at his leg and then quickly pull their hand back as if he would steal it. One girl handed him a girl balloon without a word and he accepted it. All eyes were on him and he suspected he was already stumbling over some strange custom they had not told him about and remained perfectly still, waiting for instruction.
The children watched and furrowed their brows and when nothing exciting happened they returned to their tag and other games of no mental exertion. The girl who had handed him the balloon remained and stared up into his eyes and he felt he had nothing to offer her. He looked to the banner then back to the girl.
"Do you know what birth is?"
She touched her lip and nodded, "It's where babies come from."
N'wu recalled all the information they had thrown at him in the days of prepartion in high orbit and he knew of the various states of a human and how it corresponded to his own species.
"Where do babies come from."
Her eyes went wide and she looked around then waved for him to lean down. She cupped her hands around her mouth and couldn't find an ear and enjoyed up whispering into his tuik.
"Mommies pee them out."
N'wu stood and looked to Cory who stood by the corner of the house and bared his teeth at him. N'wu thought humans were weak with their soft outer shell and their biology primitive but acceptable but now he saw them for what they really were: Disgusting.
thegloop imagines that the alien's arrival is a rather fortuitous coincidence (at least for the alien):
When I was young; nestled in the warm, fetid cavity of a soon-to-be-dead young man (Or was it a woman? Time and age play tricks on us at times and the meat-sack flesh all looks about the same), I dreamed. No one ever asks us what we dream, of our hopes and aspirations beyond our immediate base desires to consume and reproduce. Some think of us as merely unthinking killing machines. Unthinking? Perhaps it is they who are unthinking, unaware of our poetry and culture. I can assure you that we dream, for I did. I dreamt of a place I'd never been, a world I'd never seen, a place free from terror and pain. When I burst forth from my host, I had a singular mission: to find this place and destroy it. My desire was rooted not in my primal nature, but rather in my distain for this world, the audacity, the perversity of a place where death is so taboo. I must show them the truth of their insignificance, I thought. I must make them see that this feeling they call "joy" is but a mockery of the Universe's true purpose.
And then I arrived. Far from wreaking havoc, from putting the fear of the Universe into those non-believing meat-sack fools, I was greeted with laughter, with frivolity. They thought me a child's entertainment, a clown. They put multi-hued ribbon about my person and took turns taking photographs next to me whilst contorting in unlikely positions. Perhaps if I killed just one, I thought, perhaps then they would see the truth in the harsh glory of the Universe's judgment. But as I stood there in the sweltering sun, watching the young meat-sacks cavort and gorge themselves, I chanced to looked up and see their parents: bags beneath their liquor-glazed eyes, days-old food stains mashed into their sweat stained clothes, the look of utter desperation on their countenances, and a strange thing happened. Though my outward expression remained impassive, the lips on my inner-maw, that mouth I keep hidden, crept into an almost imperceptible smile. The Universe works in mysterious ways.
djtjj / Sam Wagner says he might expand this story in a bit, but it has an intriguing beginning:
Infiltrated Emma's birthday party.
No one suspects a thing.
demigogg1 imagines how the world's governments would respond:
The Air Force mobilized. Every available pilot, every attack jets in almost every nation, capable or not was getting ready.
The minor blip that showed up on the radar screens of every station, every airport turned out to be one of the most significant event in human history.
It was estimated at least 27 ships was traveling at high speeds, passing the orbit of Saturn around 7 AM Eastern Standard Time and approaching the planet Earth. Their velocity slowed tremendously as they passed Mars orbit.
They were estimated to arrive by noon.
The Pentagon was ablaze with phone calls from every world leader and military groups around the world. Former allies and present enemies shook hands and formed alliances of uneasy truce and unstable friendships.
By 11:30 the alien armada had arrived in orbit around the Earth. The nations below were in a panic launching every ship, and aiming every nuclear missiles as the invaders.
At 11:45 one lone ship broke formation and entered the atmosphere. 7 nations, including the United States, Great Britain, France, China and Russia responded with attack jets.
At 11:50 the lone ship met a fleet of jets over the Mid West of the United States. What should have been a grand aerial assault turned out to be a non-event as the one vessel easily evaded the primitive Earth vehicles and streaked at speeds impossible inside a planet's atmosphere.
In minutes the Pentagon was in a panic. Immediately several fleet of ships were redirected to protect Washington DC, but they shouldn't have bothered.
At 11:55 the ship slowed down as it passed over the states of Pennsylvania and New York and neared the city of Greenwich, Connecticut.
12 noon, the ship slowed and came to a stop over the house of one Sally Louise Henderson age 11. It was Sally's birthday and all her neighborhood friends and nearby relatives came for her party. The yard was festooned with pink and yellow streamers and balloons. Several tables were set out with punch, cake and presents. Her dad was busy with the grill making burgers and hotdogs to notice at first but someone screamed and he turned to look.
The dark arrows-shaped ship hovered over the woods next to the house. A portal opened and a dark figure could be seen framed by a bright light. He walked out of the ship and approached the party. Everybody froze. Aunt Julie fainted.
The alien walked slowly but directly and everybody got out of his way. What should have made everyone scream and run away was tempered by the fact that the huge hideous creature was carrying a box, wrapped in pink paper and tied with a silver ribbon. He walked to the table and placed it carefully next to the other presents.
As he turned to face the crowd, Sally Henderson herself ran up to the alien and hugged him.
"You came! You came just like you promised!"
"I wouldn't missed this for the universe..." a deep rumbling voice replied.
A few explanations later, something about Sally being lost in the camping trip last year, and a cracked insulation unit on the ship's fusion drive fixed by a teddy bear-shaped silver charm bracelet, the alien (named Barrooogam) sat down with the family for burger and cake.
The FBI agents had to wait until the party ended before they were allowed to talk to anybody.
In Chris Kluwe's story, "Innocence," the children are curious about the presence of the alien, but not distressed:
At first the children didn't know what to do. Was It a surprise from the adults? Some kind of ambulatory toy? Perhaps It was one of the new high tech biobots coming out of the Indo-Russ laboratories; demented magicians weaving together strands of DNA like Persian carpets of old.
Then they saw the balloon and suddenly it was a party again. Maggy was the first to approach, long brown curls swaying across dimpled cheeks, her plastic birthday crown slowly flashing "5" on and off.
"Can I, can I... balloon?" she questioned nervously, one hand stretched forward, fingers involuntarily opening and closing.
It smiled, needle teeth glinting in a Cheshire cat grin, and handed her the balloon, and oh what a balloon it was. A brilliant green body like the fronds of some exotic rainforest plant and adorned with "Happy Birthday" in a cheery black font, along with a knobbly brown string hanging off the perfectly tied knot; this balloon could very well have come straight from the first primordial birthday of life. "Play with me" it seemed to whisper, gently swaying back and forth. "Let me fill you with joy".
Maggy shrieked with excitement and ran back to the group of children, balloon bobbing along behind. "Balloon balloon balloon" she screamed, and suddenly everyone wanted to hold it or tug it up and down, grubby childish hands clasping the string and hugging the body. Shouts of laughter and delight rang across the room, and with each one the balloon grew imperceptibly larger; a slight swell here, an innocuous bulge there, the string becoming longer and sleeker.
Conner was the first to fall silent. The four year old simply sat down on the floor and stared numbly at his shoes, features downcast like someone had stolen his favorite toy. Several tears trickled down his face but he made no move to brush them away.
Ben was next. Like Conner, all expression left his face as he sank to his knees, gazing at the palms of his hands. What he saw there brought him no comfort, and soon he had curled up into a ball, slowly rocking back and forth, clutching his arms around his body as if for warmth.
A short time later it was over. Child after child fell silently to the ground in differing states of desolation, some in a sprawl, most huddled in on themselves as if they could use their bodies as a shield to block out whatever assailed their defenseless forms. Screams of joy had given way to the silence of the morgue; birthday decorations hung limply from the walls while a solitary fly buzzed around a now wilted cake. The only sign of life appeared to be the balloon floating in the center of the room, grotesquely bloated from its original size and writhing with barely sensed motion beneath its putridescent skin.
It finally moved, still grinning that terrible smile, and grabbed the scaly rat tail of the balloon, raising it slowly to Its mouth. Lower jaw distending like a snake, It slid the scabrous extension inside and a horrible slurping sound, interspersed with faint cries of glee, issued forth. Moments later the balloon was back to its original appearance and It slowly walked out of existence, fading, fading, until like turning off a screen of static It snapped to a point and disappeared.
"Maggy? Maggy, what's going on in there? Maggy?!"
crtalley imagines an uneasy, but ultimately happy, birthday:
Joseph frowned, I don't belong here, he thought.
He had just moved in and this was his first birthday party; he had moved from New Korea where birthday parties were not practiced, this was quite a culture shock.
He felt his accent separated from the rest of the kids, and was part of why he sat on the patio with the older kids and adults and his own mother, silent and trying to blend into the background, and failing.
His mother came over "I know you were expecting a lot more, but look, people came, so go and try to make friends"
"Butts are for pooping, not talking to your mother" she grinned.
He got up walked over wear they were starting a new game of hide and seek.
They seemed uneasy to let him join, but he was the birthday boy and seemed nice enough.
The game started and he rushed over in to the bushes that litter suburbia and got low and blended in.
"Get your own hiding space"
He turned back and saw a tall, light kitchen green exoskeleton, long pointed teeth in curl, his hearts fluttered, the game started and ended, but he didn't rejoin. He and her sat in the bush talking for awhile making best friends, before they left she promised to make this the best first birthday of his life.
At the end she had pulled through, friends gathered around, he was handed a bright green balloon and they started to sing happy birthday, he smiled. He was accepted.
ShirtBloke suggests that cross-cultural acceptance doesn't mean the alien isn't out to get you:
"Are you enjoying the party?" Sarah said to the alien.
"Yes, very much so.
We have similar celebrations on our world for our young.
I particularly liked the symbolic blowing out of the candles.
Which is your child?"
"That's my Peter, there with the red shirt.
He's such a sweetie."
The alien smiled.
"I haven't chosen mine yet.
I prefer something a little more savoury."
Jesse_Pluim outlines the hazards of brining your alien boss to your kid's birthday party:
I hated Glenn. God, did I hate Glenn. I hated his stupid spider body with its permanent I-don't-mean-to-be-a-stickler-but-please-take-a-shower expression permanently plastered to his surgically grafted panda head. So what if I don't shower, you smell like old chili, I wrote in my imaginary retort diary. He looked like a dumb novelty pet that a demented kid had glued together at a negligent zoo gift shop.
Who wouldn't want to work for a cute little Panda? He used to chuckle. I'll tell you who: me. Especially when its got eight legs stuffed awkwardly into a cauliflower yellow company polo that had its sleeves sewn shut to make two handy lunch pockets. Not like my lunch pockets, a grocery bag sewn into the crotch of my khakis.
In general, my problem was that Glenn didn't know how to be a good boss. A good boss needs to be smart enough to know when to take responsibility for his employees mistakes but dumb enough not to ask questions about the cocaine lines on my daily planner. Any daily planner for that matter. But the company thought this type of free wheeling logic and reason was no substitution for authority, and, here I am, stuck having to hold the fire exit for this idiot.
"Why don't you try to kill him?" Asked a talking cough syrup bottle.
"Don't you think I've thought of that?! I've tried every poison I could get my hands on. All he says is ‘oh, your Earth cuisine tastes like an intercultural learning experience'. Then the rest of the office laughs and I'm stuck holding an empty strychnine bottle. I'm the one that put it in the quiche. Those should have been my laughs! One time I waited on the roof and threw rocks at him when he walked out to his car and he didn't even say a word!"
"He's immune to rocks?"
"Not exactly. He didn't say anything because the first one hit him in the mouth. It was swelled shut for weeks."
I was desperate, at the end of my rope, at the final cul-de-sac. I was willing to try anything. It was time for action. Plus, the cough syrup was gone. What else was I going to do?
I needed to bring him to my turf, somewhere where I called the shots.
My ex-wife was throwing a birthday for some kid we had together. She says it's not mine, but I saw the kid feed pennies to a cat one time and that totally sounds like my M.O.. You can't argue with genetics. Just try it. Go ahead, rube.
I made up an invitation with a picture of a choking cat (really, that's the only thing the kid is into these days) and passed it on to Glenn. Something at the party surely had to trigger some kind of reaction. Maybe he was allergic to cake or clowns or my ex-wife yelling about some court order. I know I am. It was worth a try.
On the day, I wrapped an ash tray in newspaper for the kid and rolled up at Glenn's condo in my Sebring convertible before noon. Sober AND with pants on. Let's see her try to kick me out now.
"Beautiful day isn't it? Hey, did you catch the Giants game last night? That Lincecum is one hell of a hurler," Glenn said.
While he talked baseball, I imagined myself on an empty ridge overlooking a herd of Glenns grazing in the clearing about 200 yards from the tree line. I squatted with a big hunting rifle and felt it in my shoulder. BANG! The smell of grease and powder and, later, a little alien blood.
"Yes," I gritted my teeth after a long pause, "I too think root beer is the best soda."
"What? No, I was talking ab-"
"Shut up, we're almost there."
We weren't almost there. In fact, we had another two hours, but this shut him up anyway. Point: me.
I pulled up to the apartment just as the party was kicking off. I grabbed my ashtray, told Glenn not worry, and started to cackle. Maybe I cackled for too long because Glenn was starting to get nervous. I don't know. How long a cackle is too long a cackle? These are the things they don't teach in public school.
I knocked on the door and some guy with a Dr. Who t-shirt and the cargo shorts of a regional xBox champion answered.
"I'm here for the party," I said.
"And who are you?"
"Oh that? That's Glenn. Don't worry about him. He may look weird, but he's … he's … good … people."
It was the hardest sentence I have ever said.
"What?! Are you going to just leave Glenn out here in the cold?! What kind of party is this?!"
Never answer anyone's questions. Ever. If anyone ever asks you a question, throw an alien at them. That or pull out a butterfly knife. Both seem to shut them up the same.
I pushed Glenn in and forced myself behind him. The kids were all gathered in the living room playing some bullshit game with a horse. Show time.
"Hey everybody! This is Glenn! He wants to meet all you! You, dirty kid, come give Glenn a hug!" I shouted. I'm pretty good at shouting. You wouldn't know it by looking at me, but I win arguments at liquor stores that way all the time.
None of the kids moved. I picked one out that kind of looked like me and tossed him the wrapped up ashtray.
"Huh?! It's Glenn guys! Everybody…" I choked, "Everybody… loves … Glenn."
That was the second hardest sentence I have ever said.
"What the hell are you doing here?!" A shrill cloud of cigarette smoke that I recognized as my ex-wife screeched.
"I think we should go," Glenn said quietly.
"Shut up, will you? You're a guest here. That's how it works on Earth," I loudly whispered to him.
"The judge said-" She continued.
"Yeah, the judge said a lot of things. Things like ‘not allowed' and ‘100 feet' and ‘what is that smell', but those are just words, Christine. Words said by a judge." I looked for a distraction, "But … but this is Glenn!" I grabbed him by the lunch pockets and yanked him forward. "He doesn't know our strange Earth laws," I chortled, "ha ha, Glenn you silly, why did you bring me here? Isn't this awkward?"
"I'm calling the cops and if you don't leave now I'll have Terry throw you out!" She pointed to the dork in the cargo shorts.
"Fine Christine! If that's the way you want to handle this honest mix-up, so be it. But I hope you'll know that you've been extremely rude to our alien guest here."
I left, but before I did, I grabbed a handful of cake and smeared all over Glenn's dumb panda face. No dice. It was worth a try.
The door slammed behind us and I heard the children cheering and laughing. Laughing and cheering. They were so happy.
"I guess that's it Glenn. How are you getting home?"
Glenn didn't answer. I reeled around to see him on the floor gripping at his thorax.
"What is it, Glenn? Was it the cake?" I asked proudly.
"The children," he struggled to get words out, "They are … so … happy. Their laughter … Please … I can't take it." He rolled on to his back.
"You want me to go tell a bunch of kids to shut their stupid mouths? Is that what you're saying, Glenn? You are one evil bastard."
"Their … laughter. I can't …" He collapsed on the floor. Dead. I kicked him a few times to make sure, checked the hallway, stole his wallet, and booked it back to the Sebring.
Everybody missed Glenn. I didn't. Work was much easier after that. Finally, I could get back to the business of swindling tribes out of old cemeteries in peace. Man, are those oil speculators going to be happy now.
Who would have thought that all this time his only weakness was the laughter of children. Well there's a new wikipedia article in my cap.
Nick Witsel imagines the subsequent police interview:
August, 12, 1956
We got a call from a Martin Phillip, a husband living with his wife and child at Evens Avenue 12, that a certain "alien lifeform" had come to visit his daughter's birthday party. He claimed he (the alien) was something "unlike he had ever seen before, but that he didn't pose any serious threat." Initially we took it for a crank call, but a few minutes later we were started getting multiple reports from pedestrians claiming to have spotted a strange figure in Mr. Phillip's back yard.
We sent an officer on patrol to investigate, and as expected, Mr. Martian had already left. How convenient. Nevertheless, my superiors insisted that we interviewed both the Phillip family and the other residents who were at the party.
Interview with Martin Phillip, 08:12 PM 8-12-1956
"So let's start at the beginning Mr. Phillip. It was your daughter's birthday party. Somewhere near noon right?"
"Yes, that's correct yes. Me and Susan, we, we were busy preparing the cake y'see. I think it was just over twelve."
"I see, what happened then?"
"Lisa, she came inside and… She told us about… -whispers- about her imaginary friend."
"How old is Lisa again?"
"She just got ten, ten years old, boy they grow fast don't they sheriff?"
"Yes, kids tend to do that. Now, how long had she been seeing this imaginary friend of hears?
"Well, she's had quite a few."
"Yes, they came and went as she grew up. Uh, I think this one was called Mr. Green."
"Because of his green color I take it?"
"Yeah, she always said he was this alien from another world and all, you know? Kids these days…"
"What did Lisa tell you about her imaginary friend?"
"Well, she told us he had just arrived in the back yard with a big present for her."
"So me and Susan, we… We thought it was some kind of joke you know?"
"Relax Mr. Phillip. What happened then?"
"So I told Susan to stay inside, the cake was nearly done you see. You can't spoil the birthday cake. So I went outside…and there he stood."
"Mr. Phillip, would you mind describing what it was you saw?"
"Mr. Green was standing in the backyard surrounded by all of Lisa's friends. He was holding a balloon too! I think it said Happy Birthday."
"Would you mind describing this Mr. Green for me Mr. Phillip?"
"Well…he looked like nothing I had ever seen before."
"And he was he green?"
"Yes, but not the type of green I had imagined, it was a lot darker, it reflected his emotional turmoil."
"I see… and how tall was he?"
"About as tall as you or me."
"And his build?"
"I don't know, I'm sorry sherrif."
"That's okay Mr. Phillip, it's not like you're the first. So what did this Mr. Green do exactly?
"Nothing really, he was a little apprehensive at first. He just stood there like a statue. The kids liked his jokes. But I thought he wasn't all that convincing though."
"He wasn't all that convincing?"
"Not really. His facial expressions weren't very present."
"And why was that?"
"Well he didn't really have a face to speak off. His eyes weren't telling me much either, I should've ordered the clown."
"Okay… so what did you say to him?"
I offered him something to drink, which was met with resistance. Then Lisa told me he couldn't eat or drink any of our food and drinks because he wasn't an amino-acid-based-lifeform."
"Lisa then told me a bunch of other complicated science stuff; kids sure know a lot these days!"
"I see. Anything else?"
"So what happened to Mr. Green?"
"I think he left, like the rest of the kids."
"And what about this present of his?"
"Oh that's right! He had this ship and all, and then he ordered his automatons to get one of his containers, and that was the present for Lisa!"
"Okay… what happened then?"
"So the automatons, they came out of his ship carrying this big container. Mr Green deeply regretted he couldn't immerse the container within a paper package."
"He told you that?"
"Nah, I just kinda knew, that's all. So the container opened and…"
Mister Phillip falls silent.
"Yes, Mr. Phillip?"
"I'm sorry to ask but, what am I doing here?"
"-Sigh- Nothing, Mr Phillip; nothing of importance to you it seems."
"Right, can I go?"
"Of course, oh and be sure to send Mr Green my most sincere regards."
"Who's Mr Green?"
"It…it doesn't matter anymore, enjoy your evening Mr. Phillip."
Faz.Alam thinks we're all looking in the wrong place:
No-one ever suspected that the real alien was in fact the balloon.
If they had, the life of a truly exceptional cosplayer could have been saved.
ExAnimal also finds the balloon especially important, but for different reasons:
The alien was confused. 3 days it had been on this planet harvesting the creatures for food to take back home. 3 days it had slaughtered the wild animals and carefully processed their meat for mass teleport. 3 days it had been attacked by all of those creatures. It was to be expected. Some of them were more sophisticated than others. They even used tools that spouted fire or sent shards of metal flying towards it. They weren't the most advanced livestock the alien had ever come across but then that was why it had been sent alone. Harvesters were sent at a minimum for the work expected – efficiency was everything and these creatures were easy to kill and process.
However, something very strange had just happened. Some of the young (who the alien did not kill to ensure there was a future population to harvest) had approached the alien. In all other species, the newborn ran. It was a logical survival instinct and those without it should have perished. Instead, they had run towards the alien and presented it with what it assumed their primitive minds thought were gifts. One was a small bubble of helium, kept separate from the atmosphere in an opaque piece of thin rubber. The alien had never come across such a thing before.
Helium was teleportation fuel and incredibly valuable. Why would primitive creatures keep it and why would they store it in something so fragile. The alien held the bubble by its cord and stood puzzled. The young creatures grinned and ran to supply the alien with more and more helium bubbles. It was astounded. It had expected to find helium only after subduing the animal population; certainly it had not expected to be presented with it. Perhaps the animals were foolish enough to attempt to appease the alien. How strange that they would know the exact element it wanted and yet not be capable of using it themselves.
The alien was handed more and more helium bubbles. This would be a particularly successful harvest if the creatures saved it the time of gathering the helium by itself. Above all, this would be much more efficient. Slowly the alien began to rise away from the planet's surface. The large number of bubbles had made his overall density less than that of the atmosphere. The alien considered its composition.
Like all species it had encountered, the alien needed oxygen to breathe. It looked downwards, realising that the teleporter was still on the surface. It began to think more carefully. Losing the helium was not an option. If it escaped into the upper atmosphere, it would be almost impossible to reclaim. The alien accelerated upwards and began to struggle to breathe. Never had it come across such a situation on a harvest and it was completely lost. As breathing became more difficult, so did its thought process. It almost grasped a solution but that slipped away from it in a series of gasps. Every muscle in the alien tightened as it died, further securing its grip on the balloons.
Days later, the balloons started to pop in the upper atmosphere, where the air was thinner. The alien eventually fell back down to the earth, now just a corpse. Most of it burned up in the descent but what was left was quickly recovered by scientists, along with the teleporter it had left behind. No information of what had happened to the alien was sent back to its home-world and no alien ever came to investigate. There were many other worlds out there waiting to be harvested and the food shortage would not go away because of one lost harvester. Resources were everything and further research on a potentially dangerous planet would just be inefficient.
GeorgeDW casts the alien as the birthday girl:
"Look-look! A car!" Helen shouted out. "You guys, come look!" The other children bounced up from the carpet where they were watching Nina open her presents - a friendship holobracelet from Astor; certificate for ballet lessons from Helen; pet Unkillable Grook from her mom - to see the jet-black government car fall from the sky and gently settle on the lawn. The door (stenciled "UN Xeno Forces - Defeating Our Common Enemy") swung open to reveal three figures in battle carapace.
"What is it, kids?" Helen's mom called as she emerged from the kitchen, helping Nina's mom carry the cake.
"A car, a Yoo Enn car," Helen chittered, poking Nina above her eating mouth. "Betcha it's for your mom, Nina!"
The doorbell rang. "Why don't you see who it is, Nngyngngh," Nina's mom said.
Nina looked at Helen. "Ok," she said. The kids streamed out the door, Helen and Nina first, then Cody, Astor, and Suzy in their wake. On the grass, Helen prodded Nina forward as the soldiers stepped out.
"Hello there, little lady," one said. "What's your name?"
Nina, struck mute, looked at the ground. Helen answered for her. "Hiya Mister Yoo Enn, her name's Nina and she's five, it's her birthday today, are you here to see her mom, I figured you was um cause they're aliens..."
The soldier who'd spoken nodded and looked at Nina. "Actually we're here to see you, Nina, age five. We've brought you a birthday present. Can you guess what it is?"
Nina shook her head sharply, still too terrified to speak. Behind her, the screen door clicked softly shut as the mothers stepped out onto the porch.
"Hi Nina," the soldier in back stepped forward. "I guess I'm your present. Do you know who I am?"
Nina looked straight up at him. The soldier peeled off his helmet. "Recognize me?"
The little girl's mouthparts trembled. Her mom knelt down, put a hand on her shoulder, and whispered in her ear. "It's Daddy, Nina. Daddy's back from the war."
Nina shrieked so loud her vocoder feedbacked and the humans had to cover their ears, and leaped right up into the soldier's arms. He laughed, swinging her around in the air. "Happy birthday, Nina," he said. "Happy birthday."
In omarsakr's story, "I Do Not Want To Be Vaporised," a child and an alien make a cross-cultural connection:
"What's your name?"
Bo looked at the little human and pondered the question. The concept of a ‘name' was still new to him. Should he answer simply with what he was called now or more truthfully? There was no guarantee it would understand, of course.
"Your name! You have to answer me. It's my birthday," it declared, stamping a foot. It had mistaken his thoughtful pause for a refusal to answer. He glanced at it uneasily, it spoke with the authority of a Star Lord.
He did not want to be vaporised. "We do not have names, not really, not like you," he said.
"No name?" it whispered, eyes wide as saucers.
It had taken some getting used to but after some observation, it was clear to whom the power belonged on this planet. The little humans shouted and screamed and their bigger, slower kind responded as best they could. He could not understand it but he thought perhaps they had developed mental strengths that outweighed their physical disadvantage.
Their had been no evidence of it yet, besides a seemingly unnecessary bent toward cruelty to others, still he hastened to clarify, lest he offend.
"We share our senses, to a degree. When one meets another –" not likely now, that is a thing of the past. He shuddered away from that thought. "When one meets another you receive from them a sensation. Yes, that is what you would call it. A feeling, comprised of scent, sight, and sound. It is a summation of who they are at that present time, a reflection of a moment with which they associate most strongly. So you see, our…names, if you would call it that, change. Who I am now is not who I am tomorrow or who I will be."
"I heard Daddy call you Bo."
"This is a thing I am being called, yes." He would have to be careful. Always, he misjudged what these little ones knew.
Its little face screwed up, in confusion or pain or rage he knew not. He shifted, preparing to try and defend himself against the blast that might come. "But if you don't want to be called Bo… what do you want to be called?"
He stared at it. It was a master tactician he faced, to so keep him off his guard. How could he Send himself to her now, using only these vocal sounds, these words they so cherished? Perhaps he should try, and see what came of it. Precious little communication had occurred with the little ones to date and its superior mental faculties might very well be able to see clearly where others had failed.
He looked inward; he was rusty to have to take so long. Normally one would hold a Sending in mind, a constantly shifting permutation of Self, ready to offer to others at all times. The first thing that came to him was the scent, the smell of dusk, of darkness and water, of home; overlaid was the sound of engines, breaking, burning and the sight of a pod hurtling between stars. He was speaking too, he realised. "I am Home and I am not. I am a mote on cosmic winds, adrift, lost, alone. None to follow, none can. I am all and I am one."
"You're Sad." It looked down at its pink feet.
"Yes. That is my name." He needed a thousand words, a hundred images, a cacophony of sound but this human needed just the one word. He had much to learn here.
"And what is my name?" it said now, looking up at him. Nothing kept it dejected for very long. He looked up at the light that burnished this world, at the misty, flowing clouds and their shifting shadows then back to the human, so pale it reflected the star.
"In a word? Starlight."
It giggled. "I want to be a Daffodil!" it said, stomped its feet and ran away.
He had offended it yet again, it seemed, or perhaps not. The little ones bemused him. But he had managed to avoid being vaporised and so kept the hope of his people alive. "Happy Birth Day, Daffodil," he said and turned away before he could be assaulted again.
CoxHunpfrey imagines gives the alien birthday boy an unexpected backstory:
Observation record #714-26
David-714 turned 5 today, making him the longest surviving iteration of the 1246 productions. At the time of this recording 714's body appears to be good health. The crystalline epidermis regrowth is now stabilized since his first shedding three months ago. The connective tissues are in good conditions. The organs are fully functional, which is a good indication of the cellular restructuring coming to completion.
The party was a success. 714 seems to be genuinely excited for the first time. As expected, he now have no recollection of his former life as a human, and is now fully convinced with his origin as a member of an alien species. It seems that neuroreceptor restructuring, however painful, is the most effective way in erasing his memory. It had to be done, if we ever want his genetic memory to kick in. The kids helped too. It was unsettling, that no one seemed to be affected by 714's metamorphosis. Humanity, as it seems, is the first thing they lose in their lives. I think the kids know precisely what was going to happen the day that they were born. They probably don't understand what it means, but they know. Does this mean they know about 623? 29? Even Jimmy?
I understand that recreating a dead species is hard work. I get that. But I think none of us realized what the true cost of this operation is, especially on a personal level. Dr. Kafka left the project, right after the party. I hope she can find a better future back on Earth, so she can leave this all behind. I guess the only thing we can do at this point is keep telling ourselves that this is all for a greater good.
Department of Mental Health and Development
In Sandy Mackenzie's story, the human children force aliens to participate in some uncomfortable (for the aliens, at least) birthday rituals:
"I don't understand," said Cold Mind in an Unforgiving Furnace. "What's it for?"
"It's for you, Mr Furnace!" said Jessamy. "It's yours. It belongs to you."
"We're giving it to you!" said Jake.
"But in exchange for what?"
"Nothing. It's your birthday!" said Annie.
"What's a birthday?"
"It's when the planet returns to the same position around the sun that it was when you were born," said Matthew, precociously.
"But I wasn't born. I hatched from inside my host's skull... it wasn't very nice..."
"That doesn't matter. We found out from your Mom when it was and your planet's in the same position now as it was then. Hence - birthday!" said Astrid. "She was weird, by the way."
"You spoke to Electric Monstrosity that Destroyed and Replaced the Old Way?!" said Cold Mind in an Unforgiving Furnace. "She said she was my mother?"
"Well, it's, um, an unconventional process, but what else would you call her?" said Matthew.
"I see," said cold Mind in an Unforgiving Furnace. "I suppose you're right. So, birthdays. What happens?"
"You enjoy yourself. You have fun!" said Kevin.
Cold Mind in an Unforgiving Furnace stared at the apparently meaningless object.
"With this?" he said. "How?"
"Well, you know," said Naomi. "It's pretty."
"And it floats!" said Mary.
"It means we love you," explained Helena.
Cold Mind in an Unforgiving Furnace was completely silent for several potent moments.
"Oh. It's... it's symbolic. I see. Thank you. Thank you."
Little trickles of clear fluid leaked from rows of spiracles along his jaw.
"What's that?" asked Matthew, noticing them. "Are you okay?"
"Yes. I am okay," said Cold Mind in an Unforgiving Furnace.
There was a beeping noise from the birthday cake.
"Oh!" said Olive. "It's her! It's your Mom."
"We put a communicator in the cake. It was going to be a suprise when you ate it. She was going to say happy birthday."
"But she doesn't know what a birthday is either."
"We told her. Why didn't she wait? I'll dig it out," said Martha, and she got to work with a spatula. Pretty soon she had it free.
"Here you go," she said, brushing cake-crumbs off the little silvery device. "Oh. You can eat cake, can't you? The crumbs won't be poisonous or anything?"
"No. Let's see what she wants..."
He lifted the device to one of the ears on the left side of his head.
"My mind-twin's hatched!" he exclaimed. "Finally! She took ages. She wants to know what I want to call it."
"A birthday present! What are you going to call it?" shouted everybody. "Tell us, tell us, tell us!"
"I think... I think I'll call him Green Sphere that defies Gravity," he said. "I'll let her know..."
He chattered in a high-pitched warble into the communicator, occasionally appearing agitated.
"There. That's done," he said as clicked the communicator off.
"Was something wrong?" asked Elizabeth.
"She got confused. The name's quite close to the name we have for Earth."
"What's that?" asked the children, with wide eyes.
"Green Sphere that Defies Gravitas."