[How the war on Boris began…]
Boris crept towards her. She hunched over, back draped with a tattered shawl, picking rotting peel from the over-flowing garbage tin. Boris eyed the bundle of hessian rags and wrinkled flesh. She’s useless. Who would want her? She’s way past child-bearing age. Surprised someone hasn’t eaten her already. Old females were a specialty on his world, his favourite—boiled. Although he must admit, he’d never pass up the offer of a baby, cooked fresh out of the womb. Boris wiped the acid dripping from his crusty lips, and scuttled closer to his victim. With his probe he stung this brown heap in the round of her back and she melted into a pool of oil. Boris extended his hollow proboscis and sucked the puddle, all of her black fluid on the pavement.
Boris thrust forward his abdomen swelled with this snack, and waddled past his fellow Bytrodes. They smiled at him and nodded. ‘Well, done!’ ‘Ridding the world of waste.’ ‘I wish I had your guts.’
Boris grinned and with his surround optical vision guarded his armoured back as they moved behind him. No fellow Bytrode can be trusted.
Then Boris burped, lifted the flaps in his spine and unfurled his wings. A potent gust of gas enabled him to lift into the air and ferry through the ruined structures, once ziggurats with lofty peaks that vanished into the clouds, now a pile of broken stones. On a mountain over-looking a river of septic waste, his palace gleamed gold and white; his reward built on the shells of his competitors and any other Bytrode that got in the way.
Flying spent the fuel that was the old woman, and hunger gnawed at his ribs. He spied a neighbour, Gavin basking on the roof of a satellite wreck close to the foamy shore. He plopped onto the carcass of yesterday’s breakfast, and sidled up to Gavin’s shiny black back. The heat of the aluminium roof stung his many feet, so he stood on the tips of his pointy toes.
‘Do you want a little something to help you on your trip?’ Boris purred.
His fellow rotated his bald head. ‘Sure. What have you got?’
Boris reached into the pocket of his armour and pulled out a plastic bag of white powder. ‘Here, try some. It’s fresh and clean.’
‘Thanks.’ With whiskers twitching, Gavin positioned his snout over the bag and absorbed the contents.
‘There, that will make you happy.’ Boris chuckled. ‘And me.’
Boris drooled and waited as the goo that was Gavin fried on the metal in the searing afternoon sun. At the crisp and bubbly point, Boris reached underneath the wreck, and pulled out a plastic spatula. ‘Ah! Neighbour biscuit!’ His tentacles wriggled as he snapped off a piece and munched. ‘A fitting entrée to dessert and the object of my lust—Maggie. A perfect end to a delicious day.’
Boris climbed the mountain of victim waste his shell splayed as a force field to protect against the attack of scavengers. His belly bloated, and home too close to wing it, he lumbered up the hillside of rotting corpses to his castle, his numerous eyes like surveillance cameras scanning for any movement of the enemy pretending to be dead. A hiss. Boris’ froze, antennae vibrating. In the crimson rays of the setting sun, a shell rose defiant. Boris charged his weapon arm and fired a stream of fusion energy. Pff! Ash of foe added to the mountain.
Boris folded his weapon prong into his scales, and exhaling, curled into a ball of hard silicon, rolled the final leg of his journey home. At the titanium steel door, he unfurled his body and then tapped the musical security code, using six of his eight legs. The door Bytrode-body thick with reinforced steel and telephone directories, creaked open.
‘Were you successful, my lust?’ Maggie projected her thoughts to Boris. Her shell glowed auburn, as she flicked her long scales and caressed Boris’ aura.
‘Yep,’ he said waddling past her, and then brushing against her waiting claws. He sailed to his throne, the recliner rocker, inherited from yesterday’s breakfast, and planted his thorax on the leather seat. While his peripheral vision traced his female’s scuttling steps to his side, he aimed his proboscis at the shag-pile rug and regurgitated the mashed contents of his stomach, decorating the cream shag with a lumpy pool of umber.
Boris burped. ‘Gavin.’
‘That’s nice, dear. Never did like him,’ Maggie said. She extended her trunk, groping and fusing with his. She dug her hooks into his scales.
Boris quivered as the fermented juice of last cycle’s enemy pumped into his gullet. ‘Ah! Tyrone! That was a good victim.’ Swelling with victory, power and the ether of Tyrone’s spent life-force, he thrust his favourite female onto the shag-pile and Gavin goo, his thoughts and intent on more pleasurable pursuits than feasting.
‘Boris, dear…’ Maggie retracted her spikes and slid from under him.
Splat! Boris’ raw flesh grated on the shag fibres, while is face kissed the blow-fly flecked stew that was Gavin. He lifted his head and sucked in a fly-flavoured morsel. ‘What?’
Maggie’s antennae twitched. ‘We have a visitor.’
Boris straightened up and smoothed his scales. ‘Why didn’t you say something before?’ His abdomen purred with the delicious thought of food killed and prepared by his be-lusted.
‘I was overcome by the moment, I suppose.’ Maggie picked at the bugs in the shag-pile stew. ‘He’s an alien, from a far-away planet.’
‘Mmm! Even better!’ Boris rubbed his stomach. ‘I haven’t had an alien in ages. Where is he? In the kitchen boiling?’ He used his eyes to zoom his focus into the kitchen.
‘But, dear, the lust of my life,’ Maggie said, her voice warbling, ‘this alien is different. You can’t eat this one. I won’t let you.’
Boris’ scales bristled. ‘What? You can’t stop me! I eat everyone.’
A slug-like creature twice the size of Boris, who was big by Bytrodian standards, emerged from the hallway and filled the living room. Boris studied the biped from the antennae-free head that scaped the ceiling, to his massive extensions of legs that disgraced the rug.
‘Okay, I guess it would be a challenge,’ Boris said, ‘although I’d like to know how he got this far without being harmed. He’s got no shell.’
‘Insect spray,’ the biped conveyed while making sounds through one of the holes in his face. Then with one of two hands, he covered this pink face hole and made low pitched grunting noises.
Boris and Maggie stared at the alien, their eye whiskers twitching.
‘Oh, pardon me,’ the alien said through his thoughts and vibration of the airwaves. He extended a thick rope-like limb to Boris. ‘I’m Joshua, by the way. I’m from the planet Earth.’
Maggie clasped her middle legs together and shimmered with an orange hue. ‘Oh! How wonderful! We’ve never had someone from Earth for dinner before.’
‘So you mean you’ve changed your mind, my dear Maggie?’ Boris beamed red as he stroked Joshua’s jelly-like hand and sniffed his salty skin.
‘No!’ Maggie snapped. ‘Why do you have to kill and eat everyone, Boris?’
Joshua tore his hand from Boris’ claw. He rubbed the scratches and wiped scarlet ooze on his white robe.
‘I’m a Bytrode, that’s what I do,’ Boris said, splaying his wings and then prancing around the room. ‘I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t trod on a few shells.’
‘But I’ve been talking with Joshua and he’s shown me another way, a better way to live.’ Maggie scuttled over the rug and Gavin puddle to her mate. ‘If we could be friends, and stop destroying each other.’
Filing his external fangs Boris fixed his beady eyes on this over-sized amoeba. ‘Friends? And end up like Gavin here? What planet are you from?’
‘A better one than yours. Seems like this one’s messed up,’ the alien said as he pointed a stubby tentacle through the window at the wasteland of crumbling shells, and the screams of Bytrode souls in conflict.
Boris planted his six hands on his scaled sides, his limbs akimbo. ‘Well, if you don’t like it, you can go back to where you come from.’ He wished this creature would stay, just long enough for him to execute a plan to over-power him, chop him up, bag him and store him in the freezer.
‘But dear, we can learn from this Earth-being.’ Maggie licked Boris’ feet. ‘He’s from the other side of the galaxy. Surely that must count for something in getting ahead.’
Boris rolled his thousand mini eyes. ‘Very well, then. He can stay in the garage.’ He rubbed his abdomen, and in a part of his mind blocked from scrutiny, rearranged the shelf space to fit bags full of Joshua flesh; so much of it, keep them going for weeks. He purred in anticipation.
Days passed and the promise of barbequed Joshua eluded Boris. Worse, he sensed Maggie slipping from him, enticed by the weird teachings of the man with no shell. By the third day Boris curled up on his nest of droppings, sucking his top claw and sulking. Now, that Earth creature had a following, a rag tag clutch of disciples and had the audacity to preach from the front steps of his castle. Thoughts of love, peace, law and order filtered through the atmosphere. Boris folded his antennae under his helmet attempting to block out the infectious purity. Still the cleansing vibrations penetrated. Boris’ intestines boiled with rage. He rose from his bed and then slamming the door, marched through his home to the porch.
His whiskers recoiled at the radiating goodness. ‘No! Get out of my life!’ He stomped his needle feet on the ‘Go Away’ mat.
The monolith of pale flesh turned and reached out to him. ‘Please turn over your life, Boris. If we start now, your world will be a much better place to live. If you keep on killing and destroying, you’ll end up—alone.’
Boris bristled. He turned, his armour facing the crowd. ‘Don’t care. At least I’ll be free to do whatever I please.’ A dragonfly skimmed the water of the fishpond filled from last night’s rain. Boris shuddered.
Maggie tapped Boris’ hull. ‘Please, love! Listen!’
‘No!’ Boris spun round and with a wing stiff, hit Maggie hard so that she curled into a ball and bounced down the steps. As she straightened, he raised his weapon-arm.
Joshua stepped in front of him, blocking his aim. ‘What are you doing? Do you not love her?’
‘Pah! Never did.’ Boris pumped venom into Joshua’s unguarded chest.
The giant creature sunk to his knees and groaned.
Boris waved his proboscis. ‘You don’t know how long I’ve been waiting to do that.’ The disciples recoiled, and scattered.
‘Three days. He’s only been with us—’ Maggie raced to the prostrate Earth-being. She held his bulbous head while his gasped. ‘What have you done, Boris?’ She looked up at him, her antennae twisting into an anguished knot.
He poised his needle-like mouth over the creature’s supple neck. ‘Only what must be done to survive.’
‘Kill me if you have to, but—’ the alien rasped, ‘—whatever you do, don’t touch my ship.’
‘You have a ship? Hmm?’ Boris said, his fangs twitched at the prospect of a crew full of large, tender, succulent prey.
‘Well, of course he has. How do you think he got here?’ Maggie combed Joshua’s fine white hairs. ‘But he said not to touch it, so—’
‘Shut up, female!’ Boris aimed and vaporized Maggie. He flapped his wings and cleared the cloud of particles from his prize, the alien. Sharpening his pincers, he examined the limp neck and shiny skin begging to be consumed. He lanced his fangs into the soft neck and chomped through the layers of skin, gristle and bone. By midnight, with his belly distended over his lower legs, Boris packed the last of the sealed bags of Joshua in the freezer. He gazed at his handy work stacked on the shelves and sighed. Then he nudged the door closed.
He patted his stomach and farted. ‘Well, nothing like the present. Before they get wind of it. And besides, I’m all fuelled up.’
Boris spread his wings and soared into the atmosphere. He banked higher, above the clouds lined silver with the moon. He closed the vents in his shell as he rose up into the icy stratosphere. The air thinned, not that it mattered to Boris as he didn’t breathe much anyway. He looked down, his home town merged with the continent. He sailed with the solar winds, drifting with the rotation of the planet as he hunted for the alien ship. A speck glittered at the point where the curve of his world met the black of space. Boris powered up his rear booster rockets and charged towards the glint. As he approached the triangular-shaped chunk of metal, he magnetized his feet and plopped onto the frigid surface of the dark side. He set his weapon spike to maximum and cut into the hull.
Sharp spasms quaked from the surface through Boris’ legs. A shot of electricity jerked through his exoskeleton. ‘O-oh!’ Boris retracted the magnets and darted away. Boom! A wave of energy hurled him into space, rolling, flying, knocking against fragments of ship, and reeling like space junk towards the moon. As a ball he plopped into a lake padded with dust. He straightened his body and watched as his world glowed red and vascular with lava and in silence caved in on itself into a lump of coal.
Alone Boris orbited the moon, scanning the pock-marked surface. ‘There has to be a space station here somewhere. And when I find it, and get me a space craft, I’m going for Earth. That Joshua and his kind are not going to get away with what they’ve done.’ He watched his sun dim for a second. He knew he did not have much time.
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2016; updated 2021
Feature Painting: The Choice © L.M. Kling 2016
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