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Mantid (1990)

Mantid (1990)

©1990, 2013 by Dallas Denny

Source: Dallas Denny. (199o). Mantid. Unpublished short story.

I wrote this for my first assignment in a speculative fiction class. The assignment was to write a short story about an alien trapped on Earth. Most of the stories started like this: “The spacecraft hurtled toward earth, buffeting its passengers…” Mine didn’t, and the teacher loved me for it.





A Short Story

By Dallas Denny


It wasn’t that Earth was such a backwater. Earth had, after all, some of the best recreational drugs in the known universe, and the highly stylized antics of what passed for intelligent inhabitants were a source of perpetual amusement for the idle rich of the Hundred Hypercivilized Planets. It was just that she was stuck here, and she was hungry. But if one had to be on Earth, Atlanta’s fashionable Buckhead section was as good a place to be as any. She could have been marooned in Kansas, for Christsakes, or in Auckland, New Zealand, or in that wretched bistro on Boulevard St. Michel on the Left Bank.

She didn’t like to think about Paris. It was where she had surrendered her last fertile egg to someone who had misrepresented not only his intentions, but his species. Damn! She missed that egg. It had been the last hope of reproducing herself.

She had nursed the egg for a long, long time. It had been safely tucked in her pouch when Atlanta was just a wide spot on the Chattahoochee River. When Istanbul had still been called Constantinople. When the Picts were still—well, it seemed that long, anyway, to someone 29 years old and barren. She had carried it for several years, hoping for just the right mate. And now it was gone—fried, for all she knew.

Danny the bartender approached, swinging his hair from the left to the right with a regal gesture and looking disapprovingly at Mada’s drink. “Nursing it again, I see.” He drew her a fresh one.

“It’s just not the same,” she said glumly, lifting her glass and shaking it a bit to make it bubble. It was a novel idea, dissolving carbon dioxide in water and sealing it in pressurized containers. Such apparent idiocy, yet somehow it worked. She wasn’t alone in her love for the little green bottles. They were phenomenally popular on the Hundred Hypercivilized, since the methane breathers were easily intoxicated by C02. Its recent scarcity had caused a state of near-panic on Hyperhelion, a city famous for its gas bars, and had indirectly caused her present predicament.

Thinking she could make some chump change by picking up a supply and dealing water at high prices to her friends, Mada had started for the source as soon as she had heard the news that most of the HyperHundred’s supply was contaminated. Unfortunately, she now realized, her own twenty bottle per day habit may have clouded her judgment. A series of mishaps had left her without transportation or money. She had no real idea how she was going to get home.

Mada had a good idea how the Perrier had gotten contaminated. Karzac and his entourage, recently on-planet to see what this Grateful Dead phenomenon was all about, had toured the bottling plant, and some of them—the phenol-eaters, mostly—were benzene-pissers. Karzac himself wouldn’t have been above it. Karzac was the HyperHun’s equivalent of youth gone bad—an intelligent, creative, rebellious hellion—but Karzac was an antiphilanthropist. He took great delight in spoiling the fun of others. Peeing in the Perrier would be his idea of a good time.

Happy hour had started. Outside, it was spitting estrogens. Customers, driven by the impending hormonal storm, were beginning to drift in. Mada could smell the sexual tension building. Danny and the other bartender were setting up the buffet table, going into the kitchen empty-handed and emerging with trays of taco makings, finger sandwiches, and buffalo chicken wings. Mada wondered what a buffalo chicken looked like—not that she could have eaten even one of its wings. Mada’s dietary habits were strict and did not include buffalo chickens, although, she admitted, the odor wasn’t entirely unpleasant to someone of her carnivorous nature.

Two love struck AMANNTEOs (adults, married, and not necessarily to each other) sat on the empty stools to Mada’s left and ordered pina coladas. Mada ignored them. Even though she was trying not to, she was thinking about the fact that she was and would remain childless. It was not her infertility which caused her present state of pressurized frustration, but the stupidity with which she had squandered her ova. The first had been aborted when she had allowed it to be fertilized by her pod father during one of his many midnight visits to her sleeping quarters (as she had enjoyed his visits, she had wanted something to remember him by). Rationalizing that she had a couple to spare, she had sold the second, for a not inconsiderable sum, to a general in the Imperial Marines. And then the third egg had proven defective, hatching a monstrosity that had to be killed, and there had been that nasty business in Paris with her fourth and final egg. She seethed. If she ever caught that misogynist…

Mada was wrenched from her reverie by the sound of the big-tip bell. Looking up, she found herself facing a middle-aged man in a business suit. “Buy you a drink?” he asked mildly.

Mada sighed. Earthmen were notorious for their unselective natures. It was another reason for Earth’s popularity on the HyperH. Their wants were simple; there need only be an orifice, and Mada had at least two which might prove suitable. But unlike many of her friends, Mada had never had sex with a Terran—or with any other mammal, for that matter. Mammals were something for the dinner table. And yet humans did have the reputation for a certain joie de vivre in the sack. She looked speculatively at this one. He looked like an OINKLOC—one income, no kids, lots of cash. He was trim, with hair graying at the temples in a distinguished fashion. Thin was important for Mada, who was birdlike herself—in fact, internally, she more closely resembled Terra’s birds than its mammals—although she, like many of the races of the HypH, looked human. It was the vogue.

Coming to a decision, she blinked her big moist eyes at gray-temples and extended a hand and an invitation. “My name is Mada. Please sit down and talk to me. I’m drinking club soda. You may buy me one if you wish. But if you really want to win my heart, you will find me a Perrier.”

He looked at her in appraisal. “This is trite, but—you’re not from around here, are you?”

His arms looked as if they would be stringy. “No. I’m not.”

“You’re lovely. Pardon me for saying this, but you have an exotic look. Are you by chance from the Middle East?”

Mada knew then it wasn’t going to work. He was much too nice for what she had in mind. She began to wind the encounter down, replying in monosyllables. He soon got the message and drifted away.

Mada’s appetite was whetted, and she got up from the stool and wandered around the room, sipping her drink and checking out the patrons. She was about to return to her stool when she again heard the big-tip bell. Turning, she confronted the big-tipper.

“Whooo-weee, you sure are purty,” he burbled.

This was no OINKLOC. As she had no suitable acronym, Mada made one up: PACLFAGTNF—post-adolescent Caucasian looking for a good time—no fatties. He was tall—well over six feet—and shaped approximately like a whiskey barrel. He smelled much like one, too, which may have accounted for Mada’s finding herself suspended from his beefy arms, hearing what she supposed he supposed was a compliment. She looked with distaste at his biceps. Perhaps there was some muscle under all of that fat. Shivering with distaste, she forced herself to say, “Put me down and you can buy me a drink.”

Several club sodas and a lot of Jack Daniels later, she found herself being maneuvered out the door and through the parking lot toward his pickup truck. She knew it would be a pickup truck. It was indeed a pickup truck, a Chevy. Surprisingly, no rifle rack.

“I suppose you’ll ravish me now,” she said.

He tried to do just that. Sober, he might have been just able, but drunk as he was, it was taking his groin some time to figure out what his lips were up to. Eventually he stopped and looked at her. “I’m takin’ you to a mo-tel so I can do this proper,” he said.

Mada was paying little attention to him; she had just seen Banidot come out of the bar across the street. Banidot was one of Karzac’s cronies; the rest of the gang wouldn’t be far away. She smiled. Chances were she could wheedle a ride home. She reached for the door handle.

The hormonal storm, which had been threatening, broke at that moment. Progesterones rattled against the windshield, and the heady fragrance of raw androgens was like ozone in the air. She became aware of a stirring sensation in her middle. Could it be possible that she had produced another egg? It had been known to happen. A feeling of sensuality washed over her, and she turned and looked speculatively at the man beside her. His lips were slightly parted and his eyes had a glazed look. Yes. He could fill more than one need tonight.

Things were looking up. She had been down to a few days supply of her medication (she was a bitch without it), and most of her food supply had managed to escape during that unfortunate episode with the Hyperplanetary Police. She had had no prospects. Now a ride home—or at least to a planet with a people mover—seemed within reach. Her sexual drive, which had been in stasis since Paris, was rapidly awakening, and she had a companion who promised to satisfy that need and another.

There was, of course, a very real chance that if she lost Banidot she wouldn’t relocate him. Karzac and the camp followers might pull out while she was busy with the PACLFAGTNF.

Well, that was a risk she would have to take. The needs of her womb and of her tummy came first.