PLANETFALL AND FLATUS

 

            Matt Lancer’s carpal tunnels began to swell. All those years of novelizing and masturbation had left his wrists a mess. Yet he couldn’t wince. That could be seen as anger, which was not allowed by the terms of his card.

 

            While he choked down the wince, he remembered the words of the lady at the kiosk all those months ago when he bought the pre-paid card. She asked if he wanted to upgrade.

 

            “Would you like to upgrade for an extra $13 per month?”

 

            Matt had just shaken his head. “No. I don’t think so.”

 

            “Are you sure? That extra $13 will up your level and you will get unlimited disgust, lust and daydreaming on nights and weekends and 4 anytime angers per month.”

 

            “No thanks,” he’d said, rejecting the upsell.

 

            Now, sitting at the poker table, he regretted that decision. Especially with the hand he was holding. He couldn’t make anything out of the crap in his hands. It was hard enough trying to get poker to make sense with the Warbugs’ 82 card deck – not to mention their dungbeetle, blowhole language - but even with what he knew, this hand was garbage.

 

            The problem was… The Warbugs had superior numbers, incredibly advanced technology and a single goal as a species… they just couldn’t read body language. Facial expressions and body language were completely alien to them – as alien to them as pheromone messaging was to humans. 

 

            So human facial expressions and body language were cataloged, simplified or abolished by the conquering Warbugs. Eventually a privileged few could buy some back.

 

            Matt, stupidly, hadn’t.

 

            Kathrato spewed a gurgling whinny that Matt knew meant ‘I’ll see your 15 and raise it 10.’

 

            Matt nodded and let out an emotionless MOOOOO followed by what sounded like a turkey having a seizure. He knew he spoke with an accent, but the Warbugs appreciated the effort. Most people just ran screaming when their invasion fleet darkened the skies. When the giant BioFeed War Mounds plopped to the earth, each one carrying two hundred thousand, seven-foot-tall black beetles that were ready for war… people didn’t warm to the idea.

 

            Everyone in world, it seemed, ran screaming at the same time… except Matt Lancer. He saw the enormous spacecraft shitting out giant, bug-infested filth piles as an opportunity. The first word in his mind was “appeaser”.

 

            And appease he did.

 

            See, Matt Lancer had spent eighteen years novelizing crappy Hollywood movies. It made him a good living but it left him hollow inside. He wanted to write his own stories, follow his own muse. The problem was, Matt Lancer was a horrible writer. He had the skills to write very functionally and just enough imagination to make writing books from scripts possible. His own ideas were atrocious.

 

            His first novel, which he finished at the age of twenty, was called Inside The Auburn Eye. It told the story of a young man who fell deeply and emotionally in love with his neighbor’s cat; Mrs. Toffeebottom. The book was over 900 pages and took place all in one lustful, beastial afternoon. Even after removing the most hideous, graphic parts of the story , Matt still found no publisher.  Time and again the rejections came in. They all pointed out that he had “bypassed storytelling completely in favor of  a nearly crazed need to catalog the smallest minutiae of every moment”. One publisher actually wrote back;

 

            ‘Look! I don’t know what I did to you… but I’m sorry. I hope you accept this apology and stop writing. I can’t take this anymore. I have a family to think about.’

 

            Matt finally opted to self publish Inside the Auburn Eye online and was immediately served a cease and desist order from both the ASPCA and The World Writing League. One charge of “aggravated plotting” followed.

 

            Many more unpublished novels and unproduced scripts followed; Hey! That’s My Soul, Quickstep’s Last Chocolate Bar, The Plains of Fistdragon Hell-Ghost Trilogy, A Night On The Sunny Side of The Street, Pieces of Lucy and his epic poem Quartz and Jackets. Matt was an abysmal failure. At first novelizing was a money-making gap-fill. However, it didn’t take long for every page he wrote to feel like a kick in the balls. Every word he typed just reminded him of the complete and utter loss of his dreams.

 

            So, as the world had (what could only be described as) an epic, apocalyptic hissy fit at the Warbugs’ arrival – Matt Lancer had nothing to lose. Finally the rest of the world was feeling what he had felt – giant, stinking splats of invading-bug-filled feces falling all over it.

 

            After the shock and awe of the invasion force, came The Occupation. The new laws. The edicts that affected all of humanity. The compulsory dispensing of human waste into huge bins for collection. The construction of The Flatus Domes.  While humans scampered into the cracks and crevices of our world… Matt got Inside the Auburn Eye translated and published for the Warbugs.

 

            It was a smash. The invading hoard loved it. Matt was suddenly a major crossover celebrity – loved by the Bugs and hated by the humans but a household name all the same.  After he finished the sequel, The Cat in God’s Eye, he took a job as Communications Liaison between the Bugs and Humankind - gussying up the message, smoothing over the ugly truth to quell the masses.

 

            Matt folded and smiled at Kathrato. “You are truly amazing,” he hissgurglefarted.

 

            Kathrato, Earth’s Governor, fluttered his wings – which Matt read as a sign of pride.  “You are improving,” Kathrato gwarbled. “Maybe more Warbug than human.”  Kathrato’s exo-skeleton shook in a hideous-to-witness show of laughter.

 

            Matt smiled and shuffled the deck.

 

            ‘More Warbug than human…’

 

            That’s what she had said outside the Mobile, Alabama  Flatus Dome. It had been a fairly routine dome opening. Matt made his usual speech about the common destiny of the Warbugs and humanity. ‘Was it coincidence,’ he always postulated, ‘that our Overlords feed and grow strong off the very things our body rejects?’  It was a stupid argument… it always had been. But it kept the Bugs happy and the humans, well they hated him anyway.

 

            As he stepped off the podium he heard a woman’s voice near him. It mumbled softly; “more Warbug than human”.  When he looked up he met the eyes of Laura Tandano.  The face was dirtier and creased by years of oppression but it was her. Laura Tandano. 

 

            He had watched her so many times on the big screen… okay, not really. Once he’d started novelizing … he stopped going to the movies. But he’d watched her on VHS and DVD many times. A few times on basic cable. Matt couldn’t deny that he loved watching her. He loved the way she moved and talked in her movies. The way she’d bite the corner of her lip in the romantic comedies. The way dirty tank tops outlined her curves in the action movies. The way her eyes would glisten with tears in the dramas. In all those internet surveys Matt always put her name under celebrity crush.

 

And there, outside an extraterrestrial fart dome – they had come face to face. She was still beautiful… but there was something else.  A burned-in sadness. A dozen years of horror pushed into her.  Her half-dead eyes glared into him.

 

“More Warbug than human,” she said again louder.

 

Her teeth gritted with hatred for Matt. Anger pulled on her face and her fists clenched.

 

Matt could feel the corners of his eyes grow wet as he watched her entire body screamed;  ‘I fucking hate you, Matt Lancer. You’re a monster.’

 

He tried to stop the Warbug Sentries that descended on Laura Tandano. He yelled and tried to keep them from taking her… but her body language had sealed her fate. Screams went up from the crowd as the Sentries lifted Laura and moved off with her.

 

As she struggled to get away she spit in Matt’s face.

 

“You did this.”

 

The she was gone. Matt heard a few weeks later that she had died in prison.

 

Matt Lancer finished shuffling the cards and sat back with his hand. Kathrato opened his hand.  A slow squeak of air hissed out of the Warbug’s leader.

 

“My Brood Queen is fat with larvae.”

 

Matt nodded. “I didn’t know, lord. Congratulations.”

 

“I am pleased.”

 

“I’m sure you are. Is here in Atlanta?”

 

“Yes. She is preparing to spew in the dome. There should be nearly five thousand this time.”

 

Matt nodded again and laid his cards down. “It’s your turn, lord.”

 

Kathrato fluttered in his seat for a moment. Then one of his legs pushed a considerable stack of  money to the middle of the table. “Eighty thousand.”

 

Matt raised his eyebrows, impressed with the bet. His wrist still hurt… but it wouldn’t last. He lifted the device and pushed it to the center of the table.

 

“I’m all in.”

 

There was silence from Kathrato for a moment. Then he opened his left wing and wheezed. “What is that,” the Warbug asked.

 

“That… is a nuclear device.”

 

Laura hadn’t left his mind for month. Night after night he saw her face. The things he’d done to her… to everyone. He was the most hated man in the world. All he had wanted to do was write.

 

Her face flashed once more in his mind as Kathrato and all the Warbugs sprang to life to attack, stop or escape.

 

Matt Lancer – shitty writer, hack novelist, appeaser and monster – smiled broadly.

 

“I fold,” he said and then every atom in his body dislodged and ignited.