This prompt by @mikebrill was beautifully brutal (brutiful?) in its simplicity, and I knew it was going to lead to something fun. It could not have fallen into better hands than @allwrongthink. The story that follows is deliciously overloaded on a conceptual level, in a way that brings to mind Transmetropolitan, and builds a world from an enjoyably ludicrous conceit. Read it, and wish there was more:
STORY NUMBER: 16
PROMPT PROVIDER: @mikeisbrill
TITLE: Thirst Contact
Five years, it took, for the aliens to show up, and another eighteen months for them to sort out what would eventually be called “The Hangover”. To be fair, they were very apologetic about it. Nice guys once you got to know them, or got to know their translator species anyway, the ones that looked like the results of a scorpion’s quick fumble with a star-nosed mole.
Met one down the pub once. Smelled like sour milk. Terrible at darts.
It started here in London, so they did too, sending Nanostructor Blocks to clear away the iridescent lattice that covered most of Lewisham. What the council had failed for years to shift, the machines took minutes to shatter, a rapid collapse into icy chunks that quickly melted in the gutters. The same smart-dust reconstructed the damaged borough, but there was something subtly off about the result. They couldn’t quite get the smell right, or the graffiti, or rebuild my Nan, or my dog.
Or my daughter.
The rest of the world was a bit tricky, especially America. Jeff, Messiah Tyrant of Cascadia, had armed the whole Pacific Northwest with crude Flense Rifles, and sworn them to his cause. Bit of a mess, really. The World Service said it took weeks to retake Vancouver Island, even with the kinetic bombardment that the aliens were so fond of. My mate Vic reckoned they weren’t going to bother rebuilding Seattle though. He said they were leaving it as a warning.
I wasn’t paying much attention, to be honest. The lager at the Black Horse and Harrow hadn’t been right since the rebuild.
There was nothing they could do about “Galactic” Matt Butcher, already accelerating past the Oort cloud at a good fraction of C. Apparently it was too risky, intercepting such a small warp envelope. Nor could they retrieve Luke O’Donnell and his cult, slipping as they were down countless fractal alternates, the only sign of their passing a light-haunted crater where Luanda used to be. Not even the smart-dust wanted to go into the hole, so in the end they just built a dome over the whole thing and surrounded it with warning signs carved into fifty-meter-tall basalt spikes.
You can buy little plastic version of the spikes down the market now. I’ve got a couple on my desk, guarding my monitor.
It was difficult, the aliens explained, being a liquiform species descended from ancient parasites. Their arthropoid intermediaries waggled solemn pedipalps as they admitted the transformational stage of their life cycle usually happened via brainless clone host. Certainly, Larval Fluid Potentiate was never intended for human consumption, Side effects were inevitable, though of course regrettable. Something about crystalline nanobranches meshing with human anatomy, access to quantum thought schema, Planck-foam turbulence energy, all that rubbish.
Guess it was a good thing, in the end. We’ve got Butcher’s launch loop, and Mad Old Graham’s pub-themed space habitat waiting for us at L3. People are finally excited by space, energised by the certain knowledge that the galaxy is alive, and strange, and full of interesting things to drink. We even have extraterrestrial blessing for our exploration and expansion. Said it was the least they could do after all that.
They never did explain how a flask of sentient alien booze found its way to Earth, never mind how it fell into the hands of four men already pissed to the gills in a Catford park at 11pm on a Tuesday night.
PROMPT: Alien booze.