Return to Sender
by D.A. Madigan
Katherine Christine Ahlstrom, known to a select few as ‘mommy’, to most as ‘KC’ and to one stubborn, pretty much deranged ex-boyfriend as ‘Katie’, sat at her sewing machine more or less contentedly working on a lovely quilt she planned to display and, who knew, maybe even sell, at an SCA craft fair in a few days.
Whir, whir, whir, went the sewing machine, as she continually pressed and positioned the fabric of the quilt very carefully, with a casual deftness that was the product of a lifetime’s experience. It was very soothing. Pretty soon her three-year old would awaken from his nap...
“Yah ha, Wah hoo!” a deep, fruity, sort of phlegmy and really rather horribly unearthly voice said, from somewhere behind her. “Meaty Earth creatures! We Venusian Plant Men will feast well this day!”
“Yes, yes!” shrieked another, shriller voice. “First we shall devour the flesh of the female meatinoid, and then we shall fall upon her overly mesomorphic mate and their soft, sluglike spawn! They shall be savory morsels for our voracious floral maws!”
What the hell, the bewildered young hausfrau and mommy thought, turning, eyes wide behind her oversized glasses, to glance over her shoulder.
Two great, squamous, disgusting-looking masses squatted, like eight-foot tall Central American pyramids made of mulch and lime-green Jello, with nauseatingly protozoan tentacles waving frantically through her living room’s air-conditioned atmosphere. Even as she regarded them both with appalled disbelief, their vast and horrid squidlike cilia stretched out to encompass her.
They reeked like a beach full of dead baby harp seals spoiling in the summer sun, too.
Katherine Christine Ahlstrom thought to herself, quite coherently, Damn, and that was a new carpet.
Then, much to her surprise she found herself, with a sudden strength and agility she had never previously known, vaulting out of her chair, flipping adroitly in the air between two writhing sets of unearthly pseudopods, landing on her sensible, shoe-clad feet on the far side of the grotesqueries as neatly as any dismounting Russian gymnast... and bolting like mad down the hallway to the computer room.
Thank God he likes to turn his main characters into action heroes, she thought grimly to herself as she careened around the doorway and hurtled over to the work station with the iMac perched haughtily atop it. Actually, he probably wrote a phaser or something into the coffee table drawer for me to use... but this should be simpler, and hopefully, get rid of the stains on the rug, too.
Behind her, she heard truly nasty squishing sounds approaching down the hall. “The meatinoid hurls itself about fleetly, Fyeernyrrkl,” she heard the second, shriller voice, remark.
“Aye, but it cannot escape our lusty and avaricious tentacles,” the first, deeper, more phlegmy voice boomed reassuringly. “See, it has entrapped itself in this small time/space vacuole. We shall be digesting its proteins directly.”
She of the many names and titles, meanwhile, had quickly opened up her ‘Old Mail’ folder in her AOL program, and... yes, just as she remembered, there was the ‘Happy Birthday’ note from her utterly insane ex-boyfriend, with the text file attachment she had only read the first few paragraphs of to date. (She was more or less sure whatever it was would be entertaining and probably funny, but as she recalled, the first few paragraphs had indicated that this was a fairly standard gag story by her ex, in which she, the recipient of the gift, had suddenly and inexplicably become a Valkyrie-like figure battling to save Earth from invasion by strange protozoan jelly-pyramids from some other planet.)
She had no idea how the story ended, but that shouldn’t matter, if her idea worked.
“Whatever is she doing, Fyeernyrrkl?” she heard the higher voice whine from behind her.
“Ah, Fneerynggrk, she has deduced our origin,” the deeper voice remarked. “Yet her desperate ploy will be unsuccessful. She believes us to be mere subjective manifestations that can be banished like some phosphor-dot hallucination, when in fact our materializations in this solid realm have rendered us quite objective! We shall devour her with alacrity!”
Even as the beleaguered birthday girl frantically clicked on DELETE, she felt horridly cool, gelatinous tentacles curling around her torso.
“You see?” she heard the awful nasty thing’s voice, from seemingly right behind her, as the tentacles began to tighten in a dreadful parody of affection. “We are quite real. You cannot defeat us so deftly. Prepare for digestive processes, oh Earth proteinoid!”
The mail file with text attachment was gone, and they were still here!... What the hell was she missing... she’d been so SURE... maybe she should have just gone for the phaser that was probably in the coffee table drawer... her crazy ex-boyfriend always made some kind of advanced weaponry easily available in these stupid stories.
Her eye fell on one particular icon and she realized, with a mental ‘D’oh!’, that she’d forgotten something.
Frantically, she double clicked with the mouse again.
“Eh,” she heard the voice behind her say, “what are you...”
On the screen, the icon flickered a few times... and then, the overflowing trash bin became resolutely empty.
Twin ululations of despair and outrage filled the room... briefly... and then faded away like morning mist, along with the tentacles that had been embracing her.
Katherine Christine Ahlstrom turned and glared behind her, at the utter emptiness she knew (and yet, was still relieved to see) was there.
Not a trace of the little slime mold bastards. Good. Good...
Her lovely brow furrowed briefly in thought... and then she bent to her keyboard.
Several hundred miles away, a few minutes later, a long-haired, bespectacled, rather fat 40-year old wannabe writer heard the small chime meaning his latest download had picked up email. He sighed, expecting nothing more than spam, but not having the willpower to keep from looking, he picked up the remote, turned off the tape of Buffy the Vampire Slayer he’d been perusing on his TV, got laboriously up on to his feet, and perambulated ponderously over to his desk.
Hmmm, he said, sitting down. A reply to his birthday story to Katie. With a text attachment. Had she written something and sent it back...?
The message of the note was simple: “From now on, could you just send a card, or flowers, or something, like a normal person?”
He double clicked on the text attachment. His hard drive whirred grumpily for a second or two, and then a Word Pad window opened, displaying a few paragraphs of text. The portly geek had read only “Foiled by the quick-thinking Earth woman, the two alien invaders hurtled back along the ether towards their original point of entry into the material world...”
“Heh,” the middle aged Heinlein fan said, absent mindedly scratching his beard. “She did a sequel. I guess she must have liked the story. Good.”
He was interrupted before he could read further.
Behind him, he heard a deep, fruity, phlegmy voice exclaim, “Ah, an Earthly proteinoid to devour!”
Another, shriller voice said doubtfully, “I don’t know, he looks awfully high in cholesterol...”
Copyright © 2005 by D. A. Madigan