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Man's Best Friend

on Mon Jul 09, 2018 10:21 am
Thought I'd share another random brain dropping here. The basic idea for this story was that an alien landing would be a complete game-changer, so much so that there might be very unexpected people in power afterwards...

---

Life didn’t change all that much when they arrived. You’d be surprised how quickly humans get used to a thing. Sure, we had to deal with the existential dilemma of not being the only intelligent lifeform in the cosmos, or the most dominant species on our planet, but I’m proud to say that after a few days – a week, tops - we had adjusted to the new normal.

Chaos was averted. The economy stabilised after its initial dive. Not only did the Church not disintegrate, congregations were at an all-time high. People went back to work. We got on with it.

It turned out that Hollywood had prepared us for all eventualities.

Weeks passed, and it looked like that was it, for me. I didn’t live near one of their chosen landing sites, so my only interaction with their vessels was via a screen. I hadn’t even seen one of them in person: only vids online of people taking selfies with them and, of course, the daily news updates on the government’s inability to negotiate any kind of deal with them other than “Give us what we want, mostly food. Don’t worry, we’re not animals – we don’t eat anything that talks.”

Then I got the phone call.

It was a shock, I can tell you. When sentient life from another planet drops by, you don’t expect the highest echelons of the world’s bureaucracies to call you and tell you to pack your bags, you’re needed to save the world.

“Yeah right, Tony. Fuck off,” I said, and hung up.

The phone rang again.

I picked it up.

It was not Tony.


#


Ninety minutes later, I was frogmarched onto a black helicopter by large, emotionless men, blindfolded and taken somewhere “need to know”. I tried to inform them that I needed to know, so that I could tell the dog-sitter how long I would likely be away. They disagreed.

It was dark and misty, so I didn’t get even the merest glimpse of their ship as we approached.

When we touched down, I was carted from one room to another, down faceless corridors, past hurrying people who were all attached to their phones until I was deposited in a room with larger, more emotionless men with guns, some hard-faced generals with more badges than there was space for on their broad-chested suits, oh, and the President.

“Please, sit down,” she said.

I sat down on the uncomfortable wooden chair and felt nervous about not voting for her.

“What do you know about our... visitors?” she asked.

“Er, they’re not from around here?”

She smiled a smile that told me just how patient she was being by smiling it.

“Nothing else?”

“Well,” I said, “they look like big, sentient dogs to me.”

“To us, too,” she said. “It’s a bit of a mystery. You see, our dogs evolved--”

“From wolves,” I finished. “So, you’re wondering what factors domesticated them, if there were no humans to do it.”

She sat back in her chair, which looked far comfier than mine, and nodded.

“Does it matter?” I asked. “They’re here.”

One of the generals coughed. Madam President nodded for him to speak.

“It does if they killed them all,” he said.

“Ah,” I said. I hadn’t thought of that. “But, they said they don’t eat things that talk.”

“Maybe they killed them, but didn’t eat them.”

I hadn’t thought of that either. The President watched me gulp air for a few seconds before she spoke.

“Do you know why you’re here?” she asked.

I rubbed my forehead, suddenly very, very tired.

“I have an inkling, yes.”

She made a circular motion with the forefinger of one hand for me to elaborate: that woman didn’t waste any words.

“I’m a dog whisperer,” I said. “I make bad dogs obey me. I’m probably the most famous one, at least in this country. You’ve either seen my show, or been referred to it by someone. You think I might be able to help you... translate, or negotiate with the, er...”

“Aliens,” she said. “We’re calling them xenocanids, literally ‘alien dogs’. We use xenids for short. Yes, you were referred to us by one of our staff, since none of our more... traditional translators and negotiators have gotten anywhere with them.”

“Right,” I said. I shifted in my seat. “So, what do you want me to tell them?”


#


I stood outside the door to the xenids’ antechamber, and trembled. Inside the room was the furthest anyone had been permitted into any of their ships. I got myself together, took in a last few draughts of air, pulled back my shoulders and put on my hard stare that I reserved for only the most disobedient dogs (Chihuahuas, mostly). I nodded to the soldier who had accompanied me to the entrance. He pressed a button on the floor.

The door opened. Or rather, a door-shaped hole appeared in the wall.

I didn’t react to this, just stepped into the room with my hands at my sides, making eye contact with each of the six-foot tall, bipedal dogs in turn, finishing with their Alpha.

The ‘door’ disappeared behind me, locking me inside.


#


“Well, this is very embarrassing,” I said, sitting back down in the same uncomfortable wooden seat for the debrief.

“You were unsuccessful,” said Madam President. I could see her making calculations in her head – different contingencies, what to try next, how to gain leverage – when I shook my head.

“Er, no. I think maybe I was too successful.”

Everyone glared at me.

“Explain,” she said.

“I’m not sure you were right to call me,” I said. “I mean, it worked, obviously, but I think this might be worse than what you were dealing with before...”

Again, the President made circles with her forefinger for me to get to the point.

I coughed. “You see... I’m their new Alpha.”

I lowered my trademark turtleneck sweater to reveal the prestigious collar that the xenids’ leader had worn until a few minutes earlier, when he had rolled onto his back, bared his tummy to me and told me I was to take it, that it was now mine.

The President did well to cover the shock of this, but I still saw how deeply surprising and unexpected this turn of events was for her.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “A complete accident, I assure you.”

“What does this mean?” she asked.

“Well, I’m not entirely sure,” I said. “But there are a dozen of them outside who are really nervous about leaving me inside here, alone. Maybe we should invite them in and talk about it.”

Everyone in that room looked at one another, then back to the President.

She nodded, wearily.

I opened the door, and the dozen most loyal xenids came inside, each of them licking at my mouth as they went past. They formed ranks so that I was at the head of the pack.

The President’s eyes betrayed her fear as she looked at us all. The soldiers to her sides fidgeted with their guns, until one of my Betas made a low, menacing growl and reached for his own weapon.

“Shh,” I said and patted his head. I removed a dog treat from my pocket – I always have some on me – and held it up.

“Si-iiit,” I said.

He sat down cross-legged, his vestigial tail tapping a rhythm on the floor.

“Good boy,” I said and gave him the treat. I rubbed his head once more. His long pink tongue dangled from his mouth.

“So, what happens now?” asked the President with a dry mouth.

“Now, we negotiate,” I said.

I sat back down in the chair, knowing that whatever happened in this room, I was going to be sitting in the most comfortable one from now on.

End
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Re: Man's Best Friend

on Thu Jul 12, 2018 3:36 pm
Hi Matt. This is great. Well written, succinct and quirky. I think you’ve nailed your main character’ voice. I love the touches of humour and the bits that challenge the automatic stereotypes - like a female president (even in Ireland where we cracked that one decades ago it’s still there in the thought processes!)
Not sure I’d suggest anything to change - I think it works well. Are you entering it /submitting it to anything??
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Re: Man's Best Friend

on Thu Jul 12, 2018 5:27 pm
Great piece Matt. Very unusual
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Re: Man's Best Friend

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