This story is a long time coming, our November blog post winning story by Adam H. Douglas, delves into the dark with this play on the theme of Aliens and the food chain. You will be rethinking that Mothers Day brunch for days to come after this one.
Steak and Eggs
By Adam H. Douglas
NSA transcription ULTRA-TOP SECRET - NSA Director/DNI eyes only.
Date [redacted]; Time 03:06:04-03:25:26
Personnel identified - three:
POTUS, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff (WATTS), Unknown subject (US).
[Unidentified buzzing. A loud ‘pop’ sound, then stumbling footsteps. Incoherent mumblings, slurred words.]
US: Whu…whu iz it? Oh, ‘ere we go—
[sound of lamp being switched on]
US: Wakey, wakey… Ooooo! Hey, Misser President? Wake up, sir, Presssssident, you. You in there?
US: Jeeezus, like a walrus… Hey-o! Mister President!
POTUS: Whu-what? What is it?
US: There he is! Hey, shur. Wakey, wakey. I need you awake, shur, I mean, sir.”
POTUS: What the— Who the hell are you?
US: Hey, hi. Okay, don’t freak out or anything. We met a couple of times, shur—sir. You might know me as Roland. Doctor Roland Bering? That’s what I go by, but it ain’t my real name. Ring any bells yet?
POTUS: Who? Herring?
US: Bering. Like the straits, not the fish.
POTUS: [incoherent] doing in my bedroom at— Jesus! Three in the fucking morning! You want to get shot? I need my goddamn sleep, you—
[eight seconds of cursing redacted]
- tell me what you’re doing here? Aren’t you some kind of science twerp? How did you get in here?
US: Well, I can get to that in a moment. I’m just waiting for—
[Same unidentified buzzing noise as before, followed by same ‘pop’ sound]
US: Ah! Here he is!
WATTS: What? What the—? Mister President? Where am I?
POTUS: Watts? Watts, what the fuck are you doing in my bedroom? And what are you wearing?
WATTS: I was in my own bedroom a second ago—
US: Ok, good, we’re all here. [sound of drink being poured] Now, if nobody objects, I’m… Well, first I’m gonna sit down because I’m pretty hammered.
WATTS: Mister President, who is this?
POTUS: Some guy I met a couple of times. Deputy of the Interior introduced him, I think. Works for Stanford or Harvard or someone. Looking for climate money.
US: Ecology and anthropology, if you wanna be technical. But, since that was all just a cover, it’s neither here nor there.
WATTS: Get behind me, Mister President. Did you hit the panic button?
POTUS: About a dozen times. Nobody’s shown. Christ Almighty, Watts, you call this security?
WATTS: That’s the Secret Service, sir. What do you want, whoever you are?
US: Okay, chill, chill! Call me Roland. It’s not my name, but it’ll do.
WATTS: Who do you work for? China? Russia? The Saudis?
US: [imitates a game show buzzer] Sorry, thanks for playing. Simplest answer? [laughs] Ready for this? It’ll blow your minds. Little…green…men. [short, snorting laugh]
POTUS: Oh, fucking great. Get me out of here, Watts.
[sounds of door handle being tried, fists pounding on door]
US: Okay, that’s… Guys, guys— No one can hear you. Really, just come on over to the— Whaddya call this thingy? A settee? Couch-thingy.
WATTS: Whoever you are, whoever you’re working for—
US: I told you.
WATTS: Aliens? Bullshit.
US: Oh, come on, Mister Joint Chiefs Chairman! You were just in your bedroom one moment and in the President’s bedroom the next! Who, on this backwater planet, could have done that?
WATTS: Doesn’t prove aliens, whoever you are.
US: Ok, fine… Guys! Hey-o! Look at me for a second, and I’ll prove it. You looking? Good.
[screams from POTUS and Chairman Watts – ten seconds]
US: Told ya.
POTUS: My God.
WATTS: Sweet Jesus!
US: Sorry about that, but you kinda forced my hand. So, gentlemen, can we move on? Let’s have a drink and talk. Trust me, [short laugh] you’ll need one.
POTUS: Fuck it, I’m having one. If this E.T. is going to assassinate me, I sure as hell ain’t gonna be sober. Gimme.
WATTS: Mister President! It could be—
POTUS: Aaaah, that’s good shit.
US: Oh, come on, Mister Chairman. It’s not poisoned. I’m not here to kill you. Either of you. I just need a bit of a chinwag. Get something off my chest. That’s all, I swear.
POTUS: Hey, are you really an alien? That wasn’t… I dunno, a Jap hologram or something?
POTUS: Fuck me. Really?
US: Cross my alien heart.
POTUS: Gotta say, you don’t look it.
US: Not my real body. Izza…is a fake. Like a robot, sort of. Only squishier.
POTUS: Ah, sci-fi stuff. Makes sense, I guess.
WATTS: Get to the point.
US: Right, Mister Chairman. Sorry if I’m rambling. Like I said, I’m drunk.
POTUS: You guys can get drunk?
US: Well, this… What would you call it? Synthetic body? It translates approximate human experiences into…ahhhh…synaptic impulses that our actual brains can interpret. But aside from this setup, deal, thingy, alcohol, and other intoxicants, are pretty universal across the galaxy. I’ve been honestly drunk, if you will, in my real body many times.
POTUS: There’s hope, then. [laughs] Gimme another.
[sound of a drink being poured]
WATTS: Mister President, I think—
US: Let me be as brief as possible. I have to leave the planet in, let’s see… Yeek! An hour! I’ll try to be not so drunk, to save time. Okay, so! There’s this—let’s call it a group—of several advanced cultures that catalog the development of sentient life like yours.
POTUS: A federation?
US: Lordy! You guys love to use that word, don’t you? Fine, call it a federation, or confederation or whatever. Anyhoos. Twelve years ago, we come here—came here—part of a xenopology team studying humans. I’m the project leader, by the way, and no, it’s not nearly as impressive as it sounds. Our mission is…was…to experience as much of human culture and customs as possible. It was going jim-dandy until a few months ago.
US: [sighs] Yeah, well… We interacted with all different types of human cultures. Learning about them, doing what they do, experiencing them first-hand—that’s the job. Some are technologically advanced, like your Japanese business cultures, auto-factory workers in Ohio, or, say, prison cultures in China. Others are indigenous tribes in remote places. So, one tribe, the Korowai… They’re in southeastern Papua, eff-why-eye…
[three seconds of silence - Unknown Subject likely having a drink]
US: Nice people, the Korowai. Love their music. Great senses of humor. They’re a lot like any other human society, but with one main difference—they still practice cannibalism. The tribe doesn’t do it as much as they did in the old days. The old folks of the village bitch about that a lot. Like: “these young whippersnappers have lost their ways by not eating their enemies, yada yada yada.” It was kinda funny. At first. The cannibalism doesn’t shock me. There are intelligent creatures in the galaxy that consider it a great honor to be eaten by their family members under the right conditions.
US: So, when in Rome…
[three seconds of silence]
US: No, quite the opposite.
WATTS: What are you saying? Exactly?
US: Bluntly, gentlemen… You people are delicious. I cannot understate this, okay? I’m over two centuries old, by your calendar. I’ve eaten dishes and meat from creatures that would make your stomach jump out of your body and run away. I’ve also eaten things that would make you salivate by the merest remembrance of the taste. But I have never, ever tasted anything as good as human flesh.
POTUS: Uh… Thanks?
US: [small laugh] Oh, don’t thank me! I think Chairman Watts here can already see where this is going.
POTUS: Huh? I don’t get it.
WATTS: Jesus, God in heaven… What are you and your people going to do?
US: Well, normally, we’d just make a note of it and move on. Which is what I tried to do.
But I just…couldn’t get the taste out of my mind. I swear, you people are like potato chips. You can’t stop at one. My colleagues agreed, too. I gave them samples to see if it was just me and my taste preferences. Nope! Every one of them was just blown away.
WATTS: Jesus fucking Christ…
POTUS: What is this guy saying, Watts?
WATTS: Mister President, he’s talking about invasion… Occupation… Farming.
US: Give [sound of clinking glass] the General a prize!
WATTS: Dear, sweet Mother Mary—
POTUS: So…are you guys going to…turn us into…livestock?
US: Well, in a word: yes.
[five seconds of silence]
[another sound of clinking glass, likely US drinking]
US: You’re actually not a bad bunch of guys, you humans. I figured at very least I would give you a heads-up.
WATTS: Wait, wait… You… Your species… You must be an advanced civilization. You obviously have a concept of ethics. How can you morally justify doing this to a sentient, intelligent species?
US: [laughs] Under normal circumstances, this sort of horribleness wouldn’t even cross our minds. We have an agreement of non-interference, like that TV show of yours. You know, the pointy-eared one before it sucked. But you must understand. Hunger… Hunger is a helluva force in all biology. Across the galaxy, on any planet. I mean, half the reason your ecology and environment are so exploited is due to hunger. You know, if you’d just feed everyone, you’d probably clean things up much quicker! Well, that’s neither here nor there anymore. Long story short, we debated the morality for some time. It was a close vote, but the stomach won out. So, the project’s a go.
WATTS: What will this invasion and farming of yours entail? I want to know precisely.
[scraping of furniture, US likely standing and walking around]
US: Well… I guess I should get into the details a bit. So, our project engineers sent me all the projections, the methods, et cetera. Bluntly, sir, it’s not pretty. Not by a long shot. S’why I’m pretty plastered right now… Don’t get me wrong: I like most of you humans. You’re screwed up and ignorant beyond belief sometimes, true, but also admirable in your primitive way… I think I might have said that already. You get the idea. I’m not asking for sympathy here, that would be crass. But understand, this whole thing is not easy for me.
POTUS: Well, boo-fucking-hoo, you fascist, alien dick. What’s the bottom line?
US: All right, the dirty details, huh? Might as well get this over with. Ninety-nine percent of male humans across Earth will be killed. Outright, at the start. The culling should take place over a month or so. Yeah. So… Yeah.
POTUS: What? What?
WATTS: It’s because the males aren’t needed… Am I right?
US: Bingo. Women are breeders; they can replenish stock. Plus, they have that extra layer of tasty, tasty fat. Makes them more valuable. There may be specialty cuts for male meats, sweetmeats, but that likely won’t be a very big market. Most females will be slaughtered at age eighteen, their full size and meat maturity. Again, there will be some specialty demand for younger meats—children—but I don’t expect too much of that. Male newborns will be ground up for livestock feed. High producing breeders will be allowed to continue until menopause, which can be artificially delayed, we figure, until age sixty or eighty.
I can see by the expressions on your faces… Look, if it’s any conciliation, this isn’t an extinction! Your species will likely live for millennia to come! True, not living particularly well. Pretty bloody miserably, to be honest. Again, sorry.
POTUS: Holy… Holy…
[three seconds of silence]
POTUS: We’ll fight you! Damn, right! Eh, Watts? We’ll fight you for every inch of our real estate!
US: [laughs] Yeah, no. [laughs] I mean, sure, you can try. Be realistic, man. We can travel faster than light. Than light. We’ve been orbiting your planet for decades and you haven’t seen hide nor hair of us. Not once! Even if you did know where we were, you could throw every missile you had at our vessel and it wouldn’t even scratch the paint.
WATTS: Ok, let’s assume that’s true.
US: Totally true.
WATTS: Fine! Like you said, you have qualms about the morality of all this, otherwise you wouldn’t be warning us. So… Just call it off, why don’t you? Human beings find conscience isn’t something you can turn off. I think we share that quality.
US: True, I won’t deny that part of me is disgusted with myself. But you have no idea what kind of money we’re talking about here. You think a billion hamburgers is a lot? Imagine the kind of scratch you would make on multi-trillion humburgers a year.
US: Combining the word ‘human’ and ‘burger.’ I’m not crazy about that word, personally. I think we can do better, but the marketing guys are all for it—
WATTS: There must be a kind of, what did you say? Galactic central authority? You mentioned a confederation.
WATTS: We’ll appeal to them.
US: Nope. Well… [laughs] How are you going to reach them? Radio waves? It’ll take a couple of hundred years for radio to reach the closest relay station. I’m honestly sorry, no, you just don’t have a voice in this. Besides, there’s a part of my species physiology that comes into play here, too, I might as well tell you… [sound of US sitting] Uncomfortable as I might be with my choice to enslave and farm you people, I’ve made the deal. There’s a part of our species’ brains that is hard-wired to follow through on agreements once we’ve made them. It’s why we’re the preferred group to do business with by other alien races and cultures. They like dealing with us since the other party knows that we’ll actually do what we say we will. So, as you can imagine, this will happen. Whether either of us likes it or not.
[twelve seconds of silence]
[sounds of movement, likely POTUS rummaging through his box of gift guns]
US: Uh, what are you doing?
POTUS: How the hell—?
WATTS: Mister President, put that away before you hurt yourself.
POTUS: Jesus Christ, people have been giving me these things for two years… Watts! How do you get this to work? Which magazine goes with which—? Fuck, fuck, fuck!
US: No, really, you’re wasting your time. Here, let me take that—
US: Voila. Point blank shot to my temple and my ears aren’t even ringing. No mark, even. See?
[Redacted reactions from POTUS - alternating between swearing and incoherent blubbering – two minutes]
US: Ok, this went about as well as I feared… Guys, I’ve got to go. My deepest apologies to your species and all but I have to fly back to my backers—
WATTS: Wait! One last thing!
US: What is it?
WATTS: Let me bring in something to convince you not to do this.
US: [sighs] Look, I explained I can’t stop this—
WATTS: Indulge me. Please. As a final request from our planet?
US: Well… okay.
WATTS: Can you open this door for me?
US: I guess. Give me a sec… Okay, have at it.
[sound of door opening – voice outside of room, most likely Captain Ligon, USAF, is indistinct and unclear.]
WATTS: Captain? Never mind how I got in. Give me the football. You heard me, soldier. You’re dismissed.
[sound of object, reportedly the Nuclear Codes Satchel, being opened. Secure satphone being dialed]
WATTS: This is Chairman Watts. Confirm voiceprint.
[launch codes and procedures redacted]
WATTS: Do you recognize, me? Who is this? Chrest? Ok, Chrest, I’m ordering Operation Last Book, I repeat, Operation Last Book. No, it is not a drill. I’m deadly serious, Chrest. Pull yourself together and get it started. The President? Hang on.
[sounds of grunting, POTUS blubbering]
WATTS: He’s here. I’ll confirm with fingerprint and retina scan… Jesus, man, pull yourself together for five seconds… Open your eye, you little… There. Confirmed. Mister President, you have to say you approve of the operation.
[incoherent mumblings from POTUS]
WATTS: [whispering] Don’t make me snap your fat neck, John, I swear…
POTUS: I… I…approve of… What was it?
WATTS: Last Book.
POTUS: Last Book. I approve, I approve…
WATTS: You got that, Chrest? Good. Launch in five minutes. Confirm. Understood. Stand by. There!
US: You done yet?
WATTS: I’m done. Now, we renegotiate.
US: Lordy, Lordy. There’s nothing to negotiate, Mister Chairman. You have no idea where my ship is—
WATTS: We’re not targeting your ship. We’re targeting the Russian Federation.
US: You’re targeting the what now?
POTUS: We’re what? What the hell did I just order?
WATTS: ‘Last Book’ was just a theoretical tactical plan that some psycho at the Pentagon thought up years ago. No one really believed we’d ever implement the horrible thing. But we figured if the Russians ever knew we had the plan ready, they’d think twice about attacking.
Right now, every ICBM in our arsenal is poised to strike Russia in about eighteen minutes. Operation Last Book refers to ‘Revelation’, the last book of the bible. You’re familiar with it? Armageddon. Scorched Earth. The end of all life on this planet. You listening now, you sonofabitch? You may have some fancy technology, but I’m betting all of humanity that your ship, fancy as it might be, can’t stop hundreds of our missiles. Nor the missiles the Russians will undoubtedly launch in retaliation. In about twenty minutes, everything on Earth will be a radioactive hellhole for a thousand years.
[five seconds of silence]
WATTS: Sue me.
US: I realize what we’re going to do to your people is monstrous, but surely it beats…utter extinction?
WATTS: No, I’m not so sure it does. Personally, I’d choose death over that everlasting hell you just described. How leveraged are you with this deal, Mister Alien? How upset are your backers going to be if, instead of several billion humans, all you can produce for them is a pile of ash? Because that’s all there is going to be left. They’ll be pretty upset, I’d say.
US: Uh, okay… Let’s not do anything hasty… I mean, I didn’t have to come here, you know! I could have just ordered the invasion.
WATTS: Maybe you should have, but you didn’t. You’ve got…three minutes to call off the deal. Even if you kill me right now, the launch is already ordered. You still lose.
US: Dude… That is…hardcore…
[six seconds of silence]
US: But, I can’t break the deal! I told you! I’m biologically wired to follow through with an agreement once my species makes it!
[six seconds of silence]
WATTS: What about volume? Units?
US: What do you mean?
WATTS: How many of us do you have to deliver for the first shipment?
POTUS: “How many?”
WATTS: Of us. How many humans?
US: Well, that wasn’t finalized yet…
WATTS: Aha! What is the minimum you need, exactly, to satisfy your order?
US: Err…I’d have to say a quarter billion for the first year…
WATTS: Ok, we’ll… Goddammit, this is horrible… We’ll select randomly from our population. No kids, only adults. All nations. It’ll be a hell operation, but we’ll do it to save the rest.
US: But that’s only the first year.
WATTS: Okay… Okay… I’ve got it! We’ve made significant advances in cloning technology. If we remove all ethical constraints and pour all our resources into it, I know we’d make leaps in no time. Then, we’ll share that information with you to create farms of non-conscious human clones. No suffering. It would also assuage the misgivings of other members of your galactic society, I’m sure.
US: It…might work… It would take about a year to get the facilities up and running… But, look, your nations can barely agree on anything! I don’t believe for a second you can get everyone to go along with such a horrific plan as this. Am I wrong?
POTUS: I’ve got it! We’ll give you Russia.
POTUS: Yeah, I hate those bastards. It’ll end the Cold War once and for all! Take all of Russia! All of them! Kids, the lot.
US: That’s only about a hundred and forty million units.
POTUS: Add North Korea, then. Venezuela! Cuba, Laos… Uh, let’s see… Okay, we’ll throw in a couple of African nations, too. The useless ones. And Canada.
POTUS: Yes, Canada! I hate that mouthy Prime Minister… Okay, okay, not them, keep your panties on. What are we up to? What’s the tally?
US: Um, I think we’re still a little short…
POTUS: Sichuan province in China, then. Spicy, spicy humans there. Mix up the taste options for your customers, eh? Plus, we get to bloody the nose of those damn Chinese pricks, think they’re so smart… So, we good?
[four seconds of silence]
US: Yes, I think I can work that. It’s agreed? Mister Chairman?
[seven seconds of silence]
US: Er… Mister Chairman? Have you checked your watch, ‘cuz we’re really cutting it—
WATTS: Chrest? You there? Listen carefully, Sargent. Abort Last Book, I repeat, abort Last Book. Do you copy?
[confirmation procedures and codes redacted]
WATTS: Thank you, soldier. Hm? What? No, that was not a drill. You’ll know all about it, soon enough.
[sound of satphone being disconnected]
US: That was some fancy maneuvering there, gentlemen. I underestimated you.
POTUS: Yeah, well, we may be less advanced than you, but when it comes to capitalism and negotiation, you don’t stand a chance against us.
WATTS: So, you’re biologically conditioned to follow through on this?
US: Yeah, which I’m kicking myself for telling you about…
WATTS: Like we care, you murderous hypocrite. When are you starting?
US: In a couple of months.
POTUS: Shit, I just thought of something. No one is going to believe this. Even though there’s two of us, they’ll say we’ve both gone off the deep end.
US: Hm? Oh, that. I wouldn’t worry about that. Your NSA people record pretty much everything that goes on in this building. They’re listening right now.
POTUS: What?! I’ll kill Donahue, that fucker. You hear me? You— [more swearing redacted]
US: I’m gonna go. Normally, I believe, the customary thing to say here is ‘nice doing business with you.’ But, in this case, I think none of us are too happy. I’ll be in touch.
[same unidentified buzzing sound, followed by a ‘pop’ noise]
POTUS: Where’d he go?
POTUS: Damn! That was intense!
[seven seconds of silence]
POTUS: Jesus, I’m starving.
[sound of phone lifted off the receiver]
POTUS: Good, the phone’s working again. I’m calling the kitchen. You want any breakfast? Watts? What’s wrong with you?
WATTS: The children…
WATTS: Why did you have to include the kids…?
POTUS: Hell, I just said that. I wasn’t thinking. Hmm. Yeah, that’s going to look bad. Hang on. Kitchen? Whip up some steak and eggs in twenty minutes, black coffee, and some of those fresh croissants. I’ll have them in the dining room. [sound of receiver being hung up] Well, Watts, we’ll just spin it like we don’t have several million orphans to take care of now, thanks to my decisive leadership. Or yours, depending on how people react.
WATTS: Christ, sir—
POTUS: Oh, cheer up. We just saved several billion lives. Not even Lincoln or Roosevelt can top that. Ha! Okay, I’m taking a shower first, ‘cuz I think I shit myself a little bit. Then steak and eggs. Damn. What a world, huh?
[sounds of bathroom door opening, POTUS showering, singing. Chairman Watts does not speak for several minutes before exiting room]
Adam is an award-winning storyteller who lives in eastern Canada with his wife, three dogs, and five cats - one of whom is very evil. His forthcoming debut novel, “Welcome To Roofoland” is a horror story about escapism and parenting.