“It is twelve o’clock noon on Earth in your time zone, Mr. Chambers,” I spoke through the microphone routed to his cell as I watched him lounge on the sofa smoking his tenth cigarette of the day. “If you decline to eat, I must ask that you refrain from smoking at your current rate. We would not want you to further spoil your lungs.”
“Why do you even care about my lungs,” he snapped back impatiently. “Never mind. Don’t answer that.”
“May I offer you a glass of ginger-infused water? It may help to ease your stomach. You seem unsettled.”
“No, thank you. I don’t want anything you have to offer,” he muttered irritably.
“Very well, Mr. Chambers.”
One beat passes. “I would like to ask one thing.”
“And what would that be, Mr. Chambers?”
“Do you know what happened to Patty?”
“The woman who came to…see me off. Do you know what happened to her?”
“Why yes. Miss Patty is being held four cells down from you.”
“She’s here! I need to speak with her now.”
“No, I’m sorry. Miss Patty is unable to speak at this time.”
“What have you done with her?”
“Nothing that cannot be rectified.”
I am a Kanamit called Noory in my twentieth year of life. I am serving my tenth lunar cycle of mandatory food provision service or FPS. Earth is my first mission and I have found the work to be both simple and easy.
My favorite prisoner is Mr. Chambers. With a holding bay full of live human meat, we are currently on our way to the closest killing port where he will be slaughtered for consumption. I almost hate to see him go. He is so contemptuous and hateful that it delights me to taunt him.
He reminds me of my younger brother, Antlay, still too young to be drafted in the FPS but full of vitality and eagerness to serve. I hope he is being well fed.
Whenever I earn extra credits of service, I send the remittances home to my family so that they may live more comfortably. As the head of the household, I trust that Antlay is using the capital wisely.
After I have fully served my FPS, I plan to be discharged honorably and pursue a position as a food prep on the Kana, Queen Cortaski’s mothership. This role will lead me to my ultimate goal of head chef, an honorable position within the Kanamit hive. I would earn enough capital to be considered a prize for any respectable Kanamit woman.
However, it is not just any woman that I seek. I only have eyes for one, Cortasia, Queen Cortaski’s niece and member of the royal family. My chances of marrying her are slim, but not impossible. I know she too has feelings for me, so my efforts will not be in vain. I need only to earn a title worthy of her love.
“You have not eaten enough, Mr. Chambers,” I say through a smug grin. “Please, eat hearty.”
I am now standing outside of cell number WSA-37204. I open the food dispenser and slide the tray of human food into the compartment. Mr. Chambers takes it and promptly hurls it to the floor.
I open the door to his cell and duck into his quarters. I begin to pick up the discarded food items one by one. I place the tray back on the dispenser.
“Please, Mr. Chambers, eat,” I say patting the man on the back. My mechanical voice sounds surprisingly human and I hope that he finds it soothing. “We wouldn’t want you to lose weight,” I add as I exit.
His face turns distinctly white as he seems to understand my meaning. I return to monitor where I watch him devour his dinner. Finally, he feasts.
“Good morning, Mr. Chambers,” I call through the speakers.
“How can it possibly be morning in space?” he replies with a snarl.
“It cannot. I simply wanted to practice my Earth studies and greet you as you would have been greeted by your fellows humans at this time…if you were on Earth, that is.”
“You’re sick, you know that? Why don’t you find someone else to bother.” He roles over in his bed.
“Oh, you mean Miss Patty.”
He sits up sharply and peers into the camera that faces him. “If you so much as move one hair on her head…”
I cut him off. “You will do what?”
“I will think of something…” he replies half-heartedly his shoulder lowering as he hunches over defeated.
“Are you aware of the fact that I am three feet taller than you?”
“Well, I also weigh two hundred pounds more than you do.”
“You may want to see a doctor about that, Kanamit.”
“My name is Noory.”
“Well, Noory, you may want to talk to a professional regarding your weight problem.”
“My weight is not a problem. It is merely the result of my size and strength. It was because of my weight that you were not able to escape me when Miss Patty tried to save you.”
It had only been three Earth days ago. Our plan had progressed as scheduled. Within a year’s time on Earth, our fleet had grown to five thousand male Kanamits. We had embassies in every country on the planet and a buffet of meat entering willingly onto our corralling vessels by the thousands day and night.
Every Earthling was weighed upon entry to the ship. It was a method used to collect data for determining feed rationing. Even this did not deter them from walking straight into the predator’s den. They wanted to vacation on Kanamit and watch Kanamit baseball. These are just some of the lies that we told them about their exchange trip.
There was just one problem, Miss Patty. A female cryptographer from the United States of America. She was the only one to decipher the book that we strategically left in the UN in its entirety. The title was “To Serve Man” and led the humans to believe that we were indeed there to help. The contents of the book, however, were quite another matter.
I must admit that it was quite arrogant and foolish of our leadership to be so deliberately careless with such sensitive information. It may have fooled the world, but it did not fool one Miss Patty of the U.S.
I was on duty the night I met her and Mr. Chambers. With two lunar cycles served, I had been promoted to the rank of Butcher. I was ushering the human meat into the ship when she yelled, “Mr. Chambers, don’t get on that ship! The rest of the book, To Serve Man, it’s a cook book!”
It was then that Mr. Chambers, who had been six steps onto the landing deck, attempted to escape. In his mind, I was the only thing that stood between him and safety. He ran at me thrashing and fighting to regain his freedom, but I easily overpowered him. He was so weak. They all were.
I closed the ship, trapping Mr. Chambers inside, and turned to face the rest of crowd. Though the humans there had been patiently waiting to enter the ship just moments ago, they were now scattering in all directions. The charade was compromised and I alone could not control the pandemonium.
“Kanamits,” I commanded telepathically, “Capture them all. No one escapes alive!”
Though we had lumbered about sluggishly under the heavy gravity of Earth, we had neglected to inform the humans that we also possessed what they would call telekinesis or the ability to manipulate objects with our minds.
At my command, guns flew into the air as we disarmed the few guards and concealed carry holders that were present. Silence was abrupt as every vocal fold was crushed in one thought. Man, woman, and child collapsed in pain unable to scream.
We collected them one by one and placed them into the holding bay of our ship away from the others that entered willingly. We did not want to disturb the crop. Humans tasted better when they were not stressed and filled with adrenaline, cortisol, and norepinephrine.
With the situation under control, we departed. The troubled humans were not able to alert anyone and most would not be missed. They were all due to depart that very night, all save the female cryptographer, Miss Patty, and the guards.
We had letters sent to their residents explaining that the all-expense paid ten year exchange group leaving that night had a few last-minute openings and they were selected to depart ahead of schedule. We did not anticipate any issues. A trip to Kanamit was very much coveted among humans these days. The human race was very adaptable and there was nothing, good or bad, that they could not accept.
“Mr. Chambers, would you like seconds today?”
“Noory!” he screamed. “Noory, can you hear me?”
“What seems to be the problem, Mr. Chambers?” I answered coolly.
“I need to know why. If it’s true that you’re going to eat us. I need to know why.” He was sobbing, partly because he was upset and partly because he had not slept in four Earth days.
“That is quite simple, Mr. Chambers. We are who we are and you are who you are. Nothing more, nothing less.”
“So, you’re saying that this is not personal.”
“No, not at all. It is the way of the Kanamits.” I proceeded to explain to Mr. Chambers his current situation. “I was not on Earth when the Kanamits first arrived. I was still a boy of nineteen living with my family in the commons, but I will share with you what I was told.”
Per our history, as dictated by its keepers today, our first hunting journey to Earth was perilous. There was infighting and derision against the majority that ruled us. Though our race was on the brink of starvation, few thought it wise to harvest the inhabitants of the blue planet.
They seemed quite advanced to some. Surely, they were too enlightened to be domesticated and too intelligent to submit to unquestioned harvest. However, the evidence was against them. Due to their greed, overpopulation, cruelty, selfishness, and lack of humanity, they had to be put down. After much deliberation, the Earthlings were certified eatable.
The humans of Earth killed for sport, to conquer, and to intimidate more than they killed for sustenance or in defense. They allowed those of their own species to starve to death in barren lands. The thoughtless discard of good flesh was horrendous from our vantage point. No longer could my people ignore their wastefulness. We were too hungry to turn a blind eye, goes the story.
“So you targeted us because we were sinful?” he asked incredulously.
“You can think of it that way if you would like. Here is how I see it. We are the vultures of the galaxy. We devour that which is unwanted and cure overpopulated, diseased and dying planes.
Earth was overrun by vermin of a human nature. You littered and polluted, murdered and destroyed, forced other harmonious creatures into extinction. Your time of reckoning was nigh.”
“How could you possibly know all of this?”
“I started as a cook on this ship. Did you know that?”
“No, but how is that relevant to my question?”
“While the Kanamit leaders were debating whether or not humans were as foul as they seemed, I volunteered for observation. We could not travel to Earth in person due to our significant height and size difference, so we sent drones disguised as the smallest creatures on Earth. We traveled into your homes, offices, and places of worship quite unnoticed.”
“That’s just creepy…”
“I watched as you killed your brother, sold your sister, and neglected your child…all for the sake of money and material gain.”
“Well, you must have been watching some other scumbag because I did none of those things!”
“No, this is true. These were not your transgressions. But I did see you once, lusting over Miss Patty with hungry eyes.”
“I’ve warned you before, Kanamit, I will not let you speak wrongly of her.”
“It is not her that I wish to speak against, but you, Mr. Chambers. Are you not married? Where was your wife when you were wishing to have Miss Patty for yourself?”
He spat. “My wife is dead.”
“Did you kill her?”
“How dare you!”
“It was a simple question.”
“No, I did not kill her. She and our son died in a plane crash ten years ago.”
“I misspoke. My apologies.”
“Whatever. Just leave me alone, you alien scum.”
“Why not pursue Miss Patty then…when you had the chance? Do you not have sexual needs?” I was being sarcastic at this point. I had seen the lengths that man would go to satisfy their carnal urges.
“Don’t talk about her like that. Besides, we were coworkers. I was her boss.”
“And it’s not exactly right to screw any of your reporting team members. Patty is not that kind of woman anyway. She’s respectable. I would not have minimized her to a play toy as you have.”
“I see. So you do have some civility.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Only that I did not expect as much from you. I thought you were all savages.”
“Well, you thought wrong.”
“So, I did.” I paused. “Do you love Miss Patty?”
“What is your deal, Kanamit? Why are you asking me so many freaking questions?”
“I simply wish to better understand you.”
“Well, maybe you should listen more and talk less.”
“Please expound on this concept of listening.”
“For example, instead of casting judgment on an entire race of people and planning to eat them, maybe you get to know them first…or something like that. It sounded better in my head.”
“Oh, but we did. We watched you for many months looking for a weakness. We needed something that could be used against man to coerce him into his own destruction.”
“That’s not exactly what I meant by listening.”
I ignored him. “It was found that man had grown deceitful, conniving, and callous in the passage of time. What a waste of such a luscious planet! I, of course, had no previous knowledge of man’s vices, but the reports from previous visits were all there for comparison sake.”
“By the end, even I had to admit that man became more delicious to me the longer I watched them.”
We approached their highest council, the United Nations. We came in names of “peace and friendship”. Not unlike the human conquerors of centuries past, we decided to pose as saviors. We were wolves in sheep’s clothing.
We were so confident in our plan that we gave them our book of recipes.
We also offered them solutions to their greatest problems: cheap energy, the end of famine, impenetrable force fields for every nation. The good, the bad, and the ugly all fell prey to our deceit (pun intended). Our offer was simply irresistible.
All and all, man’s ego was his biggest enemy. Even men of a more honorable nature were still susceptible to the lie we devised. They were all thirsty for power and hungry for knowledge. Most men did not want to use this acquired power and knowledge to help others as one would imagine, but rather to further their own gains.
All of the humans were not convinced of our “honorable intentions”, but most were persuaded as our technological claims became a reality. While some humans tested the devices we gave them to further their progress, others tried to test us with Earthly machines to determine our truth. That was laughable. The mechanisms used were so rudimentary that a Kanamit child could deceive it.
Here is what our commander said during interrogation, “I hope that the people of Earth will understand and believe when I tell you that our mission upon this planet is simply this…to bring to you the peace and plenty which we ourselves enjoy, and which we have in the past brought to other races throughout galaxy. When your world has no more hunger, no more war, no more needless suffering, that will be our reward.”
What he did not say was that our civilization was in decline. What he also left out was the nature of our reward. The reason that we exist is to purge.
“It is the meal time, Mr. Chambers. What is your preference?”
“Ummm…let me get a number 2, biggie-sized, with a root beer.”
“I do not understand your request, please repeat yourself.”
“Just make me a double cheese burger with fries and a pop.”
“What is the meaning of “pop”?”
“Of course, I will be right there.”
I did not use the food serving slot anymore to feed Mr. Chambers. I brought him his food personally into his room. This was not showing favoritism. I simply wished to antagonize him before he ate. This was counterproductive, of course, as he would not taste as good being under constant duress, but I secretly enjoyed his company.
“Here we are, Mr. Chambers.” I hand him the tray of food and cup of soda. “You know this is not a very healthy meal.”
“Shove it, Noory. Can’t a man eat in peace?”
“Surely.” I hand him a napkin. “Have I ever told you about the first time I saw the Earth?”
“There she was, the blue marble planet, even more beautiful than she was from our telescopes. It really is a shame that you all did not take better care of her.”
“I hate to admit it, but you’re right.”
“Yes, I am.”
“Is that all you had to say? If so, you know your way out.” He resumes eating his meal.
I could see his right eyebrow twitch in frustration, I smiled and continued,“I could feel the seat vibrate under me as we descended upon the blue marble planet. My hands slipped as I gripped the handles of my seat. Sweat dripped into two small puddles on the floor beneath me. Yes, I was nervous. No, I did not know why. True, it was my first mission, but Earth was considered an easy harvest.”
“How fabulous.” Mr. Chambers was especially sarcastic when he was hungry. He put another fry in his mouth.
“Upon further investigation, we saw how much the Earthlings had evolved. The entire globe was in communication; however, many lived in fear and constantly plagued with hunger.”
“You know that isn’t my fault.”
“Sure it is, Mr. Chambers. You sat by idly as your country waged war on the rest of the world. You went about your day-to-day life as your fellow Americans committed crimes in order to feed their families. You were unconcerned.”
“Is that a crime?”
“Yes. You should have done more to help make the world a better place for all.”
“It’s cliché, but perhaps you’re right.”
I smile. “It’s good to see you grow, Mr. Chambers.” He instinctively grabs his midsection, his faces going pale. “I meant spiritually, not physically.”
“Oh.” He looks only a little relieved and begins chewing again.
I almost feel bad for him. He did not know it, but we were only two Earth days away from the killing port. I did not have the heart to tell him that he would have to die soon. Not that it would surprise him at all, but even I did not want to rub it in so cruelly.
“I have good news for you, Mr. Chambers.”
“Yeah? What is it?”
“Miss Patty is doing much better now. Her feeding tube has been removed and she is able to speak on her own.”
His expression hardly changes. “I’m glad she’s alright…for now.”
In an effort to see him cheer up I add, “Would you like to see her?”
He stops chewing and looks up at me. “Is this an evil joke?”
“No, not at all. I thought you two might like to say goodbye.”
“Come with me, Mr. Chambers.”
I take him by his arm and lead him out of his living quarters. The hallway is very quiet. Most of the prisoners were busy eating their meals. Four doors down, we stand in front of WSA-37200. I enter the code to open the door. As it slides open, Mr. Chambers walks past me and into the room.
Sitting at table eating in the far end of the quarters eating a burrito bowl is Miss Patty. She does not look up as we enter intent on not making contact with any Kanamits.
“Patty…” Mr. Chambers whispers standing in the doorway.
Patty looks up, “Oh, Mr. Chambers, you’re alive!”
They run to each other and hug. I walk into the room and shut the door behind me. I watch them as they embrace. They do not seem to notice that I am there.
Mr. Chambers pulls his head away from hers and looks at her, taking her head into his hand. “Patty…I’m sorry. I’m so very sorry.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Mr. Chambers. What could you possibly be sorry for?”
“You would be safe on Earth right now if it wasn’t for me! You came to warn me and look what happened.”
“I made my choice. I would make the same choice if I had to do it all over again.”
They were looking at each other intently now, studying each other’s face. I felt very moved by this display of emotion. I could feel my eyes tingle as tears began to form.
“Please, call me Robert.”
“I don’t think we have long.” Mr. Chambers finally breaks eye contact with Miss Patty and looks at me. “This Kanamit, his name is Noory. He allowed me to come and see you. I know they plan to eat us, but I promise you that this one is not all that bad.”
“How can you say that, Robert?” Miss Patty looks at him aghast.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time together lately. Listening and getting to know one another. His people are dying and they chose to eat us because of how little we cared for one another.”
“We have all done wrong, but listen to be Patty. I just want you to know, before we die, that I…” he pauses.
“Yes,” she breathes leaning in closer.
“I love you.”
She begins to weep. “I love you, too. I always have.”
They begin to kiss passionately. Tears and lips meld as they finally express to one another the feelings they had neglected to share.
I feel something wet rolling down my cheek and realize that I too am crying. I wipe my face embarrassed before either of them can see.
“Humans.” They look at me. “Mr. Chambers and Miss Patty, I want to thank you both.”
“For what?” questions Mr. Chambers.
“For showing me that there is a lot more to human beings than we thought.” I smile at them both, still locked in a lover’s embrace. “Now, come with me.”
“Wait a minute, Noory, you have to give me more time.”
“No, your time is up.”
“But I thought you cared.”
“I do, which is why I must get you both off of this ship.”
“What?” asks Miss Patty in wonderment.
“You’re letting us go?” inquires Mr. Chambers.
“But how?” he questions further. “Where are we supposed to go? We’re in space.”
“I can get you to an escape pod and program it to return you to Earth.”
“How else are you going to live to fight another day?”
“What about you? What will happen to you?”
“I will likely be executed for treason.”
“And you’re okay with that.”
I take their arms and lead them out of the room.
“Do not speak in the hallway. My voice will be heard by you two alone.” They nod. “I too am in love. Her name is Cortasia and she is the niece of our royal leader, Queen Cortaski. I had hoped to earn a respectable title and be able to wed her, but I have just learned that she is betrothed to another, a commander in the Kanamit army. I cannot hope to be as respectable as that. I am not of noble blood.
So, I give myself over to a different cause, that of human love. If I cannot have Cortasia then I cannot know love. It is my hope then that I may help a friend. Mr. Chambers, it has been an honor to learn from you.”
We reached the escape pod. I punch the code to open the door and help the two of them inside.
“Once you get back to Earth, find a way to win, teach only love, and live to see your people freed from our oppression.
Be well, Mr. Chambers of Earth.”