From the Bed Room to the Big Boom “Hello? Anybody in there?” I said as I peered into my closet.

There was a slight glow in there, coming from between the floorboards. “No, there ain’t noone here. Buzz off,” was the answer I got. Relaxed, I went back to bed. I mentioned the incident passingly to a woman on the subway next morning on my way to work, but she misunderstood me, she thought I’d made a pass at her. I could see the wheels turn in her little Torontonian brain, trying to decide whether she should be happy because a man talked to her, or she should let her peerand media-induced artificial paranoia kick in and call the conductor on me. She chose the only right way to react, and that was glancing at me once, then going back to her morning sudoku. She was about 72 years old. Next night I saw the light again. I sat up in bed. “Eureka! This device will create cold fusion out of tap water!” I cried, but the light did not go off. I tried a few other exclamations. “Absolute zero!” Still, nothing. “Magnetic space ships!”, “Piezoelectric facials!” I could not go to back to sleep, so I waddled over to the closet. There was the light again. I thought the landlord can go to hell, I’ll get to the bottom of this right here, right now. I pried a few floorboards off the closet floor. Underneath lay a nice woman, totally dead, wearing a knit blouse that was a work in progress in her unmoving hands that held the knitting needles. She gave out a friendly glow. She was three inches tall. “Well, well, well!!! Somebody is late to be there as grandmother’s Christmas present to her little Annie, isn’t she?” She opened one eye. This made me think. “All the freedom in the spring wind and in the scent of the summer pastures may reside in our hearts,” I cooed. The co-ed opened her other eyes. All three of them. “Oh, cruel fate, why are you no longer than my manhood?” She sat up. “Chloe?” I asked. She laid her crocheting beside her. She rubbed her eyes. “Aaah... a stiff vodka martini with olives, please? I hope you have bleu cheese in the olives.” I loafed into the kitchen, and looked for a clean thimble. I shuffled back into the living room, opened the black lacquer cabinet where I keep the liquor. Took out the vodka, turned around and she was there, smiling, now a woman of proper size and proper proportions. She was not glowing any more. She was glowing instead as a

warm, marriage-ready beauty at the height of her feminine existence, with O-level geography and a finite life insurance policy. She was, in a selfassuredly coy way, hugging my boxer shorts, to cover her femininity. She opened her mouth, and said, “Thanks, Andrew.” Her voice was the dove’s call, the tiger’s growl, the swan’s neck and the elephant’s labia majora. “How... how did you know my name?” I asked, stunned. “Oh... I know a lot. More than anyone else on Earth. Except for maybe Zoroanaxamandopotor” “Zoro... who?” “My travel mate,” she said. “Are you finally going to hand over that glass?” I looked at the mixed drink in the small glass thimble in my hand. I downed it in one shot. I needed that. “Where do you come from?” I asked. “A far-far away... er... land.” She looked around. “May I sit?” I nodded. She got comfortable in my favourite armchair. “It’s actually not a land. It’s a single-celled animal’s petrified DNA we live on. We started to eat one end of one double-helix three billion years ago, and we got as far so far as the trilobitic trigger-mechanism to flee when danger presents. Them is good eatin’,” she said. “Mmm-mmm. Yum.” “Okay, smartypants, I know you are a fluorescent inflatable Barbie doll, expandable to three gigabytes”, I said. She did not protest, she just reached out and touched my hand. Her touch was warm, silky, soft, and incredibly pleasant. It zapped a few of the bigger points out of the upper regions of my IQ temporarily. I understood, without talking about it... she was an envoy, to teach Earthlings how to behave; how to build big, nice, shiny machines that really will make us happy. None too soon, I thought. She’ll teach us how to solve our problems of population-overproduction; how to end hunger, strike, and dog faeces on footpaths in our city parks; how to put an end to the impending end of the world in 2012, when the Maya calendar ends its count. We drank, held hands, and talked all night. I played old Deep Purple tunes

and showed her my antique map collection. She hung on every word I uttered with her beautiful clear blue eyes, she showed me how to make my hair stand on end on my knees; she played her favourite concept-composer, B-toven, and she danced the fourth movement of his B-rahms Sonata for two belly-buttons, dew in the cool spring air in the morning on cherry-blossom petals, and pinky on left foot. She told me that B-toven composed it after he’d completely lost his mind, and it’s still the best concept-concerto ever produced on her planet. Next morning, after a night of talking with her, I called in sick and asked the woman about Z, her travel mate. He stepped off the wallpaper, where I had been seeing him for forty years, as a tulip, growing form a musical box and reaching a nose that looked like Ringo Starr’s. I asked them how to not die. Z said, “well, you take this little oval-shaped pill, and you cut it up into four equal portions and have it with your oatmeal, with your lunch and with your dinner, and the fourth quarter you plant in your pillow where it grows so next morning you’ll have a full pill again.” “How do you get a pill like that?” I asked. “I told you. It grows out of your pillow.” “Aha.” I did not feel like arguing, because you don’t argue with people who can live forty years on your wallpaper, drink all your Scotch, and force you to blame the missing booze on your cocker spaniel. “But can we tell you how to travel at fifty billion times the speed of light?” Asked the girl. Correction, the woman. They prefer to be called that on their planet. “Well, yes. Please do.” “Well, that was a trick question. We both know how to sell flying gumshells, because we took marketing in college. Neither of us took any science or math.” “Okay. What can you tell me or show me that will make me millions?” “Well,” said Z, “we brought a kit along. It shows the health benefits and aesthetic superiority of gumshells over metal piercings through eyeballs. It shows that with proper use it can whiten your teeth while squashing your enemies and blowing up their families’ June vacation plans, which, in turn, will lead to the annihilation of the nuclear family. This is a nuclear device.” “No, no. Teach me something useful.” The two looked at each other. “Well, there is the Zoroantric fellatio...” “How does it work?” I said, feigning stupidity. The three previous female space travellers under my floorboards had fallen for it. “Please allow me to show you!!” Cheered the woman up. “Now, after Z drops his pants, you first kiss his hands... and then you slowly move your middle arm that grows out of your back towards his pupils, in a

snake-dance sort of way...” “Stop!” I wiped the sweat off my forehead. “Can you do my work?” “Yes, we can!” the two said in chorus. “Okay. Do it, please.” They just sat there. Smiling. They had their hands crossed on their laps, looking at me with innocent, expectant, yet self-satisfied eyes. “Okay, what are you waiting for?” “For your next command.” “Noooo...just do my job. Please.” “We’re finished.” “Oh.” There was a pause. What do you do or say to a couple of motivation-free, un-needy space travellers who have sucked up all the actionable items out of your brain? “Do you guys play Gin Rummy?” “Yes.” I knew not to probe deeper. They’d tell me they beat me a hundred times in a row in the last twentyeight nanoseconds. “Okay. You two have fun. I’ll go to visit my mom.” “No, you won’t.” “Er... why?” I asked. “You can’t leave,” the two told me again, in unison. “What do you mean, I can’t leave? Sure I can. Just watch. All I need to do is put on my coat, put the distance glasses in my top shirt pocket, with the removable shades that I have to find first, pick up the car-key, shut down the heating, turn off the coffee-maker, say a prayer to my maker, called “how in Thy presence we are meeker”, stop the DVD with Howie Meeker, disarm the alarm from its “home” program position and arm it as “away”, and go out the door and lock it from the outside. I do it hundreds of times every day. First when I leave. Then after returning, having realized my work pass is in the kitchen. Then when I remember in the elevator that the report for the boss is still in my home computer. Then when realize that that cute receptionists’ number at the doctor’s office is magnetized to my fridge, then when I find the diamond ring in my pocket that I don’t want to get pocketpicked on the subway, so I go back and put it back in my house safe, then...” “Well, okay. But you cannot do it.” “You are challenging me?” “No. We are telling you the fact.” “Oh? And how do you know?”

“Well... we have exactly seventeen reasons. First, Woman here has travelled fifty thousand light years, all alone, with oysters served in-flight, and the becoming baritone of the captain’s voice...” “Is this leading where I think it is leading?” “Yes,” said Z, and Woman blushed. A reasonable amount of time later, I put on the coffee, as W was taking her turn in the shower. Z was reading the paper. “What? These terrorists! What are they up to now?” “Blowing up the world, I suppose. Why are you getting so worked up about it?” “Oh, they couldn’t do it on my planet. No, sir. On my planet we all carry a little device, that can detonate the nucleus of the planet. If any one of us is unhappy with the state of world affairs, or with the service at the dry cleaners, or with anything else at all, we push the red button that says “don’t push here” and we all blow up.” He rummaged around his pocket. He finally produced a little green box, octodecagonal, with smooth, rounded edges and a huge red button in the middle, with a mark in seventeen different numbering systems that said “Do not push here”. “Here. This is the one. D’you want one for yourself? I think there is one extra I carry for intergalactic travel.” And he put an identical one on the table top. I stared at them. “What’s the use of it?” “Keeps everyone on their best behaviour. The cops never beat people to death on our planet. The Church preaches that everyone goes to heaven. Bosses give maximum raises to all their subordinates. There are no wars. Racial inequities do not exist. No woman refuses sex. No man propositions. Bedbugs don’t bite. The lion lies down with the kid.” I looked at him with what must have been a rather incredulous look. “Man, I ain’t lyin’,” he said. “Everybody’s favourite team always wins,” he continued as I picked up one of the two boxes and fiddled with it. “Workers negotiate less pay through collective bargaining, employers ask people to work less for extra pay. Birthdays happen every week for kids who are in years between 8 and 12, and once every ten years for women over 22. Beginning with age 29 we still celebrate everyone’s birthdays, but they don’t

happen. Consequently, nobody dies. We have a different way of coping with overpopulation.” “And what is that?” I asked, my intellectual curiosity finally sniffing that a good story is in store. “Well, we send envoys to other planets.” “So... you colonize?” I asked. “No. Not at first, anyhow. We first bring tidings of great joy. We distribute hugely useful and highly valuable gifts to the people we first meet on the planets we visit.” Yessssss!!! I thought. “Carry on,” I said. “Well, the first gift we give out is this little push-button contraption that wipes out all life that lives on a planet that is the birthplace of the pusher, but it doesn’t affect life-forms indigenous to other planets.” “Okay, don’t give me any of those, and please don’t give anyone else any, either. I am not trying to be rude, you understand.” “Yes, yes.” He went quiet, and fixed his inquisitive blue eyes on me. “Tell me about this box instead, with the red button,” I said. “So how does it work again? I push the red button when I get mad. Right. Then what happens?” He stared at me for three more seconds. “Have you heard?” “Heard? Heard what. What have I heard?” “That Jones got the promotion this morning that you thought was a shoo-in for you.” I went wide-eyed. “How did the little runt... what was the clincher?” “He showed up this morning at the big meeting where your team gave a presentation to the CEO.”

“Arrrggh!! I forgot! What a dork I am!” “Yes, and the promotion comes with three weeks extra holidays, a companypaid vacation on the exotic island of the employee’s choice with all benefits, a maid at home, a concierge at work, a corner office with windows, golfing on Saturdays with the Boss, as much ice-cream as you can eat AND take home, a pony-ride, an electric train set in your office, a real-life cowboy and an Indian, the Tooth Fairy, no more Wagner arias on the music mix piped in to your office,...” I was getting angrier and angrier. I had something in my hand in my pocket, I don’t even know now what it was, it was something like an eighteen-sided box or something, with smooth, round edges, and my knuckles must have been getting white because I was clenching my fist so very tightly, and the box moved in my sweaty palm, and I felt this button, it gave in to my touch as I pressed on it, it was one of those feel-good buttons when you press on them, so I pressed it deeper, and