Colonel Byrd swallowed his own Adam’s apple as he returned his crow-cracked eyes to the menacing space-centipedes towering over him. On this cool November morning, 2021, black-and-tan insects from another world, sporting a thousand stubby legs each, had just evaporated several tanks with laser beams from their hundred dark, marbled eyes. The combination of melted steel and burning flesh flooded the veteran’s nose and churned the officer’s breakfast burrito almost inside out. Pull it together, man, the colonel told himself, What did you expect from aliens capable of interstellar travel? The officer stood almost alone as the civilians dotting the perimeter of the White House lawn had fled in terror. A few children, too inexperienced to realize they should run away, remained in the wake of their cowardly parents.

“I suppose you would like to talk to our leader?” the army veteran almost gagged as he plumbed the depths of his coat pocket for his smartphone.

The two longest and tallest aliens swung their heads towards each other then back at the colonel. “Does your leader have beans?” asked a voice that sounded like crunching, broken glass.

The officer withdrew his hand from his coat pocket and scratched his forehead, tilting his green, starched hat backwards. “Beans? You mean like the things you eat? Um, no, our leader doesn’t have anything like that,” Colonel Byrd’s lips curled. The space-arthropod nearest the colonel lowered its lengthy body towards the veteran and parted its sharp mandibles.

“What I meant to say is that ‘yes’ we have beans. It’s just that our leader doesn’t eat them,” the veteran spoke to save himself.

This caused a quiet stir among the fantastically large centipedes from space. The gathering of alien insects raised themselves high in the air and swiveled their heads back and forth at each other, their murmurings like nails etching glass. The monstrous arthropod menacing the colonel just a moment ago lowered itself towards the man again.

“What kind of a leader does not eat beans?” the creature asked. The veteran was about to answer when another, smaller alien interrupted.

“It does not matter, little hairless monkey. What kind of beans do you have? We are particularly fond of cocoa beans. Give us all of them,” it ordered.

An educated man, the senior officer knew these to be among the most valuable beans in all the world, for you cannot make chocolate without them! Giving the aliens all the cocoa beans, well, that was asking a lot, especially at the onset of winter when hot chocolate is so popular. But there was the matter of extraterrestrials’ death-ray eyes. The liquefied army tanks looked like olive sludge, vaguely like pieces of chocolate left out in the sun too long. Surely this was just a hint of the aliens’ power. The colonel fumbled for his phone again.

“Um, you see…Bear with me a moment. I need to speak to our leader.” The officer raised and waved a hand around, signaling everyone to remain calm while he brought the phone to his lips. A ding followed. “President Siri, what should humanity do when dangerous aliens ask for all of our cocoa beans?”

A digitized, Australian female voice replied quickly. “Okay, here’s what I found.” The colonel immediately tapped the first webpage result on his smartphone. He read as quickly as he could.

According to the Geneva Referendum on Possible Alien Contact, it was concluded that threatening aliens displaying superior technology and firepower should be complied with in order to minimize human casualties… It was going to be a hard sell but Colonel Byrd really had no choice. He put both hands in the air.

“Okay, okay. I have the authority to comply with your wishes. We will give you all our cocoa beans.” Though he may have just saved humanity, the veteran knew he’d just made himself over seven billion enemies.

“Good, good,” the closest slinky extraterrestrial said removing itself from the colonel’s personal space. But no sooner had it retreated than whipped its body back at the leader. “And do you have coffee beans?”

Were they toying with the man? Given their ability to traverse interstellar space and shoot lasers out of their eyes, they were cruel, too? Knowing he’d probably never make it off the White House lawn, the colonel stammered.

“Well, hmmm, I don’t really know what those are. I’ll, uh, have to ask around…” The veteran ran his fingers around his shirt collar. It sure was getting hot in the November sun.

“Are you sure you don’t know what those are?” the space-arthropod slurred at the O6.

No matter how he answered, Colonel Byrd figured he was a dead man. He raised his smartphone back to his lips and spoke softly. “Siri; chances are I’ll survive lying to dangerous extraterrestrials and see my family again?”

“Based upon a stress analysis of your voice, there is a high probability the knowledgeable and dangerous extraterrestrials will figure out that you are lying. It is reasonable to assume that any visitors from space have studied human behavior before arriving here on Earth,” Siri answered.

The officer figured there was no use in lying. He looked up from his phone and threw his arm around in a semi-circle. “Yes, oh great and formidable space insects! We have coffee beans, too. In fact, we have all kinds of beans. Soy beans, black beans, pinto beans…”

“Good! We will kill you all slowly for your cooperation,” boomed one of the god-sized arthropods. Green, slimy saliva coated its sharp teeth as it gnashed them together in anticipation. “This is wonderful, we would simply die if we ate anything that was not a bean!” The broken glassy voice could be heard far afield. The congregation of aliens writhed in victory, dancing like black-and-tan snakes around their silver plate of a flying saucer.

“Mister space alien?” a little African American girl spoke from beside the colonel. “Do you like beans?” she offered the creepy-crawly beside the officer. Her deep brown eyes were wide with wonder as she held up a white box against her pink down jacket.

The gigantic space centipede nearby leveled its black marbled eyes upon the child before Colonel Byrd, clenching his teeth sideways, could hide the girl behind him.

“Yes, little thing incapable of traversing galaxies. We love beans, as I have said,” the creature mocked as its eyes began to glow red.

The little girl held up the white box from behind the veteran’s back, generous to the oppressors. “Have you ever had jelly beans? They’re really good.”

Colonel Byrd spun around, dropped to one knee and brought his index finger to the girl’s mouth. He shook his head adamantly. “No, don’t say that!” he ordered as gently but firmly as possible.

“Move, small balding monkey!” the black-and-tan arthropod champed. It brought its tail around and swiped the veteran right. The officer tumbled safely enough but his dress greens were soiled with dirt and grass stains. The colossal bug snatched the white box from the babe with its two front pincers and launched the box high into the air, throwing the multicolored jelly beans far and wide.

The threatening centipede’s eyes lost their glow and seemed to gloss over in delight. “So many colors! We have never seen or tasted such delights.” The multitude of space insects slithered in various directions and caught the jelly beans in their gullets as easily as popcorn. “So, mmm, so delicious! You have more?” the thing demanded more than asked in its voice of crunching glass.

But then the extraterrestrials shuddered along the length of their bodies. Their thousand arms wriggled uncontrollably. They whipped their long, segmented selves to and fro, looking to accompany Colonel Byrd’s breakfast burrito.

“Commander Primea One Dash One Zero,” one arthropod’s jaws chittered, “I do not think these are real beans!”

Scores of intimidating, super-sized centipedes fell like heavy ropes upon the ground, their midsections exploding in the bright hues of the jelly beans they had swallowed. Colonel Byrd instinctually had tackled and embraced the little girl to protect her from the spewing guts of the extraterrestrials. His uniform was utterly ruined now.

“I don’t think they liked them,” the little girl seemed low and apologetic in tone. Then a glint of sun bouncing off the aliens’ spacecraft caught her eye and she forgot everything. Her pupils narrowed and she lifted her head up. “Can we play on the flying saucer?” she asked the putrid covered officer.

“Yes, yes we can,” Colonel Byrd nodded. “You can do anything you want as long as you’re always nice to people.” The veteran stood up, took the hand of the world’s next great leader and walked away victorious under the sun.

 

All Rights Reserved © April 2017 John J Vinacci

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