“Space Opera,” by Cal Cleary

Aug 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Prose

I am sitting in a room with at least three hundred people, and I have been asked to move to the back because of my gigantic hat.  I am not sure how to react.  If I move, I will undoubtedly read about my shame in tomorrow’s gossip section, or at least I will hear about it tauntingly during my daily super-spacial swimming with fellow gentlemen.  I do not want this.  And, I reason, if the people behind me were important enough to do something about it, they would very probably not be sitting behind me. 

I throw five thousand dollars at the four-armed usher and when that doesn’t move him, I reach out with my tentacles and caress his exposed genitals.  He leaves.  They always leave when I touch them.  My body is a mass of slimy appendages, completely alien in appearance to the humans, a monstrous picture that often frightens even the impure-human sentients.  Every known species these days has a little human somewhere, except for me.  I wore such a giant, gorgeous hat in hopes that it would draw attention away from my deformities. 

Most of the crowd is wholly human, though the performer on stage, a blue-skinned singer with expressive range and no clothing, is most certainly not.  The performer is never human, not anymore.  Humanity bred dominant, and they do not need to dirty themselves with the nude singing aspect of the entertainment industry anymore. 

I have never understood the making of art, I can proudly say.  I want only to be entertained – and for everyone to love me, of course, as all sensible beings do.  Despite the writhing mass of limbs that make up the bulk of my mass, I am as human as many here.  I was raised by human parents, at least as far back as I recall, excessively wealthy human parents who did not mind my extra appendages.  In fact, once mother-dearest discovered their dexterity and tensile strength, my respectable parents began to leave the house less and less.  I occasionally feel shame that this addiction was partially responsible for their deaths – it sometimes feels as though some of the shame at their indecency and weakness may rub off on me, as though I am judged by their sins. 

I am poked in the back, on one of my rear tentacles.  I can feel the grease of his filthy hand rub off on me.  I have never gotten used to that feeling, never learned to properly suppress my nausea at it.  I am sure that my human wife thinks that I cannot stand the sight of her body, with so few limbs, but it is untrue – she is beautiful to me, but I cannot bear her touch.  I have tried, out of respect to her wishes, but I have failed her in much the same way that I eventually failed my dear, deceased parents.  I suspect that I am secretly traumatized by something involving their touch, though biology suggests a minor allergy to certain oils on their dirty skin is a more likely explanation. 

My tentacles sway in sadness for a brief instant at the thought of my lonely wife, who is undoubtedly even now pleasuring her seven-entity Quadrillionaire Estates Sex Slave Premiere Package, but I am disrupted once again by the filthy touch of the ape behind me.  “Pardon,” he whispers to me.  “I was wondering if you could remove that gorgeous hat, you slavish beast.” 

I consider my options very briefly before I consume him in a writhing mass of sticky, sucking tentacles.  I am afraid, for a moment, that I have made the wrong decision.  I snap his neck with my innards to silence him before I begin to digest him — slowly, so as not to make noise.  I do not want to disturb the show. 

Around me, the people begin to applaud softly.  I pretend not to know why, and join in the clapping.  I cannot afford to stand out.  Similarly, the rest of the audience begins clapping.  They are unsure why, but they, like me, do not wish to appear not to know why they are clapping.  They are undoubtedly making wry comments back and forth even now with a sense of elitist camaraderie.  I would love to join them, but my mouth is sadly full. 

The performer, dear, beautiful girl bows, confused.  She believes we are clapping for her.  She is, then, rather dull, but her voice is beautiful, and if she is cleaner than the humans, I would gladly penetrate her multiple times with a number of appendages of varying length and girth.  I make a mental note to approach her after the show with the offer.  I rather hope she will say yes — I do so love ejaculation. 

The applause dies down eventually, and the performer continues with her show.  Her voice is operatic, and the song she has chosen is much better than any in her opening set.  I am hypnotized against my will to follow the rises and falls of her silvery voice.  I retain enough sense of self not to sing along, but my neighbors cannot help but note my swaying tentacles as I brush their thighs in my dance.  Though I cannot see them, I can mentally picture their scorn.  “Look,” they are saying to each other so softly that my dull ears cannot pick up on it, “truly, music soothes the savage beast.” 

“Indeed,” replies another, an alien concubine who will surely never now allow me to penetrate her to our mutual satisfaction, “it is such an animal that I can hardly stand to be near it.” 

“And it smells something fierce,” replies their less-clever friend.  I would like to penetrate him, but for a different reason, and it would end only in my satisfaction as I consumed him.  I do not like stupid remarks where witty ones are called for. 

It is either the shame of this imagined exchange or the completion of the song that allows me to break free of the hypnotism.  I almost eat all the people near me, to ensure that they do not spread rumors about me, but I have long since learned that one mustn’t get predictable.   Nothing turns an audience against you quicker than repetition, mother-dearest always told me. 

Before the performer can begin a new song, I hear a ruckus from the back.  I am shocked.  I hope that whoever began this shameful ruckus dies.  It almost saddens me, what humanity is coming to.  In my head, I share a look with the performer, and we silently laugh at the foibles of the true humans.  In reality, she continues with her set, silently hoping, I am sure, that she will not be executed for failing to hold the attention of her audience. 

“Everyone!” I hear a voice from the back.  “Everyone get on the fucking floor!”  Such dreadful shouting!  I cannot believe that there are humans that would dare do this.  I hear rapid gunshots punctuating his shouts.  He must have some sort of awful automatic device. 

I yawn, feigning boredom.  I can feel the nearby patrons eyeing my nonchalance with envy.  I easily hide my smile, though the appendage twitches that signify happiness in me is hardly recognizable to any greasy little rodent around me, and return to watching the singer.  Like me, she is pretending not to notice.  Admittedly, this may partially be because if she falters, she will be murdered at the shows end, but it is still admirable, and it is drawing a great deal of positive attention from the crowd, who is, at this point, mostly ignoring the thugs. 

They do not seem to like that.  I hear a series of rapid gunshots, and the pretty blue-skinned humanoid on stage explodes into a beautiful purple shower of blood and vital organs.  Her voice has stopped, and for a moment, the entire theater is stunned silent. 

The silence does not last, and the heartless brutes begin to scream orders again, but the damage has been done.  The performer has been shot in the midst of her strongest song this night.  I do not act, and despite the screams and the guns and the angry idiots.  I hear the commands, the, “Empty your wallets!  Your credits are mine!  All your dollars are mine!” but I do not know what to do, how to react. 

Fear, I know, seems logical, but I recall that fear was the immediate response at the terror strikes at the Ultra-Coke Messiah Hall of Music twelve days back, and it would really just seem to the outside world as though we were copying them.  I certainly do not want to die like that, and I suspect that no one else here does, either.  Cruel society would tear down the massive monument I plan on having built for my resting place and in its place would build toilets should I show a moment’s fear, I believe. 

There is always heroism.  That could be interesting.  From the numerous films I have seen, heroes are rather well received, at least in the short term, and they are frequently granted penetration-rights from total strangers without even needing to drug or pay them first!  I rather begin to hope that the consensus be heroism.  The fact that I am immortal is an added spice to this, as I should surely be quite a successful hero because of it. 

This paralyzing indecision grips many of us, I suspect, because we are going through similar thought processes.  The cockless bastards holding the concert hall up are still shouting nonsense like, “Your women and your dollars will go to feed our bloody cause!” but it feels half-hearted.  They must be experienced enough to know that they will not get anywhere until some sort of consensus is reached among the crowd.  I do not allow my pride at being held up by such skilled beings to show, but I am secretly quite thrilled.  This shall surely make the news.  I hope my wife sees. 

I am still thinking when I heard the first bits of song.  Her song.  Did we choose memorial?  That seems kind of lame.  It’s just one guy, sitting near the mindless beasts.  I hear a gunshot ring out, and the singing stops.  I brace myself for more crappy singing, and I’m sure that the brutes feel the same way. 

Blessedly, I am surprised when I hear an older woman’s voice eagerly yell out, “Kill me next!”  That breaks the silence, and I am quite happy — not a memorial, then, but a bloodbath.  A tribute – she died, so we die.  Conceptually similar to memorial, but different enough to make me almost attempt to smile, and violent enough to definitely get us on TV.  We’d own the cycle for hours! 

Gunshots ring out, faster and faster, trying and failing to keep up with the demands.  The thugs must not even be stopping – they must be planning to go back once everyone is dead and rummaging through the pockets, grabbing the jewelry, all that.  Had I a spine, surely it would shiver in my currently excited state. 

The screaming demands are getting louder and louder, and soon I cannot even hear the gunshots anymore.  Someone nearby, in a futile attempt to stand out, begins to sing.  A few people take up the song, and are rewarded with a quick death – one of them even has the honor of being disintegrated by a wide-burst laser blast!  Ecstasy. 

I feel the first bullet smack against some of my back tentacles, along with brain matter from the person it tore through to get to me.  This is when I feel the first stab of worry, as the bullet does not penetrate me.  In fact, the most distress that I experience is from the feel of all that filthy human touching my tentacles. 

As the thugs move closer to me, more and more blood, loose skin, bits of the people nearby land all over me.  The feel of it disgusts me, and I am beginning to get agitated.  I can feel the bullets hitting me, sometimes; I believe that they may even be penetrating my tentacles.  I occasionally feel pain, I think.  But I see no vital organs spraying forth from me, feel no death throes. 

“It’s not going down!” someone screams.  I can only assume they’re talking about me, speaking of me as some sort of beast.  The nerve!  

“Firebomb it!”  Finally, something other than screams and songs — explosion.  The sound is frankly more painful than the firestorm that follows, though I can tell that the flames should be quite painful from all the dying and whining that the apes around me are doing. 

After the fire scours me clean, I stare out in front of me.  A bulk of the hall is dead.  I stare out at the stage in front of me, at the scattered remains of the poor blue singer.  I look around, barely noticing the never-ending hail of gunfire pounding against my hardened tentacles, staring at the devastation, at all the death.  Why am I not dying? 

I realize that I can no longer feel my hat.  One tentacle reaches up to feel for it, and comes away covered in dust.  The firebomb.  It must have destroyed my hat.  But…without my hat, I begin to feel naked.  Without my hat, I am naked, but it is more than simple nudity.  The hat drew attention away from my… deformities.  Without it, I am truly naked to the world for the first time in many hours. 

Casually, I slide forward through the burning rubble, towards the thugs.  They begin to launch grenades.  The heat hurts them more than it hurts me.  Two of them bring out expensive laser rifles, which very nearly manage to burn me, but it is not enough. 

My tentacles grab hold of the guns, snapping them.  The resulting overload cooks the two men.  It even damages those two tentacles.  I have a hundred more. 

I consume the remaining gun-toting toughs.  I consume the remainder of the people in the auditorium.  I leave, and consume the approaching media.  If I cannot die with the remainder of them those gloriously dirty humans, I can allow no one to witness my shame.  I shame eat my way through the city, killing hundreds, all the way to the Gray Oceans, and I slide swiftly into it and swim far and fast, diving deep.  The Gray Oceans make an excellent hiding place – even in a time of interstellar travel, it is deep and perilous and worthless enough that treks to the bottom are rare, and I was spawned in the very deepest depths on my home-planet. 

I am comfortable there.  But I cannot leave without facing my shame. 

I hope my wife will miss me. 

I hope there were no recording devices present in the theater or in my rampage across the city.


Cal Cleary is a librarian, writer, and all-around miserablist who spends an enormous chunk of each week judging others: he reviews comic books, graphic novels, and TV for read/RANT. He also has a short horror story titled “No Answer” in an anthology of heavy metal horror stories, and a short zombie comic called “Compromise” in an upcoming comic from Incubator Press.

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