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Air Sacs and Frilly Bits - a very short story

‘Horses don’t talk like that, Dicky.’ Miriam rolled half a dozen of her forward-facing eyes in an expression of excessive patience, flicking a tentacle towards a fly on the ceiling. ‘You keep forgetting what you’re supposed to be. Horses just neigh, bray and whinny; things of that nature. Refer to the guidelines; they exist so you don’t make mistakes like that.’ She sighed and deposited the fly in her thoracic cavity for later ingestion.

‘Yesterday,’ she continued, ‘it was so peculiar, hearing all that coming out a pelican’s mouth – er, beak. It was ridiculous. You must get in role or you’ll be spotted next time you’re out on surveillance. We need to get this preliminary observation report done properly on this planet. You were lucky not to be sent for dog-food – or the zoo.’

‘What about you?’ Dicky bristled his frilly bits. ‘You have no size control. Nobody ever saw a dragonfly the size of an albatross. But, no… you have to do it. And you really shouldn’t have been surprised when the kids tried to ride you when you became a sports car that scarcely reached up to their knees. Then you morphed into a cow no bigger than a hen when you were spying round that farm. We’re never going to obtain all the data our employers need if you’re going to keep messing things up.’

‘Yeah? Yeah? And what about appropriate? I told you about that – you just don’t get piglets wandering round an office asking questions.’ Miriam’s air sacs inflated in indignation. ‘Can’t you become a photocopier or something, and just listen in? Everybody stands and talks next to them – no need to ask anything.’

‘Right! Right. If we’re going to bring that up – who was it who decided that cats should be bright blue? And wouldn’t be noticed in the dog kennels?’

Miriam’s air sacs puffed up to near-maximum size, taking on a delicate shade of violet. ‘I thought it was a rather tasteful blue,’ she said, huffily.

‘But this is Earth – they don’t do taste. We’ll never get any more work here if we can’t get our research more accurate. This is our last chance, after what happened to those two towers…’


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