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Men Are From Mars,
JoLans Are From Uranus

by Yuvi Zalkow

part 1 of 2

This science fiction story takes place on Uranus. Stories never take place on Uranus. But this one does. And it does so without a lick of mockery for the planet’s name, which typically finds itself in more joke books than scientific journals.

The hero of our story arrives on Uranus for one simple reason: to save our solar system. Our hero is so famous that even an alien stationed on Uranus wants to meet him.

In real life, our hero is a nobody who sits around in his torn underwear, trying to write a novel about a man trying to write a novel. But instead, he ends up writing silly stories about Uranus.

In real life, this man is timid and scared, he weeps at night, he has problems communicating. In real life, our hero is impotent when it relates to the bedroom and his wife. But in this science fiction story, our hero is blond and bold and beautiful. He is virile, he is a brilliant tactician, and he is our last hope for mankind.

Our hero is the most famous political advisor on Earth and now he has one hour to negotiate with a JoLan alien creature who is tasked with blowing up our solar system. This creature is the last of his species to remain behind when the rest have cleared town, so to speak.

It is worth mentioning that JoLans look to us like monkeys. This is by design. It was the 1959 flight when we launched Able and Baker, a rhesus monkey and a squirrel monkey respectively, into space that the JoLans first noticed our solar system and our cute little space program. So the JoLans sent their first fleet of negotiators in the form of rhesus monkeys.

As far as we could tell, they were identical to monkeys, arriving even with fleas in their hair. We would never have been able to distinguish them from our own monkeys — except that they could talk. And that sight looked as laughable as the special effects in Planet of the Apes. But these JoLans were not jokers.

* * *

At first, the JoLans inhabited Uranus. Thousands of them. And they waited. They waited for our knowledge to progress to a point that merited communication. But after 200 years, they grew impatient with our slow progress. “They should have kept the monkeys in charge of the space program,” the JoLan negotiators agreed. And so they decided to visit the crude Mars outpost that we had recently built.

Things had changed between the time of Able and Baker and the time of the JoLans. The 1959 stamp with Able and Baker was an innocent four-cent stamp. At the time, it could send a postcard from New York to San Francisco, which seemed like a galaxy away.

The 2179 stamp with a JoLan monkey cost 287 dollars, and it wouldn’t even get your letter to the Moon, which was nothing more than a smog-infested suburb of Earth, full of second-rate scientists and second-rate espresso. Some things had changed, but some things hadn’t changed. Like the destructive flaws of the human species.

The story goes this way: we first met them on Mars; our last meeting was on Uranus. On Mars, it was charming, we were curious, awestruck, it seemed so incredible. Intelligent life! Brilliant monkeys who traveled by thought, manipulated time by choice, and ate entire stars for lunch.

They shared their knowledge with us and we shared our classic films with them. For us, this meant mental-powered flight. For them, it meant Marlon Brando in On The Waterfront. It was a grand time. The most saladacious of all our species’ salad days!

But on Uranus, the party was over. They saw us for what we were. Insecure, afraid of exposing our weaknesses, jealous and angry and destructive. We always wanted more than what we had, and we would destroy ourselves to get it. To think that we would try to hijack the JoLan/Earth project when these creatures could see through space and time! It was either stupid or a death wish. Let’s say both.

On Mars, we were intriguing and cute: funny creatures with that funny little digestive system and that way we liked to hump each other for amusement. But on Uranus, our species had been deemed unworthy troublemakers, doomed to sit in time-out for an eternity. It would take one JoLan thought to destroy the sun. There goes the neighborhood. And it was up to our hero to convince this last JoLan negotiator that we were worth saving.

In real life, this meeting didn’t take place on Uranus, it happened at the Urban Grind coffee shop on 22nd and Irving. In real life, he wasn’t trying to save all of humanity, he was just trying to save his measly little marriage. In real life, he wasn’t equipped with a neutron bomb. This man couldn’t even sustain an erection!

* * *

Uranus is composed of gas and ice. Surface temperature — if you can call it a surface — is negative 360 degrees Fahrenheit. Even with our newfound skill at M.P.F., it would have taken 10.5 years to make the trip. And it would have required the latest technology in thermal underwear.

But this JoLan made it happen in a warm 7 seconds, which is even faster than the speed of light. In the early days of our relationship, the JoLans respected our laws of physics. But the honeymoon was over.

Our hero steps out of the spaceship and steps into what looks like an Earth coffee shop. But instead of soothing café music, there is a screeching sound from the speakers. This screeching causes our hero to forget the tune he was humming in the spaceship, a tune he wanted to remember.

The JoLan negotiator is the only one in the place, and he is sitting at a table waiting for our hero. This is the first and only time that the JoLans have made us visit them on Uranus. They used to come to us. Or meet us at a Mars café. In either case, they stayed politely in our neighborhood. But after the little incident — our failed coup — they no longer were interested in our convenience.

Our hero covers his ears as he sits down next to the monkey-shaped JoLan negotiator. The monkey snaps his monkey fingers and the noise stops.

“Your species’ auditory sense was always a tricky one for us,” the monkey admits.

Our hero looks around at the place. It reminds him of a coffee shop from back home, but he can’t quite place it. The café has the strange quality of feeling recently inhabited, but also it feels like it has been permanently abandoned. The cappuccino on the front counter is still steaming.

“Nice work on the café,” our hero says.

The monkey points all around but doesn’t explain what he’s pointing at. He picks at some fleas and then eats them. “They’ve strapped a neutron bomb to your genitals,” the monkey says without much interest.

Proceed to part 2...

Copyright © 2009 by Yuvi Zalkow

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