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by Julie Wornan

“I’m going to eat you,” it said.

It was very large. The visible part of its head filled the doorway. There seemed to be no way around it.

Be calm, Marvin commanded his thumping heart.

“Will you kill me first?” he asked.

It said, “No.”

Marvin wondered if this was good news, or bad.

“I don’t like to kill,” it said, “but I must eat. I will eat you alive.”

“Suppose I bought you a... cow?” Marvin offered.

“It’s the same. A living cow or you. You are here.”

“But I am... intelligent. I speak,” said Marvin, suddenly noticing that the thing, whatever it was, also spoke — in perfect English and with the same accent as Marvin.

“You are not as intelligent as all that, you know,” it replied with what might have been a hint of amusement. “For example, could you speak to a cow?”

Marvin realized that he would not know how to speak to a cow, or for that matter to a Chinese or a Hungarian. He was beginning to respect his interlocutor.

“What will happen?” he asked, his curiosity overcoming his fright.

“This is the procedure. You will enter my body through my mouth.

“Don’t be afraid,” it added kindly. “I have no teeth.”

It opened its mouth wide and Marvin saw no teeth. He saw a rolled-up thing that might be a tongue.

The being continued, “There will be a sort of digestion process in which the molecules of your body will intermingle with mine. You will not die, but you will cease to exist as you are. You will become part of me. This will bring me rejuvenation and energy, and I will enjoy it immensely.”

“Will it hurt lots?” asked Marvin.

“No. I don’t think so. We don’t think your brains are sufficiently developed to perceive pain.”

It thought a moment, then added, “I should say that most of us have that idea about your kind. I myself am sceptical. It has not been proven that low intelligence precludes suffering. Indeed, there may be a factor of speciesism in this train of thought.”

“What’s ‘speciesism’?” asked Marvin.

“You understand ‘racism’ and ‘sexism’, I think. A racist or a sexist assumes that their race, or gender, is superior to others, and that therefore — and the ‘therefore’ itself is questionable — has a natural right to dominate the others. This sort of prejudice is often reinforced by false stereotypes about the others. For example, a sexist male might consider all females to be scatterbrained.”

“My girlfriend is sexist,” said Marvin, beginning to relax. “She says guys are all macho.”

“There you are,” said the creature, with the hint of a smile.

“I guess a speciesist wolf would attack dogs,” said Marvin.

“We understand each other,” said the other being. “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you. Soon we will know each other much better.

“Now,” it added, “would you like to take some refreshment before we proceed? Perhaps you would like an apple. There are some in your fruit bowl.”

“No, thank you,” said Marvin. He was not hungry at all.

“Please take one — as a favor to me. I love apples and I need the vitamins, but I can’t eat them raw because of my allergy.”

Marvin complied, with a sigh. A moment’s delay is a moment of life, he thought, and while there’s life there’s hope.

“Are there many of you?” he asked. “I’ve never heard about your kind before.”

“You wouldn’t have,” it said. “Any one of you who meets one of us, doesn’t get to report it.”

Marvin considered this. Surely they lived somewhere? In tunnels or whatever? To have concealed all their traces was no mean feat.

The creature gave him time to finish his apple and wipe his lips. Then, suddenly, the swift tongue unrolled, darted out and flicked Marvin in.

To his surprise, it didn’t hurt at all. In fact, it was quite pleasant. A zillion new sensations flooded his being. Wordless thoughts for which his language had no system, images for which his five known senses were totally inadequate. Each thought and image gave way to another before he could begin to examine it properly. It was like hurtling through a kaleidoscope on a roller-coaster. The prospect of exploring all these new ways of thinking excited him and made him feel young and strong.

Dizzily, he tried to focus on his old life for a final farewell. His thoughts lingered briefly on all those who had been close to him — parents, siblings, friends. As he considered each, two perceptions surprised him. First, that they were not very bright. And second, that each was composed of wonderful energy-giving molecules just waiting to be eaten.

Copyright © 2009 by Julie Wornan

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