Black Petals Issue #95 Spring, 2021

Blue Meet
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Blue Meet-Fiction by George Aitch
Dark Alleyways-Fiction by Adam Phillips
Iris' Vanity-Fiction by Tristan Miller
Scalp Cleanse-Fiction by Kajetan Kwiatkowski
The Muscus-Fiction by Stevie Binx
The Wrong Place-Fiction by Ante Caleta
Things That Happen-Fiction by Guido Eekhaut
Tidal Horror-Fiction by Sal Braden
Two Martinis In-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Vampire-Fiction by Gene Lass
Hypnic Jerk-Flash Fiction by Vismay Harani
Speed Dating-Flash Fiction by Alexander Condie
Step Out-Flash Fiction by Ed Nobody
The Packing Bay-Flash Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Trophy Kill-Flash Fiction by Eddie D. Moore
Occupational Hazard-Flash Fiction by Doug Hawley
The Definition of Crash-Poems by Paul David Adkins
Ghost: A Working Definition-Poem by Carl E. Reed
Vampiric Threnody-Poem by Carl E. Reed
Leelanau Lake Monster-Poems by Richard Stevenson
Ballast-2 Poems by Angelo Letizia
Pit Bull-3 Poems by Pete Mladinic
Shadow of Sleep-Poem by Teresa Ann Frazee
Microcosmus-3 Poems by Daniel Snethen
The Higher Dimensions-Poem by David C. Kopaska- Merkel

95_bluemeet_kjhgreenberg.jpg
Art by K.J.Hannah Greenberg 2021

Blue Meet

By George Aitch

 

Twin suns overhead promised grand weather for the barbecue. This might have been the last opportunity for a cookout before the long summer roasted the ground and drew all moisture from the air, rending the atmosphere unbearable for more than a few minutes at a time. Alfreda buzzed around her neighbours to broadcast their invites while Heck, her husband, ported to the settlement to pick up supplies. Everyone knew about the Yangs’ parties. The effort they put in was legendary, plus they provided a great opportunity to network; all the big names from the company would be there.

Come on over for a good old-fashioned B-B-Q at the Yangs’ back yard! This afternoon at 26:00. Bring family, friends and plenty of meat!’ stated the gram.

What Alfreda would like to have put was “no xens”. She couldn’t, of course; that sentiment was publically frowned upon in this new era of tolerance. Wars had been fought by their grandparents against the many flavours of xen and other extra-terrestrial wishwash and now politicians were keen to be seen shaking hands with appendages on the casts and ushering in some flimsy peace. They were employed by the company and even starting to interbreed with humans. The very thought of it turned Alfreda’s stomach. What consenting folk did in the privacy of their pods didn’t usually bother her, but this was a step too far and she wouldn’t be having any of that type mingling in her yard.

Heck ported back to the house and strode through the doors to the kitchen, arms full. He laid three thick paper bags on the counter, chock-full with Product A rations. Alfreda’s husband was a thickly-built man with a growing bald spot. He adjusted his cap and wiped his dirty hands on his overalls.

“I met Lou at the trading post; the Bergmanns will shoot around this evening and say howdy.” He said.

“Aww Heck you’ve trodden dust into the carpet. That was airbuffed nice this morning ready for company.”

Heck ignored her “He’s keen to show me this new Algonquin he ordered offworld. Brand new spec”.

“Those types really feel the need to rub our noses in it. You know you could afford one if the Zsasz deal goes through.” Alfreda said.

“Not with the transit fee and insurance coverage we couldn’t. Back on Xion these things’d come cheap. Out here we haven’t got a dealership.”

“Do you miss Xion?”

“Mostly no. There’s more opportunity for a company man to make his name on the frontier. It’s good to get away from the hive. Look at how much space we’ve got.”

He pecked her on the cheek then fished around the drawers for his utensils. Carrying them through the lock, he was hit by the sweltering heat. Their pod regulated the temperature inside to a mild chill but there was nothing to be done to offset the baking suns once you were outside.

Heck set his tools by the raystove and began to set it up. These ambient burners cooked things slowly, from the inside out. Once done, the meat would be so tender as to fall off the bone. His vehicle might not be up to scratch but he’d be damned if Lou Bergmann would front him in a cookout.

The raystove warmed to life. Heck admired the machine, bathed in its turquoise glow. Laying a hand to stroke its monitor, he could feel the source purring away underneath the panelling. Dependability and durability were important out here, where spare parts might be tough to come by. The raystove hadn’t let him down yet.

The longer he stood, the larger the sweat patches grew on his shirt. There was only so much heat a man could take. It hadn’t been long yet you could have wrung his overalls out like a washcloth. Heck raised his hand to his brow and squinted at the suns. The evening would be less harsh, he hoped. There hadn’t been any storms reported so the sunsset would be a display worth catching. That alone should get people out into his yard, and then onto meeting his friends, eating his food and talking to him. The Szasz deal was one thing, but there might be potential to net a few other exchanges for the department after everyone had had a few beers.

Later, the first guests ported over and began to cluster on the deck. Alfreda circulated through the crowd, sewing stragglers together by way of introduction and keeping glasses topped up. Heck had re-entered the pod for his Product A supplies just as the front lock disengaged, admitting three people.

“Is that Heck Yang? Slap me silly and slice me a polka, how are ya buddy? It’s been too long!” They hugged with backslaps all round. Ali’s son nestled at his mother’s feet, glancing at the host with a guarded expression.

“Glad you could make it, Ali. How long has it been? Xion?” Heck said.

“Who knows? It’s good to see you. Where’s Alfreda?”

“Out back, with the others. Go say hi.”

Heck kissed Ali’s wife and ruffled his son’s hair. Ali stashed his beer in the cooler and went out to meet and greet the rest of the partygoers. He returned to the cupboard when the lock disengaged again. A willowy woman stood cautiously at the eaves.

“Mr Yang?” she said.

“Ana! In my pod it’s Heck. How’re you doing? Can I get you a drink?” He ushered her through and popped a beer before she’d answered.

“I’m good Heck,” she tested the new name, rolling it over her tongue “I’m just not used to all this porting. I still get a little giddy.”

Ana was a temporary transfer from central. She’d been sent from offworld to help set up the company’s internal audit branch. She came recommended with great references and a solid resume, however Heck had always found her timid. It was as though she was always caught in the middle of something, as though speaking to the department heads put her off balance. She hadn’t yet gelled with the rest of the team; he often saw her taking lunch alone on the fifth floor cafeteria. No matter, breaking the ice was what these meets were all about.

“Is your husband coming?” Heck had never met the man, though he’d heard Ana mentioning him once, maybe at the orientation he’d given on her arrival. She’d also filed for maternity leave later in the year, though wasn’t yet starting to show. He’d helped her navigate the peculiar bureaucracy as she’d just started.

“He’s a little caught up, something last minute. I’m sorry. If you need him to get something I could send a cast?”

“No, I wouldn’t dream of it. We’re well-provisioned enough, thank you.” Planting a solid hand into her back, he steered her slight frame to the outside lock. It hissed and admitted her. Heck watched from the window as Ana stood helpless until Alfreda wandered over and introduced her to the Van Schoors. Shaking his head, he heaved all the meat onto himself and rejoined the party outside.

A handful of men were standing about the raystove drinking sangrias. The fruit was locally produced; the hydroponics had been up and running for a few decades now. Heck joined them, dumping his bags on the side and checking the monitor for the heat. As he began unpacking the cuts he’d bought in the settlement, his guests fired questions about the capabilities of the cooker. Admitting no pride, he answered in detail, reeling off numbers and grade which meant very little to him. 

“Where’d you get this baby?” said Lou with a hint of jealousy which Heck was delighted to hear.

“It came with us in the move.” He answered.

“It came out of a catalogue or something?”

“That’s right, big department store in MC3 back on Xion. Had her for six years now without a hitch.”

He lifted the lid to show off the grill. Though they might have been green with envy, the faces of his colleagues were enriched by the turquoise glow coming from the source. While they admired it, Heck loaded the grill with meat. This was his special secret. Nobody knew what he’d bought, not even Alfreda. This stuff was a rare commodity, special order only. He didn’t like to think what she might say to the price.

The tenderest flesh, supple and soft under his fingers, was placed onto the grill. The positions had been tactically calculated to ensure maximum taste. Heck was an artist and here was his canvas: rib cuts, flank and loin and all of it blue. Not blue as in the rarest of steaks (though to be sure, these steaks were rare) but blue as in colour; a deep navy which would lighten as the meat cooked.

“What’s that you got there?” Lou asked.

“You never seen blue meat before chum?”

“Say, I heard of that” said Victor Van Schoor “that’s the xen meat isn’t it? Where’d you get a thing like that, Heck?”

Victor was right. Blue brand meat was xen-sourced, not that anyone who’d tried it cared. As well as its unusual colour, blue meat was unparalleled for its taste and texture. In the hundreds of years mankind had explored the corners of space, nothing had come close to it. Back on Xion, it had been served in only the best of the best restaurants, the most expensive thing on any menu. Heck had only sampled it on a few occasions but the memory of its flavour had stayed with him. If he wanted a reputation for the best cookouts in the colony, it would be blue meat helping him claim it.

Unfortunately, the species the meat came from was only from a handful of worlds so it was protected. Sourcing the stuff was nigh-impossible, though Heck had always taken pride in his silver tongue. A couple of scribbles on the proper paperwork and some credits in the right hands had loosened things up a bit. Officially, these cuts had been imported as ‘exotic biological samples’.  

Alfreda laid plates and buns out on the long table. When the guests smelled the delicious aroma wafting from the raystove, they began to form a queue for the food. Happy in his role as host, Heck clicked his tongs together and served portions of blue meat to the curious. One bite was all it took and they’d join the back of the line for more.

“Is that Aasi?” asked Walda Van Schoor, Victor’s teenage daughter.

“It sure is little lady” Heck replied.

“You know they’re sentient, right?”

“My wife can fetch you a salad if you like.”

“This is illegal. You shouldn’t be serving this. We shouldn’t be eating this.”

“Hang on there Walda, don’t get caught up in a snag. Have you tried it? You might like it.”

          Walda’s face flushed red. Her fists clenched. She opened her mouth but then felt her father’s hand on her shoulder.

          “You’re not refusing Mr Yang’s hospitality, I hope.” Said Victor.

          “Daddy it’s—”

          “—terribly rude to make a scene at a family BBQ, I quite agree. Go on get yourself to your mother and stop being difficult.”

“But!”

“Uh-uh, come with me. Sorry about this, Heck.” Mr Van Schoor took his daughter’s hand and led her off. He mouthed something over his shoulder but Heck couldn’t make it out. Next to be served was Ana, who held out her plate, smiling politely.

However, when she saw what was for dinner her face froze. As if in a trance, she dropped the plate and clutched her stomach.

“Mr Yang, your meat is blue.”

“It is, extra special. I spare no expense for my guests.”

“You don’t understand, I can’t eat this. No-one should eat this. This is wrong.” Her voice was soft, though it had a hidden barb to it.

“It’s ok, it’s just Aasi meat.”

“My husband is Aasi, you monster! Yown is an Aasi!” She was shouting. Her hands balled and tightly wound the hem of her dress. Although the speakers still blared music from the porch, the gentle hubbub from the crowd had frozen.

“You’re married to one of them?” Heck said in disbelief.

“I am.”

“You’re letting one of those things into your house and bed? Why, your parents must be ashamed of you.” It was Alfreda, who had come over to see what the fuss was about.

“And you’re no better than a cannibal!”

“Well I never. Heck, are we eating alien meat again? What have I told you; that’s disgusting. I can’t believe that you’d cook that awful trash.”

Ana’s eyes shot daggers at the Yangs. She looked like she might be sick. Nobody spoke. On the grill, the meat spat and sizzled. It was at that unfortunate moment that the port back in the pod engaged and Ana’s husband arrived.

Yown was tall, even for an Aasi. Stood on his hind limbs, the tips of his ears caught in the archway. His brilliant blue skin shone in the suns like lapis lazuli.

“Sorry I’m late!” he said, flashing both rows of teeth. “I wasn’t sure if I could digest what you were serving so I brought some snacks, though everyone’s welcome to try them.” Ana rushed to his side and his face fell. This wasn’t the first time he’d been the only xen in a room full of humans. He sensed the tension trapped in the air.

“Heck, get your gun. I want that thing out of my pod.” Alfreda said under her breath.

Heck strode between his wife and the alien visitor. “Ana, you’re gonna have to leave. We didn’t invite this creature, even if we are happy to serve him.” This received a few brittle laughs.

“Frontiersmen are the same everywhere. How could you do this?” Ana spat. Her eyes were streaked with tears. A warm prickle sat in her throat and permeated her remarks.

“And you’re one to talk. Copulating with that thing. It sickens me.” Heck said.

“You’ll happily dine on his flesh, though. I’ll be informing the governor of this. This is illegal, what’s more it’s morally bankrupt. I thought better of you. You’re from the hubworlds.”

“I’m just trying to serve speciality cuisine to my friends, is all. Those xen are delicious. What you’re doing is no better than laying with a steer or lamb for the slaughter. It’s vile is what it is. Then you come into my cookout and insult me and my guests by bringing that thing out here. We could do no better than to carve him up where he stands.”

 “I’m pregnant, Heck, you know this. What about my Aasi children?”

“I look forward to meeting them.”

 

 

George Aitch is a writer from Blackheath, London. You may find his work in places such as Storgy, Litro, Bunbury Magazine and The Crazy Oik, among others.

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