Black Petals Issue #106 Winter, 2023

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The Thing in the Yard: Fiction by Vincent Vurchio
A Forest Green: Fiction by Logan Williams
Clown Safe: Fiction by Taylor Hagood
Home Delivery: Fiction by Jon Adcock
Judith and Bobby Save the World: Fiction by Stephen Tillman
Many Wee Undead: Fiction by Marco Etheridge
Meat Pie: Fiction by Anna Koltes
Mexican Coffee and Burgers: Fiction by Fred Zackel
Leaving: Fiction by Roy Dorman
The Ghost of the Perfect Hotdog: Fiction by Mark Miller
The Illustrated Woman: Fiction by Jen Myers
Thrice in One Sitting: Fiction by Justin Alcala
In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning: Fiction by Gene Lass
AI Self-Mortification: Flash Fiction by Christopher Henckel
Correct Mistake: Flash Fiction by Eric Burbridge
A Moment of Inertia: Flash Fiction by Sean MacKendrick
Get Your Kicks on Route 666: Flash Fiction by M. L. Fortier
Let's Do Lunch: Flash Fiction by Hillary Lyon
"Three Wishes": Flash Fiction by Ronin Fox
Woodsman's Revenge: Flash Fiction by Jada Maze
To a Crow: Poem by Michael Keshigian
Estranged: Poem by Michael Keshigian
At the Terminal: Poem by Michael Keshigian
Angler's Nightmare: Poem by Michael Keshigian
Last Thirteen Steps: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
Murderous Words: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
My Childhood Snapshot: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
With Vampires About: Poem by Kenneth Vincent Walker
The Zombies are Loose: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
Lil' Toe Dipper: Poem by C. Renee Kiser
Scattered Pieces: Poem by Andrew Graber

Stephen Tillman: Judith and Bobby Save the World

106bp_judithbobby_sophiawisemanrose.jpg
Art by Sophia Wiseman-Rose 2024

Judith and Bobby Save the World

by Stephen Tillman

 

 

      “It is unfortunate,” Glorp said to his partner, Bamzo. “The beast is dead. The Supreme Leader will not be pleased. We were entrusted with its care.”

      “Are the eggs close to hatching?” Bamzo asked. “If so, we might find another food source for the hatchlings.”

      “Unfortunately not,” Glorp replied after he had cut open the dead creature.

      “We must report this to her. Hopefully she will be in a good mood.”

***

      Harisha, Supreme Leader of the Korinsap people, stormed into her throne room, followed by her two male consorts. She towered over them, being half again their height and nearly three times their bulk. It was obvious to Glorp and Bamzo that she was not happy.

      Harisha lowered herself onto her throne. The consorts sat at her feet. Her two primary bodyguards escorted Glorp and Bamzo up to Harisha and forced them to prostrate themselves. Since the bodyguards were female, hence much larger, there was little they could do.

      “You allowed the creature to die!” Harisha exclaimed. “Therefore my eggs will not mature. Give me a good reason why I should not have you executed on the spot.”

      In nervousness Glorp excreted a foul-smelling gas. Fortunately, Bamzo had a bit more self-control. He explained that the creature had trouble breathing, and speculated that the atmosphere on a planet in the closest neighboring system might be more conducive to keeping the creatures healthy. He offered to travel to the creature’s home planet and return with more specimens.

      Harisha said nothing for a considerable time, giving the males hope that they might not perish. At least not immediately. At last she said, “The Percons, which we are currently using to incubate our eggs, are dying out. At this rate within ten generations there will be almost none left. As much as I would like to see you punished, it is more critical for the survival of our race that we find a replacement. Explorers are searching for new possibilities, but have had no luck. These creatures seemed to be, if not perfect, at least possible. Therefore, I order you to proceed to their planet and get at least two more. As I understand it, they can procreate with only two beings rather than the three that civilized people such as ourselves require. It seems obscene, but that is how they do it. We must be sure they will survive before we chance losing more eggs. Go! Do not fail!”

***

      “This is perfect,” Olivia said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better way to celebrate my seventy-second birthday. I’ve been so busy at work that I didn’t realize how much I needed to get away. Now I’ll have a week to relax with my entire family. No outsiders around for at least twenty miles.”

      Olivia’s three children and two step-children had arranged an outing for the entire extended family including all thirteen of her grandchildren. The only ones not having a great time were thirteen-year-old, Judith, and her fourteen-year-old cousin, Bobby. The other eleven grandchildren, ranging in age from Brendan, 22, to Samuel, 8, were able to participate together in games. Judith and Bobby were not allowed to. They were so much more physically proficient than the others that it wouldn’t be fair. Only Samuel was unaware of the family secret, as he was deemed too young to keep it in confidence.

      “This bites!” Judith said to Bobby.

      “You got that right,” Bobby replied, holding up his phone.  “No signal at all. I’m bored out of my gourd. Let’s go exploring.”

      “Sounds good to me.”

***

      “That was close!” Glorp exclaimed. “The barbarians almost got us.”

      “They have become far more proficient than the last time we visited this planet,” Bamzo agreed. “It will make fulfilling our mission much more difficult. We must try to stay away from their heavily populated areas. If we are spotted again, their airships will be on us quickly. Let us see if there are any candidates away from their major hives.”

      “That is a good tactic anyway. It will make capturing them much easier if they are isolated.”

      Staying low and flying in a search pattern the Korinsap males detected the presence of two locals. Glorp pointed them out and headed in their direction while Bamzo activated the stunners.

***

      The President of the United State called an emergency meeting with the Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and the Director of National Intelligence.

      “What can you tell us about that UFO?” POTUS asked.

      “Almost certainly it’s extra-terrestrial,” CJCS replied. “No nation on earth has something that can move that stealthily and that quickly with unbelievable maneuverability.”

      “I concur,” DNI said. “If anyone else had those capabilities we would’ve heard something about it. They couldn’t keep it a secret.”

      “Our boys almost got it,” Defense said. “If it hadn’t appeared so suddenly they would have. The question is, what do we do about it? Should we inform the general public? Do we tell our allies about it?”

      “Let’s keep it under our hats for now,” VP suggested. “In the meantime, we should cancel leaves for fliers in the air force and navy. We can say we’re scheduling exercises.”

      “We don’t know that they’re hostile,” State pointed out.

      “Until we know more, we have to be prepared for any contingency,” Defense said.

      After further discussion, they decided to follow VP’s suggestions, except that POTUS would call in the ambassadors of Russia, China, and Great Britain.

***

      “Holy crap!” Judith shrieked. “What was that?”

      She and Bobby had been following a small stream, capturing small creatures, and then letting them go. They kept score as to who got the most. Suddenly a large object whooshed by overhead, turned around, and came back toward them. They ran, heading for an area of thick forest.

      Judith felt something hit her. She fell. She could not feel any wounds, but she also was unable to move any of her limbs. Bobby was having similar difficulties.

      The object landed. A hatch opened and two strange creatures emerged. They were slightly smaller in size than an average human, but had three arms, three legs, and three eyes. A three-fingered hand was at the end of every arm. Each alien was wearing a one-piece garment. There was no visible hair. Working together, the creatures dragged Judith into the object, placed her in a cage, and went back and did the same with Bobby. The hatch closed. The creatures went to an area that had several dials and switches.

      There was the sensation of motion, but not the pressure of gravitational force. A screen showed them rising rapidly. After a short while it showed stars. Judith and Bobby realized they’d be abducted by aliens, and were on a spaceship of some sort. Then they fell unconscious.

***

      “It’s getting dark,” Olivia noted. “Where are Judith and Bobby? I haven’t seen them since this morning.”

      “I think they were bummed out because they were excluded from the games,” Tyler said. “I wouldn’t worry about them, Mom. If anybody can take care of themselves, my niece and nephew can.”

      “Still, I don’t think they’d stay out overnight without telling us,” Tammy, Bobby’s mother, said.

      “Judith said they were going to follow that stream over there,” Samuel said. “I wanted to go with her, but she wouldn’t let me.”

      “Tiffany and I will go look for them,” Tammy said. “They’re our kids.”

      “I’ll go also,” Dan, Tammy’s husband said. “Bobby’s my kid too.”

      “I’ll join the search,” Tyler said.

      “No, you stay,” Olivia declared. She glanced at Samuel and chose her words carefully. “One of… us needs to be here just in case. I’ll go.”

      Olivia, her two daughters, and Dan followed the stream for several miles. The sun set, but there was a three-quarter moon and a clear sky. With their cat-like vision they had little difficulty seeing. Eventually they came to a clearing. Judith’s water bottle was lying on the ground. At the edge of the clearing there was a depression, as if something heavy had settled there. Drag marks went from near the trees toward the depression.

      “It appears they’ve been kidnapped,” Olivia said. “Possibly by aliens.”

***

      Judith and Bobby awoke to find themselves in a large, caged enclosure. They felt slightly lighter than they would be on earth. They were each lying on a platform about the size of a single bed. They could turn their heads, but clamps held their arms, legs, and torsos motionless.

      “We must be on another planet,” Bobby said. “This is too big to fit inside that spaceship. According to my watch only about thirty-six hours have gone by. Somehow or other they can go faster than light.”

      “Until we know what’s up, I suggest we don’t show them… our capabilities,” Judith replied.

      Just then the two aliens who’d captured them appeared. With them was a third alien carrying a machine of some sort. The third alien was significantly larger than the first two. It touched a button and more clamps immobilized their heads. Then Three attached wires to the head clamps and began making sounds. The youngsters felt a vibration inside their heads, but there was no actual noise. After a while the sounds of Three began to make sense.

      “We have taught you the rudiments of our language with our linguistic computer,” Three said. “We will need several more sessions before you become proficient. It would be too much for your primitive brains to absorb everything at once. My name is Tabina. These two are Glorp and Bamzo. They will be your keepers. They are mere males, as you can see by their diminutive size, but they are capable of doing that much. They will provide you with sustenance shortly. The area to your right side is for bodily functions.”

      Tabina pushed another button and the clamps holding Judith and Bobby were released. The aliens departed.

***

      Olivia’s initial attempts to report the kidnapping led to her being considered a nutcase by the local authorities. They said the kids must have wandered off, and search parties would be sent out. Olivia quickly realized working with the locals was counterproductive. As chief-of-staff to the senior senator from New York, however, she was able to get an audience with the President, even though he was in the other party.

      Olivia was surprised that with POTUS was the VP and the Chinese ambassador. POTUS explained that they were aware of extra-terrestrial visitors.

      “I know about your… nature,” POTUS said. “Do your grandchildren have the same abilities?”

      “Not all of them,” Olivia replied. “But the two who were taken do.”

      “Excellent!” the ambassador said in perfect English. “The abductors may come to regret their actions. In the meantime, your President and mine have agreed to put aside our differences, as, apparently, an existential threat to the human race has appeared.”

***

      Judith and Bobby found that learning the alien language, with the aid of the linguistic computer, was not difficult, but, by mutual agreement, decided to pretend otherwise. They wanted the Korinsaps to underestimate them while they gathered intelligence.

      What they learned was the Korinsaps had a matriarchal society and their mathematical system was base three. The females were bigger, stronger and smarter than the males. There were about twice as many males as females. Acts of procreation required two males and one female. When a female became pregnant, she laid her eggs inside another creature for incubation. After the eggs hatched, the hatchlings used the incubating creature as a food source until they were mature enough to be on their own. The creature did not survive the process.

      The most commonly used such creature was a Percon. The Percons were also used as slaves and as food for adult Korinsaps. Their population was diminishing. The Korinsaps were considering humans as alternatives.

      After what they estimated was about four weeks, they were told they were to be brought before the Supreme Leader, who was located in a neighboring system. She would decide their fate.

      “How will we get to that place?” Judith asked, haltingly. She feigned difficulty in expressing herself clearly.

      “We will take the same ship we used to gather you,” Glorp replied.

      “You do not need a female to drive the ship?” Bobby asked.

      “We do not need help to pilot the ship,” Bamzo said. “Our destinations are already embedded into the ship’s computer. We merely have to tell it where to go. The computer does all the work, including avoiding hostile attempts to attack it, as happened when we approached your planet. All we had to do was tell it to stun you and land near you.”

      “What if the ship becomes damaged?” Judith asked, fearfully. “Will we be stranded somewhere?”

      “The ship carries enough spare parts to repair almost all problems. Instructions as to how to do so are embedded in the computer,” Glorp assured her. “We will be fine.”

      Judith and Bobby did not resist when they were restrained by clamps and taken aboard the ship. They observed closely as Glorp and Bamzo brought them to their destination. At one point there was a jolt, the outside went black, and a short time later stars reappeared.

      “What just happened?” Judith cried out.

      “Do not be alarmed,” Bamzo replied. “We went through a wormhole to get from the other system to this one. The process is very rapid.”

***

      Judith and Bobby were brought before the Supreme Leader and the female named Tabina. Not perceiving the humans as any kind of threat, Harisha had no guards present.

      “How proficient are they in our tongue?” Harisha asked Tabina.

      “Very disappointing,” Tabina replied. “Even with the aid of the computer it took a long time for them to grasp concepts and vocabulary. Then the next day they would be back almost to square one.”

      “They are not that…” Glorp said, trying to correct Tabina.

      “Silence!” Harisha roared. “You will speak only when you are asked to speak. Do I make myself clear or do you need to be beaten until you remember your proper place?”

      “Yes, your worthiness,” Bamzo said, bowing until his head touched the floor.

      “You were saying,” Harisha said to Tabina.

      “In addition to the computer we used different strategies of reward and punishment,” Tabina said. “That worked in the short run, but the next day, as I said before, they forgot again. I would say their working vocabulary is no better than three to the fifth power words.”

      “Shortly before you arrived, I received notice that one of our exploratory teams found another species which they said was almost ideal. The ship we sent to the human planet was nearly destroyed. They could become dangerous. Since they have problems learning our language, they would not make good slaves. Attempts to plant eggs in them did not work. Given all of that, I do not think they will make good incubators. There is no rush, but eventually we will probably have to obliterate them. In the meantime, I will have Glorp take these two to the kitchen. We will see if they are good eating.”

      Judith and Bobby looked at each other, nodded, and in a single motion removed their clothes and changed. Where Bobby had been was a large, male, black leopard. Where Judith had been was a good-sized, female, spotted leopard. Unbeknownst to them, the Korinsaps had abducted two were-leopards, the rarest of all the extremely rare were-creatures on earth.

      Were-leopards in leopard form are exceedingly strong and quick. In addition their hides are impervious to projectiles which do not contain silver. They could not reason the way a human can, but they could accept instructions from their corresponding humans.

      Before any of the Korinsaps could react, the black leopard leaped on Harisha, grasped her by the throat, and ripped. Blood spewed heavily.

      Simultaneously the spotted leopard attacked Tabina, who managed to draw her projectile weapon. She hit the leopard with one shot. The leopard screeched in pain, and was knocked slightly off course, but she did manage to rake Tabina with razor sharp claws as she sailed by. The leopard landed, whirled, and leaped again. Tabina got off one more shot, but missed. She used one arm to protect her throat and the other two to try to hold off the raging beast. The cat was able to clamp her powerful jaws around the wrist of arm number one and bite off the hand. A heavy torrent of blood spurted. In short order both female Korinsaps were dead.

      The black leopard advanced slowly on Glorp and Bamzo, who backed away in terror. The spotted leopard changed. A naked, blood-covered Judith appeared on hands and knees, breathing heavily. The form changes had taken a lot out of her. Still, she managed to call out to her leopard-cousin, telling him not to kill the male Korinsaps. He changed.

      “We need them,” Judith said in English. Then speaking fluently in the Korinsap language, she asked, “Do you wish to live?”

      “Y-y-yes,” Glorp replied.

      “Do what we say and you will survive, otherwise… you saw what we did to your leaders.”

      Bamzo and Glorp led the humans through a series of passages to where they could clean up. Then Judith and Bobby were fitted with manacles which did not actually clasp. The Korinsaps took them to a ground vehicle and headed toward the spaceport. When asked, they said they were transporting prisoners. At the spaceport they entered the craft that had been used to bring them to this planet. Bamzo and Glorp were locked in the same enclosure in which the humans had been held.

      Just after they took off a general alarm sounded. Ships scrambled after them, firing energy weapons, but they managed to get to the wormhole entrance without being seriously damaged.

      “Will they chase after us?” Judith asked their prisoners.

     “Probably not,” Bamzo replied. “There are many possible destinations and they do not know which one you have taken. Besides, before they can initiate any action, they need to choose a new leader.”




Stephen Tillman is an emeritus professor of Mathematics at Wilkes University. He holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from Brown University. An avid reader of mysteries and science fiction, he has published several stories in both genres. His novels, Leopard’s Daughter and Leopard's Revenge have been published by Azure Spider Publications.