Kilby, by Camille Griep
My diary from 2404, the year the stage was set for the worst intergalactic mining accident of all time, doesn’t say anything about Gateau 7, a small, three-sunned planet next door to Grover 2, where we had colonized shortly after I was born. It doesn’t mention the vacation my family took to Gateau 7 a year earlier to see the “Garden of the Galaxy” with its shaggy, human head-sized flowers and a gift shop offering floral haberdashery. I didn’t mention the remarkable Gateauan capability of morphing their bodies into friendly animal shapes for tourists. My records reveal nothing of the pleas of Gateau 7’s prime minister, Egvad Jumar, for help fending off the Fetergorians who lusted after his planet’s hematite deposits. This is because in 2404 I was ten years old, and what I recorded in my diary that year about my life was this and only this:
Reasons why I hate Kilby Reynolds
1. He stole the streamers off my hydroturboscooter.
2. He covered the LED trees in the yard with biodegradable latrine paper.
3. He told the rest of the kids in the neighborhood that I have Haggis disease and that’s why we had to leave Earth.
4. He gave me a Broxillian in a can for my 11th birthday. It scared me so bad I threw my birthday cake at it and now I’m the laughing stock of Grover 2.
5. He has a memopup and I don’t.
Six years later, the Fetegorians — who’d consumed all of the elements of their own planet centuries ago — summoned the remainder of their mining ships to Gateau 7. Prime Minister Jumar had long since abandoned polite entreaties to his citizenry to mount a resistance force, ordering an evacuation once his pacifist population failed to show any interest beyond free donuts. Scads of Gateuans used their special powers to slink away, discreetly. Packs of dogs and cats and deer and alligators slunk through the streets, boarding GraySound Rockets to Grover 2, where my parents and their colleagues at the Council for Cosmic Cooperation remained unaware of their arrival.
Fetegorian drilling teams encountered no resistance as they set up equipment next to Gateau 7’s Esau Sea. Despite warnings from every expert in the galaxy regarding the methane pockets underneath the water, the Fetergorians insisted they weren’t the bumbling bullies everyone accused them of being. But, not a week later, they obliterated themselves and the rest of the commandeered planet alongside. In the aftermath, the HazZard investigators found no breathable air and only one and a half suns. The Fetegorian leader, HanzK, was hauled before the Universal Court of Judgement to stand trial for hostile acquisition of resources. It was estimated that 100,000 Gateauans escaped, though their whereabouts remained varied and undeclared.
My diary in 2410 says nothing about the aftermath, the searches, the reuniting of families, the proposed punishment for the Fetegorians, or the relocation of survivors. Instead, the year’s sum of entries boils down to this:
Reasons why I love Kilby Reynolds
1. Kilby gave me an orange sparkle memopup for my 16th birthday!
2. Kilby turned 18 and got his first personal craft. It is red. It is fast. I got to be his first passenger.
3. He is so amazing. Kilby wants to be a drummer. He loves the Intergalactic Habanero Peppers. Mom says I’m too young to listen to them, but we snuck out to an Intergalactic Habanero Pepper concert anyway.
4. Afterwards, we drank tequila and I told him I loved him!
5. After that, we drank red wine. He told me he loved me too, but I missed it because I locked myself in the latrine and stripped off all of my clothes.
I was grounded for three months after the IHP concert and forced to attend summer school where we learned in detail about the catastrophe that befell Gateau 7. Planets had been wrecked or mined to inhospitality many times before, but never had an entire planet been rendered uninhabitable in one fell swoop.
Though the news was intriguing, my own life was far more compelling in my 17th year, when I wrote:
Reasons why this is the best year ever
1. Kilby proposed to me on my 17th birthday. I said yes!
2. Kilby joined the Intergalactic Habanero Peppers playing the electric harmonica.
3. Kilby is going on tour. I can’t go until I finish school. He said, for real, just like in a movie, “Wait for me babe.”
4. Then! Then he sent me a hypercard saying he wished he could give me more kisses than there are stars in the galaxy. He’s so romantic!
5. We’re going to be like one of those Celebrity Couples on the SpectraVox — just as soon as I figure out what I’m going to be when I graduate.
I graduated from the Grover 2 Galactic Cadet Academy with the class of 2411 cum laude. Due to my aptitude for galactic studies, I was assigned an internship with the Council for Cosmic Cooperation to become a junior ambassador, not just a cultural liaison just like my parents. But even liaisons were in demand as many of the former citizens of Gateau 7 began revealing themselves and their intentions to resettle on Grover 2 and neighboring planets.
The Universal Court fell into fierce battles over appropriate charges and punishments for HanzK and his minions. Most importantly, however, Egvad Jumar was nowhere to be found. The case would take decades to wind its way through the courts, but HanzK couldn’t be held for more than for ten years for hostile appropriation unless Jumar could be found to testify to the destruction of his planet. It was a ridiculous technicality, but a technicality nonetheless. Rumors swirled involving roving Fetergorian mercenaries on a mission to ensure Jumar was never seen again.
I basked in the honor and prestige of my new profession and resolved to enjoy it while I could. After all, I’d be married by the following year — indeed, over my father’s dead body if necessary — and tour the galaxy with Kilby for the remainder of my days. That did not happen.
Reasons why this is the worst year ever
1. Kilby was supposed to be home in time for my 21st birthday party. My roommate found his band playing live on a Spectravox channel instead.
2. Kilby didn’t have any electronic harmonica to play during that particular set. When the camera caught him, his arm was wrapped around a willowy yellow reptile from Meridia. She kissed him with an impossibly long tongue. My roommate turned off the Spectravox. But not before I threw a decorative cactus at the screen.
3. I drank tequila. I drank red wine. I threw up in the latrine, this time with my clothes on.
4. I sent Kilby a text: Fuck off. When he appeared in my doorway, I threw the re-potted decorative cactus at his head. I think it might be the end of the cactus.
5. I snapped all of my plastic Intergalactic Habanero Pepper discs in two. I hate Kilby.
Fifteen years later, whole in heart and mind, I took a post as the top ranking junior ambassador at the state department of Grover 2. On an otherwise normal day, my secretarybot notified me that my last appointment of the day was no longer the King of Pluto. I was even more displeased to learn that, instead, I was to meet with a Mr. Kilby Reynolds.
This was a coincidence. Not a week before I had finished another list. A mature list. An intelligent list. A list that would allow me to reach closure. A list titled:
Reasons why Kilby Reynolds is no longer important to me:
1. If I had married Kilby, I wouldn’t have a rewarding career as an ambassador. Nor would I be eligible for that big promotion.
2. I wouldn’t know the value of trying to buy my own red personal craft.
3. I’d never have gotten to meet the King of Pluto.
4. I never have to listen to the electric harmonica again.
5. Without Kilby, I’ll be able to do something on my own to make myself proud. I won’t need anyone else’s love or approval.
Kilby jogged into my office, panting a bit. And there he was in all of his butterflies-in-the-stomach-
inducing glory. My head pounded with anger and my heart with traitorous elation. He put his hands on his hips and looked around, nodding in approval. He stared at me and I stared back. Age hadn’t been kind to him. His eyes bulged slightly from what I’d guess was too many lime leaves and late nights. I didn’t know what he was thinking showing up in my office. I reminded myself that I didn’t care.
“They’re gonna close at 34:00,” he said.
“Who?” I didn’t have time to play forty-two questions. I had to be at the opera debut of the Princess of Neridoo by 35:00.
“Sal’s Cantina and Memopups?”
“Let’s go. You and me. For old time’s sake.”
I took a deep breath and shook my head. “I’m very busy, Kilby.”
“I’ve got a new ride, you know.”
“I suppose one drink can’t hurt,” I said, caving like a Fetegorian mine. But I was telling the truth: a glass of tequila would undoubtedly make the opera more entertaining and I hadn’t seen a memopup in years.
I followed him out the door, into the elevator, smiling at each other nervously, and then into the hoverstructure . As promised, he gestured to a brand new, shining, four-wing personal craft, and popped the gull wing door open with his handheld. We strapped in and he threw the accelerator into high, shooting out the latticed roof of the structure without so much as a look at the instrument panel.
“Have you been touring so long that you can’t remember what the interplanet speed limit is?” I asked. The embassy streaked out of my peripheral and sky traffic loomed closer.
“You said you had to be back by 34:30.”
“I do, but I’d like to be back with all my organs in the right place.” I clawed at the dashboard, trying to steady a slick wave of nausea.
In another life, this is what we’d have been. Together. Going wherever he wanted to go. Back when I loved Kilby, I only wanted what he wanted. And I realized, sitting there pinned to my seat, that we probably hadn’t wanted the same things. The only part of the current scenario that I still wished for was a new red craft. I had made a list, after all, why Kilby and I weren’t meant to be. But then again, perhaps he was starting to feel things like regret. I didn’t want to be so hasty that I didn’t hear him out. One of us had to be the adult, after all.
A snarfling sound from the back seat interrupted the list of excuses I was making to justify my cooperation. I turned, startled, and found myself staring into the eyes of a purple, fish-faced toddler.
“What. Is. That? Holy shit, Kilby, did you steal a child?”
“Don’t say ‘shit’ in front of him!”
“You have a child and you didn’t tell me?”
“He’s not exactly mine, see. His mother is, well…She’s amazing. You’d love her.”
“I highly doubt that,” I said. Kilby was spineless in the face of any beautiful form on two legs. Congeniality was not a requisite and I was sure this woman was no exception.
“The thing is … she thinks I make a lot more money than I do.”
“Stop this craft. Right now. I want to get out.”
“We’re already halfway there. Come on, now, babe. I need your help!”
“My help? You lied to me and now you want my help?”
“I didn’t lie. I omitted!”
“Come on, I need you!”
“You need me?”
“I need you to barter for me.”
“I’m the top ranking junior diplomat for the closest five planets and you want me to haggle over a toy?”
“You make it sound so inconsequential, babe.”
“It is inconsequential and, do not, under any circumstances, ever call me ‘babe’ again.”
He coughed. “You wouldn’t believe how much memopups cost these days.”
What I actually couldn’t believe was that I managed to rescue the tail of my Terwellian scarf, a gift from Tzar Cesar, from the sticky paw of the imp in the back seat. I stuffed the scarf into my uniform. “Are you telling me that record sales are down, hot stuff?”
“Our last tour didn’t do so well and Lemmy’s been hitting the tequila particularly hard lately.”
“Things can’t be that bad. You’ve got this new ride.”
“Record label,” he explained. “They say I have to maintain an image.”
“You haven’t changed a bit.” Our teenage dates always began in a new car and ended with dried rations. I now had it on authority that teens who dated other, normal teens –tens who weren’t Kilby Reynolds — were taken to eat actual food at Pistons & Pizza. I’d never gone to Pistons & Pizza. I’d always done what Kilby wanted. For my entire young adult life
“Memopup!” screamed the Kid. I clamped the heels of my palms over my ears.
Kilby was using me and I was allowing it yet again. This situation was no different than when he made me go to the Electromart on our hydroturboscooters with him every afternoon so that Mr. Klem would sell him two mandiblebreakers assuming one was for me. As we neared Sal’s, all kinds of memories good and bad, drunk and sober, old and new washed over me like a cloud of decontaminating gas. The memopup that Kilby gave me long ago lived for six years, far outlasting our relationship. The kid in the backseat had no idea what he was getting into — joy and heartbreak, memopups and Kilby.
I put my hands around the straps of my seatbelt. “If memopups are so expensive, then why are you getting him one? Get him something else.”
“If I get him a memopup, he’ll start to like me,” Kilby explained. “She won’t marry me unless he likes me.”
“Who…that thing’s mother? Who cares?” I snarled, trying to sound mean instead of hurt. How could I have been so stupid? The Kid’s mother wasn’t just the latest in a kaleidoscope of conquests. Despite my very mature diary entry, it stung that he finally wanted to settle down with someone and it still wasn’t me. The stars were brighter out the windows than they should have been as I blinked back tears. “You’re going to kill us all anyway, driving like a Fetegorian.”
“Hey now,” said Kilby. “That’s hitting below the belt.”
“Whatever. It’s a perfect comparison: you’re both ignorant of your own gas.”
“Come on now,” said Kilby.” Don’t you still care about me just a little?”
“Why don’t you ask the big yellow Meridian?” I mumble.
“That was years ago. You’re not still mad about that are you?”
“Fuck you,” I say.
“Not in front of the kid!” He shielded the backseat with his palm as if it would stop the sound.
“Uckooo,” said the Kid.
Sal’s Cantina and Memopups was empty. The SpectraVoxes above the bar looped the pending release of HanzK from the InterGaolag, footage of the explosions on Gateau 7, and the inspections of the desolate gardens by scientists in baggy white test suits. After that was finished, the spectracaster showed a picture of Prime Minister Jumar, presumed dead for some time. But, like everyone, we’d been watching iterations of the story over and over for the last month, if not years. I let my eyes gloss over and wandered toward the selection of memopups lining the bar, each animal attached with a silver chain. Some were soft and some small. Some were smooth and some supple. The one on the end sparkled.
Quite a bit larger than the others, the shimmering memopup was shaped like the old Earth Bears. Immediately the Kid lifted a snotted hand to the bear, who shrank back on its perch.
“Uckoo,” said the kid.
“How much for this one?” Kilby hissed in my ear. The bear shook its glimmering head at me, eyes closing to slits.
“Give me a minute, Kilby.” I said. I bent my head low to the bear. I didn’t know what I expected to hear. Memopups usually didn’t do much more than coo and comment on the weather. “What?”
“My name is Egvad Jumar.”
“I think you’ve been watching too much Spectravox,” I said. “That’s the name of the dead Prime Minister of Gateau 7.
“Yes,” said the bear. “I’m stuck in this form because of this confounded chain.”
“I haven’t even started drinking,” I said. “This isn’t funny.”
“I assure you it’s not a joke. If I’m trapped in that child’s bedroom, I won’t be able to testify at the Universal Court.”
I motioned for Sal to come over, out of Kilby’s earshot. Sal had mercifully consumed a non-negligible quantity of tequila before our arrival and so negotiating was far easier than I’d planned. I made a big show of pretending to haggle, for Kilby’s benefit. In reality, Sal was sick of the sparkling bear, telling me he’d had a hell of a time selling it due to its bad breath and poor temper and refusal to move from its perch. He told me that if I could get it to leave, it was mine. I returned to Kilby with what I hoped was a grim look on my face.
“How much?” he asked.
“One hundred thousand grovers,” I lied.
“Um,” said Kilby.
“Make him pick another.”
“But he likes that one.”
“He also likes boogers and fish sticks. He’s three. He doesn’t know what he likes. Make him pick a different one.”
“I didn’t bring you here to tell me about parenting. You’re here because you’re supposed to help haggle.”
“Pick another one.”
“I don’t see why you’re being so difficult. This is because you’re still in love with me, isn’t it?”
“Actually, it might have been a half an hour ago. But now it isn’t.” I felt a surge of confidence and adrenaline.
“You used to be so cool. You’re totally bizarre now. I don’t even know what you’re talking about,” he said.
Our conversation wasn’t getting us anywhere. Soon, I’d have to help myself to the same amount of tequila that Sal had consumed just to keep from slapping him and then things would have really spun out of control.
I headed back to Egvad Jumar. “How did you get yourself into this mess,” I asked, running my fingers along his chain.
“You know about our powers?”
“Yes, of course. But hiding out as a memopup?”
“It was an extraordinary plan, really. No one has come looking for me here.”
“True. But now you’re trapped. Worse, you’re now the object of that child’s affection…” We both gazed beyond my pointing finger where Kilby held up a fluffy, red memopup. The Kid wrested it away, pitching it at Kilby’s crotch with the force of his entire tiny body. I almost wanted to root for him. Jumar flinched and then it came to me. The Kid wasn’t frightened of anything. Yet. “So, Mr. Prime Minister you look like a bear, but can you roar?” I ask.
“Well of course I can.” He looked as offended as a sparkling toy could.
“I mean, I wouldn’t want to ask too much of you, sir. I mean if you’re too tired or too weak….”
“No, no. It isn’t that, ambassador. It’s just that it would be most unpleasant.”
“So you’re scared?”
“The very idea!”
“Just do it.”
The shining bear let out a caterwaul that cracked the pool hall mirrors, knocked Sal from his uneasy perch, and took half the pictures off the walls, leaving the rest canted and swinging. The Kid screamed, stopped for a moment, began to wail, and then bolted for the door. Kilby tripped after him. I slapped two hundred on the bar for the bear and another seventy-five for the nearest soft, blue hedgehog-shaped memopup… indeed, for old time’s sake. Sal nodded from his spot on the floor. I released the two chains from the bar and nestled the hedgehog into my tote bag. I heard Sal burp in amazement as the bear slid off the stool and followed as I opened the kid-slimed doorknob and inhaled the limitless night air. Once past the lintel, the fake memopup morphed back into a bipedal, if rumpled, Prime Minister.
“Thank you for saving me, ambassador,” said Prime Minister Jumar, holding his hand wide in a symbol of peace. “I owe you one.”
“Just make sure those jackasses get what they deserve.”
As soon as the Galactaxi dropped me off, I started a new diary:
Reasons Why Tomorrow Will Be The Best Day Ever
1. Finding Prime Minister Jumar is sure to bring me that next promotion.
2. I’ve learned that memopups deliver champagne from the Electromart.
3. With the promotion I can buy myself a new red craft.
4. I can also buy new cacti for the apartment.
5. I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of myself.
Camille Griep lives and writes near Seattle, Washington. Her work has been featured in online and print journals such as Every Day Fiction, The First Line, and Treehouse, among others, and is forthcoming in the genre anthologies Blaze of Glory (Song Story Press) and Witches, Stitches, & Bitches (Evil Girlfriend Media). When not hard at work on an obligatory first novel, Camille can be feeding neighborhood cats masquerading as strays, conquering her fear of car washes, and embellishing perfectly good recipes.
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