This story contains alcohol, violence and some sexual references.
Beer. The universal love that unites all worlds. Of all the foods and beverages in the entire galaxy, beer was the only one all alien races enjoyed. Humans drank beer in times of celebration, and in time, so did Corkalons and Mattabebbies and Pollerans like me. Many pints of beer were drunk when Zaebos was finally destroyed a year ago, and many pints were drunk on this day, the anniversary of his destruction. When the Constellation Crusaders invaded his ship, and he and famous space hero Lance Strengthhold faced each other man-to-man. Zaebos fell into one of his own pits and was devoured by a grathvort. Glasses were raised when the news travelled, beginning parties so loud they shook the entire cosmos.
I, however, was not drinking a beer to celebrate. Humans drank beer sometimes to drown their sorrows, and so did aliens, and that’s what I was doing. Looking at my reflection in the liquid with my single eye, drumming the counter with my thin fingers. I sat alone, and the various creatures in the club left me alone. The reason I came here was to dance with others and socialise, have a good time and forget everything, yet all my body wanted to do was sit here and drink.
I came here to talk to people, didn’t I?
Have a nice chat, share some jokes, tell secrets…
I need to tell someone.
When I finished my beer, I was certain my body was going to allow me to go up there and dance with the others, yet I couldn’t help but sit at the counter. It was like I was paralysed. Sitting here on my own gave me a strange sense of calm, and I certainly needed that at the moment.
Just as the thought crossed my mind to buy another beer, one was plopped right in front of me. I turned askance and saw a Habberian, a furry humanoid creature with a big red nose. He smiled at me, yet it looked forced. I returned that with a forced smile of my own, though I actually did find it in me to talk to him.
‘I know what this is,’ I said.
‘Oh no,’ said the Habberian, ‘just thought you looked a little down.’
‘You don’t have to pretend,’ I replied, ‘if you want to sleep with me, all you have to do is say so.’ Yes, that was another reason I came here; I actually thought a one-night-stand would actually keep my mind off things. Maybe make me actually see sex as something good again.
The Habberian sighs. ‘I don’t tell jokes.’
Oh Sedd. Could it be?
I took a closer look at him, and I was certain it could be no other.
‘Oh, sorry,’ he said, scratching the back of his neck, ‘I’m not good at conversation.’
‘Don’t worry,’ I said as I put a hand on his shoulder, ‘I completely understand. My name’s Jonna by the way.’ It wasn’t the name I was born with, but it was the name I used in public.
‘I’m…Bebo.’ That wasn’t the name he was born with either. Standing before me was Diddy-Dee, former member of the Constellation Crusaders. Their comic relief. The one who always cracked wise and made stupid noises. I don’t think I had really met him before, but I recognised him from footage of his team I watched (and I was surprised no-one else at the club seemed to). He was let go because, in Strengthhold ’s own words ‘he was bloody annoying and useless’.
I have to tell someone, I thought. I have to tell him.
After a moment of awkward silence, Diddy then asked me to come up with him on the dance floor. At last, my body co-operated with my mind. He held me by the hands and twirled me around and we slid and we waltzed and again I felt calm wash over me. The other aliens ignored us, and we ignored them; the club had become our own little private planet.
But we needed somewhere more private.
I asked him if he wanted to come over to my flat, and he replied, ‘Sure’, so off we went. He had taken public transport to get to the club, so he sat by me as I drove back home. Neither of us said a word on the drive back to the flat.
He did speak as we entered my flat however: ‘You know.’
I sat down, rubbing my face. ‘Yes, I do.’
‘Well then, go ahead. Get it over with. Throw rubbish on me and upload it on the internet. I’m ready.’
‘Well, don’t worry,’ I said, ‘I’m not going to humiliate you. In fact, I brought you here because I have a fake name too. My real name is Nessa.’ Diddy took a step backwards with bulging eyes, but I knew he didn’t quite remember who I really was. ‘I used to work for Zaebos.’
‘Oh, you’re having me on, aren’t you?’
‘No, it’s true. I built machines for him, I occasionally helped with his plans, and I even made his coffee. Look.’ I went and got some proof. Blueprints, notes I had taken for him, photos, even personalised pens.
He pointed at me, his finger trembling. ‘How could you?’
I sat down again. ‘You know the thing about Zaebos? He wore a big black cloak with a pointed collar, a big black helmet with angry eyes and fangs moulded on and big black armour with spikes and skulls. He let us know who he was, and let me tell you, that’s better than the rulers of my planet. You ever hear about Queen Rellin? She always stated that she loved her people and would do anything for them…and yet she refused resources from other planets, refused refugees from other planets, and slaughtered millions of her own people. She kept saying she did it because she wanted what was best for us.
‘Zaebos didn’t have any pretence. Nor was he a coward, which is more than I can say for some of my leaders.’
I got up off my seat and came closer to Diddy. He was still standing there. I fully expected him to run away the second I told him what I was, yet there he stood.
‘My mother was a skilled robot builder, even if the robot factory where she worked had been closed down, and I followed in her footsteps, building little contraptions to help us with our daily lives. Zaebos saw the things both my mother and I had worked on, and he recruited us both. He threatened to kill my father if we refused.’
‘I built him robot warriors, robot soldiers…you know, it had always been my dream to create better, stronger soldiers made from metal, and I finally had the resources to do so. Just wish it could be under happier circumstances.
‘Zaebos was especially proud of my work, and I was allowed to come aboard his ship as he went to conquer more galaxies. So I was there when I saw him survey and train his armies. He kept them well-fed and provided them with comfortable quarters, certainly something the armies on my planets didn’t have. I created robotic soldiers and suits for the soldiers, and I even had some say in our battle plans.
‘I was there when he conquered the planet Boolon, and I was even there when you were still on the team. You even stole my blueprints, as I remember. I don’t think we met though…oh, you still haven’t left.’
Diddy sat down in front of me. He opened his mouth to say something but sat silent.
‘Are you that desperate?’ I asked, ‘You still want to sleep with me, even though I worked for your nemesis, just because you couldn’t find anyone else?’
‘No, it’s not that…it’s just….’
‘I loved him.’
I said that as if by instinct.
Now it looked like he was going to faint.
‘I loved him,’ I forced myself to repeat, ‘I said before he had a power and majesty that the rulers of my planet could only dream of having. He strode magnificently through the halls, and he stood firm before his subjects. I watched him, I followed him, and I imagined him holding his hands in mine, making the galaxy our own. He wanted to be King of the Galaxy, and I saw myself as his Queen.
‘Day after day, I would continue making him his machines, talking with him about his plans and making him his coffee, yet when I did, it felt like there was something scratching inside me, ready to burst out.
‘But I couldn’t very well tell him I loved him. I found myself telling myself that “He is the most powerful overlord in the galaxy, you shouldn’t even be working for him”. I imagined what my mother and father would think, if I could live with myself with this in my head. Yet the thought of us together, sitting beside each other on golden thrones stayed in my mind and I just wanted it to go away.’
I was going to tell him.
‘So I killed him.
‘On the day he was to battle Lance Strengthhold, he demanded three coffees before the battle. I poisoned the third. The Crusaders will tell you otherwise, but he collapsed right in the middle of the battle, and Strengthhold simply fed his corpse to the grathvort. I should know, I watched it, right before I made my escape.
‘I…I was the one who did it. Me. I just thought if he were gone…I just thought I shouldn’t have been having these thoughts, and if he went away, then the thoughts would…’ At that moment, I buried my head in my hands and wept, torrents of tears gushing from my single eye. I don’t know how long I sat weeping, but when I lifted my hands, I saw Diddy look at me with a sympathetic expression, his hand on my shoulder.
‘I have a confession to make too,’ replied Diddy. He reached into his pocket and pulled out an Intergalactic Police badge.
He explained to me how his dismissal from the Constellation Crusaders inspired him to travel the galaxy, expanding his horizons and learning how to be a better hero. Soon, he decided to do what his former teammates were too busy basking in glory to do; find Zaebos’ remaining followers and bring them to justice.
‘Well, if that’s the case,’ I said, raising my arms, ‘go ahead and cuff me. I am a murderer after all.’
Diddy sighed. ‘Then you’ll be getting punished for what Lance is getting celebrated for. Your account of what happened certainly sounds more genuine than his.’
He sat down and placed his hand on my shoulder again. We sat there like that for what seemed like hours until he went into the kitchen and got us a drink.
A glass of beer.
We just sat down in silence and drank beer.
The universal love that unites all worlds.
The drink that unites all species.
That united us.