Wednesday, December 8, 2010


A few of my friends, from the days when I lived in the Colony Apartments in Provo, are members of a website called Writers on the Loose. (Despite the name of the website, most of them don't write fiction—they just bicker over politics and post nasty comments to each other.) Last week one of those friends, Jonathan, held a writing contest on the site for the few who actually compose fiction. It's an open contest where anyone can participate, even if they're not a paying member of the website. I forgot about it until the night of the deadline, so I cranked something out in just a few hours. It's still a little unpolished, but I thought I'd share it here. It's entitled Quaver.

I looked around the speakeasy. The majority of those in attendance were uordni’i, but there were a few other species from around the galaxy. The most conspicuous, because they were so odd in appearance, were the humans from a planet called Earth. They, more than any other species in the galaxy, were faddists. If one of them discovered something new and intriguing, they’d recruit twenty more dilettantes by the week’s end.

As I sucked on my thrieman juice, I noticed one of the humans walking my way. I groaned internally. I could tell she was going to sit with me. I was in no mood to interact with anyone—especially someone from such a bizarre species. But I’m not very confrontational. Besides, I was raised to be polite, no matter how uncomfortable the other person made me.

“Is this seat taken?” she asked.

“No,” I muttered. “Go ahead.”

She smiled at me and sat down. This one was even uglier than the other humans I’d seen. She had hair as black as the void of space, pinched eyes, and a round, flat face.

“I’m Wakana. What’s your name?”


“Pleased to meet you, Drink-Up,” she said, holding out her hand.

I stared at her, not knowing how to respond.

Wakana giggled and retracted her hand. “I’m sorry! I didn’t realize that you don’t have any hands!”

I still had no idea how to respond to this human, so I just sucked up my thrieman juice and then quickly ordered another. Before the waiter could leave, Wakana asked him to bring the same for her.

“I don’t think you’ll like it,” I warned her. “No one likes it except uordni’i.”

“Don’t be silly!” she cried. “What’s the point of visiting a dive like this unless you’re going to partake of the forbidden wares?”

The waiter brought us our drinks. I snatched mine up and extended my proboscis. I savored the thickness of it and admired the perfect swirl of orange and yellow. And the flavor was superb. You had to kill the thrieman in just the right way in order to maximize the flavor. If you did it wrong the thrieman would exude bitter tannins which would ruin the drink—at least, it would be ruined for a connoisseur like myself.

“Phew!” Wakana complained. “This is really icky. I don’t think I can finish mine. Do you want it?”

I looked at her drink. There was something floating in it.

“What is that?”

“Oh, I threw in a sugar cube. It didn’t help.”

I politely declined to finish her drink for her.

“You think this is good?” she blabbered on. “You should try Jell-O shots!”

I miserably waited for the music to start. Rif’rall, a first class uordni’i musician was supposed to play tonight. Once I’d heard him I could leave. But until then I would have to put up with this human. Why a human? Couldn’t it at least have been a fellow uordni’i? By the stars, I’d even take a pugrump over a human!

“You’re not very talkative, are you?” Wakana asked.


“That’s okay. I have that affect on men, sometimes.”

I stared at her. How utterly naïve. For one thing, my species isn’t sexually dimorphic. But even if it was, there’s no way I’d be attracted to something so obviously different, morphologically, from my own form. I might as well try to mate with a spinkata plant.

“Ooo!” Wakana squealed. “Here come some of my friends! Over here, girls!”

Several more ugly, squawking human females came over to my table.

I stood up. “Perhaps I should move to another table so that I’m not bothering you.”

“Don’t you dare!” Wakana said, grabbing one of my arms. “You sit yourself right back down. You’re no bother at all. None of us has really ever met a uordni’i before, so we all have to get to know you.”

Luckily at that point Rif’rall walked out onto the stage. He politely inflated the air sacs on this throat and everyone clapped. He then proceeded to the microphone.

“Tonight,” he intoned without the slightest hint of airs, “I will be playing a D Sharp for 0.5 seconds.”

“That’s it?” snorted one of Wakana’s friends. “Just one note?”

“Yes, just one note,” Wakana reprimanded her. “It’s the absolute culmination of musical talent and technical skill.”

I couldn’t help but think that she both didn’t understand what she was saying and that what she was saying didn’t contain any real information, anyway.

Even though many other species visit our speakeasies, I’ve found that none of them really understand our musical form. I’ve heard lots of their musicians play seemingly endless streams of musical notes—sometimes to the point that they play so many that the result is just a cacophony of sounds. But none of them are able to play a single note perfectly.

That is the goal of the uordni’i musician: to play just one note, but to hold it for the precise amount of time and no longer, to produce a smooth and steady sound, and to have your instrument so meticulously tuned that exactly the right note is played.

Rif’rall proceeded to remove his ethniel from his shirt pocket. He placed it on the floor and then settled down next to it, carefully positioning the mic next to it.

Wakana had an ecstatic look on her face. Why would she look like that if she hasn’t even heard his music, yet? Like I said, humans are incorrigible faddists. Being part of the latest fad probably mattered more to her than the actual musical talent about to be displayed.

 “What is that?” Another of Wakana’s friends was talking. “It looks like a tiny piano or harpsichord or something.”

Doesn’t she realize that he’s about to play? It’s awfully inconsiderate of her—both to Rif’rall and to the audience members—for her to be talking this close to the performance. In an uncharacteristically forward move, I shushed Wakana and her friends. And just in time, too.

Rif’rall lifted one arm and created seven polyps at the end. With four of the polyps he held down the strings on his ethniel. Then with the other three polyps he struck his note. It was…perfection. I’d never heard a more precisely tuned instrument in my whole life. Given the atmosphere of the speakeasy and my frustration with my company made his choice of note and instrument oddly prescient and artistically brilliant. The sound was pure and unwavering. He must’ve practiced for years to produce that kind of music. When 0.5 seconds were up—exactly up—he finished. I was awash with excitement. Rif’rall’s note was simply the most amazing musical experience I’d ever had. My whole body began to quiver. Even after Rif’rall was done and the applause had begun, the single bar that he’d played echoed over and over in my brains. It was exquisite.

When I finally came out of my reverie, Wakana and all her noisy friends were gone. Perhaps they were repelled by the fact that uordni’i ooze a pungent and somewhat sticky off-white substance from our skin when we’re happy. I get the impression that humans don’t express emotion the same way we do.

No matter. I was never interested in making friends with them in the first place. Now I can return home both musically satisfied and unfettered by unwanted company.

The End.

1 comment:

  1. If that's your idea of unpolished, I need a new dictionary... ;-)

    I especially liked the idea of overly specified perfection. Though the ... uh... oozing of substances was cool, funny, and oh so gross. :-)