Zith sighed as he sat down. He had just poked his head out his door to survey the waiting queue, all seated on tatty plastiform seats.
He only had an hour left of his work day, and there were at least fifty of them out there. The current occupant of his office was huddled under an offensively fishy blanket. An adult male, type III bipedal humanoid, level III sentience, no obvious pathology, psych assessment not complete.
“Mr Daniel Smith,” he paused to peer at the man over the edge of his bifocals, “I am Zith Grewnfarn, your case manager. We have some paperwork to complete and then you can be on your way.”
Daniel grunted, trying to remember how long he had been awake. Thirty, thirty-five hours? It felt like a thousand.
“Mr Smith… may I call you Daniel?” another grunt, Zith placed an interrogative mark against ‘ Level III sentience’. “You are currently an undocumented alien. Can you please tell me how you came to be recovered by the Shoreline Shepherds?”
Daniel rummaged through his sluggish mind. What were his options? He immediately rejected ‘making something up’ because he knew that, in his current frame of mind, it would probably end up more bizarre than the truth. So what was left? Tell the truth, and be assigned to a psychiatric facility and dosed up with anti-psychotic drugs; or pretend he couldn’t remember, and make it up as he went along.
“I can’t remember”, he mumbled, remembering only too clearly.
“Well, isn’t that a pity. What do you remember, Daniel?” Zith’s voice was laden with patience and was starting to take on the tone of someone dealing with an obvious imbecile.
“Um,” buying time, he backtracked from being dumped in the ocean. Ok, so not the surreal specimen collection site… not the aborted suicide off the water tower… car trip…? Wait…
“Um, I was having a drink at the Septic Saucer.” He watched Zith pen in ‘drink’ and ‘Sceptic Saucer!’
“That was ‘Septic Saucer’.” Daniel spelled it out and watched as Zith scratch out the errant ‘c’.
“And what did you drink Daniel?”
“Um, a strawberry milkshake?” He watched Zith put a question mark against ‘language skills – level 5’ and recorded ‘non-alcoholic’ neatly next to ‘drink’ and ‘Septic Saucer’.
“Were you alone Daniel, or did you have company?”
“Alone.” Although the one grubby guy wearing biker leathers had sat on the stool next to him, and had given him a long, considering, not-too-unfriendly stare.
“What is your vocation? Do you have any skills or technical training, Daniel?”
“Door-to-door vacuum salesman. Retired.” The acid in his tone surprised even Daniel. But, given the circumstances, he felt entirely justified.
He blushed when he remembered how naively proud he had been when the cameraman had been assigned to him for that fateful day. He had put on his game face and had played his best ever pitches. He was so hot, he smoked. Deal after deal; signed; sealed; delivered. His ears started burning when he remembered his exit interview later that day, when the Sales Manager had congratulated him on a magnificent job and told him that they had decided to close down the ‘Mobile Units’ and focus on the burgeoning ‘Online Marketing Division’ and that he would be remembered by all posterity as their first ‘Virtual Online Marketing Representative’.
He hadn’t been able to bring himself to watch the infomercial on the Home Shopping Network, but his fellow victims (surprisingly without malice) had told him he had aced it.
As he watched Zith’s pen head towards the ‘unskilled’ box, he blurted , “I did star in a video once.”
Zith fixed him with his yellow slitted eyes. “You have acted?” then to himself “Hmmm.”
He ticked the ‘unskilled’ box and wrote ‘A S S’ in spaced capitals in the ‘other’ box.
He pressed a button on a grey box on his desk, “Ansi, please tell Dravid that I have a candidate for him. Five more minutes, then he can come and collect.”
Daniel’s hot ears turned icy. What had he done? Oh, well. Nothing to do but sit it out.
“Will I be sent back?”
“No,” Zith’s monosyllable managed to convey a whiff of scorn and a tinge of ridicule. At Daniel’s enquiring glare, he continued, “Your species does not re-integrate well.”
The next five minutes continued with, what Daniel could only assume was bureaucratically inspired fine print. Had he been to Betelgeuse; had he ever been exposed to dragon pox; were his parents ever involved in Pangaen politics; did he have a galactic criminal record?
Daniel had, he decided, an infinitely boring life, as he answered ‘no’ to the onslaught of questions, some of which didn’t even sound physically possible.
“Right, sign here” at a handwritten ‘X’, “here, and here.”
The last, a little alarmingly, was an indemnity clause where he undertook to hold the Galactic Government of Argle entirely free of any blame for any loss or damage incurred by him or his progeny, irrespective of whether the aforesaid Government or any of its duly elected agents were deemed guilty of negligence, misconduct or incompetence in the performance of any of their duties with respect to his induction.
“Since it is the end of the day, and since you seem to be a really nice … human, I am going to say that we did the psych evaluation and your profile is normal. Is there any reason you are aware that you will not be a valuable member of our society and aspire to make a meaningful contribution to our culture?” The last question was read.
Daniel nodded, in a daze. “Good. Thumb print here, photo there, and we are done.”
Daniel was still blind from the flash, and was nursing his bleeding thumb when Dravid stepped through the open doorway. As his vision slowly returned, he found himself standing, face-to-face with an intense, thin, grey alien who shook his right hand enthusiastically.
©Kim Magennis 2016