Skins Like Wet Paper

by Matt ROWAN
 

Everything in the sky was a UFO to him. Clouds, birds, airplanes, everything. Each a revolving chrome discus with a semi-liquid quality to its exterior. Whenever he saw these “UFOs,” his first reaction was always hysterical. It was pretty intrinsic. Think of visceral fear of the unknown, brought about by something revealing itself as though from nothing — that would impel you to react hysterically.

But, you’re skeptical — feeling you, yourself, wouldn’t do the exact same?

Silly as it sounds, picture yourself in new shoes, his new shoes. Imagine you’re standing there in your nice new shoes and you’re convinced you suddenly see a UFO. So then how would you react? Calmly?

Probably not calmly.

§

In his brief but powerful state of hysteria, he felt he’d been delivered back to the state of nature — was in danger there of being preyed upon. Worse, he was vaguely aware he’d have little time for philosophy in the state of nature, or anything else he’d normally liked to do.

Quickly, he realized his hysterical reaction was a bit much. He’d look around, still quivering and quaking with fear. No one else would seem concerned, at least about anything other than his hysterical reaction. (His hysterical reaction was extremely noisy and attention grabbing, even from the general standpoint of hysteria’s being a noisy condition.) If there were a throng of fellow passersby in the vicinity, the throng’d gape inquisitively as his hands were thrust heavenward, and grimace when he emitted that unpleasant squeal, the one that forced them to imagine Porky Pig being butchered. So cartoonish and so horrible. Thrown papers fluttering around, if he’d been carrying papers.

He’d eventually recover his wits. Focus his attention on some brick limned perfectly with mortar, stepping aside foot traffic’s flow to make himself even less the object of interest to passersby. If he found he’d begun whistling nervously, absently, he would immediately stop. He’d re-enter the herd more gracefully than he’d been briefly expelled, always hoping it would never happen again. Always disappointed when it did.

§

Everything changed the day a real UFO came and landed beside him, some half-dozen yards away in an abandoned lot. He himself was standing on the nearby sidewalk. He was amazed by his calm at the sight of it. The unreality of his calm.

The UWC (Unidentified Walking Creature) stepped forth from the UFO, down an exit platform extending outwardly from deep inside the ship like the uncurling of an elephant’s trunk. It explained to the man that it had plans to change the way things were “done around here.” It was referring to changing Earth and Earthlings, with people the most immediately affected Earthlings of all.

It was a humanoid. In terms of stature, it was much smaller than the average human being, but it said it was “HUGE” (its term, spoken effusively) on its home planet. It was also much weaker and more vulnerable physically than the average human. The UWC’s skin was like paper, wet paper. It could literally be torn in half by a man or a mildly aggressive baby’s touch. Anything with a mouth could eat the UWC easily. He was worried that some starving and toothless creature would emerge from nowhere to gum it down.

The UWC explained that its plans were horrible, in terms of changing the way Earthlings of all persuasions did things. It had a laser gun, which it fired at the man. The shot struck his bicep. The pain was mildly intense, reminiscent of a very hard pinch. The UWC told him that it would be crowned “KING OF THE EARTH.” That was the way things would soon be. That was its lone objective, but an objective that would lead to drastic and immediate changes.

He didn’t believe the UWC stood much of a chance.

It had a horrible plan, as in its plan was not very good, was very bad. It had a horrible gun with a powerful pinch but nothing more in the way of advanced weaponry. It was frail and kind of stupid, certainly arrogant. What made it so sure?

The UWC, making good use of the first letters of its acronym, dubbed itself “Ulysses W. Crown.” With that and the help of its large effusive voice, it ascended to the throne of Earth. A throne that hitherto its arrival had sat vacant and waiting. Once seated and crowned, King Ulysses began decreeing immediately.

King Ulysses did not forget the man, that reactionary man, and brought him on as its chief courtier. His duties were to clean the eggs it laid — non-viable because two or more of the alien sexes weren’t present — and to protect King Ulysses from harm. He succeeded at the latter for about two weeks, until a creature came from out of nowhere and gummed the king down.

Earth immediately descended into chaos without its king.

Not knowing what else to do, the man thrust his arms in the air, squealing hysterically.

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