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The Larva at the End of a Barstool
by R.A. St. Afarian
(Note: "The Larva at the End of a Barstool" is part of a larger story being written by R.A. St. Afarian called "The New Americana". A political and cultural satire that takes place in the near future, its aim is to approach issues of social debate in a tongue-in-cheek manner, and still evoke laughter. The story below takes place after the main protagonist, a sixteen-year-old girl named Hayase, is forced to take up community-service work as a part of her "sentence" for a juvenile misdemeanor, and she ends up working as a mall cop at a food court. In the near future, a food court is a dedicated place in a shopping mall that comprises a bar, a casino, and a ghetto for lawyers.)
"I wasn't always like this," said the giant larva on the bar stool.
Jorge the larva had been at Zonk's bar since the day he took over -- which was an odd twenty-five years ago -- give or take a leap year, Terran religious festival, or Bar Mitzvah. He had probably been there longer -- before Zonk had taken over the bar after the previous owner had died the year before. Commander Terrace was a green Security Ensign at the time -- then again, Jorge was a rather green Piggie at the time as well.
He thought of their first meeting and how he had slipped in a concoctive as a method to seduce her.
"Worst possible thing I've ever done." And it wasn't the moral aspects of his actions that he was regretting. "She was like a man." He told some of the patrons about his experience with Captain Terrace. "Look -- if you want to sleep with her, then take out a large piece of cardboard and start 'umping it madly -- it's like inanimate primal sex -- sort of like a dog humping a cardboard box."
Jorge sat there sipping his drink -- a rather spicy mix of liquid Terran rice mixed with maple syrup and a tinge of red spice. Zonk always wondered how old Jorge was -- he mentioned once that he had been in a larval state for the past three millennia. Of course he was drunk at the time and didn't believe a tenth of the things that the larva told him.
"I was big!! The entire planet worshipped me, you know." he would brag, raising his little arms in divine revelation.
Zonk ignored him by serving him more of his favorite drink, even though Jorge hadn't ordered it. The latter would drink it anyway, without wondering why it was there or not. One thing that always bothered Zonk was that the larva always had money for his drinks. Not once did he ever buy anything on credit, and for a habitual drinker like him, the concept of a bar tab was virtually nonexistent. To his knowledge, Jorge was unemployed and had no means of earning himself a living, yet he virtually kept the bar profitable and running since the day it opened.
Hayase walked in with a savage thud, strode right up to the bar and said:
"I'll have whatever the wormy thing next to me is having."
"I'm not a worm," bellowed the offended larva.
"A caterpillar?" queried Hayase with her finger twirling her hair.
"This should be good." thought Zonk, as he stood in the corner with one ear raised toward the conversation while innocently cleaning some bar glasses.
"Why I tell you...I'm a larva," boasted Jorge.
"Uh, okay.... So where you from?"
"Nowhere that you know of...the planet no longer exists."
"Oh -- long story..."
"I'm not drunk yet and it takes me a long time to get me that way," Hayase said. "So, I'm sure I can listen."
"I used to be a God, you know..."
"And I'm Rupenzella, Galactic Pirate Princess of the Braided Armpit Hair of the ship the snorting Brandywine."
"Really. I was."
"If you're all godly, then why is your planet no longer there?"
"If you would stop interrupting me with stupid questions, I'd tell you."
"I could ask you intelligent questions?"
"Oh, I dunno....like...hmmm...when you're done with the larval state, are you going to turn into a flying pumpkin with wings?"
"CAN I TELL MY STORY?!"
"I bet you don't even have a story, or you would have told me already."
The larva wiggled his small limbs in frustration and tried to slap his forehead, missing several times before deciding that slamming his head on the table was more appropriate since his hands didn't reach that far. Jorge connected his head with the table at least fourteen times, each followed by a thudding sound. Zonk noticed that Jorge would leave a mark on the table...something of a permanent image that could not be fixed...unless he distracted him.
"Jorge?" asked Zonk in a faux worried tone.
"Zonk...I'm busy." The larva continued to slam his head on the table.
"Jorge, you're going to lose blood that way."
"I don't bleed. I've been a larva for the past three thousand years. I tried -- trust me -- I don't."
"This is a friendly sort of place to be at -- I don't want my customers to get scared."
"I'm just trying to scare her off -- to let me be."
"Jorge -- she's a regular here now. Believe me -- nothing scares her off."
Hayase was chewing on the drink in her straw when she realized that they were talking about her. She raised one eyebrow, and gave an interested look, indicating that she hadn't lost track of what they were saying.
"Can you just tell me the story?" she asked again.
"Will you promise to never bother me again?" pleaded the larva.
"Starcadet's honor," replied Hayase with a cheery sway.
Zonk wondered how long the peace would last, considering Hayase had the attention span of a squirrel. Not that she was easily bored; she just...well....had an incredibly large attention deficit. From a Piggie's point of view, that was bad because those were signs of a very lousy book-keeper. Of course, she wasn't Piggie, and no self-respecting one would ever employ a woman, no matter how fond he was of her.
"A long time ago..." started the larva.
"Does this involve parrots?" interrupted Hayase.
"Not really -- there were parrots around, but I can't say they played any part. Just imagine there are parrots at every corner in my story, very much like a tree, a pond, or a volcano."
"With cyborg eye pieces that assimilate?"
"With cyborg eye pieces, but they're too busy being parrots, so no assimilation." Jorge paused. "A long time ago, roughly five-thousand years ago, I was a prince amongst men and was the heir to a galactic empire." He stopped in case Hayase decided to spring another question. She looked back with very empty eyes, a bit of drool on the side of her lips, and a very chewed-up straw in between.
"My father died, leaving me the heir apparent but not before I went through a ritual where I was covered by millions of caterpillars and left in a larval state. I ruled the empire for twenty-five hundred years with an iron fist; I was worshipped as a God. I was called such noble titles as My Royal Squirminess, The Divine Larva, and The Prodigal Butterfly".
Hayase envisioned a giant larva with a human face, and a crown at the top. In his small protruding arms were a scepter that he would use to issue royal decrees. It sounded like a game she would play with her sisters when they were children, where her sister was "The Queen of Everything", and they had to obey her every command or she would start beating them with the giant, plastic bat that was her scepter. Next to the queen sat a giant teddy bear in a girl's dress in blue and yellow polka dots that would act as the "Princess of the Tea Party" and would be told "Let that be a lesson to you" every time Hayase would be beaten.
"Eventually I grew tired of ruling all sentient beings and decided to fake my own death. I cloned my old whipping boy from childhood and then tricked him into pushing me into a deep pond. My priests told them that I had left to join the universe as a godly butterfly in the stars and would always be with them through prayer, pilgrimage, and generous donations to my church."
Jorge finished the story with a flourish and a proud smile on his pinkish face, which had such an arc of hubris to it that it betrayed whatever axioms of geometry were reserved for curved objects.
"And then?" asked Hayase.
"And then what?" he snorted in a manner that was socially acceptable for Piggies.
"What she's trying to say is...what happened next?" mediated Zonk.
"Ah yes...there was a great big civil war and everyone destroyed each other. Intergalactic society remade itself into the form that it is today thanks to the Humans, who are always trying to conquer everything."
"Jorge?" murmured Zonk.
"What really happened? That sounds like a load of horseshit to me. That story isn't even remotely true."
"Why would you say that?"
"I've known you for a very long time and I know most of my patrons inside out. You've yet to say anything to me that's personal, and suddenly in front of a total stranger you start spewing out this crap. "
"It's not really needed but it wouldn't hurt, considering I treat you like family."
"Fine. I'm from a planet of desert hominid emus who traveled across the dunes on domesticated alligators. One day I came across a cave and upon entrance I was assaulted by spider monkeys that covered me in goo which put me in my larval state. Initially the stuff gave me quite a buzz and my people were going to eat me, but then someone realized that in my delusional state I could predict future events. My tribe used me to predict snake races to prove that I could see the future -- and my brother-in-law, who ran a very lucrative used-gators business, made a start-up company which revolved around my clairvoyant abilities.
"After a few years, the stuff that gave me a buzz started to wear off, so he transformed the business into a church for taxation purposes, and for quite some time I was worshipped as a god. It was fun, but after a few hundred years my church became something of a fad and they forgot about me. The church became a business entity once again and reemerged as a private health-insurance company."
"Which explains the heretical rates of their prices?" said Zonk in a believing manner.
"I knew it -- the private health companies came from the clergy."
"And I've been on the run ever since."
"Why is that?" asked Hayase.
"For one thing, I'm the only one who knows their secret. Chester..."
"Well if they found me, they would kill me in less than a second," Jorge stated.
"Why not go public with this?
"Look -- girl. I don't think you realize this, but on my planet I'm like a myth -- like a unicorn, a hydra, or a talking parrot. I'd rather not let small kids hear stories of the great healthcare sham."
"I'm so glad I'm an atheist." said Hayase.
Story © 2004 by R.A. St. Afarian email@example.com
Illustration © 2004 by Romeo Esparrago
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