Wine Small Step
Wine giant fucking leap
“What do you see?” Hank asks, shoving past to get a look at the control panel.
“It’s just humans doing human things,” I say, giving him a hard shove in return.
Hank slumps back into his chair, crossing his arms, ready to emotionally retreat for the evening.
“It isn’t good to keep things bottled up Hank,” I say, shaking a bottle of merlot in his face, hoping to distract from his melancholy.
He snatches the bottle and takes a gulp.
“What’s taking so long?” He asks.
I try choosing my words carefully.
“Just keep in mind earth might not be exactly the same as you remember,”
“What are you trying to say?” He asks, curiously.
“Nothing Hank, here drink your wine, forget about it.”
Hank complies, staring out at the floating orb he still thinks is his home.
“Beth, I know you’re down there” I hear him mutter to himself.
What a fucking shit show I think whirling my chair back around to the control panel.
Beth, he’s always on about Beth, the giant elephant in the stinking room, the one Hank was supposed to meet the night he ended up on my ship, sorry our ship. Our Starship as Hank likes to call it.
Beth.. how can I compete with that.
I see her now, in front of me on the control panel. I’ve been watching her for days.
I’ve been keeping it from Hank of course, I have no idea if he is prepared for the reality, regardless of what he thinks he knows about Beth.
She is strong, I’ll give her that. Fast as well, she bludgeoned five to six wasteland raiders before breakfast this morning.
I look at Hank. Sweet Hank, I struggle to reconcile these two are even the same species, but I don’t think he will ever stop thinking about her.
I tell myself - If it’s Beth that Hank wants, It’s Beth that Hank gets.
I grab my human costume, it’s probably best described as a flesh suit, I pull it on over my body, carefully, so I don't get any of my fur stuck in the zipper. I throw on some sunglasses to top it off and I’m ready.
I call out to Hank.
“Ok buddy, I think it’s time we bring Beth over for that date.”
“Hazaa” He declares, raising the bottle as he spins around to see me.
“Ahhh, what in the high flying hell!” He gasps, choking on his wine seeing my flesh suit for the first time.
I might not be pulling it off as well as I envisioned, the pastel coloured silicon membrane material sewn together into patch work is already opening at the seams, struggling to contain the huge amount of body fur threatening to bust through it.
“Gross.” Hank says bluntly.
“It was better in my imagination,”
“You know humans wear clothes right?”
“I didn’t think of that” I admit.
“But you thought of sunglasses?” He asks.
We both laugh, a big belly shaking laugh.
While still laughing Hank says, “I think it might be best if you hang back in the control room buddy.”
I can’t help but feel a little rejected, regardless of how implausible or grotesque my attempts of looking human come off.
I need to be in that room I think, but I can't flat out tell him why, in fact I'm not sure I can flat out tell myself why so instead I say.
“I guess I’ll hang back then,” I might have said it a little coldly so I add, “Is there anything you need before the great Beth graces us with her presence this - ”
“More wine please,” He replies before I even get a chance to finish what I’m saying.
I open another bottle and try taking a mouthful but the flesh suit is super restrictive and most of the liquid runs down my front.
“Not to worry," I say, passing the bottle and a couple of wine glasses off to Hank.
“Thanks.” Says Hank, completely distracted.
“Go get em' tiger” I say, “I’ll be here in the control room if you love birds need anything.”
Hank smiles, says nothing and leaves making his way to the Matter Reconversion Chamber which he has taken to calling The Date Room during the lead up to this particular mission.
I watch him on the surveillance monitors. Hanks' dressing gown swoops behind him majestically as he passes through the halls.
Yikes, I think, maybe we should have cleaned him up. Oh well, I doubt she'll notice anyway.
I press down on the controls beginning the process of converting Beth into light energy, preparing her for teleportation onto our Starship.
Inside The Date Room, Beth’s body begins to materialise.
Blood and bile drip from her battle fatigued armour. Bones and fleshy mementos of enemies and dead things decorate her body like twisted baubles on a meaty Christmas tree, she holds a battle hammer in her monstrous grip.
Hank knows something is wrong. Before Beth reaches full reconversion he has hidden himself behind a bunch of nearby crates, he is staring straight down the barrel of the surveillance camera that I am watching him from, I can feel his stare via the monitor and my heart begins to break, the glasses of merlot he poured shake in his hands.
I watch as Beth begins to take in her surroundings, she begins stalking the room like a wild animal, every now and then she lashes out with her hammer smashing crates and containers with no discernible goal.
It’s a terrifying display of strength.
Ok, maybe that’s enough, I think, maybe Hank has seen all he needs to see, I’ll just send her back to earth -
And then, as though reading my thoughts, her hammer slams down on the teleportation machine, she hits it again and again, crashing metal against metal until the equipment is an unrecognisable mess of dripping fluids and twisted debris.
She stops, still. Closing her eyes, feeling Hanks presence in the room.
I have to help Hank, I think.
She has found him, he looks hopeless, my sweet Hank. What have I done, I think.
I spring into action and run full speed towards The Date Room, my stomach twists at the thought of being too late and I try bracing myself for what I might see.
I come charging in to see Beth standing with her back to me, hammer still raised.
“Don’t you remember,” Hank pleads “It’s me...it’s Hank!” still holding two wine glasses in his hands, the contents now emptied across his lap.
It was clear she was turning the words over in her mind. The hammer threatened to crash down at any moment.
Hank continues his plea.
“We were meant to have dinner, like five years ago,” He struggles to know what to say, “Instead, I was abducted by aliens, well, an alien… please don’t kill me… oh sweet mercy, please please please don’t kill me,”
“Hank?” She says, bringing her guard down for a moment, showing her first subtle sign of humanity. It stops us both in our tracks.
“Hank.” He says, coercing her to remember, patting himself on the chest with two empty wine glasses.
The energy shifts, for a brief moment I believe this might actually work out for them.
Without knowing exactly what I should do or how to help. I join them and gesture towards him, “Hank” I say.
My presence triggers something primitive inside of Beth. She lets out a guttural battle cry and begins charging for me, hammer held high, preparing for a deadly hit.
“No! Beth.” Hank yells.
Now I’m not much of a fighter but I do have one defence, an ancient biological defence, something that I truly wish I had a chance to disclose with Hank prior to this encounter.
“Don’t look at me, Hank!” I scream in shame, knowing exactly what is about to happen.
Suddenly the flesh suit expands, like an overstuffed plastic bag. I am almost instantly twice the size as normal.
Why do I have to be wearing this suit, I think as it gives way.
The flesh blisters and rips apart and molten black tar comes gushing out.
As Beth and her hammer are almost on me she loses her footing, slipping in my tar.
Hank starts grabbing at my fur, pulling me away as Beth struggles to find her feet.
“What was it you said? Earth might not be exactly the same as you remember!” He says, accusingly.
“Is this really a good time?” I reply, attempting to deflect the question.
He stomps his feet “You put us both in real danger this time,”
“Sorry Hank, it's just you’ve been so distracted lately,”
Beth is now standing, although still struggling not to slip.
Hank opens a hatch for the nearest escape pod.
“I can't leave the ship,” I say, realising what Hank's plan is.
“Is this really a good time!” He says, mimicking my voice sarcastically.
“You’ve just been so distant lately Hank, I just figured if we came back to earth -”
Beth rudely interrupts, screaming out in frustration. Struggling to free herself from the tar, she throws her hammer, launching it into the escape pod controls.
“The other one,” Hank says, shoving me towards the next escape pod.
I push back “No, listen to me. It’s our Starship Hank, it’s our home!”
He gives in, finally and unexpectedly, “Ok.”
"You want to fight her, be my guest." He offers.
I am caught suddenly off guard and without a plan, Hank knows it.
Beth has already freed herself from the tar and has clearly committed herself to killing me with her bare hands.
She presses her palms decisively together on either side of my head and begins applying pressure, her grip feels like an inescapable vice, molten tar runs down her hands as though she is wringing it from a sponge.
I think that I'm about done until Hank takes a running leap, with full determination he slams into her side with the whole force of his body. They both go crashing to the floor. Beth lands face down, limbs flailing out by her side. Hank hits the deck hard like a rag doll, knocked unconscious from the impact.
Beth starts lashing out making frustrated grunting noises, unable to stand, blinded by my tar. She begins smashing down on anything within her reach.
I grab Hank, which is difficult and head straight for the second escape pod. In my slow retreat he slips from my grip three to four times, at one point I go to swing him onto my shoulder but instead he slips, breaking two teeth when he hits the ground.
Eventually, not without struggle I have us both secured inside the escape pod.
Hank wakes up just in time to see us eject the pod. We watch as everything we’ve known and cared for over the past half decade is abandoned, left to Beth and her terrifying bloodlust.
I can’t bring myself to look at Hank, the burden of shame sits heavily on my chest.
“You know, I’ve had worse first dates,” Hank says, jokingly.
I still can’t find the courage to look him in the eye.
Hank opens a compartment underneath his seat and rattles around for a moment before bringing up a bottle of merlot.
The cheeky devil.
He cups his hand to his mouth and begins making fake static sounds and in the breaks announces “Thats - wine - small - step - for man,” He shakes the bottle in my face “And - wine - giant - fucking - leap - for - mankind”
There’s my guy, I think.
I cringe as he notices his broken teeth.
He passes me a glass of merlot.
“You know,” I say, the words leaving my mouth before I can catch them, “I love you, Hank.”
He sits back looking at me, both of us soaked in tar and wine.
He offers me a wry smile.
“I know you do buddy, I know you do.”
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