“It hurts,” Vika said.
Dad was looking at his reflection in the mirror. He was handsome – tall, strong, and slender, with nine multi-colored, rhomboid eyes. Both his beautifully shaped faces were covered by soft, squishy beards, slightly trimmed around the liver.
“My stomach,” Vika said.
“Honey!” Dad shouted into the depths of the living room. “I can’t find my seventh sock. Have you seen it?”
Gug’s silvery voice rang through the internal sound system.
“I’m busy with my doctorate, sweet sulfur pie. Just materialize one, okay?”
“Materialize, of course,” Dad muttered to himself, adjusting his tie in front of the mirror. “Energy consumption doesn’t cost anything, right? And who has to pay the bills? Who?”
“Daaaaaad,” Vika said.
“My stomach hurts.”
“Annihilate and reproduce a couple of cells, then.”
“But Uncle Alex says we shouldn’t be doing that. He says we’ve grown too accustomed to easy solutions.”
“Uncle Alex is full of shit,” Dad said absent-mindedly. Five holograms hovered in the air in front of him. One of them was probably his boss reprimanding him for being late for work.
“Valentin! Stop using such language in front of the child,” Mom said sternly, coming out of the bathroom.
“Where the hell is the molecular transporter today?” Dad shouted. “I can’t find anything in this house!”
“Stop yelling!” Mom yelled.
“My stomach hurts!” Vika chimed in.
Mom quickly cloned Dad and started hitting the clone hard with all her hands. Acid sweat poured down her lavender faces.
“Take this!” she screamed at the clone, smashing its kidneys.
“You are too kind,” the defenseless clone said, producing a seraphic smile. “It feels so wonderfully marvelous to be beaten by you, o magnanimous, magnificent, munificent woman of indescribable beauty, not in the very least overweight.”
“What’s going on there?” Gug’s voice resounded in the loudspeakers. “I can’t concentrate with all this noise around. Do I have to shut out my consciousness again?”
“You should’ve shut it out when Dmitry was hitting on you yesterday at the party,” Dad said.
“He was not.”
“Oh yeah? His bile was all over your new dress.”
“Take an anti-jealousy pill, Valentin,” Mom said, stuffing the squashed remains of the mutilated clone into a portable annihilator.
“Take an anti-gullibility pill, Masha,” Dad said sarcastically.
“There’s no reasoning with men,” Gug complained in a weepy voice.
“Shut up, Rito!” Mom hissed. “You are one to talk! All you are interested in is your stupid doctorate. So you’ll find a way to convert dark energy into baryonic matter and stabilize the expansion of the universe. Big deal! Do you even care for our relationship as a triad?”
The three of them started talking all at once. Vika inhaled a large portion of air and bellowed:
“My! ... Stomach!! ... Hurts!!! ... Aunt Nadya died of that new unknown disease yesterday. All the girls in my class are laughing at me because my teeth are white and solid. There is a war between New Ukraine and the City-State of Mensk. My math teacher’s wife and bife have both left him, and he tries hard not to cry during the class. You guys are fighting ... fighting ... fighting ... all the freaking time!” She began to sob. “What ... what kind of a world is this?”
“Honey...” Mom said.
Vika pushed past her, stormed into the bathroom, and slammed the door shut. She ran into a pile of old towels, stumbled, and fell.
She didn’t feel like getting up. She didn’t feel like doing anything at all.
“I’ll just lie here...” she said out loud, sniffling. “I’ll just lie here till I die. This life has no meaning anyway...”
At that moment, an image of a curiously shaped, large, yellow animal flickered in front of Vika. It was looking at her intensely with a pair of round, greenish eyes.
She thought she’d installed too many sight-enhancing microchips while preparing for the zero-gravity mega basketball game yesterday.
Then, suddenly, the image became real.
Vika glanced around and realized that she wasn’t in her bathroom anymore. In fact, she was surrounded by alien landscape. All around her was wild growth – a massive, impenetrable clump of grotesque, gigantic plants with monstrously thick stems clad in brown armor. It was as though one of the prehistoric paintings by the Ancient Ones had suddenly sprung to life.
Right in front of her stood the yellow animal, still studying her with calm interest.
“It’s just a dream, right?” Vika said loudly.
“No, it is not, my child,” the animal replied, slightly tilting its head.
Vika instinctively felt the trigger of the low life form annihilator at the bottom of her middle knee pocket.
“You ... you can talk?” she asked incredulously, trying to keep all her nine eyes on the creature. “You look like an animal. You aren’t supposed to be talking. Are you a product of a genetic experiment? A mutated organism? An alien?”
The creature raised its head, adorned with a long, golden mane, and suddenly emitted a deafening, earth-shattering roar.
Vika was very close to pressing the trigger, but then a sudden thought flashed through her right brain.
“Wait a second ... wait a second,” she said, trying to remember something. “Uncle Alex gave me that silly book ... written by one of the Ancient Ones. All made up, just fairy tales, though. Or so I thought ... By any chance – are you a lion?”
“This is my shape in this world, child,” the creature spoke calmly. “Yours has not seen me yet.”
“I can’t believe it,” Vika said, shaking her heads. “I’ve always hated that book.”
“Why?” the lion asked, looking somewhat bemused.
“Isn’t that obvious?” Vika snorted. “Because of you!”
“Me?” the lion frowned. “What have I done to draw the ire of a young creature more than five thousand years after that book was written?”
“Everything,” Vika said decisively, feeling the tears forming in some of her eyes again. “You are ... a beast. You are supposed to be this omnipotent, benevolent being, but you almost never help anyone. You just ... stand there. People fight and die believing in you, and you barely lift a finger! Or a paw! Or whatever your appendages are called. Aslan, right? Is that your name?”
“Yes, it is,” the lion said.
“Well, Aslan, it’s time for someone to tell you the truth about yourself.” Vika’s voice was trembling. “You suck!”
She was still probing the low life form annihilator in her pocket, wondering if it would work on a creature that wasn’t a normal animal after all. She braced herself, waiting for the lion to charge at her.
Unexpectedly, Aslan lowered his head and slowly wagged his tail, looking humble and seemingly ashamed.
“I’m sorry that you feel that way, child,” he spoke quietly. “I do much more than just stand there, but perhaps you do not notice that. Many years ago, your people were on the verge of death at each others’ hands. I sent my servants, a group of creatures from the planet Earth, led by a man named Alexei Men, who traveled to your planet and saved you from yourselves.”
“Yes, yes, the Ancient Ones, I know, I’ve studied history,” Vika said impatiently. “But that’s exactly what I mean. That’s so like you. You do a few things here and there, but meanwhile, people die all the time, and you don’t care!”
“How do you know that I don’t care?” Aslan asked.
“Because if you did, you’d come and fix all that!” Vika blurted out angrily.
“Fix what?” Aslan asked.
“Are you stupid or something?” Vika fumed. “Fix everything! People are dying, do you hear me? If you are so powerful, come and help!”
“But you never ask for my help,” Aslan said. “You, the inhabitants of the planet Voznesenye, have the tendency of solving problems on your own. You have invented molecular transportation, advanced cloning, time travel, energy transformation, and plenty more. You are the masters of the cosmos, the rulers of all sentient creatures – those few that still exist, that is. You have reached the highest peak of all civilizations ever known. So why are you still unhappy?”
Vika was silent. Around her, the trees were whispering to each other, their foliage swooshing in the fresh air. Tiny creatures flocked together, hiding behind the trunks and listening to the strange conversation with fearful deference.
It took Vika less than a minute to make a decision. With a swift movement of a finger tube, she changed the setting of her weapon from annihilate to tame. She shot through the pocket, without bothering to aim – the lion was a big enough target. The nano-bullet hit Aslan square in the forehead.
She looked at him, chuckled, and spoke with quiet contempt:
“You’re coming with me, kitty.”
Excerpts from the diary of Viktoria Valentinovna Kxrxmzv, Neosiberian Confederation, planet Voznesenye, year 2977 CE, 5133 HCE (Human Common Era).__
Tonight is an old holiday we’ve inherited from the Ancient Ones. We eat roasted cobalt, sing songs, and switch our metabolism cycle to upgraded oxidative phosphorylation for the winter.
I have miniaturized Aslan and hidden him in my underwear dispenser. Nobody knows he is here. Nobody knows what we’ve been doing.
I had to do what I did. Aslan is the most powerful being in the universe, and having him just lie on the grass is a colossal waste. I’m trying to do some good. Whoever reads this, don’t judge me. I’m only 273 years old, okay?
Besides, we are doing fine. I didn’t expect the taming to work, but it did. Aslan follows my orders now. The first thing we did was stop the war between New Ukraine and Mensk. Aslan hypnotized the leaders of both countries, and they signed a permanent peace agreement. That’s it, the war is over. I brought peace to our planet. If that’s not awesome, then what is?
I knew I did the right thing. And no classes tomorrow!
There is one tiny problem. This morning the Grand Duke of Mensk lost his middle shoe and converted the teeth of his New Ukrainian chambermaid into gaseous state by way of punishment. In response, the President of New Ukraine caressed the buttocks of the Menskian Ambassador, killing him instantly. The war resumed with increased ferocity.
No need to panic. Aslan hypnotized the leaders again. I also had him revive all those who’d been killed in the war.
Now I’m thinking that it’s unfair to those who died in molecular transporter accidents, or because someone decomposed their vital organs by mistake.
Also, those who died from diseases ... No matter how advanced our medical science is, those new diseases keep appearing for some reason. I want to see my Aunt Nadya again...
Come to think of it, why should people die in the first place?
Mensk and New Ukraine are fighting again. According to a Menskian news hologram, New Ukrainians provoked the war by coloring their kidneys purple during their weekly Independence Day parade. “That is extremely offensive to the memory of my late grandmother, who was knitting me a sweater of that exact color when she was gunned down by New Ukrainian fanatics eighty-seven years ago,” stated the Marshal of Menskian Defense Forces (MDF), and proceeded to position 4127 armored energy hovertanks on the state border. In response, a senior New Ukrainian official called the Menskian government a “breeding institution for vicious racism”. Several Menskian tourists were brutally murdered on the streets of New Ukrainian cities. “They looked too freaking dumb with those funny big foreheads of theirs,” a carpenter from Magnetic Lviv explained. “We just had to off them.”
I told Aslan to resurrect everyone. Every single Voz who has ever lived and died. I’m still hesitating about other races. After all, we wouldn’t want to populate our universe with savages.