Umam Preth was preparing a deadly concoction of three parts jaffiger and two parts sillin when the robot slammed through the window.
"Hey, Professor," the Vee3 said in greeting. Its manipulator field rolled it upright.
He watched the spilled jaffiger slip through the cracks of the plas-mesh floor. Without the jaffiger, sillin was only mildly noxious. It lapped innocently against the sides of the last martini glass in the universe.
I had this squeak in my shoe that really drove me insane.
At first, I didn't notice it much. Maybe I'd be walking down an echoing hallway or passing though some quiet area. Suddenly, I'd become aware of the squeak. It was a squelching, squishy sort of squeak, not overly loud, but subtly invasive. On carpet, it sometimes sounded as if the rug’s fabric was soaked through with some viscous or unclean liquid, making me want to see if I needed to clean the bottom of my shoe.
After the first few months, I began to notice the squeak more and more frequently.
Ted decided to jump ahead one month at a time, reporting back after each mission. Up through July, six months from when he was assigned to the project, things on Earth looked pretty normal, even boring. On Ted’s seventh trip, to August, he noticed a strange whining sound as soon as the time machine started up. He ignored it and set a beach in Australia as the machine’s destination. He’d never been to Australia before.
A bright flash in the sky caught his attention. Ted frowned and squinted upward until he picked out a strange light in the sky. The light resolved itself into three lights. Then five. Then fifteen. Forty. He lost count.
Today, here on Eustachia, it’s a different ballgame altogether. First of all, they don’t eat anything they can cook. My guard in his white apron serves me Eustachian wafers at prescribed intervals. Though they come in different flavors, I’ve yet to distinguish any difference between them. Imagine a piece of hide from a zulkof, maybe a baby zulkof (if you’re lucky), that you chew and chew and chew, turning it over in your mouth again and again, sucking down the juices, before finally—if you’re a foreigner like me—spitting it out in sheer fatigue and boredom. One thing I must say for it: it does kill the appetite and stall the cramps for a while.
At night they come prancing into the bedroom like they own the place. The static men have no concept of ownership or privacy. To them we’re some kind of prop-- the parquet floor beneath their dancing shoes.
Carl and I are holding hands beneath the covers, our bodies already rigid. Then the creatures get started, dancing above us with their static bodies, almost transparent, the edges of their forms nebulous. Only their smiles are real. Their big, white teeth shine down in wide grins. They wiggle their long static hands in our faces. Carl and I lie transfixed.