COLD TENTACLES
by Michael Dority

LAST WEEK, I encountered a band of assorted humans and extraterrestrials about to engage in an outdoor nuptial ceremony on the south side of Earth’s Central Park. They all gathered under the pendulous shadow of the ancient obelisk[1] prominently situated on the grounds, which bathed the scene in a regal display of grandeur. Even an ethereal cluster of Muu-dha[2] hung over the event like a choir of divine sentinels.

Other participants ranged from boxy headless Centaurians[3] to the betentacled Cetis[4], one of whom was engaged in discharging the duties of best man. Beside him languished the bride, Katl, partially submerged in a tank of tepid brine. Facing her, old Ben prepared to take his marital vows ensconced in a similar vessel. They were both Cetis, but to many it was a blended union; Ben was the colour of a clear blue sky, while Katl’s outer layer glowed as red-orange as a setting yellow dwarf.

The Captain—officiating the event—stood atop the hastily improvised dais, wearing a sleeveless tux and holding his magic top hat in one hand, while a pocket version of Gluk’s Extraterrestrial Guide to Courtship Rituals, 234th Galactic Edition, ©2319, lay open to the relevant passage in his other hand.

Normally, maritime captains can’t tie the matrimonial knot on dry land, but because both bride and groom were immersed in salt water, he had the authority to sign and file the wedding license. (At least, that was how the imperious Intergalactic High Court had recently ruled.)

Naturally, I hadn’t crashed the wedding as might have been implied in my opening remarks. I knew Ben and the Captain from previous adventures, and had befriended them both. Ben had transmitted a wedding invitation via subspace communication and I had readily accepted it. My trip by commercial warp transport had lasted nearly three terrestrial days, as I was then conducting business on the other side of the Milky Way. As a merchant of exotic delicacies, I frequently travelled throughout the galaxy hocking my culinary wares.

As anyone of social consequence knows, truffles are emerging as quite a sensation in that sector of the galactic arm. In the remote Megalon system a small, dismal planet called Ibon orbits a red dwarf star. Its natives are prodigious, scaly creatures—the Sciith—whose natural habitat is a frozen wasteland.

In one of the universe’s most bizarre twists of irony, the fungi indigenous to Ibon are lauded throughout the space-faring worlds, among whose inhabitants’ digestive systems are enzymatically compatible, as the most delectable ingredients from which to prepare Trumpian truffles[5].

Spotting a bounty of edibles spread out on a series of floating tables behind the ranks and files of guest accommodations (a wide variety of chairs, pillows and biocontainment modules of all shapes and sizes) I added my wedding gift, a generous portion of the aforementioned truffles, to the buffet. Coincidentally, I noted that a similar—even larger—batch had somehow arrived from its point of origin approximately 9.2 x 105 light years away. I inwardly whistled at the freight charges involved in such an extravagant offering.

Rushing to my seat of honour in the front row, I spied a Sciith among the attendees. This, then, explained the copious supply of truffles at the ceremony. He stuck out his bifurcated tongue and hissed menacingly at me—a gesture intended as a cordial greeting by the standards of long-established Sciithian etiquette.

The Captain loudly cleared his throat to call the menagerie of diverse lifeforms to some semblance of order.

‘Dignified friends and relations of sundry evolutionary origin,’ the Captain began in his most polished oratory, ‘We are, this day, in attendance here to bear witness to the betrothal of this mek[6], Ben, to this wuk[7], Katl.’

Turning to the groom, the Captain continued. ‘Do you, Ben, take this wuk to be yer lawfully wedded wife, to have and to pokey-hocum[8], from this day forward, fer better, fer worse, gorged cecum or evacuated, both fast tentacles and slow, and err ‘til expiry do you rot?’

All eyes, not one dry, turned to old Ben.

Katl sploshed nervously in her tank and excreted a tiny, embarrassing jet of ink.

Ben’s suckers tenderly caressed Katl’s skullcap. Never had anyone seen him so overcome with excitement. He shook so violently he could scarcely form the words with his serrated oral cavity. ‘I d-do,’ he stammered.

The Captain nodded, instructed the best man to ready the wedding sleeves. Next, he addressed Katl.

‘Do you, Katl,’ he exclaimed, ‘take this mek to be yer lawfully wedded husband, to have and to pokey-hocum, from this day forward, fer better, fer worse and what-not, gorged cecum or evacuated, both fast tentacles and slow, and ‘til expiry do you rot?’

The wuk was overwhelmed by a wave of passion—and ink. Now engulfed up to her siphon in a dark cloud of fluid, Katl directed her two large, bulging eyes at Ben and gushed, ‘Oooh, I DOOO!’

With this, the Captain declared ‘Very well. Now fer the exchange of sleeves.’ The best man dutifully proffered the bride’s bejewelled sleeve to the Captain, who extended it to the groom and quietly urged him on. ‘Slip it on ‘er tentacle and do the ‘With this I thee wed’ spiel like we rehearsed.’

Suddenly, old Ben shrank back in an apoplexy of shock and revulsion. His epidermis blanched a pale grey.

‘This is horrendous,’ he cried. ‘If only I had known. I can’t abide it. The wedding is off!’

Hearing this, Katl clutched her head with all eight tentacles, let out a long, anguished wail and fainted dead away.

‘Surely you jest,’ the Captain barked. ‘What’s got’n into ‘ya? Explain yersef immediately!

‘Don’t you see?’ Ben shrieked, ‘Mon Dieu! In matters of love, a leaky ink sac is a matrimonial cul-de-sac!’

He rolled clear of the dais, secured the domed hatch, activated the propulsion modules on each side of his brine tank and shot skyward.

‘Stop, friend!’ the Captain yelled, vigorously waving his arms at the rapidly diminishing craft. ‘Yer distraught. This is ludicrous! Goddamn it, ‘ya sonofabitch,’ he screamed, ‘How d’ya know it’s not just too many truffles?’

But it was too late. Ben had receded beyond earshot, taking poor Katl’s broken hearts[9] for one last unsatisfying joyride.
 
 
[1] This structure, along with a second similar obelisk, was originally located in Alexandria, Egypt. These obelisks are collectively referred to as Cleopatra’s Needles. Dating back to the 15th century B.C., they were a gift to the U.S. Consul at Cairo, Judge Elbert E. Farman. The U.S. government had acted favourably toward Egypt as France and Britain vied for control of the country.
[2] Energy-beings from parts unknown who rarely mingle with solids
[3] Inhabitants of the Alpha Centauri star system
[4] Neighbouring inhabitants of the Tau Ceti star system
[5] A cuisine that, although it yields a superlative entree of tantalizing flavour and marvellous texture, is purported to cause violent, unwelcome bouts of flatulence.
[6] Out-thrusting moo-hoo
[7] In-plunging woo-hoo
[8] Hoochie-coochie
[9] Like their terrestrial descendants, the Ceti have three hearts.

 



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