By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Rooney was late draining me this morning.
His orb said he was called away to a meeting of fellow Nurg dignitaries. My guess is there's another human uprising in Montana. The Nurg don't do anything about the uprisings, but they do like to watch.
"Resistance is futile," Rooney likes to say, "but it is also adorable."
Even more than most Nurg, Rooney loves paraphrasing Earth's pop culture, which is now theirs.
He finally showed up around nine, two hours later than my usual draining, and my head felt like it was going to explode. There was no need to mention my distress, and he immediately latched himself to the receiving end of the device he calls the Hookah From Anotha Planet, the giving end being the bulbous siphon tubes in my nose.
It was in 2009 that Earth discovered the sad truth that all of human existence had been directed by an alien race to become their livestock, farmed for our nasal waste. To them it is like royal jelly mixed with heroin.
They planted a genetic program on this watery world, creating in us a race with great nasal passages and the right mix of curiosity, innovation and avarice to create the daily assault of allergens, pollutants, pathogens and chemicals that assured we'd be an abundant source of phlegm for them. The process was practically automatic, requiring only an occasional nudge from our unseen Nurg overseers to keep us on course.
"Did you know that in 2004, the drought in Australia was so bad that kangaroos, mad with thirst and hunger, began coming into towns and attacking people?"
Rooney is a trove of old eco-lore, as am I, since along with being his personal nasal cow, I've been assisting him these several years in his research. For the few of us who still bother to measure time, it is 15 BD, marked from the Big Denouement in 2009.
Rooney has the job of determining What Went Wrong. Typically on the thousands of other worlds they've milked, the transition into nasal serfdom barely even registers with the inhabitants. That's because the advent of total nasal congestion smoothly follows on the heels of the host race having lost its ability to reason, thanks to an abundance of brain-stunting chemicals in their environment. The latter lagged here and may take a generation or two yet before it fully kicks in.
Unlike my privileged status, most humans are permanently hooked up in factory farms. The temporary relief they get from being drained is so great that most acquiesce, but many still have enough sentience left to get balky. The transition was messy, and as much as the Nurg like entertainment, they don't like messes. Somewhere between compliant and comatose is where we're supposed to be.
Rooney and I enjoy a friendship of sorts. I am technically his slave, but it's like being Willie Nelson's slave, if Willie were an iridescent seven-foot praying mantis who had been amiably stoned for millennia. He lacks the "whatever" arrogance of most of his race and seems genuinely saddened that humanity was still somewhat aware when the snot hit the fan.
As for what went wrong, Rooney narrows it down to this: "Your George W. Bush was a real piece of shit."
This is not a term the Nurg use lightly. Rooney says it's pretty much a universal constant that "the brighter the species, the more repugnant the feces."
The problem with the hapless president, as Rooney explained to me early in our research, "is that Bush was a throwback to when your people wore pelts and huddled around campfires. In those times, we could whisper into a leader's mind, and he'd think the word of God was commanding him.
"But for the last millennium, people regarded our whispers as just one more idea popping into their fabulous minds. That's how it always is, so we'd tailor our whispers knowing the response would now be in tendencies instead of certainties.
"With Bush, though, we'd whisper, 'Destroy the atmosphere,' and gosh if Bush didn't, like an avenging angel. Look at this"—Rooney produced a stack of yellowed LA Times clippings—"in your 2001, we primed you to enter wars that would add an agreeable amount of oil smoke to the atmosphere, contributing to global warming, which further readies your sinuses for us. The war smoke was a counterbalance to the actions leaders on our past worlds adopted once they caught on that global warming was causing their own demise.
"But Bush ignored the warning. He'd asked your best scientists, convened by the National Academy of Sciences, to question an international global-warming study. Instead, they confirmed and amplified it, warning that climate change prompted by human activity would increase the Earth's temperature by as much as 10.4 degrees by 2100, likely with catastrophic results.
"With nearly every other leader on every world, such a slap of self-awareness makes them realize the fragility of their ecosystems and slow the destruction. Bush didn't, and with all the other things he threw out of whack, your environment went haywire before your minds did. How one being could screw up millions of years of planning is astonishing."