“I don’t know,” Nick said, “donuts are pretty awesome.”
I rolled my eyes at the reverence in my cousin’s voice. “You can’t be serious. These aliens can solve climate change. They can cure cancer, Nick. Cancer. They can teach us how to travel faster than the speed of light! And all they want is our donuts.”
“All our donuts,” Nick retorted, “and the rights to the donut. No human being will ever get to legally enjoy another human made donut. And you’re okay with that?”
I nodded. “Donuts, for FTL, the cure for cancer, and more.”
Nick frowned in reply and took a big bite out of his chocolate frosted. He chewed with deliberate serenity, before taking a sip from his foam jug of coffee and unleashing a deeply satiated sigh.
He swore this Dunkin had better French Vanilla than the one around the block on Harvard, or the one a block down in Union Square, or the new one two blocks up at Packard’s Corner.
I was just happy it wasn’t crowded. “I can’t believe you’re going to vote no.” I scowled.
“I don’t know what to tell you,” Nick said. “You have to admit, it’s a crazy situation. They could totally be lying about all this stuff they say they can give us.”
“They’re aliens, Nick. From another planet. They live in ships that violate the laws of physics as we understand them. Ships that are, right now, hovering over humanity’s largest cities. And fortunately for humanity, they have peculiar ideas about gastronomic copyrights, and they love donuts.”
“Possibly the least weird thing about all this.” Nick nodded. “The loving donuts bit, I mean.”
I huffed. “Less fortunately, they’re obsessed with democracy.”
“Whatever,” Nick said. “I’m just glad everyone’s going to get the chance to vote.”
A tired looking clerk wiped the counters around the register a few feet away while insidiously catchy pop-tunes played in the background. The air inside the shop was thick with the scent of corn-syrup. Outside, traffic crawled up and down Brighton Avenue.
Everything like it was just another day.
Anger, hot and bitter, rose in my chest. “Climate change, Nick. Cancer. Space travel.” I spat the words from my mouth like bullets.
“Hey, take it easy.” Nick held his hands up. “I’m just saying, climate change, maybe it’s a human thing, maybe not; we could shut down a bunch of industries, put a billion people out of work, and have way less cancer. And, if we wanted to put more people in space — for whatever reason — it seems like we pretty much know how to do that too. All these problems the aliens are offering to solve, I think we could them solve now if people wanted to, and the ones we can’t, well we’ll figure it out eventually when we’re ready. And it won’t cost us our donuts.”
He paused and leaned back in his chair. “I guess I have more faith in humanity than you do. I definitely have more faith in us than those things.”
In the background, Katy Perry was singing about how we were all fireworks. I banged my forehead on the table in frustration. “How are we related? Our species has the opportunity to leapfrog a thousand years into the future, and people like you are going to ruin it.”
Then the clerk chimed in. “Damn right we are. You can’t trust a squid!” His nametag said Tim, his face was cragged with acne, and his eyes were bulging with caffeine.
“What are you talking about?” I covered my face with my hands.
“Cthulhu!” Tim said with exasperation. “Don’t you know anything? I’m telling you, man, the first time they catch some people selling donuts on the black market, what do you think they’re going to do? I’ll tell you what. They’ll blow up the Earth for breach of contract. Those things are evil. Vote no!”
“Hear, hear.” Nick raised his cup and laughed.
“There are provisions in the contract for legal dispute resolution.” I moaned. “Do some research. We’re talking about one stupid pastry, for the secrets of the universe.”
“One pastry,” said Tim, “and all the jobs it creates!”
“Learn to make a decent croissant!” I yelled.
We were all quiet again for a bit. Then Nick said, “You shouldn’t be so worried. You’ve seen the polls.”
“Yeah?” I muttered. “Remember the last time all the polls said something was sure to go a certain way?”
Then the door opened and a 6’6’’ squid-faced alien stalked up to the counter, made some wet smacking noises, and pointed at the trays of frosted and glazed confections behind Tim. Then it put a thick stack of bills on the counter.
Tim swallowed audibly. “You want all of them?”
The alien nodded its face tentacles and produced a translucent sack out of nowhere. One by one, Tim brought the trays over and tipped them in. After Tim dumped the last batch the alien threw the sack over its shoulder and walked out, making moist sucking and laughing sounds. They were the kind of noises you’d expect from a skeezy guy wearing a trench coat on the subway in the middle of June.
It stood on the pavement for a second. Then there was a flash, and it was gone.
Nick blinked a few times. “Where are they getting all their money?”
“The rumor is they worked out some kind of deal with China,” I said. “No one’s really sure.”
“Well, no. I’m sorry, but no,” Nick said. “Something about that was just… wrong.”
I felt myself getting angry again. “So now you’re going to vote no because they’re a little creepy?”
“A little creepy?” Tim squeaked.
“Shut up, Tim.” I snapped. “Go in the back and find us a couple jellies.”
“Sorry, but there’s nothing left.” He said, his voice cracking and shrinking.
“See,” Nick said. “Tim was right. Those things are evil.”
William Delman’s work has previously appeared in many fine publications, including SciFan, The Massachusetts Review, Bastion, Nimrod, Salamander, and The Literary Review. New work is forthcoming from Stupefying Stories. He lives in The Witch City, Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife and daughter, and he is a proud member of the Fenix BJJ team in West Peabody. You can find him (very occasionally) on twitter at @DelmanWilliam, and (more often) on Facebook.