Missionary by Pepper Swell

My host parents were a pair of ectoplasmic apparitions from the peanut cluster of united planets in the habitable zone of the Horsehead nebula. Glack-Glack and Me-No. Of course, that isn’t their real names. Those are the failed attempts a human mouth makes trying to pronounce their real names. They were nurturing, understanding, and each about the size of a basketball with about a hundred tendril plasma limbs they used like a cat’s tongue to lick my cheeks when the home sickness became too much for me to bare. I still recall the sand papery grit of their touch fondly.

They did their best to arrange their low-gravity swamp home into what they believed an earth dwelling might look like. For a species that never saw fit to evolve legs, but instead floated around on thermal updrafts, I would say the effort put forth far exceeded the results. Senseless by human standards, and incredibly poisonous to the small native creatures they ate, communication with my former host parents was a delicate affair. It might have resembled the fan dance of a bird of paradise coupled with a series of yogi stretches to the uninitiated. How rapidly I flapped my arms and foamed at the mouth mattered not at all to my sightless host parents. What mattered was the link, as stimulated neurons fired neurotransmitter juice across the synaptic gap. Puckered and purged and shared and passed around in the murky mind-fog of telepathic speech.

The fit my body threw was only a side effect. Imagine trying to teach the Lord’s Prayer to what amounted to, by our definition, a ghost, through a series of mental grunts, moans, and whimpers. Although, I must say, it wasn’t the most difficult language I’ve had to master in my time as a missionary. That title goes to the feline race of Ben-Goi, who communicate with the scent glands during sexual intercourse. I guess in Ben-Goi the only need the dominant species had of shared ideas occurs while mating. Imagine trying to express the virtues of abstinence while having sex with a cat lady.

Can you imagine a conflict of interest so large as that? On one hand, allow the Ben-Goiians to remain ignorant of God, thereby sentencing them inadvertently to an eternity of outer darkness. Or sacrifice your principals, engage in promiscuity, if only to inform them their entire social structure is built on a foundation of sin. You’ll get a lot of weird looks, thrusting righteously away. I can tell you that.

Time becomes a factor also. Humanity is a relatively short-lived species. Compared to the mighty fern giants of SN-408A1, an entire human life span is barely adequate for an introduction. Missionaries have been on SN-408A1 for over a thousand years and only lately have the descendants of the forefathers gained admittance to the fern giant’s inner sanctum. Maybe in another five thousand years they will be permitted to express their holy message. Whether or not the fern giants are keen to listen remains to be seen. I have my suspicions the end result will be a tragic dismissal by the fern elders.

Already they view us the way children would a teeming anthill. Imagine then what those children might say if one day the ants began proselytizing about the one true creator. Hearty guffaws would be the best case scenario. Still, it’s a divine calling we must answer. To spread the word to the furthest reaches of the universe. Wherever light quells darkness, men in white button-up shirts and black ties will continue ringing doorbells.

There are areas of the universe where the Lord’s message is forbidden. Black holes are self-aware and yet the council has decided not to send missionaries to them. The risk is simply too great. One whiff of the pure light of goodness would have every fourth dimensional being redirecting course and heading straight towards Earth. Like jellyfish, black holes are opportunistic hunters, drifting endlessly in the void. But unlike a translucent bag of neurotoxins, black holes are not slaves to the tide. They can wander where they please when the mood strikes. Simple curiosity on their part could spell the end of our home world, reducing it in a matter of moments to a singularity along with the contents of the solar system.

Yes, there are forces that strong out there in the universe. And they are hungry. To them, we tip our hat and offer a wide berth. Another area we don’t mess with is the place beyond where our soap bubble of reality touches the next. Reality is shaped like a cluster of grapes, and each grape has its own private universe chalk full of probabilities. The council began exploring ways to pierce the divide with manned instruments. But gave up the idea when the math suggested we were just as likely to implode our own universe as infiltrate another. Besides, if the math can be believed, each universe is a mirror of its neighbor.

Hopefully somewhere there are a lot of left handed missionaries preaching the word of God to cat-people in the most embarrassing way imaginable. I’ve been to the furthest reaches of the known universe and sent messages in glass bottles beyond. I’ve helped build underwater churches, given clicking sonar sermons to bioluminescent porpoises. Even debated the merits of monotheism to a pagan tribal leader who was comprised entirely of methane. You wouldn’t believe their preferred method for communication.

Inhaled by host organisms, the hot methane race remains embedded until such time as it is expelled through the colon. In this way, they are essentially immortal. Entering the sinus passes of hosts, sharing control in a suggestive symbiotic consciousness, until finally returning to the atmosphere like spirits in search of new noses to wrinkle. God has a place in this universe for intelligent farts. I know. I helped convert a few. The hardest to convince of their own fallibility, ironically, are the machines who are, with precious few exceptions, atheist down to the last.

They care nothing about salvation or forgiveness. In fact, I’ve had an easier time explaining transubstantiation to a genetically altered woodchuck than I have the spiritual need for forgiveness to a robot. Which is truly a shame because some machine races make use of organic parts and are even able to give birth. Sometimes I wonder about the divine plan when I see a pair of homosexual robots pushing a stroller through the park, or a pregnant robot mother who glares at me with those unfeeling button eyes. How can a species live without God? And yet, somehow they manage.

They go out on dates, they naked sun bath, and they even sip drinks in the patio sections of nice restaurants. And frankly, I think I’d have an easier time knocking at the door of an event horizon than I would gaining admittance into one of those cold, clockwork hearts. These are just a few of the things I think about, lying awake the night before another big journey. I think about the friends I’ve made, the souls I’ve helped save, and those damnable unblinking robot eyes. 


Pepper Swell is a husband, father of three young children, and full time bread winner. In the hours not devoted to raising kids, bringing home the bacon, and hacking furiously at a keyboard, he is also a full-time college student. His work has appeared in Drunk Monkeys literary journal, as well as Eunoia Review. He currently resides in the great state of Colorado.