by Sergio "ente per ente" PalumboEdited by Michele Dutcher
A Mare Inebrium story
(Mare Inebrium Universe created by Dan Hollifield)
Without a doubt her surroundings were, to say the least,
very lively - as was the case every night in that place. Blanche's
attention briefly wandered across the open space of the much-hyped and
very exclusive Mare Inebrium bar, as she walked slowly, when suddenly
the plump waitress's blue-green eyes squinted ahead. Not far from a
biped that had a strange beak and small hind legs - not exactly a human
girl's cup of tea, of course. -- sat four men in a small group at a
circular glass table. The men seemed to have settled in and weren't
considering leaving any time soon. They were talking noisily and each
of their rants was followed by more and more words, recounts and
detailed - maybe even a bit exaggerated - tales of their achievements
during the last vacation they had spent on a verdant moon positioned in
a nearby solar system.
They each boasted about their superior abilities and the precious,
unique specimens they had taken while on the surface of an almost
forgotten moon - lost in the far sector they had just come back from
the morning before, using a state-of-the-art space scow they had hired
for the occasion. They all openly laughed and visibly poked fun at each
other, while the hours quickly passed. What seemed to be an endless
amount of wealth from the four men had fuelled their thirst and their
drunkenness, because every time they chose the desired icon and put the
right amount of currency into the hole with a simple gesture, new
beverages were soon teleported over to their table. A wide variety of
famous beers were displayed on the glassy tabletop the customers sat
around - there were no less than 16 variations on the malted alcoholic
beverage in fact. There were also some HYHFHFH and Amluw
bottles, strange colorful juices in improbable shades and a wide
selection of smoky alien drinks -- at least the ones that were
compatible to ingestion by the human body.
The drinking of many expensive liquors, famous wines and tasty snacks
had gone on for a very long time so far. But that was what commonly
happened at the Mare Inebrium bar, day and night; as that establishment
was probably the most famous venue on the whole planet of Bethdish,
therefore this was nothing to be surprised about. 'Better get going,'
the waitress simply told herself, smoothing out her long, flashy skirt
with her right hand while fluffing her dark curly hair with her left
hand, then she simply moved along. On the way back to the counter, she
tried to recall interesting details of the conversation she had
overheard when she was walking past the small group's table.
"They were hunters."That last thought caused Blanche to shudder
for a few moments, as she was a bit worried about it. Actually, having
such customers at their bar was a rare occurrence, as most were mainly
businessmen, travelers, politicians, officers, pilots and aliens from
all known species. Their customers usually entered the main door,
coming into the Mare Inebrium in order to enjoy a pleasing, well-known
venue and have a stiff drink, of course. Hunters simply weren't their
regular, recurring customers, after all.
A sound grew closer, becoming something similar to the noise a thousand
small, hungry mouths that were continuously working. The large though
attractive waitress walked past a transparent bulbous ball dangling
from the upper level of the bar where there were very little Jlrt
aliens - standing only 1 1/2 feet in height - performing at present,
spreading their strange music across the wide open space of that area
of the Mare Inebrium. A simple glimpse at them made her immediately
remember that this was the band Max had hired this week in order to try
to impress the customers with something new and unprecedented. Well,
maybe their tiny stature was notable and hard to forget, as they looked
like creatures from a long-ago fairy-tale from some world far away in
space, a planet like Earth for example. But Blanche had to admit that
she wasn't very impressed.
There were many chores to get done tonight, the woman thought, and she
was alone at the bar as Max, the bartender, and Trixie were out of town
tending to their own business. No worry about that however, as she had
tended the bar by herself many times before and certainly would again.
All she really had to do was to be in charge of the Mare Inebrium for
the night and hope everything went well, of course. While she was
walking back to a corner of the main room in order to get more cleaning
done, Blanche happened to again overhear the conversation of the four
human customers who were at the table.
It was George, a tall, bald man who was speaking now. He had two wild
eyes and a wide mouth. "So, I just had gotten out of the forest, and
was on top of an outcrop of boulders, ready to shoot my prey in the
distance, when I fired and unfortunately discovered that."
"You had only killed a plant!" shouted an apparently
friend sitting nearby, making fun of him. He was a slender though short
individual wearing a wide shirt and a pair of greenish trousers, like
those that were worn during a brief though cruel war fought on Mars
more than two centuries before. This outfit was probably the current
common fashion among hunters like them, as two other men from that
party wore the same kind of clothing.
"Yes, that's exactly what happened! I had simply forgotten that there
were small semi-intelligent shrubs with ten leg-like protuberances
slowly walking within the boundary of the same area in the park. That
was incredible, and very disappointing!"
The third member of the group, named Andrew, slowly leaned forward and
asked the first man at the top of his voice: "And did you eat it?"
At that point all the men had a thunderous laugh that resounded
throughout the bar.
"When in doubt, simply shoot first and ask questions later,"
another member of the group, a muscular 50-year-old man with a short,
pointed beard. No one could have been sure of his precise age however,
given all the modern means that medical science was capable of using in
order to make you look like a twenty-year-old boy even though you were
already in your 90s.
"Maybe we're drinking too much." the fourth long-haired human
before putting his hand on another mug and eagerly swallowing the
"Don't listen to Harry!" the second one replied in a comical tone.
"We're here to have a little rest and relaxation after our long alien
"You're damn' right!" the other two exclaimed at once.
There was a brief pause, which was just enough time to empty another
bottle of wine, before George started speaking again. "I probably
told you what happened when I was hunting at the Nature Preserve on
planet Kjlm within the Kjlm-ty Sector." and saying this he pointed
Harry, who appeared to be the youngest of the men who sat at the table.
"Yes, I wasn't with you at that time, but I heard something about it.
Isn't that a very restricted zone?"
"Yes, it is, certainly, but we had a special permit that a friend of
mine who worked at Earth Embassy had given us."
"Oh, that's wonderful! Well done!"
"Well, Harry, let me tell you how I got it. To obtain hunting
for that nature preserve, you need the following documents: an annual
paper issued during any previous year; a two-day nonresident hunting
permit issued in the past three months; two hunting licenses issued in
the last two years from any planet within 10 light-years; a certificate
indicating that you have completed an approved hunting class; or a
written declaration confirming that you had an approved hunting
document that was destroyed through mishap. Oh, and you need also a lot
of local currency in order to bribe the guards at the park, that's the
most important thing to have, apart from all that paperwork."
"That sounds just awful."
The other three grinned widely at those words. Then the first man
added, "And you will also need to show your license upon request,
only hunt when the guards of the park are around. "Oh my Grohfhf,"
which in most cases can ruin everything when you are ready to shoot
some mind-blowing prey and they want to check your documents again."
"Actually, that occurs only if you didn't bribe the guards enough,"
the third one said, with an evil sneer. He had a gray-azure bearded
face, which was actually made up of many hair weaves taken from the
coat of the fierce though very rare bear-like creatures living on
".anyway, we procured all the damn documents requested and then
hunting early in the morning, with some good results. In the evening,
huge beads of sweat were already bathing my face, causing an
irritating itch on my cheeks -- given that terrible alien climate.
But I was happy because I got lucky, as I had already caught two big
game animals -- a couple of long lion-like local wild beasts with a
wondrous spotted coat that is partly beige and partly greenish, when
something unexpected happened."
"What was it?"
"Two guards appeared and ordered us to give them all the carcasses we
had shot, as they were considered to be part of the property of a local
lord of that land, and the specimens were meant for dinner for his
court, as unbelievable as that was. And we had to comply, in the end."
"Hunting privileges, clearly! Just as it happened during the Middle
Ages back on Earth," another human added.
"And they also fined you," Harry said in the end.
The other looked back at him in awe. Well, you already knew it!
"I had heard something about that incident. Specific regulations
the practice throughout the whole planet, taking into account the
particular safety and environmental needs of the state, and
especially the needs of the powerful lords reigning over the place.
You should have known about those regulations before hunting on that
world, but you never pay much attention to the laws of an alien world
before setting foot on it, do you?" His cohorts were now openly
fun of him.
"Yes, you make it sound easy now." George replied in a dejected
"Well, don't let it get you down! Just remember our last safari on
At that point, the first one simply stopped and then said, "Don't we
all remember what happened to us when we were there?"
"It's a place where nature really seems to win over everything. The
real thing is - when the rain comes, the entire environment changes
very quickly!" Andrew made it clear.
"Yes, I can easily remember that kind of terrain; it is one of the
difficult ever! You had to cut branches, big leaves and some small
trees along the way before stopping and patiently waiting while clearly
aiming at a target."
"Anyway, while we were there, before shooting, it crossed my mind
if my youngest son was with me in that place, at that time, he would
probably say that there was large diversity of new species around.
Anyway, we hadn't come that far only to catalogue new creatures and
plants, of course, but to kill some prey..."
"Precisely!" Harry burst out.
"Anyway, we were among the first humans who arrived on that world to
hunting, and that was probably the reason for what happened. We took
the carcasses of our big game animals and put them within our camp's
boundaries, then we simply fell asleep - knowing we were safely guarded
by robotic devices that functioned as sentries. However, an alarm
loudly resounded in the dead of the night.and we all had to wake up and
run out of our steel-tents through the darkness, in order to reach open
"Yeah, that damn' alarm.actually, I can still hear it in my head at
"Do you remember the cause of all that noise? The carcasses of the
alien prey had released a deadly gas some hours after the wild animals
themselves had died, and we didn't know it!"
"This simply confirms the fact that the forerunner hunters always
to face unprecedented circumstances they never thought of before."
"And we saved ourselves by the skin of our teeth, in the end."
"You said it! And now let's have another drink of that
wine." The gray-azure bearded man moved his hand to grab a mug of a
sparkling liquid that was on the table.
"You, stupid! That is not wine; it's a Jliw beer." Harry pointed
"I don't care," George replied. "I'll drink it, anyway, and then
ask for some wine, too!"
"Well said!" the other three nodded in a funny tone.
"'What nonsense!'" Blanche told herself before moving along.
Actually, listening to such talk, even though just the pieces of
conversation she overheard, made her think at times that male human
hunters were not much better than Fkeee poachers. And she didn't like
Fkeee, of course, even though she appreciated the main courses of that
alien people, which required small bird-like creatures, illegally
hunted, to be cut open while they were still alive and prepared in a
spicy way before serving at lunchtime. At least that's how things
commonly went in a kitchen of a Fkeee restaurant.
Later on, as the woman reached the main robotic counter again and
opened it in order to check the contents, something caught her
attention and she immediately raised her vivid eyes, trying not to be
On the left, just past a guy with seemingly human-like attributes,"
apart from his six--eyed head" - that was continuously and
incomprehensibly watching a dark gray glass of whatever was in the
middle of a long counter full of some very smelly appetizers - there
was another table with two strange female aliens. They were from an
uncommon species that she had only seen once before," and she
remembered that night very well." Those bipedal individuals were
native to the cold world of Lrrte, their features displayed a pale skin
with a peculiar facial structure, two compound greenish eyes, and a few
long curved tendrils running down their sides and their backs, too.
At first the woman became wary, but then she thought of something that
could have attracted them into the bar, a thing that they probably
considered much more interesting than the many tasty types of liquor,
and colorful, expensive alcoholic drinks that were available to all
customers at the Mare Inebrium. So, she already knew that their
presence might result in a very long and peculiar night, for sure. At
least "she had the option of stopping things from progressing too
far, if she really wanted to do everything she could to prevent
something worse from occurring, of course." And, just thinking about
the deep tiredness she already felt at that moment, and given the many
tasks she still had to complete before going off duty, well, it wasn't
really clear yet how things would go.
* * *
It was already three in the morning when the four men finally exited
the ultra-cool and modern Mare Inebrium. The bar menu had proven to be
outstanding, other than the many beverages they had ingested, serving
as an ideal partner to the passionate music that had been played
inside. The group reached a small alley that led to the parking lot
where they had left their vehicle. While they were moving along, having
some difficulty walking a straight line because of too much alcohol,
Harry's attention was drawn to some strange movements next to the long
window of a building nearby.
What was that?
As soon as the ray of light coming from a streetlamp hit the subject of
his interest, a monstrous scene appeared in front of him. Two very
slender and awkward alien individuals stood, their paleness similar to
a corpse's - making the human shudder at first glance. Their very long,
pointed fingers ended in big nails and their head displayed
sores and pocks half-hidden under rare tendrils that were
positioned sideways on their face. The picture was horrific just this
way, but that wasn't all! Both of the incredible, unnatural
beings - be they monsters or something else more than aliens - had
their mouth wide open with pointed teeth, much longer than the man
had ever seen before. Those seemed to be ready to quickly sink into
the jugular vein of the unfortunate passers-by who had the bad luck to
walk within their reach, certainly.
It was a sight too horrible even for the other humans of the small
group. Harry immediately stood still, unable to do anything, giving
himself up to his obvious destiny. Wasn't it ironic, after all?
They were hunters, people who were capable of fighting and had
undergone very difficult experiences over the course of their safaris
on many different and insidious planets. Under most circumstances they
would have resisted and tried to defeat and easily kill any unarmed
assaulter. They would normally forcefully jump those two aliens,
piercing their unearthly whitish bodies using a knife, or some martial
arts moves or the like. But all of them already seemed to know,
somehow, that everything they would attempt was going to prove
useless. A sort of hypnotic call was already keeping them standing in
the same place, dismantling their own will and making fun of the four
men as if they were only a few lost and very weak youngsters.
Things went on that way for a very long, almost unending time before a
sudden light, a flashing ray appeared and put an end to it all,
unexpectedly. Then a sort of faint consciousness awoke the group of
humans slowly, very slowly, anyway.
"Drop your weapon now, Xijtk," Blanche ordered. A giant
bouncer working at the bar stood next to her. His notable stature of at
least 10 ft made the voluptuous woman look like a sort of dwarf, by
comparison. "It's over."
The four men came to their senses and, although still very confused,
had a look around to find out what had just happened. Their heads were
in pain and some vague memories of the things that had gone on in that
place a few moments before appeared to be lost, unexplainably. Then the
one named Harry noticed a strange liquid on the ground of the back
alley and was amazed by it, as he simply didn't know what it was
exactly was. However, he was sure that two strange, unknown aggressive
pale aliens with curved tendrils had stood on the same spot not long
ago--or was it the previous week, maybe? He wasn't sure, by any
"What the hell?" Andrew exclaimed.
"Patience, humans. You are not entirely alright, not yet. Recovery
requires time so take a break for a few minutes before trying to walk."
Blanche suggested to the four men.
"But what happened? Those aliens, those creatures tried to attack
so it seems to me, maybe."
"Actually, those aliens are deadly Genhl from Lrrte and they take
will out of your mind and then stop you in your tracks, before doing
whatever they want to."
"And what do they do, after that?" the man named George asked the
"They deprive you of your precious life energy, while they pierce
skin using their long teeth that are capable of completely paralyzing
the whole body, just like snakes or spiders do back on your Earth.
That's the way they ingest their sweets - because in their eyes you are
like tasty slices of cake. That's because on their home planet eating
sweetness is as forbidden as using illegal drugs is on ours."
"But why us? Why not some of the other customers at the bar?"
asked, still surprised and not entirely in control of himself, as a
matter of fact.
"You are hunters, aren't you? All of you." Blanche stated in a
tone. "And what could be a better place to find some beasts in the
lands than a watering hole - where animals go in order to satisfy their
insatiable thirst? And what kind of peculiar thirst do humans, and
people commonly, come to satisfy when they enter a venue like the Mare
Inwebrium? Of course, it's the need for a stiff drink, and perhaps the
desire to hunt -- that you all undoubtedly possess - along with the
liquors and beers humans drink in excess here. And all of that was
exactly the perfect fuel to spark their interest, unleashing the bloody
hunger residing inside their minds, for sure. Those creatures are"
hunters of other hunters," actually. They simply sense the desire
for prey which is inside you and that's enough to revive their longing
to finally get some sweets, which is your" life energy." "
"How did you know about it?"
"It happened before at our bar. Just once, and I was around by chance
that time, so I saw what happened. No one was capable of saving the
situation that day, and two casualties were found dead in the end -
even though no space or virtual news media ever reported about such a
sad occurrence - but it was enough to make me think that it was going
to happen again, sooner or later, so I was prepared, anyway. It was a
lucky occurrence for you that I was working tonight, because I had seen
it happen before, or it would have been a very painful death for all of
you. Actually, I don't like hunters like you very much, as the sport
you practice is just a bloody, senseless thing nowadays, at least in my
"Then, why did you help us?"
"I mean, killing animals or even some fierce wild beasts is simply
what I'd call a worthwhile hobby," she explained in a knowing tone.
"But that's not enough of a reason to go ahead and let you die."
The others looked at each other and appeared to be reassured.
"Other than that, you're still customers of our bar, and valued
customers I would say given your bills and considerable tips, so why
shouldn't I save you tonight? If I behaved only according to the way I
feel when at work, I'd drive too many people away. And that wouldn't be
a wise move for our bar, don't you agree?"
"I, well, we all think you're right, madam," immediately replied
"And now, if you just want to come back inside, the Mare Inebrium bar
will be pleased to offer you a drink, one of the best, on the house!"
"Really? Maybe we already drank too much today." Andrew objected.
"Don't worry; there are some beverages at our bar that are safer than
any other alcohol, as they have a secret substance inside that won't
leave you intoxicated at all, nor will you have a hangover in the
"I never heard of such a thing."
"In any case, these drinks are really too expensive for you to get
normally, so please accept my offer. The night is young and there's
still much to discover at our lively bar, don't you agree, human
The four nodded and said they were very thankful for her helpful
intervention. The giant bouncer next to the woman didn't move his
incredibly thin lips to express anything, but the men could tell from
his overall expression that he appreciated their thanks.
While going back to the venue's main entry door, Blanche looked
thoughtful. 'Our first rule is to satisfy the customers,' the
woman thought to herself, remembering Max's words." 'And just in case
you don't want to put up with them, always remember that a paying
customer is a good thing for business, so keep him alive as long as you
can'--or as long as he pays his next bill. And thinking about
this, she finally smiled.
© 2014 Sergio Palumbo
Bio: Sergio (a.k.a. "ente per ente" in our Forum) has accumulated an
impressive list of North American publication credits (growing at an
enviable pace), and has won our Flash Fiction Challenge on several occasions. His most recent Mare Inebrium story was The Recurring Customer Is Always Right in the September 2012 edition.
E-mail: Sergio Palumbo (Humans: remove spaces from address!)
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