Aphelion Issue 278, Volume 26
November 2022
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by Sergio ente per ente PALUMBO
edited by Michele DUTCHER

A Mare Inebrium story

Mare Inebrium Universe
created by Dan Hollifield

I love the smell of napalm in the night, Leple-jjj, the tall Dlektixu, thought as he stepped inside the lobby of the space bar. This smell means that a flaming, spicy Prlew drink is ready to be sipped by a customer whose home-world is Hu-6-thi. It also indicated, he remembered, that soon there would be festive merrymaking going on, which was common when a representative of that species was off-duty. Leple-jjj also considered that a good dish to be paired with the drink might the Deep Fried Fritter with Spicy and Sweet Gvurs, with the understanding that the Gvurs were eaten alive, undoubtedly. A fruity snifter might also go well with these foods.

He had always loved the Mare Inebrium, as this wondrous venue was a perfect location to spend the night, whether that stay was long or short, especially if you wanted fantastic drinks and good food in the most lively and luxurious setting on the entire planet of Bethdish. You could conduct a negotiation, sign an agreement or simply relax among the many comforts available to the customers, with security holocams keeping everything sociable and conflict free. This was why most of the people who landed on this world decided to come here and enjoy the venue. This was also the reason Leple-jjj was here tonight.

In the many common rooms full of tasteful decorations, modern contraptions and up-to-date applets meant to entertain the patrons, it was easy for talks to turn from hearsay to tales of warlike tribes lost somewhere in the haze of distant warm worlds. In fact, a regular might claim to have just escaped such a planet by luck or thanks to their great skills as a superior warrior. The same could be said about legends told about ancient, ruined kingdoms full of gold that many insisted were historical facts not fiction, especially after a few strong alien beverages swallowed a bit too hastily while sitting at a table. Venues like this always attracted young and old with unusual company and a good choice of snacks, certainly.

Occasionally an old story or a barely readable holo-map stretched before you could be the doorway to adventure -- or the path to a painful, unexpected death in the end. The wounds and the scars of past unfortunate encounters that a few customers still had on their arms or face, reminded intelligent people like Leple-jjj that beyond the bars pleasant and talkative walls stretched feral lands, on wild distant worlds, where deadly monsters threatened the unwary or the foolish newcomers. On the other hand, it was certain that some travelers, local crafts folk, businessmen who frequently came here, along with retired adventurers, treated the Mare Inebrium as a second home. The same was true of bloody outlaws, individuals of depraved renown, hopeless delinquents, and so on. After all, customers were always customers, and a lawbreakers money was not different from the money of reputable people.

Then there were the smugglers, and given Leple-jjjs own experience, he could easily spot some of them inside of the bar enjoying the cheerful atmosphere. Look at the JKLeen from Grand Space Island II, for example, he told himself. The pair of 10-foot-long muscular creatures that resembled a cross between an eyeless fish and a bat were walking around at ease, apparently, as if nothing could upset them at the moment. They had big hands, incredibly short legs and translucent beige/orange skin and usually wore little or no clothing at all. It was hard to believe they seemed so carefree. In frank words, JKLeen smugglers like those didn't always follow the rules, though at times they had to respect at least some of them, or that behavior might raise unwanted attention that would seriously endanger their ambiguous jobs. Space pilots from that species were usually under suspicion, anyway, wherever they went.

He also knew that people like that were used to checking some sort of secret communication channel that was specifically reserved for general notices - with regards to conditions at the spaceports, peculiar surveys of the areas guarded by the local security forces, or other problems that spacers of ill-repute should be aware of when flying to a planet. These kinds of notices were usually written using a special code only they could read, as a matter of fact.

Sooner or later, however, you were going to make enemies somewhere, or face officers that you had previously bribed but that were subsequently bribed by someone else who gave them much more, and it was much better - and wiser - to be prepared before the grim time presented itself. In such cases, as experience had always taught, anyone might need to undergo even worse consequences than being captured and finally brought to justice. Good contacts didn't just walk up to you, and you had to cultivate important connections over time and through shared experiences. That was something that even the most stupid JKLeen who had ever come to Bethdish should have been aware of.

The Dlektixu kept walking around for a while before choosing a table situated next to the left wall, where he decided to sit and rest for a while. He headed for it displaying his peculiar gait that - along with the stooped posture consistent with all the members of his species - made them look shorter than most other human-like bipeds. He immediately checked the considerable list of alien wines before pushing the right buttons to purchase the ones he wanted to savor over the course of the next two hours. His bulging ears protruded as if someone had attached some jars to his violet-colored face while he slightly turned his head to the right and to the left to discover who might be sitting next to him.

Only a few short curls of hair were positioned on top of his creased forehead, but they appeared to be well attached to his dry skin as there was no way, seemingly, to shake them or even make them flutter - even though Leple-jjj bent down numerous times in order to scratch his legs. In fact, this seemed to be a gesture he repeated every moment he could, as if it was a ritual. Or perhaps it was a sign of some illness connected to his strange complexion.

It was at that time, while he was savoring a glass of strong Moon wine, that his orange pupils saw a group made of three customers sitting about 20 feet away from him. They were drinking glasses of dark/gray/bluish Khuhwe. He knew perfectly well how to prepare this drink: in a shot glass, combine a costly distillate from the Black Mainland and the Space Mezcal, layered. Pour a beer named Brown Dwarf Stars Legs into a glass, then set last liquor over the shot on fire, and finally serve a light beer as a chaser. Though very exotic, he couldn't understand why people loved that drink! These people were from Fymv, certainly, as you could not mistake their dark pink skin tone and slender build for anything else. Other than that they wore clothes that were colorful, almost offensive - and tasteless.

Two of them seemed to be male - but you might easily be confused when you spoke of the young representatives of that alien species. The last one was female, and she was really badly dressed, wrongly combed and not particularly attractive. Well, of course, no Fymv had ever been attractive before a Dlektixus eyes, whether they were male or a female. So, Leple-jjj started making a very strange face, and burst out in noisy twitters, which was the usual way for people from his own species to act when they wanted to make fun of someone, or display their disregard toward another alien very openly. It was basically like what humans from Earth did when they began laughing at somebody or roundly remarking on someone's shortcomings.

The three Fymv seemed to immediately notice the Dlektixus provocative behavior and they turned their heads away from him, as was common when they wanted to show their disdain towards some unlikable person. The head-turning was seasoned with some quavering coughing and slurring, which was the Fymvs way of cursing at the Dlektixu they despised so much.

Things went on that way for some time, as the many noises Leple-jjj made and the reactions he got back from the Fymv continued before the attentive eyes of the other customers who sat nearby. Some of them, of Lrrrheb origins ˝ from the look of their flowing beige skirts raised up to their four armpits - also started emitting some low gurglings as they had been taught to do as children, laughing at both the Dlektixu and Fymv aliens, given the fact that they considered them both to be stupid and of no value in the whole galaxy, certainly.

Things went on like that for awhile and some nearby waitresses began to be worried about all that trash talking which might turn into an actual fight - but that didn't happen, luckily. As time passed, the noises and the coughs became less and less vehement, as if the opposite parties had made their point clear and were finally free to go back to their own business, whatever it might be. Even the interest and the reaction of the other customers who sat next to them also waned.

As Leple-jjj started sipping his drink again and turned his eyes to the high roof in the room, he thought that he had never liked a female alien Fymv like that one, and he didn't appreciate the strange clothes her kind wore. He was even opposed to the ornaments she was wearing on her very long teeth. Strange to say however, that deep sensation of disgust didn't last long, as something made the Dlektixu immediately change his mind. Maybe he could see things differently, given the right set of circumstances and the right female, after all, why shouldnt he? Why not?

On second thought, maybe shes not so bad, actually. I think I could even fall for her! Having sex with an alien from Fymv - what an exciting new experience that would be! He began to smile as he thought the option over. Then, he made an order through the buttons he had on the table and grabbed the glass full of dark/gray/bluish Khuhwe that appeared, before standing up. As he left his seat and moved to the table where the three Fymv were, some customers looked at each other and became anxious about what was going to happen. There was a brief moment of silence, but their worries proved to be completely unwarranted.

The Dlektixu reached the others table, bowed respectfully and handed the beverage to the female alien who was between her two shipmates. The gesture might have been looked upon as a sort of new offense, given what had occurred before, but it didn't raise any problems. Actually, the addressed Fymv bowed in return and accepted the drink offered. Much to the surprise of the other male members of her species, truth to be said.

Soon after that, Leple-jjj and the female alien started talking and their speech appeared to be soft, educated and pleasing. It also turned to more than some talks, anyway, as the Dlektixu kissed one arm of the Fymv that was clearly the target of his interest, before whispering something in her ear. Then he moved away, returning to his seat, and sat down again.

The usual talking and frivolity started all over again as soon as that strange scene had played out. A now more relaxed Dlektixu purchased another bottle of wine and emptied it before ordering another expensive liquor. The two male Fymv who were not far from him kept wondering about what had just happened, asking their female friend if everything was right.

Half an hour went by easily. As Leple-jjj stood up and started heading for the exit, eventually a new thought crossed his mind. It was strange, as a matter of fact, but at times he felt as if something sticky had been attached to him, and he found that sensation really weird. But it was only a temporary feeling, certainly, what else could it be? Something was in the air tonight, for sure, and he was going to have sex with that beautiful Fymv in two hours, based on an agreement they had made. So nothing else mattered - right?

The immortal Bartender named Max, who was the well-known owner of the Mare Inebrium venue, had already noticed the scene that had occurred just 40 feet from where he stood. Like everyone else, he couldn't help but deeply ponder the whole thing. A member of that species, the Dlektixu, wasn't ever eager to talk to someone from planet Fymv, regardless of their sexual compatibility and the slight similarities of their external features. This was because those two peoples simply hated each other, at least most of the time. So why did the alien regular known as Leple-jjj change his mind and approach that brassy female customer? And why had he offered her a drink - maybe with a promise of a future encounter that same night.? What was going on? A suspicion made its way through his thoughts, but Max wasn't sure, not yet. He wondered if he should dig a little deeper, to see what was really going on.

So he moved his right hand to a metallic cabinet that stood behind him and took a pair of peculiar glasses an old friend of his had given him long ago. Those glasses might be exactly what was needed right now. In fact, as soon as he put them on he saw something he had only imagined before. There was a Yihqn that sat close to the table the Dlektixu had previously chosen, by chance, which meant a lot, certainly.

And there were many other things he wouldnt have noticed without the glasses - all across that room of his space bar.

So, Max left the long counter he was at and slowly went to a small table situated not far from a row of seats where an unknown customer, one that he had never seen before, was sipping expensive liquor from Earth. That was a very old blend, probably a Scottish beverage that seemed to have come from 1940s Earth or from a close subsequent era. The bars proprietor didn't even recall having that uncommon alcohol on the drink list. But, after all there were so many alien products sold and served at the Mare Inebrium that you simply couldn't have all of them engraved in your memory, of course, the same as no wine maker who ever lived might be sure about which wood was good for aging every kind of liquor drunk in all the space sectors. And, you know, the right barrel aging program always added a tasty richness to the drinks as well as merging flavors and completing the process, which made it relevant and worth the effort, certainly.

Max's scary customer was wrapped in a great black garment with a face-concealing hood, and was endowed with some peculiar features like those glaring wide reddish eyeballs, long loose lips and a very unusual face with an azure complexion that displayed skin-tones that became darker and darker - that appeared to be very different from each other. No teeth were visible in his round mouth, but there was a hovering hole in front of it which Max could only see by using his glasses, undoubtedly. The creature had many arms, with hands at each end of those - all of them eight-fingered. These arms were positioned all around his chest, giving a strange impression as if he were a creature from some fabled tale of centuries ago. And his appearance, his overall build seemed to be eager to reach you, wherever you were, or whatever you were busy doing somewhere, strange to say. Only a few personal belongings were retained on the thin belt he wore and the rest of his body was covered completely. In a way, it was really difficult to imagine how tall he might actually be if he were standing before you, as Max hadnt noticed him entering that room, and didn't know his true height.

Stop it! the Bartender told the relaxed Yihqn as he got much nearer. What are you doing right now? Go play your little games somewhere else!

The other turned his head towards the voice coming from the bar owner who was behind him and his eyes became vivid, as if he was coming out of a dream state. Before his alien eyeballs, the man appeared very average-looking, short, with dark hair, wearing a whitish colored apron, and wearing those unusual glasses. So, you do see them. he uttered in a surprised tone. I thought you humans were unable to see them, actually.

I'm not exactly human, and I'm also the manager here.

Oh, yes, Ive heard people talk about you. So, you can see them, indeed! What can I do for you?

I already told you - stop what you are doing, right here and right now.

Well, what I do is not so bad, believe me. You know, its like watching one of those old movies of Earth. They certainly look a bit flat in comparison with the present full-sensorial holo-videos, but the old films are where you can really immerse yourself and experience true feelings. Those flat movies are so different, being part of the past, but seeing one of them is much more rewarding than any modern 5-senses film is, in my opinion, the Yihqn made it clear.

Are you doing all this only because you are so passionate about ancient movies? the wary Bartender looked at the other wide-eyed and with an uncertain expression on his face.

Ive always been a lover of such sad tales like the old movie West Side Story, China Girl and other Shakespearen-like plays. In frank words, maybe I can say I am a lover of the deep emotions such films are capable of bringing out in a person. Who knows, it might be just a peculiarity of mine. Thats why I thought it would be interesting to put together the representatives of two completely different -and opposite- alien families, or species, and see what happens. Add some love at first sight, an increasing attraction and a certain sexual interest, and sit back and wait and see what comes next.

But you put this plan into motion without considering the consequences, and there might be some serious ones, Max told him.

Who knows? Maybe something good might come from such a love. What if, because of such an unexpected affair, two adversaries find an agreement and try to work together for the betterment of both sides? It might happen, and it has happened like that before, were the aliens words.

You can't be sure! What you are doing is endangering the lives of the pair of aliens you have forcibly thrown together. You can't be certain about the outcome of your actions, the man pointed out.

True, I can't know what will happen from the beginning, but I see some great first steps for that newly-made couple, dont you?

I saw that you also positioned a lot of those connecting links of yours in the air in the middle of this venue. How many customers have you connected here so far?

About nine people, if I well remember, or maybe more, I could check. a distracted Yihqn said.My webs are made of a peculiar sticky substance that I can generate out of my mouth. Truth be told, I'm capable of producing up to 20 different types over the course of a day, and only 10 per cent of the members of the Yihqn species are capable of making them. Its only possible by using some unusual properties of dark matter ˝ not visible to at least 90 per cent of the alien species known, and especially modified to suit my needs. You know, there are insects on many planets that use similar structures to hunt, first as guide lines and signal lines, then as ground webs, and eventually as the aerial web that I make. Though what I do is only producing a thread for connecting the feelings, the minds and bodies of two or more people together, and in doing so I also cause a change in their way of thinking and their behavior - usually turning enemies into new friends, or adversaries into new partners, or lovers, the same as happened tonight with regards to that disgusting Dlektixu and that noisy Fymv.

Max kept silent while the other continued.

Certainly this occurs unbeknownst to the individuals involved, as they are like unwilling prey who act accordingly, following the impulses and the sensations I send them through my web, and they couldn't decide to do differently from that. But I do not control them, I dont rule over their mind once they are out of reach or go away, I just give birth to something unexpected, connecting two or even more improbable persons. At times what I begin can continue long after I move out. However, my links are only temporary, in most cases.

I have heard that your webs span distances between objects, or individuals, that no other animal nor a single insect could cross on his own. This is supposed to be done by first producing a thread that sticks to a surface at the far end, and then it is strengthened. As a consequence, you can feel the change in the vibration when it occurs. The Bartender turned his head to look at all those webs - invisible to the patrons - that presently intertwined together several people in that room and that stretched as an entangling netting of thin ropes in the middle of that place. There was, for example, a four˝eyed individual connected to a five-armed alien businessman from HYHFHFH; then a tall boyish Klwe linked to that corpse-like WWWWWHm dressed in a lightning coat; and a representative from the icy planet of B-l-l-b-l-b that was shaking hands with an (always despised - at least, under common circumstances) aged Ullll-xelllll. But many others, too, were in the same condition, as far as he could see. What an unresolvable muddle, apparently!And once your actions are over, when the sorcerous effects of your webs are gone, what would be of the ones you have previously connected? The two, or more, that find what is going on and that do not understand what they have done could even assault or even kill each other in a act of madness, dont you consider this? Are you not worried about that? Not at all? Whatever! Now listen to me: you have to stop. don't try to start other problems here, or to hatch other possible bad situations that you simply forget about as soon as you exit these premises anyway.

Actually, I never forget about them, the Yihqn said.It's simply that I dont check what comes after I act every time, you know.

Its the same thing, so stop it, thats enough! If you like, you can sit down, sip some other delightful beverages served at your table and enjoy the night. Or else youll have to go away immediately, leaving this planet in a hurry. Youll behave yourself if you dont want me to call for some intervention of some friends of mine. You know how such things end up and you might also be caught in a worse web than one made out of your incredible substance.

Well, thats a pity! I really like your bar, all those colorful bottles and mugs your waitresses serve at the tables--they're so spectacular and interesting. the other added.

Your compliments will not make me change my mind, really. The love-making creature could tell that Max was becoming upset.

Oh, well. After your putting things into perspective. I guess Ill probably choose to stop my funny link-making, and I simply stay here to drink a little more, the alien nodded.

Right. Now stick to your word. Max stated. A Yihqn warned is a Yihqn saved, if you know what I mean of course.

Your meaning is as clear as water from planet Fhthn.

Fhthn was presently undergoing an icy age period, there is not much free water on it now. So, try again, the Bartender insisted.

Oh, sorry about that, I didn't know, as Ive been traveling across a completely different part of the galaxy over the course of the last years. So, let be it as you like. As certain as death.

Well, thats okay, even though such an old idiom hardly applies to me. he smirked in the end.

As the matter had been finally settled, and all the connecting links in the room began disappearing after a simple gesture of the many hands of the Yihqn, a more relieved Max headed back for the long counter where he was standing before, and the alien remained in silence for a few moments.

Though, as the time went by and the drinks started making their way into his obsessed, complicated mind again, the Yihqn customer considered that, maybe he might find other ways of having fun tonight. After all, what evil had he done so far? With a faint gesture, he just chose the right customer and positioned his invisible webs before his face all the times. Then, once every link had been set, it was only a matter of pulling the strings and moving the people towards the desired direction, of course. He thought of himself like an angler who took persons and tied them to each other, in a secret way. But he had been forbidden to act like that in this bar.

So, for a funny change, what if, he would attach some food to the back of some customers using his web? Or perhaps he would start linking some glasses to the arms of a few aliens present, so that they might fly away and noisily fall to the ground as they moved away? Well, maybe it was better to forget about this last one, as damages to the objects that were property of the bar owner were not a good result. He wasn't exactly someone who appeared to be to Max's liking, for sure. There was no reason to worsen things now.

But the possibility of linking the arms and legs of a few customers, to make them fall to the ground or stumble into each other, really stimulated his fancy. After all, such people would simply think they were too much drunk or tired to be really self-controlled, given the place and the late time. Wouldn't that be just an innocent game, like that one he played once when he had connected two space pods whose crew couldn't figure out how to leave the hangar they had been put into in order to be completely set for next departure? Or how about that time when he had tied up the five hands of an alien from HYHFHFH to force hI'm not to put his many fingers into his three noses? It was a behavior so disgusting, particularly as he was also used to openly decorate his long hair with what he extracted out of his internal orifices positioned on three corners of his upsetting face. Definitely not appropriate before all the others who were in the room at that time.

Who knows? Maybe if he just thought about of it all, something surely interesting would come to his mind before that lively and colorful night at this well-known space bar was over. Be sure about it. don't you already feel something sticky on your head now, after all? Or a strange link working on your ears as you try to scratch yourself?

As a famous human once said, the smiling Yihqn reminded himself of, A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain... How true it was! And there was also another man from Earth who pointed out a possible link between 'madness' and genius as one of the oldest and most persistent of all cultural notions.


Bio: -Sergio is an Italian public servant who graduated from Law School working in the public real estate branch. He has published a Fantasy RolePlaying illustrated Manual, WarBlades, of more than 700 pages. Some of his works and short- stories have been published in Aphelion Webzine, WeirdYear Webzine,YesterYearFiction, AnotheRealm Magazine, Alien Skin Magazine, and dozens of other e-zines and publications world-wide.

He is also a scale modeler who likes mostly Science Fiction and Real Space models, some of his little Dioramas have been shown also on some Italian (scale model) magazines like Soldatini, Model Time, Tutto Soldatini and online on American site StarShipModeler, MechaModelComp, on British SFM: UK site and Italian SMF .

Some Sci-Fi/fantasy/Horror short- stories by hI'm in Italian have been published on Alpha Aleph, Alpha Aleph Extra, Algenib, Oltre il Futuro, Nugae 2.0, SogniHorror, La Zona Morta, edizioni Lo Scudo, Antologia Robot ITA 0.1, Antologia Il Segreto dell'Universo, Antologia E-Heroes, etc.

The internet site of his Model ClubLa Centuria: www.lacenturia.it 

Here a brief presentation of Michele DUTCHER who edited the short- story:

Michele Dutcher, aka Bottomdweller, lives in a carriage house in Old Louisville Kentucky with her border collie--Daisy Dukes. She has a BS degree in Elementary Education from Indiana University with minors in theology & sociology and has been writing Science Fiction stories for about a decade. She edits all the first drafts of Sergio's short stories.

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