Author : Jennifer C. Brown aka Laieanna
â€œItâ€™s a symbiotic relationship,â€ explained the salesman, sliding open deep red curtains that lined three of the four building walls. The door and windows to the street were all on the remaining fourth. When the curtains danced back over golden rods, long glass cases with two rows of merchandise were exposed to the roomâ€™s florescent lights. â€œYou get exactly what you came for from the alien, and, in return, the alien gets what it needs to survive from you.â€
Edmund rubbed his hands together nervously. He leaned forward to peer at the specimens neatly lined up with no more than a two-inch space between each one. One of the aliens twitched and he jerked back. His eyes shifted to the calm salesman, too classy to have a nametag. â€œAnd theyâ€™re safe? They donâ€™t hurt the host?â€
â€œNot at all. There have been countless tests done before the Mophed were put on the market.â€ His grin softened and he looked around the, all but the two of them, empty room. â€œI shouldnâ€™t tell you this, but these guys were actually on the black market for three years before they were approved and made legal to sale. So, there has been legitimate and not so legitimate testing to prove their safety.â€
â€œSo, no reports of,â€ Edmund paused, taking a hard swallow before finishing, â€œdeath?â€
The salesman laughed, but Edmund couldnâ€™t decipher if it was honest or forced. â€œGoodness no!â€ He waved his hands in front of him with an umpire imitation. â€œCompletely safe.â€
Edmund stuffed his hands into his pockets and walked about the room, staring into the cases like a man analyzing art. The salesman followed two steps behind.
â€œAs you can see, our collection comes in a variety of colors and textures.â€
â€œSo I just simply pick the one I like?â€ Edmund asked, stopping to look back at the man.
â€œNot quite,â€ the salesman said without hesitation, â€œOnce you have made your choice, we will have to test for compatibility. Itâ€™s rare, but sometimes a Mophed will reject itâ€™s host. But itâ€™s very rare.â€
Edmund closed his eyes, suddenly uncomfortable in the room. â€œIâ€™m not sure about this.â€
â€œMr. Kesh,â€ the salesman interrupted, â€œDo you have a wife? A girlfriend?â€ The silence was Edmundâ€™s reply. â€œYou know how society works, how cruel it can be. We all do things to hide our imperfections. Itâ€™s how we survive in this world.â€
â€œBut this seems a bit extreme. There are other options.â€
The salesman tried to hide a small laugh. â€œLetâ€™s face it, Mr. Kesh, human technology is not moving fast enough. Weâ€™ve been working on this problem for centuries with no true solution. Itâ€™s only fitting we finally turn to the stars, and now we have the answer.â€
â€œI still donâ€™t know,â€ Edmund sighed.
The salesman put a hand on Edmundâ€™s shoulders, steering him to the only desk in the room. â€œLetâ€™s sit down and talk about this more. I have an information chip Iâ€™d like you to see before making any decisions.â€
The pitch took two hours of Edmundâ€™s time, and three hours later, he shook hands with the salesman before stepping on to the sidewalk. Only making it five blocks and one corner turn, his urge to touch the alien overwhelmed him. It made his scalp tingle. Not in a bad, dangerous way, but more of a massage. The next building down had reflective windows, which he used to admire his image. He had to admit the living toupee looked natural. Edmund smiled, a new skip to his step, and pondered on pet names for his personal improvement.