Author : Ljubo Popovich

On the planet Yug-Yuk, a glandular toad called Opziggle effervesced into a translucent jar. On the stone pedestal twelve similar jars were arranged in a circle.

“What took you so long?” asked the creature in the jar to the right, which spoke by emitting ultraviolet rays with pseudopodia.

Opziggle didn’t deign to answer since his entire body was encrusted with ammonia, which had condensed from the atmosphere around him.

Let’s begin the meeting, said the formless one from the center jar, which from all appearances was empty. Has anyone encountered any new intelligent life forms? The communication of the formless one entered each consciousness in his vicinity smoothly, producing no physical manifestation.

Several of the jars’ inhabitants began to speak at once.

One at a time! roared the formless one. Now you go first, Wow-hut.

A worm-like entity drew intricate, glowing characters on the surface of the jar with its slime. These were instantly interpreted by the formless one, who answered, Even if the sentient rings of planet E42 in the Hemlock Nebula could be considered living what possible use could they serve?

Wow-hut remained still, deflating slightly.

Now how about you, Gaggle-worst? the formless one continued.

The crystal-lattice that was Gaggle-worst vibrated wildly. Loosely translated, this is what it said: “I recruited Opziggle. Therefore, I should be exempted from further obligations.”

The formless one frowned (invisibly), and replied: The search for life is an enterprise I have pursued for over eight-billion years. It’s hard to believe that the lot of you is the best I could come up with.

Just then Opziggle emitted a subtle odor, which is to say, he spoke: “on the habitable exosphere, third planet from the G-type sun on the far edge of the spiral arm of our galaxy I happened upon a certain bipedal organism.”

Go on, urged the formless one, intrigued.

Opziggle’s multifaceted odors began to cloud his jar: “The organism seems to rely heavily on synthetic materials, and instead of a jar, inhabits an ornate artificial cave.”

Your description seems to hold promise, the formless one said. I expect a full report before our next meeting; the entity may possess a fleeting lifespan.

“Actually,” exuded Opziggle, “I observed several of the bipeds, of varying sizes.”

That suggests either reproduction, or possibly psychic projection, the formless one said.

“Furthermore, the creature in question expelled air, producing deliberate sound waves after absorbing fumes from a fragrant rod clutched with pincers.”

A dense cloud of meaningful associations hung over the congregation. After all of the odors of Opziggle’s statement had been sensed, the formless one put forth another theory. Perhaps the creature uses the fuming rod to communicate. Expelling different gases… What a novel method!

“I don’t think anyone else found another life form to compare to that,” said Gummock-cha, flapping its wings and producing the atmospheric currents that served to convey its meaning.

Very true, the formless one said. Good work, Opziggle. You’ve renewed my hopes. I must accompany you on your next trip to this singular planet.

“There’s no need,” Opziggle replied, “since I’ve brought the biped back with me.”

The gathering was uniformly stunned.

You brought an alien species into our midst! said the formless one, and didn’t think to mention it till now!

Without further explanation, Opziggle produced a sac of phlegm from a posterior orifice, which wiggled frantically until a strange animal peeled off the mucus coating.

“Where am I?” Jared asked, reaching into his shirt pocket automatically for a cigarette. The air around him smelled like chemicals as he struck a match, igniting the entire atmosphere of planet Yug-Yuk.