Author: Timothy Goss
The aroma was delightful. The sweetness of a caramelising crust and the tender white meat contained therein. Tao remembered honey glazed ham; his mother would buy it from the Supramarket, before pollination was protected. That’s it, he thought, turning the meat so its juices dripped and spat in the fire, the sweetest meat is on the bone. Tao smiled wiping his chops, Marianne will love this just like holidaying down south, barbecuing chicken wings in sweet chili sauce. She liked grilled beef too but the Siberian methane fires put paid to that delicacy.
To some, they were a Godsend. Father Billious of the tiny isle of Capel first sampled their flesh in the west. He’d reasoned that burning the corpses found in his traps was the most sanitary way of disposal. Of course, once the fire reached crucial temperature the meat began its seductive olfactory assault, leading finally to the Priest’s ravenous sampling. There were rumours that poorer nations had been consuming them in secrecy for fear of international reprisals. A heavenly gift gratefully received. Tao put more logs on the fire; maintaining heat was essential for caramelising otherwise the meat would be sour and stodgy.
It was believed they came from beyond the void, although some disagreed. Wherever they did come from they came in their droves, millions upon millions of tiny ships falling through space, each no bigger than a can of deodorant. NASA spotted them, but too late to issue a statement of use. It was uncertain what the mass of little masses hurtling toward earth even was, so people were informed about a minor meteor shower, like the Pleiades, and assured larger pieces would either pass us by or burn up in the atmosphere. What an aroma that would have been, Tao wet his lips and imagined the sensuous fragrance weaving through the solar system out to interstellar space.
He remembered when they first appeared, landing all at once in small fluorescent tubes that glowed like a summers evening. Tao watched them from his bedroom window filling gardens and pathways, roads and parks and driveways, any available millimetre. The news reported it as a worldwide phenomenon and very soon agricultural areas were decimated, the land overrun. The Council of Numbers declared a global crisis as millions of tiny ships filled with millions of tiny things slowly clogged the larger world into submission. Nobody considered it an invasion, not until the little creatures outnumbered the big.
The heart of the fire throbbed and pulsed. He sensed it was approaching optimum temperature so, inhaling the sweetest of scents, Tao filled his lungs, coughed and disappeared into the house to trim his beard. He’d promised Marianne he would tidy up his face. He stopped and checked the traps as he passed, just in case they were hungry later.
Everybody set traps now, he heard them spring during the night. It was considered humane especially as all attempts at communication had failed. The Council of Numbers even distributed traps free of charge, at first, from all municipal outlets:
“It’s the only option.” They said, “The invaders do not respond to diplomacy. The invaders do not respond to humanity. Traps are available at a Council merchandiser near you.” Any attempted to catch them by hand and they fled to their hidey holes. People began to fear the spread of disease and the theft of their precious foods. So it was the only option.
Tao returned, shipshape and Bristol fashion. He applied paprika and turned the meat once more, Marianne would be there soon. Tao licked his lips expectantly.