Author: Hillary Lyon

“Ugh, what did I eat last night?” Marvin groaned, patting his belly. It protruded, solid and round, like a bowling ball. A pot-belly! Tracy, his girlfriend, wouldn’t be pleased. If Tracy bailed, he’d have to get a real job—until the next generous girlfriend came along.

He rubbed his temples, replaying last night’s events—what little he remembered. He’d gone to the corner bar, and met—Nikki the Naughty Animatronic Stripper.

Rifling through the pockets of last night’s clothes, he found receipts: one for the bar, and one from a nearby no-tell motel famous locally for renting rooms-by-the-hour, where Nikki perfected her “acts.”

Marvin microwaved a cup of tea and on inhaling its scented vapor, remembered—steam, like a hot shower in tiny motel bathroom. And in that motel, somebody—Nikki?—jabbed him in the back with an icy needle. He ran to the bathroom to look in the mirror. He in found a greenly glowing oval scab; worse, there was a network of fine lines radiating from it, criss-crossing his back. He poked the scab, the lines pulsed, and he yelped in pain as those pulses sent electric shocks through his limbs, leaving him momentarily paralyzed.

Now he remembered, when he left the bar, pow! He was taken by intergalactic aliens. Once Tracy saw the glowing scab with its throbbing web, she’d believe him.

Marvin glanced at the analog clock on the wall. Soon she’d be home, and he was still in his pj’s. He was, throwing on clean clothes, when he heard Tracy unlock the front door.

Marvin rushed to her.

“What’s wrong?”  Tracy asked, concerned. Then she saw his pot-belly.  ”Well, somebody’s leaking hydraulic fluid.” She thumped his bloated stomach; it sounded metallic and sloshy.

Confused, Marvin scoffed. Hydraulic fluid? Was she insane?

Tracy turned him around to examine his back.

“Your skin sensors are distressed. Have any unsettling thoughts today?”

“I was abducted by silvery aliens—taken to a seedy motel, jabbed with a needle-sharp probe then abandoned in a . . .”

“Steamy shower?”

“Yes! How did you—”

“You’re programmed to enjoy hot showers, hot tubs, steam rooms, et cetera.”

“Programmed? They injected me with a paralyzing radioactive toxin—you saw my back!”

“Marvin, when your innards are out of whack, you get bizarre. Let’s see if your inny is now an outy.”

She pulled up his t-shirt, then gently pushed his protruding belly-button. Her finger went deep into his stomach. Inside his abdomen, he heard a hiss, then a muffled series of beeps. Tracy turned him around, popped off the green scab, then shoved her finger into the glowing hole.

Marvin’s head cleared. He laughed.

Tracy led him to the large closet in the hallway next to the bedroom. Opening the door, she gestured to the comfy recliner inside. Exhausted, Marvin plopped down. As she hooked him up to the console beside the chair, she chided:

“You’re not supposed to actually eat or drink anything; it clogs up your works, giving you crazy ideas, painful sensations, and false memories. Plus, makes you worthless for days. Now I have to do the household chores myself. If you do this again, I’ll complain to your manufacturer.”

Smiling sheepishly, Marvin shut his eyes.

Tracy pressed the re-boot button and closed the door. As the machine inside the closet hummed, she walked to the bedroom and kicked off her shoes. The humming made the floor vibrate slightly, sending a rhythmic thrill from her bare feet all the way up her legs—and beyond.

Damn, she’d have to call her real-life boyfriend for company tonight.