"Did you ever see such a lazy crew?"
Even without opening my eyes, even through the ubershitty comm sys I can still tell it's my boss. I shuffle in my crunchy overalls just enough to hit the camera button,
"Yo chief, spit it."
"I've gotta report of Pixtees near the Byron system. I'd give it to Nos, 'cause he's closer, but I figure you've been drifting longer and, well, if you die, who's gonna scare the noobs?"
"Don't have to ask me twice, sir, I'm all over it."
It takes a while to flex enough heat into my fingers to push the ignition, but as I do, and life flows into my nerves, I remember what it's like to be human again.
The Byron system (2 stars, 18 planets, one of which is known to be hospitable to pixtees) is about a day's flight from my tie-post, and three from central, but I'm jive with long trips. The interstellar radio runs around that area, so I get the "wookie" music I like.
My tummy rumbles, but a look at my clock shows four more days before I'll eat again. I might stop off at a truckstop and grab a doughnut. True, we don't have to eat since we found the pixtees, but some folks like to. It's a dying hobby though; too messy, too frivolous, too organic. The pixtees changed all that. Showed us a better way. We only eat once a month now, a typically quite ritualized affair (for those not on the fringe, like my coworkers and me). World hunger solved in a fortnight (five years if you count the mandatory testing done by the government). So sated, humanity turned its collective mind towards more lofty activities. Light speed transport was achieved two years later; World peace a year after that. Most diseases were eradicated that same year. Then, bored of problem solving, we looked for challenges. Music, art, literature: All flourished. Music became the first universal language; Art, its written form. Literature became a lifestyle, then a philosophy, then a religion. I cannot even begin to detail the progress made in philosophy itself. Suffice to say, a philosophical certainty was found, and it was just the beginning. We became a happy, fulfilled society. Blessed, if you will.
Blessed by the pixtees, some believe. They are believed to be saviors, perhaps our original gods. Some believe them to be created by another God, solely to love and care for us. They are our greatest liberators, and our greatest struggle. Some believe they are holy, too holy to be eaten, so they refuse to. They are getting fewer as the alterior food sources dwindle.
I land planetside roughly since my company is too ruttin cheap to pay for good landing fans. After checking the outside temperature (-30) I throw on my overall and helmet. The cold is uncomfortable, but not lethal, since we met the pixtees. After walking a bit, I come across a healthy village of them. I can see the genders right away; the women have long frizzy hair, the men are bald, and the neuters have long clumps of hair. The heirarchy becomes apparent after a short while. The deeper blue ones are younger, less responsible. The eldest is almost pearly white. I can see some of the family units, little flickers of electricity in minature igloos.
Soon they start to notice me. Tiny temors of excitment pass from one to another through the peeps that they use, we think, as language. Then, almost as one, they run.
I hate this part.
They clutch my pantleg, race up my shirt, diving, clamoring, in a frenzied euphoria. Some so excited they bang against my glass helmet, trying to get in my mouth. Their tiny mouths slobbering on my fishbowl. I don't even need to carry them back. They curl up in my pockets, my cuffs, my elbows, or my neckband. The initial party usually fades, and they nap like puppies, but once they see the shuttle, they perk up again.
Inside, they leap off, sitting in a campfire-like circle on the floor. Some sing, some talk, but mostly they wait. Some research has been done into how they know what they know; it's mostly private and heavily regulated. A sort of old-fashioned "don't ask, don't tell". Perhaps ignorance is bliss.
I remember my first time. I ate him live. Just opened my mouth and popped him in. I expected a crunch, a squish, anything really, but he dissolved in a heart-rending fashion. I cried for days. How unglorious an end for such a noble creature, who gave it's life for me.
I am sure there is something wrong. But for the life of me I can't figure out what.
Special thanks to the McAskiles for getting me the book that inspired this! (The pig who wants to be eaten)