Another Terribleminds challenge story. I got a random title, and worked from there. Enjoy!
The Seventh Planet
Come see the Fabuluxe System! The experience will change you forever!
Baxter tilted the holocard for a better view of the purple sand beach. An alien couple gripped tropical drinks, complete with little umbrellas, in their tentacles. Goodness, did he ever need a vacation. But an all-inclusive, seven-planet cruise? Something like that would have to cost… well… more than he made in a year, probably.
Then, the tagline dissolved away, and a bright, yellow dollar amount danced on the card. Baxter let out a jittery laugh. Okay, fine, it was affordable, but those cruises were so long. There was no way he would be able to get out of work for the full four months.
A heavy binder slammed onto his desk. Baxter scrambled to hide the holocard before his boss saw it. He looked up at Mr. Flug’s reddening face. The man’s right eye twitched.
“This here? Binder of complaints against you. You don’t take your work seriously. You want to laugh so much? You’re fired. Find something funny in that, I dare you!”
Baxter tilted his head and breathed out an amused ‘Huh!’ making Mr. Flug’s face turn a brand new shade of maroon. He pulled the holocard out again, and smiled. Under the death glares of his ex-boss and fellow ex-employees, he gathered up his googly-eyed paperweight and the motivational poster he printed out – neither one within company regulations, and stood up. As he walked away, he pondered a million bucks magically appearing outside the office. Sadly, the cash didn’t materialize when he opened the door. It seemed his strange luck had some limitations.
There was a surprising amount of paperwork. He got maybe half a page in before his eyes glazed over. He skipped ahead to put his signature in the little box.
Five days later, he boarded the starline cruiser. The ship was light on passengers, but heavy on staff. Walking through the halls, he saw maybe twenty others. Twenty! He had assumed that he would have to bare-knuckle box little old ladies for a spot on this cruise.
The staff reminded him of the holocard aliens – all tentacles and claws, with eyes bulging out from weird places. He’d never seen that species before. They wore loose, pale green scrubs. They looked like they only knew human culture via hospital dramas.
Their words had an English flavor, but it was all gibberish. The cabin they led him to was comfortable enough, if a bit sterile. When he plopped his luggage on the bed, he saw the sides were fitted with thick leathery straps.
“Uh, what’re these for?”
“Gallonesque flirtcicles she how-now, yup.”
Baxter decided that meant something along the lines of ‘hey, if you’re into the rough stuff, go ahead’ and left the straps untouched.
The meals were so bizarre he wondered if they could be called food. Possibly to extend the TV hospital theme, everything was either in pill form, or a colorful slurry. His favorite was green; it tasted like chocolate cake and strawberries if you didn’t think too much about it.
They reached the first planet a few days later. It was covered in crystalline structures – trees, buildings, even mountains. Baxter followed the other passengers as they disembarked. Everyone else seemed to know where they were going. He pulled one blonde woman in a wheelchair aside.
“So… What excursions are you signed up for?”
“Didn’t you read the paperwork?”
“I used to read documents for a living. Might have thrown up if I read another full page of that garbage. They all say the same things anyway, right?”
Her incredulous expression turned to one of pity.
“Oh… You poor, stupid man.”
She patted him on the arm.
“I hope you enjoy the planets until… Well… Hmm.”
Baxter tried to press her to explain, but she refused to answer. She turned and rolled away. When she was gone, and he was alone on the gangplank, he huffed.
“I will enjoy the planets, thank you!”
The only thing there was to do was stand on a metal balcony and look at the landscape. Oh, and everyone was given a temporary tattoo. Each one of them was a different alien symbol. It was no use refusing. The alien staff wouldn’t give him his orange slurry (the one that tasted like crab legs) until he got one.
The second through sixth planets were stranger than crystal world. There were mazes and brain games, and a bar where he got injected with some seriously trippy drugs. Baxter was still high as the starship docked at the seventh planet. He stared out the porthole and sipped a neon pink slurry. This one tasted like metal shavings.
“I wunner if dey’ll ever show ush duh planet wiff duh beeechesh. Like duh holocard.”
He wobbled down the gangplank, ending up last in line to enter a large white tent. Baxter craned his neck. On the other side of the tent, was the beach. It was the very same one from the flyer. The same frilly palm trees tilted toward the water; the same beach chairs were nestled in the purple sand.
A scream emerged from the tent. Baxter shook his head. He was hearing things now. What the hell did they put in those drugs? For that matter, what were those drugs? The audio hallucination changed pitch with each new person that entered the tent. That was when he noticed the guy in front of him. The elderly Asian man’s eyes darted around. He winced at the screams.
Baxter checked the beach again. None of the passengers had come out of the tent. He peeked through the door flap when a new person entered. There was a lot of blood. Tentacles flailed wildly. One of the aliens bolted for the exit. It was a blonde. And those eyes bulging out from the sides of her head looked so familiar, as did the empty wheelchair behind her.
Baxter found himself sobering up very, very quickly.
“That… can’t be… Hey, guy, do you know what’s going on?”
The Asian man was muttering under his breath. At the sound of Baxter’s voice, he spun around and grabbed Baxter’s shoulders.
“I can’t do it! I thought I wanted this, but… I just can’t fabuluxe!”
“Fabuluxe! You know…” He scowled at Baxter’s blank stare. “Are… you a moron?”
“No! Maybe… What’s fabuluxe, besides a combination of fabulous luxury?”
“The… the process of becoming like them. Free from aging and injury.”
Baxter blinked slowly, trying to process the man’s words. The aliens… they were people once? Okay then. He officially needed a vacation from his vacation.
Then again, that beach looked really relaxing.