“What do you mean you got a pet?”
Venkat rolled his eyes at Barry’s tone. Barry was the fussy one of the pair. His idea of proper apartment living was existing in a sterile, Better Homes and Gardens cover worthy apartment that was better suited for objects than people. The men were as polar opposite as two people could be yet they both were religious about paying bills and respecting the other’s space. Barry helped Venkat with his English and had introduced him to the joys of American movies while Venkat brought the wonder of Bollywood into Barry’s life; somehow they worked as roommates.
Venkat missed having pets. When he left his home of Kohima, India twelve years ago to work in the west he was forced to leave everything behind except what he could transport in a single suitcase. He had lost his garden and more painfully, his prized chickens. He had broached the subject of a pet in the apartment several times in the three years he had roomed with Barry but every time the prissy blonde had shuddered as if he were being attacked by the fleas of some imaginary, mangy pet and argued down the suggestion.
“Yes, I purchased a pet,” Venkat said. “I bought something that lives in a cage and can stay in my room. Since it is in my personal space you do not get to argue my choice.”
“But it’s in the apartment.” Barry’s voice flirted with whine territory.
“Bahut bura,” Venkat said.
“Too bad,” Venkat translated. “My room; we agreed that anything within our personal space was allowed so my new pet stays.”
Barry pouted and turned away and then back three times before speaking again.
“Fine. Can I at least know what it is? I’d like to know what’s going to poop on my carpet or try to eat my face.”
“It won’t-” Venkat said. “Come, I will show you. It is a very cool creature.”
Without waiting, Venkat led the way to his bedroom. After a moment’s hesitation Barry followed. He tried to give his friend the benefit of the doubt but in the back of his mind a voice kept warning that pets only led to disaster.
Barry expected Venkat’s room to be an Indian paradise. They never entered each other’s private space, part of the key to their success as roommates. When the door opened Venkat’s spacious bedroom was filled with band posters, sci-fi models and all the bric-a-brac that would be expected in a nerdy American teen’s room.
“Interesting style my man,” Barry said.
“Isn’t it great? Look at this, I got it at a con last month.”
Venkat lifted some kind of sword from its wall mount and brandished it with a toothy grin. Barry had no clue what it was. The handle was covered with buttons and lights and instead of a blade, an acrylic rod extended three feet from the handle.
“Ah, yeah,” Barry said. “How about the pet?”
“Of course,” Venkat returned the toy to its place with a reverence normally reserved for holy artifacts.
He crossed the room and, with a flourish, swept a black cloth from a suspended object. Beneath the black cloth was a large bird cage hanging from a metal stand. The occupant was not any kind of bird that Barry had ever seen. In fact, he was pretty sure it was an octopus.
“Is that an octopus?”
“The man at the shop told me it was a very rare land octopus. Unlike its water cousin it does not require a tank.”
“But, it’s a freaking octopus.” Barry jerked back as the creature extended a tentacle through the bars and waved it at him.
“See,” Venkat said. “It likes you. It’s waving.”
“It is not waving. It’s just-”
“Free me,” a bubbling voice came from the cage stopping Barry in mid sentence.
Venkat and Barry looked at each other, wide eyed.
“Are you a ventriloquist too?” Barry said.
“I said nothing,” Venkat said.
“Free me Humans.” The voice was clearly coming from the cage.
The octopus shifted behind the bars and extended more of its appendages through them. They moved as the voice came again, providing counterpoint to its words.
“I am scout leader Pthrrrrp. I have been imprisoned on your world for six of your years. Free me or there shall be consequences.”
“You’re shitting me,” Barry said.
Venkat moved toward the cage. His eyes fairly glowed with excitement. A real alien was in his house, the guys in his gaming group were going to die of envy.
“Why have you said nothing before this?”
“The Human who passed me on to you captured me when my vessel crashed. He was quite cruel the few times I attempted to communicate.”
“You are an actual alien,” Venkat said. “This is the most momentous meeting in history.”
Pthrrrrp bubbled at Venkat and waved several tentacles.
“My people approach, you shall release me or there will be consequences.”
“What do you mean, your people approach?” Barry said.
“Will you free me?”
Venkat reached for the cage lock but Barry grabbed his arm.
“No way dude. This thing is a damn alien. We have to call the authorities or someone; maybe a scientist. They need to examine it, see if it’s a danger to the world.”
“Maybe you are right,” Venkat said.
“You were given your chance,” Pthrrrrp burbled.
A deep throbbing note filled the apartment. Lights flickered and Venkat felt the floor vibrating. Two heretofore unseen antennae lifted above the alien’s eyes and it began to emit the rapid fire burbs and gurgles that were its language.
The southern wall of Venkat’s bedroom glowed for a moment and then exploded into a cloud of dust. Blinding light flooded the room and long metal tentacles reached through the walls. The cage containing Pthrrrrp was ripped open and the alien dropped to the ground and then raised itself up on the tips of its tentacles. One tentacle reshaped its tip into a round platform, the alien mounted the platform and was drawn from the apartment by the retracting tentacle. Two more tentacles shot forward and grabbed Venkat and Barry in a bruising grip. The screaming men were pulled through the opening in the wall. They saw a gigantic metal shape hanging over the apartment and they were drawn into it.
The tentacles carried the humans through a long corridor and placed each of them into a cage.
“Welcome my pets,” Pthrrrrp said from the other side of the bars.