By Keith P. Hornaday
Her impeccably tailored wool suit was welcome in the cold, damp room.
She was the Iron Lady, the intractable Gertrude Smyth. It was said she didn’t blink. Whether negotiating with terrorists or smoothing the ruffled feathers of a foreign potentate, she was the go-to woman, the logical choice for the most important meeting in human history. There would be no second impression. She had prepped, of course, taking into account every scenario possible, or at least she hoped so. In the back of her mind was that stupid fortune cookie, “expect the unexpected,” it said. She sighed. Thankfully there was no time left to dwell on it.
In the far corner, the solid wood door opened slowly, there was a pause, then three spiked creatures resembling crabs entered the room sideways, scuttling along the wall, their legs scratching and tapping on the stone floor. They moved quickly, with purpose, all three climbed the wall across from the platform, one continued on to the ceiling, then across it upside down until it was directly over the platform where it let go and fell, landing with a clack-thump onto the top of the platform, facing Gertrude. She didn’t flinch; just another day at the office – First Contact, meeting an alien race – face to face.
“I am Xxxmumth,” wheezed a voice wet and low from the thorax of the crablike creature, mouthparts moving with the sound, eyestalks independently scanning Gertrude. “Who are you?” it asked in broken but understandable English.
“I am Gertrude Smyth, representing the human race.” She smiled, although she had no idea if the gesture would translate. “I am here to welcome you to Earth. I am delighted to meet you,” she said bowing slightly again unsure of the gesture. At least it gave her some feeling of normalcy.
There was a pause. “I am disappointed!” The creature said eyestalks now darting back and forth, up and down, then back at its two companions.
“You are disappointed? May I ask why?” Gertrude asked simply.
The creature responded quickly, “I expected to meet a representative of the Nigerian Prince who died and left me his fortune.” The creature said peevishly. “I have the email right here.”
Keith P. Hornaday first discovered reading (for fun) at age 12, soon thereafter he wanted to be a writer (if he could learn to spell). Forty-five years later, industrial strength spellchecking came along. He has written three books, none published as yet. He lives in Los Angeles.