Couch Potato



My name is Mignon Celestia, and I am a Twenty eight year old neobotanist in a human colony on a planet called Arkellia. I’ve been here for the past five years, but before that I lived with my father on an Arkellian space station. I still live with my parents, which is amazing after all I put them through as a teenager. But after my experiences back then I learned to appreciate them, as well as a lot of other things.

Until I was 12 years old we still lived on earth. My mother and two thirds of the neighborhood called me minion because they claimed I behaved like the spawn of the devil. I was bossy, brash, rude, disrespectful, and a bully; and those were my good qualities. I was a glut, a couch potato, and like many of my human counterparts, I was addicted to carbohydrates, sugars, violence, and media. I preferred my video games, my computer, and my television to live company any day, sitting and consuming junk food.

“You had better stop eating like that or one day your stomach is going to burst.” my mother would tease.

It’s a wonder that I somehow managed to maintain a 4.0 grade point average in school. I wasn’t a dummy. I was mostly just bored out of my skull.

My father was a Neocryptologist. For those of you who don’t know what that is, don’t worry, I didn’t know what he did either. But apparently when I was fourteen years old he spent a lot of his time deciphering communications between alien arrivals (Arkellian) and the scientific community; which was a trip, because during that time no one had known that there was such a thing as alien arrivals. My dad’s primary job was keeping it that way. The government couldn’t be trusted with the responsibility, and the general population was too afraid of everything to even comprehend the importance of the Arkellian’s arrival at that time.

The Arkellians were there to determine if assisting earth with space travel was prudent since humans seemed to have the nasty habit of polluting and destroying their own environment. Species like that usually ended up as nomad class, little better than parasites moving from planet to planet because they couldn’t be trusted to stay on any one world too long for fear that their abusive habits would destroy the host planet. There were others, whom the Arkellian and other important races of aliens kept strict control of every facet of their lives, everything from breeding to eating.

The Arkellians were a very conservative race, they didn’t believe in any form of waste or debauchery. For every ounce of energy used or resource gathered it was required for there to be a replacement. You couldn’t just cut a tree and plant one, you had to have a plan to regulate the level of oxygen replacement while the new tree grew, calculate the solar damage being done to the surrounding area, and even account for the use of every part of the tree from the leaves to the trunk. Everything had to be used. They were this way about everything; water, fuels resources, power and energy, even food.

The Arkellians had come to monitor our behaviors and attempt to teach us to improve our interaction with the planet. They knew it would be some time before we were able to develop the technology necessary to leave our own solar system so they ventured to our world to attempt to augment our thinking to a more planetary one.

It was during this time that I had decided to become a nuisance at school and began spending the majority of my days in the principal’s office. My mother’s solution to this was to send me to live with my father. They were still married so I didn’t understand the need for them to live separately. I loved my father, which might have explained some of my behavior. On the day selected for my move my father sat me down and explained that I would be experiencing something new and that it would be necessary for me to be on my best behavior. In most cases my best didn’t measure up to even the worst of others. I didn’t know what he expected of me.

Twelve hours later I was escorted to a very clinical looking facility. I was given a complete physical, a series of inoculations, given a uniform like my father’s to wear. The suit was made so that all of my bodily functions were monitored.

“My god,” I said, “You’d think they were prepping me for space travel.” I laughed.

My father held his comment until we had reached a room that looked like isolation chambers. He opened the tube and walked in. I followed innocently. When he stood facing me in the tube opposite and had closed the doors he said, “They are.” It was the last thing I heard.

I beat on the glass and screamed, but the effort was wasted. The tube filled with an almost foam like substance which later solidified to a gel like consistency. I could breath but I could not move. He couldn’t hear my screams, his own tube was preparing for departure. In moments we were both in a sleep like stasis preparing for real space travel. In the ship in which we traveled the trip would take months. It was not necessary for us to hurry and the Arkellians would make the best use of the time teaching us and retraining our bodies.

When I woke on board one month later, my body had already been readjusted to the change in atmosphere, but the thing they had not adjusted was my attitude. I was angry and screaming. The young attendant, or at least I took her to be young, communicated my state by computer and moments later my father was escorted to my quarters.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were taking me into space, and who or what are these people?”

“They are Arkellians and they are here to teach us how to make better use of our planets resources.” He went on to explain the state of our planet, our predicament as a planetary race, and how imperative it was for us to change our way of thinking.”

By the time he was discussing our behavior I had nearly tuned him out. I was not going to spend the next six months letting alien creatures tell me what to do. At least that’s what I thought.

The first week I was belligerent, but there was nothing in the room if you wanted to call it that, that I could break. Everything was made of a soft indestructible material. It was comfortable to sit on and to sleep on, yet it was firm enough to serve as a table for my food and drink. Because of my behavior, that was all I got. Three meals with all the necessary elements of things required for taste, aesthetics and nutrition. That meant I hated everything, or at least I thought I did until I tasted it. After which I had a moment from the story ‘Oliver’ asking “please sir may I have some more.”

The Arkellians interpreted this as an insult. They had calculated what was necessary to sustain my ideal body mass, trim off my excess bulk, and provide me with enough energy to maneuver around the ship if I was ever lucky enough to be allowed out of my quarters. They could not fathom that I might want more than this. My meals grew smaller, diet smaller. Though they did not say anything they had made their point.

My father visited me on the second week awake and told me about the Arkellian protocols and way of life. I looked at him in amazement.

“You can’t possibly believe I’m going to deal with this for six months.” I said not wanting to overstep my boundaries too far. It was one thing to backtalk my mother and quite another thing to jeopardize my father’s job.

“I don’t see where you have much choice. Of course you could have behaved at home and not had to be here at all, but since that isn’t the case, I suppose you’ll have to make the best of it.” he responded.

It was like him to throw a jibe in at me when I had to suffer a mess of my own making.

“We are guests more than anything up here, if it’s possible can you try not to say or do anything else that might contribute to the destruction of the earth.” he smiled.

I kept hearing all this talk about wasteful species and failing planet, and all I could think of was how great it would be to watch TV and sit and have a pizza. It showed up, TV for an hour and a single slice of excellent pizza. It had never occurred to me that I had mentally called it up, or that my room was designed to provision me with whatever I wanted as long as I didn’t ask for more than was necessary. I learned this by accident.

“I’m bored. I want something interesting to do. My attendant arrived carrying a computer; powerful unlike any I had yet seen. She showed me how to use it and left. It’s desktop had four icons; develop your skills, cultivate interests, historical archives, and challenge your mind. I was intrigued by all except the history section, at least for the moment.

I didn’t have any skills yet, and I wasn’t in the mood for what I thought might be games, so I clicked on ‘cultivate interests. The ceiling became an amphitheater which displayed information about every item I wanted to investigate. When it discussed the cultivation of new plant life for developing planets I was struck. What was a developing planet? I watched as world builders created planets and different species beings worked to create plants to suit the atmosphere and provide for the inhabitants. I watched until I could barely hold my eyes open. The computer shut off automatically, announcing it was time to relax and allow my brain to regenerate.

I was too interested to be angry, and instead instinctively laid back, and asked for a blanket. In moments one was provided. I asked for dinner and it was delivered. I asked for apple pie and was given a slice. But then I pressed my luck requesting ice cream, chocolate and whip cream to put on top. The sensors simply responded that this was not a necessity. Like everything else the Arkellian designed, it understood the difference between a need and a desire. It accepted the idea that dessert might be an acceptable request, but would not allow me to exceed my daily bodily requirements. I could ask for whatever I wanted as long as it didn’t surpass too greatly what I needed but I didn’t get that lesson.

For the moment I decided I would behave so I might see the ship. No point being confined indefinitely to my quarters. I apologized to the attendant, and accepted what was given to me. I participated in requested activities, which they tried to keep interesting, but when it came to food I was never satisfied though I never asked for more again. I tried asking for snacks, but there was nowhere to stash things.

I was slowly diminishing in size. If my father noticed he didn’t say anything. The Arkellians were not fond of vanity, so there were no mirrors around for me to see just how tight and tone I was actually getting. By the time the ship reached the Arkellian space station I had lost the equivalent of 40 lbs which I might have noticed if the gravity on the station wasn’t slightly less/greater than earth atmosphere. Of course the uniform also covered a great deal of what used to be sins.

On the space station we were allowed our own quarters and my own things had arrived. I was stunned to see that none of my own clothes fit. My father suggested I learn to sew, or wear what they wore on the station. I didn’t think sewing would be a quick enough solution though I was not now adverse to learning new things, but I objected to the station uniforms thinking I would look fat and unattractive. All zipped up they were sleek and attractive and though I had not been concerned about it much before I felt pretty.

I attended school with the Arkellian children. They were smart and strong. Though I had no difficulty keeping up, which seemed to amaze them, my tendency to bully did not sit well. Arkellians could be fierce in a fight and I found myself pinned to the floor. The younger Arkellian boy bared his razor sharp teeth and said, “If you had done thus in the history of my people, I would have torn out your throat, but we are civilized, if you plan to stay here I suggest you learn quickly to adapt, or your survival may be shortened.”

I didn’t fight again, but after that I was sullen and ill tempered.

“When can I go back home?” I asked my father when he returned from work one evening.

“It will be some time before I go back, but your mother has asked if she may come here. The Arkellians have agreed to let her visit for one month. If you wish to go when she goes back you may.”

I didn’t like it at home when my father wasn’t there, but things were too different for me to stay here much longer. It took four months for my mother to arrive. She had brought a trunk of my favorite junk foods, but when she saw me she said, “Oh my, look at you so pretty, maybe I should have left this back on earth.”

I couldn’t wait to sit and consume everything she had brought with her. My father was concerned.

“That may not mix well with the way her chemistry has been altered here, maybe you should wait until I can check to see if it will be a problem.” he said.

“Oh for goodness sake, quit tripping dad,” I said reverting back to home behavior. I stuffed my face nonstop watching TV, then more while playing on the computer. I had adjusted to the time limiting of the technology, and found other ways to spark my interests, but food especially junk food was one thing I missed, and I was going to get my fill.

“I keep telling you, you shouldn’t eat like that, one day you’re going to explode.” said my mother

I stopped momentarily, her choice of words felt in some way ominous, but I did not stop eating for long. After an hour I began to feel ill. When it didn’t subside my father went to fetch the station doctor, but before he could return there was a loud rumble in my stomach and an explosion like a small explosive had been ignited and gone off inside a wet enclosure. Never mind that the enclosure had been me.

By the time my father returned I was unconscious. Bits of food and flesh covered everything. My mother was in shock; I was hurried to a stasis chamber and stabilized. My mother and father were both heartbroken. I was their only child and it did not look as if I were going to make it. The Arkellians felt sorry for me and made my parents an offer. They could return to earth and leave me on the station in stasis until such time as they could find a suitable way to let go of me, or they could take me to Arkellia and use available technology to save me. If they made this choice, I would never be able to go back to earth. Sufficient technology did not exist there to repair and maintain what would need to be done to save me. On Arkellia there would also be many other like me who had been in accidents or obtained injuries during conflicts and such, so I would not feel like an outcast.

My father could not bear to leave me. So both my parents sold everything they had, liquidated every ounce of financial holding they had and purchased materials and goods valuable to Arkellia, seeds, metals, medicine, and fabrics and in four months returned with everything to collect my body and travel to Arkellia.

A procedure was performed to give me a cyborg middle. Though I can taste food, I can no longer eat large amounts. I no longer have a stomach or digestive tract, I have a processor which breaks down small amounts and converts them into enough energy to maintain all my functions and the remaining flesh and blood parts of my body. Every day I am required to hook up to the mainframe in our home and allow it to run diagnostics on my systems to make certain they are running correctly.

I finished high school early and went to college with Arkellian girls to become a neobotanist. In the five years I have been on Arkellia I have learned and done more than I ever thought possible, but I sometimes miss the earth. In the history program on my computer I learned the fate of earth, which would in a very short time be destroyed during a galactic war and the survivors would be moved to a series of developed worlds which will have plants I have grown for it.

I looked up and grabbed a fruit from the small tree I had been pruning; I tasted the sweetest apple pear I had ever had. I cut the remaining pear in many slices and handed it to my co-workers. At home I would never have eaten any fruit with such relish, or at all if I was prompted, but now if I could I would finish the entire pear

Though the earth that I have grown up on will never exist again I will have the pleasure of knowing that I have grown plants that may one day make someone look back and long for home, or taste a fruit and think back to a time when they had a world that provided them with everything they ever wanted but gave up everything they had trying to get something they never really needed in the first place.

I guess someone should have told them if they didn’t stop what they were doing they were going to explode, but even if they had, they wouldn’t have listened, I never did.

Couch Potato © DJuna Blackmon 2014, All Rights Reserved

written-for-30 (3) copy



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