I Am a Brain in a Jar

Parley

June 15, 2020 Klaus Brenner and Doctor Brandon Winter Season 1 Episode 15
I Am a Brain in a Jar
Parley
Chapters
I Am a Brain in a Jar
Parley
Jun 15, 2020 Season 1 Episode 15
Klaus Brenner and Doctor Brandon Winter

The manager of a discount furniture store faces off against an alien, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

OK Computer is by Klaus Brenner. Parley is by Dr. Brandon Winter. The voice of the Brain is Sarah Nightmare via Fiverr. Music is by Two Dudes, Abloom, River Underground, Stephen Keech, Dresden, The Flamingo, and Rhythm Scott via Soundstripe.

Show Notes Transcript

The manager of a discount furniture store faces off against an alien, with the fate of the world hanging in the balance.

OK Computer is by Klaus Brenner. Parley is by Dr. Brandon Winter. The voice of the Brain is Sarah Nightmare via Fiverr. Music is by Two Dudes, Abloom, River Underground, Stephen Keech, Dresden, The Flamingo, and Rhythm Scott via Soundstripe.

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Kate was their leader, so they brought it to her. Now it was sitting on the other side of her desk, putting thoughts into her mind.

Its sallow skin, the color of old cream and wet like a fish, made her stomach turn. And she hated its lidless, matte eyes. They swallowed the overhead light and threw back calm indifference. It had no shoulders to speak of, no chin, and there were only membranous swells where she expected ears. Its skin pulsed and throbbed with every sound that made its way into her office, and its thin hands, delicate like a bat’s fingers, rested limply on what she had classified as its knees. 

It prattled on in her head in a voiceless monotone. Its English was perfect, she gave it that, but she knew a salesman when she heard one. You couldn’t manage a store for as long as she had and not develop an ear for bullshit. And it had spewed a lot of bullshit. She looked at the clock on the wall and groaned. God, three hours already. 

It was saying something about ‘a systemic cure for disease’ now and ‘ecological realignment,’ ‘a clean slate’ for the world. She yawned, pulled a cigarette out of the pack by her desk calendar, lit it, and looked out the window. The ship, a featureless silver sphere, was still in the parking lot, surrounded by Clark, the night manager, and four warehouse associates. It cast red light into the sky and thrummed like a loose bass sting. Where was the door, she wondered, and how did it keep hovering, right at waist level, never wavering? She had to admire that. You couldn’t manage a store for as long as she had and not develop an appreciation for consistency.

The thing was droning on about ‘permanent evolutionary reconfiguration’ when she spoke. She hadn’t heard her voice—a voice—in so long that the sound of it made her jump.

“Listen, I told you, you’re wasting your time. I can’t do anything with…this.” She tapped the side of her head and exhaled smoke through her nose. “I don’t know anything about diseases or evolutionary whatever, OK? I’m just the general manager of a discount furniture store.”

The thing looked at her and cocked its head.

“But I asked them to bring me to their leader,” it said in her mind. “And you are their leader.” 

Kate rubbed her eyes and blew smoke up at the ceiling.

“Clark means well, and he’s a good worker, but he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer.” 

The thing blinked once, the only time Kate had seen it do that, and rubbed its thin fingers across the top of its legs. Kate gritted her teeth at the rasping sound. 

“Look, I don’t know what you want, and I couldn’t help you even if I did. Unless you want a gently used loveseat or end table, you picked the wrong place to land.”

The thing reached out with its delicate hand, took the cigarette from Kate’s mouth and held it for a moment. The small flame illuminated the end of its almost translucent finger, revealing a hair-like bone suspended in glassy muscle. 

“You don’t understand,” it said as it ground the cigarette out in the ashtray by her desk phone, “I’m here to help you.”

Kate took out another cigarette, then reached into her jacket pocket for a lighter.

“Me, or…”

 She cut off her own sentence as she put the cigarette in her mouth, lit it,  then leaned back in her chair. The thing stood, swaying on its reedy legs, holding its arms out.

“You,” it said.

Kate put out the cigarette, satisfied to have at least done it herself this time, and propped herself against the desk on her elbows.

“OK, fine. Give it to me simple.” 

The thing sat and settled into its awkward posture.

“We have watched you. Your planet is sick. You suffer from conflicts, disorder, confusion. We would like to fix this.”

As Kate met the thing’s eyes, she could feel her face fall into a steely expression. She admired that about herself—you couldn’t manage a store for as long as she had and not learn a thing or two about negotiating.

“And you can do this?” 

The thing nodded and leaned forward. 

“Alright, say I believe you. What do I have to do?”

 The thing settled back into its seat and blinked for the second time. 

“Just say yes.” 

Kate snorted and looked around, half expecting to hear a punchline next. But the thing did not move.

“That’s it? Just say yes? And everything—all the problems in the world—will be gone?” 

The thing nodded and rubbed its hands on its legs again. Kate drummed her fingers on the desk. 

“Alright. Alright, I’ll bite. Why not? Yes. I’ll…do it.” 

The thing nodded, held up its hand, and placed it back on its leg. Outside, the gentle thrumming from the ship rose to a single bone-shaking slap, and the world drowned in a ruby flash. Kate looked out the window and saw Clark and the other four men freeze, shutter, then dissolve in a cloud of sickly green flakes. She put a hand in front of her mouth. A wheezing scream escaped through her fingers. 

Outside, a breeze kicked up, and as Kate watched what was left of the men float away, the horizon filled with a green light. It began to rain. She collapsed onto her desk and hid her face in her hands.

“Why?”  “Why?”

The thing stood and pushed in its chair. 

“I told you exactly what we were going to do. And you didn’t say anything. Like I said, we’ve been watching you.”