The Telemachus Story Archive

Instant Qualia

Instant qualia

(like noodles, but from outer space)

At the edge of the field behind the back garden, the stubby, flashlight-shaped aircraft landed in a noiseless, well, flash. I stared at it, still pissing in the bushes, now trickling on my feet, in a state of stubborn anguish. The pulsing, lime glow that spread from the craft’s base lit up the moths spiralling around the summer shrubbery. From one of the bright portholes a clawed tentacle – an arm-sized centipede – waved at me. Its owner, in possession of at least a dozen other such appendages, grinned. At least, what I reckoned made up its face grinned. The airlock opened.

“I come in piss.” it said and gurgled. My bowels liquefied. A fart that wasn’t a fart splattered out.

“What a shitty way to greet your overlords!” it said and erupted in a writhing frenzy of clicking claws and laughter.

All went dizzy and starry and the entire milky way crashed on my head.

* * *

“So you’re leaving tomorrow…”


I tried not to look too sad.

“Oh cheer up, I might be back in a few years.”

I sighed. “That’s too long.”

“You’ve got Stockholm syndrome, my human.” said Krgr, “Pass me those chocolates.”

“Just one more.” I said and presented it the box of Ferrero Roches.

“Prft.” It rummaged over the plate and retracted with the last seven Roches each held between a pair of claws. Nubby proboscises between the claws unwrapped and then suckled on the chocolate treats.

“You’re exaggerating again. Tomorrow you’ll be sick.”

Krgr made a face that was the alien equivalent of the raised eyebrow. “Prft. I’ve got stuff against chocolate hangover. You, on the other hand, should temper your consumption of rglgl, ‘cause you don’t have stuff against rglgl hangover.”

I shrugged and stuffed another leaf in my mouth. He was right. I’d suffer tomorrow.

“It’s fascinating,” I said when I felt the cool blue light of the rglgl waft behind my eyes, “how similar our biologies are. You get high on our stuff, I get high on your stuff, neither of us die, and you can breathe normally, as I would, presumably, on your world. It’s so weird.”


“What, ‘nah’?”

“Nothing weird about it. Panspermia. Explains all the similar biologies – and most life around here.”


“Of course. In this sector, anyway. There’s more exotic stuff much further away. Only fools or masochists venture there. Or the well-equipped with fat research grants.”

“How do you know?”



“Still. It’s fascinating.”

Krgr shrugged again. “Suit yourself.”

“You’re blasé – you’ve seen too much.”

“No, it’s that you humans always go for the complicated explanations. The exotic. The incomprehensible. Woo-woo! Paranormal! Everything’s all quite simple. Except for quantum stuff.”

“You don’t think there might be life forms out there that are incomprehensible to our minds?”

Krgr sighed. “Oh no… we’re venturing into Solaris territory now.” He did the alien eye-roll.

“Yes! Exactly!”

“There’s no such planet.”

“How do you know?”


“Yes yes.”

“No.” said Krgr, “Most life is understandable. Mainly because it’s stupid. Look at your planet.”

I huffed. “But what about perceptions? How can I know how you perceive things? How can you study a life form without knowing how it perceives things? Isn’t that the essence of incomprehensibility? How can you know that –”

Krgr waved an appendage. “That’s none of my business. Do your biologists wonder about the perceptions of their study material as they dissect it?”

I slipped in a sad groan. “You’re dodging the question.”

“Perhaps I am. This is stuff for philosophers. I don’t care.” Krgr twiddled at his base and shuddered. He looked everywhere except at me. “But perhaps it’s a semi-valid question; if only half-valid, like the half-empty sort of valid.” He tried to sound firm. “Take your dolphins, for example. They see density. Can you imagine seeing density? You can’t. But you see depth. Can you imagine not seeing depth? You can’t. You can try looking with one eye, but your brain will interpolate. That’s the bottom line. Your brain will interpret whatever you give it. If your mind were transplanted – gradually, say – into a bat, you’d start seeing by echolocation – perhaps not like a native bat, but you’d use it all the same, makes no difference. In the body of a dolphin you’d see density. Does it matter that your learned interpretation of density does or doesn’t match Flipper’s so-called innate sense of density? Does it matter that your red is or isn’t Joe McTurd’s red? You both stop before a red light. You have to think pragmatic here. Do you think your brain evolved to read? It didn’t – yet you see things when you read; you imagine things – are you therefore not a native reader, because it’s a learned sort of perception? What could it mean to be a native reader? Do you need to live in a world with only glyphs to be one? Does it matter? No. Brains interpolate, interpret, and adapt, whatever you give them. Again, go for the simplest explanation. Nothing special about it.”


“Sorry for preaching.”

We sat in relative silence, slurping chocolate and munching rglgl and tripping each in our own – yet similar, as I had just been lectured – way.

“I’ll let you in on a secret.” broke Krgr after slurping up the last Roche. “Some alien technology. I have, on my ship, a device that we use, when on long trips, to procure ourselves, eh, procreatory pleasure.”


“Masturbation device.”

“I got that. What’s it to do with –”

“I’ve got another device on my ship. It can rewire neural material.”

I frowned.

“Just a thought: if I rewire a few things in your head – strictly prohibited, of course – and give you the Gomb – the masturbation thing – you might experience what it is to live something unknown to you from someone else’s habituated perspective, if you see what I mean. A sort of ‘suddenly you can see density as a dolphin and understand it at the same time.’ Or in this case ‘I’m having sex like an alien.’ Or at least as close as to the real thing. And all that from the comfort of your own body and mind. Only to prove my point. For science.”

“Is it safe?”

“You’ve had twelve rglgl leaves so far, and you speak of safety.”

“Well, yes. But this is messing with my brain. Bigtime.”

“And tripping on extraterrestrial lettuce is not messing with your brain? You’ve got double standards.”

I made a wry face.

“I don’t want to force you. But it’s a unique experience. And an interesting experiment. For you. I know what it is like – part of the training. Hence why I said that all perception is much alike.”

“I don’t know…”

“Sleep on it. It’s too late now anyway. I’m leaving in the late afternoon tomorrow – plenty of time in the morning to cure you of your hangover and rewire some stuff. And introduce you to the Gomb.”

* * *

The Gomb was a plump, cap-less bottle. When opened, a scintillating grey goo oozed out. It clung to skin and looked for and crawled into orifices in which it extended, filled, and in which it quivered and pulsed and did other disgusting things. For Krgr it was safe. For me, as Krgr explained, it would be deadly to let it find my nose or mouth. Arse only. I declined. “Oh come on.” Krgr said, persuasive as ever.

The rewiring was pleasant, if strange – a cottony fiddling with forbidden buttons deep in my mind; strands parted and realigned, weaving a new tapestry of sensory neurons. In itself it made for a brand new, alien experience. The machine had opened voids in my perception, voids that I now wanted filled. And it had got rid of my hangover.

“I haven’t used this Gomb.” said Krgr, “It’s all fresh. Never probed an alien rectum. Or a human rectum.” Krgr giggled. He handed me the bottle. “Remember: arse only. Unless you want to die a horrible death of suffocation while experiencing your first alien orgasm.”

“So, I insert the bottle up my –”

“No you don’t insert the bottle up your –. You open it and coax the Gomb into you. It’ll do the rest. It’s a very small Gomb – it shouldn’t reach your stomach. If it crawls up your cock, well, no harm done. Might feel interesting though, as it’s your primary genital.”

“And then what?”

“Nothing. The Gomb initiates all the work. I’ve rewired you to feel gombic quivers deep into your bowels. We don’t orgasm or cum, it’s about filling and synchronous pulsing. That’s what gets us. Oh yes.” Krgr slurped.

“And when I’m done?”

“The Gomb decides about that. It’ll ooze out. Once you’re in a fit state you put it back in the bottle.”

“And how do I get it –”

Krgr sighed. “You coax it in. You’ll see. It’s – again – all quite simple. But then again, you humans are sluts for complications.”

Krgr tried exchanging further pleasantries, I tried too, but we both were feeling off – I veered on the lumpy. I blamed the rglgl leaves, but as always Krgr let me know that the explanation was simpler. After a final wave, in a flash as dull as when it landed, the spacecraft was gone.

* * *

I should have asked Krgr how to open the bottle. I felt stupid. It looked simple in his claws. I shook it, twisted it, prodded it – nothing happened – until I squeezed it and the Gomb squirted out. Blobs of Gomb everywhere. Fuck. It reassembled into an amorphous mass of goo. When I prodded it, my insides tingled with warm anticipation. I craved it, but I was tired. I coaxed it into the bottle, prodding it along. Each poke into the blubber showed me how hollow I was inside. I went to bed.

* * *

Gomb beckoned me. I was barely up, hadn’t had breakfast, hadn’t washed, hadn’t quite woken up. I squirted it out of the bottle, crouched, and showed it my arse – I craved my fill. It lay in a motionless wet patch. I picked up a strand of the goo with two fingers – the tingles spread to my insides – and touched it to my sphincter. The goo between my feet quivered, pulsed a few times, and nudged inside. I panicked and screamed, tried to yank it out. As it slid past my grasp I gasped – silent now – to let myself tumble and wallow into a pool of sublime slipperiness. I tried to get hold of the little that was still dangling out of my arse to get it out, just so it’d slide in again. It wriggled out of my fingers and expanded, probed, and slid up my entire bowel. The sublime sliding was all over my insides. I wanted to dive into a pool of gunk and savour a slimy writhing on my skin to match the Gomb inside – a throng of tentacles and jellyfish foamed up in my mind. Gomb expanded and contracted, slithered through my bowels – and then it filled.

The slithering mass gorged to the point of rupture. I stuffed my fingers in my mouth, up my nose, in my ears. I needed pressure, slithering pressure everywhere. I hugged myself. When it quivered, I quivered, when it pulsed, I pulsed. I turned into goo, squirmed in goo, bubbled with goo. The Gomb pulsed, and I pulsed with it. We synchronised. Long filling pulses of delectation – like synchronous swimming in a wobbling enema of turkish delight.

The rhythmic pulsing lured me into a trance-like ecstasy. The Gomb increased its bloat with each beat. Bursting was no longer on my mind – I was there to receive the pulses, I needed them. They rippled through me, every pulse dying out, overlapping with the previous and the next one. Additive interference.

We marched up to a frozen, bursting throb – the Quintessence of Plenitude – and ambled down the winding road of shorter, soothing undulations. The Gomb quivered, tickled, and puffed. I wanted to catch my breath, but it was locked to the Gomb’s rhythm. It was good. The pulse died down, and the Gomb slid out. I sighed profanities, lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling, catching my breath; then I trudged downstairs to have breakfast, sightly past eleven. I didn’t bother having a shower first. I wanted to feel slimy.

* * *

After breakfast, a helping of nicotine, and an eventual shower, I ventured into my bedroom. The Gomb had spread out in a sad puddle. I snatched the bottle from the bedside table, touched the Gomb – I had to resist putting it back in me – and hurried it into the bottle; its rippling seemed more dusty than before. Perhaps I should give the place a sweep.

Over the days I learned to synchronise my pulses, tried the Gomb in a bath of slime (I almost drowned), and – frenzied impulse purchase – splashed out on an inflatable rubber suit. I forgot my cock. The Gomb explored it during one of our sessions and it was interesting, but nothing more.

Within a month, after unattainable peaks had followed soaring heights, the Gomb lost its touch. When I coaxed it into its bottle it crackled and left a thin sprinkling of dust on my fingers. I dunked it it water, in salt/sugar solution, tried to keep it in me for longer – still it turned more and more into dust, until it no longer squirted out of the bottle. If it had ever lived, it had now died. I buried it, accompanied by a ceremonial sniffle, in the back of my wardrobe.

Girthy or invasive dildoes, inflatable or solid, didn’t work. It hurt. My bowels felt like a fleshy one-way valve prodded the wrong way by sticks and bricks. Enemas and slime didn’t soothe. When a dildo did feel good, I couldn’t synchronise – it was like tickling yourself: you anticipate, and the effect is wasted; my arse and prostate delivered most of the pleasure, anyway. I ended the sessions with a wank. The initial hungry void – large as the universe – shrunk to the size of a split pea. With my brain rewiring to my traditional genitals, it dissolved. I had experienced density by echolocation, but my sonar had stopped firing. Like all privation, it settled under the dust of time.

* * *

I’d recognised the dull flash through the curtains. At the edge of the field, a lime phosphorescence seeped off the aircraft. I scrambled onto the patio.

“Krgr!” I tried to scream. Screaming in alien doesn’t carry.

Out of the lock padded a pudgier Krgr.

“No, not Krgr,” it said and huffed, “name’s Ht–t–t. Got your coordinates from Krgr, colleague of mine.” It collapsed in a writhing heap at the base of the spacecraft, slurped from a Gomb-like bottle, and spluttered. “Sorry, not used to this gravity. Exobiologist,” it blubbered, “at your service.”

“Oh… Trevor McInnerney, more-or-less off-the-grid fuck-all, pleased to meet you.” I’ll admit that asking for a fresh Gomb was the fist thing to cross my mind, pleasantries lagged far behind.

“Good. I was wondering,” said Ht–t–t, “if I could interest you in some experiments?”

I raised my eyebrows.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” it said, “I’m not acquainted with Human facial speech, that’s more Krgr’s thing. I’m into reproduction and its biological motivators. Could you spare a few years of your time? For experiments? I have the facilities – the nicest this part of the arm. Krgr said you’d be willing.”

Before I knew, I’d raised my eyebrows again.

“Is this a yes?” said Ht–t–t, underscoring it with a tenuous hiss, “Please answer with an affirmation or a negation, if you don’t mind.”

“Yes. In this case, it is a yes.” I said.

“On you go then.” it said and swivelled its tentacles to the lock.

“Do I need to bring anything?”

“Whatever suits you?” Ht–t–t said.

I raised my eyebrows and shrugged. A shiver rippled through Ht–t–t’s tentacles.

“No, no – I’m fine.” I said.

“Well, get in. I’ve got more specimens to collect. I’ll show you your cage.”

With a shudder of unease, I boarded.


(VIII 2020)