The Fate of the Galaxy
by Andrew Rucker Jones
Kronk masticated slowly, then gave Gree a sidelong look. “Is this food organic?”
“Kronk, dear, we can’t afford organic food on your salary,” his wife replied and munched her food absently, bones cracking between the back molars of her great maw.
Kronk bristled. “I make a good living. If it’s not enough for you, maybe you should get a job, too.”
Gree rolled her eyes. “Your salary is fine, Kronk, my love. It’s just that organic food is so expensive. Besides, if I go to work, who will look after little Chugug?” She cooed and gurgled at their son, who was crawling across the floor of their dining room with food hanging out of his mouth. Chugug tipped back onto a seat he made for himself out of two of his lower tentacles, shifted his food from his mouth to one of his upper tentacles, and gurgled back.
Kronk peered at his son. “Are you feeding him Blubber Stix®?”
“He likes them better than the lean ones.”
“Of course he does!” Kronk said. “They’re fatty. Look at him now: his tentacles are chubby, his thorax is swollen, and his slime trail is greasy.”
“That’s just baby fat, Kronk, my love,” Gree said. “He’ll grow out of it. Wait and see.”
Grumbling, Kronk returned to masticating his food with the thousands of pin-prick teeth that lined the front of his upper and lower mandibles. “All I’m saying,” he said through a mouthful, “is we should watch what we eat.”
“I mean it, Gree. An improper diet can shorten our lifespan by a couple of centuries. Do you really want me to die young?”
“No, dear. Tell me about your day at work.”
“Bah!” Kronk swallowed his mouthful into his first stomach. “You’re not listening.”
“Of course I am, dear. I just don’t think it will make that much of a difference in the long run whether or not we eat organic food.”
“That just goes to show what you know,” Kronk said. “And what about the galaxy? Have you thought of that?”
Gree gave a short, barking laugh. “What of it? Don’t tell me you’re worried about our precious limited resources. Look out the spaceship portal every now and again when we go for a family ride, Kronk. The galaxy is almost limitless!”
“Almost limitless. That’s just what those tools on homeworld want you to think. It’s easier than fixing our problems. ‘How, oh how could we, a little tiny race from a jerkwater at the edge, possibly affect the humongous galaxy?’ Well we can, Gree, we can. We’re no longer from the edge of the galaxy. We cover the galaxy, and our wasteful ways will catch up to us. There is no other galaxy we can move to.”
Gree snorted through her proboscis. “Scare tactics by the One Galaxy Party to take power, that’s all that is.”
Kronk’s visage darkened as he narrowed his eighty-seven eyes. “I can see we should have talked a few more things over before we married. Perhaps my parents were correct: seven hundred years old is too young.”
“Don’t give me that look, Kronk. Everything boils down to power, and the One Galaxy Party wants power as much as the rest, so they get it any way they can. Scaring people over to your side is easy. Well, I’ll have no part of it.” She crossed all six tentacles across her thorax.
“And what of the next galactic extinction? How do you and your Expansionist Party cronies explain that?”
“What, a few dead worlds? It happens. And I’m not convinced we were the reason those planets are dead. Scientists are divided in their opinions on that question.”
“Not conv— … not! …” Kronk said. He smacked a tentacle to his forehead. “And no, scientists are not divided in their opinion on the matter. That is a myth propagated by the media who are mostly loyal to the Expansionist Party.”
“Says you,” Gree shot back and picked little Chugug up to tickle his brown, lumpy epidermis. Chugug squealed with glee.
“Then how do you explain the dead planets?”
“Solar flares? On all of them?!”
“The galaxy is a big place. Statistically, it could happen.”
“Gree, we ravaged those planets, consuming their resources for our insatiable nourishment orifices until there was nothing left.”
Gree rolled her eyes again and continued to play with Chugug. She salivated on his tentacles to get the grease from the blubber stick off.
“And now we’re doing the very same thing to a new planet,” Kronk said and poked at his food. “If we all made the sacrifices necessary to afford organic food, we might still be able to attain sustainable farming of that world.”
“Now that’s where you’re just wrong, Kronk, and you know it.” Gree said and put Chugug down. “That planet has already done itself in. There’s no hope for it. It’s a perfect example of the ways a planet can go from living to dead without any need to explain it with our so-called influence.”
Kronk stared at the remains of the food on his plate.
“Ha! I knew you couldn’t contradict me on that. Let me put it to you a different way, my pontificating partner: do you want organic food, or do you want that hot little red interplanetary cruiser I know you’ve been scrimping for?”
Kronk spoke slowly. “The inhabitants did indeed lay systematic waste to their own planet. I doubt we can make anything worse than they already have.” He slid a tentacle around a couple of the anthropoids on his plate and picked them up to consider their small, stiff bodies. Curious little things. Not many planets harbored bipeds. He put them back on his plate and smacked a tentacle on the table, sending his slime flying around the room. “But we should learn from them.”
“Learn? From them? Come on, Kronk. Don’t you think you’re going a bit far? The only thing I learned from them is that the pink ones taste the best.”
“I concur.” Kronk thought before adding, “Very well, then, we will agree to disagree about the fate of the galaxy for the moment. We agree, at least, on the fate of Earth, and that’s something to build on. But please, Gree, please stop feeding Chugug the obese ones, no matter how good they taste.”
“Oh, alright, Kronk. I won’t buy any more.”
“And if we can’t afford organic, at the very least please buy free-range humans.”
“They do taste better,” Gree conceded.