It’s Never Too Late to Open a Far-Earth Savings Account
Elisabeth R. Moore
Calling all aliens! Live like a human with our new Rent-A-Body scheme! No catch, at least, not for the aliens…
Artwork by Katie Barrett
Bridget was writing a book when the aliens turned up. Well, editing, technically. She had opted for dictation for the whole manuscript – writing was so hard – but faced with the daunting task of turning a block of text into a paragraph, she had prayed for a distraction. And then one came. Aliens.
It was a cold morning that smelled like the beginning of fall in Valdez, Alaska. She was sad; the summer months were her most active. Fall was a time of transition – a time when it started becoming too wet and slippery for mountain biking, but still too early for winter sports.
Restless, she had switched from her manuscript to Excel to begin a spreadsheet for Christmas presents. She was trying to decide on the color code when there was a small popping sound, a small exclamation, and nineteen aliens sitting on her kitchen table. She stared at them, they stared at her, and no one said a word.
The pause lengthened.
One of the aliens coughed. Another one twitched, and then cleared its throat. “Hello ma’am,” it said, pushing up something on its face. Were those glasses? “We’d like to rent your body, and we would love to know what you’re charging for a month in your life for a citizen of Planet Alpha-Igloo-Delta 245624er34uy58?” This was of course the best approximation his translation software could offer. Bridget squinted. She looked around the room. She looked at her smartwatch. She tapped the Google icon, and let her finger hover over the tiny keyboard that appeared. Could she Google what to do in this situation?
She looked back at the cluster of aliens. Or what she hoped was a cluster. Could it just be one?
She decided that was not a question that she wanted to ask. No, instead she took off her reading glasses, frowned at them and said, “What’s the market average for bodies in USD?”
“Earth currency is unusable currency because you’re not part of the Intergalactic Currency Commission,” the speaking alien offered, delivering the line with the tinny quality of a rehearsed spiel. Bridget narrowed her eyes, but the alien continued. “However, we checked with local space protocols, and we believe that a month of renting a body costs the equivalent of the GDP of the United States.”
Bridget decided to Google the GDP of the United States. She nodded. She looked up. “You’re going to be paying me this?” she asked.
“Yes,” the speaking alien confirmed.
“Per month?” she asked, narrowing her eyes further.
“Per standard earth month,” he corrected. “It’s prorated by day.”
She bit her lip, tilted her head, and asked, “how do we get started?”
It was pretty basic. They gave her a small black pill, she swallowed it, and then there was a group of fourteen high school-aged aliens in her brain. They weren’t really in her brain – the thing on her counter was a drone, and the thing she swallowed was a chip. Now there was a chip in her brain, beaming her thoughts to a spaceship about fourteen thousand lightyears North of Jupiter, where she was routed into the gaming system for a group of young teens on an alien generation ship. They had the budget to rent life forms, and Bridget was their newest Body.
Her consciousness lived on this end of the connection. She was part of the chat group. She was technically in the computer, but that made her feel alien, and so she imagined herself in a tiny house and put the chat group on a laptop. She had monitors of all her body’s feeds, and her vote counted twice as much. She had total veto power over any activity. It was, all-in-all, a pretty comfortable set-up.
Every time Bridget and the aliens opened a new insurance bill for the Body, however, the set up felt regrettable.
It wasn’t that the aliens were unusually reckless with Bridget’s body – she had biked and skied and injured herself all on her own too – it was that they had questions about it. Questions about the US Healthcare system, particularly.
Nektuk brought up screenshots of their other medical bills, and they started complaining about “internal inconsistencies.” Sometimes their complaints were out of ignorance – a doctor was different from a dentist. An x-ray and an ultrasound were not ‘the same thing,’ and the tetanus shot was not something they tricked her into to make her sick again. Sometimes, though, their complaints were accurate. Some of these bills made no sense.
She established a new rule. “No more injuries,” she decided. The titanium for the broken collarbone alone cost $4k. They couldn’t go on like this.
“No!” Kirqed moaned. In her head, he (yes, she assigned human genders to the aliens, and yes, she knew it’s dumb) sounded a bit like Aziz Ansari. She thought it might be because he complained so much. “If we can’t get injured we can’t do anything! Human bodies are so fragile!”
But she put her foot down. Do they want to lose access to her body? No? Well, then they’re playing a No Damage Run now. Her sister played video games – Bridget knew the slang.
The aliens agreed. They played well for a month. They stopped mountain biking and sky diving and off-piste downhill skiing and start just biking. But biking to the post office and back was only a couple of miles, and it was all on flat road. It was boring.
They tried hiking. The collarbone healed, and they could start doing more intense, multi-day hikes. But even then it was not quite the same. They missed mountain biking, in particular. The aliens loved the way that the horizon folded open when they crested a hill, sheer blue sky opening onto hundreds of miles of mountain views. They loved the feeling of space, freedom, and sky. Unlimited sky was not a luxury they could boast on their ship. Of course, Bridget made sure that they knew this was just what living in Alaska was like.
When Bridget had signed up for this, she’d thought it was a weird sex thing. She was a videogame, and the equivalent of high school students were going to play her. Of course it was going to be a weird sex thing.
It wasn’t a weird sex thing at all. Sex didn’t even occur to them. When at a wedding the hot best man hit on her, they were clueless. She’d had to advocate for her body, but they’d overruled her. She was allowed to get the man’s number. She had tucked it under the tax folder on her desk, so hopefully, when her contract was up, she could give him a call.
Their cluelessness could get them in some pretty odd situations. One time, while Bridget was napping, they decided to go to a bar. They didn’t quite understand the effect that a young woman showing up in a Valdez dive-bar would have and were in the middle of starting a bar fight when Bridget woke up. She had to define ‘flirting’ for them, and had to explain that Earth Human Males were territorial due to cultural narratives, and that flirting with six different men at once in front of each other was bound to cause problems.
No more bars, they decided in the group chat. Adult Human Males were too unpredictable.
They’d lengthened their lease multiple times now. Every time, they asked Bridget’s opinion. But she didn’t really think she had a choice. She was literally earning the GDP of the United States. She had calculated that every waking hour she was making 26,438,319,947 dollars. An hour! She couldn’t say no!
It was worse now that she had found out about the savings account options on the shipboard bank. They were amazing. Once you introduced Faster Than Light travel into any mathematical equation, interest really piled up.
But the problem was, Bridget missed her body. The numbers were all there, stark and clear, but she missed eating. She missed hanging out with friends and laughing at their jokes. Watching it was pretty alienating and isolating, it turned out. She wanted to be part of the moment, to taste the cheese on the sandwich and the champagne in the glass. She wanted to ride her bike – alone again – and enjoy the cold clear air of the mountains.
Today is the last day of the month. When the aliens offer to renew their contract, she will say no. She’ll buy a homing beacon and a droid (equivalent dollar amount: $13.99 for the beacon, $34.99 for the droid), and if she is ever bored again, she can come back. In the meantime, the savings account can accrue interest.
Elisabeth R Moore is a short fiction writer. She lives with her wife, cats and dog in the Ruhrgebiet, where she’s a Masters student in German and Anglophone Literature. She writes stories about sentient plants, strange birds and queer women. When she’s not writing, she crochets, reads, and hikes. She tweets at @willowcabins. Find out more at spacelesbian.zone