Somewhere in the distant future, on a long colonized planet, Emanuilla Ivanov – a young blonde in a pink dress, closed the most interesting Romance book to pick up the phone.
‘Yep? “Everything to everyone here and now” advertising company, speaking’
A gentle male voice started artistically describing his field of work.
‘Chrystalls of youth, anti-wrinkle ore, so interesting!..’ – she rolled her eyes.
‘And for effective advertisement I might even gift you with one tiny crystal’
‘Thank you, but I have sufficing beauty, and I won’t need anti-wrinkle products for at least 60 more years!’
‘Is that so? Well then, how about I shall leave you my phone number, and you will give me a call anytime since we have over 60 years ahead of us?’
‘And with your products – over 100, huh?’
He laughed the gregarious laughter of a successful businessman.
‘Sending you all my secrets right now’ – he whispered and hung up.
Emanuilla picked up the rolled up sheet of paper from the fax machine, and giggled, examining the tanned Apollo’s portrait:
‘Will you look at that? I found a real Prrrince here!’
Her friend pulled herself from her project and looked at the photo:
‘He’s quite not bad… Successful, beautiful…’
‘U-huh, let me read his bio… Age, address, 3 Degrees… ha-ha! A PHD in Astrophysics? Who needs it nowadays? We all know who’ll get the job… these… blue platypuses!’
‘You meant Bleuplatypees, from the planet Priia?’
‘Yeah, whatever. Just because their civilization is older than ours by 50 Centuries, all our scientific discoveries look like jokes to them… Well, if they are so smart – how come they all immigrate here in searc for jobs?! There, I also have a PHD in Astrophysics, do you see me working in…’
‘There, see? Now you’ll have a common discussion topic while siting with Mr. Gorgeous in a dimmed restaurant! And why are you so picky anyway? We’ve agreed that you are looking for a humanoid, well here he is! But no, you’re also trying to choose among them… Boring, poor, stupid, cheater, vain…’
‘Yes… there are no more knights and heroes left in our time…’ – she peeked at the closed book and frowned at her friend, - ‘And you, shut up, Miss “I married a pink cloud and couldn’t be any happier”!’
‘Yes, I am happy! Because I don’t stuff my head with all these stupid principles! Moreover, you don’t have to give birth nowadays, so you don’t have to narrow your choices down to the healthy humanoids! Oh, you… You’ll never know how it feels – being hugged by a cozy telepathic field! This is so…’
‘Wait, shush… Do you hear that? An urgent message’
‘Turn the screen on’
‘Where is the remote?’
‘Use your finger!’
‘I can’t – the bloody manicure is in the way!’
After some struggle with the electronics, the screen lit up, and a man in a raincoat started talking midsentence:
‘---And now our hero has found himself buried in the shaft! Who could have thought? An ordinary pedestrian, some immigrant, has saved the man’s life who has slipped on the washed road, but has found himself falling into the shaft himself. Will we manage to save him? I want to believe, that there are any family members nearby, who could donate him their blood if needed… Or… Khm… whatever liquid that flows through his… organs…’
The transmission stopped, and the girls nearly fell over giggling. Marybedonna caught her friend’s hand:
‘Wait, this is your chance! A Hero!!!’
‘What?! But I haven’t even seen him! Moreover, have you heard? He’s hardly a humanoid…
‘Well, since none of the humans has satisfied you, he might be a better choice… Besides, he’s a Hero! He has just risked his life! That’s what you were talking about right now. Run to him, you idiot!!!’
Emanuilla walked in the rain, slopping with her stilettos through the old dirt road, trying to realize what did she really want… Maybe, the home-planet and the looks really don’t matter that much?.. Just in case, she straightened her dress and tidied the colored locks, realizing that she forgot to refresh the color and a wide line of natural green roots was seen on top of her head. Then she laughed at herself, remembering the reaction of practically every opposite-sex creature she met no matter what she was wearing and how tidy her hair was… “Ugh, I wish somebody asked me about my interests, education, principles… Nope, all they see is a young body and my amazing hair… Even after I colored it blonde… Actually, it made it worse… I should’ve known blonde was considered attractive…’. However, now she composed herself. She decided firmly: yes, this is the person she has been looking for. He is a Hero. That’s the most important part. Besides, looks don’t matter – screw the looks. He should be a good person… Interesting, funny, intellectual, gentle and kind… She knew one thing for sure: he wasn’t vane and stupid. Such guys don’t become heroes! She arrived at the curious mob and pushed herself up to the police tape.
‘Who are you?’ – The police officer asked menacingly.
‘I am the Hero’s girlfriend!’ – She said proudly.
‘Really?’ – He seemed to be surprised, but looked away demonstratively, meaning “None of my business”
Emanuilla felt something in his question, could it mean, the stranger was under her league?.. and replied:
‘Love doesn’t recognize racial differences! Are you saving him or not?!’
‘We are, we are… But it takes time… Here is a walkie-talkie; you may try to cheer him up. The rescuer says he’s fainting, and he doesn’t know what to tell him anymore…
She grabbed the black box and shouted:
‘Hey!’ – “Oh, I don’t know his name”, - ‘sweetie! Are you holding up down there?’ – “What a ridiculous sentence!” – ‘Hang it there!.. This is… ughm… this is your girlfriend speaking! I am waiting for you… on the surface! A whole crowd is here to support you!.. Come on, get up here, I can’t wait to see you!’ – There was no lie in the last sentence.
‘What?’ – A weak male voice answered hesitantly, - ‘A girlfriend? Really?.. This is very… Thank you, humans; you are so… kind… Thank you for helping me… such an awkward creature…
‘Oh, no, you can’t have low self-esteem now! You’ve just saved a person, tossing away your own safety!’
A dirty man with a bandaged leg limped through the crowd:
‘Give me that! It was me, whom he has saved! I need to thank him!’
Emanuilla passed the walkie-talkie with relief – she would certainly be exposed sooner or later. She listened as the grateful man ranted on and on despite the sore throat: ‘Hang in there, brother! I owe you my life, hang it there!!! I’d be lying in that shaft right now, but instead I only twisted my ankle! I’ll never forget how you tossed me away from the hole!!!’, and thought that she will definitely embrace this guy when he finally appears above the surface, and the lies will become the truth!
Finally, accompanied by raving applaud; the firefighter’s helmet appeared above the surface, and then his face. He was fatigued, and covered in transparent ooze. He was lifted sitting on some sort of a swing, holding one rope with his right hand, and with his left hand he supported a… a big… a quite big… round… snail. Of course, it wasn’t a snail – it was an alien, but this was the only association that echoed through the girl’s head.
Emanuilla’s face twisted. She looked at the police officer, and he scoffed:
‘Oh, I get it! What an actress! Just wanted to have a picture with a hero, didn’t you? You know what, you take him to the hospital now – that should be a good lesson… You’re unbelievable!’
She looked at the Snail and wondered if he understands speech. He did. He slid from the firefighter’s lap and started crawling by her side through the crowd. Everyone tried to tap or pet him on his shell, saying “Good job!”
Some of them looked at Emanuilla and complimented her: “Good job saying no to old principles” “Love doesn’t care about race!” “Good luck, good job!”
“How humiliating!” – Emanuilla kept chanting in her mind.
They left the crowd and the snail spoke with a smile:
‘Did you hear that? We both did a good job”
She smiled unwillingly.
‘I’m sorry… But… I have to ask… Who are you?’ – the alien asked hesitantly, - ‘the crowd seems to think that you are my girlfriend, but I’ve never met you… Is this some kind of custom? Save a human – get a girlfriend for free? Hm… I’m grateful, don’t get me wrong, it’s just a bit… Inhumane…’
‘Nah! I just wanted to support you. You’re a… Hero, huh?..’
‘Thank you very much for that! I am truly very grateful! When I heard your caring voice, I pulled my eyes up; and when I saw you… You are so beautiful! But… hm… don’t get me wrong… I somehow imagined you with green hair and without those terrifying claws… No, I’m not disappointed! I don’t mean to offend you! I am extremely grateful to you, and the firefighter… he was so genuinely worried about me – there wasn’t enough air down there, and we were lifted too slowly… He distracted me by describing this beautiful planet. About all the kinds of jobs, and I became really happy because it sounded like this place will finally value the intellect, since on my planet it’s mostly fighting and horns size contests, but I love reading… So, he also told me that he heard the policeman talking – apparently, for what I did - I’ll get a free place to live (at least for a while).
‘Why do you need one? You have a house on your back!’
‘What house? ’
‘This one, your shell! ’
‘It’s just my luggage, but I am actually…’
‘A snail without a shell is a slug’ – she could hardly pronounce it without disgust, - ‘but just as slimy’
‘Hm… If I put my luggage aside, I can take any form. I could even look like a humanoid, watch me!’ – he started rearing up, and accidentally touched her with his “foot”. She blushed with anger and disgust and screamed:
‘You, slug!!! Stop it!!! Just stop crawling beside me!!! I just threw in that I am your girlfriend to get a picture with a hero!’ – and paced away quickly despite the uncomfortable shoes.
She tapped angrily on the phone with her inconveniently long nails, dialing a number.
The familiar gentle voice half-whispered:
‘Hello, my beautiful. I’ve been waiting for your call’
‘Alright. I accept. Whatever. I’ll go to a date with you. Tell me the restaurant address’
It sounded like her opponent choked:
‘Hm… What? What date? Excuse me, who is it?’
‘What do you mean, who is it?! You just sent me your bio with a picture! It’s me, Emanuilla from the advertising agency! Weren’t you… flirting with me?.. How could you not even recognize me?!’
‘Honey, I am a marketer. I sell beauty. I call hundreds of women a day, and in my eyes, all of them are beautiful (at least potentially). I sent you my info for the ad. Are you telling me you haven’t even begun working on it?!’
She heard him hang up abruptly and sat in shock, listening to the angry beeps.
‘You, idiot… You call yourself educated, too?.. This is what picking gives you!’ – her friend shook her head and enjoyed a delicious sip of her hot coffee.
Emanuilla got up without saying a word and put on the damp raincoat.
She went back to where she last spoke to the snail. She remembered him mentioning a place to live… He would probably be there by this time… But he wasn’t. He was lying on the ground beside the road, just where she left him, sheltered with his luggage, and tried to sleep.
She came up to him and caressed his “shell”. He peeked from under it hesitantly, and asked:
‘What, are there any cameras nearby?’
‘I lied about the cameras! Come, there is a park nearby. Tell me, how did you manage to save that poor man? I am truly interested. Really!’
He got from under his luggage and she found that he was completely dry, and even… cute… His soft porcelain white skin resembled a translucent reptile egg.
Apparently, he got slimy from the ooze that covered the bottom of the shaft. Same ooze, on which the man slipped - when he stretched out, caught him by his leg, pulled him away from the edge and tossed him to safety, but then lost his balance and tumbled down.
‘I can take the shape of a human, if you’d like me… better’
‘No. I want to see your true form…’ – she said with a smile.
They sat on the damp bench till morning. He told her some hilarious memory from his planet, and her laughter chimed across the whole park. Maybe someone heard her, or even saw them cuddling, but she didn’t mind.