Malcolm waved Brian’s hand away and downed the last of his pint. “No, not for me,” he shook his head. “Better make a move.”
Brian waved his own empty glass. “Just one more for the road.”
“Sorry.” Malcolm pulled on his coat. “Early start tomorrow.”
Despite the protestations of Brian and his other co-workers, Malcolm left the pub and headed to the bus stop. He was glad to get away from their incessant football chat, their ogling of the bar staff and female clientele, their off-colour jokes, and nasty-minded political views.
On the top deck of the bus, youths were playing competing hip-hop tracks out loud on their phones. Malcolm tried to shut his ears to the tinny, monotonous tss-tss-tss of the beat and the aggressive boasting of the vocalists.
Walking down the street where he lived, Malcolm was splashed by a passing car. He couldn’t be bothered to make an obscene gesture for the benefit of the driver’s rear-view mirror. Malcolm stamped his way up his front steps and let himself in.
In his hallway, he shrugged off his coat, dropping his briefcase next to the umbrella stand and ignoring the growing stack of fast food leaflets and special offers on conservatories that was building up on the floor. He kicked off his shoes and waddled to the kitchen to put the kettle on.
While he waited for the water to boil, he moved through to the living room. He grabbed the remote control from the coffee table and aimed it at the television. The news channel winked into life. More bad weather, more toxic patriotism, more lying politicians. Malcolm flicked through the channels until he found some cartoons.
Back in the kitchen, he made tea and thought about food. Brian and the others would no doubt be planning kebabs about now. Malcolm’s stomach flipped.
From the fridge he withdrew a couple of protein packs. He tore the foil wrapper from one and bit off a chunk as though it was a bar of chocolate. Instantly, he felt better. He put the protein onto a tray and put the tray into the oven. While it was cooking, he went upstairs to change.
In the bathroom, Malcolm’s fleshy exterior dropped into the bath tub in wet clumps. His skeleton dissolved under the shower. Malcolm sighed in relief. The likes of Brian complained about having to wear a tie. They didn’t know the half of it!
Able to relax at last, Malcolm oozed down the stairs. One tentacle opened the oven door to check on his dinner. Another snaked into the living room, seeking the remote control.
His calculations told him he need only work at his thankless job for another forty Earth years. By then, he would have saved up enough human currency to be able to afford the supplies he needed to repair the communication device. Then, at long last, others of his kind would come and collect him.
How do Brian and the others do it? Malcolm liquefied, spreading to cover the entire living room floor. How do humans tolerate it, surrendering the best years of their short lives to such slavery and exploitation, and then when they grow too old to work, they just wait for death?
There are other ways to live. Malcolm knew this for sure. And as soon as his kind came to pick him up, he’d go back home and live one.
And that was a more satisfying prospect than any post-pub kebab.