9 OF 10 • by Jakob Drud

* Vladimir Ignatzi reviews Fnthdran at the Globe Theater, London *

I’m at the Globe Theatre, London, where I have been tasked with the honor of reviewing Fnthdran’s latest show. It’s just before the curtain rises, and I’m terrified that I won’t like his performance. I’m such a poor liar, you see.

The floor is titanium plating. The curtain: Pure energy in the style of our new Binth rulers. Lighting: three white spots, supported by four massive lasers from the former US military pointed at various places in the audience. Spectators: Sitting on the edge of their seats, expectant, apprehensive, conscripted.

The Binth performer Fnthdran is about to grace humanity with his presence like the universal star he is. This should be a show the human race can be proud of, as we once again assure the Binth of our warm and voluntary welcome. And from the way the stage is set, I know the performance must unavoidably be a triumph for Fnthdran.

The curtains blink out, Fnthdran enters, and the applause is massive. His first story cracks through the speaker system. Spectators adjust their hearing protection while the seven translators struggle to come up with a witty Anglican version of what appears to be a day of harvest in the fields of Arjsa. The translators succeed marvelously, eliciting enough laughter from the audience that we will probably not need the orchestrated fits of hysterics from the Royal Shakespeare Company that has been placed on the first row, just in case.

I, however, am unmoved by the attempts of bucolic entertainment. I start sweating.

On stage Fnthdran wiggles his appendages, makes a miauw-like sound that rolls into a deep, hungry growl. I spot the obligatory bodyguard of our obsolete British Prime Minister sidle closer to their ward.

More tales flow from the stage, about the various agricultural planets the Binth have conquered. They overpower me with their thunderous volume but never with their content. Nevertheless, I join in the applause, the calls for encores, the clapping, the stomping, and when Fnthdran finally lifts his tentacles to acknowledge our presence, I go through the motions of adding loud whistles, as per the instructions on my ticket. After all, I plan for the audience to survive, even if it seems I may be in big trouble.

After the show I walk home, desperately casting about for a way to pronounce this performance anything but a failure for humanity and a disaster that the Binth shouldn’t have brought to Earth. It is, after all, my task as a reviewer to praise and worship our masters, thereby saving humanity from the wrath of the Binth.

But I can never call this show a success. Fnthdran’s slow, incomprehensible tales must have had real meaning on other planets a long time ago, but they are as dead now as I will be tomorrow.

Neither can I praise the audience’s performance. We, the choir of insecurity, have used the art of adulation to keep the world as we know it alive, to avoid facing that the Binth have changed our world–indeed the very nature of the human condition–into something we don’t fully understand anymore. But instead of struggling with that fact, we clapped, we stomped our feet and obeyed our new alien masters, whose performance and choice of material cannot and must not be faulted. We have succumbed to their definition of art and their demands that we like it, blindly following their dictate from above and beyond.

I wonder how I can lie to you and our masters by telling you that every cheer should have rung out tenfold, and thereby keep myself alive. But mankind already lies enough to itself that I need not add my voice.

The routine act, on stage and in the house, leaves me with no choice but to rate this performance 9 of 10. I shall go no lower than that, of course. I do want the Earth to exist tomorrow, as this is where I’ll be on the run for the rest of my life.

I realize that no newspaper will ever print this review. Editorial boards adhere to the Binth rule, and some even show a penchant for their bucolic tales of yore. Instead I hope that the truth about our masters’ fallibility will be spread across what remains of the internet.

And perhaps, dear reader, whoever you are, you may look back on this day and think that this was the day someone tore up the old stories and began a new one in the name of humanity.

Jakob Drud lives in Denmark, where he writes ad copy for a living and science fiction and fantasy for fun. His short fiction is due to come out in Flash Fiction Online and Space&Time Magazine.

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