“GREENVILLE,” read the sign. “POP 1,624 HUMBLE EARTHLING SERVANTS. HAIL ZORDOK!”
In spray paint, below: “DON’T RAZE US, BRO!”
Sheryl frowned. “I think we took the wrong turn. We’re supposed to still be in Spring Grove.”
“Qroocha znuk!” Emperor Zordok swore.
Sheryl flinched as Zordok fired the hovercar’s plasma cannons, blasting the sign and an unlucky squirrel into subatomic particles. She sighed. Nine disintegrations in five minutes. It was even worse than when they went to Disney World.
“You know that’s not going to help,” she said.
“Zruk brugat raga fos!” vowed Zordok, shaking his gauntlet at the distant town and clacking his mandibles. “Chorla visra! Visra katal!”
“It’s just bad city planning, not ‘an act of sabotage.’ And no, they don’t deserve the Agony Ray.”
“Gurga vrekt,” said Zordok. “Vorla audrek seb durga zug Olive Garden!”
“I’m sure they won’t mind if we’re a few minutes late for our reservation. Now, turn around and let’s see if we can find the right intersection.”
People called Sheryl a traitor for marrying Earth’s alien conqueror. They claimed she did it for personal gain. Granted, she did enjoy a few perks now and then — the free stays at the Trilvestian Spa Planet were nice — but in the end, she was just another human being. She had lived a quiet, unassuming life before her marriage, and she did her best to keep it that way.
It took the world a long time to figure that out. Eventually, after all the paparazzi had either lost interest or been fed to space dragons, Sheryl began to wonder what had brought Emperor Zordok’s sudden proposal in the first place. She didn’t consider herself especially attractive or charming. Was it just a question of luck?
If so, she certainly wasn’t lucky to be Zordok’s wife at a time like this. His carapace was flushed a much deeper crimson than usual, and while it was difficult to discern the expression on his lobster-like face, she assumed it was highly sulky.
After ten minutes of tense silence and still no sign of the restaurant, Sheryl finally spoke up.
“I hate it when you do this,” she said.
“You know exactly what I mean! You get all broody and worked up. It’s like you’re ready to start a war.”
“Trch? Borla gon!”
“It wasn’t a compliment! On Earth, you have to know when to settle down. That’s your problem: you could make your life so much easier, but you don’t want to!”
“Tivlik ror vosga?”
She pointed at the hovercar’s dashboard. “Like this! You spent five million quintars on this thing, but you didn’t get a GPS!”
“Gakka sun hak! Zordok yaktar aglav! Gorla jun vooktoo, jurla Khorlia galm, tuk ruuka chu, Grendia maval klask…”
Sheryl groaned and rubbed her temples. He was launching into his “Lord of the Known Universe” speech again. It might’ve worked on his terrified advisers, but it was just a pain in the ass to her. She didn’t care about how he’d dissolved his foes in vats of Khorlian gorewasp venom, or shattered rebellious planets with light-speed missiles, or decimated the five trillion hive-soldiers of Grendia.
“Enough,” she snapped, right as he was getting into the really nasty part about the Yoobians. “Here’s the thing, Zordok: right now, none of that matters. Emperor or not, you’re just as lost as anyone else. And if you don’t find some place to stop and ask for directions, you’re going to ruin our evening.”
“Snork tarlak!” he said.
“Then go ahead and keep wasting time,” she sighed, shaking her head. “God. You’ve gotta be the only guy on the planet who does this.”
His beady red eyes bored into her. For a moment, she felt the fury that had burned a thousand worlds — all focused into his piercing, inescapable gaze. She also felt it whenever she asked him to clean the gutter, so it didn’t particularly intimidate her anymore.
Then, his eyes moistened. “Snuva vlak tob. Gob muk trugga goo!”
“I’m sorry,” she said, putting a hand on his armored shoulder. “I didn’t mean to say that. You might piss me off sometimes…but I wouldn’t trade you for any other alien ruler in the galaxy. Even if you hadn’t executed them all.”
“Yes, really. But can you please, please stop at a gas station and figure out where we are? Look — there’s a 7-Eleven right over there.”
“Durly gon,” he said, then pulled into the parking lot.
“Be sure to get a map, too!”
“Triga bok losa,” he assured her, getting out of the car and oozing into the store.
As she watched him speak with the clerk, she couldn’t help but feel a tiny thrill of triumph. She’d faced down Emperor Zordok and won. Not even the five trillion hive-soldiers of Grendia could say that.
K.J. Chiles lives in the frozen wastelands of Minnesota. He sometimes thaws out enough to write fiction.