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Friday, December 29

F.E.B.

"F.E.B."
Short fiction - Sci-Fi
By Ed Lynskey

“Space aliens can commingle with the populace. They might be the barber who cuts your hair. They might be the preacher who leads your Sunday worship. They might be the mechanic who does your brake job . . .”

A thumbnail scratching my eyebrow, I flipped the booklet over. Generic beige, it was titled “CITIZENS HANDBOOK NO. 13-A.” Quaint, I thought. The 1956 copyright cited its publisher, Federal Extraterrestrial Bureau. Or F.E.B.

My mind took flight. Buried deep in the government's bureaucracy, the lean, mean organization called F.E.B. (a precursor to S.E.T.I.?) had pursued its charter. 1956 was the year the U.F.O. hysteria climaxed . . .

“What's that?” Dickey nodded to indicate the booklet in my hands.

“It covers the personality traits an alien might exhibit,” I replied.

“No kidding.” Distracted, Dickey dropped the manila folders. They clomped to the attic floor. Gray dust stirred. “Like what, for instance?”

My shrug showed disinterest. "How aliens dress, talk, and act. Stuff like that.”

That response drew a dry chuckle from Dickey. “My Uncle Felix, what a sense of humor.”

“Some government outfit called F.E.B. put it out,” I said.

Dickey gaped at me. Arrow straight, he stayed a bundle of nerves and boundless energy. "Uncle Felix had a government job. What I never knew precisely. A paper shuffler was my impression. But he was smart as a cactus.”

“It could be Uncle Felix was a key cog in this F.E.B. wheel,” I said.

Blade-thin to my roly-poly, Dickey moved around a ladder-back chair holding more cardboard boxes. “JUNK” had been scrawled across them. Tired and sore, I’d concur. “We haven’t made a dent in this mess,” he said.

“May I make a suggestion? Let’s haul down it down into the yard. Do our sorting down there.”

A new optimism brightened Dickey’s scowl. “Good idea. The F.E.B.? I wonder if they still exist.”

I retrieved a brass floor lamp, no shade. “Maybe this was Uncle Felix’s home project. Something to laugh away the hours.”

“Now, don’t go ragging on Uncle Felix,” said Dickey. “Excitable, yes. Rash, yes. Brilliant,
definitely. Crazy? I never thought so.”

“You were a loyal nephew.” With extra care, I propped the brass floor lamp, possibly an antique, against a
chest of drawers of the same vintage. “Somebody went to a lot of trouble to write this booklet, probably for distribution.”

Dickey sighed. “Do you watch those fifties sci-fi flicks? Campy, sure. But I love ‘em.”

“Yeah then Star Wars came along and killed off the pulpy stuff,” I said. “I own every issue of Weird Tales except two. One had a Robert Bloch tale. The other published Manly Wade Wellman and Ted Sturgeon.”

“But this booklet is freaking me out,” said Dickey. “I mean Uncle Sam issues a handbook to identify space aliens among us. Was it a freebie?”

I looked. “Must’ve been. No price is listed on the covers. Who’d order such a publication?”

“Oh near everybody was paranoid back then,” said Dickey. “Duck and cover. Fallout shelters on every street corner. What ever happened to them?”

“Beats me,” I said.

“I need to take five.” Grunting, Dickey copped a squat on a steamer chest. “Lay a few signs on me. What do I look for in a suspected Martian? I already know about their green skin.”

“Well . . . aliens, according to this, like meerschaum,” I said.

Again, Dickey chuckled. “Martians like to smoke pipes?”

“No,” I replied. “They like to eat meerschaum. Ingest it as nourishment.”

“Nonsense,” said Dickey. “Uncle Felix did up that booklet as a practical joke.”

“Did he ever marry? Kids?” I asked.

Dickey wagged his head. “Uncle Felix remained the family’s confirmed bachelor.”

“What did the old boy do for fun?” I asked gazing around at the shabby debris. “Besides playing a pack rat and a practical joker?”

“I don’t know,” replied Dickey. “Uncle Felix was a jolly elf. Always laughing. He loved telling
‘knock-knock’ jokes. I can still smell the aromatic tobacco on his clothes. Cherry swisher.”

“Sure,” I said. “So, Uncle Felix was a big pipe smoker.”

“Was he ever,” replied Dickey. “Uncle Felix could put a smokestack to shame.”

“Maybe we’ll run across his collection of pipes,” I said.

“Doubtful. As I recall it Uncle Felix forever lost his smoking paraphernalia,” said Dickey.

“So he was absent-minded, too.” I fished two objects out of my brown paper bag. “Candy bar?”

“No, I’ll pass for now . . . is that a crunchy peppermint filler?” asked Dickey.

My head shaking, I spoke between deliberate chews. “No. Meerschaum.”

To his credit, Dickey cobbled it together fast. “No-no. It can’t be.”

“It can and it’s time for you to learn. First, I refer you to page 14,” I said, brandishing CITIZENS HANDBOOK NO. 13-A at Dickey. “The heading reads: ‘Reincarnation Traits’.”

Ed Lynskey's crime fiction novels include THE DIRT-BROWN DERBY (Mundania Press, 2006), THE BLUE CHEER (Point Blank/Wildside Press), PELHAM FELL HERE (Mundania Press, 2007), and TROGLODYTES (Mundania Press, 2008). A science fiction novel, THE QUETZAL MOTEL (Mundania Press) is due out in 2007. His work has also appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine.

3 reactions:

Kelly Parra said...

lol! Great one, Ed. Thanks for sharing with FM!

Aldo said...

I love it! Getting my Lynskey fix in one week. Is there more, Ed?

Joni said...

Sweet. A+ flash. Gimme more.